TEN STORIES (X) MABEL

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‘Are we sure we’re ever going to get out of this traffic?’ Mabel quipped, popping her head out of the car to see what she could see. Folu who’d gone to check the cause of the traffic log jam in front was coming back with a hopeless frown.

‘A car broke down in front,’ he announced, entering the car, much to the dismay of the other two occupants of the car. There was Faith, his fiancée by his side, and Mabel, Faith’s friend sat in the back. They were heading to the studio to meet Travis. Travis was an African American international gospel act with whom they all were friends. He’d come into the country to record an album with a Nigerian artiste he was collaborating with, and Folu had gone to pick the girls up for a rendez-vous with him as they were wont to do anytime he was in the country.  Folu, a show promoter and music producer had done business with Travis in the past and they’d developed a wonderful friendship, one that was now extended to the ladies. As such anytime Travis was in Nigeria, they all hung out; and kept in contact when he was away.

‘Okay let’s do our song again,’ Faith requested out of the blues as they sat back in the car eating plantain chips bought off roadside hawkers and tattling aimlessly about the many wonderful times they’d shared together. They’d been talking about the time Travis had sprung a surprise visit on Mabel in the secondary school where she taught. She’d been pleasantly surprised and had been only too excited to show him off to the students and staff alike who’d felt privileged to have him around. The particular song Faith was asking that they do was the one they’d done for the students at the impromptu assembly the principal had called in his honour, something he’d spontaneously composed. There was an unspoken sweet something going on between Travis and Mabel. He’d adored anything Mabel from day one. Her voice, her manner of speech, her candour, her fashion sense, her person… He’d even call her up when he was out of the country just to check on her, ask for her opinion on his music and had even composed a song for her on her last birthday. But as much as he tried to put it all out there for her- for them all, Mabel wouldn’t admit or acknowledge it as anything special than the amity he also shared with others.

‘Do you guys remember the song?’ Faith was excited.

‘Of course, how could I ever forget?’. Folu

‘Oh yeah, he was going to make Mabel record a duet with him remember, with her angelic voice.’ She looked at Mabel as she said this.

‘And he made us do it over and again for like twenty times the last time? Everyone here’s not a singer remember?’Mabel did not share her excitement.

‘ Oh yeah,’ Folu returned, ‘some are producers, some are producing assistants,’ he glanced at Faith, and some are just stowing away their talents,’ he eyed Mabel from the corner of his eye.

‘And Mr producer? Were you going to produce an album with just one four minutes song?’

‘We could have done a single’

‘Oh so I’m the bad egg stalling a record deal now right?’

‘Guys, let’s move,’ Faith pointed to the car before them which was already moving.

‘Oh thank God,’ Folu started the car.

‘Let’s do the song pleaaase,’ Faith pled.

‘Okay, let’s start, Folu cue us in…’ A buzz.

‘Hey!’ Folu said into the mouthpiece, it was Travis. He put it on loudspeaker.

‘How is it going?’

‘Man it’s intense! His funny feminine voice.  ‘I’ve been singing for like four hours straight! Where are you guys?’

‘We’re on our way, traffic.’

‘Oh, get here fast. Are you coming with Mabel?’

‘Sure.’ He cued Mabel to say hi.

‘Hey Travis!’

‘Hey Mabel, can’t wait to see you, we’re doing our song right?’
He was excited.

‘Oh please?’ Mabel made a grumpy face at her companions. They were laughing.

‘Okay we’ll be there soon,’ she resigned.

‘Fly! I’ve only got thirty minutes of recess before we go in for the next recording session.’

‘Okay…’ They arrived the studio in fifteen.

‘Hey buddies,’ he hugged them all in turns. ‘I’ve missed you guys.’

‘We missed you more,’ Faith glowed. ‘You look great.’

‘Oh please I look tired. Can you see it,’ he gestured, ‘see that inscription on my forehead, this guy is so tired he needs five weeks of sleep and a good dose of…’

‘Come on,’ Folu pushed him off playfully.

‘I am serious. I’ve had less than four hours of sleep each day in the last four weeks or so, it’s been so hectic. I’m so fagged out I just want to pass out.’

‘I just happen to know a reliable elixir, we’re going to do that song we did the other time,’ Faith tempted.

‘Yay! Duet partner!’ He held Mabel. He’d enjoyed singing with her the other time so much he’d said them he could go on singing for a whole day.

‘Faith!’ Mabel scowled.

‘Oh please, it’s a great song and you have such a great voice and you’re just stowing it away, for what?’

‘You know what, whatever!’

They went into the recording room to say hi to the other people including the producer who was Folu’s good friend. Soon enough Folu and Faith had to leave, a distant cousin of Faith’s had just arrived town and they had to pick her up from the airport. They left Mabel and went off.

‘Hey,’ Travis said again once they were alone in the recess room, ‘it’s so great to see you again.’ He didn’t hide his excitement.

She merely smiled. A studio staff came in with a bottle of water for him and drink for her. ‘Thanks,’ she acknowledged.

‘What’s wrong, you look tired?

‘Nothing. I’m only just conserving my voice for the duet you’re going to make me do. Please don’t make me sing today?’
She feigned tiredness.

‘Really,’ he laughed and went to get his guitar from the recording room.

‘Please, I had one hell of a week screaming chemical formula to inattentive students and… ‘

‘ How’s work though?’

‘Hectic. I just painted a picture?’

‘I’m sorry about that,’ he smiled tenderly. ‘I think we’ re on the same boat, we need rest. ‘

‘ You can say that again,’ she took a sip of her drink. He, some water.

‘But while you’re conserving your voice, there’s a new song I’d like you to check out,’ he picked up the guitar and struck a cord. ‘Just tell me how the song feels generally, the atmosphere it creates, the emotions it stirs up and all,’ he started with an intro…

‘The words came to me two nights ago, I was on a plane heading to Ghana, had to sing at a Christian conference, just open the meeting you know, did  you see the video I sent you

‘Sure, it was powerful. I loved it, I messaged you saying so?’

‘Oh, I’ve been so busy I haven’t been online since,’ he smiled and started the song. The song told the story of a broken dreams and shattered hopes, then of a loving God, a God of second chances, one who sent his son to wipe the slate clean and give fresh starts…  It lasted about four minutes.

He looked at her as he struck one last cord. She was in tears.

‘Mabel?’

No reply.

He waited.

‘Mabel,’ he leaned forward and touched her and she started.

‘Oh my God I’m so sorry.’She turned away.

‘I’m sorry’

‘No,’ she smiled, wiping off her tears. ‘It’s the song, it’s…’ She steadied.  ‘How do you do that?’

‘ Do what?’

‘Make people cry and laugh at the same time?

‘I make people cry? ‘

‘In a good way, your songs, they have a way of bringing one down to earth, to reality then lifting one straight up into the heavenlies you know… Okay, as to the emotion. It’s so solemn, somewhat tear inducing, but I’ m prone to tears anyway’ she chuckled, ‘it’s such a personal song, it- it’s so deep. God bless you bro.’She gestured with a raised palm.

‘Wow,’ he looked away somewhat flushed.

‘I’m serious, I mean an average ordinary human being would find expression in that song, we’ve all had a bit of some part of the song at some point in life-‘

‘Yeah I know, I mean the song speaks to me personally,’ he shrugged reflectively. ‘There was a time I was so lost I didn’t even know who I was or what I was doing in the world, the future was just bleak… It took God’s grace to reset and order my life,’ he was sober.

‘I know, I’ve been there.’

A staff’s head popped into the room.

‘ Recording starts in five,’ he gestured.

‘Cool,’ he thumbed up at him and picked up his guitar again. She waited. He fixed an adoring gaze on her for a while.
‘What?’
‘Listen to this.’ He started.

The song told of a special woman, the one God had made a special room for in his heart. The one that was his preoccupation, his addiction, his destiny, the woman he loved and couldn’t hold himself back anymore from telling how much he cherished and adored and wanted in his life- not for the now alone, but for the now and then. He looked up at her as the song cadenced softly.

A long stare lock.

‘I can’t do this,’ she got up

‘Mabel,’ he rose after her.

‘Travis, this can’t-‘

‘I don’t know what I’m going to do if you do say no,’ he was earnest, ‘please don’t say no?’

‘I already did,’ she looked him straight in the eye, ‘This can’ t work and we both know it, there’s the long distance… You’re a celebrity, you belong to everybody.’

‘I just want to belong to you.’

‘Travis.’

‘Please, we could work things out, I mean I’ d come to Nigeria everyday and every other day if it means-‘

‘Stop.’ Silence.

She paced the room a bit while he waited on her.

‘Oh my God I hate this,’ she stopped in front of him, ‘there’s this great friendship we have already, me, you, Folu and Faith and you’re ruining it,’ she said with much pain. ‘I tried so hard for this not to happen, I can’t- I don’t even know-‘

Another head popped in.

‘We’re good to go now,’ he waited.

Travis nodded and signaled for him to go on ahead. 

Now. ‘

‘ Okay. ‘ He followed him out of the room, dejected.

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