Chapter 32

       "Has Raven said anything to you about the paternity test?" Symphony asked Michael inquisitively as she massaged his shoulders. "Surely, if you've been notified of the results, then she has as well."

       "Oh, shit! I spoke with Raven yesterday. I meant to tell you last night after Akeelah left, but I was tired from a long day of teaching. I found her sitting alone in my classroom before my first class of the day."

      Eyeing him curiously, Symphony folded her arms and said, "And what did she say?"

       "She's confused... She said she keeps changing her mind on whether or not to keep the baby. I told her that she needs to express her feelings to Todrick before making any rash decisions."

      "Hmm... It sounds like you two were talking for quite some time. I hope you're not all of a sudden cool with her again," Symphony spoke in an icy tone. Though she trusted Michael, it was Raven she didn't. After everything they had been through, she didn't want to deal with any more of Raven's craziness.

      Quickly turning around to face her, Michael grimaced and said, "hell no! Of course not, baby. I just felt as though I should speak with her considering the possibility of me being the father of her child. It wouldn't have been right if I didn't say anything at all. I also didn't want what happened to me to happen to Todrick. It's a pain I'd wish on no man that wants to keep his child. The topic of abortion was so profound to me that I wrote a song about it in 1987 titled Abortion Papers.

       Raising her eyebrows, Symphony exclaimed, "Oh, wow! I didn't know that. Was the song ever released?"

       "No-no. It was shelved. Though I approached the topic carefully, I didn't want to offend women or girls that had gotten abortions or bring back guilt trips."   

      "So why didn't you release it? Was it Sony's decision not to?" Symphony asked curiously. She knew he had sung about other controversial subjects, so why was the topic of abortion any different.

       Leaning back into her arms, Michael closed his eyes and sighed. "Actually, it was mine. Though I was satisfied with how the song turned out, I ultimately decided not to release it. I didn't think the song would be well received."

       Symphony nodded her head and said, "Yes, I agree. With so many varying opinions on the topic, you made the right decision. But back to Raven. Please be careful around her. I understand that you two are co-workers, but she's trouble. I'm ready to move on and focus on planning for our own little baby after we're married."

       Michael chuckled. "Babies! Not baby, as in one. I'm holding you to all ten of them... All squishy ten of them to be exact."


***

       "Baby, where are my cufflinks?" Michael spoke frantically. "They were right here a minute ago."

       Passing his cufflinks to him, Symphony giggled and said, "the suit isn't needed for tonight, Dr. Black. It's only dinner with my parents, not some formal engagement."

       Michael frowned. "I just want to make a good first impression, Beautiful."

       "And you will, sweetheart. Please stop worrying and relax. Tonight is going to be perfect. My parents are going to love you."

      After getting dressed, Michael and Symphony put the final touches on dinner, set the dining room table, and then waited for her parents to arrive. Initially, Michael wanted to make reservations at an expensive restaurant, but Symphony convinced him that dinner at his home would be more relaxing. She knew he wanted everything to be perfect but felt he was a bit over the top. When he suggested they have dinner catered, she thought he had lost his mind, but luckily, she was able to convince him to let her cook for the occasion.

       When the doorbell rang, Symphony and Michael stood up from the sofa simultaneously.

       "They're here!" Symphony shouted gleefully as she darted towards the door.

       After looking through the door's peep-hole, she looked back at Michael and said, "Are you ready?"

       "Yes. I'm ready," he stammered whilst smoothing his hands over his jacket.

         When Symphony opened the door, her mother hugged her tightly and said, "baby! It's so good to see you. I've missed you."


        "I missed you too, mommy! How are you?"


       "I'm good, baby. I'm good. As you know, we're trying to sell our products abroad."


       "Yes, I know. How is it going? Any takers?"


       "Yes! It's been going great. We have buyers in Spain and London."


      "Oh, that's awesome! I'm so glad to hear that you're finally breaking into the foreign market."

      Symphony's father coughed. "Sorry to break up you and your mother's little party, but can we come inside, please? It's cold out here."

       Symphony yelped. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry, daddy. Yes, please... Come in!"

        When Symphony's parents entered into Michael's home, they were taken aback by its elegant decor. Though their own home was exquisite as well, it paled in comparison.

       "Well, at least we know he has money," Symphony's father muttered under his breath.

       "Daddy!" Symphony blurted in shock.

       "Sorry, babygirl. Your last boyfriend didn't have a pot to piss in. Til this day, I still don't know what possessed you to date him."

       Symphony groaned. "Daddy! Please... Not now."

       "Forgive me, babygirl. So uh, where is Michael? I can't wait to meet him."

         "He's right here!" Symphony bellowed. "Or well... He was here a moment ago."

        Since Symphony never turned around after inviting her parents inside, she was unaware that Michael had vanished into thin air — something he had down to a science. She could never figure out how he was able to disappear and reappear without notice.

       "Sorry, Beautiful. I had to use the restroom," Michael spoke apologetically as he wrapped his arms around her from behind.

       Becoming startled, Symphony huffed. "You gotta stop--"

       "Doing that... I know." Michael chuckled, finishing her sentence.

       When Symphony's parents saw that her fiance was not just some regular music professor, their jaws dropped in disbelief. They couldn't believe that the Michael she had told them about was no other than Dr. Black — The music legend that quit the record industry for a teaching career.

       Noticing the mild surprise on their faces, Michael whispered in Symphony's ear, "you didn't tell them who I was, did you?"

      Symphony spoke quietly in return, "No, what was the need? You're my Michael, and that's all they needed to know."

       "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. It's so nice to meet you." Michael spoke warmly as he extended his hand towards them.

       Symphony's mother was the first to speak. "It's so nice to meet you as well, sweetie. And please... Call me Denise," she spoke cheerfully as she ignored Michael's hand, choosing to hug him instead.

       "And you can call me Charles," Symphony's father chimed, as he shook Michael's hand. "A man with a firm handshake is a sign of assuredness, strength, and confidence. I hope you plan to do right by our babygirl — she's the only one we've got."

       Taking Symphony by the hand, Michael stared into her sparkling eyes and said, "yes. She means the world to me. I love her so much."

      Her heart thumping wildly, Symphony gushed, as she returned Michael's loving gaze. "I love you too, sweetheart," she spoke gingerly, giving his hand a light squeeze.

        After enjoying the fantastic meal Symphony prepared, the four of them relaxed in the living-room, chatting about various topics. As the night wore on, Michael's nervousness began to subside. He found Symphony's parents to be laid-back and easy to talk to. Not once did they mention his age or bring up questions about his life before becoming a professor.

       "So, Symphony tells me that you two make organic toiletries." Michael smiled. "As someone who cares deeply for the condition of our planet, I think that's wonderful."

       "Aww. Thanks, sweetie. Denise beamed. The products we create are one hundred percent natural and free of harsh chemicals. We're not sure if Symphony told you, but the reason we started creating toiletries is because of her. As a child, she was allergic to most commercial soaps and lotions."

       Giving Symphony a peck on the cheek, Michael raised his eyebrows in surprise and said, "no, she's never told me."

       "Yeah, babygirl used to break out in all sorts of hives and rashes." Charles sighed. "We eventually found products that were safe for her to use, but none of them were good enough, so we created our own. Symphony still uses our entire line of products." 

      Michael teased. "So, that's why our bathroom resembles the beauty section of a drugstore."

      Playfully punching Michael in the arm, Symphony whispered in his ear, "I'm gonna get you for that."

      Michael smirked. "Mmm. I can't wait, Beautiful."

       As Denise watched Michael and Symphony flirt with one another, she decided it was time they head home. Asides from wanting to give Michael and Symphony their privacy, she and Charles needed to be awake by 5 am.

      "Well, we should get going now. We have an early flight, and your father is a grouch if he doesn't get enough rest," Denise announced abruptly as she tapped Charles on the knee.

      "I am not!" Charles grumbled. "You're the one that needs ten hours of sleep to function properly."

      "I'm going to remember that later tonight, Mr.Wilson," Denise huffed in return.

       Symphony wrinkled her nose. "But it's not that late, mom. Can't you stay a bit longer?"

        Giving her daughter a knowing look, Denise winked and said, "Trust me, baby. Its time for us to go."


***

       Later that night, when Symphony emerged from the bathroom, Michael was grading papers in bed. She loved how handsome he looked in his black-rimmed glasses, though he hated them.

        "You look so sexy, Dr. Black." Symphony wolf-whistled at him as she pretended to fan herself.

       "If you're trying to sweet-talk me into giving you a passing grade, it won't work."

       Symphony shrieked. "There is no way I failed that test!"

      Rushing towards the bed, Symphony straddled Michael's lap, attempting to snatch her paper out of his hand.

      "Let me see!" she yelped.

       Michael chuckled as he closed his folder shut, then wrapping his hands around her waist."God, you're so easy to trick. Now I have you right where I want you."

       "So now that you have me, what are you going to do?"

        His demeanor turning serious, he caressed the side of her face and said, "talk."

      "About?"

       "Us."

      "What about us?"

       Stroking her lips with his thumb, he closed his eyes and said, "am I what you want? I don't want to stand in the way of your dreams. I've lived my life and accomplished a lot; I don't want to hinder you from doing the same."

       "And you won't," Symphony spoke tenderly, as she placed her hands behind his neck. "We spoke about this, remember? I want to be a music teacher, and I'd still love to perform classical music when I can. That's not going to be hard for me to do."

      Michael sighed. "I know you can do it, Symphony. I just don't want you putting your life on hold for me. Having a husband and kids is a big responsibility. You're still young... I don't want to hold you back.

      Symphony kissed the tip of his nose and giggled. "I'm thirty years old, Michael. I'm not that young. But with that being said, I know where you're coming from. Don't worry, baby. If I didn't want to get married to you or have your babies, I wouldn't be here right now. So, please — stop worrying. Everything will work itself out.

       "Thank-you, Beautiful."

       "For what?"

       "For being you."

       When Michael pulled her close to him for a kiss, the doorbell rang. "I wonder who that could be at this hour?"

       "Just ignore it." Symphony whispered as she crushed her mouth to his."

         "Your mouth is so sweet. I can't wait to make you my wife," Michael murmured against her lips, as the doorbell rang a second time.

       "What the hell?" Symphony hissed, "this is insane!"

       "I better get that," he groaned. "Someone might need help."

       As Michael made his way downstairs, Symphony followed close behind.

       "Baby, just wait right here," he spoke in a hushed tone.

      "No! It's almost midnight. It could be anyone at the door. I don't want you getting hurt."

       "Ok, but please stay behind me. We both don't need to get whacked in the head."

        When Michael looked through the door's peephole, he let out a heavy sigh and said, "Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore — tell me what thy lordly name is on the night's Plutonian shore!"

       Twisting her lips, Symphony rolled her eyes and said, "it's Raven, isn't it?"

       His voice filled with sarcasm, he snickered. "How'd you guess?"

      Flinging the door open, Michael spoke in an exasperated tone. "Please don't show up to my home unannounced. It's disrespectful to my fiancee and me. And according to Peabody's code of conduct, you're putting both of our jobs at risk. Now, what do you want?"

      When Symphony felt Michael's body go rigid, she rubbed his arm and said, "ease up, baby. Let's listen to what she has to say."

      Making brief eye contact with Symphony before directing her attention back towards Michael, Raven spoke apologetically. "You're right, and I'm sorry. I just came to say goodbye. I resigned from my job today, and I'll be moving to San Francisco with Todrick. I took your advice and discussed things over with him. I'm going to keep the baby."

       Just as Michael was about to respond, a car's horn began to beep. "Well, I have to go now. That's Todrick signaling me to wrap things up. We're flying out tonight, but I told him I needed to make a stop before heading to the airport. I'm sorry to have disturbed you and Symphony."

     Feeling his annoyance subside, Michael flashed a compassionate smile and said, "take care of yourself and the baby."

      "Thanks. I will," Raven replied somberly, and without uttering another word, she turned and walked away.

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