Day two of putting ourselves out there and while I'm not as nervous as before, my anxiety is through the roof at the number of questions we're going to get today. The news can't figure out if we're dating or married. They're speculating a secretive long-term relationship though. Which is true, but they haven't figured out the details yet. It's only a matter of time before they begin to notice the huge rock on my finger and Michael's wedding band and connect the two. The rumors about Michael's band in the media has been circulating for a while. Now is their chance to ask, I guess. As anxious as I am though, you'd think the focus would be more on Bill and Hillary. We'll certainly have to see, but I highly doubt it.
We finally pulled up to The Capital Centre to what seemed like millions of flashing cameras. There was no backdrop for us to stop and take photos at. The photographers would have to take as many photos and ask as many questions as they could before we entered the building in hopes that we'd answer. And honestly, I'm grateful. They can take as many photos as they want. I just want to get to my seat. Bill and Roland got out to help maneuver us through the crowd. Once Michael opened the door, he stepped his foot out of the vehicle and the photographers swarmed like a hive of bees just to get the best photo of him getting out of the car. Bill and Roland did exactly what they were hired to do to keep the paps and photographers out of the way so we could get out. Michael paid the photographers and paps no mind as he reached in to help me out of the vehicle.
"How long have the two of you been dating?!" someone shouted at us.
"Shayla, you look beautiful! Are you married to Michael?"
"What's with the rings?"
"Shayla, when did you meet Michael?"
"Do you consider Michael your soulmate too, Eliza?" Eliza? I laughed as Roland and Bill led Michael and me through the crowd of people shouting their questions and nearly shoving their cameras in our faces. The laughter seemed to calm my anxious heart in the best way that it could.
"Michael, can we please ask the lovely lady a question?" someone pleaded, causing Michael to stop in his tracks so that I could answer the question they begged to ask. The gentleman cleared his throat, "Shayla-Elizabeth, right?" Glad that he actually addressed me by my whole name, I nodded. "Michael addressed you as his soulmate a couple of days ago in LA. Are you his soulmate or is it simply platonic?" Michael smiled and waved for photos leaving me to answer by myself.
"Um," I cleared my throat. "Michael means a lot to me just as much as I'm sure I mean to him. I love him dearly."
"Excuse us," Michael took my hand in his and pulled me away from the reporter. "We're going to meet with Bill and Hillary, so we have to hurry and get inside," he told me as Bill and Roland led us into the building. I can only wonder what that reporter and the media will have to say about my statement because I know it's going to be a headline somewhere. This will be interesting. Celebrities and people of only the upper echelon filled the Centre in their Sunday Best. This audience was completely different from the NAACP audience. If I thought walking with Michael at the NAACP Image Awards was nerve-wracking, this one definitely beats it. I don't really feel like I can completely be myself like I could at the Image Awards. I have to stop freaking myself out. I've been around people of every ethnicity and nationality. This isn't new...
"Mr. Jackson, the President, and the First Lady look forward to meeting you," one of the security guards led us to Bill and Hillary. Michael and I both voted for Bill, so it's truly an honor to meet the well-rounded person we and the rest of millions of people who voted for him trusted to lead our country.
"Mr. President," Michael smiled, holding his hand out for Bill to shake.
"Mr. Jackson! Or is it okay to call you, Michael?" Bill smiled, shaking Michael's hand.
"Michael is okay."
"And who is this lovely lady," Hillary smiled at me.
"I'm Shayla-Elizabeth. It's such an honor to meet both of you," I greeted her.
"It's an honor to meet you and Michael!" Bill gushed. "The news has been talking about you two so much that you'd think you all were the President and First Lady," he half joked. Was that a small tinge of jealousy I heard from our President? Sandy warned us...
"It's just celebrity gossip, Mr. President," Michael laughed, assuring him.
"Shayla-Elizabeth, I've heard a lot about you..." Hilary smiled.
"Hopefully good things," I laughed nervously.
"Nothing but good things! Congratulations on being the bestselling author in the nation."
Wow. "Thank you, Mrs. Clinton..." I'm sure she reads the paper, but I didn't think she'd congratulate me on such a huge accomplishment or even care.
"Your books are incredibly enlightening. I want you to know that. I was actually hoping Michael would bring you as his date tonight just so that I could personally tell you that I'm a big fan of your work."
First Patti LaBelle and now the First Lady?! I swallowed the growing lump in my throat, "thank you, Mrs. Clinton. Really. You don't know what this means to me."
"I just hope you plan on putting out another book soon."
"Very soon," I laughed.
"We all have to get a photo together!" Hillary suggested. The presidential photographer hurried over to us as we all found a way to pose. Hillary and I faced one another at an angle as our husbands held our waists as we all smiled in the direction of the camera. The photographer took several shots, capturing history in his lens. "We're hanging this photo up in the White House. It's history!" Hillary gushed. I feel so honored having met the people who promised they'd do the best for our country. It's surely taken a while for me to be able to do this with Michael, but it's worth it despite the time it took. Bill is my favorite President at the moment anyway.
"Please send my manager a copy," Michael told her.
"You know we will. Can't wait to see you out there, Michael!" Bill waved as he went to greet another guest, prompting Michael and me to go find our seats.
"How was that?" Michael asked me.
"Better than I expected. They're such sweet people," I followed him to our seats.
"See? What did I tell you? Nothing to be worried about. That'll be the first of many Presidential meetings we'll be having from here on out. You'll be a pro in no time."
"And she reads my books, Michael!" I was careful not to squeal of excitement.
"Still not putting out a movie?"
He laughed, "it was worth a try."
Barbra Streisand, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin, Al Gore, and Elton John amongst others, pleased the masses that was the 52ndPresidential Inaugural Gala audience. And my was it a classy, exquisite event, yet somewhat boring. It's probably just because I don't listen to a bunch of the artists that they've had here. Plus, the loooonnnnggg speeches that only made me nod off at times. I'm excited now though because Michael should be hitting the stage any minute now.
"Now, Mr. President, it is my pleasure to introduce a member of Entertainment royalty," the presenter got on stage to announce. "His credentials as an artist are unsurpassed, but he is a person deeply committed to the planet and the children of the world. The King of Pop," he paused and turned to Michael who began walking up to the stage as the audience erupted in applause. I couldn't stop smiling as I clapped with everyone else. Just two days ago in LA, my husband was presented the Entertainer of the Year Award, now here in Landover, Maryland, he's reminding the nation why he won that award in the first place.
"Thank you, Mr. President Elect for inviting me to your Inauguration Gala. I'd like to take a moment from this very public ceremony to speak of something very personal," Michael paused to lick his lips. "It concerns a dear friend of mine who is no longer with us. His name is Ryan White." As Michael paused and the audience clapped, my heart dropped, and I could no longer look forward. It breaks my heart every day that I did not attend Ryan's funeral. As much as I hated Ryan talking about it, he'd say all the time how he wanted to be dressed at his funeral and would ask me if I'd make it almost every day. No matter how many times I tried to avoid the conversation, Ryan would find a way to make sure I told him yes. And I promised... And... it was the first promise that I've ever broken. It still eats me up inside. "He was a hemophiliac who was diagnosed with the AIDS virus. He was eleven. He died shortly after turning eighteen. The very time most young people are beginning to explore life's wonderful possibilities. My friend Ryan was a very bright, very brave and very normal young man who never wanted to be a symbol or a spokesperson for a deadly disease. Over the years, I've shared many silly, happy and painful moments with Ryan. And I was with him at the end of his brief, but eventful journey. Ryan is gone and just as anyone who has lost a loved one to AIDS, I miss him deeply and constantly. He is gone, but I want his life to have meaning beyond his passing. It is my hope, President-Elect Clinton, that you and your administration commit the resources needed to eliminate this awful disease that took my friend and ended so many promising lives before their time. This song is for you, Ryan." The instrumental to "Gone to Soon" began to play and before Michael even began to sing, I was already in tears. It's something I can never forgive myself for no matter how much I try. Ryan meant so much to Michael and me and we did everything we could to help him and his family. We spent as much time with him as we could. I hope Jeanne is watching this ceremony. I'm going to call her as soon as I get home. The room was quiet and in awe at Michael's raw vocals and at the end of the song, my poor baby's voice cracked. He bowed as the audience applauded his flawless performance.
"This next song... This next song is dedicated to all the children of the world," he said as the instrumental to "Heal the World" began. Michael smiled at me as he put his microphone on the ground behind him and adjusted the microphone on his collar. His mood quickly went up from being somber to a bit more joyful as he sang his favorite song. I was in awe just like the rest of the audience watching him up there transition and transform into the happier song. He worked the stage, dancing a little, being as magical as he possibly could be. I could never get bored seeing him on stage doing what he absolutely adored. No matter where we were, it seemed he personalized each and every performance to the audience he was performing to that night. Making each and every audience member feel like he was performing just for them. He walked over to the edge of the stage and grabbed a little girl's hand, leading a trail of children of every race onto the stage behind him as he continued to sing. I stood up wiping my tears as everyone stood up and applauded. This was simply extraordinary. He'd been telling me how the performance was going to go for weeks, but there's a difference between hearing about it and actually seeing it. My husband keeps me in awe, and I am so proud of him. There's no way I couldn'tbe proud of him. The fact that I actually get to watch all of this front and center instead of from backstage after Frank was fired, truly means a lot to me. I attended almost every event with Michael either backstage or I'd watch from a TV in his dressing room. And while the anonymity was nice, nothing beats being front and center watching my husband do what he does best and winning the awards I know he deserves front and center.
As Bill Cosby was going up to the stage, Michael was making his way back to me, "how'd I do?" he asked me.
I hugged and kissed him, "That was beautiful, and Ryan would be so proud of you."
"You know I almost cried up there?" He asked me. I nodded. "It didn't help that I looked over at you and you were over there crying."
"I couldn't help it..."
"It's okay, baby," he kissed my forehead and held my hand in his. One hour down. Another hour to go.
Authors Note: The words from the presenter introducing Michael Jackson are not mine. They are the actual words from the presenter at the 52nd Presidential Inaugural Gala of 1993 for former President Bill Clinton.
Michael Jackson's "speech" is also not my own. He said these exact words during the Gala prior to his performance.
Everything else came from my own creative mind.