We stared at the golden phonographs with beaming smiles on our faces. There they were, all lined up in a row in front of us, like soldiers standing at attention in formation. Eight of them. We counted. Eight. More than anyone had ever achieved. And they were all his.
He’d earned each one, the culmination of a life’s work leading up to this magnificent feat. He deserved them all, enduring endless practice, lonely hotel rooms, and a lost boyhood along the way to international fame that saw him unselfishly share musical gifts bestowed upon him by a higher power with the world. To his peers, they were recognition for what could no longer be denied as transcendental creative genius. To an insatiable public, they were affirmation of its appetite to be transfixed by his trendsetting style and spellbinding talent. For Michael Jackson, honoree, they were long overdue acknowledgement of abilities he’d honed over the last twenty years.
He’d known it could happen, and he’d made it happen. It was there for the taking and he’d seized it. Unsatisfied to simply sit back and enjoy the longevity he’d already attained in an unforgiving, fickle line of work, he’d willed himself to become the architect of his own superstardom through determination, focus and a quest for perfection. His excellence had propelled him to a position atop the global stage, a pinnacle even he’d only considered in his dreams. He’d dominated the night in spectacular fashion for all the world to see beyond any shadow of a doubt the revelation of his irrefutable triumph.
I picked up one of the gleaming awards to examine it more closely and read the inscription.
National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
Album of the Year, Thriller
“Michael, where are you going to put them all?” I asked, still lightheaded from the realization of his accomplishment. “We need to build a shrine!”
“On my dresser for now,” he laughed. “I need to see them when my eyes open in the morning. I still can’t believe it, Deb!”
But I knew this moment had been long in the making, since he’d first recognized in himself the drive to get here. He’d pictured it in his mind and had the belief it would become real.
He’d already received a congratulatory call from the leader of the free world, who’d applauded his achievement and pitched a community service campaign that would be mulled over later.
His stretch pulled to the curb of my Hollywood bungalow a few hours later and waited for me to emerge into the nippy winter air. I’d been anxiously watching for it through the window and flew out the front door when I saw its headlights. I couldn’t wait to share in his happiness as I ran down the steps. Our plan was to spend time in his Century City apartment once obligatory parties and photo ops were fulfilled. And after watching his coup of the awards show unfold on my living room TV, there was reason to let loose and celebrate. The local news report that followed covered his command performance at the Shrine Auditorium, where he’d received a sustained standing ovation when he’d entered to take his seat before the show even began.
Swinging the limo door open and pulling me inside, he looked more breathtaking than I’d ever seen him, his smile a feast for my hungry eyes. We’d hugged desperate hugs with unfettered giddiness and a thirst so strong it seemed unquenchable. This night belonged to him, and I’d told him how proud he’d made me. He hadn’t tried to contain the joy that came bursting forth directly from his heart or conceal the confidence that brimmed from being publically honored in such a colossal way. But in the midst of what was undoubtedly one of the best nights of his life, he’d remembered to first apologize for being late and told me he’d been watching the clock, knowing I was waiting.
I’d finally snuggled next to him, my head on his shoulder, to get my bearings as he put his arm around me. I saw he’d placed all eight Grammy’s in a row on the seat opposite us, and it hit me then just what he’d done and how it would change his life forever. Mine too.
I hadn’t been entirely happy lately with how things were panning out. I should have been the one on his arm tonight. I should have witnessed the adulating crowd. I should have been seen with him at the parties. Instead I’d been hidden, replaced by a preapproved public relations celebutante. At least I wanted to think of her that way. I knew she was a good friend of Michael’s, but only a friend, he’d assured me, and I tried not to think badly of her. He’d asked for my trust in resolving the uncomfortable situation soon. She was eye candy, served up on a silver platter by his publicity machine to take center stage with him because of her salable popularity. An odd position in which I found myself, for sure, but it was a hurt I would deal with just a little longer. I did feel cheated out of being by his side for one of the biggest moments of his life. But it was some consolation Michael had a private life no one knew about, not even his family . . . me. What mom and his friends didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. And sometimes the challenge of keeping our new love a secret took on an excitement all its own.
“Let’s have some privacy,” Michael said.
The outside world disappeared as he depressed a button on the consol beside him that closed the dark partition separating us and his driver, creating a velvety, softly lit compartment. He tapped another button and soft piano from one of his favorite classical composers began to waft lightly in the background.
“There’s been a change of plans,” he said.
“Oh? Tell me.”
“Yeah, I have a surprise for you. It’s a secret.”
“Oh, you know I love secrets and surprises!”
“We’re taking a trip.”
“A short one, but get ready to sit back and relax for a bit,” he said, removing the gold sash and sparkling embellished jacket he’d worn to dazzle his fans at the show. “Let’s just say it’s somewhere special.”
“You won’t get any protest from me,” I smiled, tantalized over what he might have in store for us at this ungodly hour.
I watched him loosen his bright white shirt at the neckline and grab us each a soda from the mini-bar as he tapped the partition to spur the start of our journey.
I felt the vehicle leave the curb as I acknowledged his striking features one more time. Seeing his face never failed to blow me away. Its chameleon-like characteristics ensured I never grew tired of looking. He exploited it to convey emotion like no other before or since he’d first stepped foot on a stage. Grimacing pouts, simmering sneers, angry glares and sly smiles that cried raw, uncontrived sexuality. They were all contained in his performance treasure chest, and he used them well to put the exclamation point on every move his body made.
Like expensive perfume or fine wine, his beauty could be bottled and sold. Thick hair he wore in waves or curls summoned the image of a young Apollo. Large, entrancing eyes were unbelievable in their expressiveness and seemed the entryway to his soul. The lovely tone of his dark skin set off a sparkling band he still wore on his wrist. And classic tuxedo pants completed the look his costumers designed just for him. He was a perfect collision of manly style and womanly elegance in one heartstopping package of inexplicable beauty, an orgasm waiting to happen.
It wasn’t his physical or stylistic traits alone that attracted me. Just as important was the beauty residing within. He’d demonstrated admirable qualities a woman could wrap her arms around, that I could build a life around. I’d sat one day at my kitchen table and made a list of all the adjectives I felt explained his persona, and I’d eventually stopped myself because there were too many to put down on paper. Every one was a tribute to what I saw as his exceptional character. There were a few words, too, that described human fallibility. He wasn’t perfect, no one was. His foibles didn’t change the fact that I accepted and embraced him for who he was. They made him uniquely him, the man I loved.
Sitting forward and balling my fist, I held it to my mouth to start an on-the-spot tabloid interview, my voice becoming cutesy-pie sing-song.
“So tell us, Mr. Jackson, how does it really feel to know you steamrolled the competition and swept the floor with their behinds?”
“Are you kidding me?! What kind of a stupid question is that?” he played along into my microphone. “It feels fantastic!”
“Mmm-huh, and what are your plans for the future? Will you continue to keep us begging for more of that thing you do? What do they call it? Oh, yes. The moonwalk?”
“Maybe,” he laughed, “if I find my subjects worthy.”
“Oh, I see. So it’s like that. And how will we know if we’re worthy as we wait for you to dole out your many talents, o gloved one?”
“If you kiss my feet, girl, I’ll think about it.”
“Ah ha! I’d love to kiss your feet, Michael!” and I planted a big kiss on his cheek.
“Hmm, you’re a spunky little reporter,” he flirted.
“Why don’t you and I get together?” he asked with a devilish grin, grabbing me around my waist. “We need to hurry, though, before my girl gets back…” he whispered in a sultry voice, his lips touching my ear, “…you’re such a pretty young thing.”
We both giggled at his recitation of the words spoken in one of his smash hits. Hearing them crooned into my ear was so much better than listening through the headphones I’d admitted to using to hear his voice between encounters. He’d teased me mercilessly about them and had since phoned every morning, like clockwork, so I’d greet each day hearing him say his famous words.
Taking no prisoners, he tickled me everywhere as I squealed with laughter and struggled to escape, knocking one of his awards to the carpet in the process. Michael liked having fun, and it’s one of the things I loved about him. Funloving was a standout entry at the top of my adjectives list, along with modest, caring and shy. How could a seasoned stage performer who moved the way he did in front of millions be shy? It didn’t make sense. Yet he was, and sensitive too, sometimes too much for his own good. I knew there was much more to learn about what made him tick.
Straightening my disheveled sweater, I put the award back in position and sat again, my tone becoming serious.
“So how does it feel, Michael?”
“It’s everything I dreamed, Deb,” he said softly. “It feels really good, like people finally get me. Like I’ve arrived.”
“You were always here in a big way,” I countered. “But I think I know what you mean. And I know for a fact you more than dreamed it. You really went for it, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t want to be disrespected again,” he responded and took a sip of his drink.
Was that hurt I sensed in his voice? Still, after all this time?
Disillusioned his last album wasn’t recognized by the establishment in the grand way he’d expected, he’d told me of his public vow at the time to never let it happen again. It was a snub his perfectionism couldn’t tolerate. He’d make sure his next surpassed all expectations. I’d been dumbfounded to hear this admission and told him so, shocked by the pressure he’d put on himself to outdo his last chart-topper, immortalized in its own right. But I supposed that was the nature of the beast, what separated mediocrity from this ride at the top.
Tonight’s conquest wouldn’t fill him for long, I was certain. He was already planning his next move. Never content to sit idle, he loved setting goals, always looking to the future and dreaming of the soaring heights to which his talent could take him. Innate stubbornness and a learned business sense seemed key to helping him get where he wanted to go. Sensitive, yes. But anything but a pushover, he hadn’t become an industry powerhouse by listening to naysayers. He had vision and knew how to wield his influence to get his message to the masses. And he’d no longer settle for anything less. There was something else too, an inner strength I sensed that enabled him to overcome obstacles others couldn’t. This latest success, a lasting high for anyone else, would soon be put on a shelf as Michael prepared himself to do bigger and better. I hoped he wasn’t expecting too much. How could he possibly outshine what he’d just done?
“Well, you don’t have to worry about it this time,” I said, clasping his fingers in mine. “This one’s for the record books. And to think I saw your dream come true from start to finish,” I gushed. “I witnessed the whole thing unfold from the time you first stepped foot in the studio.”
“It was that shower that did it,” he smiled, calling up what had become a running joke between us. “Without that, the dream might’ve been a nightmare.”
A smile came to my face too as I flashed to the impromptu shower Michael had enjoyed at my home a few months earlier when I barely knew him. Our short break from work at Westlake Studio that day for lunch at my place had been a funny way to get better acquainted, but he’d ended up revealing wonderful feelings for me that would change the course of my life. His innocent need for my shower to rejuvenate himself after a long recording session broke the ice and set the stage for romance. We’d eventually share a love encounter, a first for each of us, in his dressing room on another revelatory occasion in his life, the night he’d shown the world his now-famous moonwalk.
“Yeah, that shower saved the album for sure,” I giggled. “The shower that rescued Thriller and put you up at that podium tonight.”
“I wish I could have been there to see it,” I said, my thoughts turning inward. I didn’t want to dampen this precious time spent together, but the words popped out anyway. It was my true feeling and had to be said.
“I spent my whole day thinking about you and wishing good thoughts for you tonight,” I expressed, disappointment creeping into my voice, “but crabby, too, knowing I wouldn’t be there to see it. This was your biggest night and I was alone watching on TV.”
“I wanted you there, Deb, but you said no.” Now he sounded disappointed.
“Michael, why would I want to see you with another woman? It was bad enough seeing you hold her hand on TV. No matter what happy spin I put on it, don’t you know it kills me inside?”
“I can’t just shrug all this stuff off,” I lightly scolded.
“I promise to make it up to you, Deb. Come here,” he said consolingly, pulling my head to his shoulder and drawing my arm across his chest. “You know I love you, right?”
Not yet willing to let the issue go, I pushed, “But I’m a newcomer to the fantastic adventure that’s your life and the ways of celebrity. I’m a regular person here, and I’m finally putting my foot down to get the stature I deserve. I won’t be treated as less anymore.”
“You’re right. But you’re here with me now, Deb. Don’t you know you’re the only one I share my feelings with?” he asked urgently. “Don’t ever forget it. I can be myself around you and say anything,” he added. “You’re the one I think about when I’m doing whatever I’m doing, even on stage tonight.”
My arm squeezed tight around his chest hearing the words I needed to hear. I loved him so much and knew he loved me too. I could feel it. I just needed to hear it one more time after seeing him with her tonight.
“Each time I was up there, I thought about making you proud,” he said, “torn up I couldn’t see you. I kept looking out in the audience for someone who wasn’t there.”
I popped my head up from his shoulder and looked at him incredulously. “Oh, you’re such a liar,” I laughed. “I saw the whole thing on TV, remember? I saw the way you played to those girls in the balcony,” I chided, “making a big show of taking off your shades. You loved every minute of it!”
Removing them at the podium had sent his female fans into a frenzy when he’d bowed to their shouted demands to get a look at the pretty eyes behind the cool façade.
“Yeah, it was kind’a fun,” he smiled, “but I really took them off for you!”
“Uh-huh, if you say so,” I said suspiciously. “Not sure I buy it. That one will take some convincing.”
“Does this help?” He set his drink aside and placed a gentle kiss on my lips before we gazed each other’s eyes.
“Some, but it doesn’t quite get me where I need to be,” I whispered, already feeling the anticipation that came from having his mouth touch mine. And it surely knew how.
I wanted to be handled, and he’d learned well how to do it. With the same care and devotion he’d shown for his music, he’d worked to free himself of inhibitions to master the art of touch. He knew where it could take me, where it could take us. Like each note his voice caressed in song, he knew the when, where, how and why of it. He knew what to touch and how to touch it. He knew when to be slow, when to be quick. Where to be gentle, and where to be firm. He’d discovered the secret places that unleashed me, using his hands, his fingertips, his mouth, his breath in ways only his artistry allowed, to make me feel like a woman in every way I could feel it. He’d learned to go deep and take us to the edge, then hold back for more. He’d let it build and bring us up the mountain one more time to finally push us over the peak and into the arms of that fleeting kiss of total release. And in that moment, he’d belong only to me, not to his music, not to the image, not to the world. I knew where this was headed and I couldn’t wait to get there.
Michael took my head in his hands, my hair entangled in his fingers.
“Debbie…,” he whispered with warm breath and planted small kisses on my neck, cheekbones, chin, and eyelids as his hand traveled to my breasts over my sweater. The urgent tingling and delicious wetness that emerged immediately between my legs told me I was ready to receive him this very second. I wanted to consume him, devour his being with my own in every way I could.
His greedy tongue probed deep into my mouth, darting, flicking and exploring, with a hunger that staggered me and made me yearn to see all of him. I rubbed his hardness through his pants while grappling to get them unfastened. His organ sprang free of its constraints as I unzipped him, standing tall and fully engorged with passion before me. Like everything else about him, his muscle was big, hot and magnificent. I softly ran my fingers around its shaft and touched its pink crown, sending his head back and causing his eyes to close, a small noise escaping his lips. I took his hand and cupped it around one of my breasts under my sweater and I felt him search for its sensitive center. Our mouths met again as he rushed to pull my sweater over my head and toss it aside. His eyes fixed and staring, he slid his pants to his knees. My fingers worked with urgency to open his shirt and reveal his smooth, dark skin and the gold chain he wore around his neck. He sat back as my warm, wiggling tongue took its time in painting him, beginning behind his jaw and trailing its edge, under his chin, the length of his throat to his collarbone, his chest down to his taut stomach muscles and circling his belly. His fingers dug the seat edge and he caught his breath as my swirling tongue found the tip of his penis. I went to my knees on the carpet between his thighs, my palms and spread fingers holding each of his hips, and ran my tongue base to tip, tip to base. Taking his full length in my mouth, I sucked gentle but firm, up and down, around and up, again and again as he panted with sweet breath. Looking up to behold his pleasure, I saw a face contorted with ecstasy, beads of sweat on his forehead, and knew it was time to stop.
Unfastening my skirt, I whispered, “Love me…,” and quickly got naked while he watched. He laid me back on the soft velvet and pushed my bunched sweater under my head, stretching out beside me and kicking free of his pants. His mouth took in one breast, then the other, as he sucked and flicked each nipple with his fluttering tongue until they pointed erect. His tongue traveled under my ear and beneath my chin, making my secret spot throb. I felt his soft curls tickle my stomach as his tongue flit in and out of my belly button. His fingertips found my sweet place and made soft circles the way I’d taught him, as he kissed me deep. He used his whole hand, his palm and fingers, to make my excitement build and build until I couldn’t hold on any longer.
I couldn’t and didn’t want to contain the sound that pushed through my lips as I surrendered to the ultimate release of tension his touch was causing, a focused but brief all-consuming euphoric spasm that seized control and then swept my body, ending in total relaxation and an opening of all my senses. He stopped to touch my elated face and kiss my mouth as I basked in gratifying aftermath.
And now I wanted him inside.
He got on his knees as I arched my back and opened myself to accept him, my splayed fingers going inside his shirt to his bare stomach and then grasping each of his perfect cheeks as I saw him take aim and slide in tenderly, moving in and out, filling me with his love, out and in. His hips thrust smooth and slow as he got onto his elbows and lowered his face to my shoulder, his dangling chain tickling my chest as he moved. My hands went to his hair and held his head next to mine as he continued to thrust again and again. He rose up on his knees and slid my hips into him forcefully, his hair now wild and free as his head went back and he began to pump quicker, forward and back, faster and faster. God, what he was doing to me, his hips propelling him as deep as he could go, plunging over and over with quick, panting breath, his face determined, his chest sticky with sweat. Each push filled me with his whole being, with everything he had. His brilliance, his power, his perfection, his radiance, his sweetness, his lust, his love. Every part of him was now a part of me as he gave the gift of himself. The words on my list weren’t just words. They were Michael, and he was all mine.
With a strong and final drive into my warm cavity, his face grimaced and eyes squeezed tight as he exhaled a stifled cry, his fluid shooting deep inside. His sweet noises were always different and I waited to hear them, each an expression of unselfish love meeting absolute submission to animalistic urge. His body relaxed as he met my lips for a cuddling kiss.
“Love you, Deb,” he said, and I hugged as tight as my arms could hold him.
We moved to a spoon, my yin to his yang, and I held him caringly from behind.
“I love you too, Michael,” I whispered, my lips to his ear.
No need for words between us, I felt the limo make smooth turns, rising and dipping, and heard him drift off in my arms. He’d finally had as much as he could handle of the most exciting day of his life.
He was beautiful when he slept, and I listened to him softly inhale and exhale, smelling his fragrant curls next to my face. I loved looking at his hands and gently took one in mine, being careful not to wake him. They were sensuous hands, with long fingers and large palms, elegant yet strong, and I imagined they were what a sculptor’s hands might look like. His fingers were suckable too. Oh, they were, I thought, giggling to myself. Everything about him was. From his on-point toes and cute little earlobes, to his pretty pink lips and other places too. Just as he’d delighted in discovering me, I’d relished putting my lips to every inch of his glorious body. He was perfect in so many ways, maybe too perfect to keep.
Even as I realized the special love we shared, insecurities sometimes toyed with my self-esteem. I doubted my ability to hold onto him and felt it inevitable he’d get bored and leave. Especially after what he’d done tonight. He wouldn’t have much time to fit me into his glamorous life, I was fairly sure. And I’d asked myself time and again what he saw in me. Why me? There were so many beautiful women wanting to possess him and willing to do anything to have him. If I could lock him away in a gilded cage I would, but I knew in my heart I’d always need to share him. His gifts demanded and wouldn’t be denied his attention. I wasn’t sure what the future held for us, but when all was said and done my one wish for Michael was his happiness. Wherever he was and whatever he was doing, I could never thank him enough for the gifts he’d given me. Knowing him had changed me for the better. Pondering this thought, my mind drifted slowly into my own peaceful state of twilight as we lie on the cushy velvet.
The limo made a sharp turn and finally came to a jerky stop, jarring me back into the moment. I shook Michael awake, fearful the driver might pop the door and discover us in flagranti.
“Michael, wake up,” I urged. “I think we’re finally here.”
His eyes blinked and arms stretched. Sitting up, he gave me a quick peck on the lips and ran his hands through his untamed curls.
“Hurry and get dressed,” I said, self-consciously, “the driver might see us.”
“Don’t worry, Deb. He’ll wait,” he yawned, buttoning his wrinkled shirt.
Sitting up and peering through the darkened windows, I could barely make out the gray beginnings of morning while quickly piecing myself together. It seemed we’d been driving forever, and I was anxious to meet our destination.
The vehicle began to move again, making a succession of rising turns, finally coming to a complete stop.
“Are you ready?” Michael asked.
“Ready to go,” I responded, fluffing my hair in an attempt to become presentable.
A blast of chilly air shocked my face and invaded the warmth of our chamber as Michael opened the door and stepped out. He offered his hand and I scooted across the seat to follow.
Emerging from the vehicle, I was startled to find us in the middle of nowhere. Standing side by side, we looked out on a vast panorama of pastureland with several small lakes, trees in abundance, and a large house in the distance.
“This is where I’m going to build it, Deb,” he smiled and bit his lower lip.
And then I understood.
“Is this the place?”
He pointed to a screeching, black hawk searching for prey from the morning sky as it floated overhead. Dawn was breaking and rays of sunlight peaked over a nearby mountain range. Stands of mature sycamore and knotty oak dotted the terrain. Mooing cows grazed, and songbirds called out the first chirps of a day that would be spent singing. Crisp air smelled clean and fresh. It was a peaceful and quiet place, a pristine landscape that invoked serenity.
“I’m in negotiations now,” Michael said, looking pleased. “It might take a while, but it will be mine eventually.”
“Ours,” he said.
“I have a vision for this place, and you’re a part of it, Deb.”
“I am?” I asked.
“I mean, yeah, I am,” I smiled.
“Of course you are,” he giggled, drawing me close, his hand rubbing my arm to keep me warm. “You’re my girl, right?”
“Yes, I’m your girl, Michael,” I said confidently and holding him tightly around his waist.
“Neverland. I’m drawing up plans as we speak,” he said, surveying the vista. “It’s going to be a place filled with laughter.”
“And privacy,” I added.
“And privacy,” he winked.
“I can’t wait, Michael,” and I couldn’t.
I looked up at his smiling eyes and knew he was dreaming big dreams only he could dream.
“Neither can I. Come on, girl,” he said, “Let’s go peak through the windows of all the rooms we’ll christen.”
We took off through the grass toward the house that would become a home.