Previously On THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: Jude’s antagonistic elder sister Janet blames Kevin for her brother’s accident and subsequent memory loss, and says she never wants to see him near Jude again. (That’s gotta hurt!) Kevin is so sad by all these events, that he breaks down and starts crying, with only Samuel left to console him.

And that’s pretty much it with Episode 4.

*

The days flew by surprisingly fast, and with ease. Before long, I was feeling better, snuggling up in my couch with a bag of extra salty Doritos Chip bag and watching reruns of Pretty Little Liars on TV.

Then I heard someone knock at the door, a lot like the way the robbers had done. To my amazement, I didn’t even feel an ounce of fear as I darted off to answer the door. I opened it and saw that it was Jude.

“Hey,” I said in the sexiest way possible. Something had to be wrong somewhere; I’d gone from awkward Kevin to thirsty flirt in a snap.

Jude must have loved the new me because he didn’t even greet back; he simply grabbed me and started kissing me, holding my ass a little too firmly. But I was too ‘in the zone’ to care.

Within seconds, we were in my room doing the nasty – I’m talking, fifty shades of grey nasty. We were sweating and grunting and grasping each other . . . Until I woke up.

***

I stared morosely at the ceiling of my bedroom, remembering how it’d just been less than twenty-four hours since I left Jude at the hospital. Feeling swamped by misery, I sunk deeper into the bed covers, reluctant to get up and face the morning.

The alarm chose that moment to blare. I reached for it and snapped it shut. It was Monday and I had to face my life. The alarm had done a sufficient job of reminding me that. I got out of bed and proceeded to get dressed to go to work.

I’d only just started working at one of the most prominent record labels in Nigeria – Highland Records – as a junior songwriter (basically, my job was to serve the senior songwriters and pitch in a couple of ideas that they sometimes listened to), and there was no way in hell I was going to miss a day of work, even if my oh-so-fragile heart felt like it’d been stepped on by elephants.

In a matter of minutes, I was in my personal official office wear – red T-shirt, skinny jeans and canvas shoes. I’d just begun to look around for my laptop, when I realised that it had been stolen. So I shoved my note pad and headphones in to my backpack and started heading out, not giving time for breakfast or anything else for that matter.

But I paused in the living room the moment I heard some muted noises coming from the kitchen. It sounded like someone was ransacking the room, with the frequent clinking of dishes placed against each other and the mild thudding of cupboards getting shut. Instant terror descended on me, pumped by the memory of my robbery attack.

And then, a glass shattered as it hit the floor, and my heart made a leap from my chest cavity into my mouth. Not again! And with that thought, my fear was short-circuited to anger. I was not going to fall a victim the second time in my own home within a space of forty-eight hours. I looked around for something to use as a weapon, spotting the flower vase on a coffee stool. I dropped my backpack, hefted the vase and moved stealthily toward the kitchen. I stood outside the door for a moment, taking deep breaths and fortifying my strength, before bursting in like some kind of ninja, waving the vase about and screaming, “Get down! I have a weapon!”

“Huh?”

I opened my eyes, which I’d tightly closed upon my rushed entrance, and set my gaze on Samuel.

“Samuel?” I said uncomprehendingly.

“Yea? Who did you think was in your kitchen – Robin Hood and his bandits, come to take all your supplies to the poor and needy?” He looked from me to the vase in my hands and back at me.

“But what…” And then, the memory of last night rushed back in. In my haste to get ready for work, I’d forgotten that Samuel had stayed the night to keep an eye on me after my breakdown last night. How could I have forgotten that? Perhaps, between my soul-mate losing his memory of me and me having crazy erotic dreams starring the both of us, there was so little my poor mind could keep track of.

“Sorry… I thought it was…”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “Now can you please drop the vase?”

I complied and watched as he tried to sweep into a packer what definitely looked like my broken mug.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Funny story. I noticed how all your mugs are labeled in days of the week. So I was looking for Monday… You know, to make you tea, but it was too far out of my reach, and then I…” He attempted a shrug.

“Well, hopefully, you breaking Monday isn’t a sign of today sucking for me.”

He chuckled. “Never mind, I’ll get you a new mug. I’ll just get started on breakfast with Tuesday –”

“Samuel?” I cut in.

“Yeah?”

“You’re boring me, and I have to get to work.”

“Wait, what? That’s why you’re dressed like you’re about to do a number with the Glee cast?” He gestured at me. “You can’t go to work, Kev. You were a mess last night. If you see how you were crying yesterday, like the widows in them Bollywood movies. And this morning, you just want to up and go to work. It’s like the thing that is doing Jude is doing you too. Come on, stay at home jaré. Your work people will understand. Is it not just songwriting?”

I had no energy to start preaching to Samuel this early in the day about how jobs in the Arts were just as relevant as professions in Law and Medicine. I simply heaved a sigh, one that cut short his tirade and said in a low tone, “I have to do something to get my mind off everything that has just happened this weekend. I can’t sit around at home and mope all day. I need to work, to get busy. Don’t you understand?”

He expelled a breath too, his face softening, and then said, “Alright. At least, let me drop you off.”

“Sure.”

***

“You know the doctor said it might be temporary, right?” he said, staring ahead at the windscreen as he navigated the morning traffic.

“Huh?” I replied, taking off my headphones. The volume of the music was on a subdued level, but I wanted to listen clearly to him.

Samuel sighed and then said, “I mean, eventually his memory might come back and then he’d want to see you again. Despite what Janet says, you know that, right?”

If there was anything I hated more than anything, it was false hope. And right then, that was what Samuel was giving me, and I wanted none of it. So without a word in response, I put my headphones back on and increased the volume to full blast. I think he got the message, because he did not offer up any other word of conversation throughout the ride to Highland Records in Ikeja.

***

“Oh my effing Gee!” exclaimed Samuel, as we stood in front of the imposing Highland building.

I chuckled, understanding his amazement. The building looked like one of those places you only got to see in futuristic movies like After Earth, Hunger Games, Insurgent and the like.

“Wait till you see what’s inside,” I replied, beaming as though I was the architect himself.

Highland Records was owned by an innovative Nigerian businessman, Ryan Bassey. The man was filthy rich, and endeavoured to invest his money on stuff that mattered to him – the Arts. He owned an Art school, sponsored several musical reality shows and started this record label a few years ago. I’d never met the guy, but these days, all one really needs to know someone is a phone with data connection.

Still amazed by the outstanding architecture of the place and the automatic doors that scanned my ID card before letting us in, Samuel’s expression did not shift an inch from stupefaction as he took in just how beautiful and sophisticated the inside of the building was.

“I’d say ‘Close your mouth,’ but we don’t have to worry about mosquitoes here,” I said smiling.

He instantly snapped out of his ‘zone’ and answered, “Abegi, no dey form for me! But seriously o, this is where you work?”

“Duh?”

“Chai! You will hook me up o!”

“Yeah, I doubt a record label has any need for someone who studied Petroleum and Gas at the university.”

Samuel hissed. “How would you know?”

Just then, I spotted Josh, my boss – a very ambitious and talkative young man. He was also Ryan Bassey’s only son; the heir to Highland Records. Josh and I met on the plane during the period Jude and I were not communicating. I was on a trip back from visiting my parents in London. We were assigned the same row, and he saw me jot down some lyrics on my notepad and literally begged me to sing them words to him. I did, quite reluctantly. And we eventually began to chat about this and that. Unaware of whom he was at the time, I complained to him that I was a First Class graduate of Theatre Arts and Music from the University of Lagos, and still couldn’t find decent employment.

When the plane landed in Lagos and we had alighted, he gave me his card and told me to give him a call when I got settled, and that he’d do something about my employment status.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Josh spotted me seconds after I saw him and yelled, even though he could see me looking at him. “Kevin!”

“Who’s that?” Samuel asked, looking clearly weirded-out by Josh’s energy.

“My boss.”

“Kevin, where have you been, mehn?” Josh continued as he approached us, placing hs hand on my shoulder and pulling me after him as he walked toward the elevator, leaving Samuel to walk fast after us. “I’ve been trying your cell for years now.”

Not wanting to get into the details, I simply said, “I lost it!”

“That’s too bad. Remind me to tell Ngozi to get you another one ASAP! What do you like – Samsung? Techno? Don’t even think about saying an iPhone, that one’s way above your pay grade.”

I caught Samuel shooting an ‘Oh hell yeah!’ look, before saying, “No, that won’t be necessary.” There was only one thing I wanted, and he was in the hospital with no memory whatsoever of me.

“Are you kidding me?” Josh exclaimed. “You’re going to need it for your new project!”

“Yeah, what he said,” Samuel chipped in, getting Josh’s attention with his remark just as we got into the elevator.

“And you are?” Josh queried, arching his brows at him.

“I’m –”

“He’s my friend, Samuel,” I cut in. “Wait, what were you saying about a new project?”

“Oh, didn’t you see that in the text I sent you?”

“Lost phone, remember?” I sighed.

“Oh, that’s right. Well, we have the perfect client for you.”

I gaped at him. “A client? For me?”

“I’m sorry, I thought I spoke English when I spoke earlier on,” Josh said with heavy sarcasm. “Did I not speak English when I talked to him earlier?” he added, turning to Samuel.

“You absolutely spoke English,” Samuel said, nodding primly and trying not to look like he was enjoying this.

“I thought only senior songwriters got clients,” I said, ignoring their theatrics.

“Yes. But it must be your lucky day, because none of them want this particular client.”

“Oh wow, that’s good to know.” It was my turn to get sarcastic.

The elevator opened on our floor, and Josh led us down the corridor toward the dressing room area.

“So who’s this client exactly?” I asked, not trying to sound too concerned, so Josh wouldn’t think I was nervous. But I really was nervous; even right there, my mind was wondering off to the hospital and to Jude lying there, and I was afraid this preoccupation would mess up my game.

“You’re about to meet her,” Josh replied as he straightened his suit before knocking at the door of one of the dressing rooms. “She’s Demoniker!”

“Wait, did you just say Demoniker – as in the Demoniker!” Samuel burst out.

I glanced at him in surprise, having momentarily forgotten that he was still around, but even more shocked that I was going to meet Demoniker. She was one of Nigerian biggest singing exports in the UK and the States. She’d started in Nigeria and her fame had gradually expanded beyond our shores with hit after hit on just four albums. I’d heard from the grapevine that she would be coming to Nigeria to record her fifth album, which I thought was odd, seeing as she recorded the last one with a studio in the US. I had no idea she’d signed with Highland. And now, I was going to be her songwriter?! Sick!

“Yes! The Demoniker,” Josh said.

Just then, the dressing room door clicked open and a relatively hot guy rushed out, buttoning his shirt. We walked in and saw Demoniker flanked by a heftily-built man, who looked like her bodyguard. She was lounging on a couch, with a bottle of whiskey in her hand and eyes bloodshot. Upon seeing us, she called out gaily, “Josh darling!”

“Hello, Demoniker,” Josh answered back, moving toward her. The two of them bussed each other’s cheeks.

“And who are these handsome young studs?” she said, moving away from Josh and approaching Samuel and I. she was a beautiful woman, with a well-toned chocolate complexion and an artfully-made-up face. Her lipsticked lips were pouted as she moved a bit unsteadily toward us. I felt a sudden flush descend on my face as she stopped before me and took my cheeks in her hands, squeezing them.

“That’s Kevin,” said Josh, pointing, “and the others one’s…um, Sardine?”

“Samuel,” my friend interjected, looking injured. He then stepped forward to Demoniker, edging me out and said with near reverence, “It is very nice to meet you, Demoniker. You look absolutely beautiful as always.”

“Charming,” the superstar replied. That golden voice of hers seemed to turn the word into a chorus of bells. “I like this one.”

I was star-struck, yes, but it was clear that Samuel was properly smitten with the singer. And our reactions to her made me wonder why the other writers didn’t want to work with her.

Josh came to us and put his hand on my shoulder, saying, “Kevin here is our best junior songwriter, and he’s going to be the one to write you that hit single you’re looking for in your next album.”

Just then, it seemed as though the room had turned cold. Or perhaps, it was the iciness that eclipsed the singer’s expression as she stared straight at Josh. “You’re tripping, right?” she said, chuckling frostily.

Even Josh had to swallow hard before he replied, “No…but he’s very good –”

Demoniker didn’t let him finish. “So let me get this straight.” She leaned backward on her heels, her manicured fingers splayed in the air, her look a cutting stare placed on Josh. “I turned down tempting offers from SONY, Columbia and The Mavins, so I can give your record a big name. And all you can give me in return is a junior songwriter” – her scorn coloured the two words – “who can’t even express himself?”

I felt a wave of mortification overcome me. I could tell that Samuel wanted to laugh. But he knew that he wouldn’t be gaining any points for that, so he stifled his mirth.

“No offense, kid,” she continued, now looking at me, “but you’re too green, too clueless. I’m pretty sure you’re fresh off the university. You haven’t had any real life experiences to write shit about. I need somebody who’s gone through it all – love, hate, heartbreak and the joys of mind-blowing sex. And honestly, the only major experience it looks like you’ve got is hopping buses from Oshodi to Ojuelegba.”

The room was silent for a moment after this, and so was I. suddenly, I didn’t like this woman so much.

“I don’t want him, Josh!” Demoniker rasped, sweeping her wrathful expression to my boss. “He’s not right for me!”

Not wanting to annoy her any further, Josh began bustling Samuel and I out of the room, muttering abuses at the singer in his native language.

Just as we were about to exit room, I heard a silent voice ask me, ‘What would Jude do?’ Reacting to the chastisement in the question, I turned around and faced Demoniker. I swallowed hard and said in a clear voice, “You’re wrong.”

There was another minuscule moment of silence, before she hissed, “Excuse me?”

Samuel began furiously whispering, “Kevin, stop! What are you doing?”

But I chose NOT to listen.

Written by Reverend Hot

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