Chapter 19

    Sitting at the kitchen table, Leila shuffled through a stack of forms. She wanted to make sure that everything was filled out completely before submitting them. Now that she was out of rehab, her first step was to divorce Calvin. She knew that once Calvin found out she was filing for divorce, he would go berserk. So to be on the safe side, she decided to file a restraining order against him as well.

    As Michael came out of the bedroom, he stretched his arms and yawned. "Good morning, baby, what are you doing up so early?"

    "Just making sure the 'divorce' and 'restraining order' forms are good to go."

    Michael's eye's widened, going from half-asleep to fully awake.

    "A restraining order? That's what I have Wayne for sweetie. Calvin is coming no-where near you, and if he does, I'll fuck him up personally. Look-- I have Wayne around for crowd control, but I'm no pushover."

    "Michael? Come on now! Would you really fight Calvin?"

    "For you-- I'd fight Satan himself. Whom of which I think Calvin probably is."

    "Well, it's still good to have. You and Wayne can't be around 24/7. So by serving Calvin with this it'll warn him to stay away."

    "I understand, Leila, but just remember what I said."

As Leila continued reading over the forms, she heard a low rumbling sound.

    "Michael baby-- would you like breakfast?" She laughed.

    "No, I'm alright." [Grrr!] His stomach growled once again.

    "Michael, there is breakfast on top of the stove. I made it especially for you."

    "Leila, I don't want you to feel like you have to do things for me. I know you waited on Calvin's sorry ass hand and foot, but I..."

    Leila stroked Michael's cheek. She loved how caring he was but wished he'd let her do things for him. Unlike with Calvin, she actually enjoyed taking care of him.

    "Baby... I enjoy doing things for you. And besides, you need to keep your energy up. You've been working me out overtime since I got out of rehab. God, I'm so sore."

    Michael smirked. "If I had it my way, we'd do it waaay more, but I understand that we have basic human needs. But if you need a break, I--"

    "No baby, I don't need a break. I love everything you've been doing to me... Even if I've become permanently 'bow-legged' as a result." She laughed.

    After having breakfast and making love several times, Leila and Michael packed their luggage. He had to be at his ranch a few days before to make sure things ran smoothly for the 'Jackson family reunion.'

    On the drive up to 'Neverland,' Michael was extremely quiet. He hadn't been to the ranch since Patricia's death and had a lot on his mind. All he could think about was seeing her blood on the carpet when he returned home from his tour. It was an awful image that would forever be seared into his memory.

    Leila looked at him knowingly. She knew he must have been going crazy on the inside. Taking Michael's hand in hers, she stroked it delicately. As a lone tear fell down his cheek, she kissed his eyelids softly.

    When they arrived at the main house, several of Michael's employees stood outside with a banner that read: 'Welcome Home.' The warm greeting was unexpected and heartfelt.

    After thanking each of his employees, Michael took Leila to one of the guest cottages. He wasn't ready to stay in the main house yet, and needed time to assess the heavy emotions he was feeling.

   "How are you, sweetie?" Leila asked, concernedly, stroking Michael's back.

    Weeping silently, he buried his face in his hands. He couldn't speak. The pain was too much for him to bear.

    Wrapping her arms around him, Leila rocked him back and forth. She had never seen him like this. It broke her heart to pieces. When he finally spoke, his voice trembled severely.

   "Leila, I-I. I can't go into the main house. I hope you don't mind staying here."

    "Of course not baby... As long as we're together, it doesn't matter where we stay."

    "Thank you so much for understanding. I have no idea how I'm going to make it through the next four days."

    Grasping his face softly, Leila placed a tender kiss on his forehead. "I know this is hard for you but please remember-- I'm here for you sweetheart, I'll be holding your hand each step of the way."

    After wiping his tears away, Michael took ahold of Leila's hand. Even though he was utterly sad, he still wanted to give Leila a tour of the ranch.

    As he showed her around, his mood became a bit happier. Returning to Neverland had been no easy task, but he was delighted to have Leila there with him. If it hadn't been for her, he probably would have holed himself up in the cottage until the family reunion took place.

    Stopping to take a small break from showing Leila the ranch, Michael suggested that they take a seat in front of a small lake. Staring blankly ahead, he tossed a rock into the water. "So, what do you think about the Neverland?"

    "It's gorgeous! You really outdid yourself. It's so peaceful here. Truly magical."

    Michael smiled, passing Leila a rock to throw. When she tried tossing it into the lake, it flew sideways and landed in the grass.

    "God Leila, you throw like a girl!" He teased.

    Being slightly offended but good-humored by his comment, Leila slid two spots away from him. She knew she couldn't throw for shit, but she still became upset when he pointed it out.

    Sliding behind her, he placed another rock in her hand, helping her to throw it. When the rock skipped on the water, she yelled excitedly. "Wow, baby! I've never been able to do that."

    "Me neither! You're good luck, baby." He gushed in return.

    "We're good together." She smiled.

     "Together," Michael spoke softly, thinking deeply about the phrase she said. "Thank you, Leila, for being here. Ever since the day we reconnected, I've been a much happier man.

    "Really? I know my drama hasn't been easy to deal with." She sighed.

    "It hasn't, but anything worth having is worth fighting for." He responded poignantly.

    Later that night, Leila was startled awake when she heard Michael talking to himself in his sleep. "Patrica baby... Please-- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I'll never stop loving you. You two mean the world to me."

    As Michael began to twitch, Leila Shook him gently. She had read a while back that you shouldn't try to wake someone if they were having a nightmare, but Michael looked very distressed. She couldn't stand seeing him this way.

    "Ahhh!" He screamed, bolting upright, drenched in sweat.

    "Michael sweetheart-- it's just a dream. Just a dream." She spoke softly, trying to calm him down.

    Michael exhaled loudly before laying back down. As Leila rested her head on his chest, she could hear his heartbeat racing. Turning to glance at the clock, Michael noticed it was 3 am. He tried falling back asleep, but he was still reeling from his bad dream. Easing Leila off of him without waking her, he slipped out of bed. He needed to calm his nerves.

    After searching several cabinets, he found what he was looking for. It had been a long time since he had a drink or a dream about Patricia. Being back at Neverland was causing him much emotional turmoil.

    Opening a bottle of gin, he proceeded to drink it straight from the bottle. Usually, one bottle had no effect over him, but now that he had been sober for a while, his system was more sensitive to its effects.

    When Leila awoke the next morning, she rolled over to discover Michael's side of the bed cold and empty. Upon entering the living room, she found him asleep with his head on the table and an empty bottle of gin near his head.

    "Come on, baby, come back to bed." She pleaded gently, tapping him on the shoulders.

    "No, Leila-- please just leave me here. I don't deserve to sleep next to you." He whined.

    "Michael sweetie... please. It's all good. You're going to get a cramp sleeping hunched over like this."

    After getting Michael to return to bed, Leila thought about what she'd just seen. She didn't think anything bad about him, but she was taken aback. She had never seen him so out of it.

    Later that morning, Michael and Leila showered together. As she washed his hair, he closed his eye's feeling completely relaxed. "God, this feels so good." He chimed. "But please be extra careful over the spot where you feel a small hump. It's where I had scalp surgery. My head is very sensitive there."

    Leila kissed the back of his neck. "I'll be careful, baby-- don't worry."

    "I've been sober for three months." He spoke out the blue. "I started drinking heavily when Patricia passed away. Whenever I got depressed, I found solace in alcohol."

    "Hmpf-- sounds familiar. I found that Heroin helped eased my pain and relaxed me. It was my coping mechanism. It helped me endure Calvin's abuse."

    Turning to face Leila, Michael kissed her lips. "You're safe now, sweetie."

    "I know-- I have you to thank for that." She replied appreciatively, kissing him back.  

    "Michael... If you don't mind me asking, what made you stop drinking? How did you do it?"

    Droplets of water streaming down his face, his eyelashes fluttered. "You. I stopped drinking for you, Leila. I wanted to give you the best of me... But sadly, I've failed."

    "No-- you didn't fail. You just had a minor setback. Um, the 'Betty Ford Center' has an outpatient program. Maybe you can join it to avoid a complete relapse?" She suggested kindly.

    Feeling a bit nervous offering unsolicited advice, Leila's body tensed up. When Michael felt her muscles go rigid, he stroked her back soothingly.

    "Thank-you, Leila-- Maybe I'll do just that. I appreciate your advice, baby. And please! There's no need to feel nervous around me. You can tell me anything."

    "How'd you know I was nervous?"

    "I know you, Leila... I  felt your body tense up instantly. I'm not Calvin sweetie-- I'll never get angry with you for trying to help me."

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