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.