Chapter 9

Sparkle and Regina awoke bright and early to do some light holiday shopping in Manhattan. But after discovering she had nothing cute to wear on her date with Michael, Sparkle switched gears and started looking for a dress instead.
   After deciding that everything they saw in Manhattan was bland, they ventured across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, hoping to find something more trendy at one of the many boutique clothing stores.
   "How about this one?" Sparkle asked as she turned around in the mirror to look at her butt.
   "Girl, no! Why are you purposely trying to dress like a grandmother?" Regina laughed.
"This is cute! And it's respectful," she shot back.
   "OK, girl! That's why you haven't had a boyfriend in 2 years."
   Gasping at Regina's remark, Sparkle turned around and looked at her friend in disbelief. "Me not having a boyfriend has been by choice, and besides, I haven't met anyone worthy of that title just yet.
(Well, you have, but he's a celebrity, soooo?) Her brain casually reminded her.
   "All I'm saying is that you need to learn to live a little and take a chance. You never know where it might lead?"
   Thinking about what Regina just said, Sparkle shrugged her shoulders in response.  
   "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt." She replied.
   "You're damn right it wouldn't! You're a beautiful and smart woman! Any man would be lucky to have you." She exclaimed sweetly.
   "Aww... Thanks, girl. Sometimes I need a little pep talk." Sparkle replied as the two embraced warmly.
   After finding a cute and stylish dress that she liked, they headed back to Regina's home so that Sparkle could rest and prepare for her date.

***
   Michael paced around his vast walk-in closet as he tried to figure out what to wear on his date with Sparkle. He didn't want to come off too flashy but not dull either.
   Just before giving up all hope, he noticed an oriental styled blazer hanging in the back of his closet. The blazer was an olive green color with splashes of blue and made of silk.
   "Perfect!" He exclaimed.
   After picking out a pair of black slacks and cowboy boots to complete his ensemble, he decided to give Sparkle a page, hoping she would return his call promptly.
 Beep-beep-beep! Her pager signaled loudly as it vibrated against her hip, startling her awake. Noticing it was Michael's private number, she returned his call immediately.
  "Hey, Michael."
  "Hi Sparkle, were you asleep?" He chuckled, hearing the huskiness in her voice.
  "Yeah... Kinda but I'm awake now!" She yawned.
  "Can you give me the address of where you're staying? I'll come and get you around eight o'clock for our date."
   Opening her eyes wide, she exclaimed, "You're coming? I thought your driver was coming to pick me up and bring me to you?" She said in shock.
  "Look... I want this to feel like a real date, and besides, I don't renew my driver's license every year for nothing." He quipped.
   "Um-- OK, Michael. But I'm worried. What if you get recognized?"
   "Don't worry; I won't. I have tinted windows, and I venture out alone from time to time." He stated frankly.
   "What about Bill?"
   "Oh, he hates it, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him." He laughed.
"What type of car will you be driving? I hope it's not a limo," she teased.
   "Funny, funny har har! No, it's a 91 black Rolls Royce Ms. Smarty pants." He retorted.
   "OK, well, I'll see you later. I have to start getting ready. Be safe, OK?"
   "Don't worry. I will. See you later, Sparkle!"

***
   Sparkle looked herself over once more in the mirror before leaving the bedroom. She wore an all-black, long-sleeved, open back, body-con dress, paired with black ankle strap stiletto's. When she entered the living-room, Regina gasped! "Where did that dress come from?"
   Sparkle did a little spin and said,
   "What do you think?"
   "I think I shouldn't wait up for you!" Regina laughed!
 Honk Honk! A car's horn beeped loudly.
   Looking out of the window, Sparkle recognized the vehicle as being that of the description that Michael gave to her.
   "Gotta go! My dates here." She announced excitedly, running towards the door.
   "Slow your roll, hun! Aren't you forgetting something?" Regina chided while holding up Sparkle's coat.
   "Oooh! Thanks, girl." She replied quickly as she grabbed her coat and dashed out of the door.
   Taking in a deep breath, Sparkle walked towards the car slowly. When she got inside, she screamed in surprise.
   "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry. I must have the wrong car?" She shrieked as she moved quickly to exit the car.
    "Sparkle-- It's me! Michael..." He shouted as he fell back into his seat, laughing profusely.
   "Ugh! You play entirely too much!" She hissed, punching him in the arm. Not wanting to upset her any further, Michael removed his hat, fake mustache, and teeth.  "This is the disguise I use while I'm out in public; it gives me a sense of normalcy and allows me to do things I can't as myself." He said tenderly, as a sad expression fell upon his face.
    "I understand, Michael, come on! Let's get going."
   Sparkle quietly gazed at Michael as he expertly navigated the streets of Manhattan. Catching her staring at him out the corner of his eye, he softly stroked her chin and broke their silence, "We're almost there! I hope you like sushi. I had one of my favorite restaurants shut down, just for us." He smiled.
   "Oh, you didn't have to do that."
   "I know... but I want this evening to be perfect. I'm so happy you agreed to go out with me."
   "No thanks are needed. It's an honor Mr. Jacks-- I mean Michael," she blushed.
Once they arrived safely inside of the restaurant, Michael helped Sparkle remove her coat.
   "Thank you!" She replied to his kind gesture.
   "No problem, the pleasure is all mine, and you look amazing!" He whispered in her ear as his lowly gaze took in her full ensemble, causing his heart to skip a few beats.
   "You don't look too bad yourself, sir. I love this blazer on you. It's beautiful."
   "Thanks, it's just something I found in the back of my closet."
  Michael and Sparkle spent the next two hours talking and laughing at each other's jokes. It had been a long time since either of the two had been out on a date, and they were enjoying every bit of each other's company.
   Michael tried not to ask her too many personal questions, but ever since that night in the limo, he wondered what was wrong with her mom. Sparkle had mentioned that she was sick but didn't go into further detail.
    Now that they seemed to be on better terms, he decided to ask her again since he was genuinely concerned about her mom's well being.
   "So Sparkle... and I hope you don't mind me asking this, but that night in the limo, you mentioned that your mom was sick. Does she have a cold? or is it something more severe?"
   Looking down at her plate, She went silent for a few seconds before speaking again.
   "I don't mind you asking, and it's a little of both. After my parent's divorce, my mom started smoking heavily and was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago." 
   Lifting her chin with his finger so that he could look into her eyes, he stroked her hair gently. "I'm so sorry to hear. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help--"
   Before he could complete his sentence, she broke down crying.
   "Hey, hey... It's gonna alright, come here," he cooed softly.
   Michael knew she wasn't going to come to him, so he got up and sat down next to her.
   Pulling her into his arms, he rocked her back and forth gingerly. "You don't have to tell me more if you don't want to, but I'm curious to know why your parents divorced?"
   "My dad cheated on my mom with a famous actress." She sobbed.
   "Oh, sweetie, how old were you?"
    "Eleven."
    "Do you still speak to your dad?"
    "No, he died of a heart attack when I was seventeen years old."
   "Is this the reason why you didn't want to date me?"
    "It's not that I didn't want to date you per se. I don't trust celebs in general." She tearfully admitted.  
   Trying to hold back his tears, he kissed her gently atop her head.
   "Sparkle, I'm not going to hurt you. I want you to know that. OK? Please trust me. Can you do that? Not all celebrities are bad." He tried to assure her.
   Not wanting to turn into a crying mess, Sparkle redirected their conversation. "I can try Michael, but hey! Change of topic. I have two tickets to 'Def Comedy Jam,' and since you have that, uh... Disguise. Maybe we could sneak in?"
   Michael paused and looked at her sideways.
    "Never-mind, I don't know why I even asked."
"Let's do it! Sure, Bill is going to go crazy when he finds out, but it's not the first time I've gone to a show alone, and it won't be the last!" He replied excitedly.
   "Oh, Word?" She said in surprise.
   "Yes, Word!" He giggled.

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