After viewing the Living With Michael Jackson documentary, Michael discovers that Martin had lied to him and seeks legal action against him. He faces media harassment but has his adopted daughters and a new female companion to help him through the ordeal. When he faces his second set of child molestation allegations, and some corruption is uncovered in the LAPD, his emotional state is put to the test. Will he gain the strength he needs to be able to conquer the grisly charges once and for all? Will the cops face consequences for their illegalities? Or is another settlement the only viable option?
Invincible: 2000-2003, 2003-2005, Angst, Drama, Romance, Trigger Warning! Characters:
Michael, Original Girl
Graphic Depictions of Violence, Mild ViolenceTrigger Warnings:
Alcohol Abuse, Anorexia, Bulimia, Domestic Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse
Sep 04, 2013 Updated:
Jul 05, 2022
The 2nd of 4 books in a quadrilogy. As usual, I am not making money off of this story; I am doing this for fun and love. The three characters Mariann, Nikki and Kerri belong to me, so do me a favor and don't steal them. This fan fiction takes place after the taping of the Martin Bashir interview up until the arraignment. Rated T for mild language and some mild violence. Hate mail is not welcome.
Here is an idea of what the main OCs in this story look like:
(Nikki Jackson, born 1984)
(Kerri Jackson, born 1983)
(Mariann Garcia, born 1960, masseusse)
(Tammy, Mariann's boss, born 1957)
(Sierra, Kerri's best friend, born 1983)
1. Chapter 1 by LadyKeren
2. Chapter 2 by LadyKeren
3. Chapter 3 by LadyKeren
4. Chapter 4 by LadyKeren
5. Chapter 5 by LadyKeren
6. Chapter 6 by LadyKeren
7. Chapter 7 by LadyKeren
8. Chapter 8 by LadyKeren
9. Chapter 9 by LadyKeren
10. Chapter 10 by LadyKeren
11. Chapter 11 by LadyKeren
12. Chapter 12 by LadyKeren
13. Chapter 13 by LadyKeren
14. Chapter 14 by LadyKeren
Nikki was in the living room, reading a book. She was waiting for her elder sister Kerri to finish getting ready. They would be spending the weekend with Michael Jackson that weekend, which they were looking forward to doing. They didn't know exactly what the plans for the weekend were besides getting a sneak peek of the Living with Michael Jackson documentary, but they were sure it would be fun, like it always was. He had been in their lives ever since they were 12 and 13, and she could still remember their first meeting as if it were only yesterday. Their parents had died in an earthquake 14 years prior, when they were very little. They had just moved to Japan and had been living there for two weeks. Their parents were the only family they had nearby. Because of that, they had been forced to live in an orphanage. Neither of them particularly liked the idea of staying there for such a long time, but they toughed it out. They really needed each other in order to get over the death of their parents. The orphanage life was indeed hard for both girls to cope with. Most of the other children were friendly and pleasant, but the administrator was a drill sergeant. She forced the cook to serve only bread and water. It was literally like being in prison. They didn't know how they managed to put up with such harsh treatment and deal with their grief at the same time, but they were able to....just barely. Well one day, when they were almost at their wits end, it seemed like they were in luck. Michael was doing his HIStory tour, and he had come to Japan to do a few shows. Both Kerri and Nikki were huge fans of Michael. They both had wanted to meet him so badly, but neither of them saw how that would happen...unless he happened to decide to visit the orphanage. He was known for visiting orphanages and children's hospitals before concerts. In fact, it was a rule he had.
During that particular leg of the tour, there was a big surprise. Michael had come to the orphanage that day, holding a large bag filled with goodies. Even the administrator, who was usually a bit on the stiff, dictatorial side, was pretty nice that day. Kerri wasn't sure if the woman was on her best behavior just because Michael was there, but she wasn't complaining. Nikki remembered the nervousness she felt while watching the singer hand out toys to each child. She had hoped if he came over to talk to her and Kerri, she wouldn't make an idiot of herself or start crying like a lot of fan girls seemed to do. Just the thought of that embarrassed her. Thankfully that hadn't happened. However, her nervousness nearly paralyzed her, and it took everything she had to say hello to him and tell him how much she loved him. She had been so overwhelmed by his friendliness, but she managed to pull herself together. She recalled that Kerri was trying her best to do the opposite...to not get overly excited but keep her fan girl side in check. The younger sister had opened up and told Michael about their parents dying when they were very young. That had made him feel very sorry for them. In fact, he had so much pity on the girls that he decided to adopt them. It was his chance to have children to raise, even though he and Debbie were expecting in a few months. He really wanted children of his own and he thought about having children from each continent. They thought this was so unreal since they expected to be at the orphanage for at least another two years. They couldn't thank him enough back then, and still didn't have enough words to express their gratitude. From that day on, he was known to them as "Daddy." Although the girls were now college students, they still spent as much time at the ranch as they could.
Nikki was so busy reflecting on the past that she didn't hear when her sister came out. She nearly fell off the couch when Kerri asked her if she was ready.
"Hey, don't sneak up on me like that!" she said, half amused, half exasperated.
"I didn't. You just didn't hear me come in," replied Kerri, giving Nikki a look. It never ceased to amaze her how deep in thought her sister could be when her mind wandered...almost as if she were meditating.
Nikki couldn't argue with that because it was true when she was so deep in thought, it was like she was in her own little world.
"Seriously, though, are you ready to go?"
"Are you kidding? I've been ready."
"Well, what are you waiting for? Let's go."
Nikki got her overnight bag and left the off-campus apartment with Kerri. They hoped the Arviso family would not be at Neverland that weekend. Although they seemed to be decent enough people when they were first there, they had become extremely boorish and destructive-especially the children. They hoped Michael would do something about their behavior soon.
It had been a month since Michael did his final interview with the British journalist Martin Bashir, and now he was looking forward to the premier of his documentary. Uri Geller, a friend of his had dropped off a copy of the documentary earlier. This documentary was meant to free him from the allegations that had surfaced nearly a decade ago. It would also show his true aim to make the world a better place...that's what he was hoping, anyway. A part of him had a bad feeling about this documentary. Although Bashir seemed to be on his side while the interviews were being filmed, he knew from past experience that a vast majority of journalists had the tendency to be one-sided, biased and sensationalist. Now that he thought about it, the interviews seemed to have gone a little too smoothly....and from past experiences whenever that happened with an adult, it meant the person was not to be trusted. His assistant had done some research and learned that Martin had been reprimanded for unfair journalistic practices several times. Michael knew his assistant meant well, even though he didn't suspect anything while doing the interviews. He would get to see a sneak preview of the documentary that day, so that meant he would get to watch for any "shady" behavior and try to prevent it from airing the following week if he needed to. People had misrepresented him in the past, and he wasn't going to allow it to happen again. His two oldest children were working on a puzzle with the nanny while he investigated this matter. Blanket was taking a nap. He didn't want them to be exposed to what could possibly be salacious details. He waited for his two adopted daughters to arrive. He always looked forward to spending time with them. Although they were practically teenagers when he had adopted them, they hadn't challenged him the way most teens challenged their parents. In other words, they were easy to deal with. He hoped his own children would be that easy to handle when they became teenagers. He had such a wonderful relationship with them and he didn't ever want to lose that as long as he lived.
Several minutes later, Nikki and Kerri promptly arrived, took their bags to their rooms, and came out and greeted him.
"Hi, girls," answered Michael, smiling. "How are you?"
"We're doing well." They both gave him a hug, and noticed that it was rather quiet. They wondered where their adopted siblings were. However, the Arviso family didn't seem to be nearby. They were happy about that, as their weekend would go much smoother. But they enjoyed being around their younger adopted brothers and sister.
"Dad? Where are Prince, Paris and Blanket?" asked Kerri.
"Paris and Prince are with Grace. Blanket is asleep."
"Oh. All right." She figured it was because they would be watching the documentary soon and she knew he wouldn't want the kids to see it just in case it included something uncalled for. Speaking of which, she and Nikki were worried about how the interview would turn out. They hoped it would be a decent one. If it turned out to be just another money making opportunity for a tabloid journalist, they would be highly upset.
"You two ready?" asked the 44 year old.
"Yeah, let's see it." Nikki had to admit she was a little bit nervous, and she had the feeling she might regret watching it later, but she was prepared for the worst since she'd heard all of the crazy rumors. Not to mention how the media and tabloids were intent on making him look like a detestable person. But she knew that whatever happened, they would get through it together.
Michael and his two adopted daughters were sitting in the movie theatre, and the Living with Michael Jackson interview began. The beginning was rather amusing with Michael's attempt at doing a British accent. Nikki couldn't help laughing, but a part of her felt guilty. She knew it was something that the media would blow out of proportion and then some of the viewers would say he was making fun of the British. She wondered what Bashir was trying to prove. That Michael was an insensitive person? That couldn't be further from the truth.
Kerri wasn't impressed by the introduction of the documentary at all. Something about Martin's tone as he was narrating seemed condescending. He had said he would be asking the singer about his face. ‘Um...what on earth? How sensationalist can he get?' She had thought the interview was going to be about the International Children's holiday that Michael wanted, as well as the goodwill he spread all over the world. That was what she remembered when the interviews actually took place. Something told her this would not be a good biography, just as she suspected. She was almost tempted to leave the theatre at that very moment, but decided not to, and to give it a chance. She was extremely patient to a point. She just hoped she wouldn't regret it. Of course, she knew she could always have Michael fill her in on all of the details, should she be forced to discontinue watching.
Michael was slightly unsettled, too. Pretty quickly he understood his assistant's suspicions and warnings about the British journalist. He was almost afraid to sit through the entire film, but he thought maybe it would improve. After all, it was only the beginning.
The film did improve ever so slightly, with a rather amusing scene that involved Michael and Martin going over to the amusement park. Michael was telling him how much he enjoyed going on rides, and that his favorite rides were the Ferris wheel and the carousel. "I like to play classical music on the carousel...you know, Barbara Streisand and songs like Smile."
Michael then challenged Bashir to a race, and the journalist accepted. Now that wasn't something the girls were not expecting to see. "I'm gonna whip your head!" they heard their adopted father say. He usually won races unless his opponent decided to cheat. He and Martin got into the racing cars.
"On your mark, get set......"
‘Come on, Dad,' thought Nikki, ‘You can do it.'
Martin had started driving before he heard the word go. That gave him an unfair advantage. Michael wasn't expecting this at all.
"Hey, he's cheating...he's cheating!" he was heard protesting.
Nikki and Kerri couldn't believe it either. But they were still confident Michael would win, since playing fair made all the difference.
In spite of Michael's honorable racing, Bashir won. Nikki and Kerri couldn't believe their eyes. From their perspective, that should not have happened because Martin cheated. But Michael had taken it in stride and told him how good he was at it.
‘Oh Dad, you're too kind to him,' Kerri couldn't help thinking. His forgiving attitude never ceased to amaze her, even though it was almost seven years since he'd been in her and Nikki's lives. If she was the one who he was racing against, she would have made him do a rematch. She had a passionate hatred for cheaters. Same with Nikki. Now she just didn't trust Martin. This prompted her to keep her eyes peeled for the remainder of the documentary.
The two men decided to go back inside for a little bit. This was when the interviews would officially begin. The two girls and Michael waited with baited breath to see how they would go, if the biography would continue to improve. Unfortunately, it did not. In fact, they thought the documentary was crap, to put it bluntly. Not to mention cruel. The documentary was riddled with edits, sensationalism and scandals...it totally took away from what it was supposed to be about in the first place. Nikki couldn't help but wonder what possessed Martin to do this film surgery. At the same time, though, it made her realize he was more of a scoundrel than she previously suspected. Bashir's narrating certainly didn't help matters. Often times he sounded very insulting. True, it had its decent moments but the infuriating moments outweighed them. And there were moments that were mediocre at best.
The first quarter of the documentary started off decent. Nikki especially gave Martin credit for mentioning Michael's vitiligo and the fact that it made him allergic to the sun, during his narration, when Michael was outside, showing the journalist how he liked to climb his giving tree and write music up there. Kerri found Martin's fear of climbing rather tickling, and thought it would have been the perfect scene, had it not been for Martin asking if Michael didn't prefer making love to balloon fights and climbing trees. She didn't understand what his point was.
During the first series of interviews, Michael was asked about his love for Peter Pan, about his technique used in writing music and dancing, including an informal lesson on how to do the moonwalk, about all he had to go through during the performances, as well as the strict discipline he and his brothers received, and how he was affected. That part always made his two adopted daughters feel a bit choked up...just seeing his facial expressions while talking about it. It was that way ever since the first time he told them about those days. True, they couldn't help but groan and it was one of several scenes that were heavily edited, but it was nothing compared to the injustices later on.
At one point during the documentary, Michael went to Las Vegas to spend some time, and invited Martin to come along with him. The journalist couldn't understand how the singer would want to leave the ranch for an extended period of time, but he couldn't refuse the invite because he thought it would have been interesting to see what Michael liked to do. Nikki and Kerri were slightly irritated about him questioning Michael. Was he not allowed to take a vacation? And he had brought them along, as well as, Prince, Paris and Blanket, so they didn't see what the problem was.
The two sisters had decided to stay in the hotel room with the three kids while Michael showed Martin his favorite activities in Las Vegas, which involved shopping, playing arcade games, and just riding around on a scooter. It was so nice to see Michael being relaxed and down to earth, though Martin annoyed the girls with some of his comments.
The documentary began to go sour when Michael went to Berlin to receive an award that fall. The two young ladies had not been able to go with him on that trip but they had seen it on the news and they had spoken to Michael about it on the phone, so they knew what was going on. They remembered how much press hype there was that day, and how Michael was afraid his children would be taken away. They really didn't care to relive that moment. They could have sworn that the media purposely manipulated the camera angles in order to make it look like he was trying to kill Blanket by throwing him over the balcony when that was a very long shot from the truth. Also Bashir had questioned him for taking his children to the zoo when there were so much paparazzi there. There was mainly a misunderstanding over whether the zoo would be opened for him later that evening or not. Nikki and Kerri were so angry about seeing all this stuff that they could barely keep from shaking. Not even seeing the scenes where Michael had nice sweet moments with the fans were enough to calm them. Michael was horrified, too, because that was another scene that was terribly butchered.
What made the girls extremely furious was the last segment of the documentary where Bashir had said he was troubled by the fact that Michael was such close friends with children, and that he considered his best friend to be the cancer patient (Gavin Arviso) he helped. He had told about how Gavin's cancer was extremely intense when they first met, so intense that doctors had predicted his death and advised his parents to make preparations for his funeral because there was no chance of survival. But through some miracle, his cancer went in remission. Then Gavin talked about how Michael allowed him and his siblings to spend the night in his bedroom. Martin criticized Michael for that. Now, the two girls had thought Michael was being too kind to the likes of them, but the journalist's critical attitude drove them up a wall. He sounded so bigoted, so narrow-minded, and arrogant. He was just not a nice person.
‘Um...since when does child-like mean criminal?' thought Kerri. Seriously, she was at the point where she felt the urge to pull out her long jet-black hair in frustration. Nikki was so mad she could barely see straight.
And there was another part where Martin asked him again about the changes in his appearance because he hadn't believed what Michael told him during the interview in Las Vegas. As he had written in his autobiography, if it were true, he would have said so. He didn't think it was his fault that Martin didn't believe him.
Finally, Mr. Bashir had decided to "confront" Michael about the way he invited children to Neverland. He grilled the pop crooner with questions about that and mentioned the accusations ten years prior. Though Michael had done a fairly good job defending himself in a calm way, the two girls could see that he was upset. And during the break he really was in tears.
Now that was the breaking point for the two sisters. They were extremely irate about this. They had absolutely no respect for Martin whatsoever. Just because he didn't understand Michael's lifestyle didn't give him the right to question him the way he did. No one made their adopted father cry and got away with it.
"Well, this is stupid. I can't watch any more of this," said Kerri through clenched teeth. She arose from her seat and marched out of the cinema without bothering to look at Michael. Well she needn't do that to realize that he was outraged about this.
"Hey sister, wait for me!" There was no way Nikki was going to watch the rest of that abominable biography. She got up as if someone were chasing her and followed her sister. What that journalist-if he could even be called a journalist--did was beyond sickening.
As for Michael? Well he certainly didn't know how he managed to sit through the remainder of that documentary, but he did, and by then even he was sorely displeased. It was horrifying. He was glad his three kids were not exposed to such an atrocity. Even though his assistant had warned him about Bashir's background, he was hoping through some miracle that he was wrong. Martin had interviewed Princess Di before, and he was shown a letter from her thanking him for the biography. He knew that the princess would not have expressed gratitude if it was tabloid. Now he knew that his assistant knew what he was talking about. He was stunned, but not so much, considering that he knew how biased journalists could be and he was forewarned about Bashir.
It was just like every other time he had been stabbed in the back. He was kind enough to allow a stranger unprecedented access into his private life in the hopes that the rumors would finally be put to rest and he was repaid by being portrayed in a negative light. It didn't even come close to portraying what the film was supposed to be about. This reminded him of why he chose to be private in the first place. And what was worse was what would happen if it aired on television, the public's reaction and the media's coverage of it, especially the last segment. In that particular segment, he had made it clear that he generally showed the children their assigned guest units, but they would want to stay with him and he checked with their parents before telling them it was ok. The parents were allowed to stay as well, and he let them have the bed while he slept on the floor. But knowing how the media liked to selectively edit all of the interviews, they would not reveal that. Instead, they would do everything to imply that he was a bad person who would harm children. Next, the DA at Santa Barbara County would use that as evidence to try to convict the pop star. More people in the public would turn their backs on him after that.
The thought of those things happening was distressing. Michael was NOT going to allow that documentary to air. He would do something to stop it and would not rest until he found a way. He knew there was some footage that was never meant to be shown, and thought about using that to create a new documentary. At least it would be much more decent. There would be a delay in the original air date, but he didn't care. And some legal action was in order for Martin Bashir. He would file a law suit for defamation of character. He usually was not very keen on law suits and stuff since they took a lot of energy, planning and time, but enough was enough. He went outside to compose the brand new song for his number one's album that would be released sometime in the fall. He would sit in his giving tree and write it. Hopefully that would take his mind off of what was going on.
The two girls felt better after drowning their sorrows in some junk food. They felt bad about leaving like that, but they felt they had to. They felt if they watched another minute of the documentary, they would have spewed chunks. But now that they were somewhat calm, they decided to go and check on him. They didn't think he would be in the theatre anymore.
"So, where should we look for him first?" Kerri asked her younger sister.
"Let's see if he is in his recording studio. " She knew that he had been working extensively on his album for several months.
"Good idea." The sisters checked the recording studio, and didn't see any trace of Michael anywhere. Afterwards, they checked his room, the library, and the den. He wasn't in any of those places either. Then something occurred to Nikki that maybe he was writing a song. And she knew what his favorite song writing spot was.
"Hey, let's check outside."
"All right." So they left the library and went outside and sure enough, there he was, sitting up in his tree. It felt so calm and so serene. To this day many people were still amazed by the tranquility at Neverland. Nikki smiled at how nice and peaceful he looked, but she could see from the look in his eyes that he was still slightly troubled about what had happened. She came a bit closer and proceeded to climb the tree and stopped at the branches that were slightly below him. Kerri smiled at this...she could recall a few years before that she was a little bit afraid of climbing trees, though she wasn't extremely frightened.
"Are you going to be going to be ok?"
"That I will."
Kerri hoped that he would...she didn't want him to be scarred for life because of a traitor. "I want you to know that we're in this together. "
"Thank you very much." Michael felt so blessed to have such a supportive family. They were part of what kept him going in times like this. No matter what the media decided to throw at him, he thought the obstacles would make him stronger.
Michael knew if he was going to persuade all of the networks not to air the version of the documentary he was shown, he could not waste time. And he couldn't do it alone. So what he did was have his assistant issue a statement made by him, which read: "I would never harm a child. I would rather slit my wrists first. It sickens me that there is such trash written about me. As a result of these inaccuracies, I cannot allow this documentary to be released as yet. But I will need the help of you fans to stop it. Remember, there's nothing that can't be done if we raise our voice as one. I love you, and God bless." - Michael Jackson. When his fans read this, they thought what a rat Bashir was. They were furious about this. They could only imagine all the humiliation Michael would be put through if this documentary made it on the air. And they especially applauded him for taking action. Otherwise they would have had to start a campaign to boycott it. Well, they would be starting a campaign all right, but it wouldn't be a boycott. What they decided to do was write letters to the producers and numerous television stations in order to persuade them not to air the documentary Martin created, but to wait for the unedited one. They figured if the stations were flooded with enough e-mails, they would have no choice but to reconsider. Of course, they also remembered to be polite in their e-mails, no matter how angry they were feeling. Nikki and Kerri thought this was the perfect plan, and knew it was in their best interest to not show their anger in their messages, otherwise they would not be taken seriously. The two girls had reminded their friends on MySpace and at school that were fans to be sure their e-mails were polite as well. It was hard for some of them, since their friends were very brash and impulsive at times, but they tried their best. As for dealing with Bashir, Michael decided he would deal with the injustice after the airing of the revamped biography. That way, he would be able to provide proof that the journalist was out to ruin him with his slanderous portrait of him. He also knew it would take time to find a decent civil case lawyer, file the complaint and prepare his defense. So there would be lots of things to worry about later.
Michael's parents and his brother Jermaine saw the documentary. Michael had lent it to them that weekend and to put it mildly, they were very upset about it. They were mostly upset about the segment that showed Michael's relationship with children, and were dissatisfied with the scene where he talked about the strict discipline. The latter part would be easily misconstrued, if it were not already. They couldn't believe Bashir betrayed Michael this way. They were fed up with their name being sullied, so they were glad when Michael told them he would be seeking legal action against Bashir for what he did. Just as the two adopted daughters expected, they said that they would support Michael all the way. From the moment he was in their lives and they met the rest of his family, it didn't take them very long to realize how supportive, loving and close they were...even though they were no longer able to spend as much time together as they used to, due to the fact that they were all busy with their families and work.
It especially didn't surprise Nikki that Joe was supportive of Michael's decision. She knew he only wanted what was best for him, even though she didn't always understand his way of showing love. She could remember the time she and her elder sister were introduced to the remainder of the Jackson family for the first time-their other adopted family members. The recollection was so clear, as if it had happened just yesterday. For the most part, it was such a wonderful experience. Considering what she and her sister knew about Mr. Jackson, they had to admit, they were nervous wrecks when meeting him. Even Nikki, who usually knew how to keep her cool, wasn't sure what to expect. That's how intimidating she found him to be. Their reserved nature reared its head on that occasion. They had let Michael do most of the talking and only spoke when they were spoken to. From that moment on, they dealt with Joe's company by showing their reserved, proper side, just to avoid trouble.
The weekend hadn't gotten much better after watching the dreadful, traitorous documentary. The following day, the Arviso's had returned to the ranch. They were the last set of people the two young women wanted to see. There had been one occasion they were there during one of the Arviso family visits and the cancer survivor's younger brother had damaged Kerri's electric guitar when he was in his hyper mode. Michael had gone to visit his mom in Encino that day in order to get away from the Arviso's. Nikki and Kerri had decided to stay back to get some college work done, and volunteered to watch their younger adopted siblings as soon as they were done. Kerri had found out about her guitar from the housekeeper, who caught them in her room. She was so angry that she wanted to murder Star. Surprisingly, she had managed to keep her cool, but only by a thread. That wasn't the worst of it, either. She remembered when the 12 year old boy ruined the singer's leather guestbook where his guests left thank you notes, as well as some other items that were in the guest room they stayed in. And he and his siblings had threatened and sassed the staff members. It was such a nightmare. The girls knew that Michael's patience was wearing very thin and that's why he was distancing himself from them. Quite frankly, they didn't blame him one bit. And they were sure it wouldn't be long before the Arviso's would be out of his life forever. And she and her sister's lives, too, for they had lost respect for them for quite some time.
Surprisingly, though, the family was pleasant when they were there. Michael had showed them the documentary. Even they were angry about the segment about the group of kids' visit to Neverland. Gavin was glad that Michael was trying to prevent it from making on the air. He could only imagine the ridicule he would endure from his classmates. It disgusted him that Martin was making a mountain out of a molehill when Michael had done nothing but be kind to him and his family. He only wished he could have spent more time with the superstar. Mrs. Arviso was so angry that she thought of seeking legal action against Bashir herself. He never even asked her permission to include her son in the special. With everyone upset about the documentary, the family forgot about causing any kind of trouble, as they had been doing lately. Nikki had to admit, they were not so bad during times like that. But it still didn't change the fact that she thought they were the worst guests ever.
Nikki and Kerri had decided to return to the ranch after classes that day. They didn't feel like going home to an empty house and they didn't want Michael to be alone during this time of possible crisis. And to tell the truth, they didn't like seeing him only on weekends.
Kerri was playing "this little piggy went to market" with Blanket, and Nikki was braiding Paris' hair into pigtails. Prince was reading Peter Pan with his daddy. It was such a happy moment, compared to what happened over the weekend. It made them even happier that the Arviso's had left the previous day.
All of a sudden, Michael's assistant came into the den holding some mail and a bouquet of white roses. "This is for you, Mr. Jackson," he said.
Michael looked up from where he was reading with Prince. White roses. One of his favorite types of flowers. He wondered who they could be from, and how this person could possibly know he liked white roses. "All right, thank you." He took the roses and the letter from his assistant.
"The pleasure is mine. I'll be in the office if you need me."
"I'll be back, Prince. Save the page where we are."
"You got it, daddy."
The pop star excused himself from the den. He didn't know what was in the letter, but he wanted privacy just in case it was something intimate or something that Prince wouldn't understand. The handwriting on the envelope was unfamiliar. He couldn't place it at all. Curious to know who it was from, he ripped open the envelope and proceeded to read the letter. It said:
Hello! How are you? I am a huge fan of yours. I have been since the days you performed in the Jackson 5. I admire you very much...both as an entertainer and a person. I saw the statement you made on your website. I am so sorry you are going through that. I want you to know that no matter what the press says about you, I have your back. Good for you for putting a stop to this. I get some of my strength from you. Have struggled with bouts of anorexia and bulimia for over a decade. I've recovered from it eight years ago. However, there are still times I relapse.
About the flowers I sent along with this letter...I sent those as a token of my love for you. To tell you the truth, I have had a crush on you since I was 13. You are such a beautiful person, inside and out. I have had to control my feelings for you for years. I am sorry your previous marriages did not work out. This may sound selfish, but I am glad you are available. Perhaps I would have a chance with you. If you want to take your time, that's fine. I am willing to wait. I live in Spain, but I will be moving to California in about two weeks. A spa there has offered me a job as a masseuse. I will come to California for an interview this weekend. I hope I cross paths with you.
Take care, my giving tree.
Hugs and kisses from Spain,
P. S. I will send you a photo of me in the next letter. My most recent pictures are not good at all. I was ugly duckling in those pictures.
The letter took Michael by surprise. He had never read a more heartfelt, beautiful letter before. Of course, all of the letters he received from his fans were genuine, but not like this one. He always liked to hear about fans who were inspired by his music, dance and humanitarian efforts. What shocked him to the core was Mariann's confession of her love for him. Sure, there were always fan girls and women screaming about how they were in love with him, but this woman was different. Her tone was more reserved, more candid. He wasn't sure whether to return her feelings or not. About her request to get to know him, he could definitely comply with that. She was correct when she said that he probably wanted to wait, and was glad she understood. He appreciated her comment about him being beautiful inside as well as outside, but he wasn't sure if he believed the outside part. To this day he was still ashamed of his looks. Although the acne problems faded away, he still had to manage two autoimmune disorders, both of which he was ashamed of. But if she said so, it would not be his place to argue. He was saddened by the fact that she suffered from those eating disorders. He was never the biggest eater, but he was still sensitive to another person's suffering. And he didn't know how she looked since she didn't send the picture yet, but he didn't like her being so down on herself. The letter showed that she had a very beautiful heart, and that was good enough for him.
Knowing that Prince was probably waiting, Michael put up his little "gift" and went back to the den. By then, Kerri was showing Blanket a picture book and Nikki was done braiding Paris' hair. She held up the mirror for Paris to see. She was proud of her handiwork and it was icing on the cake knowing that Paris usually liked it, too. "Do you like it this way?"
Paris nodded. "Thank you for fixing my hair. I love you so much. "
"Awwww. I love you more." She gave Paris a squeeze. The four year old was so huggable.
The public scrutiny Michael had been under in the recent months had become relentless than ever. The news about his statement leaked into the press. The tabloids were also making more jokes about his personal life. FOX news was reporting Michael's displeasure about the biography.
"We have breaking news about Michael Jackson. There are some new bombshells regarding the Living with Michael Jackson documentary that is to be debuted this Friday, including a statement on Jackson's website from Jackson himself. Could this mean a possible delay in the airing in the biography? Is the King of Pop fighting back? "
"Well, it certainly seems that way," a woman in her late thirties on Glenn Beck's panel replied. "Take a look at the statement he wrote on his website today." The message what was posted on Michael's official website appeared on the Teleprompter, as well as a picture of him next to the message. "I was kind enough to open up to Martin Bashir, and he has betrayed me by twisting and editing what I said. I would never harm a child. I would rather slit my wrists first. It sickens me that there is such trash written about me. As a result of these inaccuracies, I cannot allow this documentary to be released as yet. But I will need the help of you fans to stop it. Remember, there's nothing that can't be done if we raise our voice as one. I love you, and God bless." - Michael Jackson. She thought about this for a moment. "Now, we haven't seen the documentary as of yet, so it is a little farfetched. It is not impossible, but under the circumstances I cannot say whether I agree or disagree. However, I will say this: if he does not want it broadcasted, maybe there is something. "
Glenn Beck asked Diane Dimond what she thought. Her response was not nearly as open-minded. "I think he is acting like a petulant child as usual. Chances are that this journalist has done nothing but expose the truth and call him out on his eccentricities. His failure to take responsibility for his actions will be his downfall. "
"It seems that we will have to find out Martin's side of the story. It will be interesting to see if Jackson's plan works. Thank you for your comments."
The news about Michael's displeasure had eventually reached Martin Bashir. He was rather callous about it, because he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. That was his mentality when he was asked to appear on 20/20 for an interview with Barbara Walters. He wasn't nervous for it at all. He was more than ready to tell his side of the story.
"So tell me, how do you feel about Jackson's statement that is accusing you of distorting his image and being unfair to him?" Barbara asked Martin.
"It does not surprise me at all. He is very childish. He has proven that in the documentary when I confronted him about certain things. He simply does not want to be held accountable for his poor decisions."
This sounded interesting to Barbara. She felt some of the decisions Michael made were questionable, so she wasn't surprised to hear about this. "Which poor decision did you confront him about?"
"Regarding the Neverland sleepovers. I was astonished that he was still having them even after the '93 allegations. "
Barbara nodded in agreement. "Of course. If he loves children as much as he claims to, he should have better judgment."
Martin agreed with that. "I feel that Neverland is a dangerous place for children. I am not saying that I've witnessed any wrongdoing with the children...it was the opposite. I'm only saying that disadvantaged children should not be at the home of a billionaire superstar where they sleep in his bed." He showed Barbara a clip of the segment where Michael was seen with busloads of children, going on rides and getting ice cream to eat, as well as the scene with Michael and the Arviso children. The shot of Michael having fun with the children seemed innocent enough to her, but she couldn't help but frown at the scene where Gavin was seen resting his head on Michael's right shoulder. She understood where Bashir was coming from and how Michael behavior could be considered bizarre, to say the least. "So, how did Michael respond to your confrontation?" she asked.
"He was extremely testy, and at one point he wept because of the questions I asked him."
"I see. Well, he is a very sensitive individual." The seventy-three year old journalist thought back to the time when she interviewed Michael over five years prior. During that interview, he voiced how much he despised the pejorative nickname Wacko Jacko and how much it hurt him. He had also talked about his firstborn, Prince. She believed he should understand he was expecting to be treated in a way that she didn't think was the press' job to do. "What is your impression of his method in raising his children?"
Martin felt like mentioning that there were certain times he found Michael's behavior towards his kids and adopted daughters alarming. But to avoid even more potential trouble, he simply said, "They are over protected and restricted. I was angry at the way his children were made to suffer." He was referring to the way Prince and Paris had to wear mask when they went out in public, and how even Kerri and Nikki had to wear them for awhile. He was also referring to Michael's decision to have his children homeschooled, and the fact that Kerri and Nikki did not go to regular school until they were 14 and 15 years of age.
Barbara always found it rather odd that Michael had his children wear masks or veils in public. She hoped that they would be able to live normal lives in public when they got older. However, she did give him credit for eventually giving his two adult children enough freedom so they could be like the average people their age. And secretly, she understood why Michael would not approve of the documentary. She didn't mention that to Bashir, though. "Well, thank you for your time. It will be interesting to see how this new improved documentary will turn out. "
"Thank you for inviting me. It was an honor."
The e-mails and letters sent by all the fans made a huge difference. The fans in the UK managed to convince the CEO and producers at Grenada Television to not air the Living with Michael Jackson biography unless it would be shown without selective editing. There was an announcement on the Grenada Television website that read: The airing of the Living with Michael Jackson documentary will be postponed until further notice. This made the fans very happy. They were slightly afraid that they would have had to send the television station a bunch of angry e-mails for airing the cow dung of a film. The other fans were pleased about this. It meant they were making some headway in spreading their message. So far, so good. All they could do was cross their fingers and hope that the television stations everywhere else would honor their requests.
Unfortunately, the press hype about this had spiraled out of control, in the USA. Thanks to Martin Bashir's appearance on ABC just two days prior, the media knew about what was featured in the documentary. They realized the snippet that was shown was just the story they had been waiting for. It would help their ratings immensely. In just a matter of minutes, the clip of the scene with Gavin resting his head on Michael's shoulder and Martin's interview was shown on every tabloid show and media news show. The Santa Barbara District Attorney saw it and thought he might be able to use that against the pop singer. For a decade he had wanted to file charges against Michael for child molestation. However, he decided to bide his time, since the law in California did say that sleeping in the same room as someone is not illegal as long as no offensive conduct occurred, and that would have had to be proven. The picture of Gavin resting his head on Michael's shoulder was also on the cover of every rag magazine and tabloid. The headlines read things like: "THE DARKER SIDE OF JACKO'S RELATIONSHIP WITH CANCER SURVIVOR", "JACKSON IS OBSESSED WITH SEX", and "NEVERLAND IS A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR CHILDREN," a quote from Bashir's interview with Barbara Walters the previous night." Some late night comedy shows made obscene jokes about what those headlines insinuated. Bill, one of Michael's bodyguards saw the tabloids while paying for a box of detergent, and he could only imagine how his boss would feel if he saw them. ‘Not this again. Mr. Jackson isn't going to like this at all.'
Michael was resting in his bedroom. He was in extreme pain that day. He had been bitten by a brown recluse spider multiple times the night before, while asleep. His hand and left foot were swollen, and there was a large wound on his right leg that looked quite gruesome. It stung so viciously that he couldn't walk on it at all. His personal physician had given him some antibiotics for it, but it still hurt immensely. He wasn't entirely sure how it happened since he never saw the spider, but his ranch had undergone a routine fumigation earlier, so he figured that the spider must have found its way in then. Besides dealing with the siege of his biography, he had decided to put together an interview that would show some of his home movies so that the misconceptions of his true character would stop. He was supposed to start in a few hours, but he decided maybe it would be best to relax since he wasn't feeling very well. He thought maybe he would do it the next day or the day after if the pain subsided. He had his crutches, so he would be able to move around. That was not the issue. He was worried about how he would explain his condition to his children. Although the wound was covered with a bandage, he wouldn't be able to hide the crutches from them. It was much too painful for him to walk on it regularly.
Just then, Bill came back, holding a large bag that contained the detergent. He handed the detergent to Michael's maid. She took it and proceeded to sort the clothing.
Ring, ring. It was the telephone in Michael's bedroom. He was so glad it was right next to him because he didn't feel like trying to move. He wanted to rest. Not like he could get around even if he wanted to anyway. He answered the phone. "Hello?" His voice sounded so tired and pain filled.
"Mr. Jackson, this is Raymone."
Michael became a bit worried. He usually didn't hear from her unless she had something important to say or wanted to tell him about some garbage the papers and press wrote about him. He wondered what was up this time. "Hi Raymone. How are you?"
"I'm great. How about you? You sound terrible."
Leave it to Raymone to note that something was wrong. "I'm in pain. I've been bitten by spiders. If I showed you how it looks right now, you'd be surprised. It's really hurting," he told her.
"My goodness! How did that happen?"
"I'm not entirely sure. I never saw the spider. But it must have gotten in while my ranch was being fumigated yesterday and I was bitten while asleep. Called my personal doctor and he took some cultures and told me it is a bite from a brown recluse. "
The publicist couldn't help but shudder. She had heard about the effects of that particular spider bite. She could only imagine the sight, even though she didn't particularly want to. "I hope you feel better soon."
"Thank you." He was so caught up in telling Raymone about the incident that he nearly forgot to ask her what was the call about. "Is something wrong?" He was prepared to hear just about any negative news.
"Well, yes. There are some rumors about you in the press."
Michael gave a sad sigh. There were always crazy, ridiculous stories written about him. So what else was new? "What are they about this time?"
Raymone told him about everything from the salacious stories of his relationships with young people and Martin Bashir's interview with Barbara Walters.
‘Oh great,' thought Michael. This was just what he was afraid of. And it was all because Martin had showed that particular scene. He had gone too far. But Michael wasn't worried. He would use that as more evidence to support his complaint that the journalist had slandered him. He was sure that he would succeed. "Thank you for telling me."
"Of course. Feel better soon, Mr. Jackson."
"Thank you so much."
"I'll let you go now. You need to rest. Goodbye."
"Goodbye." The pop crooner hung up. He decided that if he was feeling better later, he would get to work filing this law suit. Enough was enough.
Nikki and Kerri were sitting in their Biology class, reading the chapter that would have been covered in class. Nearly an hour had passed, and the professor had not arrived yet. The students wondered what was going on. It wasn't like her to be late without calling. Considering that it was the final class of the day, they would have liked it very much if they could have left even earlier. It didn't make any sense being there if the instructor wasn't going to show up. It would be a wasted day in class and there was only half an hour left. And they couldn't just leave the campus without permission.
All of a sudden, in walked the campus director. He was an older gentleman with graying hair that was balding in the front. The students wondered what he had to say.
"Nice to see that you all took the initiative and did not waste such valuable time." Kerri nearly rolled her eyes, but she knew better.
"Well, I have come to tell you that your class has been cancelled due to your lecturer suffering a massive heart attack and being rushed to the hospital. So for the remainder of your class time, you may find another classroom to wait," the director continued.
A part of Nikki and Kerri were relieved that something was finally said about their lecturer's tardiness. But they did feel bad that she was in the hospital. The other students were a bit annoyed that the director didn't make this announcement sooner and they came to class for nothing, especially considering the fact that they could have been doing other things.
"Thank you for telling us. Give her our get well wishes, please," Nikki spoke up. Some of the students gave her funny looks, but she didn't care. Someone had to say it. And there was such an uncomfortable silence in the classroom.
"I will. You students are dismissed."
Kerri and Nikki gathered their belongings and left with their classmates.
"Hey, you want to see if the computer lab is free?" Rebecca, one of Nikki's friends asked.
"Sure! Sounds good to me!" answered Kerri. Nikki nodded her approval as well.
Kerri, Nikki, Rebecca and a couple of other girls headed over to the campus' computer lab. Luckily, it was free. They entered, and found their usual seats. The computers had been left on.
Nikki decided to start the research paper that was assigned in English class that day. She wanted to have some of it done before the weekend. She found a website that was about racism, which was what her paper would be based on. She skimmed over the information and made notes as she went along. She was writing very busily. The other girls were checking e-mail and doing other internet related activities.
Miranda came across a news site and saw that there was an article on Michael. She couldn't help but groan. Lately it seemed like he could never get a break from the press. It was as if they had him under a magnifying glass. She was almost horrified to see what this particular article was about. She had a gut feeling it wasn't good, considering that in the recent months the media coverage was becoming increasingly negative. She held her breath as she proceeded to read. What she read was utterly appalling. ‘It figures. Just when I think the tabloid articles can't get any worse, I see one that proves me wrong.'
"Hey Nikki and Kerri come look at what they're saying about your adopted father this time! You'll be pissed off!" said Miranda a bit frantically.
It was nothing new for the two sisters since they were always angered by the tabloids and stuff. Nikki was sitting right next to the orange haired girl. She looked up from where she was writing and took a look at the article her friend was reading. Kerri was sitting on the other side of Nikki, so she had to get up from her seat in order to read what was being said. Neither of them were surprised that the latest turn of events ended up in the news, since news travelled extremely fast. The content of the news didn't surprise them, either. After the stunt Bashir pulled with the documentary, they resolved to stop letting the tabloid news affect them so much. The tabloids and most media outlets were nothing but trash. So they were not even fazed by Martin leaking the potentially controversial portion of the documentary to the press...not by much, anyway. Martin would get his just desserts all in good time.
"So, what do you think about that?" asked Miranda. The two sisters' facial expressions looked so blank; it was hard to tell what was on their mind.
"Big surprise," answered Kerri sarcastically.
"I don't think I need to say anything about the inaccuracies because they pretty much speak for themselves," added Nikki.
Miranda was pleasantly surprised to hear that. She was so used to hearing the sisters vent about the tabloid garbage and although she couldn't say she blamed them, she felt they should not dwell on that kind of idiocy.
"How is Mr. Jackson doing anyway?" asked Sierra, a girl who wore her strawberry blonde hair in wild ringlets loose around her face.
"He's not well today. He's in pain," answered Nikki.
Uh oh. Neither Sierra nor Miranda liked the sound of that. Of course they both knew it could have been worse. It could have been that the stress of the media news gave him a heart attack. If that had happened, they would have made the tabloid reporters pay dearly.
"What happened?" Sierra wanted to know.
"He was bitten by a brown recluse last night while he was asleep," Kerri answered.
"Ouch," commented Sierra sympathetically.
"Yeah. It is very bad. If you saw how the bite looks...well, let's just say you'll wonder if the spider skipped dinner or something." That was all she was going to say without getting too gory, since she knew what a weak stomach Sierra had.
"Oh, I can imagine! Don't remind me," said Miranda, holding her nose. Kerri could tell that her friend was thinking about the time when she was bitten by a brown recluse on her thigh a year ago. She had to miss 2 weeks' worth of classes because since she had allergies to venom, she was really sick from the bite. It was not something she ever wanted to repeat again, given all the work she had to catch up on that time. All of her friends and loved ones were so afraid that she was not going to make it. They were so glad that she did.
Nikki took a look at her watch. Class was officially over. She couldn't believe they were in the lab for that long. It certainly didn't feel that way. "Well, you guys, we'd better get out of here before someone locks us in or throws us out or something."
"Okay, let's go." Kerri, Nikki and their friends shut down the computers they were using and packed up. They exited the campus together.
"So you think it'll be okay to visit?" Rebecca asked.
"Of course. He'd love that, I'm sure," said Kerri. She turned to Miranda and Sierra. "You two coming?"
"Would love to, but I have to pick up my little brother from the dentist soon. He gets mad when his ride is late for him," answered Sierra.
Miranda said she couldn't come either because she had to look after her great grandmother, but promised that she would see if she could get a gift for Michael while her parents came to visit.
"Okay. I understand." Nikki turned to Rebecca. "I guess it's just you, then." It was fine with her since chances were that Michael would be worn out by the extra visitors. "Let's get out of here."
"You got it." She and the two sisters said bye to Miranda and Sierra and left.
Mariann had just gotten home from a gathering that she had with some members of her anorexia and bulimia support groups. This gathering was a going away party for her. It turned out that she would be moving to California much sooner than she thought. The day after Michael received her letter and flowers, she had gotten an e-mail from the employer at the spa asking her to come to the United States as soon as possible. She was so pleasantly surprised about this; she had told Michael in her letter that she expected to be there for an interview within a few days. Secretly she was thinking that it could have taken a week. Now it looked like she would be living there permanently even sooner than she originally thought. She had also gotten a call from immigration saying her papers and application had been approved. She could just imagine the look on Michael's face when she went to see him. But then again, it would be fun to surprise him. And she happened to be counting the days and hours before she saw him in person. She couldn't wait.
The forty-two year old was finishing off the last bit of her packing. She had gotten most of it done thanks to a couple of her friends helping her the day before. She was due to catch the first flight the next day. She would be in for a long one.
Just then, she heard a loud banging on her door. She couldn't help but feel slightly annoyed. It could only belong to one person. Her former fiancé. Two weeks ago she had broken off her engagement with him after seeing how he abused his mother and sisters, and he was extremely bitter about it. Ever since that day, he had been stalking her and begging her to come back to him. It was almost as if he was obsessed with her. Either that or he didn't understand the word "no." She wondered what he wanted.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! "Hey you hussy! I know you're in there! You'd better open up or you'll be sorry!"
Generally Mariann was not intimidated by his threats at all. But she knew if she didn't let him in, he would just keep on knocking until she got tired of it. She gave an exasperated sigh and opened the door. She knew enough to not invite him in. "Yes? What can I do for you?" She tried to sound as if he had rudely interrupted her, which he did.
"Don't play dumb with me. You know that I want for us to get back together. You know I love you."
Just the sight of this man made Mariann feel utterly sick to her stomach. She was fighting the urge to regurgitate...right on his expensive shoes, too. "Esteban, you don't give up, do you? My decision is final. Now get lost."
Esteban leaned forward as if he were going to kiss her, and put his arm around her shoulders. The dark haired woman was stunned, but quickly realized what was going on. He was trying to force himself on her. She slapped him and kicked him in his crotch. Though she was still slightly underweight, that didn't mean she didn't know how to defend herself.
This made Esteban furious. How could she manage to inflict such blows on him when he was much bigger than her? He also was filled with jealousy.
"Why you little...I knew it! You were having a secret affair while we were still engaged, weren't you?!"
Mariann was appalled by how ridiculously he was acting...but at the same time it didn't surprise her. After all, she saw how violent he was with his sisters. "What makes you say that? But then again, if it had happened, it would have been because you were not doing your job!" she retorted.
Esteban took that as a yes. This anger gave him the strength to get up. "Just you wait! One of these days you will be sorry! I will kill you and this little punk you're with, whoever he is!"
By this time, Mariann was a bit terrified, but she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction in seeing that.
"You'll do nothing of the sort."
"Well, try me. You are a fool to underestimate me."
Mariann insulted Estèban in Spanish and slammed the door in his face. Her night had turned sour. She wondered what if he did follow through in his threats. Although she was leaving soon, she still wasn't sure he wouldn't try to come after her. This made her wish she was with Michael this very moment. If she told him about this, she was sure he would be outraged at the way she was treated. Knowing that there was only one thing left to do, she got her cordless phone and dialed 911. It was about time the low life got arrested.
Mariann had just finished her interview, and she felt like it had gone well. She could tell the interviewer was impressed with her. She was confident she would get the job. So far, she loved being in California. She felt extremely safe, and she was especially glad that she did not have to worry about her ex-fiancé anymore. The night he threatened her, the police had come and took him to the station for interrogation, and she and his family had to come to the station as well, in order for other sides of the stories to be heard. By the time everyone had related what happened, the officers and sheriffs had examined the info given, and charged Esteban for his stalker behavior. It was one of the longest and most trying nights of her life. She had ended up spending the night by her best friend Elena's house. She was still so shaken that she hadn't felt safe in her condo. Elena was glad about her being there because she knew that it would be the last time seeing her for a very long time.
Although Mariann still hadn't quite recovered from the jet lag, she wanted to go see Michael. She wasn't sure how she would though, because of the tight security. She couldn't be positive that they would let her in if no one was expecting her. She caught a cab to the hotel she was staying at. It was where she would stay until she was positive that she would get the job. She would worry about house hunting then.
The cab driver seemed to be in a foul mood that day. He swore at another driver who was driving slowly, and drove like a speed demon. He didn't even slow down when there was a speed bump. She nearly suffered a whiplash. The ride was definitely not for those with weak stomachs or back trouble. And her back trouble was pretty problematic.
Amazingly, she managed to make it to the hotel in one piece. She usually gave taxi drivers extra money as a tip, if they happened to be respectable, but this one wasn't going to be one of them. She just gave him the exact amount. The cantankerous old man grunted at her and snatched the money out of her hand. Her eyebrows arched up at that. This driver had no manners at all. She wondered if he was ever taught any.
"Now get out of here!" he snarled at her.
"I'm going," she said coldly. She was fuming. She got out of the car and slammed the door behind her. If she messed it up, she didn't care. The experience led her to believe that he was more than just in a bad mood...he was simply a grouch and a terrible driver. If he was mad because she didn't tip him, tough. He didn't deserve it. She was definitely going to use the car she rented after this. The only reason she hadn't used it was because she was afraid of getting lost. She hurried inside and went to her hotel room. She decided she might as well relax, if she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Unless, that is, she could get a hold of the singer somehow. But the question was, how? It wasn't like she knew the number to his ranch by heart. But wait. There was a phone directory on the nightstand.
‘Perhaps the number is listed in here,' thought Mariann. She looked through the directory and sure enough, there it was. She picked up the telephone and dialed the number. Her fingers paralyzed a bit as she was dying the number, but she managed to finish. It was pretty much a guarantee that he would be home, since he couldn't go anywhere. He might be busy, but still at home nonetheless. "Hello? Is this Michael Jackson? This is Mariann Garcia. I am the one who sent you the roses and the letter. I'm great. I've just returned from the job interview. It looks like I'll be living here sooner than I thought. I was wondering if it would be all right if I came by the ranch to see you. All right. Great. I'll see you momentarily." She hung up the phone. She was so happy. His voice made her melt, and he was just as kind as she imagined he would be. She couldn't believe it! She was going to see her idol, and potential new companion. This made her forget the incident with the taxi driver.
Meanwhile, Michael had just finished shooting some of the "Home Movies" documentary. He wasn't feeling well enough to film the entire thing. Fortunately for him, the only thing he had to do for the revamped Living with Michael Jackson biography was to rewatch the interviews that were done by his hair and make-up artist, his second former wife, some of his family members, his videographer and the owner of the Laugh Factory to make sure it would be suitable to air on television. The Arviso's were also doing a rebuttal. He had asked the talk show host Maury Povich about hosting the new version of his biography, and he graciously agreed to. He was no journalist, but he had enough information on Michael to do an objective program on him.
The singer was going over the paperwork for the pending civil court case while he waited for Mariann to arrive. As far as defense attorneys, he was going to meet with Carl Douglas on Monday. His brother Randy had recommended Thomas Mesereau to him, but he couldn't do it because he was working on another case. Michael certainly was not looking forward to all the work this civil suit would involve, knowing all the money that could potentially be put into this case. He wasn't sure how much he could and would win back, that is, if he won the case...that was not a guarantee. He was still going through with it, though. It needed to be done. He just hoped the other tabloid reporters would learn from this.
All of a sudden, one of his security guards entered the office. "Mr. Jackson, are you expecting a visitor?" he asked.
Michael glanced up from his paperwork. "Yes I am."
"Well, there is a lady waiting for you in the den. "
"Thank you." The pop star realized that it must be Mariann. Well, he could get his mind on something more pleasant. He had been looking forward to meeting her ever since she wrote him that beautiful letter. He decided that the paperwork could wait. He got his crutches and hobbled to the den.
Mariann was sitting on the couch, patiently waiting. She was in awe of the place even though she hadn't seen the entire house yet. It was so large. She could only imagine the astonishment she would feel when she saw the entire house. She hoped she would be given a tour. For the first time she had butterflies in her stomach and felt weak in the knees.' Dear me, why did this have to happen now?' She couldn't understand it. Even when she had spoken to Michael on the phone, she had done a fairly good job keeping herself together. She had thought she would have a complete meltdown when having a bit of difficulty dialing the number, but she didn't. And now her heart was beating rapidly and she felt very light headed and nauseous. It was understandable, though, for she never thought this would actually happen...being in the home of one of her very favorite singers, even though it was something she wanted for a very long time.
She heard footsteps. As they got closer, she could feel her heartbeat becoming more rapid by the minute.
‘Uh oh. I hope I don't die of a heart attack before I get to meet him. That would be really bad.' It certainly did feel like her heart would stop. She was almost afraid to look up. She relaxed and took a few breaths. She looked up and sure enough, there was the King of Pop. Now that she was seeing him in person, she was even more transfixed by his presence, even though he was dressed in more casual clothing than the costumes she was accustomed to seeing him wear during his concert performances or award shows. When she saw that he was using crutches, she was very worried. She wondered if something had happened to him between the day the letter got to him and now. She never liked the idea of him being in pain.
Michael took a look at this woman. He had suspected she was putting herself down because her self-image was so low when he read the part in her letter about her being an ugly duckling. Now that he saw her, he was right. He found her to be quite beautiful, with her ice-blue eyes and long dark hair, even though her hair appeared to be thinning in the front, as well as having a few gray strands. Most importantly, she had a beautiful heart, judging from her words in the letter. He rested the crutches down, positioning them against the wall.
Mariann wanted to be close to him and feel his touch, but she was extremely overwhelmed with bashfulness. She stood up very tentatively, and walked over to him. Her legs were trembling as she made her way over to him. It was all she could do not to faint or burst into tears.
Too late. Her legs were no longer strong enough to hold her up. She could feel them giving out on her. She was about to faint, but Michael caught her just in time. She felt like she would melt. ‘Oh, I hope this is not a dream.' It felt so comforting. Some words finally came to her.
"Thank you, Michael. It's so good to finally meet you in person." Her eyes met his, and she was practically hypnotized by his deep brown eyes. They were so beautiful.
"Likewise. Thank you for the beautiful letter and the roses you've sent." He gave her a hug, and she was glad to oblige. She wanted to squeeze him like a teddy bear so badly, but she decided to exercise some restraint. She just met him, and she didn't want to scare him by moving too fast. Michael was gentle with her, too, because she was still pretty bony, possibly even thinner than he ever was. Not a good thing, considering that she was nearly the same height as he was. But it was all right. She could tell that it was genuine and she felt the love very well.
There was such an uncomfortable silence between them for awhile. Mariann wondered if she should take the moment to ask him about the crutches.
"How are you doing?" Michael asked her, breaking the silence.
"I am great, now that I'm spending time with you." She paused in surprise. She didn't expect to say that. But she really did mean it. "So, how are you? How come you had the crutches earlier?" she continued.
"I was bitten by a spider three days ago...on my right leg, my left foot, as well as my hand. You would be surprised if I showed you."
Mariann couldn't help but wince at that. She had seen pictures of spider bites before and she found the sight to be very disturbing. "It's hurting?" she asked.
"Yes, very much."
"Awwww. I'm sorry. How thoughtless of me." She felt so bad that she had him standing up all that time when he was in such great pain.
"It's ok. Don't worry about it."
"No it isn't," she argued. There was much appreciation for how forgiving he was, but she didn't want him to think she didn't honor his wishes at all.
"You didn't know."
"True. Well, let's go sit on the couch." Mariann helped him over to the couch. Even limping was a bit difficult for him to do without feeling some discomfort. He wondered how long he would take to heal. He loved dancing so much, and that was what he missed the most. Of course, that was obviously out of the question. He gingerly sat down. The brunette sat next to him, and rested her hand on top of his. It slightly startled him, but he actually enjoyed the feeling. He couldn't help but notice what soft hands she had. He took her hand and held it gently. His touch, though tender, sent a shiver through her.
At that moment, Prince and Paris skipped into the den, each of them holding a picture they sketched. They noticed the lady who was sitting next to their father. . They had never seen her before. Paris was curious about her. She didn't ask who she was, though, because she was afraid of saying the wrong thing.
Prince noticed Mariann, too. "Daddy, who's that woman next to you?"
"Her name is Mariann. She is a new friend. Mariann, I want you to meet my two oldest children Prince and Paris. Blanket is asleep. Nikki and Kerri are at school, so you will see them later. They have been spending more time here, especially to help me get around."
"Ah, I see." The middle-aged woman turned to Prince and Paris. "Well it is a pleasure to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too," Paris said a bit shyly.
"You're a pretty lady," Prince told her. That comment made Mariann blush, even though it was coming from an almost six-year old. It made Michael giggle, because he wasn't expecting his son to say that.
"Yes, Prince, she is very pretty," he agreed. Mariann's face looked like a tomato. It was quite an awkward moment for her.
"Hey Daddy, look at what we did in art class!" Prince held up a picture of Spider-Man. Paris held up a picture of her daddy that she drew. It was a picture of him doing the moonwalk.
Michael loved the pictures, especially Paris' drawing of him. His kids had such wonderful artistic talents at quite early ages. There was no denying that they possibly got it from him. Mariann was impressed, too, and she wouldn't be surprised if the children decided to follow in his footsteps when they got older.
"These are wonderful," he told his children.
"Thank you, Daddy."
"You can have that picture of you doing the moonwalk. I've made it for you. You're the best daddy in the whole world."
"Awwww." He hugged and kissed his daughter, and motioned for her to sit in his lap. She happily did so, and handed him the picture she drew.
ABC network was feeling a lot of pressure from the fans about the documentary. Ever since Bashir leaked that one scene, they had been flooded with e-mails from the fans telling them not to even think about airing the rest. The amount of feedback was so overwhelming that they had no choice but to give in to them.
Martin heard about this, and was pretty displeased. He couldn't believe that the fans had succeeded. It appeared he had underestimated them. Well, he wasn't going to accept that. Not at all. He was determined to show the world that Michael was still making what he considered a foolish decision. And he still didn't believe that the singer had the right to fight back. So, what he did was leak the documentary to Court TV and asked Nancy Grace to host it. She gladly did. While hosting the program, she added her own biased opinions. Sierra was sitting down to watch the documentary with her little brother, Josiah. He had wanted to watch it and begged her to watch it with him, knowing that she loved Michael and knew a lot about him.
Sierra had her doubts about it, because she heard first hand from Nikki what was done to it. In fact, she was thinking, ‘No way in hell am I gonna watch this garbage.' But a part of her wanted to see for herself how bad it was, and she knew that her little brother needed major educating on certain things pertaining to Michael. He was so earnest with his begging that she couldn't say no. She thought she had seen everything the tabloid journalists were capable of, so she believed she could handle watching such treachery. That was what she thought, anyway. That was, until she heard Nancy Grace's commentary while introducing the presentation. She swore that if she heard anyone mention the words ‘bizarre, eccentric or strange when talking about Michael again, she would throw her television out the window. Or scream. Whichever came first.
She mentally kicked herself for agreeing to watch the wretched biography. The commentary went from bad to worse, with Bashir's narration during the introduction. She could only imagine how her little brother and other children would be fooled, and how this would give the media an opportunity to demonize Michael. The last thing she needed or wanted was for her little brother to be afraid of Michael because he was fooled into thinking that he was a bad person.
The commentary annoyed her so greatly that she couldn't watch any more. She decided to change the channel. There was no way in hell she would give this cow dung the ratings it did not deserve and she did not think her little brother should, either.
"You know what, Josiah? I think we better wait for the unedited version," said Sierra, turning the channel.
Josiah had been daydreaming throughout some of the narration, so he didn't hear all what was said, but judging from the look on his sister's face and her tone of voice, it must have been bad. "Okay. Do you think the unedited version will be better?"
"I can't wait." He was so deep in thought about this. "Is Michael as weird as the media makes him out to be?"
"No, not at all. He is one of a kind, but not weird. The media is just saying that stuff for money."
"Then I won't listen to them ever again."
"Good." She was happy that her little brother was learning. She decided to call Nikki, to let her know about the leaking of this documentary so she could tell Michael. She dialed her number.
Two rings. "Hello, this is Nikki speaking."
"Nikki, this is Sierra speaking."
"Oh hey girlie! What's up?"
Nikki sounded so cheerful that Sierra hated to be the bearer of such negative news, but it had to be told. "Um...I have good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?"
"Good news. I have to prepare to hear this bad news first."
"Oh. Good. I was hoping you would say that. I am still reeling from what happened as well. The good news is ABC will not air that Living with Michael Jackson film...you know, the one that you saw the preview of last week."
Nikki was very happy to hear that. It meant that all the fans got through to those associated with ABC. She was confident that all the endless feedback would pay off. "Oh, that's great! Our perseverance paid off! Um, so what is the bad news?"
"That snake Martin Bashir leaked the documentary to Court TV. Now what was once a respectable TV station is starting to become trash."
The news shocked and angered Nikki so much that she was speechless. This was low, but after he betrayed her adopted father in one of the worst ways possible, her opinion of the journalist couldn't get any lower. Because she didn't say anything, Sierra thought she had hung up.
"Hello? Nikki, are you still there?"
There was a slight pause. "Yes I'm here."
"What do you make of this?"
"It's an outrage, but it doesn't surprise me, really." As nonchalant as she was trying to sound, Sierra could tell that she was angry. She could hear the quiet fury in her voice.
"Aren't you even slightly angry about this?" Sierra pressed.
"Of course I am. But I am sure the truth will prevail in the end, no matter how the tabloid reporters spin this. Also, that will just give Dad another reason to file this law suit. Attempted breach of contract."
"Oh, that's right. I am proud of him for going through with this. By the way, how is he? Is he feeling any better?"
"A little. However, he has a very long way to go before that nasty spider bite completely heals."
"Oh, I bet. Well tell him I said hello and give him my get well wishes once again."
"All right, will do. Thank you for calling. "
The news about the leaked documentary spread like wildfire. Like Sierra, the superstar's fans knew what to do-boycott it. And that was just what they did.
After a few final touch-ups, edits and rewatching, the biography and the home movies interview were finally ready for their debut the following week. Michael was still feeling the agony from the spider bites, so he had to film the interview bit by bit. He was happy that there would finally be a biography/special he would be proud of for once. The news of the interview being leaked the previous week eventually reached him, and to put it mildly, he was very upset about it. He kept his cool, though, because he was doing something about it. True, the ratings for it were relatively low since it had been boycotted by the fans, but still. One of the complaints he featured in the paperwork for the law suit was the breaching of contract. What upset him most was that the media circus became even bigger, even though the fans had boycotted the atrocity of a biography. Once again, the tabloids and the biased media reporters started calling him a freak, a homosexual and a child molester. What was worse was that he received countless phone calls from a bunch of social workers threatening to take his children away from him because they thought he had possibly abused his children before, including his adopted daughters. There was no way in hell Nikki and Kerri were going to listen to that. From the moment he had entered their lives, he had done nothing but protect them and show them love. And it wasn't like the social workers could do anything. The girls were eighteen and nineteen respectively, which meant they were both legal adults. For Michael, the thought of this happening was unbearable and sickening. His children, biological and adopted, meant everything to him, and he was not going to allow anyone to separate him from them. He hoped that the legal action and the documentary would solve this problem. Having people constantly investigate him as well as his phone ringing off the hook was a nightmare.
That day was not only the official premiere of his documentaries, but it was also his son Prince's birthday. He was now six years old. It was so exciting for him. He was having a hard time concentrating on his work. Ever so often, his teachers had to remind him to sit still and concentrate. He tried his best, but he was too excited. He couldn't wait to eat cake and ice cream, and open his presents, whatever they were. And his god sister and god brothers were coming over. He and Paris hadn't seen them in ages...at least that was how it seemed to them. He looked forward to going swimming with them and maybe having a water balloon and a super soaker fight. Spencer and Paris had beaten him at it the last time they had one and he was desperate for a rematch.
He was so happy when school was over. He thought he would die of excitement. He went skipping into the den. There was his father, holding Blanket in his lap and reading him a story. "Daddy!" he exclaimed.
"Just a minute, Blanket." Michael looked up from where he was reading. "Hello, birthday boy. Would you like to hear the story?"
"Oh yes!" He climbed in the couch and was snuggled against Michael. The 44 year old started reading again. They were so engrossed in the story that they did not notice that Paris had walked in. She had just finished her lessons. For awhile, she hesitated, and then she came over to the couch where her daddy and her brothers were, and sat on the couch on the other side of Michael. Soon, she was listening to the story, too.
The story was almost over when he heard the front door open, as well as one of his security guards talking to someone outside. He figured that it would be his friend Nancy Malnik bringing her three children over to play. He had gotten a call from them earlier saying that they were in California and were on their way to the ranch. But it was not Spencer, Jarod and Nathan who entered the den. It was none other than the comedian Chris Tucker, one of his very good showbiz friends.
Now Michael wasn't expecting to see Chris. He was sure happy to see him, but he just didn't think he would come as early as he did. He turned to Prince and Paris. "We'll finish it later, okay?"
"Okay!" Prince and Paris went to their bedrooms to play. Michael put the book aside. "Hi, Chris. How are you?"
"I'm great. What's up, man? What happened to you? Why is your leg bandaged up?"
Michael didn't really feel like telling the story of what happened. He did not like his friends and loved ones to see him in distress. "You really want to know?"
"Of course I want to know. The last time I saw you, you were fine."
"I was bitten by spiders last week while asleep. I'm in pain as we speak. It's almost as if a lion took a bite out of my leg. I can barely walk, much less dance. "
Chris didn't like the sound of that at all. He knew this incident would do more than just make him unable to dance or walk regularly, but it would also hamper him from being able to take care of his children and doing some of his work. Of course, he knew that Michael would try to hide his pain from his children, but he doubted he would be able to this time. His immobility made it too obvious that something was wrong.
"That's not cool. That means you can't do much for Prince's birthday."
Michael gave a bitter laugh. "I know. But I don't want to disappoint him. Nancy's children are coming shortly. It'll be a fairly quiet gathering."
"I see. Well, they're full of energy, so it would be like having house full of kids. " Chris then noticed that there didn't seem to be a trace of the Arviso family in the house. He wondered what this meant. Not too long ago, he had warned his friend about them. Even though Michael was listening, there was no way to tell if he had taken the warning to heart because Gavin's mother kept interrupting him while he was trying to talk to him. "How are things between you and that family?"
Michael knew he meant the Arviso's. "Oh. They're not here as much, and to be honest, the longer they stay away, the happier I will be. They've been supportive about this documentary, but otherwise, I see what you mean. I have a very bad feeling about them, so I've begun to distance myself from them."
Chris was glad that Michael was heeding his warning. He was worried that he would ignore his advice and not realize that he was right until it was too late, since he had made it such a cause to help the family because they went through such rough times. Not to mention that Michael had trouble with naivety in the past. He had helped them for awhile, too, but stopped when he realized what their true intentions were. He wouldn't be surprised if the family had deceived other people, too. "I see you remembered what I said. "
"Of course I remembered. I have had problems with them, too. Star defaced my Neverland guestbook and broke a string on Kerri's electric guitar. I have the feeling they've done more and that information is being kept from me." Michael obviously didn't like recounting the incidents. That guestbook meant a lot to him, and not just because it was so expensive. It contained a bunch of heartfelt messages from his dear showbiz friends and acquaintances who thanked him for his hospitality to them. As much as he hated to say it, he felt that Janet Arviso apparently never taught the children to respect other people's property.
"Well don't worry man. I've got your back."
"Thank you. Your support means so much."
"Hey, no problem."
At that moment, Blanket grew restless in Michael's lap and started fussing, so Michael rested him on the floor. He thought maybe the eleven month old wanted to play with his toys. "Chris, watch Blanket for me, will you?"
Michael hobbled to Blanket's room, found a few of his favorite toys and re-entered the den. He found Blanket practicing his walking. Chris was spotting him. Michael was very proud of him. He was doing a wonderful job for an almost one year old. His leg was killing him so he sat back down.
Blanket decided that he wanted to walk to his daddy. He took a few tentative steps. He looked a little bit scared. "That's it, come on, you're almost there," coaxed Michael.
Blanket took a few more wobbly steps and then held on to Michael's knees. "You did it! Very good!" Michael told him. He handed Blanket the toys. Blanket got this goofy grin on his face and happily started playing with them.
Just then, the front door opened and closed again. This time, a woman's voice was heard as well as some giggling. Michael knew that it was Nancy and her 3 children. He could hear Nancy telling them to be on their best behavior.
They came running into the den. They could faintly hear their mother telling them to settle down. They did slow down once they were near Michael.
"Godfather Michael!!" they screamed.
"Hi, children. How are you?"
"Very good! We've missed you!"
"I've missed you too." Michael hugged and kissed his godchildren. He gave Nancy a hug, too, and then called for Prince and Paris.
"Yes Daddy?" They came running into the den.
"Your god siblings are here."
"Yay! Hi Spencer! Hi Nathan! Hi Jarod!" His children were happy to see their friends. There was a lot of talking at once.
"Happy Birthday Prince!" the three triplets chorused.
"I hope you have a wonderful one and all your wishes come true," added their mother. She was holding a medium sized bag. Prince was curious to know if it was a present for him, but he didn't think his father would approve. Besides, he was sure that he would find out soon enough.
"Thank you, Mrs. Nancy."
"You're most welcome. I have a present for you."
"Really?! For me?!" Prince was so happy. He thought he would have had to ask about it if she hadn't told him, and he didn't want to have to do that.
"Yes," replied Nancy, chuckling. She reached into the bag and handed him something wrapped with cheerful looking wrapping paper.
"Oh boy!" He was so excited; he couldn't wait to see what this gift was. He was dying to know if it was going to be something he was really desperate to have. He never opened a gift so fast in his life.
Inside was a box with a few Star Wars action figures...of some of his favorite characters.
Prince was surprised, very pleasantly surprised. He had put that particular item on his list for Christmas later that year...but there were quite a bit of other things he wanted, too. This was just one less gift he would have to ask for.
"Wow, this is so cool!" He was so ecstatic that for a moment he forgot his manners. His daddy had to remind him.
"What are you supposed to say?" Michael reminded him gently.
"Oh!" That was all it took for the young boy to remember. He turned to Nancy. "Thank you very much."
"You are very welcome."
"I love you very much."
"I love you more."
Chris took a look at his watch. It was forty-five minutes before a photo-shoot he would be doing, and he was supposed to be in the studio at least fifteen minutes prior. "As much as I wanna hang with you guys, I'd better get going. I'll catch you later, Mike!"
"All right. Take care."
"You, too. Have a great birthday, little man." The last statement was aimed at Prince.
"Thank you! Bye!"
Nikki and Kerri were getting home from school early. Math class was cancelled for them that day, because their lecturer's mother died suddenly. Although they were sorry for his loss, they were secretly glad for the time off. . They didn't want to miss Prince's birthday celebration.
The two sisters were about to leave so that they wouldn't be late. "Hey wait!" Rebecca called after them.
Nikki and Kerri turned around to see what she wanted.
"Before you go, take this. It's a birthday present I bought for Prince," said the copper-haired young woman, handing Nikki a gift that was rather flat and wrapped in a beautiful way.
"Oh, you shouldn't have," said Nikki, in a tone of mock surprise.
"Nik-ki!" Kerri whispered loudly. She couldn't believe her sister said that. The girl could be a little too proud at times.
Rebecca ignored the comment. "I'll take that as a thank you...and you're quite welcome."
"It is very nice of you, really. I was only joking."
"I knew that."
"Well, I'll be sure to give it to him."
"Good. And tell me all about it on Monday or before then, if you call me. Have fun!"
"Will do." It was probable that the birthday party would be quiet because Michael had to take it easy. But knowing how energetic and playful Prince was, it would still be a lot of fun.
"You ready, sister?" asked Kerri, looking a little impatient.
"Sure I am. Let's go." Nikki waved goodbye to Rebecca and left with her sister.
(Back at Neverland Ranch)
After Chris left, Michael's children and the Malnik triplets had decided that they wanted to go swimming and do water related activities. They were not ones for waiting an hour after eating before swimming or doing any type of exercise.
Michael would usually be the first one to join them since they were some of his favorite activities when he got a chance to relax, but he knew that he would have to sit this one out. He wasn't going to put his leg through any more punishment than it had received the previous week. Even with healthy legs he was still sore from all the running. So he opted to just sit in a lawn chair and keep an eye on the children. He remembered to wear his sunglasses and silk mask, too, and had Nancy holding the umbrella over him, since the rays would destroy his skin, whether he was in the shade or not. Nancy agreed to keep an eye on the children, too. Blanket was too young to play with them, so he was seated on a spread out sheet and playing with his toys.
The kids decided to have a super soaker fight. They chose their favorite coloured ones, and filled them with water.
"If you and Spencer think you guys will beat me again, think again," Prince said to Paris and Spencer. "I will beat you this time. Get ready to lose. "
They kept going back and forth about it. They argued for more than a minute. Michael had to tell them that it was enough.
"The most important thing is to just do your best and have a good time, remember?" he reminded them. He wanted to teach his children at an early age that it was important to be a good sport and competition didn't have to get ugly.
"Oh, that's right." Spencer made her tone friendlier. "You really think that you, Nathan and Jarod can beat me and Paris?"
"Think? I know I can!"
"Well, hit us with your best shot!"
"I intend to. Same thing goes for you."
"Well, thank you."
"Good luck. You'll need it."
"I doubt it, but thanks, I think."
Nikki and Kerri had just gotten back from school. They could hear the noise outside in the backyard, so they would not have to wonder where to look for Michael and the others. They put up their book bags, changed into more casual clothing, and ran back outside. They had a feeling they've missed a good bit of what was going on, and they didn't want to miss any more. They saw Michael sitting in a lawn chair, and Nancy was talking to him. The girls had met Nancy, her husband and her children quite a few times, and thought they were quite lovely to be around. They especially loved spending time with the triplets and loved them the way they loved Paris and her brothers. The kids appeared to be having a super soaker fight. Well, one did not have to worry about how to keep them entertained under the circumstances. They seemed to be preoccupied. Nikki decided to wait till later to give Prince the presents from her and Rebecca. She didn't want to interrupt him when he was so engrossed in his little "battle." She dashed inside, put the gift up and came back outside. "Hi Dad," she said.
"Hi Dad," said Kerri.
"Hi. How was school?"
"Great. How are you feeling?"
"Not much better. I'm still in pain. I don't know how much longer I can take it."
Kerri hoped it wouldn't be too much longer. If he had taken pain medication, there would have been a difference, but he was determined that he wouldn't be taking any painkillers this time around. She found that admirable, because if she were him, she would be taking medicine by now.
The super soaker fight was underway. Prince, Jarod and Nathan were very determined and aggressive. Paris and Spencer were just as determined. There were still some occasional taunts here and there.
"You girls are good, but not good enough to beat us this time!" Prince yelled, speaking for himself, Nathan and Jarod, squirting the opposing team.
"Oh yeah?" Spencer yelled back. She and Paris squirted at Prince and her two brothers. At this point all of them were soaking wet. Blanket looked like he thought this was hysterical, even though he didn't particularly understand what was going on.
The battle went on a little while longer, and this time Paris and Spencer lost. They took it pretty well, since they knew they had given their all. Prince gave them a "see? I told you so" look.
"Well, next time, we're gonna beat you."
Later that evening, it was time for the premiere of the Living with Michael Jackson, Take Two documentary. By then, the Malniks had left, and Mariann was long done with work and was at the ranch. She was sorry she missed Prince's birthday celebration, but she was glad she could spend time with Michael. She couldn't stand to be away from him for too long.
The two sisters, Michael and Mariann were in the theatre, waiting for the new improved biography to come on. Prince and Paris had gotten permission to stay at the hotel with the Malniks. Blanket was asleep. Prince had gotten a lot of gifts, as well as calls from his aunts and uncles, wishing him happy birthday.
The documentary finally began. In the introduction, Maury talked about the aim of the biography, and how its debut had been delayed, but it had been leaked into the tabloid press. "Michael has complained that it was a twisted, edited construction of scandal and innuendo, and that it was not a true representation of the interviews that actually took place. For the next two hours and forty-five minutes, we're going to get a look at the footage that was omitted. "
The more Kerri and Nikki watched, the more they found themselves on the edge of their seats. They were so interested in seeing what footage was cut out...they imagined that there would be a lot of editing, judging from how horrible the preview turned out before. And Kerri was pleased to see that Maury Povich was hosting it. She was horrified at the thought of one of those tabloid reporters hosting it. As far as she was concerned, they did not deserve such a job. Mariann grabbed a hold of Michael's hand, simply because she wanted to. He appreciated it very much. He knew that she was there for him when he needed her, even though they hadn't known each other long.
The young women were correct. There had been extremely heavy editing done to the documentary. In fact, it was sliced and diced to bits. Quite a few things Michael said had been twisted and a lot had been cut out, like when he had said his father was a genius in spite of how harsh and intimidating he was with the discipline and the reason why he chose to go to the Berlin zoo when he did. There was quite a difference between this version and the edited version. Here Michael got a chance to speak candidly and from the heart.
What stunned the girls the most was how professional some of Bashir's questions were. Not only that, but his comments seemed to contradict the ones he made in his interview with Barbara Walters, based on what they've heard. That gave them more proof that Martin was more of a backstabber and a hypocrite than they thought. They couldn't believe it when Martin had said, "Disgusting...disgusting...well, we aren't doing that here."
‘Liar,' thought Nikki. That was just what Bashir had done. He was just as bad as those other tabloid journalists.
Overall, they were pleased with how the rebuttal documentary turned out, Michael and Mariann, too. Mariann had very little difficulty watching it, because although English is her second language, she had become fluent in it. Michael especially appreciated the interviews done by the people closest to him. He commended Debbie for opening up. It took a lot on her part, considering how private she was. He hoped that this would put the speculations about their relationship to rest. Probably not, considering that people still believed what they wanted to believe. There was one part that Kerri didn't agree with when the family had been interviewed. She wondered how Joe was disciplining his kids for not doing the dance steps right would prevent them from getting in trouble.
The Home Movies documentary was even better. It was very raw and honest. For the girls, it was like they were transported into their adopted father's younger days. And it made Mariann love him even more. She loved seeing the man behind the music, and the fact that he was gracious enough to show such private moments. Also there were a few scenes that called for laughter, like when his cousins repeatedly pushed him into the pool. Nikki was almost on the floor when Michael had said, "I'm a nice person! I just took a shower! And I washed my hair thoroughly!" Same with Kerri. They were laughing so much they started crying.
"Excuse me, I'm gonna get a piece of tissue," said Nikki.
"Bring me back a piece, too!" Kerri called after her.
For Michael, these home movies brought back so many memories of his younger days. No doubt that this and the Living with Michael Jackson, Take Two biography would probably get low ratings, but he didn't really care. The rebuttal would be an excellent piece of evidence that Bashir displayed yellow journalism.
Besides FOX, stations like VH1, E! and ABC aired the Living with Michael Jackson, Take Two documentary and the Michael Jackson Home Movies. The fans that had been looking forward to it were very pleased by how the biography turned out. They thought it was absolutely worth waiting for. And it was especially refreshing to see that their e-mails, letters and calls made such a difference. The distorted version might have been leaked, but it didn't mean much since Court TV was beginning to become tabloid anyway. And only the tabloids made money off of it. However, those two specials did not receive good reviews from everyone. There were some people who felt they were too biased because of the fact that they were positive. They accused Michael of fraud, saying that he used underhanded tactics to see to it he would be portrayed in a favorable light. They also believed that he had videos of him behaving inappropriately and that he had omitted the footage on purpose to make himself look good. In other words, they were calling him a liar. A tabloid reporter named Maureen Orth described him as arrogant, narcissistic, vindictive, childish and deceptive. "He is so full of himself,' she was quoted as saying. ‘He refuses to take responsibility for his actions and that will be his undoing.' The calls and investigating from social services did not cease, either. In fact, the psychiatrists were so persistent and the situation had gotten so bad that Michael was very cautious when answering the phone and the door. He advised his staff to do the same.
Even though Prince, Blanket and Paris were very young, they could tell there was something bad going on and that their father was upset, in spite of not being able to understand the situation. It was truly a nightmare for Kerri, Nikki, and Mariann, too. Kerri and Nikki had a hard time concentrating on their classes that day, which meant their schoolwork was being affected. They were glad that there was one class less, since their lecturer was planning his mother's funeral. And they were tempted to go back to their normal arrangements and stay by their off campus apartment so they wouldn't have to deal with the hoopla, but that would be too selfish. Besides, what if he needed them around in case he wanted someone to talk to? They were inseparable with him and missed him when they were at their place. So when school was done for the day, they went straight back to the ranch. Luckily, there wasn't anyone or anything suspicious.
It angered them so much that Michael was being investigated like a criminal because of disgusting, malicious rumors about him, and they would not be listening to the nonsense any longer. He already had enough stress in his life; he didn't need this, too.
The two sisters knew that Michael had his hands full preparing his defense for the civil case, so they decided that one of them would set the record straight about this. They were in Nikki's room, discussing which one of them would speak out.
"I think you should do it," Nikki told Kerri. "You are a better speaker when it comes to confidence."
"But you are better at expressing yourself, when you put your mind to it," Kerri pointed out.
"Oh?" Enough people told Nikki that she was good at speaking from the heart, but she didn't really think so. She would admit, though, that when she was fed up with something, she had the tendency to use that as motivation and it fueled her anger. "Do you really think so?"
"Sure I do. Don't be so down on yourself."
"Well, all right. I'll see what I can do."
"That's the spirit." Kerri left the room so her younger sister could work in peace. Nikki brushed a long strand of her jet-black hair back from her face and proceeded to ponder what she would say in her statement. She was hoping that she would be able to catch up on some songwriting for the J-Pop album she and her sister were doing, but instead she was thinking of what she would say to set the record straight. She resented having her plans changed. It would have been much preferable if her sister had been the one making the statement and not her.
The eighteen year old usually had to write her thoughts down when she had to do any type of speaking events, so that was what she did. She wrote down everything that was on her heart. She read it over, corrected any errors and then copied the speech over on another sheet of paper. It read:
For the last two weeks, there have been falsehoods concocted by the tabloids about our father. The rumors seemed to have originated from the previous version of the Martin Bashir interview that was inaccurate. These accusations are saying that our father has molested my sister and I, as well as our younger adopted siblings, and as a result, he is being treated like a criminal. These accusations are absolutely false. Kerri and I have had him as a family member for over six years and he has showed us nothing but love. Same for Prince, Paris and Blanket. If anything, he is AFRAID of the thought of them being in that type of danger, so he protects them at all costs. He saved us from living a lonely life because our parents died when we were little. There were times we slept in his bedroom because we had nightmares of being kidnapped, but we slept in the bed below his bed. To cut a long story short, his bed is on the first floor and the bed we slept in was on the second floor. He is such a wonderful father and has certainly been a great one to us, and he treats the disadvantaged children who come over like his own relatives, even though they are not related. For this reason the idea that he has acted inappropriately with us or any other child is outrageous and ludicrous. These allegations have hurt our father immensely and the entire turn of events is a nightmare for him and us. I am kindly asking you to please stop the false accusations and listen to the truth with open minds. Thank you.
She read it over again, and thought it was excellent, if she did say so herself. She knew she was taking a very huge risk. She wondered what her sister would think. She went to go find her. Kerri was practicing on her new guitar. She couldn't thank Michael enough for helping her to have a new one much sooner than she thought. She thought she would have to murder Star for what he did. Seeing that her sister was probably finished, she decided to take a break from her practicing. She placed the guitar aside.
"Hey sis. Let's see your speech," said Kerri cheerfully. "I am sure that it is wonderful."
"Here." Nikki handed Kerri the sheet, and Kerri perused it carefully, and then read it again. When she was done, she was grinning.
Nikki was puzzled. Did her sister like her message that much? "What do you think? You like it?"
"Are you kidding? I love it! "
"Yes! You've expressed yourself so well."
"Oh, I'm so glad you like it. You think this will be enough to stop the madness?"
"If that and father's law suit doesn't, I don't know what will."
"You got that right." She was pretty sure that one of the tabloid reporters might criticize her, but she didn't care. If they didn't want to open their eyes to the truth, it just meant that something was wrong with them. She went to find Michael's personal videographer and cameramen so this message could be filmed.
Meanwhile, Michael was meeting with his civil attorney at the law firm he worked. He had finally completed his paperwork for the suit and he was now preparing his defense of what he would testify. He was so glad to be done with the paperwork. Filing it was such a drawn out, tedious process. Of course, he was well aware of the fact that there was more yet to come. The court fight was just beginning. His appearance in court was set tentatively for the 27th, which was just eight days away. This could be a very brief civil case or one as long as the case that took place nearly a decade ago. The singer wasn't thrilled about the thought of a long civil trial. Having that one court hearing and an out of court settlement was much more preferable at this point, especially considering that he had other obstacles to deal with. As for the spider bites, the healing process was steady, but he still had moments where the agony was excruciating...this was one of them. He was told to say if he needed a break for any reason, which he would do. But for now, he was determined to sit there and bear it for as long as he could.
"Mr. Jackson, what made you agree to let Martin Bashir have unprecedented access into your life to do this documentary?"
"Um...well, it was because of a biography he did with Lady Diana that was released in '95. He had showed me a letter from her thanking him for the biography and as you know, I shared a bond with Lady Diana. I figured that if she approved of the documentary made of her then that meant he was a respected journalist. Also, he promised me that the purpose of this documentary would be to free me from the '93 allegations, to set the record straight. " It was so painful for him to recall, knowing that Martin Bashir lied to him and betrayed him in one of the worst ways possible.
"Did you suspect that Mr. Bashir would break his promise?"
"No, I did not. I really thought that this documentary would be about the International Children's Holiday that I wanted."
"I see." It wasn't taking long for Carl to see the picture. It certainly did sound like there was treachery involved. True, he would have to view both the edited version of the biography and the rebuttal to come to that conclusion, but so far the story seemed plausible. He asked Michael more questions, which were answered quite graciously. Talking about it made him feel uncomfortable. He hoped this court battle would be over and done with so that he could put it behind him. The attorney took notes as Michael answered his questions.
"So when did you begin to suspect signs of deceit on Mr. Bashir's part?"
"Well, after the documentary was filmed, my assistant had done some research on Martin and discovered that he was reprimanded for unfair journalistic practices, and warned me to watch for any signs of it when watching the preview. Although I never suspected anything, I decided to keep his warnings in mind because with journalists, you never know, and after I had been deceived in the past, I made a resolution to be more cautious."
That was all Carl needed to know. The rest he could figure out from watching the documentaries...that is, if his client brought them.
Michael hated to interrupt the interrogation, but he could take the pain no more. "Carl? Can we take a break? My leg hurts."
"All right. The meeting is over for now. Do you have a copy of the documentary with you?"
"Yes. Both the edited version and the outtakes." He handed his lawyer a manila envelope that contained the videos. He stood up rather stiffly, and gave Carl a handshake. "See you later. Thank you for all your help."
"The pleasure is mine. Until next time, then."
Michael hobbled out of his attorney's office. His bodyguards Bill, Javon and Mike were waiting for him. All three of them had grim looks on their faces, which he didn't like the looks of at all. He knew that when his bodyguards wore such an expression that meant they had bad news or at least something to say that their boss wouldn't want to hear. "What's the matter, Bill?"
"Outside is a nuthouse. Paparazzi and reporters. Only this time, it is much worse than usual."
Michael was horrified by that. He wondered if they knew about what happened to him a little over two weeks ago. If they did, no doubt that they were probably there to write an outlandish story about his condition or take some pictures for the tabloids so they could poke fun of how sickly he looked. Or maybe they were there for something else, like to try and get the buzz on the story of the meeting with his lawyer. Great. Just when he thought the press hype couldn't get any worse, he was proven wrong. And what's worse was that trying to avoid the paparazzi and press was virtually impossible, given that without any walking aids, his mobility at the moment equaled to that of someone who suffered from severe arthritis, at best. He really considered using a wheelchair next time."Oh my God, how are we going to get out of here?"
"Exactly what I am wondering. Unfortunately an alternative exit won't magically appear before us."
Michael was still making headlines on the news. Later that afternoon, the top story on him was about the meeting with his lawyer who was helping him take legal action against Martin Bashir, and an analysis on Nikki's videotaped message. This top story was on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell that afternoon. Sierra was on her couch, watching this. She had made a vow to never watch media news again, but she decided to make an exception this time because she was interested in hearing what her best friend Nikki had to say. She hoped that Nikki would be able to shut up all those tabloid and biased reporters once and for all. And she would be very angry if they didn't show the message without selective editing.
"Welcome to Issues tonight everybody; I'm Jane Velez-Mitchell. We have new breaking stories on Michael Jackson today, including an exclusive video message from one of Jackson's adopted daughters giving a plea! You won't wanna miss it. My fantastic panel is here with me to discuss these bombshells."
At the spa, Mariann was massaging a female basketball player who had sore shoulders and the news about Nikki speaking just happened to catch her attention. She applauded the young lady for standing up for Michael. She went back to doing the massage so her boss wouldn't come in to yell at her for fooling around. She couldn't wait to get off in the next half hour so she could spend some quality time with Michael and the children.
"Tonight on Issues, we've just received news that the King of Pop was shown meeting with his lawyer for the civil case. It seems that he has become determined, aggressive and relentless in his pending legal battle against British journalist Martin Bashir. His lawyer had been interviewing him earlier this afternoon. Jim Moret, what do you make of Jackson's unequivocal attitude towards this case? Also, do you feel that his claims are valid enough to have a case?"
A man with graying hair answered, "Well, judging from outtake footage that was shown last week, the evidence does have potential to be used for a civil case. However, Jackson will have to make sure that his defense is solid in order to prove that unfair practice is truly involved. I am impressed and surprised that Michael is willing to take the risks, knowing all the time and money that has to be put into the suit and the judge can dismiss the case if he or she feels that there is no merit."
"Yes, well, best of luck to him with that. It is a grueling process so he'd better recover from whatever ailment he currently has." The nutmeg haired woman was referring to recent pictures of Michael using crutches and looking slightly unwell. "Gloria Allred, what do you think of this?"
Gloria, who had been criticizing Michael's behavior and parenting skills in the recent months, replied, "Jackson is acting like a petulant child who cannot take responsibility for his actions. It does not surprise me that he is lashing out and accusing Martin the way he is. However, he has no leg to stand on and he has no case."
Sierra was fuming when she heard that. She never liked the attorney to begin with, but after hearing such an attack, her hatred for her grew. She almost turned off the TV, but she still wanted to hear what Nikki had to say.
Long time Jackson family friend Firpo Carr, who was also a part of Velez-Mitchell's analysis team, thought Gloria was going too far as well. "Give him a break. You know that Michael doesn't generally take legal action even if it is warranted, so the fact that he is this time means that the slandering has gone much too far."
Jane did not want an argument to ensue, no matter what the differing views were. "Down, you two! Let's hear the message that this young woman has put together regarding her father. It is truly startling and heartfelt. Take a listen." She rolled the video, and Nikki appeared on the screen. She addressed the innuendo and scandals that had been circulating over the past two weeks, and spoke of what type of parent Michael had been to her, Kerri, Prince, Paris and Blanket, She dispelled the rumors and insisted that they stop.
"I can tell that Nikki genuinely loves her father very much and that her message was from the heart. And it is only human nature for her to defend him in circumstances like these," said Jane, when the video was over. "What do you think, Jim?"
"I absolutely agree with you. By giving this message she is showing that she is not afraid to speak up. Also this shows Michael Jackson in a different light."
Gloria, however, did not feel the same. She was just as cynical as she was with the other news pertaining to the superstar. "Maybe she does respect him as a parent, but I still feel uncomfortable. The message seemed scripted and effusive, almost as if Jackson fed her those lines. Either that or she is very blind to his true nature and is very naïve. "
That last comment by Gloria was the breaking point for Sierra. She thought the speech was well done and was proud of her friend for having the guts to speak out, but she was so irate that she wanted to strangle the woman. Not only did she attack Michael for the last time, but she implied that Nikki's emotions were not genuine. That couldn't be further from the truth. No one disrespected her friends like that and got away with it. She was so glad that her little brother wasn't with her. She furiously switched the channel. She had to; otherwise she would have ended up throwing her television set out the window. That would not be a pretty sight.
(At the spa)
Mariann was getting ready to leave work so she could go to the ranch. She, too, was angered by the excoriations on Michael, but she was positive that maybe the law suit would be a warning to all of the publicity hounds.
Thanks to Nikki's video message, the telephone calls and the visits from the social workers had somewhat stanched. It was quite refreshing for Michael and his children (adopted and biological), as well as Mariann to not have to worry about those attention-seekers breathing down their necks practically every day. But they were still being on their guard just in case more people looking for media attention decided to pull something like that again. Also, to take extra precautions, Michael tightened security by hiring more security guards. The people were waiting for another opportunity to start investigating again.
However, the tabloid media still wouldn't leave Michael alone. They were still bashing him for fighting back and they were even attacking Nikki for her defense in the video message. And when the Arvisos came out of seclusion and returned to California, the Santa Barbara DA Tom Sneddon as well as the other people on his prosecuting team had decided to investigate and tried to get them to cooperate so they could make a case. The Arvisos refused, saying that Michael was a family man and that he was the nicest, kindest, most giving person they had ever met.
As expected, the news of the media's attacks on Nikki reached the pop king and he was very outraged, to say the least. Nikki admitted to making the video in order to defend him and dispel all of the lies about what type of parent he was. His feelings about that were mixed. He appreciated her standing up for him, but he didn't want her to suffer negativity in the press on his account. When he voiced his feelings about her doing that, she had said she was glad to. He wasn't expecting to hear her say that.
"I do not regret it at all. I would do it again if I had to. If speaking up for you means I get attacked, so be it. Remember that we are in this battle together, and I won't stand by and allow anyone to disrespect my family," she had told him. Kerri agreed with her. That made Michael very happy. Not only that, but the girls were as resilient as he was. He was so proud of the way they were turning out, under his guidance.
As for the relationship between Michael and Mariann, there was already something special between them even though it had only been three weeks since they had met in person. They were practically inseparable when Mariann wasn't working. She couldn't stand being away from him for too long and when she was at work, she constantly thought about him. She could barely stop thinking of him. Somehow, it did not affect her work. She noticed that when she was around Michael, she would feel extremely lightheaded and her heart beat would be rapid. She wondered what this meant. Was her crush turning into love? No, it just couldn't be. She had just met him a few weeks ago. She was going to have to try to control her feelings for him somehow, because she didn't want to scare him away. Especially if he wasn't feeling the same way about her. She actually wasn't sure how he felt because he never told her if he had feelings for her; he treated her with the same level of kindness as he treated the other people whose wellbeing he was concerned for.
It would be a trying and busy day for Michael. His court hearing for the civil case was on that day and while he felt prepared, he was slightly nervous. He firmly believed that the truth would prevail in the end, but he also knew that the justice system could be corrupt at times and so it meant they would believe Bashir if he decided to lie through his teeth or something. Or even worse, the journalist could refuse to testify, depending on his attorney, and the case would end up being dismissed. He was so busy making preparations for it that he didn't get much sleep, and on Blanket's 1st birthday, he settled on making it a quiet one, even quieter than Prince's birthday. He didn't want to have to do that for Paris when it was time for her birthday. Everything was so frustrating, he was anxious to get this over and done with so he could move on. He had just finished having breakfast with his children and was now getting ready while he waited for his makeup artist Karen Faye to come by and do his makeup and fix his hair for him. Since he still couldn't get around as much, Kerri and Nikki gave him a bit of assistance.
"Oh, Dad, I wish we could be there with you. Understand that we'll be there with you in spirit," Kerri told him as she got his loafers for him. He still would not be wearing any on the foot that had been bitten by the brown recluse because although the swelling had gone down some, it was still pretty painful.
"Good luck. I hope your day in court goes well. I will be praying so hard for you," said Nikki, handing Michael his tailored suit. She really wished she and her sister could attend this court hearing, but they had two important tests that day, and they knew missing school would be out of the question. But at least after the exams there would be spring break, and there would be a family vacation to Miami, Florida, so there was something to look forward to.
"Thank you very much." He hoped the court hearing would go well, too. He did not know what was going to happen, or if there would be any other court dates, but if the case did not go to trial, he wouldn't mind. This whole ordeal was so stressful and he didn't need any more stress than he already had. These obstacles were beginning to take a toll on his health. And he didn't want to be away from his children more than he absolutely had to. They were extremely intuitive, so they would eventually realize something was amiss sooner or later. This was why he wanted the nightmare to be over.
(at Wine County Luxury Hotel)
It was ten minutes till eight, but no customers had showed up yet, and quite a number of people usually showed up by then. But that day, it was so boring. Mariann wondered how Michael was doing. She wished she could go to his court hearing that day. She had been tempted to call in sick so that she could go, but she wasn't sure that Michael would approve of her going through such lengths to support him. Also, it was not in her nature to be dishonest. If she had known that business would be as slow as it was, she would have asked if she could take the day off.
Oh, did she long to hear Michael's voice. She wished that she had called him to wish him luck and let him know how much he was loved and supported by her. Now it was too late. If he intended to make it to court at promptly eight o'clock, that would mean he already left. Bummer.
She suddenly got an idea. While it might be too late to call Michael, maybe it was not too late to ask if she could take the day off-if she hurried. Her boss wasn't in yet. She went into the office to make the phone call. She didn't want her co-worker Jamie to hear what she was going to ask.
‘Oh Tammy, please be home,' thought Mariann as she waited for her boss to pick up. She didn't want to be at the hotel if she wouldn't be having any customers.
Fortunately, Tammy was still in. "Hello, Tammy. I'm fine, how are you? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you feel better soon. Yes, Jamie is here, and so is Michelle. But business seems to be very slow today...not a single customer as of yet. "
Jamie's curiosity about what Mariann had called the boss about was getting the better of her. She stood outside the office so she could hear the end of the conversation.
"I was calling to ask if it would be all right if I took the day off. Something important is happening today," Mariann was saying.
Jamie had a feeling that this had something to do with Michael. Her coworker talked about him anytime she didn't have work to do. It was always "Michael this" and "Michael that". She thought Mariann was in love with him. Which she didn't blame her for, because based on what she spoke of him, he didn't come close to the Michael the tabloids were trying to portray.
"Yes, it is about Michael. His court hearing is today."
‘I knew it,' thought Jamie. She gave Mariann credit for being honest, no matter how frivolous the reason sounded. And their boss must have given Mariann the okay, because the next thing she said was, "All right. Thank you very much. I will work overtime if I have to. "
"All right, then. I understand. Once again, feel better soon. Goodbye." She hung up and exited the office. She was startled to see Jamie standing there. She never knew that she was this sneaky even though she generally came across as very inquisitive. "How much did you hear?" she asked, trying to suppress her surprise.
"Well, I've heard you ask for the day off."
"Yes I have. And get this...she said you and Michelle can leave, too."
"Oh really? That's very nice of her." In all honesty, Jamie felt like she could use some time off, too. On the other hand, this was pretty unusual. Something must be up. "Did she say why she was late or if she would be coming in at all?"
"She's not coming in today. She has to rest for awhile. She caught a touch of the flu."
Jamie couldn't help but cringe slightly. She had just had to nurse her husband back to health during the holidays when he got a nasty case of influenza. Less than a week after he was on the mend, she caught it. She was so miserable during that time. It was an experience she never wanted to repeat ever again. "Oh dear. I hope she feels better soon."
Mariann looked at her watch. It was exactly eight o'clock. Time for Michael's court hearing. She knew that if she expected to be there at a reasonable time, she had better make haste. "Well, I'd better get going."
"All right. Tell me all about it. And wish him luck for me. He will need it."
"Will do. Ciao." Mariann made a sign that said that the spa would be closed until further notice, got her purse, taped the sign on the door and left. She had a feeling that this would be a very long day. Not only for herself, but for Michael, too.
(at Beverly Hills Courthouse)
Michael and his entourage arrived to court on time, but just barely. There were a bunch of fans chanting Michael's name as they saw him being pushed in a wheelchair by two of his bodyguards. He looked calm, as if he could handle anything. Still, the fans could see in his eyes that he was nervous about how this case would go. They couldn't blame him. He smiled and waved at them. And of course, there were a bunch of paparazzi and reporters chasing after him, no doubt to get pictures of him as well as an interview, but the bodyguards were too fast for them. They wheeled him inside the courthouse. The gallery was pretty packed, with several of Michael's family members: his parents, four of his brothers, and Janet. There were also a few of his good friends, like Liz Taylor, Chris Tucker and Macaulay Culkin. He was happy to see all of them, and he knew that they were there to give him their moral support, just as they always did. However, there were also some people he was not too happy to see-some of the writers for the tabloid, National Enquirer. No doubt they were probably there to write a sensationalized story based on this event as well as turn it into a media circus.
There was a brown-haired middle-aged woman, sitting behind the bench in the courtroom and reading over some notes. Judge Marsha Revel. She wore such a serious expression that one could tell she meant business. And she had very little patience for tardiness. She gave Michael a reproachful look as he was wheeled in, but didn't say anything. He may have arrived at approximately eight o'clock but she didn't want him cutting it that close.
He seemed to take it in stride, though. He nodded good morning to her and made his way over to the plaintiff's table, using his cane. He was so tired of this; he was going to be so happy when the spider bites completely healed. He sat with his lawyer and proceeded to go over the defense that was prepared. At the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of him. Martin Bashir. The British journalist happened to be nearby, at the defense table. The sight of him produced a queasy feeling in his stomach. Not because he was afraid of him, but because what Bashir had done to him after he graciously opened up to him was sickening. And if he was capable of such betrayal, there was no telling what he would do at this court hearing.
Martin could tell that Michael had seen him, but he was avoiding his eyes, and he had a confident expression on his face. He was so sure that the judge would believe him and not Michael and the case would be dismissed. He didn't believe that he could possibly succeed in his quest, and thought his attempts were futile.
Judge Revel was about to begin the court hearing when all of a sudden, Mariann entered the courtroom and made her way over to the gallery. There was an empty chair next to Janet. She sat in that one."Greetings, Janet," she whispered.
"Good morning," Janet whispered back.
The judge, who was clearly annoyed that the court proceeding was held up, cleared her throat very loudly. Mariann nearly fell out of her chair. The court room became silent, and then the judge proceeded to make her opening statement.
"Sorry for the late start, everyone. We will begin this court hearing as scheduled."
Mariann was relieved that she didn't miss anything. She would be forever grateful to her boss for this.
"Today we have a case involving pop singer Mr. Michael Joseph Jackson and Mr. Martin Bashir. Mr. Jackson has filed a law suit against Mr. Bashir, accusing him of slander, breach of contract and defamation of character. He is represented by his civil lawyer from the '93 child molestation case, Carl Douglas. Mr. Douglas, any opening remarks?"
"I intend to put Mr. Jackson on the stand and he will tell you his side of the story, about the agreement as he recalls it. Also, with your permission I will show the documentary, and you will see that there was deceit involved, your honor."
"And Mr. Bashir, you will have your chance to testify at the appropriate time. There will be order in this court at all times, is that understood?"
"Yes, your honor," answered the journalist.
"Good." The judge turned to Michael's lawyer. "You may proceed."
At this very minute, the media was giving their commentary on the case. They were reporters who consented to having the journalists who were attending the hearing fill them in on how it was going.
"Good morning, I'm AJ Hammer here with Brooke Anderson. Today is the court hearing for the law suit Michael Jackson filed against Martin Bashir. This edition of Showbiz Tonight will be covering it, at the beginning of the hour. We will also be joined by Jane Velez-Mitchell, live from the courthouse. "
There was a split screen, with Jane Velez-Mitchell standing in front of the courthouse, holding a microphone. "Good morning, AJ."
"Good morning, Jane. Tell us, what has happened so far?"
"Well, Michael Jackson had just barely made it on time, which didn't put him on the judge's good side. Also, several of his family members and celebrity friends are present. "
The bit about Michael barely making it to court on time didn't particularly surprise AJ because he saw him as somewhat eccentric. He didn't even expect him to make it to court as soon as he did. "What is going on now?"
"Jackson is giving his testimony as we speak. I can tell that he and his lawyer worked very hard on this defense. Surprisingly, he is composed, lucid and articulate before the judge."
That was very surprising to Brooke and AJ, considering that they always saw him as unstable. They thought maybe he had changed. Either that or it was a façade. "How did he appear, health wise?"
"He arrived at court in a wheelchair and is using a cane. It is obvious that these turn of events have taken a toll on his health, but whatever ailment he is suffering from has not been disclosed."
One could only speculate about the pop star's health issues since he rarely spoke of them openly. "Well, Jane, it is interesting to see how this will play out. Thank you for your time."
"The pleasure is mine. Thank you for inviting me."
(back at the court house)
It was a long, grueling, strenuous day at court, with testimonies and evidence examining, but it was finally coming to an end. Michael had told the story from the beginning, of how he ended up doing this documentary and related the journalist's injustices. Martin, in turn, had refused to give straight answers to the questions he was asked as a result of his attorney's objections. He was forced to answer them though, after the video tape was shown.
Michael knew that he had told the truth, but he was still unsure whether the judge would believe him or Martin. But the evidence lay in the video tapes that were shown, so it would be unfair of the judge to accuse him of lying, or dismiss the case altogether.
There was a long silence in the courtroom. Mariann looked nervous as she and everyone else waited for the judge's decision.
"After examining the evidence, I have found that there has indeed been a breach of contract and defamation. "
Mariann let out the deep breath she was holding in. She was so relieved, she thought she would have had to have been dragged out of that courtroom. She brushed a long strand of hair back from her face. She glanced at Janet, who also looked slightly less tense. Most of the journalists' jaws dropped. They had wanted to boost their ratings on this event, and now their chances of doing that were ruined.
Judge Revel continued, "However, this case is not worth going to trial, so there will be an out of court settlement of two hundred thousand dollars, which Mr. Bashir is to pay."
That sounded very good to Michael because he didn't want to go to trial in the first place. And he knew just what he would do with the money he won from this law suit. Martin was in shock. He was so sure that he would win this civil case. He could not believe that the singer had outsmarted him. His confident facial expression was replaced with one of fury. His face was as white as snow.
"If you do not pay the money, I will issue a bench warrant. Is that understood?"
"Yes, your honor."
"Good. Court dismissed."
I had placed this fic on permanent hiatus as I had lost the inspiration for it, but after more than 2 years, it is starting to come back. Not to worry, I will continue. Until then, I hope you guys enjoy what I put up so far. Please tell me what you think. ^^
Sorry guys, had to delete and reupload the chapter in order to correct something because the edit feature wouldn't let me. I'm getting back to this story sooner rather than later, though, so don't worry.
Nikki and Kerri entered the UCLA campus the Monday after the civil case, feeling as if a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Now that the civil case was over and Michael had emerged victorious, they felt like they could concentrate on their schoolwork better, as they had the whole weekend to convalesce.
‘Gee, I hope Rebecca doesn't kill me for forgetting to call her during the weekend,' thought Nikki as she headed for the Biology classroom with her sister.
"So Nikki, you feel prepared for our Biology exam?" asked Kerri.
"Yes, as ready as I'll ever be," answered the younger sister. "Considering all that craziness with the court hearing and the fact that we went out to celebrate afterwards, it is a miracle I hadn't forgotten all about it. I am not sure if all the information from those chapters will stick, though." ‘I guess I could use the free fifteen minutes we do have to go over the study sheet one more time, but what good would cramming do?'
Kerri noted how unsure Nikki sounded. "Oh, I am sure you'll do just fine. You do have a photographic memory, after all."
"I guess." While it was true Nikki had such an excellent memory, she still didn't feel comfortable with the idea of cramming for a test. ‘I'll just have to say a prayer that I remember all of the answers just by seeing the questions.' She and Kerri walked the remainder of the way to their classroom in silence. They entered the classroom, and saw that Sierra, Rebecca, Miranda and Kassidy were the only ones there so far. And they were discussing the civil case and the court hearing, which was obviously still on everyone's minds. The two girls just stood there and listened, not wanting to interrupt the conversation.
‘I figured the court hearing would be the main topic of discussion,' thought Kerri. She wondered how much they knew, seeing that she and Nikki got tied up over the weekend and forgot to call their friends to tell them all the details their adopted father had given them.
"Isn't it great that Mr. Jackson won the case without it going to trial?" asked Rebecca.
"Yeah," agreed Miranda. "I was so worried for him. I can only imagine what a nightmare it was for him. Nikki and Kerri were stressed out, and they were not the ones filing the suit."
"Martin Bashir must be pissed off now." Sierra got a smug look on her face when she saw Bashir on the news and the facial expression he had.
"Who cares?" Kassidy tossed her long braid over her shoulder. "It serves him right. He's such a scumbag."
"Good morning, you guys," Kerri and Nikki said at the same time.
The girls' friends turned around to face them. "Good morning, you two."
"How is Mr. Jackson doing?" asked Miranda. "Has he recovered from that wretched spider bite?"
"He is getting better, but he's still hurting," answered Nikki. "He has progressed to the point where he is now using a cane to get around. And he is also relieved about the outcome of the case. "
"I'll bet. And I am glad he is improving."
"So are we." Nikki and Kerri took their seats, near their four friends. Nikki was tempted to glance over her Biology study sheet one last time until the lecturer arrived, but decided against it.
"Do you think he will mind if I come to visit him?" asked Sierra.
"And me?" Miranda asked. She finally had a free afternoon.
"I am sure he wouldn't mind, but just to be safe, I will check when we have a break between our exams." As nice as Michael was, Nikki didn't want to take advantage of his kindness or disrespect him in any way.
"All right. Thanks."
"I hope the media will leave your adopted dad alone now," Kassidy spoke up.
Before Nikki or Kerri could answer, Rebecca snorted, "Yeah, like that'll ever happen."
"Well, they were hoping Mr. Jackson would lose the case since the story would make big bucks for them, but seeing as how he didn't, there goes that idea."
"Yes, but the press could also find something else to lie about," pointed out Rebecca.
"True." Kassidy looked sheepish. ‘I wouldn't put it past them if they do.'
Just as Rebecca had said, the media and tabloids found another topic about Michael to cover. They were now saying he was dishonest in his court testimony and he brainwashed the judge with his lies.
"It is absolutely outrageous that Michael Jackson has managed to get his way once again," said Diane Dimond impetuously.
"Yes, Jackson is such a manipulative, spoiled brat," said Maureen Orth. "While he may have gotten what he wanted this time, mark my words there will be a day his lies will catch up with him, and he will not be so lucky. "
Diane Dimond looked absolutely disgusted by the turn of events. "It is almost as if Judge Marsha Revel is starstruck by him. I am very disappointed in her."
Jim Moret, who had been thinking of how to be fair to Michael in a somewhat subtle way, cut in, "While Jackson may seem like an eccentric, oversensitive man at times, Judge Marsha is very stern and could care less if the plaintiffs or defendants are celebrities. Besides, the evidence could not be disputed. The rebuttal was enough to support his claims, and he seemed very prepared and determined."
"Believe what you will." While Diane understood Jim's obligation to speak somewhat positively about the pop star, she was not going to accept the results. She was determined to bring Michael down if it was the last thing she did, and an idea of how to accomplish that was slowly coming to her.
The writers for the tabloids Sun and National Enquirer noted Michael's sickly appearance at court, and the fact that he was using a cane, crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Their speculations about his health led them to make up stories with headlines like, "JACKO IS SLOWLY WASTING AWAY" and "THE KING OF POP SUFFERS FROM MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS OR POSSIBLY MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY AND ONLY HAS THREE TO SIX MONTHS TO LIVE".
Bill spotted the newest headlines whilst he was paying for two crates of eggs. He gave an exasperated sigh and a look of disgust was etched on his face. ‘For crying out loud! Where do people get this stuff from? Mr. Jackson isn't going to be thrilled about this at all.' It was so frustrating that the media insisted on making his boss' life a living hell.
Michael was in his office, writing some more of his new song. It was roughly 25% complete, as the difficult ordeal with the documentary prevented him from being able to fully concentrate on it. Now that the nightmare was behind him, he felt better that he could focus on his upcoming album.
The phone started ringing in the other room. ‘I wonder who that could be.' The singer sure hoped it wasn't anyone from social services again, because they had become such a nuisance. A few minutes later, he heard footsteps coming towards the office and a knock on the door. He looked up from his music sheet and said, "Come in."
His assistant entered the office and handed him the cordless phone. "You have a phone call, Mr. Jackson."
"Thank you." Michael took the phone from his assistant, hoping nothing was seriously wrong.
"Of course." The younger man left the office to give Michael some privacy.
Michael placed the phone against his ear. "Hello?"
He recognized the voice. "Nikki?"
Michael wondered what could be wrong, since she usually didn't call him from school unless it was urgent. "Shouldn't you be in class?" ‘I hope she isn't skipping the exam because she is nervous.'
‘Uh -oh. He doesn't sound too happy. I hope he isn't mad at me,' thought Nikki. "I'm on a ten minute break," she informed Michael. She didn't want him to get the wrong idea.
"Oh, all right. Is something wrong?"
"No, no. Miranda and Sierra wanted to come over to see you after school today, and I'm just checking to make sure it's all right with you."
"Of course. It's not a problem." The pop king found his adopted daughters' friends to be quite endearing and well-mannered young women, so they were always welcome at his home during the appropriate times.
"All right. Thanks, Dad. I will see you later. I love you."
"I love you more. Goodbye."
Michael hung up, and went back to working on the song lyrics. ‘Now where was I? Oh, that's right.' He had managed to complete the first verse and was just about to start working on the lyrics for the chorus before he got the phone call. ‘All right, let's see here.' He didn't want to write just any old thing; but to get the song right and for the lyrics to flow. After some more thinking, an idea of how to start the chorus came to him and he wrote down the words. Once he wrote them, the rest of the chorus came easily to him, and soon he was writing busily until the chorus was completed. He was about to start brainstorming what lyrics could be included in the second verse when he heard another knock on the door.
For the second time, the singer put the sheet with the song lyrics aside. He decided he could use a break anyway. ‘I have made decent progress for today.'
Two more knocks. "It's me, Bill. May I come in?"
‘Whoops. I must have spaced out for just a moment.' "Yes. Come on in."
Bill entered the office with a purposeful look on his face. It was an expression Michael didn't like, for it meant his bodyguard was the bearer of bad news, or at least news he did not want to hear.
"Bill? What's the matter?" asked the pop star.
"There are more rumors printed about you in the tabloids, this time about your health." Bill described to Michael all of the outlandish ailments the tabloid writers claimed were the reason he was using walking aides and a wheelchair to get around.
Michael's eyes popped open so wide they could have rolled out and fallen on the floor. He was absolutely dumbfounded. To call the rumors ridiculous or outrageous would be an understatement. ‘My God! How ignorant can people be?' He just didn't get why the tabloids had to come up with muscular dystrophy or MS of all the possible ailments. He could only imagine the horror of the reporters coming up to him and asking him if he would quit being a dancer or the fans being total wrecks. He just could not allow those things to happen.
‘Come on, Michael, stop it,' scolded a voice inside the pop king's head. ‘You know there's no point in wrapping your head around such garbage.' "This is getting out of hand," he finally managed to say. "I have to do something."
Although Michael had done an excellent job of keeping his cool, Bill could tell by his firm tone that he was indeed angered by the rumors, and he didn't blame him. "So what will you do, Mr. Jackson?" asked the bodyguard.
"I have to set the record straight, somehow," answered Michael. As much as he disliked giving interviews, he hated the thought of filing another law suit even more, although the tabloids deserved it. At least setting up for the interview wouldn't take as much time and energy.
Bill wasn't sure how much good the interview would do, considering his boss' past disastrous experiences giving them, but he couldn't think of anything better that would not be time consuming and draining. "I understand. Well, do what you think is best." He exited the office.
Nikki, Kerri, and all of their classmates had just handed in their papers for the last examination and were now preparing to leave. Both examinations had been pretty challenging, and Nikki was just glad they were over. She had the satisfaction of knowing she did her best under the circumstances, even though she was sure she didn't ace the tests.
"Have a wonderful spring break, everybody!" said the teacher, Mrs. Richardson.
"Remember, I will send you your term grades through e-mail."
Nikki's heart started to pound and she had butterflies in her stomach. ‘I really hope I passed the class with a reasonable mark...Chemistry isn't a class I want to repeat.' She did her best to push the worrying thoughts to the back of her mind and forced herself to think of something she truly looked forward to-spring break and the family vacation to Miami, Florida the very next day. ‘There's no way I'm gonna let the results of the test spoil my school break. I just have to keep my fingers crossed.'
"All right. And thank you," a couple of the students answered. Some of them turned around so their backs were facing Mrs. Richardson and rolled their eyes at how fake she sounded to them.
Kerri ignored what was going on. She turned to face her sister. "You ready, Nikki?"
"Yes I am," the younger girl answered.
"Let's hit the road, then."
"I'm right behind you. Come, Miranda and Sierra, we're leaving."
"All righty." Miranda and Sierra got their bookbags and followed the two sisters out of the classroom, only turning once to wave goodbye to the other students.
Nikki led Kerri and her two best friends over to her 1995 red Corvette. Sierra and Miranda climbed in the backseat whilst Nikki and Kerri got in the front. Nikki started up the car engine and turned on the radio, changing the station to a 90s pop music one. She increased its volume so the passengers could hear but not to the extent where she would not be able to concentrate on her driving. She slowly pulled out of the parking lot and proceeded to drive to the ranch.
Miranda felt as if she were about to fall asleep. "Can't this car go any faster?" she whined. "You're going as slow as a snail."
Nikki glanced at her friend in the rearview mirror and gave her a look. "Don't be a backseat driver! Not everyone is a speed demon on the road like you are. It's a miracle you haven't had an accident yet."
Kerri couldn't help but snicker. Her younger sister could really be sassy when she wanted to, but knew she spoke the truth.
The orange haired young woman went silent as she heard that. It was true, with all the close calls she had when speeding, she somehow managed to come out of every single one of them unscathed. And if she caused her friend to get into an accident by breaking her concentration, she would not have been able to live with herself.
"I thought so." Nikki drove the remainder of the short journey to the ranch mostly in silence, with the only sounds being the music playing and Sierra's soft humming.
Michael had just made all of the necessary arrangements for his interview. It was due to take place in 3 hours and in an hour he would start to prepare for it. He had chosen Globe magazine to give the interview to, since the writers had enough decency to not print out anything yet. He also called his personal physician to be featured in the interview just in case he was accused of lying about the spider bites. He was about to brave the moderate amount of pain in his leg and head to his room to pick out an outfit when he heard the faint sound of the front door closing and a voice calling, "Dad, we're home!!"
Michael stiffly got up, opened the door to his office a bit more, and sat back down."I'm in the office!" he called to Nikki.
The two sisters entered the office, along with their college friends. Both of them had big smiles on their faces, obviously happy to see him. Although they had been to his home several times before, they still felt like they were there for the first time.
"Hi there," greeted Michael, smiling.
"Hello, Mr. Jackson," greeted Sierra. She reached out and held one of his hands. In response, he gave the blonde's hand a light squeeze. She nearly fainted. ‘Get a grip, girl! He's old enough to be your father!'
"Mr. Jackson, hi!" Miranda bent over and gave the pop singer a quick hug.
Michael lightly chuckled at the orange haired girl's perkiness and patted her on the back a few times. "How are you?"
"Great!" Miranda and Sierra both answered, and then Sierra asked, "How do your spider bites feel today?"
Michael was about to ask Sierra how she knew, since he hadn't spoken out about the incident yet, but realized she must have gotten the information from Kerri or Nikki."They're healing, but they still hurt, especially my right leg." He raised the leg of his pants to show the girls one of the bites.
Both Miranda and Sierra winced at the sight of the wound, but they knew when the bite first occurred, it looked much worse. "I am sure you will be good as new soon," said Sierra.
"I hope so. I miss dancing."
Miranda gave the pop star a sympathetic look. "I can imagine. By the way, thank you for allowing me and Sierra to come over."
"You are very welcome," said Michael warmly. "I have to prepare for an interview soon, but you both are welcome to stay for the evening. I trust Kerri and Nikki will keep you entertained."
"Yes, Dad," said Kerri.
"We will," added Nikki.
"Thank you," said Sierra. She wondered what the interview was supposed to be about, but she had a feeling she would find out pretty soon.
"Of course." Michael hoped the interview wouldn't take too long; he wanted to spend some time with Mariann, just in case she called to ask if she could stop by.
"Let's go to my room. I can use your help packing," Nikki whispered to her two best friends. They nodded. She then turned to face her adopted father. "Anyway, Dad, we'll let you get ready for your interview now," she said. "Tell us about it when you get back."
"I will. "
Nikki, Miranda and Sierra left the office and went into Nikki's room.
Kerri watched the three girls go. She frowned at Nikki leaving without checking to see if Michael needed any help getting ready for the interview. ‘Not like Nikki to be this selfish, but I guess only one of us helping is sufficient now. And Sierra and Miranda do need to be entertained, after all.' She turned to face the singer. "Dad? Do you need help getting to your room or with getting your clothing?" ‘I am sure the answer will be yes.'
"I can get to the room fine, but yes, I can use a little assistance."
"All right." Kerri got Michael's crutches for him. She followed him as he used the crutches to hobble to his large bedroom.
(Wine County Luxury Hotel)
Mariann had just finished massaging an old man who had a terrible kink in his lower spine, and she was now trying to find a way to keep the time until she left work, as business tended to slow down during the last two hours. Her supervisor was still out sick, so she wasn't sure when she would be able to leave work. 'Oh, I hope Tammy will be better soon...the office feels so quiet without her presence.' She thought about calling her to see how she was feeling, but she didn't want to leave the spa area just in case another customer showed up, and she didn't want to form a habit of making personal phone calls on the job. Of course that didn't stop her from thinking about Michael and being tempted to call him.
‘I wonder how Michael is doing. I so wish I could hear his voice right now, ‘thought the middle-aged masseuse. She had heard about the latest rumors about his health and civil case, and found them to be extremely disgusting. ‘I hope Michael dispels the rumors soon. I can only imagine what type of rumors they will make about me if God forbid I am lucky enough to become his soulmate.' She didn't care to imagine such a horror, but if it happened, she knew how to put the media in their place.
At that very moment, the phone in the hotel's office started to ring. ‘I wonder who that could be.' She was hoping it was Michael, as she wanted to spend time with him before he and his family left for Florida the next day. ‘It's a pity I cannot go...but how could I request time off when I have only worked for several weeks? Also I would not want to impose on him unless he personally invited me.' Seeing that Jamie had stepped out to run an important errand, Mariann realized she would have to answer the phone. She briskly walked to the office and snatched the phone receiver up. "Hello, Wine County Luxury Hotel, how may I help you?"
"Hello Mariann, this is Tammy speaking."
Mariann thought her boss sounded quite a bit better than she had on Friday."Tammy! Hi! I was just thinking about you."
"Well, that's nice to know," said Tammy. "How are you?"
"I am fine, thank you for asking. How about you? Are you feeling better?"
"Much better," answered the supervisor. "I will be returning to work tomorrow."
The news made Mariann so happy she could jump for joy, but felt it wouldn't be wise as her shoes had a bit of heels on them. "That's wonderful news!"
Tammy wasn't really expecting such a reaction, but she took it to mean she was missed. "Yes. I have been going stir-crazy lying in this bed."
"I can imagine. " Mariann was someone who didn't call herself a couch potato so when she had to lie down and not move a muscle, it was hard for her.
"Well I will let you go now. I just wanted to tell you to expect me at work tomorrow. And let Jamie know as well."
‘I hope Jamie comes back soon.' "All right, I will. See you tomorrow, then."
"Goodbye." Mariann hung up and left the office.
Michael arrived on the set of the Globe magazine with his bodyguards and personal physician in tow. He had decided to use the crutches to be on the safe side. There were two chairs in the midst of the room, the interviewer's chair and one facing it, which he presumed was for him.
A chestnut haired, medium height woman with an athletic build entered the room with a big smile plastered on her face. "Michael Jackson, I have been expecting you. My name is Deanna."
Michael realized Deanna must be the one interviewing him as she sat in the chair.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." He gave her a quick peck on the cheek, which made her start blushing, and gingerly sat down. Bill took the crutches to hold onto for him.
‘Mr. Jackson is quite the charmer of women,' thought Bill as he watched Deanna's reaction.
"So let's get something straight," Deanna began, collecting her thoughts, "you're here to dispel the latest rumors about you, correct?"
"That's correct." Michael could only hope nothing bad would come from doing this interview, which had a tendency to happen many a times he was forced into doing them. But he had sized up the lady and sensed nothing fishy about her. He fidgeted slightly in his chair.
"First things first, is there any truth to the rumor that you have been using crutches, a wheelchair and a cane because you are suffering with muscular dystrophy or MS?" asked the chestnut haired woman. "Because I would find that hard to believe."
The pop king nearly cringed at the inaccuracy of the rumors. "No, no. It is absolutely false. I was bitten by a spider a few weeks ago and the excruciating pain has made it difficult for me to walk."
Deanna nodded. "I see." ‘I only know of a brown recluse bite being dangerous. Could it have been that one he was bitten by?' "Do you know how it happened?"
"I am not entirely sure. It must have happened while I was asleep, which is strange since I didn't feel it. But when I woke up, there was a big sore on my leg and it hurt so bad. You would have been surprised if I showed you. My foot and hand were also swollen. So I went to see my doctor and he took some cultures and told me it was a bite from a poisonous spider that can be deadly."
"I thought so. A brown recluse, right?" Deanna had seen pictures of the bites from that particular type of spider and thought the ghastly wounds were very gruesome.
"Yes," answered Michael. "I'll have you know that I did not take any pain medication for the searing pain, even though there were times I was tempted to."
"I can attest to that," spoke up Dr. Alimorad Farshchian, walking over to the interviewer. He had been holding a folder. He took out a picture that was inside the folder.
"Wow." Clearly, Deanna was impressed that Michael hadn't taken any painkillers as under the circumstances, she would have understood if he had.
Dr. Farshchian showed Deanna a picture of how the spider bite looked when Michael was first bitten. She held back a shudder. It looked scornful, to say the least. ‘Gah! I hope I don't lose my dinner.' "As you can see, the toxins cause these lesions to appear. The wound was 6-7 centimeters in diameter when Michael first came to see me, but I was able to shrink it to twice its size with the antibiotic Cipro. It is healing very nicely and I would say Mr. Jackson should be able to resume his usual activities in another month or so."
To confirm what the doctor said, Michael rolled up the leg of his pants for the second time that day. "See?" he said, pointing out the area on his leg where he had been bitten. "The wound is only a scab now, although it is tender. "
"Ah. I can definitely see the improvement." ‘That other picture makes my skin crawl.'
"How are you feeling today?"
"I am still hurting, but I am dealing with it the best I know how. "
"So I have seen." Deanna still couldn't believe the pop superstar had not taken any medication other than the antibiotic."Well, thank you very much for breaking the silence and clearing up the rumors as we both know how much they could have circulated. And thank you, Dr. Farshchian for helping to confirm what Michael has told me."
"My pleasure." The doctor decided to leave.
‘Don't I know.' Michael hated to think of what other outlandish ailment the tabloids would have come up with. "Thank you for having me. God bless." He gave the woman a handshake, stood up and limped over to Bill, who gave him back his crutches. He hobbled out of the room and left with his bodyguards.
Nikki slept peacefully in her bed, dreaming a blissful dream about her ideal soulmate. She stirred a bit and turned from where she was sleeping face down, onto her left side. Just as her dream was about to end, she felt droplets of cold water dripping on her face. ‘That's funny...it can't rain in here.'
Another water droplet fell onto the younger sister's angelic face. This one startled her so much that on impulse, she sat up screaming and nearly rolled out of bed. Standing over her was Kerri dressed in a bathrobe, with a towel wrapped around her head, giving her a funny look. "I see the sleepy-head is finally awake."
Nikki gave her older sister a look of mock annoyance. She hated having her beauty sleep disturbed. "So it was you who dripped water all over my face," she said, half yawning. She took her pillow and heaved it at Kerri, who looked shocked at such an action. "That's for nearly giving me a heart attack."
Kerri caught the pillow as it hit her in the chest. "You left me with no choice. I had tried to wake you up earlier, but you wouldn't wake up, so I decided to let you sleep until after I got out of the shower. It was the only way to wake up a heavy sleeper like you, and you have to remember, oversleeping is not a luxury you can afford today. We have a flight to catch in a few hours. "
"Oh! That's right!" Nikki glanced at her clock. It was six thirty. ‘Whoops, I nearly overslept.' Some of the annoyance she was feeling towards her sister faded, since she had saved her from waking up so late that she held everyone back. She kicked herself for forgetting to set her alarm clock to wake her up at six o'clock that morning, like she had meant to. ‘Oh well...I won't be making that mistake again.' There was no way she would allow her sister to scare her half to death again. ‘Perhaps taking a shower will wake me up...then again, I could always sleep on the plane...after all, the flight is well over five hours.' She rubbed the remainder of sleep out of her eyes, climbed out of bed, grabbed her robe and went into the bathroom.
Kerri was about to unwrap the towel from around her head so she could blow dry her hair when Paris entered the bedroom. "Good morning, Kerri," she said with a bright smile on her face.
Kerri smiled at how pretty the little girl looked in her silky blue dress, as well as how well-mannered she was. "Good morning, sweetie. How are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Paris got an earnest look on her face."I was wondering, could you help me?"
Such an innocent look made Kerri's heart melt. "Sure. What do you need?"
"Could you button up my dress for me?"
"Thank you." Paris turned around, and Kerri proceeded to button up her dress. She also noticed the ribbon in the little girl's hair was loosening, so she retied the bow. Paris held still as she did this.
"All right. There you go, darling."
"Thank you so much!" Paris threw her arms around the young woman's waist. "I love you, Kerri."
‘Aww.' Kerri smiled at how her younger adopted sister knew how to make people feel as if they were special. "I love you more, honey bun." She squeezed the little girl like a teddy bear.
Paris squeezed back. "I love you most," she answered.
Kerri playfully batted at the girl's ponytail. "No, I love you most."
Giggling, Paris skipped out of the bedroom, her ponytail swishing behind her.
‘That didn't take too long. Still, I have to hurry.' Kerri shut the door and removed the towel from around her head. She got a wide tooth comb and proceeded to comb all the tangles out of her hair, then reached for her blow drier, plugged it in and blew dry her hair. Once her hair was completely dry, she threw on a pair of jeans, a tank top and a jacket. She wound her hair around and pulled it back with a clip made of teeth. The style was very rare for her, but she felt like it. She hid her new guitar in a safe place where the Arviso children would not think of searching for it, just in case they decided to come to the ranch while the family was gone. After some last minute packing and double-checking to make sure she had everything she needed, she grabbed her purse, got her suitcase and overnight bag and put them in the living room, then went to see if Michael needed help getting ready. She had gone earlier, when she first woke up, but she noticed he was up and already in the shower. How he managed to do that on his own was beyond her, and she thought he probably could use her help right about now since he still couldn't get around much.
Michael limped over to the closet to retrieve his outfit that was hanging on the door. It wasn't quite as painful to do as before, but he could still barely walk on the leg, so his gait was very stiff. He hoped it wouldn't put too much of a damper on the trip and wondered if travelling was such a good idea after all, given the fact that he still had yet to be able to walk normally again. But his personal physician had told him he was well enough to travel and gave him a week worth supply of the antibiotic he had been using to treat the wounds. ‘I was hoping I wouldn't have to use any pain medication, but I have a feeling I may have to.' Considering all the stress he had been under during the past several weeks, this would be a well-deserved vacation...he hoped so, anyway.
The pop star was about to start getting dressed when all of a sudden, the phone started ringing. He rested the outfit down and hobbled over to his nightstand, picking up the phone. "Hello?" he answered. He hoped it wasn't Raymone calling to tell him about more garbage the tabloids wrote about him, for he had just done an interview to set the record straight the previous evening.
"Hi Michael, this is Mariann," said the voice on the other line.
Michael looked relieved. He was always happy to hear from the woman. "Hi! How are you?"
"I'm doing well...how about you?"
"Better, but I'm still hurting, and I am worried about how I am going to get around on this trip," admitted the singer. "I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn't take painkillers for the spider bites. "
‘Poor Michael. I wish I could have gone with him.' The middle aged woman found it extremely sad that Michael couldn't have his pain treated without being labeled as an addict. "I understand. However, if the pain is that severe, do what you must. Just be sure the medication isn't too strong, that's all."
‘She is right. I have to do what is best for me and not worry about what other people think. Perhaps Tylenol, Aleve or Advil will do.' "Thank you."
"You are very welcome," answered Mariann. "What are friends for?"
The last question brought a smile to Michael's face. He had to admit, the woman had proven to be a genuine friend over the course of the past three weeks they had known each other. Although he never had any doubts about her, after all the betrayals he faced in the past, one could never be too cautious. Especially considering that most of the traitors claimed they had thought of him as a friend.
"Anyway, I'm calling to wish you bon voyage since I won't be able to come and see you off at the airport," continued Mariann. She then got emotional. "Oh Michael, I'm going to miss you soo much." Quite frankly, it was such a bummer not being able to hug or kiss him goodbye when he would be gone for a whole week. ‘Oh I wish I could feel his warm embrace before he leaves.'
"Awww, I will miss you, too. But I will be back before you know it." Michael sincerely wished Mariann was able to come along and hoped she would be able to next time. "I will bring you back a present."
"It's all right. You don't have to do that." It wasn't that Mariann didn't think it was a nice gesture. She did appreciate the generosity, very much. It was just that although she had profound feelings for the musician, she didn't want him to think he was obligated to lavish her with gifts.
"Oh, but I want to. You have been kind and supportive towards me ever since we've met. Give me a chance to repay you."
‘Oh dear...open mouth, insert foot.' Having heard the slight hurt in Michael's voice, the middle-aged woman felt guilty about objecting. She had heard about how stubborn he could be about things, especially when certain people refused his generosity because they thought accepting it would make them a nuisance to him. And his reason for doing it did make sense. "Well, if you insist."
"I do." The pop king looked pleased with himself for managing to convince his female companion to let him do something nice for her. "Is there anything in particular you like?"
"Hmm...let's see." Mariann wasn't fussy about which gifts she received, as she was raised to believe "It's the thought that counts", but she did have a couple of weaknesses. "I love jewelry. Any type of jewelry will do. And my favorite perfume is Eau de Parfum."
"All right." Michael made a mental note of her favorites. He could tell she wasn't hard to shop for, and he liked that. He wasn't much for people having an inflated sense of entitlement. Plus, he had an idea of what pieces of jewelry to get her. "Well, I had better get going now. Take care of yourself while I'm gone. I will see you when I return."
"You too. Have a wonderful time. I love you."
"I love you more."
Mariann could feel a lump in her throat. Saying goodbye was harder than she thought it would be. ‘It's a good thing the conversation is about to end.' "Goodbye."
"Goodbye." Michael wasn't sure how much time had gone by but he was glad he ended the call when he did as time was running out. He wondered how his children's progress was so far. He got dressed as quickly as he could, which was still relatively slow under the circumstances. Just as he was putting on the jacket, he heard a knock on his door.
"Dad? It's me, Kerri. May I come in?"
"Just a moment." Walking stiffly, Michael went and opened the door for his oldest adopted daughter. He was relieved to see that she looked all ready to go.
Kerri entered the massive bedroom, threw her arms around the singer and kissed him on the cheek. "Good morning, Dad."
"Good morning, Kerri," answered Michael, smiling and giving her a hug and kiss as well. "Have you slept well?"
"Yes, very much so." Kerri saw the pain on the singer's face as she knew he still couldn't put very much pressure on his leg. She helped him over to the bed below his own so he could sit down. He gingerly sat on the bed. "How are you? Do you think you will make it through the flight all right?"
"I am sure I will. However, after the flight is another story."Michael held back a wince as a spasm of pain shot through his leg.
‘I was kind of wondering about that, too.' "How is your leg today?" the raven haired young woman asked, retrieving the loafers for the singer.
"A bit better, but it still hurts," responded the pop star. He slipped on the shoes. The swelling had finally gone down enough for him to wear them on both feet. "It looks like I will have to use pain meds to deal with it, even though I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn't." He felt guilty about going back on his word, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Kerri noted the guilty look on her adopted father's face. She hoped he didn't feel guilty because of what the media always said about him. "Well you wouldn't be doing anything wrong. You fought the pain much longer than I would have."
"You're right." Michael decided it didn't matter what the media thought of his use of pain medication and felt like an idiot for caring what they thought in the first place. After all, no one would understand unless they knew what his pain felt like. "I appreciate the help you and Nikki have been giving me."
"Oh, the pleasure is all mine." ‘Now that he has mentioned Nikki, I wonder if she is out of the shower yet. There's not much time left before we have to get going.'
Meanwhile, Nikki was out of the shower and dressed. She raced around the room, making sure she had packed everything she needed. She could be such a forgetful person at times, especially when she was in a hurry.
All of a sudden, Nikki's mobile phone started ringing. ‘Oh, why now? At this rate I'm gonna get left behind.' The thing was, although she was able to hear it and saw the cord for its charger, she didn't see the actual phone. She looked on the nightstand where she had remembered resting it the night before. It was not there. ‘That's funny...I thought I put it here last night...don't tell me someone stole it or there's a ghost in here.' The phone was still ringing, but she wasn't sure how long it would. She really didn't want to make a mess of the nightstand as she had just cleaned it up the evening before.
‘Darn it, where's that stupid phone?' Nikki turned on the lamp and peeked behind the nightstand, thinking the phone only could have fallen behind it, though she couldn't imagine how it got there since she didn't recall knocking it over. Luckily, she spotted it, still attached to the charger. She pulled the cord of the charger from behind the nightstand and removed the mobile device. ‘Gee, considering how many times this phone has been dropped I am surprised it isn't ruined yet.' By then the phone had stopped ringing, but she didn't mind. She was just glad she found it and knew she could always call the person back. She checked the number of the missed caller. It was Rebecca's number.
‘I wonder what's up with Becky,' thought Nikki as she redialed the number. She hoped whatever it was that her best friend wanted, the conversation wouldn't be too long as she still had to do some last minute packing and she also wanted to see if Michael needed help with anything.
Rebecca picked up right away. "Hello, this is Rebecca speaking."
"Hey Becky, this is Nikki. You just called me, right?"
"Yup. When you hadn't answered, I assumed you guys had already left."
"Oh no, not just yet. It's just that I didn't see my phone at first, only to discover it fell behind the nightstand."
"Oh." Rebecca sounded relieved. "Well, good that you found it."
"Yeah, I'm glad, too. However, it won't be too long before we do have to leave and I still have some things to do until then, so I can't talk long."
"Okay. Well, I only want to tell you I'm coming to the airport to see you guys off."
"Oh, you don't have to do that. I would hate to inconvenience you."
Rebecca sighed. She hated it when her friend acted as if doing things for her was trouble. "Are you kidding? We won't see each other for a whole week!" A part of her wished she was the one going to Florida.
Nikki considered this. "You do have a point." She could tell her friend was pretty intent on coming, despite her objections. "Well, if you insist, we're leaving in another hour, so meet us at the airport then. "
"All right. Sounds good. See you then."
"Okay. Later." Nikki hung up and placed the phone on her bed. ‘Have to remember to put that and the charger in my purse. Now where was I?' She looked on the dresser to see if there was anything she had neglected to pack. She grabbed her sunscreen lotion (in case they went to Disney World and it was hot during that time), compact mirror, make-up kit, a bottle of perfume, slipped them into her pouch and placed it into her overnight bag. She saw that her bathrobe was still on the bed. ‘What? I thought I had packed the robe already...my brain must be all over the place today...really need to get it together.' Grabbing the bathrobe, she rolled it up and stuffed it in her open suitcase, then zipped it closed. ‘I'd better check the bathroom and make sure I didn't leave anything in there by mistake.' Considering how distracted the young lady was that day, she decided she probably did. She went inside and checked. Surprisingly, there was nothing important left behind. She was pleased to see that she remembered something. ‘This reminds me. I had better pack the cell phone and charger while I still remember.' She grabbed the cell phone and charger and slipped them into her purse. ‘There. All set.' She gave a satisfied sigh, grabbed her purse, took her luggage and laptop case to the living room, placing it near Kerri's luggage and the children's , then headed for Michael's bedroom.
Michael was sitting on a chair whilst Kerri packed certain little knick-knacks for him. He smiled as he watched her help him. He was especially appreciative of the fact that she did it without complaining. Even so, he couldn't wait until he was able to walk normally again because he felt a little like a burden, and he didn't like that.
Just then, Nikki entered the massive bedroom. Kerri had gotten Michael's pain pills for him and was about to put them in his pouch when she noticed her sister come in. She gave the younger teen an amused look. "Well, well, well, look who's finally ready."
"Ha ha, very funny." Nikki walked over to where the pop singer was sitting, leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "Good morning, Dad."
"Good morning, Nikki," answered Michael, cautiously standing up long enough to give his younger adopted daughter a quick hug.
Kerri put the bottle of Ibuprofen in the pouch and all of a sudden, she heard crying nearby.
Michael and Nikki heard the crying as well. "It's Blanket," stated Nikki. She knew Michael usually would be the first one to check up on him even when in quite a bit of pain, but she didn't want him to be on his leg more than he had to, and she didn't want to leave his side. So she was relieved when Kerri said, "I'll go check on him."
"All right. I'll finish off the packing for Dad," offered Nikki.
"Thank you. I owe you one." Kerri left the bedroom.
Nikki stood next to Michael and rested one of her hands on his left shoulder. "How are you feeling today?"
Michael gave a sigh as he answered, "I have felt better."
"Oooh..." Nikki bent over and gave the superstar another hug. It always upset her whenever he was ill or in pain, which he had been for the past four weeks. "You'll be all well soon."
"I hope so. I am hoping the pain medication makes a difference."
‘So he finally decided he would take some medication for the pain...very good.' Nikki tried not to show how happy she was to hear that Michael was finally going to do something for the pain...she had thoughts about advising him to take the meds as it would be the only way he would be able to endure the trip...now she didn't have to. "I'm sure it will." She looked around the room, noticing her sister had done quite a bit of the packing for him already. "Do you need me to get anything for you?"
"Yes, please." Michael rattled off a list of other things he needed: his hat, sunglasses, silk mask, cane, wallet, umbrella, the passports, and his wheelchair.
"Got it." Nikki got the items Michael requested. She packed the passports, handed him the silk mask, cane, sunglasses, hat and wallet and rested the umbrella on the ground, leaning it against the head of the bed. She wheeled the still folded wheelchair next to the bed.
"Thank you." Michael stuck the wallet in his jeans pocket, put the mask, sunglasses and hat on, and held the cane in his lap.
"You're most welcome." Nikki glanced at her watch. It was nearly time to get going. "I think we should go see if the children are ready," she said, packing the pouch inside the duffle bag and zipping it.
"Yes. We should leave soon if we are to remain on schedule. " Although the flight would not be leaving for another two hours, Michael wanted to get an early start, and his adopted daughters did not blame him.
"I told Rebecca to meet us at the airport. She insisted on coming to see us off," Nikki told the singer, rolling the wheelchair away from the bed and unfolding it.
"Oh really?" Inwardly Michael was smiling. He didn't know too many people who would bend over backwards to be kind to him. "How very sweet of her." He felt he had to repay her somehow...he couldn't allow her good deeds to go unrewarded. ‘I think I know how I can.'
"Yes," agreed the ebony-haired young woman. She wasn't going to tell him about how she was trying to discourage Becky from coming. She didn't think he would be too happy with her for that.
"Maybe she can accompany us during our next family vacation," said Michael.
"Oh, I'd like that. I am sure she would love to as well." Nikki recalled the hint of jealousy her friend had shown when she told her about the trip. ‘I can't wait to see the look on her face when I tell her this.' "Let's get going now, shall we?" She helped Michael out of the chair he was sitting in and held his hand as he used his cane to limp over to the wheelchair and sat. His limping had still been very noticeable, which Nikki found hard to watch. ‘He can't keep going on like this.' She retrieved the umbrella and placed it in his lap along with the cane, then pushed the chair out of the large bedroom. She wheeled Michael past his children's rooms. Their rooms were spotless, but there was not a trace of them inside. ‘Hmm. Maybe they're watching cartoons or something.' She pushed the wheelchair down the hall, towards the TV room and took a peek inside. They were not there either.
‘Hmm...strange.' Nikki pondered where Paris and Prince would be, seeing that they were not in their rooms or watching any TV. She knew Blanket was with Kerri, so she wasn't worried about him. If she didn't know any better, she would have thought Prince and Paris were playing hide and seek as a joke, but she knew they would not do such a thing on that day. ‘There's only one more possible place they could be.' Although Michael was silent, she was sure he was at least mildly concerned, and he had every right to be. The ranch was so large, it could take practically all day to look for someone, and there wasn't that much time to waste. She didn't want him to be too worried, so she said, "I know. Let's check the den. Something tells me they may be in there playing while they wait for us."
"It is possible."
"Oh I am sure of it." Nikki wheeled Michael away from the TV room, towards the den. As she was pushing the chair close to the den so she could check and see if anyone was there, she heard talking, as well as some giggling, which indeed sounded like Prince and Paris. ‘I knew it. I just hope they're ready.' She knew there was only one way to find out. She peeked inside the den and spotted Kerri sitting on one of the sofas holding Blanket in her lap. Prince and Paris were sitting on the floor besides Blanket's stroller, looking at a book together. Nikki set the brake on Michael's wheelchair and carefully pushed it over the step, inside the den. There was a space big enough for the chair on the right side of Blanket's stroller, so that was where she rolled the chair over to.
Michael felt a sense of relief when he saw his children. He turned his head slightly and told Nikki, "It seems you are right."
"Yes. I'll go get your luggage for you. I'll be right back." She exited the den. She thought this would also give him and his children a chance to bond with each other.
Paris and Prince looked up from where they were reading and saw that their father sitting in the wheelchair. Prince folded the tip of the page, and he and his sister got up off the floor. "Daddy!" They ran over to Michael, hugged him around his ankles and knelt down, lightly pressing against his knees. He patted them on their heads a few times, then leaned over and kissed their foreheads. He truly regretted he wasn't able to show them his affection standing up, but at this point his leg was really hurting, so he was resting it. Although he hadn't gone into details when explaining his condition to his children, they eventually picked up on the fact that something was wrong and learned to cope with it. Although he thought they were doing a good job, he was sure there were times they felt sad.
"We love you very much!" Prince and Paris chorused.
"I love you more," said Michael, smiling. Just as he said that, Nikki re-entered the den.
Prince and Paris noticed Nikki had come in. They got back on their feet and ran over to the eighteen year old, throwing their arms around her waist. "Hi big sister!"
"Hi!" Nikki gave both of her younger adopted siblings a gentle squeeze. "Are you ready for a fun trip?" she asked them.
Nikki held the two youngsters away from her and took a good look at them. They definitely appeared to be ready. "Well, don't you two look great today."
"Thank you." Prince pretended to look shy, as if to hide how much he liked being told he looked good.
Nikki good-naturedly ruffled Prince's hair and played with Paris' ponytail. Both of them giggled.
Kerri started to play Pat-A-Cake with Blanket. It was his favorite game. He was all smiles the entire time, which she liked to see. When she was done, he looked at her with big brown eyes. "See? Daddy's here," she cooed to the toddler.
"Dadda," repeated Blanket.
Just then, Bill entered the den. He and two other bodyguards, Grace, the personal assistant as well as an entourage of security guards were also coming along. "Excuse me, Mr. Jackson, would you like me to start loading up the car now?"
"Yes. Please do."
"You got it. By the way, I put the list of things you left for the employees who are staying behind to do on the refrigerator, just as you requested."
"Thank you." Michael had a very bad feeling that something would happen while he and his family were away, so he felt better having the door to his room locked, and something told him to change the codes on his rides, too. He also trusted the employees to notify him if the Arviso family acted out of line, should they come to the ranch whilst he was out of town.
Rebecca arrived at the airport just several minutes after the Jackson family did, just as one of the bodyguards took out the wheelchair from the trunk of the SUV, placed it on the ground, unfolded it whilst another bodyguard helped Michael out of the jeep and sat him in the chair. Afterwards, Nikki and Kerri climbed out, assisting their younger siblings as well. Becky breathed a sigh of relief as she saw that she had arrived just in the nick of time rather than arriving too late and missing the opportunity to see them off or coming well before they did because they were running late or something.
Kerri was holding Blanket in her arms. At first he seemed very cheerful, but after awhile he was starting to get restless, as if he wanted to be put down. "Nikki? Do me a favor and get Blanket's stroller for me, please."
"Sure thing." Nikki reached into the trunk of the SUV and pulled out the stroller, unfolded it and placed it onto the ground. "There you go."
"Thank you. " Kerri placed Blanket into the stroller, and Prince and Paris started talking to him. Kerri smiled as she listened to them take turns reciting different nursery rhymes, with Grace keeping an eye on them.
All of a sudden, Kerri heard a car door close, which caught her and Nikki's attention. They recognized the car, too. It belonged to that of their friend, Rebecca.
"Well, well, look who's here," said Nikki, as she watched Rebecca climb out of the car. ‘She had better be here on time since she was so adamant about coming to see us off. ‘
"Not bad when it comes to timing," Kerri commented, giving Becky a look of approval.
Rebecca's face flushed. "Thanks I think. Traffic was a bit crazy on my way here but I beat it the best I could. " ‘I hate to cut it so close though...but at least I don't have to listen to Nikki nag at me about not knowing time or anything, when she can be just as bad.'
Nikki nodded. "I understand."
Rebecca got distracted and briefly glanced at Michael sitting in his wheelchair. She shook her head slightly, eyes full of pity and sadness. ‘Oh the poor man...I hope he will be able to get through the vacation all right.' She walked up to him and gently placed a hand on top of one of his. "Hi there, Mr. Jackson."
Michael decided this time around to overlook the fact that the copper-haired young woman didn't call him by his first name, although he had given her the green light to. Smiling, he lightly squeezed her hand and patted it. "Hello. How are you?"
Rebecca could feel her fangirl side emerging, which she always had to try hard to suppress whenever she was face to face with the pop star. ‘Oh his smile is absolutely perfect. I am soo jealous.' She looked sheepish when she realized what was going through her mind. ‘Pull yourself together, girl.' "Oh I'm doing well, thank you for asking," she answered politely. "How about you? Will you be all right on this trip? I mean, considering you could still barely walk."
Michael could hear the worry in Becky's voice and not too long ago he shared her same concerns. He was glad he would be able to reassure her. "No need to worry, Becky, I will be fine. I have pain medication."
Becky looked relieved. She recalled when Nikki had told her he was determined not to take any pain meds which was admirable but at the same time it concerned her because he was in constant pain. "All right. Good to hear that." ‘I'm not about to ask him which meds as it isn't any of my concern, but I trust it is something that will keep him going.' She spotted Bill removing the luggage as well as a cooler from the trunk of the car. "Is there anything I should help with? Like with luggage?"
"No, that's already taken care of."
"Oh. Ok." However, Becky wasn't too sure about that. Standing around doing nothing didn't feel right to her, and she didn't want anyone to think she was lazy or selfish. She knitted her eyebrows together. ‘I am sure there is something I can do to make myself useful.'
Bill finished removing everything from the back trunk and did a quick double check to be on the safe side. "Well, Mr. Jackson, it appears we are all set."
"Good. In that case, let's get going." Although the airport was not crowded yet, Michael wasn't sure how long it would last and he never liked cutting it too close.
Bill knew when his boss spoke in that firm tone, he meant business, and did not wish to test his patience. Although there were two other bodyguards plus an entourage of security guards to fend off paparazzi and reporters or screaming fans who got overly aggressive with their affection, one could never be too careful. "As you wish, Mr. Jackson." He was about to go wheel Michael inside the airport.
Becky, however, figured out what she could do to help. "I got him, Bill, if you don't mind."
The older man froze and glanced at Becky, a bit caught off guard. He could see for some reason she was eager to be of assistance. "Oh no, not at all. I trust he would be in good hands with you."
Becky blushed slightly. "Of course he will. And thank you for trusting me to do this." The whole time he had been hesitating she was nervous, and thought he would say no because he didn't believe she was efficient enough. She gently touched the back of Michael's chair. "Ready?"
"Yes. I want you to know how much I appreciate this." Michael had to admit, he had been rather nervous for the young woman as Bill was really protective of him when it came to the fans and could sometimes go a tad too far with the ones who were tame in comparison to the rabid ones.
"My pleasure. You have been good to me and I will always respect and love you for it."
"I love you more, Becky. I have told Nikki I would love for you to come along with us on our next family vacation, that is, if you do not have any plans."
At first Becky was speechless and not sure how to respond to the invitation, and not because she was surprised. She wasn't, particularly, since she knew he was kind enough for that. A part of her wanted to politely refuse because she didn't want to impose, but that was just a tiny part of her and she knew better than to reject his generosity. ‘Oh my gosh! Is he kidding? Of course I have no plans! It will be another break from school where I will be bored as hell.' She didn't want him to know she had been feeling a tad bit jealous. Her face lit up. "Awww, you're a sweetheart. I would love to. Thank you for asking."
"Oh, the pleasure is all mine."
"Now hang onto your hat. And I don't mean literally."
The pop star laughed at Becky's dry sense of humor as she set the brake on his chair for him and wheeled him away from the parking lot, onto the sidewalk, in front of the building, being careful to leave space for people to walk in and out. She folded her arms, waiting for everyone else to catch up. ‘Come on, times a wasting. We can't keep standing here forever as who knows when more people will start showing up?'
To Becky's relief, Nikki and Kerri had nearly caught up, holding the hands of Prince and Paris, Grace following with Blanket in his stroller, as well as the bodyguards and security guards with the luggage and cooler. Once Becky saw them coming, she rolled the chair onto the concrete, towards the entrance of the airport where a security guard was standing. He held the door open for them, each one acknowledging him with a nod and a "thank you" as they went through. Becky quickly glanced at the check-in lines and saw that they were relatively short. ‘Oh now I know why Mr. Jackson wanted to come this early. Very smart man.' She slowed down a bit and waited for the others to tow the line, then wheeled Michael over to Bill. "I am leaving him in your capable hands now. Once again, thank you for allowing me to assist."
"Not a problem." Bill watched as the young lady left to find a seat and turned his attention back to Michael. He saw that the line had moved up quite a bit, so he pushed the chair up a little.
Becky took out a crossword puzzle book and a pencil to kill some time, whilst the family checked in. She expected it would distract her from the slight jealousy that she had been feeling and make it fade. ‘After all if things go according to plan I will be travelling with them next time. I just have to make sure save enough money.' She opened the puzzle book to a puzzle that was partially complete, and proceeded to work on it. Just as she had finished it and was about to do another one, Kerri and Nikki, accompanied by Michael's children came and sat in the empty seats next to her. Kerri opted to keep an eye on Blanket, so his stroller was next to her.
All of a sudden, Becky's cell phone started ringing. ‘Crap! I can't believe I forgot to turn it off.' Sighing and rolling her eyes, she pulled it out of her purse, said, "Excuse me" to Nikki and Kerri, went off to a corner and answered. "Hello? Oh Mom it's just you. " She frowned when her mom sounded impatient waiting for her." I told you I would be back in an hour to an hour and a half, remember? Something wrong?" Her frown softened a bit as the situation was explained to her. "I understand. Well, I'll be there as soon as possible." She hung up and approached her two friends, simultaneously spotting Bill wheeling Michael over to the end of the row of seats Prince and Paris were sitting in. "Well, Nikki and Kerri, it looks like I'd better get going. There is some emergency. I will e-mail you guys about it later on, so be sure to check if you want to know. "
Kerri looked thoughtful. "All right...I will be sure to as soon as possible."
"You bet I will," said Nikki. "I intend to check my e-mail anyway, to see if our end of term grades were sent to us yet." She started to sweat nervously. ‘I almost don't want to know. What if I failed? Dad will be so upset with me and I hate disappointing him.' She rubbed her hands together, trying to keep calm.
"Oh that's right. I almost forgot about that." Becky wasn't one to be too concerned about test results as she always did her best. "Well I hope you two have a blast, enough for me too!"
"We intend to, don't worry," said Kerri.
"Oh before I forget, Dad said you could come with us next time," Nikki told her best friend.
"I know, he mentioned that," responded Becky, brushing a strand of hair from the nape of her neck. "Which reminds me, I'd better thank him and say goodbye now before I go. Tootles, you two." She was worried a bunch of screaming fans would come any minute and swamp him, robbing her of a chance to talk to him, and she had to hurry. To acknowledge the children, she ruffled their hair good-naturedly and left to find their dad.
Nikki gave a half smile seeing her good friend bend over to give Michael a hug, and then turned to face her sister, looking solemn. "I wonder what could be wrong. I noticed Becky looked a bit worried."
"Yes I have noticed that as well." Kerri scratched her head. "But until we find out, we have to pray the problem isn't serious, and don't let it put a damper on our vacation."
"For sure," agreed Nikki. ‘Becky's problem isn't the only thing I should be praying about.'
Although the media seemed to be relatively quiet about Michael for awhile, it was not to last, for the news about his interview with Deanna reached the different media outlets.
"Welcome to Showbiz Tonight! We cover all the latest news about celebrities, so stay tuned!"
Miranda turned on the news as she was preparing to start some laundry. She stood and watched to see what they would be speaking about this time. She expected they would be talking about Michael since they had been since the start of the year. As much as she hated the media, Showbiz Tonight was the one outlet she was able to stomach to a certain extent. She listened as she sorted the clothing. ‘What a way to start spring break but today is the only day I can set for doing housework.' She wanted the house to be clean for when Kassidy came over.
"Good morning, I'm AJ Hammer and joining me is Brooke Anderson. We have more breaking news about Michael Jackson, including a clip from an interview he had done earlier! Could the mysteries surrounding his sickly and frail appearance be solved? "
"It appears the King of Pop is continuing to fight back. First against the Martin Bashir documentary and now against the latest rumors the tabloids printed about his health. In an interview he gave to The Globe, he claimed that he was bitten by a spider and that is why he is in a wheelchair...here is more from the interview:
Miranda looked up from sorting her clothes for a moment and just stood there and listened. AJ rolled a part of the interview where Michael, accompanied by his personal physician was explaining to Deanna about how he never saw the spider biting him, all he knew was that there was a large wound on his leg when he woke up the next day and it hurt excruciatingly. He had taken out a few pictures of the wound to show Deanna and did a comparison of how it was between then and now. Miranda made a face that was between a grimace and a shudder when she saw what the bite had looked like at first. ‘Dang...Nikki sure wasn't kidding when she said it looked like the spider had skipped dinner...ugh.' But what stood out to her was when Michael said he had not taken any pain meds in spite of the ghastly pain. ‘Oh wow...I hope he will be ok on this family trip.'
AJ stopped the tape after the physician's confirmation that Michael had not used any pain medication. "What is your analysis of this interview, Brooke?"
"Well I do not know what to make of it...I am not saying it is not possible as I have seen brown recluse bites before and Jackson did bring his doctor along as proof. I am just unsure if his area has those kinds of spiders, so it is slightly in question," answered the woman. "I will say though that I am surprised he had not taken any painkillers, which is a step for him."
"Yes it is, given his problem with addiction to prescription drugs," agreed AJ.
Miranda gave a groan of disgust at the biased reporting. ‘Good grief, is it too much to admit that Mr. Jackson beat the drug dependency and he has legitimate health problems?? And what's with them insinuating he is lying about the spider bites?? ‘ The young woman felt like pulling out her hair in frustration. ‘All right, that's it, I'm not watching this show ever again. In fact, I have the urge to get some brain bleach right about now.' Miranda switched the channel and turned it off and opted to listen to some music while she worked instead. She chose a soundtrack for one of her favorite movies, popped it in her CD player, pressed the play button and went back to sort the clothing. ‘Gotta get my work done before Kassidy comes.'
It was one of the busier days at the spa for Mariann, which made her somewhat happy as it helped her to take her mind off of missing Michael. She had the feeling she would go crazy missing him after their conversation ended but so far she was coping pretty well.
Mariann's customer at the moment was a female artistic college gymnast who had been suffering with a sore Achilles tendon that would keep her from yet another competition. She took a break from massaging Sara's heel for a moment and frowned when she noted how swollen and red it looked. "Hmm...I think you should see a doctor about this as soon as possible," she told the young athlete. "It could very well be inflamed."
Sara looked miserable, sitting on the massaging table. "I tell my coach about it all the time," she answered. "It's no use though. He thinks I am faking the injury and am just trying to find a way to get out of competition because I'm lazy." She sighed. "It took pulling teeth to convince him to let me pull out of the upcoming meet."
The older woman held back an angry growl. She had no respect for that level of selfishness. ‘He should not even be coaching if he does not care about his gymnasts well being.' There were many insulting comments she wanted to make, but all she asked was, "How long has it been bothering you?"
The young collegiate gymnast furrowed her brow in thought. "For almost a year now...and the only thing that got me through the competitions I had competed in was cortisone injections but the effects do not last long...it starts hurting again after a few hours. "
"I see." Mariann continued with the massage, but this time it was gentler. She was trying to think of a way to get Sara out of this situation. She couldn't let the poor girl keep going on like this. "Forget about your coach and see your doctor. You don't want to risk rupturing the Achilles. "
Sara shuddered at the thought of that. "Oh no." She witnessed quite a few gymnasts with that injury and she always felt bad for them because it was so painful and some had to quit as a result.
"Also you may want to consider changing coaches if your current one does not have your best interest at heart."
"All right. I have actually been considering that." A part of Sara did suspect her coach was only doing it for the money so if she decided to get rid of him it would not be a loss at all.
Mariann smiled. "Good." She hated the thought of the young lady's career ending because of someone being unconcerned. She decided she did what she could in terms of decreasing the pain. "All finished, my dear."
"Thank you." Sara had to admit, she liked this masseuse and really thought she knew what she was doing. ‘She seems very nice, too. If only my coach was as caring as she is. I have to make sure I find a better one. I definitely will be referring my teammates to her.'
"Of course. Until you get proper care, you may want to try soaking it as well as some heating pads."
Sara's eyes popped open. ‘Heating pads! Why didn't I think of that?' "All right. I will. Thanks again." She paid the woman, hobbled off the table and left the spa.
Mariann sighed as she watched Sara go. She hoped the gymnast would receive all the help she needed. All of a sudden she heard the sound of an airplane soaring in the sky. ‘I wonder if that's Michael and his children leaving now.' She peeked through the window to get a better look and saw that the jet indeed looked like a private one. ‘I was right. I hope they all have a safe journey. I wish I was with him right now.' Suddenly the feeling of loneliness began to set in. ‘Oh dear...I never thought I would miss him this soon...I thought work would be enough to take my mind off of him but I was wrong. If I am having this much trouble dealing with it right now, I can only imagine when I get home.' She looked wistful as she thought about how she would have nowhere to go to after work for a week, as she usually spent the evenings with the superstar. She decided to take a coffee break in an attempt to distract herself a bit. As she was turning to leave, Jamie walked in. "Oh, hello Jamie."
"Hello yourself." Jamie looked at the Spain native, and got an amused look as she noticed her facial expression. "You are thinking about Michael again, aren't you?"
‘Rats! This lady is so intuitive, it's almost as if she could read my mind.' Mariann wasn't sure if she wanted to endure any teasing, but she knew it would be pointless to answer no as Jamie would keep pressing the issue. "Perhaps I am...but even so, how did you know?"
Jamie chuckled and for a moment looked almost hurt. "Oh come now, Mariann, I know you by now. You have that dreamy look in your eyes."
Mariann looked sheepish and blushed. "Oh that."
"Yes. I swear, you are hopelessly in love with the man."
"In love?" Mariann feigned an expression that was between shock and mock exasperation. "Rubbish! Whatever gave you that idea, hmm?"
"It's quite obvious," answered the auburn haired woman, looking as if she thought her co-worker had asked a dumb question. "You're always talking about him and spending lots of time with him whenever you could, not to mention that glowing look you have on your face when you speak of him."
Mariann looked embarrassed. "You got me there..." ‘But I would speak glowingly of anyone I hold most dear and I am practically inseparable with all of my close friends...he is no different.' "We're just good friends, nothing more."
Jamie clicked her tongue, amused at her friend's state of denial. "Keep telling yourself that...however, your true feelings for Michael are written all over your face."
‘Gah, where does she get all of this??' It was driving Mariann crazy how relentless Jamie was being. "Well, I have had a crush on him ever since the first time I have seen him perform, even when he was a married man, but I have just met him nearly a month ago...I can't be in love already."
Jamie raised an eyebrow. "And why not? If you were, nothing would be wrong with that. You cannot lie to your heart. Besides, you're 42 years old now, you're not getting any younger." ‘Seriously I am fighting the urge to sing "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" but I suppose that would be juvenile of me.'
Mariann's frown softened a bit. "That's true."
Jamie smiled. "I see I am finally getting through to you. Personally, I feel you should go after him if he is who your heart truly desires...or at least see if he is the one for you before giving up." She exited the massaging area.
Seeing Jamie was gone, Mariann made her way to the kitchen, pondering what was said and thinking about how much sense it made. ‘Now that I think about it, I have noticed that whenever I had physical contact with Michael I have felt butterflies in my stomach and I cannot get enough of his beautiful deep brown eyes. It would also explain why I am missing him like crazy right about now.' The realization hit the middle-aged woman that she had indeed fallen for Michael. ‘I cannot reveal my feelings to him now...I will have to find a way to control them. I promised him I would take it slow and besides, who is to say he will ever feel the same way about me, even though we are very close in age and looking for the same thing?' Mariann sighed, wondering why love had to be so complicated. ‘Oh well...I just hope we remain good friends, no matter what happens.'
(likeness of Rebecca "Becky" Sanders)
(likeness of Miranda Peterson)
Please tell me how this story is progressing thus far and if you like where it is going..your reviews motivate me to do my best. :) And here is a pic of Jamie's model:
Warning: read at your very own risk. Some underaged drinking and smoking included in this chapter.
The Arviso family returned to the ranch shortly after Michael and his family left. They were enraged to see that once again, they were nowhere on the premises. They had their fill of him avoiding them. At the same time, though, they took it as a good omen, meaning they could cause as much chaos as they liked. Gavin and his two siblings made the decision to act up even worse than before, both to punish the superstar for being distant from them and just because they could.
Gavin and his siblings were surprisingly better mannered than expected during breakfast time, with the exception of Star demanding that the maple syrup be given to him and not saying "thank you " once he received it.
Gavin smirked discreetly as he chewed his bite of Belgian waffle. ‘If Michael Jackson's workers thought we were bad before, they haven't seen bad yet. What we gave them in the past was merely a taste of our true colors. That will teach Michael Jackson not to ditch us. Who does he think he is, anyway?' He had no idea where his mother was, but that was just as well. He wanted all the free rein he could have. Not that she was very authoritative with him to begin with, but he wasn't taking any chances.
The oldest, Davelin, was in her own little world. She didn't really have any particular scheme how she intended to cause trouble in Michael's absence, although she hoped to get some more wine. She usually just went along with what her younger brothers did.
Soon the Arviso children were done with breakfast and excused themselves, politely thanking the chef. There was something about their tone that made her feel a bit uneasy and she noticed the youngsters neglected to push their chairs in, but she shrugged it off. After all, their behavior could be far worse, based on what she had witnessed from them before.
Tina was making her way to Michael's bedroom to take care of the dirty laundry whilst he and his family were gone. She was sure his clothing would be easy for her to find since he was a little on the messy side. Just as she was about to enter, she saw the two Arviso boys walking past her. She raised an eyebrow. "Where do you boys think you're going?" she asked, standing in their way so they couldn't get past her. "And where is your sister?"
"We just want to go hang out in Michael's room for a bit," answered Gavin, looking innocent.
"So move out of our way before we make you," threatened Star, cracking his knuckles. "As for where Davelin is, not that it's any of your business but she was thirsty so she went to go get a drink." He smirked sarcastically.
The maid eyed Gavin and his younger brother, absolutely dumbfounded by what they had just said. ‘I take it their parents never taught them the proper way to treat a lady.' She also had a bad feeling about their desire to hang out in the pop star's room because given their track record, she knew what their idea of fun was. She also knew the type of drink their elder sister went to get was not something harmless like a glass of milk, juice or water, but an alcoholic beverage. "I will pretend that you two didn't threaten me just now. However, Mr. Jackson will be informed of your insolent behavior. As for your wish to spend time in his room, he gave specific orders not to allow any guests to enter, and his children's rooms are off-limits as well. So I'm afraid that's out of the question."
The two boys looked furious that their request was refused. They hated being told no. However, their eyes brightened when they got another idea. The woman saying that the rooms of Michael and his children were off-limits was pretty vague to them, since she hadn't specified whether or not she was speaking of Nikki and Kerri, too. ‘Those trashy, snotty girls...wanted to trash their rooms for quite some time. Nothing will be stopping us this time and they won't know what hit them!' "Yes ma'am." Gavin gave a fake salute. He and Star walked away with their noses in the air and smug looks on their faces, Star carrying a portable CD player.
Tina turned around and tiptoed into Michael's room, trying to shake off what just happened. She couldn't help but notice that stopping them from entering the main house went better than she expected, aside from them threatening her if she didn't let them go. In fact, it quite frankly seemed too easy, and something was off about their demeanor whilst they were walking away. ‘Something tells me they're still up to no good. Hopefully the other staff will be able to keep them in line. I don't want Mr. Jackson to chastise us for incompetence.' She chuckled when she spotted her boss' hamper to be about half-full and there being a small pile of clothes next to it. ‘Mr. Jackson is too much.' She proceeded to sort the clothing.
Gavin and Star sneaked into the kitchen, grabbed an armload of snacks and carried them into the two girls' room whilst they had their share of fun. However, they didn't intend to eat all of the goodies but also had something very nasty in mind.
"Hey Little Brother, turn on the music, will ya?" said Gavin.
"You got it!" Star rested the portable CD player with its speakers on a tall bureau, popped in a heavy metal CD and pressed the play button, turning the volume to the highest it could go. It almost burst his eardrums but it needed it to be done in order to liven up their little "party" even more. He wondered where Davelin went, and decided it didn't matter as they were fine without her.
The music was so loud it hurt Gavin's ears. "Hey Star, good work but turn that down some and close the door, otherwise we'll get caught! Not to mention it's busting my eardrums!" He had to yell to be heard over the music.
Star barely heard what his brother had said over the blare of the music but he got the gist of the message. He decreased the volume some and went to close the door. Just as he was pulling the door to, a slightly intoxicated Davelin entered the room, holding two bottles of wine. Star smiled, genuinely happy to see her. He put the CD on pause. "Well if it isn't Davelin. We were wondering where you were. Now we don't have to ask."
Gavin had a big grin on his face when he saw his sister walk in with the bottles of wine in her hands. "Hey sis! What's shaking?"
Davelin smiled giddily. "Oh, just thought to see what you guys were planning to do. I also thought you could use some drinks I managed to smuggle from the wine cellar." She handed one to Star and the other to Gavin.
"Wow, thanks!" Gavin pulled the cork off of the drink and took a few gulps as if he hadn't had anything to drink in days. He rested the bottle on the dresser. "We could actually use your help for what Star and I plan to do."
The brunette teen girl furrowed her brow. "Of course I'll help...but what is it you two plan to do?"
Star gave a devious smile as he explained, "We were just gonna trash this room so it looks like a hurricane passed through it. You know, to make Nikki and Kerri look bad." He opened his own bottle of wine and started to drink from it.
Davelin gave a wicked grin. "Oooo that sounds nasty. I like it. I never liked those girls anyway. They're always acting like goody-two shoes. Well this will prove they're not. I say let's do it!"
"Yeah!" Star took a few more gulps from his bottle and rested it next to Gavin's. He and the thirteen year old boy slapped a high five to their elder sister.
Gavin shut the door and pressed play on the CD player once again. The effects of the alcohol were starting to take over. He got up on Nikki's twin bed and started jumping on it. He grabbed a pillow off the bed and threw it across the room. Star and Davelin ducked so it wouldn't hit them, and the pillow knocked over a lamp, which caused a picture frame made of glass that contained a photo of Nikki and Kerri posing with Michael in the year '96 to fall on the floor, shattering into pieces.
Star burst out laughing. "Let's party!" He took one of Nikki's figurines that was in the shape of a griffin and smashed it onto the floor. He did the same to a harpie shaped figurine, too, as well as one that was shaped like a Pegasus. He snickered, awfully proud of himself for being so bad to the bone.
Davelin took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. She opened the pack, pulled out a cigarette and ignited it with the lighter. She put the cigarette in her mouth and started smoking it, the ensuing smoke making Gavin and Star sneeze. "Oops, so sorry. Didn't mean to do that."
"No worries," said Gavin.
"Yeah, we're willing to let it slide as long as you let us have one, too," chimed Star, playfully elbowing his elder sister in the ribs.
"Oww that hurt!" Davelin mockingly rubbed her side, and then put an amused look on her face. "I was just getting to that. Geez, you're so impatient!" She took out two more cigarettes, lit them and handed each one to her younger brothers.
Davelin smiled, watching the two boys smoke their cigarettes. She lit another one and smoked it, then threw it and the previous one she smoked on the floor, stomping on them. She ignited the lighter, put it to the bedspread on Nikki's bed, and burned a hole in it. She did the same to the bedspread on Kerri's bed.
Star and Gavin giggled devilishly at what their sister had done, but then gave her funny looks. "Come on Davelin, you gotta do better than that," said Gavin. "Don't you have anything worse in mind?"
Davelin laughed, shaking her head at Gavin's impatience. "Yes in fact I do. What I just started was the beginning. You just have to wait and see." Smirking, she pulled out a bottle of spray paint from her knapsack, her brothers watching intently to see what she would do. She took the cap off of it, got up on the bed and started creating graffiti on the walls, spelling out a very obscene message as well as a death threat. She chuckled to herself.
The two boys gave the graffiti a thumbs up sign. "Now that's what I'm talking about!!" cheered Star. He was suddenly feeling very hyper so he started jumping on the bed. He grabbed a pillow and yelled, "Pillow fight!" He whacked Gavin in the head with it, making him almost fall over.
"Oof!" A smirk spread on Gavin's face and he also grabbed a pillow and whacked Star in the head with it. Soon a full-fledged pillow fight ensued. The blows were so hard that soon feathers were flying everywhere, damaging the pillows.
For awhile, Davelin just stood there and watched, rolling her eyes. ‘Such goofballs.' Without saying anything, she grabbed a pillow and joined the brawl. Soon, all of the pillows in the girls' room were destroyed. ‘Okay let's see what else I could destroy.' She gazed around the room and suddenly her eyes landed on the dresser. She spotted a few bottles of nail polish. She took the pink nail polish from the dresser, opened it and spilled it on Nikki's bedspread and all over the floor.
Gavin decided he was hungry, so he looked through the snacks he and Star had brought to see which one he felt like eating. He decided on some animal crackers. He tossed the bag of popcorn to Davelin and the bag of pretzels to Star.
"Wow, thanks!!" Gavin's siblings caught their snacks as another idea formulated in their minds of what they could do with them.
Meanwhile, Gavin opened the animal crackers and started to eat a few. Star and Davelin did the same with their respective snacks. All of a sudden Gavin threw his box of cookies down and yelled, "Food fight!!!!" He grabbed a handful of the crackers and threw them at his brother and sister. They were taken aback at first because they had started to munch on their snacks but smirks appeared on their faces and they retaliated by throwing their snacks at Gavin, and also at each other, so animal crackers, popcorn and pretzels were flying everywhere, leaving a long trail on the once spotless floor.
As soon as the Arvisos had run out of their snacks, they decided to move on to food items that would do real damage to the room. Gavin grabbed the can of whipped cream, tossed the bottle of chocolate syrup to Star and the bag of strawberries to Davelin. Gavin let out a loud scream that happened to be playing along with the CD before squirting the can of whipped cream everywhere. It adorned the bedspread, floor and some items on Kerri's dresser.
Star joined his brother by squirting chocolate syrup, which landed on the walls, Nikki's desk, the posters, floor, bed and ceiling whilst Davelin was throwing strawberries. All of the berries fell on the floor and Star stomped on them, creating mini-puddles of strawberry juice.
Still not satisfied with how much the room had been annihilated thus far, the Arviso children started taking anything they could get their hands on off the dressers and tossing them across the room, as well as pulling some of Nikki and Kerri's clothing from the closet and throwing them on the floor. This caused the boys' drinks to fall off the dresser and spill onto the girls' clothing so that they now reeked of alcohol, and so did the entire room. They took the shoes from the closet and started throwing them, too, nearly causing a painting of a mermaid to fall off the wall.
For the final touch, Gavin pulled out a razor and started stabbing the wall with the sharp edge, leaving holes in it. He looked around the room and was finally satisfied with the amount of destruction he and his siblings had caused. ‘If Nikki and Kerri never had any pest problems before they will definitely have some now. The fact that we didn't get caught is even better.'
The music was so loud that the Arviso children had not heard the footsteps coming to the room. Gavin decided to turn the music off, now that he and his siblings had accomplished what they came for. They had the urge to destroy another room, but were experiencing hangover headaches from drinking the wine.
All of a sudden the door opened. It was Tina, who had originally came to sort the girls' clothing but she heard the loud music and plus the Arviso boys' behavior with her had left a very bad taste in her mouth. She entered the room, and when she saw its state, she knew she was correct that the youngsters were up to no good. At first she was speechless, and then the words finally came to her. "What on earth happened here? This room looks like ground zero! And what was that noise in here?"
The Arviso children looked the maid up and down. Her stern expression didn't move them in the least. And they all had that "what are you doing here" look on their faces. "If you must know, lady, we were having a party. You should try it sometime and maybe then you wouldn't be such an old grump!" answered Gavin, sneering at Tina.
Tina ignored the snarky comment and just stared at the three children incredulously. She couldn't believe their idea of fun, especially for their ages. "You call this a party? Besides being a pigsty, you have turned this room into a home for criminals! I'm going to get the cleaning supplies and I want you three to clean up this mess even if it takes you the remainder of the day!"
Gavin looked at the woman as if he thought she was crazy. So did Star and Davelin. ‘We don't even do chores at home. Does she honestly think we'll do them here?'
"I'm not cleaning anything!" the thirteen year old boy scoffed, shooting the maid a glare.
"Yeah, that's your job, so you could forget it," agreed Davelin.
"I should tell Michael Jackson to fire your lazy self when he gets back," said Star. ‘Whenever that will be.' He cussed the woman out under his breath and marched out of the room with his siblings in a huff. Neither of them were very steady on their feet because of the effects of the alcohol.
Tina threw up her hands in frustration, on the verge of wanting to pull her long dark hair out. Or strangle the Arviso children, whichever came first. ‘Those children are so insolent and I have no respect for the mother either. Mr. Jackson has to know about their behavior.' Very faintly she could hear a retching sound. She noticed they appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, but they were boorish even when they were sober. One thing she was afraid of was that Michael would view her as incompetent and she would be in trouble for something the children did. It was true the children were so unruly the only way to tame them was boot camp or jail, but she wasn't sure if that explanation would be enough to save her. She sighed wearily as she gazed around the room. ‘I'm going to have to fix this room, but it's such a sty I wouldn't even know where to begin. ‘ She made a sniffing sound with her nose, and instantly an overbearing stench of alcohol overwhelmed her. She kept sniffing to see where the smell was coming from. She looked down, still sniffing and finally realized it was coming from the multitude of clothes all over the floor, and the shards of glass from the broken wine bottles caught her eye, too. ‘Hmm...the alcohol may permanently ruin the clothing if they're not washed right away.'
Tina decided to get started on the clothes since she had initially come into the room to sort them for laundry anyway. She pulled out a kerchief, and tied it around her head to cover her nose so she wouldn't smell the alcohol as much. She sighed again, rubbing her forehead as she thought of how the amount of laundry she had to do for the girls had just doubled. Not to mention there was only so much she could do to repair the damage done to the room. Unfortunately, Nikki and Kerri would know about what had transpired. ‘This will be a long day.I'd better get cracking.' She got down on her knees and got to work sorting the clothing.
Jamie and Mariann were on a coffee break whilst Tammy had stepped out to take care of a minor emergency. It was one of the work days where business wasn't exactly booming. Mariann felt it was probably a good thing as she was distracted and wasn't sure if she would be able to focus.
"Care to tell me what's on your mind, Mariann?" asked Jamie, eyeing the brunette's pensive expression.
"Oh, it's nothing," lied Mariann. She hated to hide the truth, but she didn't want her co-worker to know she was thinking of Michael, and she wasn't in the mood to endure teasing for it.
"Liar," accused Jamie playfully, giving her friend an amused look. "I know...you're thinking about Michael again, aren't you? Am I right?"
Mariann's face turned as red as a tomato. She knew better than to say no as she knew how intuitive Jamie was. "Yes. Yes I was," she admitted.
"I thought so." Jamie smiled. "Well, you don't have to be ashamed to say that. I wasn't going to tease you...at least not this time."
"Thanks I think." Mariann found it hard to believe Jamie wouldn't tease her since she often couldn't help herself.
Jamie looked thoughtful. "So what is it this time?"
"I just hope the trip is going well so far. I haven't heard from him since I had called to wish him bon voyage," responded Mariann. "Also my conversation with you yesterday made me realize something."
Jamie furrowed her eyebrows in thought. "Oh? And what is that?" ‘I hope she's admitting what I think she is and she quits lying to her heart.'
"Well you are correct in your assertion. I have indeed fallen for Michael, and very deeply at that."
The corner of Jamie's lips curled into a small grin. It made her a bit frustrated when Mariann kept dismissing her feelings although they were quite obvious. "Oh. So someone decided to come out of massive denial."
Mariann frowned a little at Jamie's jab, and simply answered," Yes, indeed I have. However I will not reveal those feelings to him just yet, especially when there are chances he may not feel the same way about me. I mean, it has been only a month after all."
Jamie nodded in understanding. "I see your concern. However, you do have to take a chance and tell him sometime."
Mariann sighed. "I know." She wasn't sure which was worse, confessing her feelings to Michael and her heart ending up broken because he didn't feel the same about her or him never knowing. ‘I really need to be more optimistic.'
"Besides, he could very well feel the same, but just doesn't know how to tell you," continued Jamie. "That would place you both in the same predicament. "
Mariann had to admit, Jamie had a point. The old her would have insisted there was no possible way, but if he got extremely nervous around women like people said he did, it would make sense if he didn't know how to tell her, that is, if he felt the same. "Not to worry, I will tell him, when I gather enough courage."
"I hope you do soon. Good luck."
"I thank you."
"My pleasure." Jamie smiled. "Listen, you're welcome to stay at my place while Michael is gone if you need some company."
Mariann gave this some thought. She had gotten through the first evening without him all right, but just barely. He would be gone for 6 more days so she wasn't sure how long it would be before she was desperate for him to be with her. "All right. I'll do that. I appreciate the offer. " ‘I can't wait to see the gift he is so insistent to give me.' All of a sudden she couldn't wait for five o'clock to hurry up and arrive.
Michael, his entourage and children were currently on the road, headed for Aventura Mall to do some shopping. Their arrival wasn't quite as hectic as it was known to be during past travels, just a few autograph signings and photographs upon exiting the airport. They were hopeful the remainder of the trip would go smoothly. Seeing that the vacation was a week-long one the trip to the mall would mostly be focused on Michael getting the gift for Mariann as well as Nikki and Kerri going where they needed or wanted to go.
Nikki slumped a bit in her seat, using her mobile phone to check her e-mails since she hadn't gotten a chance to the day before. In her inbox she saw two new messages: one from Rebecca and one from her teacher, presumably about her Biology grades. Not entirely prepared to see her term grade just yet, she opted to read the one Rebecca had sent first, since she had been worried sick about the emergency the red-head had. She clicked on Rebecca's e-mail to see what it said.
"Hey chica! I know I worried you at the airport earlier when I had to leave like that, but something really is wrong. My grandma who was under the weather during the past week eventually passed away from scarlet fever as she was too weak to fight it off. Her funeral is this Friday. So sorry you had to hear this news and I hope it doesn't put too much of a damper on your vacation."
Nikki just sat there, stunned. At first she thought maybe she had not read it right because she was still half asleep or something, but she reread it and saw the same thing. Still, it was hard for her to process. The last thing she had heard was that Becky's grandma had improved a bit, which made her and Kerri hopeful. Now, unfortunately she was gone. ‘What's worse is that we will miss the funeral and I would have attended for sure.' She didn't think she would be able to enjoy her vacation after all. Not after hearing that news. ‘It would be selfish of me to be having fun and Becky is probably crying her eyes out. ‘ She wrung her hands, thinking about how bringing back a gift for her best friend was a must. She would have done so either way, but now she would have to include something that would show sympathy as well...like a card. She drew in a deep breath as she clicked on the e-mail from her teacher, desperately hoping for some news better than what she had received from Becky. ‘Oh I so hope I haven't flunked Biology. Not that I would be punished since I'm a legal adult, but I hate disappointing Dad.' To her, enduring a lecture about not performing up to her full potential was just as bad as being grounded. She closed her eyes, still nervous about seeing her grade. ‘Come on Nikki, don't be such a scaredy-cat. No matter what happens, know that you did your best.' She opened her eyes with baited breath and looked at her grades. Her jaw dropped at what she saw: Term Grade: A-, Exam Grade: B. She looked at them again to make sure she wasn't just seeing things. Sure enough, that's what they were. Her shock turned into relief, and then happiness as her lips had begun to curl up slightly. ‘I did it! Dad will be soo proud of me! Not only that, but now I know I can sleep well.'
Kerri looked up from where she was reading her book, glancing at her sister and wondering what was going through her mind. "Hey what's up, sis?"
Nikki rested her phone in her lap, having accomplished what she wanted to. "I have good news and bad news. "
‘Uh oh.' Kerri's heart started pounding really fast when she heard the words "bad news". She wondered what could be wrong.
"Which do you want to hear first?" Nikki scratched her head.
"Um...bad news I guess," answered Kerri reluctantly. Although she didn't believe anyone in their right mind would choose to hear bad news first, she didn't want to guess and she guessed wrong, lest she would go crazy worrying.
Nikki took a deep breath as she thought of how she should tell her sister what Becky had said. ‘Gosh, this is so hard. I guess I'd better just spit it out.' "Well, I just saw Becky's email. Her grandmother passed away." She hoped she didn't sound too blunt but if she feared if she tried to break the news more gently she would have lots of trouble.
Kerri just stared at her younger sibling in disbelief, speechless at first. "Um...you've got to be joking. There's no way that could be true. Not after Becky had said she had made slight progress."
"I wish I were, although I would never joke about something like that. I couldn't believe it either. But if you still think I'm lying, here. You can see for yourself." Nikki picked up her phone, clicked on Becky's e-mail again and handed it to her sister.
Kerri took the phone with a small frown on her face and started to read the e-mail. First her expression was blank, and then it turned into one mixed with shock and sadness. All she could bring herself to say was, "So it's true then." She handed the phone back to Nikki.
Nikki took the phone. "Yes it sadly is. I'm having a hard time processing it, so I could only imagine how Becky must be feeling."
"Yeah." Kerri brushed a stand of hair away from her face. "And it's too bad we won't be there to pay our respects. We'll have to get her a card or something."
"My thoughts exactly." Deep down Nikki felt helpless about the fact that she was way too far away to really comfort her best friend and give her a shoulder to cry on.
Kerri made an effort to smile, only it was pathetic since she was still feeling down. "So what's the good news?"
Nikki smiled a bit. "Oh that. I almost forgot. Well I just received an email regarding my grades for Biology and I got an A- for the class."
"Wow, that's great! And you were so worried, too. " Kerri was starting to come out of her glum mood a little and decided to tease Nikki. "Girl, you could be such a worrywart, it's creepy!"
Nikki shot her sister a playful glare. "Says who, you?"
Kerri responded by sticking her tongue out. Nikki snickered and stuck hers out at the older girl, causing both of them to burst out laughing. After awhile they quieted down though, lest someone would tell them they were being too loud.
"Seriously though, that was your best work," said Kerri. "You should be very proud."
"Believe me, I am. At least that's one less thing to worry about. " ‘Now if I could only somehow push the death of Becky's grandmother to the back of my mind.'
The two girls were quiet for the rest of the ride to the mall, with Nikki listening to some music on her I-pod and Kerri continuing to read the book she had started.
Soon, the car stopped and was parked. For the second time, Kerri looked up from her book. She peeked out her window and saw that they were at their designation. She placed a bookmark in the novel and closed it, placing it in the space between her and Nikki, who seemed to be in her own little world listening to music on her I-pod. With an amused look on her face, she tapped Nikki on the knee, mouthing to her, "We're here."
"Hmm?" Nikki took out her earphones and put the I-pod away, for the battery was starting to get low. ‘Have to charge it when we get back.' "Oh, we've arrived."
"Yes. Are you ready for a fun shopping trip?"
"Oh yes," answered Nikki, grinning. She made a mental note to set aside some money to buy Rebecca's gift.
All of a sudden, Michael's cell phone started ringing. He pulled it out, frowning slightly when he saw that the number was from his ranch. ‘Geez I hope nothing is wrong...but somehow I have a feeling.' He answered it. "Hello? Yes? Not too bad, considering the circumstances. How about you? Is there something wrong?"
Grace took Paris, Prince and Blanket out and kept an eye on them so her boss could have some privacy. Nikki and Kerri climbed out too, for their legs were getting cramped and they wanted to stretch them.
Michael didn't seem to notice as he was absorbed in the phone conversation. "An emergency? What happened?" He listened intently whilst the caller explained the situation, frowning a little. His expression changed to an "I did not just hear that" one. He was speechless for awhile. "Well, thank you for letting me know. This has confirmed my suspicions about them and everything Chris had told me. I'll deal with it as soon as possible. Call me if anything else happens. Goodbye." He hung up, his already pale face turning as white as a ghost, clearly unsettled by what his employee had just told him. What he thought would be a nice, relaxing vacation had just turned sour. ‘Something must be done.'
What does the Arviso's destructive behavior mean for the family vacation? Also, what do you think Michael will do? Stay tuned to find out. Silent readers, I'm begging you to please,please say something. Your comments motivate me and I like knowing how I am doing as an author. Thank you to those who have reviewed in the past. :)
Just to give you an idea of what Tina looks like, here:
A big shoutout goes out to MJfreak23 and Dreamgirl4Michael for reviewing the previous chapter..I love you guys so much! You rock! Must warn you this chapter has some more atrocities by the Arviso children so read at your own risk and be sure to have something to take your anger out on nearby..and in case you were wondering they did do most of these things in real life.
After the phone call, Michael just sat there, trying to process what his security guard had told him of the Arviso children's misbehavior. Whilst he had thought what his friend Chris had warned him about seemed plausible enough as he had the feeling the few atrocities he witnessed was a mere sample, he never imagined the details his staff had kept under wraps about the family would be on this level of deplorable. Now he knew he wasn't crazy or paranoid to have an uneasy feeling about them for certain. The numbness he had felt was replaced by hurt, betrayal and anger...so angry it was all he could do not to start shaking. ‘Oh God, I could just wring their necks.' No child had ever stretched his patience so thin before, so he knew reaching to that point was not a good sign and it was time to cast the entire family aside for good. ‘I should have done that long ago.' He sighed heavily, annoyed with himself for being so passive and only settling for avoiding the family. 'Well, no more. They have had more than enough chances.'
Nikki left Kerri trying to fix Prince's mask on for him properly, and went to see if Michael was done with his phone call so she could help him out of the car. There was something about his expression that concerned her. He looked troubled, almost furious, and like he was out of it. "Dad?" She opened the car door and climbed in the driver's seat so she could be next to him. "What's the matter? You seem upset."
Michael glanced up at his younger adopted daughter and made an effort to give her a weak smile, despite his frustration about the situation. His smile faded as he responded, "I have just received a call from one of the security guards. The Arvisos have returned."
Nikki wore a blank expression on her face. This news didn't surprise her in the least since the Arvisos always found a way onto the premises when all of the Jacksons living there were absent. She got a queasy feeling in her stomach, as if she had a gut feeling they were far worse than normal. "What did they do this time?" she asked, running a hand through her long jet-black hair.
"They demolished the bedroom you and Kerri share and were insolent to several staff members." The singer's face turned bright red as he spoke. Just thinking of their actions made him feel sick to his stomach. And he couldn't help but feel a bit of displeasure toward his employees for allowing them in the girls' room, although relieved they hadn't gotten to the rooms of Prince, Paris and Blanket or his room.
"What?!" the young woman belted out. Her face turned extremely pale and she clenched her fists, shaking with rage. ‘Ugh...those brats are lucky I'm not there...I swear next time I see them, someone will have to keep me from murdering them.' It wasn't so much the disrespect of staff that angered her as she and Kerri witnessed it a few times, but the thought of her precious items being destroyed. ‘Kerri isn't gonna like this.' She growled softly, and then took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself before she started hyperventilating.
Michael could tell Nikki was livid, based on her outburst and demeanor. He didn't blame her in the least, but he was trying to keep calm and composed, even under such infuriating circumstances."Yes. Try to calm down a bit. I will handle it."
"Yes Dad. I'll try." Nikki felt reassured hearing that, although she was sure her dark eyes were filled with worry and anxiety, wondering how Michael intended to deal with the situation. ‘Of course the obvious thing to do would be telling the Arviso family they are no longer welcome at our home, and I believe he will go through with it, but the question is, will it hurt him to do so?' She didn't want him to think she doubted his ability to deal with the situation accordingly, so she decided to just trust him to use his best judgment. She waited with baited breath for what he would say next, having a rough idea that it was something she didn't want to hear.
"Unfortunately, the remainder of the trip will have to be cancelled," continued the pop star. "I hate to do it as I know how much we have all looked forward to this vacation, but the problem needs to be resolved as quickly as possible."
Nikki nodded, for she expected to hear such news. After all, action couldn't very well be taken whilst they were overseas. "I understand." Although the reason for the cancellation of the trip displeased her greatly, she had to admit, a few good things would come out of it, like Michael would be given more time to let his leg heal, as there was still a ways to go before the spider bite faded completely. ‘And at least I will get to be there for Becky in person and go to her grandmother's funeral.' A tiny part of her didn't mind the trip ending so early, if it meant she would be there for her best friend. "So when do we leave?"
"First thing tomorrow morning." Michael knew he was taking a huge gamble with this since the Arviso children could be destroying the home at that very moment, but it was the best he could do as arrangements had to be made. He only hoped and prayed one of the staff members would somehow be able to keep them in check until then.
"Oh. Well, I quite agree. The sooner you deal with this, the better. " Nikki massaged her temples upon realizing what leaving the very next day would mean. No trip to Disney World, (although it had been up in the air and not a definite plan), and they would have to cram all the shopping sprees into one day, thus making the entire trip seem rushed. She reminded herself to think of the positives in order to try and pacify her rage towards the Arviso children, but it wasn't easy for her to control her urge of wanting to throttle them the next time she saw them. She let her hair fall around her face a bit, trying to keep calm and remain optimistic that everything would be all right. ‘Goodness...the mood is so somber...I can't stand it.' "I do have some good news," she said, desperate to change the subject.
The corners of the pop star's lips curled up ever so slightly. "Oh, what is it?" With all the madness regarding the Arviso children putting a damper on the vacation, anything remotely positive would make him feel better.
Nikki took out an elastic ponytail holder and pulled her hair back from her face into a lazy ponytail whilst responding, "I got an A- in my Biology class." She said it as if she still had a hard time believing it, trying not to sound like she was bragging.
This piece of news was enough to put a genuine smile on Michael's face for the first time since the phone call. He always encouraged people to work to their full potential so knowing his adopted daughter did that made his heart swell with pride. "Sweetie, that's wonderful! I'm proud of you." He leaned forward and gave Nikki a quick peck on the forehead, hugging her close to him.
Nikki smiled brightly. She was pretty proud of herself, too, considering Biology wasn't always her favorite subject. She decided to wait till later to break the news of Becky's grandmother's death, as she didn't want to ruin the moment. Not when she was able to lighten the mood a bit. She looked outside and saw the others sitting on a bench in front of the jewelry store entrance, patiently waiting. She felt like a fool because she had almost forgotten they were there. "Anyway, I've also come to help you out of here. We don't have much time, so we had better get going now." It took everything inside her to suppress the anger she felt about the vacation being cut so short because of some wild and out of control delinquents. ‘Oh well...might as well make the most of it...no way am I letting those insolent children put a damper on my vacation.' She looked over her shoulder at Michael before opening the door on her side. "Hey Dad? Should I get the wheelchair for you or will you be using your cane?"
Michael scrunched his brow, considering this. The leg was on the mend and he knew sooner or later that he would have to test it. "I think I can manage with the cane now."
Nikki wanted to ask if he was sure but she figured he felt good enough to take a chance. ‘Maybe the Motrin has finally kicked in. I don't know. He would be the better judge of that than I.' "Okay." She retrieved his cane and got out, walking around to his side and opening the door for him. She handed the cane to him and reached out a hand for him to take. "Come on, I'll help you."
The singer hesitated for a second, as if he were beginning to have second thoughts about using this method to get around, but seeing Nikki's reassuring smile made him relax and he took her hand, allowing her to help him out of the car. He positioned the cane on the ground and she held his hand tightly, leading him over to the remainder to the crew. He still walked with a limp, but still better than when he first received the bite. Even with the cane and his adopted daughter's assistance, the pace was rather slow. He hoped it would hold up during the shopping trips.
Kerri was stooped down on her knees, retying Prince's shoelaces for him as they had looked like they were about to come undone any minute and she didn't want him tripping. She finished tying the laces on the left shoe before announcing, "There you go, bud," and standing back up.
Prince looked down at his shoes, examining the work his elder sister had done. "Thank you, Big Sister."
"Anytime, darling." Kerri ruffled the little boy's hair and then she spotted Nikki with Michael coming to join them. She smiled slightly when she saw him using the cane, pleased to see that he was making even the smallest bit of progress. ‘Hopefully he'll be back to normal in another week or two.' "Oh there you are. "
"Dadda!" announced Blanket.
"That's right, Blanket," said Kerri. "It's your daddy." She playfully pinched his cheeks and he giggled.
"Daddy!" Prince and Paris ran to their father with radiant smiles on their faces and threw their arms around his knees, which was so sudden he would have come close to falling over had it not been for Nikki holding his hand.
Michael chuckled as he patted their heads affectionately. "Careful," he warned gently. "You don't want me to fall over, do you?"
Both children released their hold. Prince said, "Sorry," just before Paris answered, "Nooo, we don't want you to fall over. We love you very very much!"
"I love you more."
Wayne got up from the bench, followed by Bill and Grace. "Are you ready to go, Mr. Jackson?" asked Bill.
Michael lightly scratched his head. "Yes. We have a lot to do and our time is limited."
"You're right. Let's go."
Grace pushed Blanket's stroller towards the door. A security officer who happened to be guarding the store immediately opened the door, holding it open when he noticed Grace pushing the stroller and Michael using his cane as a walking aid. Nikki nodded "thank you" to the officer and led Michael into the store, Grace, Wayne, Bill, Kerri following behind with Blanket, Paris and Prince in tow.
Kerri looked around the store to see how busy it appeared to be and noticed there were no other customers. ‘Hmmm...could the store be closed for everyone except for us? If that's the case, then I'm not surprised. It honestly makes things so much easier, especially for Dad.' She twisted her mouth to the side, pondering whether she should go find somewhere to sit with Paris and Prince or not. She was in the mood to take a look around, even if she didn't buy anything. ‘I could use a nice pair of earrings, though...not that I really need them. Should I get permission to take the children with me or leave them with Grace?' She was sure Paris would want to come, although she didn't know if she could say the same for Prince. She began to debate in her mind whether she should take a chance and ask him.
Grace looked up from where she had been pushing Blanket's stroller, and noted Kerri's pensive state. "Kerri, you could leave Prince and Paris with me if you would like to do some shopping."
Kerri raised an eyebrow slightly, wondering how Grace could possibly know what she was trying to figure out, but inwardly she was smiling about the nanny coming to the rescue."Thank you. However, I was going to take Paris with me. I would appreciate it if you did watch Prince for me, though."
Grace opened her mouth to question whether Kerri was sure about this, then closed it and nodded. "All right. That's fine."
"Thank you." Kerri led Prince over to Grace, whispering into his ear, "If you promise to be a good boy for Grace I will give you a treat. "
Prince gave a big grin. "Okay! I promise!"
Smiling, Kerri took Paris by the hand and walked away, to where the earrings were, passing Michael and Nikki on the way. ‘How perfect. As soon as Paris and I are done here, we'll know where to find Dad.'
Meanwhile, Michael and Nikki were by the necklace and finger ring stands. So far, Michael's leg was decently holding up, but he didn't want to jinx it, so he was prepared to sit down and rest it if he had to.
Nikki took a glimpse at all the different type of necklaces, and saw quite a few that caught her eye, like one with a Pegasus shaped pendant. ‘Oh man, there are so many possibilities it's hard to resist temptation. I suppose one won't hurt though. ‘ She reached for the necklace and stood in the mirror, holding it close to her neck. She made a face showing her approval. ‘Hmmm...not too bad. It will match my Pegasus earrings perfectly.' She decided to hold onto it so she could pay for it when Michael found something for Mariann. "Dad? What do you have in mind for Mariann?"
"Well..." Michael stood his cane up and leaned against it a bit, tapping his chin. Mariann had not told him what type of jewelry she preferred, so he would have to go by what he often saw her wearing. However, he wanted to get her a special gift. "Anything appropriate for special occasions, but simple."
Nikki nodded. "I understand. Well how about you sit down and rest your leg and I'll see if I could find something? I'm sure I can." Not that she didn't trust Michael to, she just thought it would look less weird if she was seen picking out jewelry given that she was a woman, after all.
Michael gave a grateful smile, mostly because he would be saved the embarrassment he would feel if he received weird looks from salespeople for shopping for a woman's gift, and he thought giving his leg a rest was a good idea. "All right. I'll be sitting here until you're ready." He limped over to one of the small sofa-like chairs and gingerly sat down, resting the cane in his lap.
Humming softly, Nikki went back to looking at the different necklaces and rings, taking her time so she would choose the right one. She frowned as she looked at most of them...they were either too gaudy, too plain, or too extravagant. She spotted some flashy, stylish jewelry that looked like something she would wear, and they looked really tempting. ‘No Nikki...you've already picked up something. It's time to focus on Mariann now. ‘ She tore her eyes away, knowing her taste in jewelry would not be Mariann's style at all. ‘Okay, in order to make choosing easy for me I obviously have to think of what I would want if I were looking for formal, yet simple accessories.' She did see jewelry she would wear if she wanted to be a bit more elegant, but they didn't seem just right. She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. ‘Shopping for jewelry is proving to be more difficult than I thought and time is not on our side, to say the least.'
Just as the young woman was beginning to panic, she spotted a ring studded with diamonds and sapphires. Formal, but not overly ostentatious. ‘Perfect.' She pulled it off the rack and looked at the price. It was certainly expensive, but within the price range Michael typically spent on jewelry. She breathed a sigh of relief that she was getting somewhere. She remembered spotting a silver necklace with a heart shaped pendant just awhile ago. She held the ring next to it to see how they looked together. ‘Wow, they fit wonderfully together. ‘ She picked up the necklace, and went over to Michael to show him what she found. "Dad, I'm done now. "
Michael looked up at his adopted daughter, smiling slightly. "Hello. Did you find anything?"
"I most certainly did." Nikki handed the ring and pendant necklace to Michael so he could see. She watched as he carefully scrutinized them, eager to know if he approved or disapproved. His silence was making her sweat nervously. ‘Oh no. What if they're all wrong?' Her fears vanished when he looked up, beaming. "What do you think?"
"These are beautiful. Mariann will love them."
Nikki smiled, feeling proud of herself that the lengthy time she spent deciding had proven to not be in vain. "Thank you. I'm glad you think so." She showed Michael the Pegasus necklace. "I picked that one up for myself."
Michael nodded and chuckled softly, not at all surprised, for he knew how much she loved unicorns and other mythical beings. "This is cute. I'll get it for you."
"It's all right, Dad. You don't have to do that. I have-" Nikki started to object, but Michael gave her a look, one of those "just allow me to treat you and say thank you" kind of looks, which silenced her. She gulped, cringing when she saw him frowning at her and looking very hurt. She could just hear his lecture now. "I'm sorry if I have forgotten my place," she said. ‘Darn it! I really need to keep my mouth shut.'
Michael's frown softened a tad. He let out a heavy sigh. "Nikki, I have a question and I want an honest answer. Why must you try to object when I offer to buy things for you?"
Nikki squirmed and lowered her head in shame. She honestly wasn't entirely sure why she did that at times, either, except to say this time around, she wasn't really thinking. She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. I guess sometimes I get caught up with wanting to be independent. "
"Sweetheart, I can understand that you want to be independent, but remember that I do things for you because I want to and I love you. This happens to be one of the rewards for your hard work."
A part of Nikki had been prepared to be treated for the A- minus she received in her Biology class, but she felt a bit silly asking for something Michael might or might not consider frivolous, especially considering she bought her own little trinkets whenever she could. Even so, she could tell she had hurt his feelings without meaning to. She sat next to him. "I know. I truly appreciate what you do for me. I'm sorry for not doing a better job at showing it."
Michael gave Nikki a warm, reassuring smile and patted her head. "It's all right. Just remember what I told you."
"I will do my best. I promise. "
"Good. Do you need anything else, or are you ready to go?"
"No, I have pretty much found what I wanted here. Let's go find everyone else." Nikki got up, helped Michael to stand and they started to head towards the cash register together. When they were about half-way there, they heard a couple of voices calling after them. They turned around to see who it was. There stood Kerri and Paris, waving their hands to alert them of their presence.
"Come, Paris, let's go. " Kerri took Paris by the hand, walking briskly to catch up with her sister and Michael.
"Hi Daddy! Nikki!"
"Hi Dad. We're ready if you and Nikki are."
"Hi, you two."
"We were just about to go to the cash register," said Nikki.
Kerri looked relieved. She was worried she and Paris had kept them waiting. "All right. Let's go. "
The Arviso children had slept off their hangovers, and were in the mood to wreak even more havoc. Trashing the young women's room simply wasn't enough for them, yet they couldn't stop laughing at what they had done.
"Could you just imagine the looks on those two loser girls' faces once they see how we messed up their room?" asked Star, pulling himself into a sitting position on the bed.
Gavin burst out laughing. "Yeah. Remind me to put some film in our camcorder so we could have it on tape for Mom to see."
"Now that you mentioned it, where is Mom, anyway?"
"She's getting some kind of wax treatment, remember?"
Star smacked his forehead. "Oh right. I almost forgot." He wondered what his mother would say, considering she typically let him and his siblings do whatever they wanted.
Davelin stretched herself out on the bed as she listened to the two boys gloat about their destruction. "It would be even funnier to see their reactions when their dad grounds them for a very long time. There's no way that old lady of a maid could have cleaned up everything in that room. She's much too lazy and some of the damage would take lots of money to fix-money they don't have."
"Hell yeah! They deserve it anyway!" Gavin got a smug look on his face, and then it turned into a full-fledged evil grin. "Hey guys, let's go outside for awhile. I'm sure there are some things we could do to cause trouble."
"Yeah, you're right." Star smiled to himself, thinking of the one time all three of them terrorized the animals by throwing things at them and used the rides without permission. The security guards had been beyond livid, but that hadn't moved them in the least.
Davelin sat up and ran her hands over her face. "Good idea. I could use some fresh air anyway." She pulled a bag of pot from her knapsack, as well as a couple of smoking pipes, enough for Star, Gavin and herself. She and her brothers slipped on their shoes and snuck outside through a back door so no one would see them.
Feeling giddy with excitement, Gavin spread his arms and spun around as if he were a helicopter. "Yahoo! I can't wait for the fun to begin! "
"Neither can I!" Star did a leap frog type of jump.
Davelin shook her head and laughed at her two younger brothers. "I know you can't, you knuckleheads. I have a surprise for you both."
Gavin gazed at his sister with curious eyes. "Oooo, what is it?"
"Yeah, what is it?"
"It's this!" Davelin pulled out the bag of pot and smoke pipes from her jeans pocket.
"Oh goody!" Both boys eyed the pot as if they hadn't smoked in years.
The teen girl smiled. "I knew you two would like it." She handed them the smoking pipes and passed the bag of pot around. When they were through lighting their pipes, they passed the bag back to her.
"Thank you, sis." Gavin and Star put their pipes into their mouths and smoked them.
Davelin coughed loudly as the smoke was in her face. "Easy, you two, not right in front of me." She coughed some more.
"Sorry." Gavin and Star stepped away from her as they continued to smoke.
Davelin took a few moments to recover from her mini-coughing fit, then pulled out her own smoking pipe and lit it with the pot and started to smoke along with her brothers.
Just then, a group of fangirls surrounded the gates of Neverland, bearing Get Well Soon gifts for the King of Pop, as they had seen his interview where he opened up about the spider bites. They placed their gifts on the pavement and some on the gate as well, such as Get Well cards, poster boards with heartfelt messages on them and bouquets of flowers. The fans started to chant, "MICHAEL! MICHAEL!!MICHAEL!! WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!"
The Arviso children instantly dropped their smoking pipes when they heard the chanting and an evil plan formulated in their minds. They smirked as they picked up some rocks and sticks and threw them in the fangirls' direction. "Hey you stupid girls! Shut up!" yelled Gavin.
The fans ducked their heads as they saw the projectiles coming but the sticks and rocks bounced off their backs. They stood up, rubbing their backs as they groaned in pain and glared at the children. "Hey you spoiled rotten little mongrels! What's your problem?"
"You!" Star picked up the smoking pipes and threw it at the fangirls' heads, only they were not prepared for this one and the pipes ended up hitting them.
Screaming, the fangirls ran away, but not before yelling that the children would pay for what they did in one way or another.
Gavin just laughed at the fangirls. "Oh I'm so scared!" He and Star grabbed some of the gifts the girls had left and threw them in their direction as they were running. "That's it, run away and don't come back or else!!"
Davelin took the bouquet of flowers off the gate and was about to throw them on the ground to stomp on when she heard three deep, gruff male voices loudly clearing their throats, causing her to jump a mile and drop the flowers. Once she recovered from her shock, she whirled around sharply and saw three big, tall, muscular men standing there with their hands on their hips and stern expressions on their faces. "What the hell are you three goons doing out here?" she demanded to know. "And how long have you been watching us?"
One of the security guards whose name was John looked at the sixteen year old calmly and answered, "Never mind what we're doing. That's the question we should be asking you. And to answer your last question, we were out here long enough to see you children terrorize Mr. Jackson's fans."
Davelin eyed the three men up and down. "Terrorizing? We didn't do anything like that. We were just having fun with them."
"Yeah, lighten up," chimed Gavin.
"Well from the looks of things, it certainly did not seem like your actions fit your description," said John. "Nor can you children be trusted to have innocent fun."
"We were, though," insisted Davelin. "They just don't have any sense of humor."
"And our idea of fun is none of your business!" spat Star.
The three security guards sighed heavily and looked as if they were trying not to lose their temper to the extent where they would end up doing something drastic. "You have had more than enough fun. Now it's time to go back inside."
Gavin stuck out his jaw defiantly and folded his arms. "Make us. "
"Yeah, make us," agreed Star. "I'll bet you're not as tough as you look."
John, Keith and Darren almost wanted to laugh at the children challenging them. "Try us. See what will happen."
"Gladly!" Gavin, Star and Davelin ran at the guards and brought their knees up to knee them in their groins but before they could make the connection, the men grabbed them, threw them over their shoulders and carried them back inside the house. Of course the children tried to get free by punching and kicking the security guards in their backs but the men were too strong. "Hey! Put me down or you'll be sorry!" each of the children yelled. The men ignored the demands, continuing to carry the children through the house and did not stop until they came to a basement. They carried the children inside and sat each of them down.
"You children will stay here for the rest of the day and until Mr. Jackson returns," Keith declared. He and his colleagues exited the basement and locked the door, leaving the Arviso children to kick, scream and throw hissy fits. He sighed and rubbed his forehead, wondering how high his blood pressure must be at the moment. No child guest had ever tested his patience to such an extent before. As drastic as it was to lock the Arviso children in the basement, the good thing about it was that they would not be able to access anything used to cause more mischief or entertain themselves. ‘I just hope Mr. Jackson returns soon.'
So sorry that this chapter is a bit overdue but I hope you find it worth the wait..please let me know what you think even if it's letting out your wrath at the Arviso children.
All right, people, this chapter is one of the more important ones and I am sure you have been waiting for it. Hope you like reading as much as I enjoyed writing. Once again, thanks to MJFreak23 for sticking with me always. You're the best, girl. Love you! xoxo Anyhoo, there is drama and lousy table manners included. You have been warned.
Michael and his children, as well as his entourage of bodyguards and Grace were on the plane the next morning, heading for home. Through some miracle, they got most of their shopping done the day before, but overall, the trip was so rushed it was exhausting. It wasn't an experience they wanted to repeat again. Once was more than enough.
So far the plane ride was relatively quiet. After breakfast, Prince, Paris, and Blanket had fallen asleep, as well as Nikki. Those who remained awake were careful not to disturb them.
Kerri was looking out the window at all the puffy clouds, only turning once to glance at Nikki's sleeping form in the seat next to her. She smiled softly to herself. ‘Poor girl probably needs her beauty rest after getting up so early this morning. But then again, she has never been much of a morning person.' Noting how uncomfortable Nikki's sleeping position was, she took out a travel sized pillow and carefully slid it behind her neck, not wanting it to get hurt. Nikki stirred and groaned softly, but remained asleep. Kerri chuckled a bit. ‘Wow. She is such a deep sleeper, just like Dad on the rare occasions he sleeps.' She pondered what she should do during the flight, given that there were four more hours to kill. ‘Taking a nap actually sounds like a good idea, but I am wide awake now.' She settled on reading, thinking maybe it would be a good way to pass the time. She pulled out a thick, hardcover novel from her knapsack, opened it and began to read.
Michael leaned back in his seat with his eyes closed. He had hoped to get some much needed rest after another sleepless night, but no sleep would come to him. The fact that he had touched his breakfast at all came as a surprise to him. He was sure there were bags under his eyes, but then again that was normal for him. The Arviso family and how he planned to deal with them was constantly on his mind. Something told him things would get ugly, but that didn't scare him in the least. ‘After all, you can't win for losing.' He forced himself to think of something much more pleasant, for he could feel his mood becoming positively foul. His mind switched to Mariann, and he wondered how she was doing. He didn't realize until now how much he wished she were with him at the moment. He had also begun to like her as more than a friend. ‘I wish I could tell her that, but her feelings for me may have faded.' He let out a heavy sigh, running a hand through his hair.
After reading a few pages, Kerri decided she wasn't in a reading mood after all, and so she placed a bookmark in between the pages and placed the book back in her knapsack. She pulled out the sympathy card she and Nikki had put together to purchase for Rebecca and pulled out a pen from her purse. She opened the card and chewed on the pen cover, trying to think of a fitting heartfelt message to write. ‘Ugh...this is so hard. Nikki can write like there's no tomorrow. Oh how I envy her. Why did she have to entrust me with the task of writing on the card first?' After some thinking, she finally wrote: "My condolences to you during this difficult time. I want you to know Nikki and I feel your pain and we'll be there if you need a shoulder to cry on. With love, Kerri." She read it over and smiled slightly. ‘This should do. After all, Becky isn't insistent on grandiloquent speeches.' Due to the briefness of her message, there was plenty space for other signatures and short notes. She glanced over at Nikki again. ‘I hope Miss Sleepyhead wakes up before I seal this. At least Dad's awake though.' "Dad?"
"Hmm?" Michael sat up straight, opened his eyes and looked at Kerri. She could tell he was stressed out from having to abbreviate the trip, but then again so was everyone else.
"Will you sign this, please?" asked Kerri in a soft tone, holding out the card. "And write a little note of encouragement if you'd like."
"Of course." Michael took the card away from his adopted daughter. He retrieved a pen from his pants pocket and looked thoughtful, trying to think of an appropriate message to write. The words came to him almost immediately. Licking his lips slightly, he composed the message on the card and handed it back to Kerri.
The young woman silently read the note written in the pop star's slightly messy handwriting, mouthing the words: "I am truly sorry for your loss. I understand the pain you must be feeling right now, for I too, have lost a grandparent several years ago. There are still days when the wound feels fresh. Take your time grieving, but do not lose heart. Cherish the positive memories you have of her, and remember they will linger with you for as long as you live. I love you and may God bless you.-M." She got choked up reading those words. She blinked back the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes as she didn't want them to smudge up the ink. ‘He most certainly knows the right thing to say when comforting someone.' She looked up with a tiny smile on her face, trying to shake off the weepy feeling. "These are great words. I'm sure Becky will appreciate them."
"Thank you. I'm glad you think so." The last thing Michael wanted was to say something that would make Becky feel even worse. Of course, offering condolences in words didn't seem like enough for him. Something else was in order, too, like flowers or something. "Your message is quite beautiful as well. Becky is fortunate to have friends like you and Nikki."
Kerri put the modest face on before responding, "Thank you for saying that, and for signing the card. "
"You're very welcome," answered Michael, smiling warmly.
Kerri slid the card inside the envelope, making sure not to seal it yet since Nikki still had to sign."I hope she wakes up before lunchtime.' She placed the card in the space between the two of them.
The Arviso children were in one of the guestrooms getting dressed so they could go have lunch. They were eventually allowed out of the basement after the security guards had decided they had enough punishment. The youngsters had been going stir crazy the entire time they were in there. Although their meals had been brought to them, the basement was practically free of any item that was capable of causing destruction. There went the idea of destroying the basement. They had come up with a plan to act up even worse than before as revenge, but being under heavy supervision whilst eating their meals squashed that idea. Not to mention they had lacked the energy at the time.
Davelin came out of the bathroom dressed and sat on the bed. She pushed her feet into her high top tennis shoes. She crossed her right leg on top of her left knee and tied her laces, then did the same with the other foot. She turned to face her younger brothers, who were spraying themselves with cologne. "Don't spray too much now."
Gavin shrugged his shoulders. "Why not? A man needs to smell good."
"Yeah," agreed Star, putting his cologne back up and plopping down on the bed. Gavin did the same thing.
Davelin gave the boys an amused look at how they were already calling themselves men although they barely reached puberty. She laughed a bit. "First of all, you guys are not men. You're little boys and secondly, I am aware of the fact that you're trying to have good hygiene, although you're doing it all wrong. I'm just saying you two don't need to bathe yourselves in it, that's all."
Star gave Davelin a look for calling him a little boy, whilst Gavin muttered under his breath, "Yeah, yeah, whatever."
Davelin just shrugged her shoulders. She leaned forward and placed her hand under her chin, letting her long fluffy dark brown hair cover her face like a blanket. She removed her hairbrush from off the bureau and gave her hair a quick brushing, then took a small elastic scrunchie out of her pocket. She pulled her hair back from her face and wrapped the scrunchie around it into a ponytail. "Doesn't it feel good to not be in that musty old basement anymore?"
"Hell yeah it does! I thought I was gonna pass out." Star pretended to wheeze as if to show how deprived of fresh air he was.
"Well those goons weren't stupid enough to leave us in there because they knew all hell would break loose." Gavin sneered. "They're gonna get what's coming to them."
"They'll be sorry they messed with us!" added Star. He scratched his head.
"Guys..." Davelin began. She wanted revenge just as much as the next person, but being in the basement really got her thinking. "Don't you think we should at least pretend to have learned our lesson?"
Gavin and Star both stared at their sister, gaping. Ever since they had taken to causing chaos at Michael's ranch, she went along with what they did and even had ideas of her own. Now it looked like she was having a change of heart.
"Sis, what are you saying?" asked Gavin.
"Yeah, I thought you were on our side," chimed in Star. "You're trying to tell us you've been playing us all this time?"
Davelin let out a heavy sigh. This was a reaction she had been anticipating, but she felt her thoughts needed to be said. As the oldest, she felt compelled to set a good example for a change. "Look, it's not like that at all. I just don't want to go back to that basement. It was a living nightmare down there. "
Gavin considered what his sister said for a bit. He knew she was out for his and Star's best interest and would never steer them wrong. He and Star usually went along with what she did whether it was right or wrong. Although he couldn't speak for his little brother, he wasn't about to stop now. "I definitely agree with you there."
Star looked almost thoughtful. "I see what you're saying. I don't want to go back in there, either. "
Davelin smiled. "Good. So will you at least pretend you're sorry, even if you're not? At least until lunch time is over?"
Gavin frowned, not liking the idea of pretending to be sorry for his actions when he truly wasn't. ‘Come on, it's just until lunch is over. I'm sure I could last until then or even longer if I wanted to. After all, we could always get our revenge later.'
"I guess we could do that," said Star. He hated the idea just as much as Gavin did, but pulling the wool over people's eyes was something he and Gavin did best, whenever they were in the mood to.
Davelin looked relieved. "That's the spirit. Now let's go eat. I'm starving." She stood up and stretched.
"Now you're talking." Gavin and his siblings exited the room and headed towards the kitchen. They noticed that the security guards didn't seem to be anywhere in sight. Gavin smirked evilly to himself. ‘I wonder where those suits have gone off to. Not that it matters. The longer they stay away, the better. Maybe we could sneak a drink after lunch.' He looked at all the choices for lunch, tapping his chin as he pondered what he wanted to have. ‘Mmmm. I'm in the mood for a nice juicy burger. Screw what the doctor said. I need my fun, too.' After having decided on their meals, Gavin and his siblings sat at the kitchen table, patiently waiting for someone to come and serve them.
Just then, Michael's chef entered the kitchen with the intention of preparing something special for when Michael and his family returned. She decided on something light that would be enough to hold them until dinner. Gavin and his siblings heard the footsteps and turned to face her, plastering big smiles on their faces. "Good afternoon, Ms. Natasha," the children chorused, as if they were students greeting a teacher.
Natasha just stared at the three children, her eyebrows arched up a bit. She wondered what they could be scheming this time. She knew whenever they acted polite, it meant they were setting her up for something unpleasant. ‘Might as well go along with their act, although I cannot help but wonder how long it will last.' "A very good afternoon to you, too. I trust you three are ready for lunch."
"Yes ma'am," Davelin answered for all of them.
Natasha smiled. "Of course. What will it be this time?"
Gavin tilted his head and tapped his chin as if he was still trying to make up his mind. "Um...I'd like a burger and fries with a milkshake, please."
"I'd like the same...but no pickles and onions on my burger," said Star, making a repulsive face.
Davelin giggled at how particular her little brother was, although she could be the same way at times. She had been deciding between what her brothers asked for and chicken nuggets. "Mmmm, make that three."
The chef furrowed her eyebrow as she memorized the children's requests in her head. "So that's three burgers and fries, one burger without pickles and onions, accompanied by milkshakes. Am I right?"
"All right. Your food will be ready in fifteen to twenty minutes."
Davelin had the urge to make a remark like, "you had better hurry up, too.I don't have all day", but she remembered the plan. She merely nodded, and then her stomach growled loudly. "Okay. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Natasha went to prepare the food. She opted to work on the Arviso children's food first since it would take a shorter amount of time, not to mention Michael and his family were not due home for another two hours. As she got out the ingredients, she couldn't help but think of the children's courteous behavior towards her just a moment ago. She wanted to believe they had learnt their lesson and were not putting on a facade, but that wasn't what her instincts were telling her. ‘I know I should enjoy their politeness while it lasts, but I am unsettled by all this.' Sighing, she turned on one of the stove burners, poured some oil into a large frying pan and got to work washing, peeling and chopping potatoes.
Davelin and her brothers sat quietly and listened to the sizzling sound, which made their stomachs rumble. It wasn't too long before the smell of the food invaded their nostrils. It was so arousing that Star started to fidget in his chair. He placed his foot out and hit something. His mouth formed an O shape when the object moved. ‘What the..?'
"Oww, that's my foot!" yelped Gavin.
Star looked sheepish. "Oops, sorry. I thought it was the table leg."
Gavin rolled his eyes and gave his younger brother a funny look. "Why would you think that? Is your mind in the gutter or something?"
Star playfully punched Gavin on his bicep. "Haha, very funny...the smell of the food is making me so hungry I can't stand it!"
"Ah! That hurt, you know!" Gavin rubbed his arm. "Aside from that, I see what you mean. I'm so hungry I could eat a hippopotamus!"
"Yeah, because you're such a pig," Davelin jumped in after listening to the banter between the two boys. "If you're so hungry, why not stop complaining and get yourself something to eat since you have so much trouble waiting? "
"Who are you calling a pig?" asked Gavin, giving a look of mock offense.
"Who do you think?"
"It can't be me."
"Oh yes it's you!"
"Take that back!"
"You know I'm right!"
Gavin blew a raspberry at Davelin and went, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!"
Davelin rolled her eyes. "That's real mature."
Gavin smirked. "Well, thank you for noticing."
"I was being sarcastic."
"Whatever." Gavin got up and tiptoed to the cabinet, pulling out a pack of Oreos. He got 2 juice boxes for himself and Star before sitting down. He placed the pack of Oreos on the table and gave Star his juice box.
Davelin looked around as if she were lost when she realized Gavin hadn't gotten anything for her. "Hold on a minute. Where's my juice? What am I, chopped liver?"
"I thought you were gonna wait for lunch to be ready and plus you didn't ask," answered Gavin, ripping open the pack of Oreos and grabbing a handful of them. He stuffed two of them in his mouth, wanting it to be full so his sister would take the hint and not ask him any more questions.
Star also took out several cookies and began to eat them as if he hadn't had any in ages.
Davelin shook her head and sucked her teeth. "Stinker," she muttered under her breath. She got up, dragging her feet to go get her own juice box. ‘I swear, he could be so impossible sometimes.' After getting herself a juice box, she sat back down and lowered her eyes a bit when they met Gavin's. She removed the straw from the plastic and poked it inside the hole, taking a sip.
Gavin could feel the tension rising in the room although Davelin was silent. He shrugged, pretending not to notice her sudden change in mood and just kept wolfing down the cookies. ‘I wonder who peed in her Cheerios.' He and Star continued munching on cookies and before they knew it, more than half of the pack was gone. Gavin decided he had enough and rubbed his stomach. ‘Come to think of it, my stomach is a little sick. I hope I can handle lunch.' He placed the straw in the hole of his juice box and began to drink it, hoping to wash away the sweetness.
Star started to reach for just one more cookie, but then pulled his hand back, not wanting to spoil his appetite for lunch more than he already had. He had almost forgotten about it until he heard the sound of the blender whirring. He decided to drink his juice while he waited.
Natasha paid no attention to the bickering amongst the three children, but remained hard at work preparing their lunch. Once she was done making the milkshakes, she fixed their plates and placed them on a tray along with the shakes. She carefully picked up the tray and brought it out, giving each youngster their respective meal, saying, "Here you are. "
"Thank you," the Arviso children mumbled without looking at the woman. The aroma of the food made their mouths water, but they could still see steam rising. ‘Oh man!'
"You're welcome. Enjoy." Natasha left the children to their lunch.
The three children looked at the food and then at each other. "What do you say we eat in the dining room?" suggested Gavin. He leaned over towards Star, whispering, "Something about that woman is giving me the creeps."
"You said it. Let's go." Star rested his mostly empty box of juice on the table and stood up, grabbing his plate of food and milkshake. Gavin did the same and the two boys walked away from the table, not caring that they left a mess.
Without saying anything, Davelin grabbed her food and milkshake, and followed her two brothers out of the kitchen into the dining room. They each chose a spot they wanted to sit at and placed their meals down before sitting. Gavin made sure he wasn't too close to Davelin just in case she had another set of mood swings.
"Now this is more like it," said Gavin, looking around the somewhat fancy dining room.
Star took a small sip of his milkshake before answering, "Yeah and the best thing is those security people aren't here to make us go back."
"Quite frankly that rule about not eating in here unsupervised is stupid," Davelin spoke up after moments upon moments of silence. "What's the point of it, anyway?"
Gavin let out a humor filled huff. "Who knows? All I could say is that the staff members are not right in their heads. " He picked up his burger and took a large bite, smacking his lips as he chewed.
"Amen!" agreed Star. "If I were Michael Jackson I would get rid of them already." He picked up a few fries and shoved them in his mouth.
"Right?" Gavin had taken another bite of his burger by then and ended up spraying a piece of it across the table onto Davelin's arm.
Star started laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. He had to hold onto the table to steady himself. He took one look at Davelin and started laughing again. She gave him a dirty look, silencing him instantly.
"Ewwww! You're so gross! Didn't anyone ever teach you to say it, don't spray it?" Davelin made a disgusted face as she grabbed a napkin and wiped the wet food off her arm.
"Oops, sorry," said Gavin after he swallowed. He ate some fries and drank some of the milkshake. ‘Hmm. This would taste better with alcohol in it.'
"Hmph!" Davelin scoffed under her breath. She glowered at Gavin whilst picking up a fry and biting into it. ‘I knew I should have stayed in the kitchen. Being around these two knuckleheads will make me lose my appetite. ‘ She ate more of her food, opting to not continue the banter with either of her brothers.
The two Arviso boys continued to devour their food, and at one point Star set his half-eaten burger on his plate, glanced at his elder brother and asked, "Want me to do something funny?"
A big grin spread across Gavin's face. He knew how rude Star's humor could be and he loved everything about it. "Hell yeah! Do it!!" He drank more of his milkshake.
Star gave a devilish grin as he thought of what he was about to do. "Watch this." He placed his hand under his armpit and started flapping his elbow, making a noise that sounded like someone passing gas.
Gavin threw his head back and roared with laughter. Luckily he wasn't sipping his milkshake at the moment, otherwise he would have choked. "Dude, that is so hilarious." He joined Star in his armpit noise making, causing a cacophony. The two of them soon stopped, though, because they didn't want any of Michael's workers coming to check on them. Just as Gavin was about to pick up his burger to take a bite, he passed gas. The odious stench spread over to Davelin's side.
Davelin wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Ewwww, Gavin, that's disgusting! You are so nasty!" She fanned the scent but that didn't help at all.
"That's what she said," Gavin joked, smirking.
The young teen shook her head. "Okay, that's it. I'm going back to the kitchen." As she said those words, however, she let out a loud burp. "Oops. That wasn't supposed to happen." She covered her mouth.
Gavin and Star snickered. "Yeah. Sure it wasn't," remarked Gavin.
"Now who's the nasty one?" taunted Star, still laughing. He always got pleasure from seeing his sister act less than glamorous when she generally thought she was more sophisticated than him and Gavin.
Davelin's cheeks turned red. "Oh you hush!" She swatted Star on the arm.
"Hey!" Star raised his hand to swat at his sister, but she ducked her head.
"You can't catch me!" Davelin stuck her tongue out at Star. Star stuck his own back out at her.
Gavin shook his head laughing at his siblings. "At least she's ragging on someone else for a change," he muttered under his breath. He started to eat the remainder of his food.
All of a sudden the three youngsters heard footsteps approaching the dining room. Gavin kept on eating. ‘I wonder who it could be. I hope it's Mom and not one of those security goons.' But his hopes were shattered when John and Darren entered the dining room, hands on their hips. Gavin nearly choked on his burger. ‘Didn't think they would be back this soon.'
John gave the Arviso children the sternest look he could muster. "All right, you three! Everyone back to the kitchen! You know you're not allowed in the dining room unsupervised!"
"But we're not finished," whined Star.
"You can finish your meal in the kitchen! Now let's go!" Darren barked, snapping his fingers.
Gavin swallowed his bite of food, giving the security guards a look of defiance. "What if we don't feel like it? You can't make us do anything we don't want to do. Our mom doesn't."
The two men sighed heavily. They began to think maybe the children didn't have enough punishment after all. "Well as you can see, I'm not your mother," Darren stated calmly but firmly.
"That's right," agreed John. "Now get moving before we physically make you."
Gavin cringed at the thought of facing a repeat of the previous day. ‘No way in hell am I gonna allow him to put his hands on me again.' And what was worse was that he and his siblings had to concede defeat since the guards were so much stronger than them.
Davelin looked stoic as she listened to her two brothers argue with the guards. ‘Good grief. They could be difficult sometimes. I mean, sure I hate the goons, but who could sit here and eat with the room so smelly? I'm actually glad to leave the dining room.' She dutifully stood up and grabbed her unfinished meal, ignoring her brothers when they gave her funny looks.
John averted his eyes towards Davelin and gave her a look of approval. "Well well, I see one person knows how to follow instructions. Now unless you want us to use force, I suggest you follow your sister's example."
Davelin looked away from John. ‘Don't misunderstand, you stuffed shirt. I only listened to you willingly because I'm on the verge of losing my appetite.'
Gavin gave his sister another strange look, then he turned to glare at the security guards. "Okay, okay. We're coming. Now go."
Star took a sip of his milkshake again before cutting in, "Yeah, you're not the boss of us."
John folded his arms tightly across his chest, his patience wearing thin. It boggled his mind how his mother didn't seem to care that the children were following the path of destruction. "No no. We're not moving until you get up. You don't call the shots around here."
Gavin looked at the men standing there with their arms folded. The authoritative air about them was very overwhelming. Finally he gritted his teeth and let out a growl of frustration, knowing that neither he nor his siblings would win against them.
With heavy sighs, the young boys stood up, shuffled their feet, grabbed their meals and proceeded to exit the dining room with Davelin. They dragged their feet as they walked. The security guards were right on their trail to make sure they didn't try anything. ‘It's only a matter of time before Mr. Jackson gets back.'
(two hours later)
Natasha was in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on the refreshments she had been preparing for Michael and his family. She was covering each foil pan with saran wrap when she heard the front door open and close. ‘I wonder who that could be. Mr. Jackson and his family have arrived twenty minutes ago.' She placed the pans onto a large circular tray, carried it to the dining room and set the pans of food on the hutch. She made sure to arrange them just the way her boss liked. She also double-checked to make sure the mess that the Arviso children had made in the dining room had been cleaned up. ‘Those children will be the death of me. I hope Mr. Jackson will be all right. He looked pretty worn out, and I imagine dealing with their behavior will not help matters at all. ' One thing that made her worry was the stress possibly causing Michael to skip meals. She headed back to the kitchen to retrieve the drinks so she could set them up, too. She placed the drinks on the tray. Whilst she was carrying the tray of drinks to the dining room, she passed Janet Arviso on the way. She gave the woman a polite nod in greeting.
Mrs. Arviso gave a polite nod back, only it seemed forced. "Have you seen my children?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. I believe they're in the security guards' living quarters," answered the chef.
Mrs. Arviso opened her mouth, about to ask what on earth they were doing there, but she closed it and pursed her lips together, deciding it would be best to question the guards and not Natasha. "All right then. Thank you for letting me know."
"Of course. I shall be going now. Good day." Natasha continued to make her way to the dining room.
Mrs. Arviso had a bad taste in her mouth as she headed to the security's living quarters. ‘Those men had better not have touched a hair on my children's head or else.' She had the strongest urge to throttle one of the guards if they had mistreated her children. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself down. It would not be a pretty sight if she had to be dragged out of the home, although she had no qualms risking it if she had to. She came to a closed door that led to another portion of the ranch and she heard voices discussing something. ‘That must be where the security lives.' She tapped lightly on the door.
"Who is it?" asked a deep voice.
Mrs. Arviso slowly turned the doorknob and entered, closing the door behind her. The sight she saw was unexpected. Her three children were sitting in chairs, looking sour. She could only guess why they looked that way. She imagined the guards would tell her the children misbehaved again. Her head felt like it was about to explode. It was all she could do not to lose her temper and yell that she was fed up with hearing complaints about her children.
The security guards studied the mother of the Arviso children. They knew it was pointless to report her children's bad behavior, as chances were she would not handle it accordingly. It boggled their minds how she believed her children could do no wrong, but they decided it didn't matter anymore. "So, Mrs. Arviso, you have finally returned," said John. "It so happens you have arrived in the nick of time. Mr. Jackson has requested the presence of you and your children. It is rather urgent."
Mrs. Arviso furrowed her eyebrows before raising them, wondering what could be wrong for the pop star to want to see the entire family. ‘Maybe it's another of his pleasant surprises, but judging from the look on this gentleman's face I highly doubt it.' "He has?"
"Yes. To say the least, he didn't sound very happy."
Mrs. Arviso frowned slightly upon hearing that. A small tinge of panic rose within her as well. ‘Has he found out I have been using his bank account for my hair and wax appointments?' She wore a blank expression on her face to show her indifference for her actions. "I see. Where is he?"
"In his office. I trust you know how to find it."
Mrs. Arviso nodded slightly. "Of course. Thank you." She turned to face her children. "Come along, Gavin, Star, and Davelin. Let's go."
Gavin and his siblings immediately ran to their mother. They threw their arms around her waist, greeting her with happy smiles. She chuckled lightly, hugging them back. They all exited the room together. They told her all that had happened the previous day between them and the security guards on the way to the office.
Janet gritted her teeth and clenched one of her fists. She wanted to go back and give the men a piece of her mind as well as pound them to the ground. She didn't tolerate anyone disciplining her children without permission. ‘I'll deal with them later.' "Well it's all right now. I'm here."
"I'm so glad," said Star. "I was wondering when you were coming back. We all were."
Janet smiled over at her children. They were some of the few people who brought joy in her life.
Soon, the Arviso family came to Michael's office and they saw that the door to it was open. They quietly entered and spotted Michael sitting at his desk. He whirled his chair around to face them. When his eyes met theirs, they could tell the security guards were not kidding when they said he wasn't happy. He certainly didn't look happy. He was stone-faced and looked awfully tense. Neither Janet nor her children ever recalled seeing him in such a way. Star found it rather funny. ‘Well, not like he scares me.'
Gavin decided to try and lighten the mood. "Well, well, well. Look who finally decided to return after being absent without leave. " His siblings burst into giggles and covered their mouths to muffle their laughter. Janet looked at them, frowning a bit and they quieted down.
Michael didn't look amused. He frowned and simply said, "Good afternoon to you, too, Gavin."
Star and Davelin bit their lips to keep from bursting into giggles again.
Janet stepped forward. "So Michael, you asked to see us?" She looked over at her children, avoiding the pop king's eyes.
"Yes I did. Close the door and have a seat."
Without saying a word, Janet closed the door, then she and her children sat down. Gavin squirmed a bit in his seat. Davelin rubbed her hands together in order to keep calm. Star leaned over towards Gavin and whispered something into his ear. Gavin let out a snicker, and mouthed "you're a mess" to him. Their mother just looked bored.
Michael frowned deeply when he noticed the children were not being attentive. He felt like a high school teacher dealing with unruly children. He cleared his throat loudly.
The three children and Janet were so startled that they almost fell out of their chairs. They instantly focused their eyes on Michael, waiting for him to speak. Davelin discreetly rolled her eyes.
"I see I have your attention now. Good. I want you to pay very close attention to what I'm about to say. "
"Well, what are you waiting for?" asked Davelin. "We're all ears."
Janet shot her daughter a reproachful look. "Davelin!!" she exclaimed softly.
Davelin looked meek. "Sorry."
Janet turned to face Michael again. "Sorry about that, Michael. My daughter can be very high strung. Go on."
There was something about Mrs. Arviso's tone that made her apology sound insincere, but Michael decided to ignore it. "I see that." His facial expression then turned into an all-business one. He fixed his gaze directly upon the children. "I have received several reports from my staff about you during the times I was absent over the past several months and they were atrocious. According to them you have challenged their authority, demolished my daughters' bedroom, terrorized my fans and attacked my animals. That is unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated." His voice was calm, but there was still a hint of anger in it.
Janet looked as if smoke was going to rise from her ears. She coughed loudly, trying to keep her indignity under control. ‘The nerve of these people!!'
Davelin smirked. ‘Who would have thought he was this tough? Oh well. He's probably just pretending. What's he gonna do? Sing us to death?' She stifled a laugh.
Gavin and Star widened their eyes and their mouths dropped open. They then started protesting at once. "They're lying! We didn't do any of those things! They just-" Michael gave them a hard look and put a hand up for silence. They quieted down at once.
Gavin let out a barely audible whistle. 'Seeing this side of Mr. Pop star here is almost scary.'
Michael shook his head to show he wasn't buying any of the boys' defenses for a minute. Although he had been deceived by former staff members in the past, he was absolutely sure his current staff was telling the truth. There was a time he was willing to give the Arvisos the benefit of the doubt, but he had passed that stage for quite some time. "I want you to apologize to my staff for your disrespectful behavior, and to my daughters for destroying their room."
That was the breaking point for Mrs. Arviso. She narrowed her eyes and stood up as if there was some kind of vermin in her chair. She placed her hands on her hips and glowered at Michael. "Now you listen! My children don't have to apologize for anything! You didn't even bother to find out their side of the story!!" She heaved several loud breaths. One would think she was hyperventilating.
Michael looked a bit taken aback at the woman's outburst. A part of him wondered if he should just keep going or just drop it. ‘No no, Michael. This must be resolved once and for all. No time for backing down,' a voice inside his head reminded him. He frowned again. "All right, first of all, there is no need for a recount from the children. Their belligerent and indifferent behavior speaks for itself. And secondly, I was addressing them, not you." He turned his attention back to the children and gave them that "I'm waiting" look.
Gavin began to see red. "Don't talk to Mommy like that! And there's no way in hell I'm going to apologize to anyone! Your staff and your stupid daughters got what they deserved!!" Star folded his arms, nodding in agreement with his brother. Both of them stuck their jaws out defiantly.
"I'm not apologizing, either," spoke up Davelin. She looked at her watch.
Michael's eyes narrowed at Gavin's comment about his daughters. He could handle the insults dealt towards him and let them roll off his back, but disrespecting the ones he held most dear was something he refused to tolerate. He looked at the young boy and said in a stone cold voice, "Don't you dare speak about my daughters or anyone in my family that way. Is that understood?"
Gavin snorted. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You're just wasting your time, because I don't give a rip."
Michael let out a loud groan of frustration. ‘I swear, this family is driving me up the freaking wall!' He never had this much trouble dealing with children before, and he could feel what was left of his energy being zapped. He wasn't about to spend the entire afternoon battling with them. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Fine, have it your way. Janet, it is clear that your children have no regard for the rules and regulations of this ranch. You don't seem to be concerned about their well-being and speaking from a parent's perspective, that is sad. "
Janet's facial expression grew pinched. Who was he to tell her how to raise her children? "For your information, Michael---"
Michael put up a hand and said, "I'm not finished. From this day forward, you and your children will no longer be welcome here."
Janet's eyes popped open so wide that they looked bugged out. "Wait a minute. What are you saying? That you want us to leave?"
Mrs. Arviso started to tremble with anger, her tan skin turning pale. She could feel her cheeks becoming red hot. "Y-You can't be serious!"
"I am. If you don't leave, I will have my security escort you off the premises, along with your children. I'm giving you 15 minutes to pack up and leave. The same thing goes for Gavin, Star and Davelin."
"All right, fine! We'll go. But know this! One day you'll be sorry for the way you treated us, after everything we've been through!" Mrs. Arviso wagged her finger at Michael, and then gestured for her children to get up. "Come, children. We're leaving."
"Okay." The three children obediently got up and walked over to their mother. Gavin looked over his shoulder at Michael. "You know what? I'm glad you're kicking us out! I hate this place, anyway!"
"I hope this overpriced house rots and collapses to the ground!"
"Goodbye and good riddance, weirdo." The Arviso family stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind them. The force was so strong that one of the plaques nearly fell off the wall. It was a miracle the door didn't come off of the hinge.
Michael sighed heavily, rubbing his forehead to alleviate the severe headache that was starting to form. He slumped a little in his chair. He placed his head in his hands, stunned. ‘I do all I can to help them and this is how they repay me?' He expected that confronting the family would go roughly, but not quite at this level. He wasn't sure if he should be relieved or worried. He was definitely relieved that they would be out of his life forever, but worried that Janet would turn into a vengeful maniac like many of the people he had cut ties with and devise a scheme to destroy him. He also had this bad feeling that if she did, she would involve her children in whatever diabolical scheme she concocted. Not to mention there was no telling how malicious she could be. ‘Regardless of what their anger might drive them to do to me, I do not regret my decision.'
I hope you guys like how it came together..sadly we haven't seen the last of the Arviso family..but at least he can be rid of their toxicity for a bit. Here is what Natasha the chef looks like:
The two girls were currently sprawled out on the bed in one of the guestrooms. They were resting and relaxing from their brief, rushed trip. Neither of them were quite ready to see the destruction of their bedroom just yet. Kerri was willing to later, so she could get an idea of how extensive the damage was. Nikki, on the other hand, wasn't sure if she ever wanted to see it, although just a tiny part of her was dying to see if she would have to keep from trying to murder someone, or hurt things. Whichever came first.
"Hey, Kerri?" asked Nikki. She rolled onto her side so she was facing her elder sister and rested her hand beneath her chin. She leaned against her elbow.
"Hmm?" Kerri glanced up from the book she was reading, at her sibling. She could tell from looking in the younger girl's eyes that she was still feeling beat, despite all the sleep she got on the plane. "What's up, sis? Is there something on your mind?"
"I wonder how Dad is doing, and how confronting the Arviso family went for him."
Kerri nodded knowingly. "Well I thought I heard a faint sound of the door slamming, angry voices, and thundering footsteps, so to say it didn't go very well would be an understatement."
"That it would." Nikki recalled hearing something not too long ago, but thought maybe it was her imagination and her insufficient rest affecting her ability to concentrate properly. "That comes of no surprise to me at all. I mean, they seem to think Dad owes them something." She massaged her temples wearily.
"Yes. Such con artists." There was so much more Kerri wanted to say about the family, but decided the stress wasn't worth it. She hoped Gavin or Star didn't somehow find her guitar, even after she had hid it in a good hiding place.
"I imagine Dad must be quite shaken. After all, he hates confrontation."
"That's true. However, he's also very strong. He'll bounce back from this in due time. I'm sure he knows in his heart of hearts that he has made the right decision. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you."
Nikki knitted her eyebrows together, not necessarily frowning, but rather absorbing what her sister just said. It had been one of her concerns that Michael would second guess himself and think maybe he was too hard on the Arvisos. ‘It certainly didn't seem that way yesterday, but now I just don't know.' "I hope so," she said wistfully. She let out a deep sigh as she sat up and wrung her hands together. "Anyway, we should go check on him, and also let Becky know we're back. I actually meant to call and see how she is holding up."
Kerri nodded in agreement. "Yes, definitely. We could ask him if it's all right if we invited her here. Maybe she could stay overnight, too. "
A tiny smile appeared on Nikki's features, her coffee coloured eyes brightening. "Oh, that idea just came to me! You've read my mind. "
Kerri chuckled softly at her sister's enthusiasm. "Well, you know what they say. Great minds think alike."
"Exactly right, sis. I'll talk to Dad and see what he says. Be right back." Nikki got up off the bed, stretched, and exited the room.
A light gust of wind blew through the opened window, brushing on the nape of Kerri's neck. She rested her book face down and sat up. She couldn't help but feel slightly anxious whilst waiting for Nikki to return. She absentmindedly ran her hand through her hair. ‘Why am I so nervous? Surely Dad will understand Becky needs a friend right now and could use some company. The worst he'll probably say is that today is not a good day.' She reached on top of the bureau for the cordless phone, pulling it off the hook. She dialed Becky's number, fidgeting as she waited for her to pick up.
The phone rang twice, and mid-way through the third ring, someone answered. Kerri could hear some rustling on the other end before a husky female's voice chirped into the phone, "Hello, this is Becky speaking." There was a touch of depression in the redhead's voice.
"Hi Becky, this is Kerri."
"Oh, hey girl! What's up? I thought you and Nikki weren't coming back until next week. Or are you calling from Florida?"
"No, we're back. We got back almost an hour ago. Our vacation was cut short," explained Kerri grimly. She hated to sound that way and risk making Becky feel worse, but it was her best attempt at masking her displeasure.
"Ohhh, that's too bad. I knew how much you and Nikki were looking forward to that trip."
Kerri let out a heavy sigh. "Yes we were. But there was an emergency Dad had to take care of urgently, so we had no choice."
"Oh, I get it. What type of emergency, if you don't mind me asking? Please don't tell me you guys had a death in the family!" Becky knew she sounded dramatic, but she couldn't help it. She didn't think she could handle any more bad news.
Kerri couldn't help but laugh at her friend being frantic before hearing the news. "Relax! It's nothing like that! But it is pretty distressing. You remember me telling you about the trouble we had with the Arviso family, right?"
"Yes," Becky responded slowly, as if she were afraid to hear more about their foolishness.
"Well, shortly after we left, they returned and the children annihilated our bedroom. They were also extremely rude to the maid and security guards, and then attacked some fangirls."
Becky snorted into the phone. "That's no surprise. They're nothing but a bunch of good-for-nothing scoundrels and delinquents."
"That's an understatement," Kerri muttered under her breath. "They most certainly are, and that's putting it kindly. No need to worry, though. Dad decided enough was enough, and so he cancelled the remainder of the trip in order to deal with them."
"Praise the Lord! It's about time he did."
Kerri chuckled a little. "I know. "
"I imagine you guys must be pissed, though, having to cancel the trip like that."
"Oh, trust me, we are. But at least we could come to your grandmother's funeral this Friday, so that's one good thing about it."
There was a long pause on the other end. ‘Oh. She must have hung up,' thought Kerri. She was about to ask Becky whether she was still there but a long, sad sigh on the other line assured her that she was. "Hello?" she questioned.
"Yeah, I'm still here. My mind just drifted away for a second, that's all."
"Oh. All right, then."
"I suppose it is a good thing you can come to the funeral," said Becky. "Before you had called, I was just wondering how I was going to be able to keep it together then. I mean, I can barely do it now." Her voice started to crack. She exhaled a deep breath, desperately trying to remain composed.
"I know. Well Nikki and I are here if you need someone to talk to."
"It was nothing. What are friends for?" Just then Kerri heard footsteps. ‘I wonder if that's Nikki.' "Hold on for a minute." She cupped the phone and turned around to see who had come into the room, and sure enough, it was Nikki. She lowered her voice a bit."What did Dad say?"
"He said it's fine for Becky to come over as long as she stays in one of the guestrooms."
"Okay." Kerri removed her hand from the phone's mouthpiece. "Okay, here I am again. Do you want to come over? Dad said it's all right if you do, and you can spend the night, too."
"I would love to. I will be there as soon as I can."
"Great. I hope you won't mind having to stay in one of the guestrooms."
"No, that's fine."
"All right. I'll see you in a few, then."
"See you." After Kerri hung up, she and Nikki got some clean bed sheets and pillowcases, then went inside the room the Arviso children had utilized. There was not a trace of their belongings anywhere, indicating they had packed up and left. However, the state of the room was another story. The bed was unmade, the closet doors were open, dirt was all over the floor and the drawers were not closed properly.
Nikki sighed heavily. "I swear, those children are such slobs. " She shook her head. "One would think they could at least leave the room the way they met it after all the trouble they had caused."
Kerri gave her an amused look. "That shouldn't surprise you. Hello, you're talking about children who have no sense of decorum whatsoever. "
"I know that. Still, I resent the idea of having to clean up after them."
"I understand how you feel, but even if Rebecca doesn't use this room, we still shouldn't leave it for poor Tina to clean up. She already has enough on her plate."
Nikki looked thoughtful. Her sister had a point. Tina being the maid shouldn't mean she was supposed to clean up after blatantly messy people. "You're right. I guess we had better get to work, then. Becky will be here soon." She started closing all the semi-open drawers, dragging her feet and letting out soft grunts as she did. ‘Hopefully Kerri and I will be able to get this room cleaned in time. Too bad the Arviso children are no longer here or else I would have made them clean it up.'
Kerri set her mouth in a line, removing the dirty sheets from the bed and the pillowcases off the pillows. She gathered them in a pile and walked out of the room.
Nikki let out a sigh. "Might as well make myself useful," she muttered to herself. ‘Anything for Becky, though.' She left the room to retrieve the broom and dustpan, and got to work sweeping up the dirt. After tossing the debris into the trash can, she took the pillows and put the pillowcases on them, humming as she worked. She took the comforter, sloppily folded it and rested it in a chair. She removed the pillows and rested them on the chair, too. As soon as she got the bottom sheet to put on the bed, her elder sister returned.
"Here, let me help you with that," she offered. "It'll go faster."
Nikki smiled gratefully. "Thank you." She spread the sheet over the bed and got on one end, whilst Kerri got on the other end. Slowly, they made the bed together, fixing each corner of the sheets and comforter onto the bed, making sure it wasn't mussed. Nikki got the pillows and shams from off the chair and handed them to Kerri.
"Thank you." Kerri took the pillows and flattened them before neatly fixing them on the bed. Her eyes roamed around the room to see if anything else needed tidying. She gave a nod of approval when she saw that pretty much everything out of place had been taken care of. She turned back to face her sister. "I think we've done enough and it's good to go. What do you say?"
Nikki did a quick scrutiny of the room as well. "I agree. Now let's go. Becky will be here any minute."
"Agreed." Kerri got out the sympathy card and bouquet of flowers, rested them on the bed, and then left the room with Nikki. They went to the living room area and sat in the couch to wait for their friend. Not too long after they had made themselves comfortable, there was a ‘Ding-Dong' sound, followed by a knock on the door.
Nikki lazily stretched her legs out as she was alerted to the knocking. She looked up. "Kerri? You think that's Becky now?"
Kerri looked at her watch and saw that half an hour had passed since she called Becky. "It should be. Let's go check to make sure. " She and Nikki got up and trotted to the door. They peeked outside and saw that it was indeed Becky, standing there waiting with her arms folded. Bill entered the living room and approached the girls at the same time.
"Who's that?" the security guard asked in his deep voice. He wanted to be sure it wasn't someone who wasn't allowed at the ranch. His boss had given him and the other guards strict orders not to allow the Arviso family onto the property ever again or else they would be fired.
"Don't worry, Mr. Bray, that's just my best friend Becky," Nikki assured him.
Bill's stern facial expression relaxed a bit. He always found the red-head to be an impeccably behaved young lady. "Is Mr. Jackson expecting her?"
Nikki nodded. "He said it was ok for her to come."
"All right, then." Bill went and opened the door for Becky. Nikki and Kerri stepped back so she could come in.
"Hi," Becky greeted as she entered the house, wiping her feet. She was carrying her purse and an overnight bag. Bill closed the door behind her.
"Hi," Nikki and Kerri answered at once. They took a look at their friend and noticed she was walking sluggishly. They also saw sadness in her blotchy red eyes. ‘I hope we could cheer her up,' thought Nikki.
Becky looked away from the girls, averting her eyes toward the paintings and picture frames on the walls. Although she had seen them dozens and dozens of times, she needed a distraction. With how her demeanor had changed, anyone who didn't know any better would attribute her behavior to nervousness about being at the Jackson's home for the first time. She slowly turned to face her friends. "Thank you for inviting me here," she managed to say.
"Not a problem at all," said Kerri.
Becky looked around again and frowned. There was something different she noticed, and couldn't quite pinpoint what it was before. ‘Now I know. It is unusually quiet.' She felt a tap on her shoulder, which brought her back to reality. She looked up to see Kerri giving her a worried look. "Are you all right?" the raven-haired young woman asked. "You seem lost."
Becky rubbed her abdomen a bit, trying to rid it of the discomfort that ensued from not eating anything since the previous day. It was killing her, but she didn't want the girls to worry. Plus she was sure there was food nearby which would do the trick. "It's-it's nothing," she stuttered.
"Hmm." Kerri wasn't sure whether she should believe her, but didn't want to push her into talking about what was on her mind if she didn't want to." If you're sure."
Becky nodded firmly. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Hey, maybe we should show her to her room," Nikki whispered to her sister.
Kerri glanced at Becky and then nodded in agreement. "Good idea," she whispered back.
"Come, Becky, we'll take you to the room you'll be staying in," said Nikki. "Right this way."
Becky let out a sigh before running a hand over her face. "Okay," she agreed. She followed her friends as they led her to the guestroom, dragging her feet a bit. ‘I could so use a nap right about now.'
"Here we are," said Nikki, coming to a room that was right down the hall on the left.
Becky entered the room. Instead of spending time admiring it like she usually did, she rested her overnight bag down in front of the closet door. She collapsed onto the bed and sat cross-legged, narrowly avoiding the bouquet of flowers and the card. Kerri moved them out of the way so she would have more space. "Here you go," she said, handing Becky the card and placing the flowers on her lap. "The flowers are from Dad. The card is from Nikki and me. Dad also bought you a basket. It's on the dining room table. "
Becky examined the bouquet of flowers, her eyes brightening up a bit. "Gosh, thank you! The flowers are beautiful!" She placed them aside and clutched the envelope that contained the card. She hummed as she carefully peeled open the envelope. She pulled out the card, opening it to see all the handwritten messages and signatures on it. Her jaw dropped open slightly at the amount of signatures. Not only had Kerri, Nikki, Michael and his two oldest children signed it, but there were signatures from the security guards and Grace, too. She read each note of encouragement, her eyes filling with tears at how heartfelt they were. She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand before looking up and saying, "Once again, thank you so much. You don't know how much I appreciate the kind words."
Kerri smiled slightly. She had to admit Becky looked slightly better than she did when she first arrived. The usual spark in her eyes had begun to return. ‘That's a relief. It killed me to see them looking so dead.' "Anything to show we care." She sat on the opposite side of the redhead. Nikki's legs were beginning to become tired, so she also took a seat, on Becky's other side.
Becky managed a weak smile before lowering her head a bit to look down at her hands, her red curls partially covering her face. "I know."
Nikki crossed her leg on top of her knee and looked over at her friend. She frowned slightly, sensing the change in her mood. She placed a comforting arm around the small of her back. "It's all right. Let it out if you have to."
At first, Becky didn't answer. She sighed, brushing her hair out of her face. All she wanted to do was cry, but to her surprise, the tears would not come, and she was honestly lacking the energy it required. ‘Then again, I've shed enough tears for the past day. It would be wise to save some for the funeral. I'm surprised I didn't turn into a prune.' A giggle at her joke threatened to escape. It felt good for her to be able to laugh under the circumstances. She sat upright, digging in her jeans pocket for a ponytail holder and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail.
Kerri had sensed Becky's mood change as well, and wracked her brain for a way to distract her. "Hopefully the next time you're here to stay overnight we'll be hanging out in Nikki's and my bedroom, like always. But trust me, you wouldn't want to see it now."
"I understand, really. I am sure we will be able to make the most of being in here, no problem. "
"Good. I just want to make sure you're comfortable."
"Of course I am, don't worry." Becky stretched her arms out in front of her, and then her stomach made a loud rumbling sound.
Kerri heard it and chuckled slightly. "Sounds like someone is hungry. Do you want something to eat? We have plenty of food Natasha made, so you can't go wrong. "
Becky's face turned bright red and she looked sheepish. It always embarrassed her when her stomach growled out of nowhere. She had not planned to eat again this soon as she still didn't have an appetite, but her abdominal pain had gotten worse. It took everything she had not to twist her face in agony. ‘I'd better eat something though, or else I'll never get rid of this stomach pain. I just hope I can keep the food down.' She nodded to show she was all right with the suggestion.
Kerri got up from the bed. "Okay, come on, let's go."
"Okay." Becky rested the flowers and card on the bed and lazily stood up, stretching again.
Kerri looked over at her sister, who had not moved from her spot on the bed. "What about you, Nikki? Are you coming?" She placed a hand on her shoulder to get her attention.
"What?" Nikki questioned, looking like she was in a daze. She glanced up when she felt the hand on her shoulder. She opened her mouth to let out a yelp at being startled but relaxed when she saw it was only her sister standing over her. ‘Yeesh, I really need to stop spacing out so much.' "Yes, of course. I'm starving."
"Well, that's no surprise. You're always hungry."
Nikki looked shocked and gaped at her sister. "That's not true."
"Oh yes it is," said Kerri teasingly.
The two sisters proceeded to have a staring contest.
Becky let out a sigh. ‘Oh no, here they go again.' She tiredly rubbed her forehead. "Guys, could you please pipe down a little? I'm starting to get a headache."
Both girls broke their stare and turned to face the redhead. She was generally amused by their playful banter, unless they were doing it at an inappropriate time and place. Aside from that, her asking them to stop meant she was either not in the mood or didn't feel well. They mumbled, "Sorry" in unison.
"It's fine." Becky rubbed the bridge of her nose. "By the way, where's your dad? "
Nikki tapped her chin in thought before sluggishly standing up. "Um, least I checked, he was in the music studio. He is working on a new album. "
Becky's face lit up. "A new album? I look forward to hearing it."
"I do, too. Why do you ask where he is?"
"I wanna thank him for the flowers and basket, as well as his message on the card."
Nikki nodded. "Oh. Yes, you definitely should. Well, let's go. I feel like I'm gonna pass out from hunger." She and Becky started towards the door, looking over their shoulders to see if Kerri was coming.
Kerri rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to make a snide comment. ‘I swear, that girl is so dramatic.' She followed her sister and friend as they left the room, to the music studio. The door was cracked open. Becky lightly tapped on it.
Michael had just got done recording a portion of his new track for the upcoming number one's album. Letting out a sigh of satisfaction at the progress made thus far, he was about to head into the control room when he heard a knock on the door. "Who is it?" he asked.
"It's me, Becky. Kerri and Nikki are with me, too."
Michael smiled softly to himself, happy that Becky had arrived safely. "Come in."
"Thank you." Becky pushed the door open and walked in with Nikki and Kerri following her. She looked around shyly before her eyes finally focused on the pop star. "Hi..." She was about to call him Mr. Jackson, but remembered how insistent he was that she referred to him by his first name. "Michael." She cutely placed her hand on her forehead as if to say, Phew! ‘That was tough, but maybe it'll get easier over time.'
He smiled at her awkwardness displayed at calling him by his first name, finding it endearing. ‘She'll get used to it with time,' he reassured himself. "Hello there, Becky. How are you doing?"
"I've been better, but I am trying to cope the best way I know how."
"I understand. All you can do in this situation is take it one day at a time."
"I know. " Becky remembered the beautiful words written by him on the sympathy card. Just thinking of them made her feel choked up. ‘Whatever I do, I mustn't cry in front of Michael.' She inhaled a deep breath and let it out. "I just want to thank you for your words on the card, the flowers and basket. "
Michael gave her a warm smile before responding, "Of course. The pleasure is all mine. "
Becky could feel her heart melting. ‘He has always been so good to me, ever since I've known Kerri and Nikki. I have to find a way to repay him.' "You know something? You're like a second father to me."
"Awww, it's very sweet of you to say so." He opened his arms to her. Wasting no time at all, she stepped into his welcoming arms and he enveloped her in them into a strong hug and gave her a light peck on her forehead. Feeling extremely warm inside, she lightly wrapped her arms around his back. ‘Mmmm, he smells soo good. It's too bad he's old enough to be my dad and he's taken otherwise he would have made a great catch.'
Kerri and Nikki smiled as they watched this. It was so touching seeing their dad show his fatherly side to their friends and children all over the world. ‘Awwww,' thought Nikki as she wiped away pretend tears.
"God bless you," Michael told Becky before ending the embrace.
"Thank you. Same to you."
"Dad?" asked Nikki.
"Hmm?" Michael turned away from Becky to face his daughter.
"Kerri, Becky and I are about to go eat some of the food Natasha made for us. Are you coming?"
He hesitated for a bit. He knew he should have something, but he wasn't in the mood. "No, you girls go ahead. I'm not hungry right now."
Nikki frowned a bit as she knew he hadn't had anything since the meals he picked at on their flight home. ‘The Arviso family isn't worth having a lack of appetite over.' "Okay. Do you want me to put up some for you to have later?"
There was a rather lengthy silence. Michael wasn't sure if he would be in the mood later, either, but he knew how nurturing Nikki could be and it was hard to refuse when she was like that. "Yes, please."
"Okay. We'll see you later. " After giving Michael hugs and kisses, Nikki and Kerri left the studio with Becky, the latter turning back to mouth the words thank you so much to him.
Michael smiled as he watched the girls leave. He went into the control room to mix the recorded portion of the new single while waiting for Mariann to arrive later on. He had spoken to her awhile ago and hearing her voice helped to free his mind from the Arviso family situation. He was sure her presence would be able to calm his nerves even more. It would be a perfect ending to an otherwise trying day.
Michael was sitting on a sofa in the den with Prince and Paris snuggled against him as he read them a story. Grace was holding Blanket in her lap and feeding him while he did this. After the story was over, the pop star told his children about the different Biblical characters and he answered any questions they had in the simplest way he could. It made his heart soar that they were such enthusiastic learners at their ages.
He was answering a question Paris had about why King Saul wanted to kill David when Nikki entered the den. The young woman smiled as she watched her two younger siblings and father interact.
"Excuse me, Dad," she said, keeping her voice just above a whisper.
"Hang on a moment, okay, Tinkerbell?" he said to Paris. The little girl giggled at the nickname before solemnly nodding. "Okay."
Michael looked up at Nikki. "Hi there. Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong. I just came to tell you Mariann just got here and she's waiting for you in the living room."
His face lit up, and then he caught himself and fought to keep his expression neutral. "Okay. Thank you for telling me. "
"Would.... you mind keeping an eye on Prince and Paris for awhile?" He sounded hesitant, as if he were afraid he was messing up her plans with Becky.
The raven haired teen smiled inwardly. She always loved a chance to spend time with her younger siblings whenever she could. "Of course I will. It's no problem at all."
Michael looked relieved. "Thank you." He closed the Bible and turned to Prince and Paris, who were now sitting up straight. "I'll read more to you at bedtime. You two be good for Nikki, all right?"
"Yes, Daddy," the two children chorused. "We love you very very much!"
"Good. I love you more." He leaned over to kiss both of them on their foreheads and left the den to go to the living room.
Mariann was sitting on the couch, patiently waiting. She let out a sigh of content and smoothed out her floral skirt. She hadn't expected to hear from the King of Pop until the following week so to hear his voice earlier brightened up her day. Although she found it to be so unfortunate that he had to end the vacation on such short notice under less than pleasant circumstances, the selfish part of her was just glad she wouldn't have to wait as long. ‘What's the matter with me? I should be angry that wretched family threw a wrench in his plan, but I can't help it,' she mused, running a hand through her long chocolate colored hair. She was able to keep her mind off of missing him, but just barely. She was grateful to Jamie for letting her spend the night, otherwise she would have driven herself insane thinking of him. ‘I am especially eager to see this surprise he has for me. I'm glad he was able to shop for it.'
A bright smile crept onto her face when she saw Michael entering the living room and walking towards her. Her smile wavered a bit and turned into a slight frown when she noticed he was limping. ‘I take it his leg still hasn't completely healed. Well, at least he will be able to better tend to it.´ "Michael!" she cried out. She got up and strode towards him, throwing her arms around him."I've missed you."
He snaked his arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. "I missed you, too." He held her close and stroked her hair. She let out a soft sigh at the touch of his soft hands, enjoying his warmth. She looked up to gaze into his deep coffee colored eyes. He gazed back into hers.
Everything about him was intoxicating. She almost told him her hidden feelings right then and there, but she was still worried about scaring him off. She knew she had to take the chance and tell him eventually, but felt it was too soon. ‘Come on! Say something!' a voice inside Mariann's head chided her. "Well, it's a pity you and your family didn't get to enjoy the vacation. On the other hand, I am thankful that you have arrived home safely. By the way, I noticed you were limping, although I am happy to see you on your feet again. Is your leg still bothering you?"
Michael pulled away from the embrace before answering the question. "A little. But never mind that now. Come with me." Before Mariann could say anything, he offered her his hand to hold. Nodding lightly, she took his hand and on impulse intertwined her fingers with his own. Smiling, he led her out of the living room and up the stairs. She was curious about where he was taking her and was about to ask until they came to a massive bedroom that was about the size of a house. "I should have guessed, considering I have been up here several times already.' Giving her a charming smile, he led her inside his room, over to the lower bunk bed. "Have a seat," he instructed her.
Mariann did as she was told, wondering what he could possibly have brought her into his room for this time. ‘Could he have something important to tell me? Maybe he has fallen for me, too!' Despite her forty-two years, she felt like a young teenager in love again. She hugged herself and giggled softly. Reality hit her when she saw him remove a small gift bag from the bureau. He came over to her and placed the bag on the bed next to her. "Close your eyes," he told her.
"All right..." she closed her eyes, making sure they were shut tight enough so she wouldn't peep on impulse.
"Make sure you keep them closed until I say to open them again. No peeking."
Mariann let out a huff. "Si senor!"
Michael ignored her sarcastic tone and reached into the bag, pulling out the package with the pendant chain in it. He removed the chain from the package and placed it around her neck before securely latching it. Next he took out the ring box, pulled out the ring and held her left hand, sliding it on her ring finger. "Now open your eyes. "
‘Finally.' Her eyes slowly fluttered open. She felt something around her neck and looked down. She gasped when she saw the pendant necklace. She fingered it a bit and then took a look at the sapphire and diamond studded ring on her left hand. "Wow," she whispered. "These are beautiful! And they match so perfectly!"
Michael smiled. "Do you like them?"
"Yes, I do. Thank you so much!" She stood up to hug Michael.
He hugged her back, chuckling. "You're welcome, although you should be thanking Nikki. She picked them out."
Mariann raised an eyebrow. "Is that right? Well she certainly knows my favorites."
"That she does. The sapphire ring is a promise ring. It's my promise to you that no matter where fate leads us, we will remain friends."
"I would like that." She looked serious. ‘Oh Michael, if you only knew. I feel for you as more than a friend.'
All right, peeps, just noticed I made a slight boo-boo in chapter 11 that I had to go back and correct. As always, let me know if you like where it is going. Shoutout to those who always review..you know who you are. xo
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