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.'