She sat on the couch in front of the TV, in her sitting room, a bowl of ice cream in her hands. Her hair was pulled back in an untidy bun and her iPad was open before her. As she took occasional spoonfuls of the vanilla treat, her eyes skimmed over the comments sections of Sandra Dede’s youtube channel and a few popular blogs that had published the video of her interview.

It was exactly one week since Demoniker sat with Sandra Dede and spoke her truth. She had returned to Lagos since then. And in the entire week, the furore surrounding her interview hadn’t abated, at least not online. Unsurprisingly, the persistent feedback was unfriendly and indignant. Nigerians could not believe the nerve on her.

That interview is even more proof that Demoniker is a disgrace to all women in the music industry and worldwide, wrote YouTube user, twonbat211. She should just goan kill herself. The world will be a much better place.

She’s such a hoe, and what’s worse, an unrepentant hoe, another commenter spat.

Yet another youtuber, TheIdealFeminist, lashed out: The fact that she’s trying to use feminism as a cover up is a shame, and she needs to do everyone a favour and leave Nigeria.

Demoniker felt a recoil inside her as she took in the vitriol, unable to pull her eyes away. She could not believe the fierce antagonism of these people who knew next to nothing about her. Of course, members of her family, a few fans, and some of her contemporaries in the American entertainment industry had joined the fray to speak out in her defence, but Demoniker could not get over the deluge of venom from these people who, in the past few months, had had nothing but love for her and her music.

Just then, a tap on the door roused her from her somber thoughts. She looked up as the door was jerked open to admit her help.

The slender-framed young woman looked stricken as she said, “Sorry, ma, there’s someone here to see you.”

“I already told you I didn’t want to be disturbed, didn’t I?” Demoniker snapped as she narrowed her suddenly wrathful gaze on the other woman.

“Yes, but –”

“I figured you wouldn’t be too vexed if you saw it was me,” a voice interrupted, preceding its owner who moved around the help to walk into the room.

“Joshua…” Demoniker breathed out as she got slowly to her feet.

At a nod from Josh, the help glanced fractionally at her mistress before withdrawing from the room and shutting the door behind her.

For a moment that seemed taut with uncharted tensions, the two of them stood there, facing each other, Demoniker’s expression touched with some earnestness and Josh’s completely deadpan.

“Aren’t you going to offer me a seat?” Josh finally broke the silence.

A short laugh gusted from Demoniker. “Of course.” She gestured. “Have a seat.”

They both sat down, a flurry of activity that had Demoniker depositing her iPad and ice cream bowl on the centre table. And then, the silence returned. Josh broke it again, this time first with a sigh.

“You’re not going to say anything to me?”

“No – I mean, yes… It’s just… You are the last person I expected to see so soon.” Demoniker was flustered.

“I didn’t think I was going to come here to see you so soon either.”

“So you’re still mad at me then?”

“I was – well, actually, yes, I am.” He sighed again. “But then, I saw your interview and –”

“Josh, I meant everything I said there. I’m really sorry.”

“For what exactly?

“Sleeping with your dad, not telling you about it – Everything! It wasn’t my intention to hurt you.”

“What was your intention then?” he snapped. He paused and when he resumed speaking, his tone had lost the acerbity of seconds ago. “You had to know this secret would get out somehow, or that I would somehow get to know. What then did you expect I’d do, think, say?”

“Josh, I –”

“No, tell me!” he interrupted, his voice turning strident again with irritation. “Because I’d really like to know what you were thinking while you carried on with my father.”

Demoniker hung her head. “I guess I wasn’t.”

“Exactly!” Josh yelled. “You weren’t!”

There was a long pause after this, with the both of them looking away from each other.

Then Josh spoke up again, “However, like you said in your interview, you’re not the only one to blame for this. My father is just as culpable, if not more for being so unprofessional.”

Demoniker glanced up at him, meeting his gaze, silently appreciating the nascent forgiveness he’d intended in those words.

Josh looked away from her and his eyes fell on the iPad. He picked the device up from the table.

“No, you don’t have to –” Demoniker began.

“What are you doing reading this shit?” Josh queried, his brow furrowing as his eyes moved over the iPad screen.

“I just…I don’t know…”

“You don’t know?” His tone was incredulous as his forefinger moved over the screen, pulling up the page. “Jeezuz, Demoniker, you shouldn’t be reading this. They’re ugly.”

“I just wanted to know,” she said quietly.

Josh looked up at her. “Okay, now you know. How do you feel about it?”

“Terrible.” She bit her lip as her eyes clouded with some melancholy. “These people are horrible. Someone actually typed that he wants to kill me himself if I wouldn’t do the world a favour and die. I mean, what wrong did I do to these people?”

“You mean besides basically telling them to mind their business?” Josh said, his lips twisted upward with the words.

“It’s not funny,” Demoniker protested.

“You’re right, it’s not. But ask yourself this: do you feel good with yourself concerning the things you said during the interview?”

“I do.”

“Good then. So as long as you know what you said was what you felt was right, I don’t see why a couple of mean comments should bother you.”

“A couple?” She arched her brows in disbelief.

“Okay, a couple hundred. Seriously though, Demoniker, try not to pay all this too much mind. People will get tired of talking about this and then move on to something else to jaw about. These things never last.”

“It’s been a week, Josh, and I’m still trending. I’m not sure this is going anywhere anytime soon.”

“I’m pretty sure Tiwa Savage said the same thing after that disgrace over her marriage in April. And now look, it’s like nothing even happened.”

“Well, there’s some comfort to take from that.”

“And from this, if it makes you feel any better.” Josh paused for a short moment, inhaling before saying, “I quit my job.”

“You did what?”

“I quit my job at Highland last week.”

“Why would you do that?” Concern had swamped her face.

“Why else?” He turned to give her a pointed look.

“Because of me?” Aghast, she raised a hand to her chest.

“No,” Joshua quickly replied. “I’ve been working for my father for over six years now. And he’s been nothing but discouraging. Always antagonizing me, and never missing an opportunity to call my work mediocre. This scandal was the last straw.”

“But you’ve spent your whole life as a wage earner working at Highland. Your time, your effort – you’ve put everything into the label and now you’re saying you want to just pack up and go?”

“I have packed up and left.”

“That can still be rectified.”

“Demoniker –” Josh was shaking his head.

“Hear me out for a moment, Joshua,” she interrupted, moving forward on her seat, closer to him. Her eyes held his. “I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but when I first came to Nigeria, I already had my sights set on another record label that was Highland. Even the interview I had with you and your father was mere formality that my agent suggested I take. To explore all my options, he said. And after the meeting, I still wanted Mad House, the other recording company. But then on my way out, you literally ran out after me and told me something. You said, ‘The sky is your limit with any label in Nigeria, but with Highland–””

“You will defy gravity,” Josh completed the sentence.

“Exactly! And since then, I haven’t had a reason to regret my decision of staying with you. Look, Josh, you’re the heart and soul of Highland. No matter what your father or any one says. You do a lot more than you think. So you can’t let one stupid mistake your father and I made make you give up on it.”

When she finished speaking, another silence strung between them like beads on a chain. They were staring at each other, their faces inches away from each other. Josh bridged the gap when he moved forward and planted his lips on Demoniker’s. His mouth moved over hers for a second, before he registered the fact that she wasn’t kissing him back. She simply sat there, not moving a muscle. He pulled back and mortification washed over him when he saw the stunned expression that had stamped itself on her face.

“Oh my God…” he groaned.

Demoniker’s tongue slipped out, a darting movement that sleeked over her lips.

“I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have –”

“It’s alright,” she hastened to assure him.

“I didn’t come here to do that, you must know that.”

A small smile turned her lips upward. “Of course I do.”

“God!” He blew out a breath, still unwilling to forgive himself for his indiscretion. Then he got to his feet abruptly and began moving as fast as he could out of her home.

“Josh, wait –!” Demoniker called after him.

He didn’t wait. He hurried to his car and once he was behind the wheel, he dropped his head on the steering wheel, under the weight of one question that repeatedly banged at his head: What the fuck did I just do?

***

Damn!

That was the singular word that wouldn’t let go of my mind as I was shown around the arena that was Mad House Label. Granted, it had none of the opulence of Highland, but it was still an incredible working environment. Plus back in Highland, I’d just been one of the grunts. Here in Mad House, I’d been given the job of the Head Songwriter. Life was certainly looking up!

“It gets better,” the young man who was acting as my tour guide said, as he took in the unhindered pleasure that was perpetually etched on my face. His name was Jerry.

He was leading me to a large mahogany door. He took out his key card and swiped it across the lock. There was a beep and the red light turned green, permitting him to pull the door open.

“I get one of those soon, don’t I?” I said, pointing to his hand while I moved toward the open doorway.

“Of course. The IT department is processing your key card as we speak,” Jerry said.

And then he followed me inside a spacious room that was ostentatiously furnished with several musical equipments. There was a small recording booth, a velvety futon in one corner and a smattering of sofas. In spite of the chill pervading the room from the air conditioner, there was a certain warmth in the room that beckoned.

“What is this place?” I asked.

“The songwriters’ dome,” Jerry announced. “It’s where you’ll be working with the other guys in your department.”

Damn! The word resonated in my head again. My eyes were bright with delight. Highland hadn’t given its songwriters enough regard to provide us with a domain. This new job was looking better and better.

“So,” Jerry began as I strolled about the room, taking in its details, “I heard you wrote half the songs on Demoniker Dawson’s album. How true is that?”

“True enough,” I murmured.

“Which means you got to spend a lot of time with her?”

Easy there, Jerry, I thought, recoiling from the idea of my celebrity based on my association with Demoniker. “Yeah, I guess,” I replied.

“So you must know all about what happened, yea?”

My brow furrowed with mild incomprehension as I turned to him. “All about what happened?”

“You know,” Jerry urged.

No, Jerry, I don’t know. I remained silent, merely looking at him.

“About the scandal –” He was cut off by the ringing of his phone.

He took the device out of his breast pocket and gestured with his forefinger at me before answering the call.

I tuned him out as I returned to my examination of my future working space. I admired the vivid paintings on the wall, the posters of Mad House Recording artists, and the many instruments used to make good music. Feeling flush with renewed pleasure, I took out my phone and struck a pose. My camera whirred and flashed, and a selfie was taken with my back to the recording booth.

I was in the process of sending the photo to Kuddus with the caption ‘Bet your job ain’t as cool’, when Jerry ended his call and turned to me. “So, I’m afraid we’ll have to cut our tour short. Some executives would like to meet you in the conference room.”

“Very well,” I said, while trying not to feel like I was getting summoned to the principal’s office.

We exited the songwriters’ room and Jerry led me through a maze of corridors to a glass-walled space whose door was frosted glass. He stopped at the door and gestured for me to go on inside. This one clearly didn’t need a key card to get through. I pulled the door open and walked inside to see about six men seated around the oaken table with its leather topping. They were all formally clad in suits, an impression that instantly made me feel underdressed in my dress shirt and denims.

“Hello again, Kevin,” a man called out from their midst. He was Matthew Adesanya, the man who’d introduced himself to me as the Product Development manager, when I first met with him upon my return to Mad House last week. He was essentially going to be my immediate boss. “Did you have a good tour?” He rose from his seat as he spoke, a bulky man with a florid, fair-skinned face.

“Yes, this place is amazing,” I said. “We were still on the tour when we were called over here.”

“My apologies. I hope you have found everything to your liking so far.”

“Y-yes, I have,” I stammered a bit. I was still trying to understand the effusiveness of Mad House’s reception of my employment. Songwriters were a dime a dozen out there, and so I found it quite unnerving that they were treating me like I was some kind of major asset.

Well maybe you are. Maybe your work speaks for itself in the hit that Demoniker’s album has been.

I stifled my thoughts as Matthew waved me to a seat. I made straight for the one that placed me directly before the rest of them. I regretted my decision a second after I’d taken the seat, because then I felt like I’d placed myself in the full glare of a firing squad.

The men looked startled for a moment as they looked at me. I met their collective stares, uncertain what I’d done.

Then Matthew took charge again. “So, has Jerry shown you yet where you’ll be working? Your office, so to speak.”

“Yes, he has. It’s a beautiful space, tastefully furnished to inspire creativity.”

Matthew beamed. “We had that refurnished, just for you. We can’t have an internationally acclaimed songwriter working in mediocre conditions now, can we?”

There it was again – that sense they were giving off of the celebrity I didn’t think I had. I shifted uncomfortably on my seat as I demurred, “I don’t know if I can call myself internationally acc–”

“No need to be modest, Kevin,” Fred Adelaide interrupted. He was the one who’d called me back to Mad House. “You wrote almost all the songs on Demoniker’s latest album – an album that’s already making waves on iTunes! I think ‘internationally acclaimed’ are just the right words.”

I simply nodded. For the first time, I could feel the gentle encumbrance of pressure nudging my anticipation at working here aside.

“Anyway,” Mathew continued, “I think – we think you’d be a great asset to the company seeing as you’re experienced in almost all aspects of music making. And what better way to make use of your talent than by putting you in charge of our song writing department, am I right?”

“Mmhmm,” I murmured with a nod. My palms felt clammy with sweat.

“Also, we heard about what happened to you and some of your friends at Highland. We promise we’re never going to let such a situation occur here in Mad House.”

“We’d like to think that the ‘mad’ in Mad House refers only to the versatility of our services to our clients and the public at large,” Fred said with a small smile.

I smiled back. “Of course, sir. That’s very good to know.”

Just then, there was a stir among the men moments before a cultured female voice spoke up behind me, “When there’s something good to know, it means everyone’s on the same page.”

I whirled around on my seat as well-clad, stately woman with greying hair and features that looked oddly familiar stopped close to me. Her fine dark eyes were on me as she continued, “And when everyone is on the same page, it makes me happy. Don’t you agree, Mister Achike?”

I struggled to my feet, much less gracefully than the other men who had already stood upon the woman’s entrance.

“Ye-ye-yes, I agree, ma,” I stammered.

She cocked her head at me, studying me with an intensity that was unsettling. Add to that the fact that there was something so powerfully familiar about her, even though I was positive I’d never met her in my life, and I began to get the sense that the universe was back to playing a game with me, one whose rules I was clueless to.

“You are just as I expected you to look,” she finally remarked.

“Thank you – I mean, I’m assuming that’s a compliment. Should I even be saying a thank you to that?” I was regaining my aplomb with each word I said.

The woman laughed. “I like you.” She was shaking her head as she said, “If my assessment of you is right, and I’m scarcely wrong about people, then I don’t know what Ryan was thinking, letting you go.”

“Ryan… As in Chief Bassey?” I said, my eyes widening with incomprehension.

“Yes,” she said with a smile that was so sweet, it positively dripped with acid, “although I prefer not to think of him as a chief. The title confers on him a dignity that the sonofabitch lacks, don’t you think?”

And just then, it suddenly dawned on me who this woman was, and why she looked so familiar to me.

Written by The Reverend

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