Previously On THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: Subsequent to Jude getting shot and losing his memory, his sister, Janet, blames Kevin and bans him from their lives. In order to avoid thinking about Jude as fast as possible, Kevin resumes work as a junior songwriter in Highland Records. Expecting to run errands only, he is surprised when informed by his boss, Josh, that he will be the major contributing writer for the upcoming album of Nigerian-turned-international singer, Demoniker.

But things don’t go as expected when Demoniker bluntly shuts down the idea of having an ‘amateur’ songwriter, embarrassing Kevin greatly. Provoked and going on a stint to prove himself brave like Jude, Kevin confronts the star.

And that’s what you missed on episode 5.

*

“Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!” I kept repeating to myself as I stood in front of the sinks in the men’s room, staring at my wet face and brown eyes in the mirror as the tap rushed.

It had been about thirty minutes since I stormed out of the dressing room, thirty-one minutes since I confronted one of the music industry’s biggest creations – Demoniker. After she condescended so outrageously to my capabilities, I was provoked and proceeded to tell her how wrong she was. I didn’t stop there. No. I had to let my anger ride me on to calling her talentless, unoriginal and boring. Now skulking away in the men’s room, I was staring at the reality that my career and reputation as I knew them were finished.

I was just glad that Samuel had literally dragged me out of the dressing room, before I started yelling out death threats.

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” he asked with complete disbelief in his eyes when we were outside the dressing room.

I felt bad, but mostly ashamed. And so, I ran straight to the men’s room and locked myself in. moments after I locked myself in, I heard a knock on the door followed by a whistle, and I recognised it as Samuel’s signature ‘knock’. I didn’t answer.

“Kev, I know you’re in there,” he hollered. “I can hear the heavy breathing of your panic attack from here.” He chuckled at his stab at jocularity.

“What do you want?” I snapped.

“Will you just let me in?”

“Say what you want to say outside,” I answered.

Right then, all I could hear was Samuel’s heavy breathing. A feature Jude and I made fun of him over occasionally, because he’d always do that right before giving one of his ‘speeches’.

“Okay, fine!” he finally said. “I know Demoniker was way out of line with what she said. I’m not agreeing with her. But the Kevin I know wouldn’t have let those things she said get to him that much, that’s how I know your outburst is not about her. My only advice to you is to not let this” – he paused, and then said softly – “accident ruin your life. Like you said, this is the one place you don’t have to think about Jude. Guy, you have a good thing going here.”

“Not for long,” I muttered to myself.

Samuel continued, “Now, look, Janet called. Jude just woke up from his second surgery. She’s asked me to bring some stuff for him to the hospital. So I’m off, okay?”

He paused. I could hear his breathing still. He appeared to be waiting for me to say something. So I said, “Thanks.”

“Take care then.” And then I heard him walking away.

Then I suddenly remembered something, and realizing how fast his gait can be, I dashed to open the door and leaped out to the hallway to see his retreating back some yards away from me. “SAM!” I called after him.

He turned around and smiled knowingly as he called back, “Don’t worry, I’ll say hi to him for you!”

I let out a grateful sigh, and less than a millisecond later, a voice from behind me screamed. “YOU!”

My heart jumped when I recognized the voice and the censure in it. Feeling weak-kneed, I turned around to face Josh as he stalked down toward me from the other end of the hallway.

“YOU!” he said again as he came to a stop before me, this time, putting his index finger on my chest.

“Josh, look, I’m sorry – I really am…” I began speaking fast. “But she insulted me and I was already in a bad mood when I came in today, so I just snapped. I –”

“So you just transferred the aggression, I know,” Josh cut in, now strangely understanding, considering how furious he looked seconds before. “But if you want to work in a place like this, you’re going to have to learn how to react to criticism and leave what happens outside this building OUTSIDE this building!”

“Yes I know…” I said, and my voice cracked. An uninhibited image of Jude lying on his hospital bed had rushed into my subconscious just then. My eyes clouded.

Concern overshadowing his features as he intuited into my misery, Josh asked, “What’s wrong? What happened over the weekend to make you so out of sorts?”

I shook my head. “Nothing, never mind. Look, I’ll be fine. I am fine already.” I dredged up a smile. How could I tell my boss, whose sexual orientation bias I knew nothing about, that my sort-of boyfriend and friend for a number of years was shot right after we confessed our feelings for each other, and that he’d currently lost all memory of me, and that I could not now ever go to see him in the hospital, thanks to his sister who hated me.

“Phew!” Josh sighed. “Thank God! For a moment there, I thought you were actually going to start laying your troubles on me.” He added a chuckle to take the sting out of his words.

“Am I fired?” I asked in a flat tone.

“It’s hard to tell,” Josh replied. “You’ll know when you’re done talking with her.”

My heart sank at his words. “Talking with her?”

“Yes, talking to her. She wants to see you, like right away.”

“As in Demoniker?” I tried clarifying.

“No, Mariah Carey,” he returned sarcastically, before saying, “Yes, Demoniker!”

“No, No, No, Josh, I can’t see her! You heard what I said to her, there’s no going back from that. She’s going to fire me. Just tell her I already left.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Josh replied. “As much as I want to fire you, you’re too good. And Demoniker sure as hell can’t either. She doesn’t run this place.”

I dared to heave a sigh of relief, one which Josh cut off when he added, “But make no mistake about this, that diva has the power to destroy you. If not in Highland, then everywhere else!”

And as my unease returned, Josh gestured and I went ahead with him. As we headed toward the studio, I noticed how some of the employees kept staring at me with expressions that ranged from amusement to empathy. Word had apparently gotten out of my insolence to Demoniker. I even heard Josh’s assistant, Ngozi whisper to her minions, “Dead man walking…”

I swallowed hard.

Josh and I walked until we were standing in front of Studio A. As its name suggested, the recording room was reserved for the A-list singing stars. It dawned on me then yet again. I had disrespected an A-list star!

I swallowed hard again.

We entered the studio to see Demoniker in the recording booth singing. Her voice was magic. Pure soul as she belted out the lyrics to what I immediately recognized was my song – one of the songs I submitted to Josh during my interview. She was singing MY song and it really good with her voice.

Wish I could go back to the past

And start all over again

I know it ended pretty fast

But it’s always worth the pain

Deep inside my heart

I long to kiss our history

Begin from the very start

Aboard the train of misery…

In that moment, I hated myself for calling her talentless. The woman in the booth, bringing life to my lyrics was anything but talentless.

Just as she hit the chorus of the song, Demoniker spotted us standing outside the recording booth and observing her. She signaled the producer for a break, and started putting away her headphones. I began to hyperventilate as she walked out of the booth and toward us.

Without thinking, I began blurting out my apology, “I’m truly sorry, Demoniker. I was stupid, dumb, like you said, clueless, and I don’t even know what I was thinking. Please, don’t be too upset, I mean you have a right to be upset, just don’t –”

“Leave us!” the diva ordered. She wasn’t looking at me. The request had being made of everyone else in the room.

Once we were alone, she started talking quietly to me. She talked about how she, like most celebrities, tended to rest on their laurels after achieving so much. They start to take it all for granted and think that just because their fans love them, they have nothing to worry about. But what most of them don’t know is that fame is a momentum thing, and once you slow down, you get into a rut, and unless you have no desire to pursue new heights with your career, you will have to start the climb all over again.

I listened as she spoke, struck by how deep she sounded.

Then, she said, “What I’m trying to say, Kevin, is I have to do my best to stay on top of my game, if I don’t want this generation of music to pass me by. And for that, I need the best of everything – the best stylists, publicists, songs and most importantly, the best songwriters. Not just any songwriter, but one who’s not afraid to tell me exactly what’s wrong. Not a suck up.” She paused for a moment, examining my very-uncomprehending face, before adding, “And from everything I’ve seen today, I now know that that songwriter I’m looking for is you.”

The next few moments blanked out. One second I instantly felt dizzy, and then I was blinking my eyes open to find that I was lying on the couch, still in the studio, my face and chest wet with water, and Josh, Demoniker and a studio lackey hovering over me.

“Kevin, are you okay?” Josh was asking.

“What happened?” I rasped.

“You fainted,” Demoniker replied.

“Oh…” And suddenly, it all came back to me. I stared at the international music goddess with astonishment as I blurted out, “You offered me the job!?”

She smiled. “If you can handle it… Just promise not to faint again.”

Everyone laughed.

***

Demoniker didn’t want to waste any moment. We promptly got down to the business of making her new album, writing, testing and recording. She seemed to like my song ‘Misery’. I’d written it when I was struggling to deal with the time when Jude stopped talking to me. I loved how she put her own spin on the song. Demoniker wasn’t like all the other pop stars. She was MAGIC!

I soon grew tired from all the work we had done in recording that one song. But I dared not complain. However, it came as a huge relief when Demoniker suggested that we end for the day. I was evidently not as relieved as the producer, who promptly grabbed his bag and zoomed out of the studio faster than Superman.

I wanted to seem industrious in spite of my exhaustion, and so I said, “Are you sure? We can still go on if you want.”

“No one likes a kiss-ass, Kevin,” she returned.

I nodded as the two of us laughed. Then she asked, “Who’s it about?”

“Huh?”

“Your song – Misery…it obviously has a deeper meaning to you. What happened?”

“I don’t like talking about it,” I replied, trying desperately not to sound rude.

“Message received!” she said smiling and lifting her hands as though backing out from a fight.

I laughed again. The woman was quite the comic. She reached for her phone as I said my goodbye and started out of the studio. I was at the door when she hollered, “Hey, Kevin!” I turned around, and she continued, “I’m performing at this club tomorrow tonight…umm…”

“The Raven,” I said.

“Yea, The Raven? How’d you know?”

The Raven was one of the few clubs in Nigeria that was LGBT friendly, hosting tasteful parties for gay individuals and providing security for LGBT functions against any unsavory intrusions.

“It’s all over the internet,” I answered.

“Oh.” She gave a nod of comprehension, and said, “Well, it’s going to be cool, different celebrities will be there. And I just need at least one friendly face there with me.”

A squeal burst out of me when I instantly realized where she was going. Demoniker was actually requesting my company for her show! “I’ll be honored to go with you!” I said in a relatively loud voice.

“Great,” she said, beaming back at me.

***

I made my way home, wondering at how unexpected this entire day had been. First I landed a client, and not just any client, but an actual star. Then I proceeded to make an enemy of her. Only we didn’t become enemies, we became FRIENDS! Well, not friends exactly, but – HECK! I was going to be her date to The Raven tomorrow! I was so giddy with pleasure and excitement I hadn’t known all weekend. Nothing could ruin my day, not even the sweaty, odorous smells emitting from different bodies in the public bus transport I took home.

I felt proud of myself.

My feeling of elation however quickly vanished the moment I reached the open gate of my house and saw her standing there.

She was clad in an Ankara get-up, with the scarf and everything. One would have thought she was just coming back from a very big event. Once she saw me, she smiled. I scowled in response.

I reached for my house keys in my pocket and headed for the door, not even bothering to greet her. She gave a small smile, as though she’d expected my coldness. A quick scan confirmed no sighting of luggage. Good! That would make me turning her away that much easier.

“Emeka…” she began as I sidestepped her and made for my front door.

“What are you doing here?” I cut in coldly.

“I came to see you,” she replied solemnly.

“Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t want to see you.”

“Emeka, please don’t be like this.”

“Stop calling me that!” I snapped furiously. I’d decided long ago not to be known by the name she gave to me. I pushed my key into the keyhole, anxious to open the door, get in and slam it in her face.

“Emeka,” she maintained, “I am sorry.”

My hands had started to shake so much that my key just wouldn’t turn properly. I gave up on it and turned to face her. My eyes had reddened. “You’re sorry for what exactly? For which offense?” I hissed at her.

Her eyes had turned glassy with a sheen of tears as she exclaimed, “For everything!”

“Okay. I forgive you! Bye!”

“Emeka!”

“Stop calling –!”

“Kevin, then!”

“What!”

“I heard what happened.”

I didn’t need to ask what she was talking about. I knew what she meant. And in time, I would find out which of my friends told her and kill him. But in that moment, I suddenly felt too drained. My keys dropped from my hands and I slowly sank unto the threshold of my apartment, my back resting against the door. And the tears came, so fast and so hard that I fleetingly wondered where my happiness from earlier on had come from.

She sat on the floor beside me and took me in her arms, tentatively at first, and then more assuredly when I didn’t resist her. Forgetting how mad at her I was just seconds ago, I burrowed into her, taking in all the familiar smells of her body as I sobbed, “It’s all my fault!”

“No it’s not,” she admonished gently.

As she held me and stroked my head, it dawned on me that this might have been what I needed all along – comfort and unconditional love. And where else could I have gotten it if not from the embrace of the woman I called Mother.

TO BE CONTINUED.

 Written by Reverend Hot

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