I woke up to find Shayla not in bed. I hate that we went to bed upset with each other. I'm going to have to make it up to her. I went to the restroom, put on a shirt and made my way out to the living room to find the family having breakfast around the table.
"Good morning, everyone," I said as I kissed Shayla on the cheek and sat beside her.
"Good morning!" They said between eating. I scanned the table to find eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and fruit. I guess I'm just going to have to settle for the pancakes and fruit because nothing else is vegetarian-friendly.
"How'd you sleep?" Shayla asked me.
"I've slept better..." I shrugged, "what about you?"
"I'm sorry about last night."
"Don't worry about it."
"No, I didn't mean to get upset with you, babe. I just felt like you were making a big deal over-"
She placed her hand on mine, "let's not have this conversation over breakfast,"
I nodded, "are you all enjoying breakfast?" I asked mom, dad, and Mariah.
"Mmmhm," Mariah nodded. "Michael, I asked Shayla if I could stay with you guys for the summer. She told me it's okay with her as long as it's okay with you... So, can I please?"
I looked at Shayla, who looked at me, "um, that sounds like a good idea as long as your parents-"
"That'll be fine," dad managed to say as he coughed between bites.
"Don't choke, dad," Shayla shook her head.
He swallowed, "I'm just saying, baby. It's fine with us. Mariah can stay with you all any time she would like. Fall, summer, winter, spring. It doesn't matter to us."
Mariah rolled her eyes, "you know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you all were trying to get rid of me."
"Not forever, just for a whole season, baby girl," Dad smiled at her.
"I don't know, Jimmy. Mariah is spoiled. With her living that California life too long, we may end up with a monster on our hands. I think a month will be fine," mom nodded in our direction.
"I'm glad you admitted she's spoiled, mom," Shayla laughed.
"You know, we didn't mean to spoil her, but that's our last baby. Thank God Robert is starting to have children. I'm praying Matthew and David get married and start popping out some kids too. And especially you and Michael," Mom looked at me.
I cleared my throat, "um, we've been thinking about kids, but not right now, mom. You know with my career and all."
"I know, I know. Just make sure I'm still alive when you decide to have babies, okay?"
"Mom don't say it like that..." Shayla looked at her.
"I'm serious! With the rate y'all are going, I won't see all my babies have kids."
"Angie, I think that's what happens when we decided to start having kids when we were in our thirties," dad gave her a look.
"Well, I wanted to enjoy my life with you before we had any kids, Jimmy. Once you have children, you're a parent forever. I wanted to enjoy my time without children for a while."
"Don't you think that's what everyone else is trying to do? And don't forget about Mariah. She's only eight years old, babe. I don't expect her to have babies until she's married and at least twenty-eight. By then, we're going to be in our seventies and eighties, baby. Oh my gosh..." Dad sulked in his chair.
I laughed, "eighty isn't too bad, dad. At least you'll still be able to walk Mariah down the aisle."
"Yeah, from a wheelchair!" Everyone laughed. I hope Shayla and I are this jovial once we're their ages.
"You guys don't have to worry about me. I don't even like kids." Mariah mentioned. Everyone looked at her. "What?"
"Mariah, you're a kid, yourself. If you don't like kids, you don't like yourself," Shayla laughed.
"Yeah, well, I'm pretty mature for my age. Ask my teachers! They'll tell you."
"The same teachers that are calling my house every day about your behavior?" Mom shot her a look. At that, Mariah put her head down. "What time is check-out?" She asked me.
"I'll ask for a late check-out at one. Is that okay?"
"Sounds good. I wanted to take advantage of the free massages anyway."
"Awesome. I'll make the call." I got up and made my way to the phone.
"Mariah, get these dishes together and put them in the sink," dad instructed her.
"Why? We have maids to do that."
"I told you to put them in the sink, not wash them. Now, you can wash them and take a load off the housekeeping."
She sucked her teeth, "daddy!"
"You did that to yourself. Now, make it quick, so you won't miss the massages." I picked up the phone and dialed the front desk and requested a late check-out to which they happily accepted. Once I hung up, Shayla took my hand and led me back to our bedroom. "Alright, you two! I don't want grandkids out of you just yet! Give us some time, sheesh."
"Daddy!" Shayla blushed of embarrassment and shut the door. "My dad is a mess," she shook her head. I laughed as I undressed to take a shower. She followed me, undressing as well. "What did you want to get into today?"
"Well, I was thinking of getting a massage as well. It's much needed. Are you down for one too?"
"Sure," She shrugged, "but I was thinking of taking a stroll along the river... What do you think?"
"Um..." I thought about it. I'd hate to tell her, no, but this is Chicago... "Why don't we just stay in the hotel? I'd feel better in here than outside in Chicago right now."
"Oh, yeah," she sighed. "Well, I'm sure we can find something in this hotel to do."
"Yeah," I kissed her cheek. I turned the shower on and got in with her.
"Does that cream wash off when you get in the water?"
"I wouldn't assume so. When I put it on in the morning, I assume that it dissolves into my skin and the same thing at night. I don't think it would wash off."
"I guess it makes sense to put it on in the morning and at night so that it will work its magic, huh?"
"Yeah... Babe, I wanted to apologize to you about last night. I felt like you were making a big deal about the situation. I should have appreciated the fact that you were concerned about what I was putting on my body."
"No... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gone in on you like that. You're right. I don't know what it's like to be in your shoes. Especially after everything that you've endured this past couple of years. I understand you wanting to fix something that you can't help. We all have something that we can't help that we want to fix."
"I guess I just wanted you to understand where I was coming from..."
"So, did I. I only want you to put the best on your body, Michael. Not something that could potentially harm you."
"I know, baby. I know. I understand your concerns. Dr. Klein said it was the best. He told me the side effects would only occur if I ever stopped using the cream abruptly."
"Okay... Well, I guess I'll help remind you of the times."
"Thanks, babe," I kissed her.
"Oh, by the way... That thing you did with your tongue last night has been on my mind all morning..." she blushed.
"Oh, really?" I smirked.
"Mmmhm. Mom already knew what was up once she saw me prancing around the living room with a smile on my face. Although I was upset with you, that good lovin' had me on cloud nine this morning."
"Can we get you to cloud ten?" I bent down before her, spreading her legs.
"I'm sure you'll be able to..."
The drive back to Cincinnati was long, especially with Mariah being extra childish about Shayla and I being all over each other. Mom had to explain to her that newlyweds are always all over each other, to which Mariah proudly proclaimed they'll never have to worry about that with her because she'll never get married. Once we got back to the house, the driveway was covered in so much snow, we had to park on the street. I'm definitely going to help dad shovel all that snow. Even if it takes us until the rest of the evening. Dad and I helped mom, Mariah and Shayla take in their bags as they began to get ready for dinner. Once we got everything in, Dad led me to the garage to get the shovels.
"Here, put this snow mask on you so that no one recognizes you," he threw the mask to me. I put the mask on and the extra pair of gloves he gave me. "You ever shovel snow before?"
"Last time I tried, I was probably seven or eight years old," I shrugged.
"I'll take that as a no," he said as he opened the garage door. Once the garage door was opened, we were met with all the snow on the driveway. "So, we're going to shovel all the snow on the driveway and on the sidewalks in front of our house. All you have to do is put a little bit of muscle into it, put the shovel underneath the snow like you're digging and throw it onto the lawn. It's not hard. It's a workout, but it's not hard." I'm not going to lie, it's been a long time since I've done hard labor. If we lived here, I'd definitely have someone do this for me. But I guess this will be a learning experience for me, that I hope to never use again. I began following dad as he started shoveling the snow. "Tell me about your father, Michael. What's he like?"
"Well, he's a hard-working guy. We're not all that close. He's a stern guy. Only wants to see us succeed and he knows just about everything there is to know about the music business. Right now, he's upset with me because of the way I ended the tour, so I haven't talked to him. But other than that, he's pretty decent."
"Why is he upset with you for that?"
"I guess he expected me to continue singing with my brothers since that's how we started out. But I didn't enjoy that. Everyone could tell I didn't enjoy it. To me, I think he just wanted me in the group to continue bringing money in. I want to earn my own money for myself, not necessarily my family. I think my family has made it at this point."
"I think you're right about that. You all are famous all over the world! What did your father do before all this fame happened? How was he then?"
"Um, I'd say he was the same then as he is now. Except for the fact that we're all older now, so he can't discipline us the way he used to. But he's still stern. I'd say he may be a little softer now that money is no longer an issue. In Gary, he worked at a Steel Mill. He would work such long hours in that factory," I shook my head.
"Do you know what your dad's dreams were before the rise of your group?"
"Um..." I thought about it. My father and I were never that close to discuss his dreams. I'd hope that eventually, we can get close enough to discuss that, but as of now no... "I don't know what his dreams were. If I can guess, I think music was always a dream of his. Like, I said before, my dad had a group called The Falcons. He, my uncle Luther and some of their coworkers would come over every night to practice in that little living room. But once he found out we all had talent, he started spending less time with them and more time with us."
"So, music is just in your blood, huh?"
I smiled, "yes, sir." I love music so much. It amazes me how much of a connection I have to it.
"How are you and Shayla getting along? I saw that little conversation y'all started to have at breakfast this morning," he looked at me.
"We're fine. We had a small argument last night. It was a huge misunderstanding, but we got it sorted out," I blushed to myself. We definitely sorted that one out quick.
"That's good to hear. Now, son, do you mind if I ask you something?"
"Yeah, dad. What's up?"
"I've been seeing your skin... Is everything alright?"
I looked everywhere but, in his eyes, "um..." I didn't expect him to ask me that. Everything has been going so well, that I didn't think the family noticed.
"If you don't want to discuss it, I understand. I just want to make sure you're alright."
I was hesitant to respond, but as I thought about it, his compassion towards my skin condition, actually made me happy. Joseph has done nothing but tease me about my insecurities and here I have my father-in-law asking if everything is okay... "Can I be honest?" I finally looked at him.
"That's all I expect from you, son," he nodded.
"This is kind of off topic, but I feel I have to get this off my chest... Growing up, my father never allowed for me to call him, 'dad,' 'daddy,' 'father,' 'pop,' 'papa,' or anything else of that nature. So, when you told me I can call you dad, it actually made me the happiest person in the world."
He looked at me, "well," he sighed, "what else are you supposed to call me?" he smiled a little.
"It just means a lot to me that I'm able to call you that and I wish I could call my actual dad that as well... My father and I are extremely distant. I wish we had heart to heart conversations like the ones you and I have been having since I've been over here. I think it's safe to say that I feel like I don't know my dad because he hasn't been able to let me know him, if you get what I mean."
"I get you."
"I've had, and I still have a ton of insecurities that I deal with that my father chose to tease instead of helping me get through it. He's made fun of me for my nose, my weight, my skin, practically everything about me. And it's interesting because I'm literally a spitting image of him... Not once has he asked me about my skin and how I'm dealing with it. The fact that you're asking me if I'm okay really touches me..."
He came over and pulled me in for a tight hug. A hug, I'm sure only a father can give his child. While I'm not his child biologically, I truly feel like a part of the family. "Michael, you are my son. I'm not going to call you my son-in-law, because first of all, that's too long to say all the time. I will never replace your father and I don't ever want you to think that I am. You're an excellent husband to my daughter. You're a great provider. You've made a name for yourself. You're successful. You are truly one of a kind, son. Now, although your father may have put you through some things emotionally and mentally, I need you to accept that although it wasn't right, it has somehow molded you into the person you are today. Despite all that bad, you feel he has done to you, try to remember all the good that he has done to get you to this place. You've learned and you're still learning from those experiences. I'm sure your dad is proud of you. I'm sure he wants a relationship with you. And I'm positive that although he's upset with you now for breaking up with the group, he'll get over it and eventually he'll be proud to look back on it and realize how strong and how bold you are to go out there and make a name for yourself."
"Thanks, dad," was the only thing I could manage to get out without crying all over the place like some wimp. Not only did Shayla need this trip back home with her family, but apparently, I did too. We both needed to get away and I've found that I can confide in her father. This also makes me want to try for a relationship with my own father, that way I feel comfortable with confiding with him as well. But only time will tell when that will happen.
After dinner, Shayla and I helped wash the dishes. I headed to our room as Shayla stayed downstairs to chat with her family. I checked my watch: 7:00 pm. Meaning it's about four p.m. in LA right now. I have to get a hold of Epic. They've been lining up managers for me since I've fired Joseph. Now it's time to hold a phone interview and figure out who I want to hire. I called the office.
"Hello?" Brenda answered.
"Hi, Brenda, it's Michael."
"Hi, Michael! How's everything going?"
"Everything is going well. I was calling because I have phone interviews for a new manager starting now actually."
"That's right. All of the contenders are in the boardroom waiting on your call. I'll transfer you over."
"Thank you." I waited as she paged me over. I got a notepad and pen to write down any notes. If I found the best manager, I'd hire them on the spot, but if I couldn't find anyone, they'd have to find a whole new batch. So, I hope I'm lucky enough to find one now.
"Hello, Michael, it's Quincy!" Quincy Jones answered the phone.
"Hey, Q! You're holding the interview?"
"I sure am! I mean, hey, we're working on the next album together. Why not help you find a manager too, huh?"
"I actually like that," I smiled.
"Good! Good. So, today, I have Brandon Coolidge, 38, manages Madonna. Chris Humphries, 27, he's new to the business. Lastly, we have Frank Dileo, 37. You're familiar with him."
"Hi, Michael!" They all responded.
"Well, since this is a phone interview. I'm going to make this quick because I'm with family and I want to get as much answered in as little time as possible. I'm going to ask five questions in total to which all of you will answer. Then whoever I choose will stay on the phone with me and will answer two more questions. By then, hopefully, I like him enough to make him my manager. Frank, I'm going to start with you since I know of you already, how long have you been in the music business?"
Frank started, "well, to be honest with you, Michael, I started in the late nineteen sixties as someone who distributed records to retail stores. I was soon hired onto CBS Records in '68. I've helped promote albums to local radio stations in Cleveland, Ohio. Then I was promoted to the regional offices in Chicago. Now I'm Vice President of National Promotion with Epic."
"Sounds like you've been all over the country there," I laughed as I took notes. "Mr. Coolidge, how about you?"
"Michael, I'm managing Madonna right now, so it's safe to say that I've been in the music business for quite some time since I'm already managing one of the hottest artists out right now. Unlike, Mr. Dileo here, I didn't hop from city to city. Instead, I stayed in my own town of Dallas, Texas. I've worked on radio stations, worked in recording studios, an I've even helped with a couple of music videos from time to time. All in Dallas. I'm only here in LA now because of Madonna and hopefully because of you."
He sounds like a butt-kisser, "Mr. Humphries, Q said you're new to the business. Did you just get out of college or something?"
Chris cleared his throat, "yes, Mr. Jackson. I graduated with a degree in Music from Harvard University."
"So, you love music?"
"Yes, Mr. Jackson."
He sounds so new, it's kind of funny, "what do you love about it so much and how will your love for music help me as a potential client?"
"Well, Mr. Jackson, I enjoy how artists can make any sound their own. Music is a form of art. Instead of physically painting pictures, the listener visually creates their own art from their mind with what they hear. Be it, a symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to Prince's Purple Rain album. Music finds a way to identify with the listener which in turn makes dollars for the artists. My love for music will help you as a potential client because I will make sure you have the biggest tours, the best-selling albums, and we can find a way to own your masters."
"Interesting..." I nodded. He's too new. I think with a little more experience he'd do great, but I'd rather not risk my chance with him and end up all messed up at the height of my career. "Frank, what makes you the most qualified to be my manager?"
"You're under Epic Records, I'm the VP of National Promotion for Epic Records. I was voted executive of the year by Epic and was responsible for taking Epic from the number fourteen label in the nation to number two. You're already the number one artist in the country, Michael. I'm going to make sure you stay there."
I smiled, "alright, Frank. Sounds good. Mr. Coolidge, what professional achievement are you most proud of?"
"Managing Madonna! She's the hottest female artist out right now. She is definitely a professional achievement I'm proud of."
"So... if you had the both of us, I'm sure that would make you the luckiest man on earth, right?"
"Mr. Jackson noone would be able to touch our team. We'd be unstoppable."
To be honest, I like Madonna as my competition, not as a teammate. "Lastly, Mr. Humphries, can you tell me about a time you overcame a challenge?"
"Honestly, Mr. Jackson, getting this interview. To be a new college graduate and to be able to be right here talking to you as a contender to be your manager is a challenge I've overcome. You had so many applicants and I'm blessed to have been one out of hundreds to be chosen."
I sighed, "well, Quincy, I think I may have my manager."
"Who may that be, Michael?" Q asked.
I looked over my notes. Coolidge would just be excited if he were able to have Madonna and me on the same team. That's a no. Humphries is a newbie. Good attitude and he has the education, but if he had more experience in the music industry, he could have been an option. And Frank... I've worked with Frank before. He's quite a big deal in Epic. He has all the credentials and he's done amazing work for many artists... "Frank, I just have two more questions for you."
"Alright! You heard the man," Q started. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Humphries and Mr. Coolidge. If you exit through these doors and turn left, Brenda will be able to show you out."
"Good luck, Michael!" Mr. Humphries and Mr. Coolidge offered as they exited.
"They're out and you can go ahead and ask your questions, Michael," Q told me.
"To be honest, Frank, I have no further questions. You have the credentials. I've seen what you've done for Epic. I've seen what you've done for other artists, so I can only imagine what you'll be able to do for me as my manager. You've got the job, Frank."
"Michael, you won't regret it. Once you get back on this side of the country, we're giving you a whole new image."
I smiled, "I'm completely open to that. I'm ready for a new look, new music, and a whole new era."
"As your new manager, Michael, I have one condition as it relates to your success as an artist and for this new era we're bringing in," Frank started.
"Anything you say, Frank. I'm one hundred percent open to it. If it will keep me on the top, I have no problem."
"That girl you have on your arm, girlfriend, wife, whatever. You've got to get rid of her. You're at the top of your game. And we need you single, not tied down."
To Be Continued...