Chapter 5

    While Leila was following in her car behind Michael's to his place, her brain had a barrage of thoughts running through it. The last time she had seen Michael in person was in 1984 at a Miami hotel. 

    What they shared that night was a one-time thing. She thought she'd never see him again. 

    Shaking her head sideways, Leila smiled wryly. "I guess the universe is up to its usual tricks!" Just the other day, she was thinking about him, and here he magically appears. 

    When Michael's car stopped in front of an ordinary-looking condominium complex, Leila thought maybe they were just making a pitstop until she saw Wayne exiting the vehicle to approach hers. 

    "Hello, Ms. James, we're here. I know you're probably thinking, 'Wow! Michael lives here on a regular street? I know that it might seem crazy, but I'll let him explain it to you. Please park your car, and I'll walk you two in."

    After parking her car, Wayne escorted her and Michael inside the gates of the compound. 

    "Have a good one, Mike, let me know if you need anything." Wayne chimed before leaving the two alone. 

    "I'm good, Wayne-- take care," Michael responded casually. 

    Opening the front door to his unit, Michael prompted Leila to go inside before him. 

     Taking her by the hand, he walked her into the living room. "Before you say anything, I repurchased this place in the early eighties. I know it looks a little dated, but not many even know that I own a condo here." He smiled embarrassingly. 

    "Well, I can't say that I'm not shocked that you live here. But your condo is beautiful, Michael, I don't think it looks dated at all."

    "Thank you. I've made many renovations throughout the years, but I just love the old-time decor. It feels more relaxed."

     Taking off his fedora and surgical mask, he plopped down on the sofa. As Leila remained standing in the foyer, Michael looked at her humorously. 

    "Um Leila, please come sit by me, please. You don't have to stand."

    Feeling a bit uneasy, Leila took a seat next to him on the sofa. She wasn't afraid of Michael, but she also remembered what happened the last time she was alone with him. 

    Opening up a take-out menu, Michael flipped through the pages slowly. "I've been wanting to try out this new Indian restaurant but haven't gotten around to it. Is Indian food ok with you, or would you rather have something else?"

     Sliding a bit closer to him to survey the menu, she smiled. "This is fine. I've had Indian food once, and it was delightful."

    "Awesome! Indian cuisine is one of my favorites. My chef makes the best, but right now, this will have to do." 

    After placing their orders, Michael asked Leila if she would like something to drink.  

    Getting up from the sofa, he made his way to the kitchen, calling off what he had to offer. "I have water, orange juice, coke, rum, vodka, wine, and champagne."

    "I'll take some water, please."

    "Water it is! Would you like a slice of lemon in it?"

    " Sure! That sounds refreshing."

While preparing her drink, Michael realized it was the first time in the last year that he didn't crave alcohol. His go-to drink had become rum and coke, but suddenly, he didn't have any desire to drink it.

    As he made his way back into the living room, he thought that maybe he ran into Leila for a reason. He hadn't dated anyone since his wife passed away, nor did he desire to. In fact, Leila was the first woman he invited back to his condo since meeting his now deceased wife. 

    After passing Leila her drink, he sat down close beside her. Noticing that she was wearing the same ring he removed years ago during their night of ecstasy, he frowned disappointedly. 

    "Hmm... I guess I don't have to ask if whether you're still married or not."

    Catching the sadness in his voice, Leila decided that she would be honest with him but not explicitly tell him what she was going through. 

    "It's complicated, Michael. Yes, I'm still married, but I'll be honest. Things aren't going so well. And they haven't been for a long time."

    Folding her arms across her chest, Leila turned her face away from his.

    "I'm sorry Leila, I didn't mean to pry."

    "It's OK, Michael. I know you didn't mean any harm."

Turning her face back to his, he stroked her cheek gently. "It's OK, Leila; I'm here to listen if you ever want to talk about it. You know... My wife and unborn child passed away last year-- I know a thing or two about things not going so well."

    Placing her hand on his knee, she rubbed it softly. "I know Michael, I heard about it on the news. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine your grief," she spoke sympathetically. 

     "Thank you. Some days are easier than others, but yeah... It's been hard." He spoke quietly, as his voice began to break. 

    Before he could continue, the doorbell rang. "Would you mind getting that? I don't have my disguise near, and I don't want the delivery people to know that I live here."

   Tossing her head back in amusement, she replied, "sure, but you owe me one."

    Raising an eyebrow at her, he smirked.    

    "Just let me know what I can do for you."

    "Deal! I'm sure I'll think of something," she bantered back in return. 

    After retrieving the food, Leila joined Michael at the dining room table. For the rest of the afternoon into the evening, The two talked about everything. It was the first time that she and Michael had truly been happy in a long time. 

    During their conversation, Michael found himself casually touching her every chance he got; whether it was playfully nudging her on the arm when she said something funny or placing his hand on hers when they agreed on something. 

    He loved conversing with her, but in the back of his mind, he felt guilty. He hadn't connected with a woman in such a way since his wife's passing. With his brain now in a state of conflict, he silently thought to himself. "Oh, God, help me! I think I'm falling for her? But she's married... Am I betraying my dead wife and child for having these feelings?" 

    Noticing that Michael had fallen into a daze, Leila snapped her fingers at him.   

    "Earth to Michael!" She laughed. 

    Becoming startled, he chuckled nervously.    

    "Sorry about that... I've got a lot on my mind as of late."

    "I understand, Michael... Same here."

Looking at her watch, Leila gasped. "Oh, wow! It's 10:00 pm. It was nice catching up, Michael, but I've gotta hurry and get home."

    Calvin was due home by 11:30 p.m., and the last thing she needed was for him questioning her on why she was out so late. 

    "I'm so sorry, Leila. I lost track of time."

    "No-- we lost track of time, Michael. Um... Are you busy tomorrow? On weekday morning's I walk a few dogs at a quiet park not far from here; I'd love it if you could join me. Or wait! You can't."

    "Why can't I?" He laughed. 

    "Because you're Michael Jackson."

    "I have disguises; I'd love to join you, Leila." He smiled. 

     "Alright, well... Um. How about I come here and pick you up at 7 am?"

    "I'll be ready." He chuckled softly. 

     After exchanging cell phone numbers, Michael and Leila said their goodnights.   

Neither uttered a single word that evening about their one-night stand. 

    They simply enjoyed each other's company and getting to know one another better. 

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