Abena paced back and forth, anticipating Zuri’s arrival. She inspected the neatly placed instruments which adorned the space. It was the day after the concert and she was excited.
The girls had transformed the garage of Abena’s house into what they dubbed their creative centre. Here they wrote songs and practiced their instruments, singing and dance routines. The drab, grey derelict garage with its discoloured walls and peeling paint had been transformed into a pristine colourful interior inviting creativity.
Abena and Zuri were fully committed to becoming stars so they made sure that a percentage of the money they made always went back into their music careers.
A drum set, keyboard and mounted microphones stood in the middle of the room. To the left of this display, there was a small glass topped table where lay their two precious laptops – store houses of music tutorials, software and their songs. To the right there were four guitars in padded cases leaning against the wall.
Words of excitement impatiently burst from Abena’s lips as Zuri entered, “Finally you’ve arrived – I’m really hyped about this contest. We’ll go all out. I have so many ideas to run by you!”
“I’m just here to get my stuff” Zuri said wearily, walking right past Abena who had come to the garage entrance to greet her.
“We need to rehearse every day until the competition. Why are you taking your stuff?”
“We’ll be competing against each other Abena, not performing as a team.” Zuri ignored Abena’s question deftly retrieving her laptop from the table and stuffing it into her backpack which she strapped over her shoulders.
“Zuri we need to practice.” Zuri ignored Abena. She took up a black padded guitar case that was leaning against the wall.
“We have a competition coming up.” Abena said in a slightly agitated tone.
“That’s why we can’t practice together.” Zuri said, her voice bordering on frustration.
“But we’ve always done everything together.”
Zuri sighed. She could not believe her friend’s naivety.
“Abena you’ve always been there to help me with everything, you shared my songs with your two million followers and you collaborated with me. I’ll always be grateful but I feel like I’m in your shadow. We’ve done everything together but for the first time we’ll be competing against each other. Some space would do both of us good. Just know whatever the outcome you’ll always be my best friend.”
Abena put her hand over her chest as Zuri walked away.
“Want to talk about it over a cup of tea?”
Abena’s mom had been silently watching everything unfold. Zuri was like a daughter to her and she knew Abena was saddened by what was happening.
“This tea smells so good, what did you put in it?”
“Nothing special – just a little ginger and green tea.”
“I can’t believe this is happening mom.”
“Be practical Abena. Competitors don’t rehearse together.”
“I just didn’t expect things to get so complicated.”
“That’s just the world of show business, dear.”
Zuri drove to her local studio. As she bypassed the long line of hopeful musicians she had flashbacks of the times when she and Abena would walk a long distance to wait in that very line. Their success had changed things. They were now friends with Martin, the studio owner and had direct access to him.
Zuri made her way past the line of aspiring musicians and walked into the studio building. Martin was relaxing in an easy chair when she entered his office.
“I saw your performance on KindTube, you and Abena were awesome.”
“Thanks Martin but you should have been there to actually feel it.”
“You know me I’m always busy.”
“I have an audition coming up and I need your help.”
“Sure, how can I help?”
“I need some performance pointers.”
The taste of tea lingered in Abena’s mouth as she grabbed her notebook and started to write a song.
Frustrated, she ripped the page out throwing it on the floor, as she crushed it into a ball.
The week before the concert passed quickly. The girls had not seen each other since that day at the garage. Don Pipes sat in the audition room conversing with two other men, occasionally glancing at his watch. Pipes’ Sunshine Theatre housed various performances every week and always drew big crowds. Sunshine Theatre was a big money earner for him but today’s performance was not open to the public.
Don and two other men sat facing the stage. There were two standing microphones at stage centre.
The girls would be onstage at the same time trading songs: each had three songs and three minutes to perform each song.
Abena smiled confidently as she entered the stage from the right entrance. Her white skirt and white t shirt were joined in the middle by a brown belt studded with tiny purple amethyst stones. Her cat shaped silver earrings matched the image of a cat playing the piano on her t shirt. Her red tipped locks were pulled back into a pony tail.
Zuri entered the stage from the left wearing a navy blue peasant dress and black ankle boots. She had a big brown grand auditorium guitar. It was very different from the two smaller guitars that she normally used.
“When did she get that guitar?” Abena wondered.
Each girl faced her microphone.
Abena took the microphone from the stand and started with a song called New Beginning.
Don and his associates smiled. Zuri was up next.
Zuri started playing her guitar. Magical melodies materialized every time her fingers touched the strings. Every note was a universe of its own. Little melodies danced their way around the theatre filling it with energy. Her acoustic guitar gave birth to sounds that danced on currents of air.
Zuri walked up to the microphone and started to sing her song, Out Of Your Shadow, her voice perfectly harmonized with the guitar.
The girls traded songs until the time was up.
“Very good performances.” Don said before conversing with the other two gentlemen who spoke softly among themselves. Their conversation was inaudible except for bits and pieces of a few words. After a discussion that seemed to last forever Don Pipes looked up and said.
“We have decided on the winner.”
The girls looked eagerly at each other then at the judges in anticipation of the result.
Don looked at the girls and paused a while before saying.
“Congratulations Zuri you’ve won.”
“Yes.” Zuri said, clenching her fist in excitement.
“Congratulations Zuri.” Abena said with a big smile on her face.
Zuri moved to Cherryville, home to the most powerful and influential figures in the entertainment world – song writers, directors, producers and promoters. Cherryville was a leader in film and music technology. It was the place for opportunities and Sunny Funk Records was headquartered there.
At first the girls kept in touch but overtime video calls were replaced by phone calls and phone calls later replaced by texts. The time between texts got longer and after a while a month passed without Zuri reaching back to Abena.
“How could she do this?”
“Worried over Zuri?” Abena’s mother asked with a softness aimed at easing Abena’s frustration.
“You know me too well mom.”
“She’s probably busy.”
“Yes I know but it has been a month since I heard from her; part of me is happy for her but the other part wishes I could go back. I also find it strange that she stopped video calls and only does text now.”
“She’s working hard on her career. You should do the same.” Mrs Norris said, breaking into her daughter’s thoughts.
“You’re right mom, I need to focus. I’m heading out to clear my head.”
Abena went downtown. Things were certainly different now. She and Zuri had hoped to dominate the music industry as a team but now she was riding solo.
“I have to put my all into my music, there’s no turning back now,” Abena affirmed to herself, looking up at the bright blue city sky.
She spent each day working on her craft and marketing her music online.
Following her mother’s advice, Abena continued to promote her work online, astutely making a good income performing at local shows and from ad revenue.
Her popularity as a local star burgeoned as she honed her talent and creativity, assiduously rehearsing in her garage.
Zuri, on the other hand, seemed headed for international fame.
Abena continued her daily rehearsals in her garage, taking regular walks downtown to clear her head.
It was during one of these stress busting walks that Zuri’s voice wafted its way into Abena’s ears. Following the trail, she found her way in front of a huge TV screen in A to Z Electronics Store. Abena looked confused. The voice coming from the video was certainly Zuri’s, but that was where the similarity ended. The lithe afro haired brown girl had ballooned into a buxom and voluptuous fair skinned blonde.
“ Wow.” Abena said softly.
More time went by and Abena had not heard from Zuri. She had stopped uploading to her original KindTube channel and had a new one that was quickly growing in subscribers.
Don was on the set of the music video shoot for Zuri’s new song, Melody Is Life. He was speaking to the director about some ideas he had for the video. Whenever he signed a new and promising artiste he took a hands on approach and wanted direct involvement in every aspect of their lives.
Everything was in place and all the actors were ready.
Zuri enters a forest of withered flowers and trees interspersed with stone statues of fairies and elves. She starts playing her guitar, the forest and statues come to life, elves and fairies dancing.
Zuri enters a war torn city with – dilapidated buildings, burnt out cars and dead bodies in the streets. She sings and plays her guitar. The city is repaired and the people resurrected.
“I’m so hungry but I’m too exhausted to eat,” a yawning Zuri remarked, after hours of rehearsal.
“Have a drink, it will relax you.” Don suggested as he handed her a glass of clear liquid.
“Alcohol is not a good idea right now.”
“It’s just water.”
Zuri put the cup up to her nose.
“Don’t you trust me?”
Ignoring the question, she turned her head upside down and swallowed everything.
Abena sat around her drum set, her mind heavy with conflicting thoughts. Every time the beater connected with the drums she felt the tension evaporate from her body. Every time she stepped on the bass she crushed a negative thought. The drums were therapy.
After a few minutes of emotional drum beating an exhausted Abena dropped the drum stick, closed her eyes and sat back exhausted on her drum throne.
“Someone’s here to see you.” Her mother’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Who is it mom?”
“Why don’t you come and see for yourself.”
Tiredly, Abena went out to the front to meet her mystery guest.
Copyright © Jaja Wallace