Chapter 27

    When Michael and Leila returned to the states, they were ready to embark on their new journey together. While in Japan, their lawyer notified them that a court date had been set for Leila's divorce. Even though Michael didn't want to hear Calvin's name, the good-news was like music to his ears.

   Early one morning, while they were playing around with some music together, Leila told Michael that she wanted to return to veterinary school. Her dream had always been to care for animals, and now that she was away from Calvin, she wanted to complete her goals.

   As 'Curly' snuggled onto Michael's lap, he smiled. "I think that's a great idea, Leila. I'm sure this little guy wouldn't mind you going back either."

   [Roof Roof] Curly barked as if he understood what Michael was saying and agreed.

    Leila laughed. "I think Curly agrees."


   "Leila-- I'll always support you in anything that you want to do. I'm here for you, sweetie."


   "Thank-you... That means so much to me. After my divorce is finalized, I'll start looking into potential schools. Switching topics, have you come up with a name for your album yet?"


   "Actually, I have. I was thinking of calling it 'Invincible.' I have about seven songs completed already-- you inspired four of them."


   "Oh, really, Michael? How so?"


   "Your love inspired me to write again, but so did our up's and down's in general."


   "Wow! I inspired you to write again? I don't even know how to respond to that, and I'm sorry about the downs. I never meant to make you fee--"

   Breaking her off mid-sentence, Michael shushed her and sang: "Don't waste your time on the past, no, no. It's time you look to the future."

   "Got it, Mr. Jackson." Leila giggled. "What time are you due in the studio today?"

Glancing at his watch, Michael laughed.    

   "Thirty minutes ago. I better get going, I'm sure Mr. Swedien is none too pleased. What are your plans for today?"

   "I'm headed over to Zina's. Curly has a playdate with her puppy. Coco will be joining us as well. They're gonna freak when they see my engagement ring. But what should I tell them?"

   Michael kissed Leila's cheek. "Tell'em that you're engaged and will become Mrs. Jackson soon. By the way-- have you told Wayne what time he should swing by to pick you up?"

   "Oh, shoot! I forgot. But do I have to? Zina doesn't live too far from here, and I'm not afraid of Calvin anymore... I mean, in the beginning, after leaving him, I was. But I'm stronger now. I think it was just my nerves getting the best of me."

   Michael sighed as a worried expression fell upon his face. "I'd be lying if I said I was comfortable with this. But I know you don't want Wayne taking you everywhere. Just be careful, Leila. I don't trust Calvin, not one bit."

   "Neither do I, but he has a career and a studio to run. It's pretty safe to assume he's not going to violate the restraining order and jeopardize himself over me."

   Placing his hand underneath her chin, Michael kissed her tenderly. He had an eerie feeling over Leila traveling alone but chose to ignore it. She was a grown woman, and he didn't want her to feel like a caged bird.

Before leaving his condo, Michael kissed Leila one last time. "Please be safe, sweetheart... Enjoy your time with your friends, and I'll see you later tonight."

    "Thank-you, baby! Have a great session. And please... Don't worry. I'll call you later to let you know that I'm fine."


***

    "Hey, Leila! How are you?"


     "I'm OK, Zina. Still a bit jet-lagged, but otherwise I'm doing well."


    "Well don't just stand there, girl! Get your ass in here and tell me how Japan was. I want to hear about everything, and I do mean everything!"


    Watching Leila from afar, Calvin parked his rental car behind hers. He had been creeping around Zina and Leila's family home for the past two weeks hoping to catch Leila alone. Since Leila, Zina, and Coco knew what his actual car looked like, he decided to rent one.

    Making sure he went unnoticed, he reclined his car seat back as far as it could go. He knew if either Zina or Leila saw him, they would surely call the police.

    For the past few months, Calvin felt worthless without Leila. With her being gone, he had no one to boss around. He tried replacing her with a few of his side-chicks, but each one left him the moment he stepped out of line and disrespected them.

    One of the reasons he wanted Leila back was to boost his ego. When Michael served him with the divorce forms, it made him feel like a fool. Never in his life had he felt so embarrassed. He was bitter, angry, and resentful. He wanted to make Michael suffer. He wanted to put Leila in check. Simply put, he wanted revenge and planned to make them both pay severely.

    Arriving earlier to Zina's than planned, Coco screamed when she noticed the 'Cherry Blossom' diamond ring on Leila's left hand. "No fucking way! Did he propose to you?" Coco blurted bluntly.

    Zina grabbed Leila's hand. "Shit! How did I miss this?

    Leila laughed. "Don't feel bad, Coco used to date a jewelry appraiser. She can spot diamonds from miles away."

"You say that like it's a bad thing, but that's beside the point. Are you engaged? When is the wedding? How did he propose?" Coco yelped incessantly.

    "How is Michael in bed?" Zina added.

     Leila sucked her teeth. "You know? You two are really something."

    "But we're your girls, Leila! We've had to witness Calvin, making you unhappy for years! We wanna hear something good now."

    Leila replied solemnly. "Yes, we're engaged... But I hope that I'm making the right decision. I love Michael, and I know he loves me, but maybe I shouldn't jump so quickly from one marriage to another?"

     Zina replied sympathetically. "I think you should listen to your heart, Leila. With all you've been through, it's understandable that you're having second thoughts."

    "Well, not really second thoughts. I want to marry Michael-- but maybe we shouldn't get married so soon after my divorce?"

    Coco wrapped her arms around Leila. "As, Z said-- Just listen to your heart. Maybe talk to Michael about it? I'm sure he'll understand."

     "But I don't want him to doubt my love for him," Leila spoke sadly. "Sorry, I have to go. Suddenly I'm not feeling so well... I think I'm gonna head home now."

     As Leila was getting into her car, she blacked out when a heavy object hit her in the head. When she finally regained consciousness, she immediately recognized her surroundings and began to scream.

     When she tried to move, she discovered that her hands and feet had been tied by a rope to a chair. As she struggled to break free, she fell to the ground. "Help! Somebody help me please!" She yelled, But it was of no use. The studio was soundproof.


    "Shut the fuck up, Leila! No one can hear your mother-fuckin' ass." Calvin spoke harshly, walking towards her slowly.


    "Calvin! W-What's going on? Why am I here?"


     "Look-- I'm not here to fuck around with you, Leila. I want you to call the divorce off! Tell the court that you've changed your mind."


     "What the hell? No! I want a divorce from you, Calvin! I don't want your ass anymore."


    "Oh, I see... It's like that, huh? Since Michael Jackson is screwing you... You think you're too good for me now?"


     "You truly are fucking crazy! You can't make me stay with you. This shit is illegal."


     "Like the hell, I can't! Who's gonna stop me? Michael? Zina? Coco? No one knows where you are, Leila."


     Struggling to get up from the ground, Leila quickly fell back down. The chair she was strapped to was too heavy to move, and she seemed to have dislocated her shoulder when trying to break free.

     After watching her squirm for several more minutes, Calvin punched her in the head before sitting her chair upright. As he watched Leila cry, he began to laugh. "You really thought I'd let you get away that easy, huh? You're mine, Leila! Not Michael's."

    "Fuck you! You bastard!" Leila spat on Calvin when he tried to touch her. "Keep your filthy hands off of me!"

    Noticing the diamond ring on her finger, Calvin's nostrils began to flare. His anger turning into full outrage. "Is that an engagement ring? Naw! He can't be that stupid. Why would he marry your dumb ass? But on second thought-- it makes sense. He's stupid, and you're dumb. No wonder you two hooked up.

     Leila spoke through clenched teeth. "If I'm so dumb, then why are you so pressed? Why do you want me so bad?"

    Not wanting to answer the question, Calvin left the room. When he returned moments later, he placed duct tape around Leila's mouth. "Ah, silence! When you're ready to come to your senses, we'll talk. But until then, you need to sit here and think about what you've done me."

    Flicking off the lights, Calvin left the room and locked the door.


***


As Michael was putting the final touches on a song he recorded titled 'Threatened,' he kept looking at his phone. Leila was supposed to text him more than 4 hours ago, and he was becoming worried.

    Not wanting to seem like an overprotective boyfriend, he decided to give Leila another hour or so to call. He knew she was catching up with her friends, so she probably forgot. When his studio session was over, he tried calling Leila's phone several times.

    After wrapping up a conversation with Bruce, he headed home immediately.   

     "Honey, I'm home!" Michael teased, as he entered into his condo. "Leila baby... Are you here?"

     Trying to stay calm, Michael sat down on the sofa. He kept ringing Leila's phone over and over again, but she never picked up. Since he and Leila had awoken at 5 am, he was exhausted. Not knowing what else to do, he closed his eyes and began to pray. When his phone rang suddenly, he picked it up immediately.


    "Hello." He answered shakily.


     "Hey, boss! I was just checking to see if you needed anything. I know I just dropped you off, but I forgot to ask."


    "Oh, h-hey Wayne... It's alright. Thanks for checking in on me."


    "Is everything OK, Mike? You sound a little off."


     "I um-- yeah. I'm worried about Leila. I've been trying to call her for the past 3 hours. She was supposed to call me earlier, but I haven't heard a peep from her."


    "You try calling her friend's, sir?"


     "Oh, gee... I did. But I've seem to have misplaced their phone numbers. I never got around to saving them in my phone."


     "Got a pen? Leila gave them to me last week in case of emergency."


After jotting down Zina and Coco's phone numbers, Michael hung up with Wayne and tried calling them several times, but neither answered.

    "Damn it! What do I do? What do I do?" He began to ramble frantically. He thought about asking Wayne to call the cops, but Leila hadn't been missing long, so he knew there wasn't much they could do either.

    Looking at his phone once more, he scratched his head. It was now almost 11 pm and he still hadn't heard from Leila. After attempting to call Zina and Coco a few more times, he automatically assumed they were all together.

    While waiting for Leila to come home, Michael popped a movie into his DVD Player. He needed a distraction, but it wasn't working. He was worried, sick.

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