Chapter 4

    As Michael was taking a shower to prepare for the day, his 1983 hit single: "P. Y. T." started playing on the bathroom radio. 

"Nothin' can stop this burnin'

Desire to be with you

Gotta get to you baby

Won't you come, it's emergency

Cool my fire yearnin'

Honey, come set me free

Don't you know now is the perfect time

We can dim the lights

Just to make it right

In the night

Hit the lovin' spot

I'll give you all that I've got."

    "Leila?" He whispered to himself as an image of the beautiful woman he met years ago popped into his brain. 

    Before meeting his now-deceased wife, Michael would often think about his one-night stand with Leila, but once he got married, he pushed those thoughts out of his brain. 

    He would always tell himself that if he met Leila under different circumstances, he would have liked to get to known her better, but unfortunately, she was engaged to be married. 

    Just as Michael was getting out of the shower, his telephone rang. It was housekeeping calling to see if he wanted his condo cleaned while he was out for the day. 

    Michael knew that at some point, he eventually needed to get his place cleaned. Whenever he got into one of his depressive moods over the passing of his wife and baby, he'd lock himself inside of his condo for weeks on in, not taking care of the place or himself.

    After letting house-keeping know that it would be ok for them to clean up, he picked out some clothes and got dressed for the day. 

    He was due in the studio to work on a new charity single of his, and later, he had plans to hit up a small toy store he liked. It was no 'Fao Schwarz,' but at least they had a great selection of games, and it wasn't too far from his condo.


***

Later that afternoon, Michael arrived at the studio to lay down his vocals for the charity single 'What more can I give?' The idea for the song came to him after a meeting with the President of South Africa 'Nelson Mandela'. 

    As Michael began to sing, he could feel his vocal cords becoming tighter with each note. He knew that it was probably due to his above normal alcohol consumption. Before he started drinking heavily, he didn't have too many issues with his voice. 

   Clearing his throat once more, he sang the opening lines: "How many people will have to die before we will take a stand? How many children will have to cry before we do all we can? If sending your love is all you can give, to help one live."

    After being satisfied with the 2nd take, he proceeded to sing the second verse, but this time he started coughing. 

    "Is everything alright, Michael?" Bruce Swedien," his engineer called through his headset. 

    "Yeah yeah... Everything is OK, Bruce. I just have a little cold." He lied, not wanting Bruce to the know the truth. 

   Taking a sip of hot water, his beverage of choice while recording, he called out. "Let's try it again, please... From the second verse."

    Once again, he felt the need to clear his throat. The more he sang, the more mucus-filled his lungs. He knew that recording would be a challenge, but he didn't think it would be this bad.

    He had been singing around his apartment in the previous weeks with the occasional cough, but it seemed to have gotten worse overnight. 

    Yanking the headphones off his head, he stormed out of the studio without giving Bruce any explanation what so ever. 

    When Bruce looked around for Michael, he found him sitting alone in the adjacent break room with all of the lights turned off.


    "Is everything alright, Michael?" Bruce asked concernedly."


    "Not really... Let's just call it a day Bruce. I'm not feeling particularly well. I'll call you later to reschedule our session, Ok?"


    "Sure thing Mike. Take care of yourself, and I'll catch you later." Bruce chimed, hugging Michael before he left.


Throwing a book across the room, Michael banged his head against the wall."Fuck!" He yelled out in frustration. 

    At the sound of the doorknob turning, Michael jumped up quickly. "Ready to go, Mike?" Wayne asked briskly, pulling out a walkie-talkie from his pants pocket. 

    "Yeah... Just give me a few minutes, Wayne."

    "Sure thing, boss, just meet me at the back exit." 

    As they made their way to the toy store, Michael placed a call to the store's manager, asking if they would be willing to close so that he could shop privately. 

    Sure enough, the manager agreed, telling Michael to take as much time as he needed.    

After hanging up the phone, Michael told Wayne that he would be taking a short nap and not to awake him until they reached their destination.


***

In the next couple of weeks, Leila's favorite cousin was having a baby shower. Not wanting to shop at the last minute, Leila made her way down to 'Kip's Toyland.' 

    During her drive to the store, Leila had become overwhelmed with emotion. Pulling over on the side of the road, she began to cry at the thought of never being able to buy toys for children of her own. 

    A few years into her marriage with Calvin, Leila had become pregnant twice but had miscarried each time. When the doctor told her that she would never be able to conceive children due to infertility, she took it as a sign that maybe she wasn't cut out to be a mother. 

    In hindsight, she also thought it was a good thing. Calvin was already abusive towards her, and she didn't want to bring a baby into an unstable environment. 

    When Leila arrived at the toy store, she was relieved to find it virtually empty. She didn't care too much for crowds and just wanted to shop in peace. 

    While Leila was shopping, the store's manager notified it's customers one by one that they had to leave due to an early closing, but somehow he missed seeing Leila hidden away in a small corner of the store. 

    When Michael's car pulled up to the back of Kip's, he was still knocked out asleep.

    "We're here!" Wayne announced loudly, startling Michael awake. 

    "God-Jeeze Wayne! You almost gave me a heart attack." Michael shouted. 

    "Sorry, Boss!" 

    "Sorry, my ass," Michael mumbled under his breath as he exited the car. 

    Once inside of the store, Michael quietly browsed around, picking out several video games and movies. 

    Making his way to a small nook of the store, his heart dropped instantly when he saw her. 

    Nearing closer to the beautiful woman in the corner, his breath got caught in his throat. 

    "Leila? Leila James?" He spoke quietly but loud enough so that she could hear him. 

    Snapping up straight from the book she was reading, Leila stood frozen, unable to move. 

    After coming to her senses, she and Michael walked quickly towards each other simultaneously. 

    "Oh my! I... I can't believe this." He exclaimed softly. 

    "Wow... Just wow!" She beamed. "Neither can I." 

     Pulling her into a tender embrace, he smoothed his hand over her hair and down her back.      

    As his hands rested gently around her waist, Leila reached up towards his face, pulling down the silk mask he wore. 

    "Sorry... Your voice is a little muffled under there." She teased, eliciting a small chuckle from him.


    "God, Leila! How have you been?"


    "I'm doing OK, Michael. And you?"


     "Oh-- I'm doing alright. But WOW! GEE... This is such a pleasant surprise."


When the store manager and Wayne saw Michael speaking to Leila, they became alarmed and rushed over. Putting up his hand, Michael let them know that everything was ok and to give them some privacy. 

    Returning his attention to Leila, he cupped her face with both of his hands."What are you doing after this?" He asked eagerly. 

   "Oh... nothing much. What's up? God, it's so great to see you," she gushed. 

   "It's great seeing you too, Leila... Would you mind having a late lunch with me back at my place? I'd love to catch up with you."

    "Hmm, I guess I can manage that." She replied in a cute tone. 

    Feeling relieved that he allowed for his condo to be cleaned, he replied. "Great! We can decide what to eat back at my place."

    After introducing Leila to Wayne as an old friend of his, they headed to the register to make their purchases. 

    When Michael gave his items to the clerk, he quickly took Leila's items out of her hands and paid for them as well. Usually, Leila would have protested, but she didn't have enough time to respond. 

    As they made their way to Michael's car, he guided her in the right direction by gently placing his hand on the small of her back. Without thinking, he began to stroke her lower-back with his thumb. "Mmm," she purred quietly before turning it into a fake cough. 

    "Are you OK, Leila?" He asked sweetly, biting down on his bottom lip. 

   "Y-yes, I'm fine, Michael." She stuttered. 

    As Leila's body became instantly heated by his gentle caress, she began to have second thoughts about going back to his place alone.


   It almost felt like 1984 all over again...

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