London, March 8th 2009
With a loud thud the back of his head bangs against the wall. The collision taking him totally by surprise; causing an immediate pain in the spot of the burned part of his scalp. His eyes wide in terror drop down to his bicepses, witnessing the grip on his arms getting tighter, stronger, pushing him into the wall behind him. Those fingers around his upper arms press deep into his flesh, hurt him, scare him. Cause bruises on his sensitive skin.
Never did anyone touch him like that. Not since he was a boy and Joseph grabbed and lectured him. Never has he been so afraid again, with his heart beating too fast in his chest and his pulse almost strangling him.
“Let me go!” he spits into the ugly face hovering above him.
Tries to pull out of his trap, but Thome won’t let him, pushes him more, as if he is trying to shove him into the cold concrete of his hotel room.
It’s the cruel nightmare of physical abuse that makes him freeze and stop to breathe. That makes him panic and break down inside.
“Stop your bullshit, Michael! You’re going to do these shows and you gonna go to that press conference tomorrow and announce the comeback of the century, hear me?”
The scent of the breath hitting his nostrils is disgusting, making him sick, making his stomach turn at the smell of digested meat.
“I told you I signed up for 10 shows! Why would you push me to 50? It’s not enough time! It’s too much! I’m not gonna do it!” he yells, turning his head and closing his eyes.
He can feel the sting of tears behind his lids. Can feel all the long forgotten fears rising up in his chest. This argument has gotten out of hand too quick. Much too fast for him to realize he was provoking his business partners, pushing them too far with his head-in-the-sand attitude. Maybe this strategy has been working for him far too often in his life, maybe his ways of denying, shutting out and not facing intricacies would finally be his doom after all.
“Listen, Mikey, you were the one bragging about how you could do it all again! You’ve been the one asking for the Guiness Record! Now you gonna go boy!”
There’s Randy’s face appearing right next to Thome, his thick short finger with the chewed nail pointing straight into his face, a furious grimace erupting in anger.
“I won’t! I won’t deliver mediocrity. I ain’t working that way! These shows are not tight yet, it’s too early, I can’t do this to my fans! I won’t disappoint the people who love me most.”
Thome’s grip tightens once more; stopping his blood from circling in his veins, making his arms turn cold and numb.
“You’re not ruining this, you freak! We advanced you more than generously on this contract, remember? You’re not even in a position to get out of this now!”
“So sue me!” he growls, trying to be brave and defy them, pushes as hard as he can to get away, ripping the fabric of his silk red shirt.
But he is trapped, with his back against the wall and he knows there’s no easy way out now.
Phillips starts laughing, a nasty, evil tone, a sound that makes Michael’s ears howl painfully. He shakes his head and turns away from them.
“Let him go, Thome!” he says huskily, pacing the room.
And as soon as Michael is free he steps back, makes distance between him and those two men who took control of his life so subtly, almost unnoticed and walks back behind a big white sofa to shield himself from their threats. But it’s too late. They already have him where they need him to be. Helpless, obedient, without control. It’s their time to give him his quietus.
“Michael, my friend, you’ll do this press conference tomorrow. You’ll announce these shows and be really really excited about your final curtain call. Your fans are waiting for you boy. For the “King of Pop”. They are waiting to see their idol again! Don’t you know how much they’re looking forward to see you perform again? Millions of people?”
Randy is lulling him into this state where he feels safe, where he feels most comfortable in the arms of his loving fans. And when he’s almost ready to believe it and give in to him, although he knows it’s too much, the schedule too tight, the shows not ready, Phillips crosses the room and closes the distance between them again. Points his finger once more and whispers lowly:
“Don’t change your mind, Mikey! Cos if you do, I’ll make your life a living hell. I’ll make sure you’ll lose everything! Your catalogue, your home, your dignity! But above all, I’ll make sure you’ll lose your kids. And you’ll never get them back!”
He turns around and makes a few slow steps, turns again to find Michael staring at him. Features frozen, his lean body trembling with fear.
“It’s only one call.” he adds, his thick small index pointing in the air. “And the world will be reminded of who you really are, Wacko Jacko! And this time, there won’t be no court acquitting you! This time the world will get all the dirty details of your sick mind and how you abused all those boys! I know all the right people who will be more than willing to spill some tea about your secrets. You know how money can do anything!”
The door slams with a terrifying sound and the two men are gone. The dead silence of the room too loud to bear. He feels sick. Runs for the bathroom and throws up into the sink. Feeling like a knife was stabbed into his back he falls to the ground and starts to cry. Rolls up into a ball on the tile floor and screams, his voice echoing off the walls, a heart wrenching, pain filled sound. And for hours he can’t stop the tremors, can’t stop the panic, can’t think of anything else than losing his life all over and forever again.
The last thing he clearly remembers is crawling back into the room like a wounded dog, grabbing the two bottles of vodka and whisky on the small table next to the TV screen and drowns every thought and every emotion in his system.
He can’t let it happen all over again. He can’t risk losing his life, his children and the woman he already needs to carefully hide away from those who took control of him. So he drinks for dear life, numbs his sanity and gives himself up to fate.
A day later, on March 9th, the world witnesses someone called Michael Jackson announcing 50 comeback concerts at London’s O2 arena, starting off in July. It’s the remaining shell of the man he once used to be. Someone whose mind is still intoxicated and whose heart is cold. Someone who got deprived of his pride, slapped and shoved into a cold shower to sober him up and make him function. And all he can focus on during this press conference is that this will be his final curtain call. That he’ll be strong enough to suck it all up as he always did in his life. No matter what. Cos after that he finally will be free.
Pilanesberg (South Africa), early October 2009
The house is still peacefully silent when she walks through the rooms, traces her fingers across furniture, touches framed pictures and reads lines of wisdom that came straight from his heart.
Home gives you courage to know yourself.
Home gives you beauty for your eyes to see.
Home gives you love to complete your life.
Home gives you sunsets to warm your heart.
Home gives you friendships to brighten your being.
Home gives you patience to accept the truth.
Home gives you comfort on a difficult day.
Home gives you rainbows beneath the clouds.
Home gives you hugs when your spirits sag.
Home gives you faith so that you can believe.
Wiping tears from her eyes she watches their glasses of his favorite red wine on the table. Both still filled, not a single drop missing. And yet she knows he enjoyed every sip of it. They have been talking silently. All night long. She felt him holding her tight in his arms. His lips against her face, their fingers carefully entwined. He gave her room to cry, to grief, to be angry. And he gave her his undying love in return.
It’s the right time, the right day, the perfect morning to do what she came here for. Even though it makes her skin crawl and her heart ache, even though it terrifies her, she knows it’s something he wants her to do. To set his spirit free and open up the way back home.
So she prepares herself for this journey. Wears that dress she knows he loved so much, combs her hair and leaves it open, remembering how he liked to twist the strands around his fingers, play with it while they were cuddled up in bed. Looks in the mirror and sees the traces of too much pain, too much tears and deep grief written all over her face. Straightening her dress she caresses her belly, smiles and knows he loves what he sees.
After a long while of sitting quietly, there is a warm strong breeze coming up, rustling through the branches of the Marula, playing with her hair. It feels like someone is wrapping her arms around her and whispers into her ear. Lips caressing her face tenderly as her trembling fingers try to untwist the black lid of his urn. Pressing the jar tight to her chest she hesitates once again, lowers her face and watches her tears fall down on it.
She’s so afraid to let go, to free his soul and stay behind. But then there is the caress of the wind again, the whispering in the trees that sounds so much like his voice, his sweet loving voice that soothes her heart so calmingly.
“I want to come home to you.” he says and reminds her of that last phone conversation they had.
Late at night, when she was getting up for work in New York and he was turning in for the night in Los Angeles. The night before the world would turn dark. The night before this life became empty. When he still made her believe that he was so excited and happy about these concerts, when he still lied to her about what was really going on.
New York / Los Angeles, June 25th 2009
Her alarm has gone off a few minutes ago and she is sitting in bed rubbing her eyes, trying to shake off that warm, comforting feeling that tries to persuade her to go back to sleep, when her cell plays that familiar tune and flashes a picture of his beautiful face into the darkness of their bedroom. Smiling she takes the call and grabs for his shirt underneath the pillow next to her, holding it to her face to smell him. She always does when he calls her that early in the morning. When she’s still in bed. To feel like he is right next to her.
“Good morning, Angel!” he whispers into her ear and sends a shiver down her spine, makes her heart jump, like he still does every time he calls her.
In all those years, through all the highs and lows, the bliss and the despair they have been through, she has never stopped to be madly and crazy in love with him. He still makes her heart race; he still stokes up the fire in her belly, makes her butterflies rise. He still has it all and he always will.
“Hey, Baby! It’s really late over there!?”
“Yeah, I just came back home and I wanted to hear your voice before I go to sleep.”
“Aw, you’re sweet! So how did rehearsals go? Are you happy?”
“Tonight was great, Pru. It’s coming together now. I can feel it, you know? Yeah, I’m really happy!”
“Sounds great! I can’t wait to see the show, Moyo!” she says and plays around with his shirt. “I’m so glad we’re finally back together on Saturday.”
He chuckles and she can hear him moving around, turning off water, like he is in the bathroom.
“It’s only been like 10 days, Angel.” he chuckles and teases her.
“You know what I mean.” she pouts and turns on the dim light.
Getting out of bed she sits another while on the edge of the mattress painting random patterns into the fluffy carpet on the floor with her red painted toes. The line is silent for a while before he sighs and breathes lowly:
“I know, Angel. I can’t wait till the two of you get here. I’m so happy you come along with me and … you know, after these concerts we’re finally free.”
“God yes! It still feels like an eternity though!” she chuckles and gets up, walks to the window and stares into the night.
She can hardly believe that after almost 13 years they’ll finally be together as a family. Living under the same roof, with all the kids, together as husband and wife.
“Patience is a virtue, Angel.” he laughs softly, his voice down low and it makes her pulse speed up.
“Don’t you think I’m a real virtuoso by now, Mr. Jackson?”
Though she doesn’t mean to, there’s an ironic twang to her words that stings his heart. And yet he knows she is right. He knows this woman is out of this world. A gift from god he most probably doesn’t even deserve. All those years she has been by his side no matter what! And now he’s gonna make it all up to her. After these concerts. Will make her his wife, take her home and finally start the family life they both have been dreaming about and yearning for so long.
“You are, Pru and I love you so much for this. I don’t take this for granted!”
“I know you don’t, Baby.”
There’s a faint noise on the line and for a short moment she hears how the speaker of his phone is covered by his hand and he’s talking to someone else in his room.
“Michael?” she calls and stares at her phone for a second.
“I’m sorry, Angel.”
“Who’s there? The kids still awake?”
“God, no! They are all fast asleep. I told them they can’t stay up that long and wait for me every night. I’m feeling bad though, when I’m not here early enough to tuck them in.”
She smiles and shakes her head. She knows how they are still his little babies who are tied to his hip when yet Paris and Prince are growing up so fast. They are almost teenagers now and though they love Michael to bits and pieces she can see how they are starting to become more independent.
“So who’s with you?”
“It’s just Doctor Conrad, Detective Solomon.”
They start laughing at his mischievous comment but at the mention of his doctor’s name she becomes concerned.
“Is there something wrong, Michael? Are you in pain again?”
“No, Angel, I’m fine. Don’t worry. It’s only the fluids. You know how I sweat it all out.”
“But I am worried. You’ve lost so much weight lately!”
“Nah, gurl, c’mon. You know all my routines. I can’t dance with all that flab around my waist.”
They laugh again and though she rolls her eyes, not knowing what he’s talking about. Since that trial four years ago he never gained back to his average weight. And remembering the last night they made love she knows how he felt so gaunt underneath her fingertips.
“I’m just saying, Baby. I want you healthy!”
“I am, Pru! So how’s my baby girl? Is she excited yet?”
He’s perfect at distracting her. At hiding and covering things he doesn’t want to talk about.
“Oh goodness, Mike, she’s a handful these days. I don’t know what I’d do without Maria now that Grace is in London. She’s talking nonstop about going to Europe with Daddy and her whole room is piled up with stuff she wants to take.”
He sits on the rim of the tub giggling, smiling wide at the thought of his youngest daughter turning the big apartment in New York into a mess. Looking around his own rooms he makes a mental note to ask the maid to clean up again.
“It’s no fun, Baby!” Prudence pouts and smiles.
They are all packed and ready to head to Los Angeles in three days and leave this condo behind for a very long time. Maybe forever. She looks around and feels her heart becoming sentimental. It’s been such a long and turbulent time here. A time she will never forget.
“Only three more days, Angel.” he whispers and starts the excitement in her belly again.
“I can’t wait, I really can’t!”
“Are you wearing my ring?”
Her eyes drop to her hand, tear up at the beautiful golden band that hugs her finger in a warm embrace. Ever since he slipped it on her a few weeks ago, she feels a subtle warmth around that spot, like his love is simmering inside the precious gold.
“Sure.” she whispers and caresses the ring with her thumb.
“It’s my promise to you. And you know I really mean it. We’re going home after the shows. I’m finally gonna take you and the kids home to Africa and I’ll make you Mrs. Jackson.”
She smiles and bites her lip, can’t believe that after such a long time her wildest dream is coming into reach. In only a few months she’ll marry the man she has been waiting for so long. He’ll make her biggest wish come true after all.
“I love you, Moyo.” she says, wiping a single tear from her cheek.
“I love you more, Angel.”
Pinching the back of his nose he gets up, takes a last look into his own eyes reflecting from the mirror and turns to leave the bathroom. He prays silently that god will help him through those months ahead of him, through these shows that terrify him so much. Prays for mental and physical strength and for that divine love that always pushed him to never let go. To walk every path and reach his goals.
He hates what he is doing. Pushing past his own believes, fighting against that inner voice that tells him to pull out of this deal. Lying to the precious people he loves so dearly, who are the world to him. But that’s exactly why he keeps doing it after all. That’s why he keeps going day by day. He wants to reach this last goal of fulfilling his dream of family life. Of marrying that one woman who has stood by his side like a rock all of these years. Of going home with her and the children. Far away from the spotlights, from all the evil of his show business life.
He’s so ready for this, for another challenge, all the new things he wants to do and that’s why he’s determined to be stronger than the voice in his head and the alarming signs of his body.
“Go and get some sleep now, Baby. I’ve got to get ready for my last day at work.”
“Yeah, I’m really tired.” he says and feels exhausted; his body worn out, limbs aching, mind racing. Maybe tonight he’ll really manage to fall asleep and get his much needed rest. He switches off the light and remains leaning at the doorframe for another while.
“Call me before you’re heading out tonight? Leni asked for you when she went to bed last night.”
“Of course! I’ll call right after lunch, ok?”
“OK, fine, I’ll be home by then.”
“Kiss her before you go?”
“Yeah, I’ll do. Get some rest, Baby, and we’ll talk laters! I love you!”
“Take care, Angel. I love you more.”
She tilts her head back and faces the sky for a while. The baby blue with those few torn white clouds that are always up there, above the Marula, like a permanent blanket protecting her. She takes in the sweet caress of the morning breeze and when silence settles in her heart, when the whisper in the branches turns into Michael’s voice talking to her once again, she finally feels some kind of peace in her heart. Something soothing, that only he can give her.
Closing her eyes she can feel him pressed against her back, his familiar lean frame painted on her dress, his strong arms wrapping around her waist, holding her in this unique embrace that gives her so much concealment in life. He cups her belly and caresses her there, makes her smile, when he buries his face against her neck.
It’s all that she needs. To know that he still holds her, still loves her. Knows about the beautiful gift he has left behind. Assures her, that everything she does is exactly what he had wished for. Effortlessly she untwists the urn and drops the lid to the ground. And without doubt she grabs a handful of his ashes and gently dusts it across the serene landscape of the place he loved so much.
“Welcome home, Moyo!” she whispers lowly, watches how his soul spreads and grows wings, dances in the air and settles around those strong old roots of the Marula.
She can feel his overwhelming love, these strong emotions he gave her from the very first day they met wrapping her up safely and now she knows they are finally free. Their love finally came home.
In early April 2010 Prudence Solomon gives birth to a beautiful baby boy called Michael Levi. A child that Michael had wished for so badly in those last weeks of his life. To become a father once again and pass on his pure love and his dream about healing the world to yet another sacred child.
And by holding their boy and listening to the sound of his screaming voice she feels this is how Michael will truly live on forever. Through the eyes of a child, with the genuine love of an innocent heart.