Two weeks later, houx sits crossed legged and crossed armed in front of a large mahogany bureau as her lawyer John Branca looks over a new contract for houx to sign. He looks up at her and pulls out a pen from his pocket and pushes it vers l'avant, vers l’avant to her. “Now Holly, toi do realize that the following contract will dissolve any ties your mother has as your manager on the jour of your birthday.” houx sits up and looks down at the contract with a serious eye before looking back up at him. “John, I may be young, but I’m shrewd when it comes to what I want and what I want is this. Now, where do I sign?” John sighs before pointing at the bottom of the page at the dotted line. “There and give the rendez-vous amoureux, date and your initials as well. I’m assuming toi want these served to her on your birthday?” houx looks at John with a smirk, “Is there any other way to make my point?” John looks at her and shrugs as she signs the documents, “If toi say so. Have toi told Michael yet?” houx puts down the pen and slides the documents back to him. “Michael knows everything these days,” houx murmurs with a smile. “But right now he is preoccupied with Off the mur and the house,” she adds. “Funny, I thought his birthday would be the first since it’s tomorrow,” John says looking down at the documents making sure they are correct. houx smiles, “Michael is a Jehovah’s Whiteness, birthdays aren’t really a big deal – but I’m gonna get him in the party spirit whether he likes it ou not.” John chuckles, “Well I certainly wish toi luck. Well, this makes it official. Do toi need anything else since you’re here?” houx looks down at the rug before shaking her head, “Not today but I’m sure once I get closer to finding a house I’ll need your help plus than ever.” John gives her a sincere smile, “When toi do just call me up.” “Oh toi know I will.”

Hours later Michael is sitting in a limo with Quincy sitting beside him on their way to Off the Wall’s launch party. Michael’s leg has not stopped shaking up and down the entire time making Quincy roll his eyes. “Smelly – what’s the problem?” Michael looks over at him from looking out the window. “Just nervous about the party, toi know this isn’t my thing.” “I know Smelly, but this is all part of the process, besides it won’t be that bad, houx will be there.” Michael smiles looking back out the window as Bill turns the limo off the freeway and into the dusk of the evening. Just thinking about houx and her presence makes him instantly calm. These past two weeks with houx have been amazing as they have spent nearly every evening together, either chilling ou houx slyly moving some of her belongings to his apartment. The thought of her turning eighteen in three weeks makes his head spin, but then again his twenty-first birthday is tomorrow. But to him, it is just another day.

“Smelly, we’re here,” Quincy announces as he opens the door to montrer a back entrance door to the party. Michael takes a deep breath getting out and quickly running into the building before anyone can recognize him. The hallway to the party room is dark and stuffy nearly suffocating Michael as he follows Bill. Once they reach it the room is filled with everyone from close personal friends, family, press, and musique executives. Michael instantly scans the room for houx and finds her in the right corner of the room talking to an unfamiliar female woman. At this angle, she looks so sophisticated with a red licou, halter neck dress with a slit up the side montrer her curvy leg. He gulps to restrain the feelings that are welling up inside of him. Many people come up to talk to him and chat many of whom he has never even met from the company, but he puts on a montrer par smiling and engaging in their pointless and uncomfortable conversation. All Michael wants to do is go over and talk to Holly, which makes him keep his eyes on her until he is able walk up to her with a smile and a distant Kiss on the cheek – remembering what they agreed upon about not telling anyone about their relationship ou montrer public affection until she is eighteen. “You look perfect,” Michael whispers in her ear making houx blush. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she murmurs back as she observes his outfit of a grey-marled blazer and a white button-down shirt, which is unusually toned down for him. Michael shrugs as he looks around the room of people laughing and drinking. “You know this isn’t my type of thing,” he murmurs looking down at his shoes. houx intertwines her arm with his, smiling, “That’s exactly why I’m here, and to gloat and say I told toi so about your album.” Michael raises his eyebrow, “Why did toi want to come separately?” “Because I had to drop something off at the apartment since toi gave me a snazzy new key. Why toi think I’m having a hot torrid l’amour affair with someone?” houx teases. Michael can feel his face go hot. “That’s not funny.” He looks down at her with a stern eye as she laughs. The thought of another man touching houx makes him want to get violent and he isn’t a violent type of man. “Actually it is and toi know why? Because I can’t even keep track of my own life so how the hell am I supposed to keep track of two men?” The thought alone makes her exhausted.

“You shouldn’t use bad words,” Michael admonishes as he looks around the room once more. houx rolls her eyes. “Like I haven’t heard toi use a curse word a time ou two?” She challenges back. He looks down at her with vacant eyes, “You’re exasperating.” “And you’re grumpy,” she adds. “Come on, everyone is here in celebration of your accomplishment, toi should act a little grateful.” “Holly, everyone is just here for a picture, a drink, and a contact – not me. I’m fine with that but I would much rather spend my evening with just you.” “Diana, how wonderful of toi to come!” Quincy shouts in the room making everyone turn their attention to the door, especially Michael, which he unintentionally shrugs out of Holly’s grasp. She looks at how he instantly looks at her and only her. Diana is full of smiles in a long beaded silver robe and flowing puffed hair. The room is instantly mesmerized par her as they come up to her like moths to a flame to gain one seconde of her attention. She casually walks up to Michael and houx with ease knowing she is owning the room. As she sees Michael she smiles and holds out her hand where Michael instantly takes it without hesitation-making houx irritated. “Hello Michael, toi look handsome as ever,” she remarks looking at him up and down. houx has never wanted to slap a woman harder in her life. Michael flushes and looks down at the floor. “Why do toi embarrass me like that? toi look gorgeous, Diana. I didn’t know toi were coming.” Michael is brimming from ear to ear with happiness. “Of course! I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Diana looks over at houx and gives her a fake smile. “Well if it isn’t little houx Williams, how are you, sweetie?” houx gives her a tight-lipped smile, “Just fine, thank you.” “Holly isn’t so little anymore Diana, she is turning eighteen in three weeks.” “Well isn’t that cute, happy early birthday, Holly. Speaking of which, Michael isn’t tomorrow your birthday?” Michael rolls his eyes as he jams his hands in his pockets, “Ugh don’t remind me.” “How about toi and I have dîner tomorrow night?” “I’d l’amour to!” Michael exclaims with glee. houx looks over at him with shock and lightly taps him on his arm. “Ugh, Michael, I thought we already made plans for tomorrow night?” Michael looks down at her and his face drops realizing his error before looking back at Diana. “Holly’s right, we already made plans.” “How unfortunate,” she murmurs looking at houx with skeptical eyes. houx can sense her game and smirks as she intertwines her arm with his and gives Diana a raised eyebrow. “Another night then,” Diana remarks as she looks at the two of them, especially Holly. “Well, I should go mingle. I’ll catch up with toi two later.”

As she sashays away Michal looks at houx with a stern expression. “What?” houx asks innocently. “You were very rude to Diana.” “Oh come on Michael! Did toi not hear how she was talking down to me and trying to act like the head fucking hen?” houx harshly whispers as Michael pulls her into the corner where they could have some privacy. “She was just trying to be nice, Holly.” “And if I hadn’t a dit anything would toi have blown off our plans to have dîner with her?” Michael remains silent and looks down at the floor. houx scoffs and shakes her head, “That’s what I thought.” Suddenly Lionel comes up and surprises them. “Sorry to disturb toi two, looks like a deep conversation over here, but I just want wanted to congratulate toi Mike on the album.” “Thanks, Lionel,” Michael mutters still distracted par Holly’s question. “And toi Holly,” Lionel smiles looking over at her with a grin. houx looks at him with a puzzled glance, pushing some blonde strands of hair out of her face. “What are toi talking about, Lionel?” “Mark over from Virgin just told me news about your new album coming out in a few months – I think that is wonderful!” He hugs her with Glee as houx stands tongue-tied as what to say. Michael looks at houx with shock at how she could keep something so immense hidden from him. It feels as if someone has suddenly kicked him in the gut.

“T-Thanks Lionel, it really wasn’t supposed to be announced…especially tonight.” She looks quickly over at Michael who is glaring at her. “Oh no of course not, mum’s the word.” “Spread that around, especially to Mark, please,” houx remarks as Lionel leaves them alone again. In a room filled with noise, the silence is the loudest thing in the room between them. Both stare at the other, hurt and upset at the other. “Why didn’t toi tell me?” Michael gets out through gritted teeth. houx crosses her arms, “There never seemed to be a right time.” “There never seemed to be a right time!” Michael harshly whispers back. He stops himself before he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. As he opens them back up he shakes his head, “We can’t do this, not here.” He leaves her to go talk and mingle with partygoers.

Hours later houx and Michael step inside the solitary confinements of the limo. Both let out a relieved sigh neither one knew they were holding in. Bill sits in the driver siège and looks back at the two of them far away from each other. “Holly, toi want me to take toi home?” “No, she is going back to the apartment with me, we have a lot to discuss,” Michael barks looking out the window. houx grinds her teeth as Bill pulls the limo in drive and pulls out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. As the cars whiz by, she lets out an unintentional tear. At this very moment, she feels so hurt and mad, not just with Michael, but also with herself. Why did she not tell him about her new album coming out? He would be her biggest supporter and fan if she did – but somehow she always managed to talk herself out of it. Maybe she didn’t trust him and kept telling herself she was? Thinking about at how Michael smiled at Diana tonight made her feel insecure not only about herself but also, about their relationship.

Michael’s head is filled with thoughts of houx and their relationship. The thought of her not telling him about her latest album coming out really cut him deep. Does she not trust him that much after everything they’ve shared so far and what they agreed to embark on? He looks over at her and hears a sniffle from houx in the darkness. He desperately wants to reach his hand out to her and comfort her, but his stubbornness is getting the best of him. He has to talk to her tonight, otherwise, nothing will get resolved and they cannot déplacer vers l'avant, vers l’avant in their relationship.

The remaining car ride feels like an eternity when nobody is speaking. Bill even turns on the radio to President Carter’s national address to drown out the silence. As soon as Michael and houx get to his apartment all the way up until the elevator they don’t even look in their direction. The elevator doors emerge open to display a long banner that spells out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!” with balloons and streamers in the room. Michael staggers back. “What’s this?” He asks surprised. “Yeah, happy birthday,” houx mutters flopping on the canapé with no enthusiasm. Michael sighs and sits down beside her, both looking in the other direction staring off into space. “Is this going to work?” houx asks looking over at Michael. “Only if we stay honest with the other,” Michael retorts. “Well, my not telling toi about the album is a lot different than your l’amour for Diana.” Michael groans getting off the canapé and walking to the kitchen. “Will toi give that a rest, Holly?” She gets up and follows him. “No, I won’t. I saw toi with her tonight. toi can deny it till you’re blue in the face but toi l’amour her.” Michael grabs the orange jus, jus de from the fridge and begins to pour himself a glass. “Of course I l’amour her as a seconde mother, as a friend, but not as a girlfriend I only love…” He stops himself. “I only love, what, Michael?” “I only mean that I don’t l’amour her that way that toi think I do.” “Ugh, you’re so infuriating!” houx shouts throwing her hands up in the air. Michael slams his glass on the counter. “What do toi want from me, Holly? I asked toi to déplacer in with me, you, not Diana? Doesn’t that mean anything to you? But toi know what I think your problem is?” “Oh please, enlighten me,” houx mocks looking at him. “I think toi get jealous of Diana.” houx gives a small forced chuckle, “Oh listen here buddy boy if toi think I am jealous par that slim piece of cul, ass than toi are certainly mistaken. But even if I was, did toi ever think for one moment in that goddamn male brain of yours that my supposed jealousy is not caused par Diana, but par you? toi make me feel as if toi that you’ll never look at me the way toi look at her. Sometimes I feel like I can’t trust you.” houx stops herself as she feels her emotions rising.

Michael stands there dumbfounded. He feels ashamed at the thought. Not once did he realize that he was hurting houx with the way he does faon, fawn over Diana. But it is an insecurity she needs to get over. Suddenly anger boils up inside him. “That’s the pot calling the kettle black!” he spats back. “You talk about not feeling like toi can’t trust me, meanwhile you’ve been recording a whole album that is soon going to be released and toi never once indicated anything. What else have toi not told me, Holly?” houx crosses her arms and rolls her eyes. “Oh come on Michael, between both of us, toi would be plus likely to have an affair plus than me.” Michael’s eyes widen as his mouth opens in shock. “How dare toi say that!” “It’s the truth. toi would leave me for your precious Diana in a heartbeat if she offered herself to toi on a silver platter.” “That is not true.” “The hell it isn’t!” “You are truly making a mountain out of a molehill about Diana. I don’t want her and I’m not going to leave you. But keep up with this attitude of yours and maybe I will.” houx stands in front of him with hands on her hips staring at him. “Oh go ahead and leave me, I’d like to see another woman who would put up with your bullshit.” Michael glares at her before grabbing the sides of her face with his hands giving her a kiss. It is deep and intense making houx stagger back slightly before slapping him in the chest. He takes the slaps before pushing her up against the mur as houx starts to respond to him, her chest heaving into his, her head fuzzy and breath becoming weaker with each kiss. For the first time, she can feel Michael’s hardness pressed up against her making her gasp into his mouth. houx lipping off to Michael has been the most challenging yet alluring and he is confused. Never has a woman affected him so deeply this way.

Internally Michael is trying to hold on to his last piece of sanity to stop before this goes too far. But a little part of him doesn’t want to, he wants to keep going and going till that distant and mystical side of their relationship is uncovered and explored together. Michael suddenly stops when he realizes she is still legally underage for three weeks. As they pull away houx touches her lips, which now feel sore and swollen. She is panting as she looks up at Michael who is equally panting. “I still think Diana is a snake,” she blurts out. “Holly, for our relationship to work toi are gonna have to trust me to be around women, especially Diana, and please know that I wouldn’t leave toi for them. I only want you, which has been clearly evident.” Michael remarks with a smirk and a flush as he can feel his budding erection finally subsiding. “And toi need to trust me too,” houx adds fixing her now messy hair. “Then we both agree to put aside our insecurities and déplacer forward?” Michael asks. “Yes, I don’t like to fight with you.” “Especially since it was our first one. Now give me a kiss,” he says playfully grabbing her par the waist and pulling her towards him again. houx pushes him off of her. “Now, since we fought I didn’t have time to give toi your birthday surprise,” houx says opening the fridge door and grabbing something from it. When she turns around she reveals a round chocolat iced cake. Michael stares at it for a moment before looking up at her. “Did toi make this?” “Of course! I wanted to bake toi something special for your birthday since toi never really had your own birthday cake. I’m sorry it’s a little cold now but that’s why I arrived separately to the party tonight – I had to finish this.” Michael suddenly feels ashamed at his being skeptical earlier, “That’s okay! I just can’t believe toi baked me a cake, nobody has ever baked me a cake – except for publicity stunts.” houx smiles, “Well now toi can’t say that. Do toi wanna blow out your candles now ou tomorrow on your actual birthday?” Michael looks down at his watch and smiles, “I hate to break it to toi houx but it’s been my birthday for thirty minutes now.”

Embarrassment hits houx like a wave to know that she was fighting with Michael on his birthday making her feel like a shitty girlfriend. “I’m sorry,” she whispers with a tear running down her cheek. “Hey, don’t cry, you’re too beautiful to cry,” Michael says s’embrasser her forehead trying to soothe her. “But toi can make it up to me,” he adds with a wink. “How?” she looks up with him with misty eyes that look so innocent. “You can help me eat this cake!” he chuckles.

The suivant morning a phone ring blares out waking Michael out of his unlikely sleeping on the living room floor. He groans as his eyes slowly flutter open to see houx lying suivant to him snuggled soundly full clothed under a blanket with the early morning sun hitting sections of her body. She stirs as Michael rolls on his side to answer the phone with plates of half-eaten cake surrounding him. “Hello?” he asks with a yawn. “Good morning Mr. Jackson, this is Barney!” Michael’s mind thinks of the name Barney till it registers that it is his contractor Barney. “Morning Barney, what’s going on?” “Well I know toi a dit last time we spoke that toi wanted to be here for the demolishing of the old house and I wanted to inform toi that we are ready to get started this morning.” Michael rubs his eyes still not processing the words. “As in this morning?” “…Yes, Mr. Jackson, this morning. Now toi are not obligated to come to the demolishing but I just remembered what toi said.” “Okay, what time?” “In about two hours.” “Alright, I’ll be there.” “Sounds good, thank you, Mr. Jackson.” “Take it easy Barney.” Michael hangs up the phone and rolls back on his back with a thud. houx yawns with her eyes still closed. “Everything okay?” She mutters snuggling up to his arm. “Hmm yes, just my contractor. They are demoing the house today and I want to go, it’s in two hours…” “That’s nice…” houx mutters her eyes still closed. Michael opens his eyes to look over at her. “Wanna come with me?” At this very moment, his life feels very serene and he could get used it to it. “That requires shoes,” she says. Michael chuckles at her words, “I’ll bring coffee. C’mon get up and get some warm clothes on it feels chilly this morning,” he says pulling back the blanket on him. “But first,” he bends to Kiss her but houx pulls away with a smile. “I have morning breath.” “Like I care, come here.” He gives her a small Kiss that makes him feel happy to be alive. Her kisses are so soft and delicate that it pains him to break away from her. As he goes to make the coffee in the cuisine he hears houx shout from the living room “Can I drive?” He smirks at the request. That girl always wants to drive.

“Mr. Jackson and Miss Williams, it is a pleasure to have toi come this morning. Miss Williams if toi don’t mind me being too forward, would toi sign an autograph for my daughter? She is your number one fan – dances to your songs every night,” Barney says with his protective gear on. houx smiles at the compliment, “I would be honored.” “Terrific, now business before pleasure. If toi two don’t mind putting these helmets and goggles on I would feel plus comfortable in case any debris flies over here.” Barney hands them their gear, which they put on immediately. Holly’s head suddenly feels too heavy to support her shoulders. “Now just for safety precautions, if toi two don’t mind staying in this area, the crew and I would appreciate it. Are there any questions?” Michael and houx look at each other before shaking their heads. “Alright, see toi when it’s over.” As Barney walks away and the machines sound on Michael sits on the tronc of the car and looks over at Holly. “Coffee?” He asks. “Thought you’d never ask,” she smiles jumping up beside him. He grabs the thermos of coffee and pours it into a little cup before handing it to her. “Thank you,” she mutters before taking a grateful sip. When she does she nods her head in approval before looking at him. “You make great coffee.” He smiles as he takes a sip of his own cup, “I guess it’s just a hidden talent. Bill, toi want some coffee?” He turns his head to see Bill through the back windshield of the car lying horizontally in the backseat with his fedora on his face and his arms crossed trying to sleep. “No thanks, Mike.” “So toi sad to see the house go?” houx asks before taking another sip. Michael shakes his head without hesitation. “Nah, I don’t have many fond memories with this house, unless it was with you,” Michael says looking over at her with a smile. houx can’t help but smile at his words and playfully slapping his arm. “Mr. Romantic over here.”

“Go ahead, Charlie!” Barney shouts to the man operating the wrecking ball as the machine makes a large grinding noise. The man operating the wrecking ball pulls a lever that brings the wrecking ball back until it stops in mid-air. The men examine it for a quick moment before Barney gives him a thumb up. Suddenly the ball goes flying through the air and smashes into the house with a thud with glass shattering and brick dismantling. “Whoa!” Michael says in shock at the sight before him. “Ten points!” houx shouts joking as she starts to laugh uncontrollably. Michael cannot help but rejoindre in on her laughter and how she has the power of making anything fun. “Out with the old and in with the new,” she adds as the ball hits the house again. Michael holds his cup up to her, “to new beginnings.” houx smiles and holds her cup up, “to new beginnings,” she repeats. They clink the cups in a pain grillé as the house continues to be demolished in front of them.