Chapter 15

    "I can't believe he brought another woman into our home... our bed! But hell, who am I the one to talk?"

[It's not the same, Leila! You'd never bring another man into the house.] Her brain shouted back. 

    "Even if so-- I'm no better than Calvin. Me and Michael have been making love. I've cheated as well."

    Sitting in an empty parking lot, Leila cried her eyes out. [Why don't you just Leave Calvin? Think about what Michael said.] Her brain replied once more. 

    "But how would I survive? I haven't had a job in years! I'm not going back home, and I can't ask Michael to help me. I won't! And besides... Who knows how he really feels about me? I'm probably just another notch on his belt."

    As Leila's body began to shake, she frantically took a small baggy out of her pocket. Usually, she'd only use half, but due to the rough night she was having, she felt a bit more was needed. Her nerves were wrecked, and she desperately needed her escape.

      

***

    "Hello-- you're Marcel Jackson correct?

    "Y-yes Doctor, that's correct." He spoke nervously. 

     "Thank you for coming down. My staff and I were getting a little worried. We tried contacting several contacts in Leila's cell-phone, but you were the only one we were able to reach. May I ask what your relationship to the patient is? Sorry-- I didn't get a chance to ask over the phone." The doctor inquired politely. 

   Without hesitation, Michael told the doctor he was Leila's husband. He feared if he said anything; otherwise, he ran the risk of not being allowed to see her. 

    As Michael's heart pounded heavily in his chest, he tried his hardest to keep from crying. "Can I see her?" Is she alright? He asked the doctor nervously. 

    "Yes, Mr. Jackson-- Leila is recovering just fine and should be awake now, but please... Calm down. Leila is in a fragile state and shouldn't be put under any extra stress." The doctor explained firmly. 

    Michael nodded, his heart now beating regularly."Thank you, Doctor-- I understand."

    Entering the room slowly, Michael removed his disguise: A fake mustache, false teeth, and baseball cap.

    Placing his hand on her shoulder, he announced softly. "Hey, sweetheart-- It's Michael."

    Flipping onto her right-side so that she was facing him, her eye's welled up with tears. "Oh, my God! What are you doing here?" 

    "I got a call from the hospital yesterday. They said you were found passed out in your car."

    Leila sat up. "Oh no! I'm so sorry, Michael. I'm sure this is gonna be on the news. I can see it now: 'The King of Pop is sleeping with a junkie.' " She cried. 

     "Please stop that nonsense, Leila! And no-- it won't be. You had me listed under my nickname in your cellphone. When the doctor asked me who I was, I lied and told him that I was your husband. I wanted to be sure they would allow me to see you. They tried calling other contacts of yours, but I was the only one that answered."

    Covering her face with her hands, she spoke nervously, shame filling her voice. 

    "Did they tell you what happened to me?"


    "Yes, Leila... They did."


    "And?"


    "And what?"


    "Do you think I'm a horrible person?"


    "No, Leila-- I don't. Not at all."


Crouching down on his knees, Michael brought her hand to his mouth, kissing it gingerly. "I want you to stay with me when you're released from the hospital. You don't need to be around him."

   Knowing that Michael was referring to Calvin, Leila sighed heavily. "There's so much I have to tell you... Especially what led up to me being here in the hospital."

    Getting up from his knees, Michael stroked her hair. "I know, baby... But not right now. We'll discuss everything when you're feeling better."

    "Thank you, Michael, but what will I do about clothes? Can we make a stop past my place first? I'll make sure Calvin isn't home before I enter."

    Michael shook his head sideways. "No, Leila-- that's not a good idea. Whatever it is that you need, I'll get it for you."


***

    Pacing back and forths across the living room floor, Calvin kicked a wall. He knew he fucked up royally with Leila. Even though Calvin was cheating, he never intended to leave her. Leila was loyal; he knew she would never divorce him or try to take his money. Simply put-- Leila was a safe bet. 

    Growing up, Calvin had always been insecure. He wasn't hard on the eye's or anything, but he still felt as if he didn't quite measure up to other men.

    When Calvin first laid eyes on Leila, he thought she was stunning. At the start of their relationship, things went well with them except a few instances where he beat up a few guys for just talking to her. He wasn't abusive towards her in the very beginning, but soon after becoming a successful producer, his attitude began to change. 

    With each gold and platinum album he produced, his ego grew more and more. When other women recognized who he was, they threw themselves at his feet. Not having the willpower to turn them down, he began to cheat on Leila. But deep in his heart, he knew those women didn't truly want him for him. Most wanted two things and two things only-- sex and money. 

   Although Calvin still loved Leila to a certain degree, he started to resent her. While his ego kept getting bigger and bigger, so did his insecurities as well. To make himself feel significant, he had to make Leila feel small. 

    He knew that Leila could get any guy she wanted and was extremely talented. He felt threatened. Calvin feared that if Leila were to work with or have male friends, she would leave him. 

    Picking up the phone to call Zina, he breathed deep. He knew Zina couldn't stand him, and he didn't like her either. 

    "Hey Zina this is Calvin, have you heard from Leila or seen her in the past 48 hours? I don't mean to alarm you but, we uh... had a big argument the other night. She stormed out of the house, and I haven't seen or heard from her since."

    Zina fumed. "What in the hell did you do, Calvin? If something bad has happened to my friend, I swear to God I'll whoop your ass my damn self! You're nothing but a dog! The only reason I've remained silent for all these years is that Leila asked me not to interfere in y'alls marriage." 

     Becoming irate, Calvin raised his voice. 

"Girl, please! You ain't gon' do shit! Leila told you right-- stay the fuck out of married folks business."

    Zina paused. [No, this motherfucker didn't just disrespect me.] She spoke to herself out loud. Lowering her voice, Zina smiled sarcastically. "You know what... You're right, Calvin. I'll heed your advice. Find Leila on your own, you dumb ass bitch!"

    Slamming down the phone, Zina screamed at the top of her lungs. She needed to regain her composure so that she could think more clearly. Just as she was about to call Coco, her phone rang again.    

    "Hello!" She shouted.


    "Hey, Z, this is Leila."


    "Leila! Thank God you're OK! Calvin just called here, and we got into it."


    "Listen to me Zina, please don't tell him that I called. I caught him in our bed with another woman, and I left the house."


    "Where are you now? Are you safe?"


    "Yeah... I'm safe." Leila smiled as she looked at Michael, sleeping in the chair beside her bed.


    "Oh, thank God-- but where in the hell are you?"


    "Don't worry-- I'm with a good friend of mine. I'll be staying with him for a little while. But please, Z! Don't tell Calvin you spoke to me."


    "Staying with him? Him, who?" Zina raised her eyebrow, feeling confused.


    "You don't know him or well you do but please Z, that's neither here or there. I need to make some moves. I'm ready to move on from Calvin, but I need to figure out some things first."


    Being taken aback, Zina's mouth dropped wide open. Never in a million years, she'd think the day would come when Leila would finally decide to move on from Calvin. 

    "I can help you, Leila! You don't have to do it all on your own."

    "Thanks, Zina, but I have to do this alone. I need to do it by myself and for myself. Please understand." Leila explained, hoping Zina would see things her way.

    "I get it, Leila, but please know that I'm here for you. By the way, does your mom know where you are?"

    "Yes-- she knows I'm safe, but I told her the same as I told you. Look, I have to go, but I'll update you in a week or so. Talk to you later, Z."

    As Michael awoke from his nap, he rubbed his bloodshot eyes and yawned. 

    "Gee-- What time is it?"

    "It's late. The doctor came in while you were asleep and discharged me about an hour ago."

    Getting up from the bed, Leila put her clothes on. She hated hospitals and was beyond ready to go. The only reason she hadn't awaken Michael to tell him of her release was that she felt bad. 

    She knew he had to be exhausted. The man broke his business trip short for her and had been up for the last 48 hours. The least she could do was let him take a nap. 

    Standing up from the chair, Michael stretched his long body. A light stubble was forming on his face, and his shirt was unbuttoned slightly.

     Leila felt terrible for bringing him into her mess but also thankful for him at the same time. If it wasn't for Michael, she might not have had the strength to move on from Calvin finally. 

    While lying in the hospital bed, Michael's words kept replaying in her mind: [I'd be lying if I said I didn't want you to leave him, but I also don't want you to do that because of me. I wished you'd leave him for yourself.]

    As Michael grasped Leila's hand softly, he held her steady while they exited the hospital together. She was still a bit shaken up from her overdose and needed help walking. 

    Once they arrived back at Michael's condo, Leila showed him a pamphlet on treatment clinics for heroin addiction. "I can't stay here, Michael. It won't be long before I start having withdrawal symptoms," she uttered sadly. "God, I hate clinics just as much as I hate hospitals."

    "You don't have to stay at a clinic, Leila. I know a very good place that'll help you. Back in the early '90s, I had to undergo treatment for medications I had become dependent upon for my scalp. Even to this day, I suffer pain from when I got burned filming that Pepsi commercial." He explained sympathetically. 

    "Oh, Michael... I'm so sorry that you're still hurting from that accident."

    Taking her hand in his, he smiled.    

    "Thank you, Leila-- and my offer still stands. I want you to stay with me once your treatment is done. I want to help you get back on your feet. And don't worry about the cost of the treatment-- I'll pay for it."

    Leila looked at Michael in shock. "I can't let you do that. I can just go to one of the clinics listed here."

    "Leila, please... I want you to be comfortable and in the best of care during your treatment. Please take what I'm offering you-- I need you to trust me... OK?"

    If Leila had any lingering thoughts of just being another notch on Michael's belt, this completely dissolved that notion. The man seemed to care about her genuinely. After thinking long and hard about his offer, Leila kindly accepted. 

    "Thank you, Michael-- I'll go. I trust you completely."



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