Blues Away: Baby Be Mine

(A Short Valentine's Day Story)

February 1983

    "You can't be serious!" Michael huffed, his mouth agape, as his long fingers hovered over the Harrison 32C mixing console inside 'Studio A' of Westlake Studios. "That's this Sunday—Valentine's Day!"
    "So what?" His manager, Freddy DeMann, replied nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders.
    "So what? Michael narrowed his eyes and shot back, his voice going up a register. "I have plans to spend Valentine's Day with my girlfriend! That's what!"
    "Well, cancel them! The record label wants you to attend the Grammy Awards with Jayne Kennedy . . . You know, the hot model and actress."
    Michael paused. "Isn't she married?"
    "Recently divorced."
    "Well, Regardless. I'm not interested. I just completed my album—and I'm looking forward to spending a romantic evening at home with Liana. I don't even know how she's put up with me these last eight months. I've been in the studio non-stop . . . I'm surprised she hasn't broken up with me.   
    "Listen, Mike. I understand you have a girlfriend and all, but your album is finally rising on the charts. This is just for promotion. You've been in the business long enough to know how this all works."
    Michael scowled. "Yes, I do. And I can't entirely agree with it. The label can set me up on fake dates, but yet I have to tiptoe around with my real girlfriend."
    "Thriller is well on its way to becoming number one, and we want to keep it that way! You've worked so hard on it. Come on! Just this one time to stir up some extra excitement for the album."
    "Extra excitement, you say . . . I have several short-film projects lined up along with a few performances and appearances—that should be enough!" Michael retorted and then rose to his feet. "I'm sorry, Freddy, but I can't agree to this."

Later that day

     "Hey, baby!" Liana squealed, sitting upright. "I wasn't expecting you so soon. How'd the studio session go?"
    Taking a seat beside her on the couch, Michael fell back against the plush pillows, A look of disdain appearing on his face as he looked up towards the ceiling. "All was going great until my manager showed up."
    "Oh, God! What does Freddy want you to do now?" She muttered, placing a soft kiss on his cheek. Liana knew all too well the demands of Hollywood. As a former child star turned successful actress, she held the greatest sympathy for Michael.
    "He wants me to attend the Grammys," Michael grumbled.
    "So, what's so bad about that? Are you nominated in any categories? If that's the case—I don't see why you're upset? You've worked very hard on Thriller. You should be elated!"
    Michael banged the back of his head against the couch and sighed. "No. I'm not nominated. The album came out last December. It's not qualified for nomination until later next year."
    "Sorry, baby. I don't know how any of that goes. I'm pretty clueless on how the music industry works."
    Cupping her face, he closed his eyes and kissed her full and luscious lips. They had been dating for over a year, and Michael felt she was the best thing that ever happened to him. She knew the emotional turmoil that came with being a celebrity and was a great support to him. She was a great listener, and he could always count on her to make him smile.
    As Michael placed a trail of kisses along every inch of Liana's rich, Sienna brown skin, he lowered her onto the couch until she lay in a suspined position. "No need to feel sorry, sweetheart," he uttered against her ear. "We'll discuss this another time. Right now, I just want to get lost inside your love."
    "You can see inside me, Will you come inside me? Do you wanna ride inside, my love?" Liana shot him a smoldering glance as she sang the sultry Minnie Ripperton lyric against his lips.
    Michael chuckled. "Don't forget to hit the high note."
    "Don't you worry, baby. I will. When you hit my lovin' spot, I'll hit that high note with ease."
    After an hour of hot and steamy lovemaking, Michael held Liana in his arms, warm breath nuzzling her ear. "It's late; you should stay the night."
    "But Baby," she groaned. "I forgot to pack my overnight bag."
    "Liana, please," he pleaded. "I miss spending time with you. I only have a few weeks off before I start shooting videos for Thriller."
    "Aww. I miss you too, baby." She cooed, turning to face him. "Well, if you don't mind me having Franken breath in the morning, then I'll stay."
    "Hmm . . . Perhaps you should go home. I've caught a whiff of that before and--"
    "Ugh! Really?" Liana scoffed, scooting away from him.
    "Girl, calm down! I'm only joking." Michael laughed, his full set of pearly whites on display. "I'll have my bodyguard, Bill, pick up whatever you need in the morning."
    Pulling the covers over their heads, Liana giggled and said, "I'm so happy you got your own place. Finally, we have complete freedom and privacy—we don't have to keep quiet while making love."
    "Thank God for Hayvenhurst being renovated. If not for that, I don't think my parents would have been too keen on me moving out."
    "But you're a grown man."
    "Yes. You and I know that. But unless there's a contract for me to sign or some other pressing matter, they treat me like a three-year-old. However, I'll be turning twenty-five this year—I had to move out sometime, you know?"
    "Yes. I know. I'm so proud of you for doing what makes you happy."
    Michael smiled. "Before meeting you, I wouldn't have dared to move out . . . I'd die of loneliness. But now, since I have you in my life, I'm not lonely anymore. I feel like I can do anything with you by my side."
    "Oh, baby!" Liana gushed, wrapping her arms around the back of his neck. "I feel the same about you."
    Rolling Liana underneath him, he sank between her thighs—their bodies quivering against each other. "God, how I've missed you," he muttered against her neck, inhaling the sweet scent of her floral perfume. "I love you, baby."
    "I love you too," Liana whispered as Michael deepened his kiss against her neck. Though Michael was extremely shy when they first met, he was now at a point where he felt completely relaxed with her. Liana had captured his heart, and he was completely enthralled with her. He didn't meet many women like himself, which made him fall head over heels for her. Like he, she was reserved, soft-spoken, and cared deeply for others. And though marriage was the last thing on his mind—he could easily see himself spending the rest of his life with Liana—as long as their relationship continued to grow and prosper.

    "Good morning, Michael. I can't wait for our date," a smokey and eloquent voice echoed from the answering machine, leaving Liana completely floored. "When you get the chance, please call me at your earliest convenience."
    Though the message pierced Liana's heart, she didn't want to jump to conclusions. Sometimes fans would get ahold of Michael's phone number and leave all sorts of crazy messages.
    Moments later, Michael emerged from the bathroom. He had just taken a shower and was dripping wet. With only a towel slung around his waist, he immediately rushed over to Liana, sitting crossed leg on the bed. "Is everything all right?" He asked, concernedly, settling down beside her. Asides from her gloomy expression, he thought she looked adorable. She was wearing his favorite Mickey Mouse shirt, and her hair was pinned up in a messy bun.
    Liana drew a deep breath and said, "Um, I'm not sure how to ask you this, so, if you could do me a favor—please check the last message on your answering machine."
    "Ok," he replied slowly, an unsettling feeling forming in the pit of his stomach.
    When Michael hit play on the answering machine, his eyes bulged out of its sockets. "I can't believe this!" He uttered angrily. "I told him I wasn't interested."
    Liana narrowed her eyes at him. "He?"
    Michael sighed. "Yes, he. As in Freddy, my manager. My record company wants to set me up on a date with the actress Jayne Kennedy, but I declined. Freddy or the record company must have completely ignored my wishes and did what the hell they wanted. I assume that was Jayne calling at their request."
    Liana had never heard Michael curse before, so she believed he must be telling the truth. He seemed to be just as shocked as she about the phone-message. "So, what are you going to do?" She asked earnestly. Though she knew the demands of Michael's manager and record company, him going out on a date with another woman was not something she was looking forward to.
    "Liana, come on now. You know what I'm going to do. I already told you that I declined."
    "Are you sure that's what you want to do? I don't want to come between you and your record company. I know how these riffs can cause a falling out. The same happened with my agent and me. If I had gone ahead and posed nude for Playboy, I wouldn't have been kicked off my last sitcom."
    Michael took her hand in his and said, "Liana, please listen to me. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. Don't worry."
    "Ok, sweetie. Well, uh . . . You should dry off." She smiled weakly, eyeing the small droplets of water cascading down his shivering body. "I don't want you catching a cold."
    Michael searched her eyes and still saw the sadness behind them. It was what he was trying to avoid. He knew he should have told Liana about the fake date sooner, but he didn't know-how. He was furious about the entire situation and didn't want her to feel like she was a factor in his angst.
    Attempting to lighten the mood. Michael licked his lips and said, "would you mind helping me towel off?"
    Liana giggled, smoothing her thumb across the soft hair of his whispy mustache. "Of course, baby. Where shall I start first?"

    Later the next afternoon, Michael found himself seated at a large conference table. As he peered through his black aviator shades, his facial expression was of stone—displaying little to no emotion.
    After Liana left his condo earlier that afternoon, he called an emergency meeting with his manager and a few CBS Records executives. Though he was a bit nervous, he had no other choice. Going on a date with any woman other than his girlfriend was not up for debate.
    Swiveling in his chair, Michael leaned his head to the side and said, "All right, listen. I'm willing to make a compromise. How about letting me attend the Grammys with my girlfriend, Liana Carroll? She's also a hot actress with many adoring fans."
    "A former hot actress." One of the record label execs, Brian Ringwall, replied. "She's been blacklisted by most of the higher-ups in Hollywood."
    Michael scoffed. "Which is downright dirty! All because she took a stand for herself!"
    "Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but she's not good for your brand."
    "According to who?"
  "Michael, please," Freddy interjected. "Settle down."
    Michael turned to Freddy and said, "Who is this guy? I'd like to speak with the CEO of CBS. I thought he was to attend today's meeting?"
     "Sorry, Mike. He's out of the country on extended business. But rest assured, Mr. Ringwall is handling all of the companies most urgent affairs. He knows what's best."
     Brian snickered. "Listen to your manager, sir. It's for your own good."
    "Is that a threat?" Michael snarled.
    "It's not a threat—but a guarantee," Brian said in a snarky tone as he left the conference room, slamming the door shut behind him.
    "This is insane," Michael threw up his hands and shouted. "I'm an artist! Not a slave . . . What gives them the right to think they can have such control over my life?"
    Freddy patted Michael on the shoulder and said, "it's just one date, Michael. It'd be in your best interest if you complied with the record company's request."
A week later

    "Hey, sweetie. Please return my calls. I'm worried sick about you," Michael implored tearfully when Liana's answering machine picked up. It had been over a week since he last heard from her. The longest she'd ever gone without contacting him was two days at most. He knew she was ok because every time he called her mother's home, he received the same answers repeatedly.
     "She's busy."
     "She just left the house."
     "She said she'd call you later."

    It was plain to see she was avoiding him—and it hurt him to his core. Liana was always so accepting of his life, career, and schedule. The many weeks they went without seeing each other, the numerous dates and plans he canceled at a moment's notice, avoiding being seen together because it might cost him record sales if his female fans knew he was in a relationship—the list went on and on. It was no wonder she finally got tired of it all, he thought.
    Later that day, Michael managed to get in contact with Walter Yetnikoff, the CEO of CBS Records. The meeting left him feeling incensed, and he needed to express his grievances. He knew his worth and would no longer allow any record company, exec, manager—or anyone push him around. "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" He pondered—Matthew 16:26.
    Though Michael wanted his music to entertain and inspire, he refused to change for anyone.
  By the end of the call, Walter apologized profusely for the executive's poor behavior and informed Michael it wouldn't happen again. Walter had personally overseen the recording of Thriller and knew Michael was a great businessman—he didn't want to lose him as an artist. 
    "Well, that went better than I thought," Michael said quietly, emitting a deep breath. "Next up is Freddy." During his chat with Walter Yetnikoff, he was surprised to learn that Freddy had failed to present his promotion scheme to Frank DiLeo, the vice president for promotion at Epic Records. Michael and his brothers signed with Epic in 1975—a subsidiary of CBS Records.
    In light of Freddy's mishap, Michael felt he could no longer trust his business affairs to him.
  "Hello, Mr. DeMann, this is Mr. Jackson," Michael said in his most professional tone.  The last time he called Freddy by his last name was when he hired him in 1978. At first, Freddy was easy to work with, but shortly after Michael's album Off the Wall was released, Freddy started to become insufferable. From the numerous promises Freddy made on Michael's behalf—to signing contracts without his consent; Michael knew he should have fired him over a year ago, but he didn't have the heart to do so at the time. But that was then, and this was now. Suppose he wanted to have any control over his life and career, he would have to do what was necessary without remorse. It was nothing personal—just business.
  "Hey, Mike! What's up!" Freddy greeted cheerfully. "Have you gotten a chance to speak with Jayne yet?"
    Michael pulled the phone away from his ear and grimaced. "Really?" He exclaimed in a hushed tone, twisting his lips.
    Returning the receiver to his ear, Michael took a deep breath and said, "Yeah, um . . . about Jayne. I won't be attending the Grammys with her. Oh, and by the way—you're fired!"
    Michael hung up the phone without giving Freddy a chance to respond. To his surprise, he didn't feel bad about what he had done but rather—empowered. He was an adult and wanted to live his life as he saw fit. And now, with his new-found assertiveness, he was determined to prove to Liana just how much she meant to him.

Valentine's Day

  When Liana returned home later that day, she plopped down on her couch. She usually didn't attend auditions on Sunday's, but it was Valentine's day, and she was trying to keep herself busy. Although she missed Michael, she felt avoiding him was for the best. Eventually, he would grow tired of trying to make contact with her and move on.
  Her eyelids growing heavy, Liana drifted off into a light slumber—but her rest didn't last long. Thirty minutes later, she was startled awake by the radio. "Damn! Technology." She huffed. Her radio's timer was set for 4 pm. The time she began getting ready for a date with Michael two weeks ago.
    Liana groaned. She was in no mood to listen to the DJ's chitter-chatter—or music for that matter.
    As she rubbed her eyes, attempting to shake off her nap, the DJ's voice boomed: "Here at KJLH, our slogan is 'Kindness, Joy, Love & Happiness.' So, as a gift to our listeners, we're opening our airwaves to on-air Valentine's request—and here to kick things off, we have none other than Mr. Michael Jackson! Go ahead, Michael. You're live!"
    "Hello, thanks for having me on," Michael said softly, his voice beginning to falter. "I'd like to dedicate the song, "Blues Away," by the Jackson's to my baby, Liana. She means the world to me, and I love her very, very much." Blues Away was the first published song Michael had written, and its lyrics explicitly matched his mood.
    As Liana listened to the sweet but sad song, a tear escaped her eye. It was as if Michael was speaking directly to her heart.

"Hey, babe
What's your thinking
No darlin'
It won't, won't change my mind

But you can't take my blues away
Now tell me what you say, babe
You can't take my blues away
No matter what you say
What you say, hey, babe

This way I feel
I know that's it's true
Because it's for you
You know that it's true
But you try to be
Hard to resist
I ask what it's for
You know you close the door."

    "Why did I have to fall in love with you," Liana murmured, swiping away the waterfall of tears flowing down her heated cheeks. "Just move on and forget about me."
    Moments later, a knock sounded on Liana's door. After checking to see who it was, she flung the door open.
    Michael stood silent with tears in his eyes. It looked as though he had been crying for hours. His usually neat curl was disheveled, and his clothing was a crumpled mess. "May I come in?" He said softly, breaking the silence between them.
    Liana gently took Michael by the hand, pulling him inside. Wrapping her arms around him, she placed her head on his shoulder and began to sob. "I love you, Michael. God knows I do, but this isn't going to work. I don't want our relationship getting in the way of your success."
  "Please, don't say that, baby," Michael replied, brushing his lips across her forehead. "I'm not saying it won't be hard, but we have to try at least."
  Liana pressed her forehead against Michael's and smiled. "I can't believe you professed your love to me on national radio. You've just broken a million hearts, you know?"
    Michael simpered. "Be that as it may, it's by far time that I start doing what's right for me. And to get the ball rolling, I fired Freddy after I had a chat with the CEO of CBS Records."
    "Wow! How did it go?"
    "Hmm . . . I think it went well, but I'm sure Freddy isn't too happy. I didn't even give him a chance to respond. As far as I'm concerned—he and I are done. I hung up the phone immediately after I fired him."
    "Whoa! And what about the CEO of CBS? How did that conversation go."
    "Better than expected. I expressed my displeasure, and he apologized for one of the executive's antics. The guy basically threatened me."
    Liana sighed. "Gee, I'm so sorry, Michael. But see, this is why--"
    Michael cupped Liana's chin. "Stop, baby. Just stop," he gently chided. "Please shut up and kiss me."
    "Mmm... I think I like this new attitude, Mr. Jackson." Liana purred, devouring his lips. "Happy Valentine's Day, baby."
    "Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart," he answered back through shallow breath, his heart pounding in his chest.
    As their gazes locked, Michael smiled at her with molten desire and sang:

"Girl, I need to hold you
Share my feelings in the heat of love's embrace
Show you all the passion burning in my heart today
It's never gonna fade
So baby, be mine."

The End.
"Happy Valentine's Day to all those that celebrate."


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