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)