Chapter 8

    When Michael awoke the next morning, he had a massive headache. He was due in the studio at noon but much rather stayed in bed. 

    Trying to pull himself together, he swung his long legs over the edge of the bed. "Why am I naked?" He thought to himself. It's not as though he never slept naked; he just didn't remember taking his clothes off the night before. 

    As he looked around for his phone, he started to remember what he did the night before. Ever since he started drinking heavily, his short-term memory was getting worse and worse. 

    At the sudden ring of his phone, he ran over to the corner where he had thrown it the night before. 

    "Hello?" He answered quickly, hoping it was Leila. 

     "Hey Michael this is Seth, are you ready to do your vocal warm-ups this morning? You're due in the studio at noon, correct?"

    Turning the phone away from his mouth, he mumbled under his breath, "shit!"

Seth Riggs was an amazing vocal coach and had been training Michael for years. The man was pure magic and could usually work wonders on his voice, but today it just wasn't gonna happen. His throat was far too raw and scratchy; he could barely speak without pain. 

    Just as Michael was about to answer, he felt a massive tremble in his stomach. Dropping the phone to the floor, he made a beeline for the bathroom. 

   [Blargh-cough-cough] "Fuck!" He shouted as he leaned over the toilet. Cleaning himself up quickly, he rushed back to the phone. Not wanting to tell Seth the truth, he made up something on the fly. 

    "I'm sorry, Seth, I uh... I'm not going to be able to do vocal warm-ups today. I've seemed to come down with a virus or something. I'll call Bruce and let him know that I won't be in the studio today."


"OK, Michael, take care of yourself. You know where to reach me when you're ready."


"Thanks, Seth! I'll do that. Have a nice day."


Once again, Michael's drinking had gotten in the way of his work. He knew he couldn't stay on this path for much longer, but he also didn't know how to stop it. 

    Every time he would try to quit, the longest he could go without having a drink was three days tops. Whenever he started to feel depressed over his deceased wife and baby, he was back to chugging down a few bottles a day. And now, with the frustration he was feeling over Leila added into the mix, he felt even more defeated. 

    Deciding to be productive for the day, he figured he'd try to write a song. It was the least he could do if he weren't going to make it into the studio. He had been tinkering around with some lyrics, as Leila had been the inspiration for them. 

[I don't want the sun to shine I want to make love... Just this magic in your eyes and in my heart. I don't know what I'm gonna do I can't stop lovin' you. I won't stop 'til break of dawn makin' love.]

    Smiling down at his notebook, he began to reminisce about his night with Leila in 1984. He had never been so enthralled with a woman up until that point. 

    When he first met Leila, her hair was blowed-out straight but thick. She had the most beautiful plump lips he'd ever seen and an ass to die for. 

    He had never been so bold in approaching a woman in all his life, but he couldn't resist her. If she hadn't snuck out of his penthouse that night, he wouldn't have let her get away so easily. 

   And to be completely honest, he would have pursued her-- engaged or not. He was a young man back in those days with the world as his oyster. But being the humble guy that he was, he never let his fame get to his head.


***


It had been over a week since Michael last heard from Leila. He kept trying to call her but was sent to her voicemail every single time. 

    Glancing over at his clock, he noticed that it was 8 am. If memory served him correctly, Leila walked the dogs at the park every weekday morning around this exact time. 

    Not wanting to waste an extra second, he threw on a quick disguise and headed for the park. 

    After parking his car in a nearby lot, he investigated his surroundings before getting out. He knew that traveling alone could be dangerous, but there were times when he just wanted to get up and go without a security detail. 

     Not long after entering the park, he spotted Leila sitting on a bench reading a book. 

    [Ruff Ruff] Bo barked loudly, causing her to look up from the story she had been lost in. 

    "Hey, Bo!" Michael greeted the puppy cheerfully. 

    "Michael? What are you doing here?" Leila exclaimed in shock. 

    "I've been trying to reach you for over a week, Leila. Why aren't you taking my calls?" He spoke sadly. 

    Holding her hands up, she shook her head sideways.


     "Please, Michael... I can't discuss this."


     "Why not?"


     "Because it's complicated."


     "Why, Leila? Is it because we kissed?"


Placing her face down in her hands, Leila began to weep. "I'm sorry, Michael. I'm dealing with a lot right now."

    After taking a seat beside her, he pulled her into his arms. "It's OK, Leila. Please-- just tell me what's going on... Don't block me out."

     Pulling out of his arms, she started wiping her tears away. "It's my husband. He's not very kind to me."

     "Go on; you can tell me anything." He reassured her. 

     "He basically treats me like shit most of the time, calls me names, has me following insane rules like I'm a child or something... Oh! And he's been cheating on me."

    Before asking his next question, He swallowed hard. "Has he put his hands on you?"

     "No-no. He hasn't-- but the other day he grabbed me roughly by the arm. He's never hit me. This was the first time he's ever gotten physical."

    Stroking her cheek, he let out a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry for how he's treating you, But why are you still with him?"

     "Because...  I mean. How would I survive? I haven't worked in years, and I don't want to move back home. I also still care for him... Somewhat."

     Looking at her incredulously, he blurted. "Really? But he's hurting you, Leila. You don't deserve to be treated that way."

    When Leila stood up from the bench, Michael placed his hands on her hips.    

    "Please, Leila, don't vanish on me again. I'm happy that we've gotten a chance to reconnect. Maybe it's for a reason?" He whispered, looking upwards at her. 

     "I'm not leaving, Michael. Look-- I'm sorry for not returning your calls, but you've got to understand how I feel. I shouldn't have kissed you."

     "But I also kissed you back, and for the record, I don't regret it considering the circumstances with your husband."

    As Michael stood up slowly, he let his hands glide along either side of her body. 

     Wrapping his arms tenderly around her waist, he kissed her deeply. "This is how a man should touch you, Leila."

   Caressing his back lightly, Leila moaned when Michael kissed her neck. "You're incredible, Leila. I can't get enough of you." He inhaled and exhaled deeply. 

    "Michael, please-- don't."

    "Don't what? Touch you how a woman should be touched? Treat you with care?" He replied tenderly as he placed a delicate kiss on her earlobe. 

   In that precise moment, Michael no longer cared about her being married. He just wanted to love, feel, and kiss every single inch of her. But still-- not wanting to rush things, he stepped away from her before he lost all control. 

     "I have to go now, but I'll call you tonight.  Please answer the phone, OK?"

     After catching her breath, the only thing that Leila could do was nod her head, "Yes," as he left her standing completely speechless.

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