Andrea was running late.
It was a quarter till eleven, and she was speed walking through the doors of Cochran, Mitchell & Jenna law firm. Her schedule had been catching up with her lately. The truth is, her punctuality had taken a bruising because of her shifting priorities. Planning her wedding had become a big part of her agenda and as a result, she was losing sleep.
Which led to her being late and if she didn't already know how bad that was, she could tell by the looks she received while making her way to her office. She already had to deal with the looks she got for being a black woman in an unexpected space; now, they had a reason to gawk.
It pissed her off, but it was a non-factor as she sat down and took a minute to gather herself before starting her work. After she put her glasses on and opened a file folder, her office door opened and revealed her friend and colleague, Ava. She came in and sat across from her desk.
"I already know what you're about to say, Ava, and-"
Ava stopped her with a wave of dismissal and leaned forward a tad. "You remember when they sent out that announcement about a special visitor coming today?" She spoke in a quiet tone like someone else could hear them.
Andrea nodded and gave her attention entirely to Ava now, knowing that this would be enjoyable based on how much her voice had lowered.
"It's Michael Jackson!" Ava exclaimed with a happy motion of her hands, but then she tilted her head some. "It's his wife too, but who cares about that."
Andrea couldn't process anything she heard afterwards his name. She felt her stomach go into a churning frenzy as she tried to save face for Ava. She let out a deep sigh and feigned disbelief while looking down at her desk.
Just his name affected her body that, till that day, was unmatched.
"M-Mi-Michael Jackson?" Andrea stuttered, lifting her eyes to meet Ava's gaze, which had turned from excitement to confusion rather quickly. While Andrea's actions came off as if she was a shocked fan, her eyes didn't read the same and Ava wasn't a dumb woman by any means.
Ava squinted suspiciously. "Yeah," she responded slowly, "why do you look like you've seen a ghost?"
"I mean, it's Michael Jackson," his name felt like bile flowing from her lips, she hadn't said it or any variation of it in years, "it's a big deal."
Ava watched her body language as Andrea tried to convince her that she was okay, her eyebrows raising at her almost botched attempt to say Michael's name. Once Andrea realized that Ava wasn't going to just let her strange behavior go unexplained, her hand grabbed her glasses and rubbed over her face.
"Ava, I haven't been getting the best sleep lately. I'm a little tired."
"Do you want me to get you something?"
"Thank you, but I'll get it myself."
Ava gave her one more inquisitive stare before getting up. "Alright." She spoke slowly again while making her way out of the office. Andrea stewed for a minute before deciding that a morning soda was a good idea and leaving her office to get it.
As she rounded the corner to go into the lounge, she stopped in her tracks when she saw a familiar frame. She only saw his back, but she knew him from anywhere, broad shoulders feeding into a small waist and long legs dressed in all black.
She immediately thought to turn back and leave, but before she could execute, she heard her name. Mr. Cochran had spotted her over Michael's shoulder.
"Good morning, Mr. Cochran." Andrea greeted her boss as she made her way over to him. As they all stood in the lounge, Andrea set her eyes on the white woman in front of her.
Andrea thought as her eyes passed over the woman, she was much smaller in person. Lisa's chestnut brown hair framed her face, accentuating her emerald green eyes, strong jawline, and chin.
Not that pretty.
She inwardly rolled her eyes at that because she knew it didn't matter if she looked good or not. Mrs. Jackson had the background and shade enough to make Michael's handlers ecstatic.
"Good morning, Ms. Carter. I'd like for you to meet my former client and his wife. Michael, Lisa, this is Andrea Carter, one of the best partners at my firm. Andrea, I'm sure you already know who these two are." Cochran gave a small smile as he introduced them.
I know him alright.
Andrea thought as she proceeded to pretend as if she didn't.
She could feel his stare, even though she was actively avoiding eye contact. It was almost as if he was looking straight through her, the same way he would when they were together.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson." She spoke, finally brave enough to look him in the eye as she shook his hand.
"The pleasure is all mines." He said while smiling charmingly, just like he did when they first met.
She was jittery and a bit nervous, but overall she was excited to have her internship as an assistant to John Branca. She had been there for about a week, and she loved her job; sure, it was a bore (and she wasn't even studying to be an entertainment lawyer), but it gave her some insight into how the corporate world worked.
She was sitting at her desk outside of John's office, booking his calendar when she heard him call her name.
She was mildly surprised when she walked into the office and saw Michael Jackson and his manager sitting across from John. She only got a glance at him, but that was enough to see him in his usual black pants, and red button-down with his aviator glasses hung on it.
She had never seen him in person, but she knew he was Branca's biggest client because of all the paperwork she'd ran across concerning him.
"You called, sir?"
"Yes," John said while smiling, "could you get me the files faxed from Sony earlier this week."
"Can do." She replied shortly before turning back around and going to complete her task.
After that, she was at her desk again doing her usual rounds when Michael and Frank walked out of John's office. She thought they would pass her by, but she was again surprised when Michael stopped square in front of her desk.
"Andrea, right?" He asked in a gentle, questioning tone. When she looked up from her desk she almost wanted to look back down; he was gorgeous. His eyes are what she noticed first, doe, ebony shaded, innocent-looking, and offering her an intense stare right then. His smile was second; pink supple-looking lips stretched to give her a view of his smile, clean white teeth that could have been arranged by god himself.
He was fioneeeeee.
"Yes, sir. Can I help you?" She asked him politely. He giggled a bit at her professionalism.
"I just wanted to introduce myself," he said while reaching his hand out, "and call me Michael."
She shook his hand, and that was next on the list of things she noticed about him; they were in a healthy medium between being coarse or soft, but mainly they were huge. "Nice to meet you, Michael." She gave him a small smile that he returned.
"The pleasure is all mines." He replied speedily, letting her hand rest in his more prolonged than usual.
"Alright, that's enough chitchat. We on a tight schedule, kid." Frank badgered Michael, signaling that it was time to let go, and he did but not before looking her over once more.
"I guess I'll see you around, Andrea." Michael said before starting to walk off. He wasn't too cool to look back at her, and that's precisely what he did, too. With his bottom lip tucked between his teeth.
Andrea almost wanted to laugh at how much has changed, at what they'd become.
But she didn't. She held her composure as she greeted him and his wife respectfully.
Even though she could still feel him staring, she wouldn't look him in the eye again. It was too much for her, reminding her that as much as she thought she healed, she hadn't.
She excused herself and hightailed back to her office, where she proceeded to look over her case notes for the next few hours. That was until her office door opened and closed, and there stood Michael Jackson in all his glory.
He stood at the door with his hands in his pockets, drinking her in. She continued to look over her work as if he wasn't there. At this point, she wasn't focused anymore because his aura affected her ability to do so.
This time she couldn't avoid his stare and made her tense. It was now that it dawned on her some of the things she loved about him were things that upset her now. Like in this instance, the strength of his presence and the weight of his eyes on her only worked to her detriment.
"Andrea." He finally spoke, saying her name as if she was the best thing since sliced bread. His stare was never wavering. Hell, he wasn't even really blinking as his eyes roamed over every piece of her exposed to him. As much as she wasn't feeling it, she couldn't blame him because she looked different.
Good different. Gone was the Andrea of old. She was no longer that skinny, nerdy grad student with a shoulder-length perm. She had grown into herself, weight packing on in all the right places, tax brackets higher than where she was when she met him, and a new Halle berry/Nia Long reminiscent haircut.
She was looking good! Even she had to admit it.
"Michael." She parroted in a tone that indicated that she was less excited to see him than he was to see her.
He gave her a slight smile as he rubbed his palms on his pants. "God... you look amazing, girl."
"Thank you." He stared for a few seconds before sitting in the chair across from her desk and scooting up until he could rest his elbows on her desk. Andrea would be lying if she said she hadn't noticed how good he looked too, but she would never tell him that, no need to inflate his ego.
They sat face to face; her eyes still cast down as she pretended to be busy. She could still feel Michael's stare burning into her, so she decided to address him. "Is there something I could help you with, Michael?"
She finally looked up from her work to see that he wasn't pleased with her tone, but deep down, it made her feel good to vex him; it felt like her own personal revenge. She talked in her professional voice, trying to show him that she didn't care for giving him the time of day.
"Andrea." She swiftly corrected him. He lost that right a long time ago.
"Andrea," he rephrased, "I'm sorry." He said it as if he was afraid to offend her, tapping his fingers on her desk after they fell into an awkward silence.
Her eyes traced over his face as she waited for him to speak again. He was still as winsome as the day they met; his expressive eyes were trying their hardest to read her. They always were. He moistened his lips with his tongue and pulled the bottom one between his teeth while his hand reached up to touch the bridge of his nose.
He was nervous. Andrea could see as much from his actions even though he was trying not to show it. So, they continued to survey each other, her waiting to hear him speak and he trying to gather his thoughts enough to do so. The silent staring they were engaged in was familiar to them, and their arguments usually took this form because Michael tended to be passive-aggressive at times and Andrea adapted to get what she wanted out of him. She wasn't passive by any means, but if she knew anything, she knew that hoopin' and hollerin' at Michael was often like entertaining a brick wall.
It wasn't going to get her anywhere.
Their disputes were like a game of chess with the two on opposite sides of the board, scheming and plotting how to get their point to each other's end; completely silent unless one of them makes a move.
"I'd be lying if I said I knew what to say." He sighed and looked away from her for a moment.
"Then why are you here?" It slipped out before she could stop it. She didn't want to give him a response at all. She was starting to feel as if he was wasting her time, and that was wearing her patience thin.
He was now fiddling with some of the stuff on her desk as she sat waiting on him again. She was facing an internal struggle; she wanted to hear what he had to say as much as she wanted to put him out. As moments flew by, shrouded in silence, she felt herself grow more and more irate.
"Michael, you can either say your piece or leave." She delivered calmly. "Quickly."
"I'm not trying to waste your time, I promise. But I need to tell you more than what you're allowing time for."
"You'd have more time if you spent more of it saying what you came in here to say." She saw a glimpse of fear flash in his eyes before he reached across her desk to grab her hands in his.
She almost flinched at his touch, and a literal chill ran through her at the feel. His thumbs gently ran over her knuckles and even over her engagement ring, but she couldn't help but notice how his finger jumped when he felt it. She concluded perhaps he was displeased when he continued to rub, yet never coming close to the ring again.
"Andrea, I'm sorry." He began, his eyes pleading with her to let him stay. "I never wanted this to happen, girl-
"What are you doing?" And do you think that's supposed to work? She wanted to finish, but she thought against it. The disbelief on her face should've been enough to show him he wasn't getting anywhere with the begging he was about to resort to.
"Andrea, I told you I don't know what else to say." He nearly whined before she yanked her hands from his.
"How about you contact me when you do." She said, taking one more good look at him before returning her eyes to her work. "Michael, I need you to leave."
Two weeks later...
February 20, 1995
"How come you didn't tell me?" Ava huffed, wiping the sweat off her brow as she struggled to keep up with her friends running the sunny park trail.
"I didn't really tell anybody." Andrea responded.
"But you pretended like you didn't know him?" Ava was perplexed.
"And I don't." Andrea responded instantly, not noticing the look that her two friends shared. Even if she had seen the look, her point stood true to her. After 1992, she didn't know Michael Jackson because the Michael she knew would've never put her in as dark a mental space as he did after all was said and done.
Ava stopped jogging, making them all halt too. "But you do." She took the towel from around her neck and wiped her face off as she looked at Andrea inquisitively. Andrea wanted to believe that Ava's curiosity was pure, but she was walking touchy territory, and it was bothering her.
Sarah noticed the quick change in the demeanor of her friend and was quick to interject. "Ava-"
"I'm beginning to think that you're deliberately being obtuse." Andrea turned to Ava with her arms crossed and an eyebrow raised.
Having been friends with Andrea much longer than Ava, Sasha knew that depending on how Ava addressed Andrea; this could end badly. She knew that the discussion wasn't going to please Andrea to begin with, and in that vein, she wished she hadn't said anything when Ava asked her about it. Sasha had known Andrea since she transferred to Berkeley for law school, so she was there through the whole Michael debacle, and she also watched her friend pull herself together the best she could once it was over.
"Drea, this isn't making much sense to me. All you said was that you dated. That's not explaining why you were acting so weird the other day."
"It doesn't have to because that's not your business, and I would appreciate it if we could stop talking about him."
And so they finished jogging in silence, and although she felt bad for seeming like a buzzkill, she wanted to continue her life the way it had been going before Michael resurfaced.
Her ride back home was silent as well, and even her radio was off so she could be left in her mood. Her silence was only lifted when she made it to her high-rise apartment and found her fiancé sitting in the living room.
"Hey, baby." He greeted, his eyes leaving the television to look at her with a small smile.
"Hi." She said while hanging her keys up by the door. "You off today?"
He gave her a look that said "duh," his hazel eyes lighting up with amusement. "I'm sitting in your living room, ain't I?"
"Don't get flip with me, Dr. Hall." She playfully scolded as she walked into the kitchen to get herself a bottle of water. She was drinking the water, and he joined her in the kitchen just to watch her.
She couldn't help but feel bad sometimes because she knew that she didn't feel the same way he did in her heart of hearts. Don't get her wrong; Lance was everything she would've wanted in a man; he was handsome, accomplished, and absolutely in love with her. Yes, he was everything she would've loved to have, but she couldn't find it in herself to fall in love with him.
She drank her water as her lover leaned against the counter, smiling at her, genuinely happy to be in her presence.
"Just today and tomorrow, though. Tomorrow night I go back in. So, I thought we could chill and order a pizza or something." He shrugged, letting his eyes run down Andrea's fit frame, still dressed in her workout attire.
"I don't know how you do it, babe." She had finished her water and went to put her bottle in the trash, then she went up to him and laid a sweet kiss on his soft lips. "I'm gonna take a shower, and then I'm yours."
He flashed a sexy smile and smacked her ass as she made her way out of the kitchen. "I like the sound of that."
Leaving him in there, she hurried to her bedroom and got some clothes for her to change into after the shower. Only taking a break to check her voicemail, something she did every evening around the same time.
You have two new messages...
The first was from her sister, reminding her to call her at the end of the week, even though Andrea had never forgotten to call.
The second one...
"Andrea, I'm sorry about the other day at your office. But I just found out you were back in L.A., and I want to set things straight..."
The rest was a blur to her because she tuned the rest of the message out once she heard the familiar voice. She wanted to laugh because if there was any time in her life where God had the worst timing, it had to be now. The absolute last thing she needed was for Michael to force himself back into her life, so she hurried and deleted the voicemail before it even finished.
She took her shower in the hottest water she could get, trying to scald herself enough to get her mind off him and his antics.
When that didn't work, she returned to her fiancé and fucked him like she loved him in hopes that that would do the trick.
When that also failed, she laid in her bed -after putting him to sleep- staring at the ceiling, hoping that the shadows from the lights and action outside would lull her to sleep.
She looked over at the clock on her nightstand to see that it was 2:35, and she sighed, knowing that if she didn't do anything about it now, she would never go to sleep. Thus, she left the bed and went to the kitchen to make herself some tea.
In the next 30 minutes, she found herself on the floor in front of her couch, watching an infomercial about some pots and wishing that she had grabbed her glasses.
"This shit is hot." She mumbled to herself before her phone started ringing. She didn't want it to wake up her man, so she hopped up and grabbed it from the receiver. She didn't even bother to check the caller I.D. because she didn't feel like squinting to see it.
"Andy, I know you got my voicemail." He was slurring slightly, letting her know that he was under the influence; of what, she didn't know, but she could only hope it was alcohol.
If there was one thing they shared, it was insomnia. The two spent plenty of busy nights together because of how sleep had evaded them. In the beginning, it was the basis of their relationship. For them, the darkness of night brought secrets, fears, self-actualization, and security.
"Michael? How'd you get this number?"
"I miss you, Andy. I never stopped thinking about you." She heard him hiccup, confirming that he was drunk, and she let out a sigh of relief she didn't even know she was holding. "I miss you." He repeated as if she hadn't heard him the first time.
"Listen to me, girl." He tried to sound serious. "I still have your ring." He sounded distressed, as if he was the one who should've been heartbroken. "Almost every night, I hold it. I think about where we'd be if you woulda said yes."
His voice reduced almost to a whisper. "God, I wish you said yes. I wanted to give you the world, give you my name. I wanted to be yours so bad, baby."
She sat down on her sofa, running her free hand over her face as she experienced a rainbow of conflicting feelings. He sounded so genuine, and he was pulling at her heartstrings hard. As a result, Andrea felt tormented, not in the space to deal with the emotions that hearing him express himself made her feel.
So she didn't.