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Chapter 7

"You know the NAACP Awards are next Saturday, right?" I asked Shayla once I settled down on the couch.

"Yes, and I still haven't figured out what I'm going to wear, so we've got to go shopping," she reminded me.

"Right..." I nodded. "I mean, we've already talked to Sandy about it. All we've got to do is walk that carpet, take a couple of pictures, more than likely answer a couple of questions and make our way to our seats. It'll be a breeze."

"You say that now, but this is really our big debut. I'm a nervous wreck, Michael..."

"Why? The world has spotted you with me before."

"Yeah, but we're finally purposely coming out together. I've still got some mental preparing to do."

"Okay," I stood up to give my wife a warm embrace. "We'll do as much preparing as you want. It's just a walk, a hello and a lot of questions."

"Can we practice some of the questions they're gonna ask us?"

"Sure..." I shrugged.

"What do you think they'll ask?"

"'Michael Jackson! Who is the lovely lady you have on your arm?'" I imitated a journalist. "Well, this here is Shayla-Elizabeth." I put my fist below my mouth to imitate a microphone and imitated a journalist again, "and Ms. Shayla-Elizabeth, who are you?"

Shayla cleared her throat, trying her best not to laugh, "I'm an author. You've probably seen my work at your local bookstore or library."

"Stop, stop, stop," I laughed. "Babe, you sound like a nerd. Come on now."

"I am a nerd. You knew this when you married me, Michael," she slapped my arm.

"Keep it simple, okay? 'I'm a New York Times Best Seller.' That sounds way better than 'you can find my work at your local library.'"

"Well, I want to sell myself as well."

"Trust me, you will. They'll probably ask who you are to me..."

"And how will you answer that if we're not announcing it right at that time?"

"My best friend," I shrugged.

Shayla put her fist underneath her mouth to imitate a microphone, "but I thought Elizabeth Taylor is your best friend," she tilted her imaginary microphone toward my mouth.

"Yeah, well, Shayla-Elizabeth is my absolute best," I pulled her in for a kiss.

She laughed, "how was rehearsal, baby?"

"It was good! You know we only have five songs on the setlist. We got a good amount of kids to join us onstage. You'll love the show, babe. Honestly."

"I love every show you put on and the world will too."

"No doubt they will. I'm putting so much into this show. They have no idea what they're in for. I got around to calling that Jordie kid by the way."

"Jordie...?" She thought about it. "Oh! You called him? How was he?"

"Ecstatic. His mother kept saying how he was anticipating my call. He likes video games, so I invited him to the hideout to play some."

Shayla's eyebrows scrunched together and raised, "you invited him to the hideout?"

"Yeah. I mean, his mom said no, but yeah, I did."

"Why not invite him to Neverland? Why the hideout?"

"Because that's the closest place I've got where he can play some games."

"Yeah, no. Having kids at Neverland is one thing, but our hideouts, Michael? That's a no."

"Well, I wouldn't want him driving all the way out to Los Olivos just for games, right?"

"I don't even know why you invited him at all. We don't know that kid. We don't owe him anything. You should have talked to me first. I already told you I felt some type of way about his mom giving you their number in the first place."

"Shayla..." I groaned. "He's a good kid! He said he liked video games and I invited him to play video games. What is the issue, baby?"

"We don't know this kid."

"We don't know half of the kids we invite to Neverland anyway. What's the difference?" I shrugged. I don't understand why Shayla is getting so riled up about this. June said no anyway. It's really not that big of a deal.

"None of those kids gave you their number. That's what. Anyway," she rolled her eyes. "Oprah is coming tomorrow."

"Right," I nodded. "Do you want me to introduce you to her?"

"You know I would actually like it if you did, but at the same time, she's a talk show host. Once she sees me before your interview, she'll probably talk about it on her talk show as soon as she can. I don't see her keeping that to herself for a couple of weeks."

She certainly has a point, "you think so?"

"It's Oprah, babe. Come on," she scoffed.

"But then I'd feel like I'm keeping you a secret."

"No, you're not. The whole world, including, Oprah will see us together in more places than one starting next week. Let those shows be the first time she sees me. Then when her talk show comes back, she'll have something to talk about. I'm sure she and the fans will wonder who the heck I am. It'll be fine."

"Babe, I feel like I'm hiding you from Oprah Winfrey though... I'm bringing her into our home for a photoshoot, but also so she can see how I really live... I kind of want you with me," I begged. I really want Shayla to be there for multiple reasons. One, she's my wife and Neverland is our home. Two, I'm nothing without Shayla. Three, Shayla is a part of my day to day life. She's what makes me "normal" and I want Oprah to see every aspect of normality to me before even broadcasting it.

"I'll find somewhere else to be for a couple of hours. It's no big deal. Call Elizabeth. I'm sure she would love to be with you. She was the mastermind behind this whole Oprah thing anyway."

"You want Elizabeth to be with me for the photoshoot?" I am so confused right now. Shayla only tolerates Elizabeth and now she's recommending Elizabeth be there for me instead of her?

"Yeah, I'll busy myself elsewhere. Matter of fact, I'll continue celebrating with Remi. She's been calling me about getting drinks anyway."

"At nine a.m.? Oprah is supposed to arrive at nine..." I reminded her.

"There ain't nothing wrong with a couple of mimosas, baby, come on now," she laughed.

"Babe, I really want you to be with me during the photoshoot. I want Oprah to see how normal I really am. You make me normal. You make me feel normal. You're a part of my daily routine. I want Oprah to see that..." I pleaded this time. She has no idea how much this means to me. She's already not going to be with me during the interview. I just want the two of them to meet, is all.

"You like big announcements, baby..."

"You don't understand, babe. I'm begging you. I really want Oprah to meet you. You mean the world to me. I'll even make sure she doesn't even discuss you until the interview if it means that much to you. I just want you to meet her."

"You're going to tell Oprah, a gossiping talk show host, that we're married and expect her not to say anything before we do?" A raised eyebrow accompanied her question.

I sighed, "alright." As much as I want Shayla there with me, she has a point. I tell Oprah we're married and the next day it'll be all over her show without us even having a chance to announce it ourselves. We've been together for ten years and I want to make this year the absolute best. That includes finally announcing our marriage to the world together and on our own. I may as well just let Oprah ask me about Shayla during our interview after she and the world have seen us out and about everywhere...

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