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Chapter 49

The house feels so empty without Shayla. And it was definitely empty without Mariah. Since she's been with her family, all I do is go on set and come back home. Maybe dance in the dance studio I had in the back. Other than that, it was just me, the house, my music, and my thoughts until Shayla gets back. I don't want to have to tell Shayla about Tatiana again, because Shayla is going to see this as a threat to our marriage if it's happened a second time. I don't want her to think that because that's not what this is. I've tried staying away from Tati for good after "The Way You Make Me Feel," but for some odd reason that I'll never understand, Craig thought it would be a good idea to invite her onto a set that didn't even include her. Matter of fact, I'm going to call him. We never got to talk about the purpose behind him inviting Tati anyway because I didn't have the time.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Craig, it's Mike."

"Hey, Mike. What's up?"

"What was up with you inviting Tati on set? First, she tells me she invited herself, then I get word you invited her. What is the truth?"

He sighed, "okay, so, she did invite herself. I told her you'd be filming the 'Leave Me Alone' short film. She-"

"Why?" I interrupted.

"She wanted to know your next move before tour rehearsals." That's creepy.

"Why did she want to know my next move? And why would you even tell her, Craig? That's a breach of everything. You know I can sue you for telling her that?"

"Look, I don't know why she wanted to know. I mean, y'all have a connection. Everyone can see it! I thought you'd want to see her again before tour rehearsals and especially since Shayla was gone."

"What gave you that impression?"

He scoffed, "come on, Mike. How many times did you tell me you thought she was beautiful, huh? You couldn't tell Frank. I mean, I know you're married, but I also know you're attracted to Tatiana. Who wouldn't want to see her again? You're not going to be able to see her on tour the way you want to with Shayla being up under you twenty-four seven."

I scowled, "Craig, do you hear the words that are coming out of your mouth right now? You literally want me to cheat on my wife. I can find Tatiana attractive as much as I want as long as I don't act on it. I wiped my hands clean of that woman after 'The Way You Make Me Feel.' Then come to find out she's on the 'Leave Me Alone' set not once, but twice, because you let her onto a closed set."

"You can't blame me, Mike. You could have kicked her off the set if it was that serious. Especially after you talked to us today, but you must have enjoyed having her there. Y'all were all up on each other during that photo shoot today."

"...I was helping her with her portfolio..."

"Yeah, try telling that to Shayla after she sees those photos." I opened my mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. He's right. How can I explain those photos? The photo of me hugging Tati in an endearing way. The photo where I was holding her waist in one hand with me peeking from behind her backside with the biggest smile on my face. The photo of her kissing my cheek with the biggest grin on my face like I'd been kissed by my crush for the very first time. And the photo where she was talking to someone off camera, but I was staring at her like she was the most beautiful girl in the world. "What are you going to tell Shayla?" he pressed.

"What are you going to tell Shayla when she finds out you were the one who told Tati about my closed set and you let her on?"

"I'm not the one who's married to her and swore before God to be loyal to her."

"Which is why you felt it okay to let Tati on set?" I challenged.

"Tati fits your image better anyway."

I shook my head, "don't do that, Craig. Don't disrespect my wife like that. The only reason you're saying that is because we're not public with our marriage yet."

"No, I'm saying that because Tatiana is in the entertainment business just like you. She has more star power, sex appeal, and charisma than Shayla ever will. Tatiana is your perfect match!" I hung up the phone. Craig is fired.


(August 8, 1987)

"So, how's everything with Michael, Shayla?" Dad asked me.

"Good! He's getting ready for the tour."

"Are you excited?"

"I am. It'll be my first time on tour with him. He got me security too."

Dad's eyebrows furrowed in confusion, "for what?"

"To protect me. He actually helped me and Mariah get through the mayhem at LAX and CVG safely."

"Where is he now?"

"He's on his way. He's from Ohio. I didn't need him around you guys, so I told him to visit his own family until it's time for me to go."

"Well, I want to meet this fellow. What's his name?"


"Roland? Well, you tell Roland I want to have a word with him before you all go if he's going to be protecting my daughter."

"He'll be here shortly for you to tell him."

"Michael has you living the life of a superstar out there. Got you security and whatnot..."

"I didn't want Roland at all, but he sure came in handy."

"I bet. How's this 'single to the public' arrangement working out for you and Michael?"

"It's..." I sighed. "Working. As long as he doesn't do anything stupid in the public with his single persona, we're good."

"Well, that's good. I just want to make sure. You know with that stupid move he pulled in leaving you for weeks last year and all. Just want to make sure he's not pulling any more stupid stunts."

"Oh, he's not. We're good," I nodded. I couldn't tell my dad about the little situation Michael had with Tatiana. It's been handled. Thankfully, Michael hasn't seen her since the short film and won't be seeing her until Monday. And even telling my dad about that small stunt Michael pulled would earn Michael a firm talking to from my father. It's not that serious. We fixed it and that's all that matters.

"About that book, Shayla," mom started. "I really like it so far! Don't let the sabotage get to you, baby. Aside from that, the novel is beautiful."

"You think so?" I asked her.

"I do! I read it on our downtime. Your father still hasn't touched it yet."

"Hey! Don't call me out like that," he scowled at mom. "I'm going to read it, Shayla. I just haven't had the time."

"He had all the time in the world just like I did," mom rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, well, I figured I could read the book once I got home. I didn't pay two thousand dollars on a vacation to read. I don't care whose book it is."

I laughed, "it's okay, daddy. Just tell me what you think when you get the chance."

"Did Mary tell you what she's naming the baby?" Mom looked at me.

I sighed, "yep."

She shook her head, "I told her that's weird and she should know the name is taken. She's so bent on the fact that 'Michael' is such a popular name. She's not changing it no matter what."

"I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks it's weird. The name is only popular because of my husband. She's technically naming her baby after my husband," I rolled my eyes.

"Robert needs to knock some sense into her. If not, we're going to have two 'Michael's' in the family named after Michael," Daddy laughed.

"Ugh," I scoffed. How weird is that? Could Mary get any more unoriginal? Did she not think of that?

"Speaking of which... Does this make you and Michael want to have kids any time soon now?" Mom smiled.

I sighed, "no, mom. Give us some time."

"What? Y'all don't know how to make a baby?" Dad laughed.

"Dad..." I groaned. "We know how to make a baby," I laughed. "We'll have children when we're ready, okay? Don't rush the process."

"Don't wait until we're dead and gone to have some." All this baby talk is going to annoy me pretty soon. Mary is having a baby and naming him Michael. My parents are pressuring me and Michael to have kids like they don't already have three grandchildren and one on the way. You'd think they'd know they're annoying me by now, but of course not. Katherine and Joseph don't pressure us. So, what is it with my parents? Probably because they're older than Katherine and Joseph. Ugh. They'll be alright. When Michael and I plan to have children, we will. A knock suddenly came to the door. I got up and looked through the peephole to find Roland. "Hey, Roland," I smiled, opening the door.

He nodded, "are you ready, Mrs. Jackson?"

"Wait a minute, young man," Dad stood up. "Come on in here real quick. I want to have a word with you." I shut the door behind Roland as he came in. "Shayla tells me you're her security guard."

"Yes, sir," Roland nodded.

"So, I'm sure you're getting paid good money to keep my daughter safe?"

"With my life."

"Hmm," Dad looked him up and down. "I'm sure Michael's done his investigation on you, but I'm Shayla's father. I have a whole investigation I have to do on you myself."

I sighed, "well, can you try to make it quick, dad? My flight leaves at four," I reminded him.

"Right, Jimmy. Don't take too long. You know that girl has to get back to her husband," Mom looked at him. She stood up to introduce herself to Roland, "I'm Angela, Shayla's mother. I trust you'll do your job well in keeping our daughter safe?"

"Yes, ma'am," Roland nodded.

"Do you say anything else besides 'yes, ma'am and 'yes, sir?'" Dad laughed. "Have a conversation with us, young man. Where are you from? Who's your family? How long have you been working in security? And why did Michael choose you?"

Roland cleared his throat, "Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, I'm from Ohio. I'm of the Bartholomew family. I've been working in security detail for a good six or seven years now. And I'm sure my resume caught Mr. Jackson's eye as I just quit working for the secret service for President Reagan."

Mom's eyes lit up, "President Reagan? Why did you quit?"

"That's classified information, but I was lucky to get this position to work for Mr. and Mrs. Jackson as security. So you'll be seeing a lot of me if your daughter allows."

Dad nodded, "I mean... If he's worked for the secret service, then he must be a good security guard for my baby girl, huh, Shayla?" he looked at me.

I shrugged, "I guess so. We gotta go, dad. Can't miss my flight. I miss my husband and I'm sure he misses me."

"Here you go. Trying to get away from us," he rolled his eyes playfully.

I laughed and went over to hug him, "I'll be back soon. With as much traveling as Michael and I are about to do, trust me, we'll stop by." I went over to hug mom as well. Roland began gathering my things and took them out to the rental car he had. "Tell everyone I love them."

"Have a safe flight, Shayla. Take care of my daughter, Roland," Dad warned him.

"I will. It was a pleasure meeting the two of you," he said as he followed me out the door. I reached to open the car door. "I got it, Mrs. Jackson," Roland called out to me and quickly opened the rear door for me.

"Thank you," I said as I slid into the back seat. He shut the door and continued to put the rest of my bags in the car. I'm excited to get back home. I'll get a chance to watch Michael rehearse for the tour. After all this time, I've only seen him on stage once. Now, I'll be able to experience the magic every night. It kind of sends shivers down my spine. I wasn't given the opportunity to see him on stage during the last tour until that last concert when he announced the split with his brothers. This tour will simply be amazing.

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