"Michael, I can't keep doing this. How have you been able to do this all of your life?" I asked him as we entered the house. We didn't even bother to bring in my things. I just wanted to relax in the house. Plus, it didn't help that paparazzi was still at our gates snapping photo after photo.
"You know, I remember the first time I experienced mayhem like this. I was twelve years old and "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save" were all on the Hot 100. It was after a concert or a performance of some sort and my brothers and I were heading to the limo to go home. As soon as we walked out the building, thousands of pre-teen and teenage girls rushed towards us. I was frightened. I know they were excited to see us, but the way they rushed toward us I was certain we weren't going to make it out alive. Security literally had to form a circle around us to protect us from those girls."
"How did you all make it out?" I wondered.
"The promoters of the show had to call the police. Once the police came, they were able to get through the girls and walk us to our car. That didn't stop them though. They only continued to follow us. They were shouting our names, reaching their arms out to touch us. Can you imagine that at twelve years old?" He asked me. I shook my head. "It was frightening. I remember having nightmares about it for quite some time." He nodded as he stared into space.
"Considering you're so used to it now, how long did it take you to get over it?"
"I don't think I've gotten over it yet. As far as I can say, I'm just used to it. Since I've grown, my family and I have found ways to ward the paparazzi off, but there are still times when I'm taken by surprise. Some places I'll expect them to be, like after concerts, award shows or other major events. But when they got through the gates at my parents' house? Talk about a flashback. That definitely took me back to when I was twelve." I jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. "You okay?" Michael put a hand on my thigh.
"Yeah. I think these paparazzi have me anxious now. I didn't expect that."
"I can answer it if you want."
"No, I've got it." I got up and answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Shayla-Elizabeth Johnson." My mother answered.
"I'm so glad to hear your voice, mom." I smiled. "How are you?"
"What have you been getting into in California, girl?" She asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I'm looking at a photo of you and Michael in the car on the cover of People Magazine. And you know I normally don't get those celebrity gossip magazines."
"People Magazine?" I asked. Michael came over to me and pressed the speaker button on the phone.
"Yes, Shayla! You and Michael are on the cover. I couldn't believe my eyes. Now I've got the entire congregation calling me about you and Michael Jackson." I looked at Michael who in turn looked at me. "What is going on, Shayla?" Just as she asked that another call was coming through.
"Hang on, mom. Someone else is on the other line. Let me call you back." I hung up and answered the next call. "Hello?"
"MY BABY SISTER IS A CELEBRITY NOW! SHAYLA, YOU'VE HIT THE JACKPOT!" Matthew yelled into the phone.
"Shayla you're everywhere. Everyone is calling about you. Even a couple of my homeboys who had crushes on you way back when want your number now." He laughed.
"Hey, Matt. It's Michael." Michael made his presence known.
"Mike! My brother! You better keep Shayla by your side at all times. I've got buddies calling for her. Now granted, I'm not going to let my ass heads of friends get to my sister, because they're just not right in the head. But you better protect her, you hear me?"
"I hear you, Matt." He rolled his eyes.
"And Shayla, now that you're a celebrity and all, let me give you a couple of tips so you aren't out here ruining the images of others and mostly myself..." Just as he began, another call came in.
"Matthew, I'm going to call you back. I think this is mom calling me back." I hung on him and answered the next one. "Yes?"
"Shayla, it's David. Here's what I need you to do. I need you to find me a spot in Encino. Then I need you to get a hold of Madonna for me since by now you know everyone in the industry. Finally, I need you to call the paparazzi and have them meet me, you, Michael and Madonna at the finest restaurant you know of. That way everyone knows you've got a brother who is also dating a celebrity and she's definitely not a virgin no more." He laughed. "Because I'm sure by now you're getting sick of all the attention being on you. May as well pass the baton, right?"
"Bye, David." I hung up the phone and looked at Michael. "What in the hell was that?"
"Matthew called me his brother." He made a face.
"And David wants me to hook him up with Madonna. I don't even like Madonna."
"You haven't even met her. She's sweet."
"Yeah, right. That Like a Virgin persona is just a fake. I can see right through her." Michael laughed. "How come I'm hearing from David all of a sudden? He doesn't even like me."
"I'm sure he grew a liking for you once he saw you on the magazines. Fame changes people." He shrugged. Just then another call came in. Michael pressed the speaker button. "Jackson residence." He answered.
"Michael, it's James. I would like to speak to my daughter, please." My dad answered.
"Yes, sir," Michael said as he looked at me.
"Hey, daddy." I sighed.
"How's my little girl doing?" He asked.
I smiled, "I'm not little anymore. I'm sure you've seen those magazines mama brought home. I'm a grown woman now, huh?"
"Yeah, but I'm calling to make sure you're okay. Knowing you, this may be a little bit too much to handle."
"I know. How's everything going? How are you handling this?"
"Okay... I mean. Everywhere I go there's a group of men with cameras. I got fired from my job-"
"You got fired?"
"Yep. Paparazzi found their way to my job and Mrs. Walker told me that school is no place for that. Which I understand completely for the safety of the children, but now I'm without a job."
"That's not fair. What does Michael think about that?"
"I was upset, sir," Michael answered. "I understand paparazzi can be brutal, but I don't think she should have been fired for it. If anything, suspended until the heat cools down, but not fired. She's applying for private schools in the area. Schools that teach affluent children. Those schools tend to have an exceptional amount of security."
"Well, that's good to hear. I'm glad you're getting everything sorted out. Now, Shayla?"
"Yes, sir?" I answered.
"Don't you let these vultures get the best of you. I saw one of those photos they had of you out here looking crazy. Just looking at that photo hurt me because that's not my daughter. I can see the fear in your eyes, baby..." I sighed. Ugh. I miss my dad. Right about now, I would love to be with him away from all this mess. "What have I told you about people who get the best of you?"
"Um... don't give them the attention they're seeking?"
"Yeah, but that's not the one I'm looking for."
"Kill people with kindness?"
"That's another good one, but the one I need you to keep in mind is, 'he who angers you, conquers you.' People who can make you mad, sad, or any form of upset control you. Now, your mother and I have raised five beautiful, well-mannered, and smart children. We're still working on Mariah, but you get my drift. Be smart, baby girl. Don't let these paparazzi get the best of you. Don't let them anger you. Don't let them catch you out here looking crazy. You show those vultures the real you. You smile when you see them. You get through them with the manners I taught you. And above all else, you make sure they see a strong young woman, not a scared little girl. You hear me?"
I smiled, "yes, sir."
"Alright, baby girl. That's Mariah crying for no reason. Let me get back to her and I'll talk to you soon, okay? I love you, Shayla-Elizabeth."
"I love you too, daddy." I smiled as I hung up. I looked at Michael with tears in my eyes. "I miss my dad. I need to go visit him soon."
He laughed and hugged me, "we should definitely go out there and see your family. I know they're missing their California Girl."
"Uh-uh." I shook my head. "Don't be out here calling me a 'California Girl.' I am an 'Ohio Girl.' Raised and reared. Do not equate me to this mess." We laughed.
"Well, okay then. Which one do you prefer, 'Farm Girl' or 'Corn Girl?'"
"Hey! Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Ohio is a farmer or lives around corn."
"You're right. They live in the boonies. I'm going to call you 'Boonie Girl.'"
"Get out of here, Michael." I laughed.
"No, but on a serious note, I wish my dad gave me words of wisdom like that. You know what my dad said to me when he saw me scared of those girls?"
He did his best impression of Joseph, "'boy, stop acting scared. I didn't raise you to be a pussy. I raised you to get some pussy."
"At twelve." He nodded.
"Wow... I'm sorry, babe. At least he's matured past that, right?"
"Somewhat. You saw how mad he was when I announced my departure. And that was mild for him. Now don't get me wrong, I love my father. I just wish he offered words of wisdom like other fathers and not just, 'suck it up or shut up.'" He shrugged.
I hugged Michael and looked up at him, "well, you have a wife who loves you and supports you. And you've got a great father-in-law who can give you those words of wisdom that you desperately need." Michael looked down at me and smiled.
"You know it amazes me how you always find a way to be kind to others despite whatever you're going through. Or offer words or support. I love you so much and I'll always protect you from whatever, Shayla. May it be paparazzi, stalkers, dogs, evil-doers. Whatever. You know I'll protect you, Shayla." He kissed me.
"Thank you, baby. I love you too." I hugged Michael tight. Suddenly a knock came to the door. Michael and I looked at each other. "Who could that be?" I asked him as I let go of him and made my way to the front door with Michael following close behind me. I opened the door to see a man looking behind him at the paparazzi taking photos from the gates. "Excuse me? Can we help you? How did you get through the gates?" He turned around with a tear-stained face. "Byron?!"