tagInterracial LoveLove Note Pt. 01

Love Note Pt. 01

byBaalatErotas©

Ana is -- and always has been -- her own woman. She doesn't need trends, popularity or silly sentimentality. She has also learned the hard way that she doesn't need a man. Any man. She knows herself well and doesn't want to be like everyone else; she doesn't crave what they have.

Leo is a musician that sings about the kind of love that Ana scoffs at. His work has exposed him to enough women to make him realise everlasting love is en route to extinction. So, he lays down his mic and walks away from both the industry and all emotion.

When they meet, each unbalances the other's neat resolutions. Is the music industry shallow and love a fallacy? Do high walls really make for safer hearts? And what is to happen now that Leo has found the one woman who re-inspires him to write love notes worth singing... but also doesn't want to hear what she doesn't believe in?

*** *** ***

*** I ***

"Why do you still live in this grey, sweltering jungle?"

"I like being employed -- and this is the best jungle for that at the moment. And it only feels excessively hot when crazy people like you opt for waist-length twists in summer."

Ana cracked a lazy eye open and peered at her friend behind the wheel of her sporty little Mercedes Benz. She and Thandi teased each other all the time, easy considering how different they had turned out. Ana had moved around enough in the last five years to be unsure of where her home was anymore. Thandi had called Johannesburg home since their families had both moved and met there when the girls were five. Ana had never lasted at any job for more than a year; meanwhile Thandi was... disgustingly successful.

She lifted her twists and draped them over the back of her headrest. "I'm not crazy -- my hair's never been a problem before. This November is just far hotter than any I remember -- it's technically not even summer yet. I want a spring do-over... Hey. Are we in Hyde Park? Why are we in Hyde Park?"

"Because I live here now." With that, Thandi pulled into a small complex with two uniformed guards at the gate. "So, this is the pad you're visiting for the next month."

Ana pushed her oversized sunglasses up into her twists. "Fancy, Ms Moyo... Okay, I think I could put up with this for a month -- especially considering the nightmare you've tricked me into."

"I did not trick you, Ana." Thandi parked outside a facebrick block. "I just didn't tell you over the phone about how desperately grateful I am that you're the sort of friend who would save a sister in need during a work emergency."

"Hm," Ana scoped the adjacent matching block while her friend unlocked. "Luckily you're paying me well enough for me get over the pseudo-deception pretty quickly."

Thandi laughed.

The two-bedroom apartment was small but pristine; boasting scarily shiny appliances and a view of small shared garden out back. Ana took in her guest room: creams, yellows and pale pinks; a thick rug at the foot of the bed; and bright daises in a vase on a glass table flanked by two armchairs. She twisted her full lips.

"It's not that bad, oh, Goddess of Grunge."

"I'm nowhere near... "grungy". I'm told teens in the '80s were... meh, never mind." Ana tilted her head at a painting of a photograph. "And this is that bad. That picture doesn't even make sense. Why paint a photograph in a totally unpainting-like manner??"

"It's art. Very expensive art -- so, there."

Ana snorted. "You do know that people who live in places like this eat tofu and... break into musical dance numbers, right?"

"Dork." Thandi elbowed her. "I didn't take the afternoon off to suffer abuse. Get freshened up so I can prep you for your job."

"Ah, fuck. Really?"

"Yes, really. We need you ready to go, go, go by Tuesday morning, my friend."

Ana tossed her bag on the bed and went to check out the rest of the apartment. It was all very light and spotless. She tugged her tank top down, as if not ready to expose her tattoos to the virginal ambience.

"And... these are for you." Thandi held out a set of keys attached to a gate clicker... on a pink keyring.

Ana scowled at the print on the keyring. "'If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change'...?"

Thandi did a mini fist pump which looked cute in her tailored outfit. "Wayne Dyer. You'd love him."

"Uh huh."

Ana took in Thandi's designer clothes and neat weave. The apartment and suburbs suited her perfectly. Unlike Ana -- who had to be sticking out like a disorderly delinquent with her scuffed sneakers and purple lips.

"What?" Thandi had her hands on her hips.

"Nothing... You just seem hell-bent on challenging me to love you in spite of you."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, geeko." Ana flopped onto a white couch. "I'm just saying tricking me into a holiday that turns out to be a temp job is one thing; finding you knee-deep in convertibles, private complexes and White people is quite another."

Thandi's spine straightened. "There are Black people here."

"True," Ana smiled. "I saw a whole two in uniform at the gates."

"You only been here two minutes and haven't seen anyone else!"

"I know, my sweeto geeko." Ana laughed, tugging her down next to her. "Just teasing your prissy weirdness. Now, quite foolin' and tell me about this slave labour. Focus."

Supper was Chinese takeaway and they devoured it over a four-hour briefing session.

At least an hour of that work time was spent reminiscing and laughing. Ana actually only appreciated food when around her friend -- the rest of the time she lived on junk... or skipped meals entirely.

The junk partly accounted for her curves, no doubt.

Where Thandi had a slim, compact frame, Ana constantly felt too curvy... like she was spilling out all over the place. Her hips alone were every slim-fit jeans' nightmare. She'd long ago given up on wishing herself into a less attention-grabbing shape and focused on low key clothing instead.

"Your first goal will be to have a band assembled by Friday," Thandi told her. "We have conditional agreements in place, but no one has signed on the dotted line yet and I want that secured before rehearsals begin."

Ana tried to mumble a response past her full mouth -- then just settled for a chopstick salute.

"You also need to get the official track list okayed as soon as possible, so we can arrange backtracks should they, God forbid, ever be needed. But mainly to get the new songs done."

"How many new tracks still need to be produced?"

"At least six."

She coughed. "Six new tracks and as many backtracks in five days??"

"See why I refused to entrust this to anyone but you?"

Ana grinned.

She really had been irritated at first learning that Thandi had invited her over with ulterior motives. But whom was she kidding? It felt fantastic to be back, doing what had come so naturally to her a few years ago. Also, this was the best-paying gig she'd ever had; and even if it weren't, she would have wanted to help her overextended friend.

The true pillock in this scenario? Leo Boreas.

Thandi Moyo ran an efficient management company that had never let down a single musician to date. The fact that Leo Boreas -- whoever the hell that was -- was stuck four weeks before a once-off national event with no management team and no assistant was his own damn problem. The crap with celebrities (even retired boy wonders) was that they always assumed the world was at their beck and call.

A pragmatic human being would understand the logic of sticking to an agreement. But not this dolt. No. He had started out with a mid-December appointment with Thandi to begin work; but then, the very next day (apparently for shits and giggles), announced that he'd be arriving on the first of the month instead and expected an assistant to be ready to work on non-existent notice.

This gave Thandi less than two days to find a stand-in since she wouldn't be around much in the first two weeks. She wasn't even given any negotiating room -- not that she would ever piss off a big client by messing with his plans as he'd messed with hers.

"I'm going to be in Botswana a lot and can't afford handing a client this big over anyone less than 110% committed." Thandi's dark eyes were earnest.

Ana was lying on her back, her eyes barely open. "God, I know. Look, Botswana isn't that far -- go as often as you need to in order to get those studios set up. This is not as freaky-scary as you're making it out to be. If I have questions or anyone catches fire while you're gone, I'll call... Unless you'd prefer handing this account over to one your lackeys -- not too late, y'know."

"Uh uh," Thandi shook her head. "I trust those two, but not with this. Because Leo Boreas is "freaky-scary", ntombi. Don't underestimate the man just because he stepped down from music five years ago --"

"I'm not. I'm underestimating him because he sings R&B and no one has taken love songs seriously since the '90s."

Thandi ignored the interruption. "He is huge. I've had my balls in a vice for months just hustling to secure this job --"

"Your balls -- that's... almost cute."

"-- because women -- and many guys, I reckon -- around the world, between the ages of fifteen and fifty are insanely in love with this man and his talent. We have to pull this off, Ana -- just this once, just this month."

"Then I should mention one last time that putting him in the care of your friend who hasn't worked the music industry in five years and doesn't pay attention to social hype, is probably not the wisest move."

Thandi held up her wine glass. "I'm not just doing that -- I'm putting him in the care of my friend who was even better than I was when we worked together for that shady little music company way back when, my friend who has artist management in her blood."

"Okay. 'Cause I might dig being back in the game." Ana held up her glass, but didn't clink. "Hang on: if he turns out to be an arrogant diva can I hang him up by his toes and burn him over a bonfire out of his mushy music?"

"No. He's paying us to promote his mush, not burn it. Besides, I know his music and I can assure you that it isn't bad at all."

"Blegh." Ana tapped her glass to her friend's. "Here's to surviving the mush..."

***

Tuesday morning dawned cool and grey, surprising for the first day of summer in the country's most gorgeous stretch of climate. Richly green trees towered in sharp contrast to the dull skies.

Ana felt Thandi's eyes on her throughout their drive to Sandown, but liked that her friend chose her words carefully.

"Just be professional... And nice."

A summary of what Thandi actually wanted her to hear: If you insist on turquoise All Stars, low cut jeans and a floppy, off-the-shoulder tee for your first day with an acclaimed star, at least have the courtesy to follow orders and refrain from deriding his work.

"I'm always nice."

Ana would never admit it, not even to her prim pencil-skirted pal, but the sight of the office block they entered intimidated her on a level few things could. She had put on her outfit to make it clear to Thandi -- and Mr Diva -- that she was here to work, not conform... but now she regretted it. Women in perfectly cut suits and flawless makeup smiled at Thandi, then raised plucked eyebrows at her. The men were worse... none of them even saw her.

"This is a shared office block. I rent the top floor."

Thandi led her through the foyer and down a series of corridors. In a small office she spoke to four people and filled out two forms -- and an hour later, Ana was handed an access card and ID badge. Ana scowled at her dark eye shadow and dull expression in the photo as they rode the elevators to the tenth floor.

"Okay, the appointment is set for nine o' clock, but Leo called to say he's running late. When he gets here --"

"Blah-blah-blah, ego stroke -- I know, Thands." Ana stuffed her disappointing ID card in her pocket. "It's been five years, but I do still remember how this is done. For the next week or so I just need to focus on helping Romeo get his songs done, visit the venue; sort out media liaisons... and make sure he's still all smiles by the time rehearsals begin next week. I've got this."

Thandi tugged her friend to a standstill right outside a set of large opaque glass doors. "One more thing, Ana. He's not... your dad."

Ana froze. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"I'm not bringing this up to be cruel." Thandi had taken a small step back, giving her some room. "I just worry about you, An."

"And bringing up Andile is supposed to achieve... what? Why here and now??"

"You pretend to be tough and over what happened, but I know you're not, An. For years you've cut yourself off from the world and ridicule anything to do with... love."

Ana was still, her flare of anger weakening.

"I've never cut you off," she said.

Thandi took her hand this time. "I know. But I do still worry about you."

"Well, there are better times you could have brought this drama up, you know."

"I know -- and I'm sorry. I just wanted to say don't let this... heaviness... burden you any further. You're about to step into a new opportunity here. I just want to see you build something good for a change instead of rip through anything that might mean something to you."

A man and a woman approached wearing expensive suits and serious expressions. They stopped at the same doors, taking a moment to peruse Ana curiously before turning to Thandi.

"You ready, Thandi?" The man's lips were thin and humourless.

Thandi nodded, equally collected. "In a minute, John. We'll be right there. Please wait in my office."

The duo entered and closed the door behind them.

Ana was never one to admit to nervousness, but she found herself suddenly wiping damp palms along the seat of her jeans. Being ambushed as she had been still stung, but she was starting to understand Thandi's point: this was no game and it wasn't personal. If she messed up, she'd be taking her friend down with her -- after having assured Thandi that she could (and wanted to) do this...

"I know that this has nothing to do with Andile, you know." She eyed her friend.

There was a flash in Thandi's eyes, something almost too fleeting to call sadness. "You laugh off anything to do with love -- and I worry about what that will lead to with you spending the next month with someone who made his living singing about love."

Ana snorted. "Come on, Thands, I can handle this job without snapping -- it's not like I'm some ticking time bomb..."

"Okay, then. I believe you."

She looked at the doors before her then back at her friend. "I'm going to nail this, Thands. For you."

"For you as well, ntombi. Let's go big -- 'cause we need a home run."

"Got it. Except we don't play baseball here."

"Yeah, I know -- it's just that Americans make really cool speeches in their sporty movies."

"Movies that you never watch."

Thandi opened her mouth but had no words.

"Hush," Ana grinned. "Let's just win this."

***

The ripped jeans, captioned t-shirt and purple scarf had not been a good choice after all.

Ana twisted in her plush seat, trying to look more professional while listening to the two casino managers go over the charity event plans and their specific agreement with Leo Boreas. It was all a much bigger deal than she had expected and, not only did her respect for her friend's success increase, but she also realised how much Thandi was entrusting to her.

And she hadn't even been reliable enough to tie her hair back.

To make up for her earlier taunts -- and squash the blatant doubt she saw in John and Jade's eyes -- she paid close attention and volunteered suggestions and extra commitment that surprised even her. One corner of Thandi's mouth was tilted up slightly by the time the New Year's Gala at Karma had been mapped out.

Even John and Jade were able to curb their premature scepticism and remember to shake her hand as well as Thandi's before leaving.

"My girl's back!" Thandi giggled and hugged her as soon as they were alone.

"Getting there," she smiled. "And thank you... for earlier."

"Of course, ntombi. Now let's go down to meet Leo -- he's on his way but can't stay long. I told him we'd wait out on the patio."

On the way down Ana frowned down at her sneakers. If she could get two casino managers to look past her exterior within two hours, why not this crooning Casanova as well? She was the right person for the job -- she believed that now... even if she didn't look like she belonged within a hundred-kilometre radius of this building. Or this event. Or famous singers.

"Why did you let me leave your place like this?" she muttered.

Thandi grinned. "Because you wouldn't have listened to me if I'd suggested changing into a suit. And I was more worried about how you'd react to me bringing up a tender topic like your dad."

"You can bring up anything you want -- I know you love me."

"Good."

"And I don't have any suits."

"I know."

The "patio" turned out to be a large paved area with oversized potted plants, wrought iron tables and French-looking chairs -- right off a small air-conditioned restaurant. It was too chilly a morning to spend around aircon, so Thandi found them a table out in a pale patch of sunlight. She greeted a few people she knew at other tables.

There wasn't much Ana could do about her attire -- but she could, at least, tame her mane. Under her friend's amused gaze, she gathered up the long twists and tried to roll them into a bun. A task easier dreamt up than accomplished. After two failed attempts, she raised the bun higher than she would have liked, whipped her thin scarf free and wrapped it around the unruly twists.

The result was more of a tangled rosebud than a neat bun.

The winds suddenly changed direction, coming at her from the north instead -- and tauntingly waving loose twists before her eyes. Something annoyingly close to a giggle escaped her friend.

"Shut u--"

Ana suddenly stilled.

There was a man standing at one of restaurant entrances, watching her.

"I'll get us a couple coffees."

Ana heard the words, but barely registered her friend's departure.

He shouldn't have stood out to her the way he did... she didn't think... but he did. He was tall, but not excessively so -- just enough to carry the width of his muscular shoulders and those hints of aloof arrogance in a way that made a few people do double takes. His hair looked black, his eyes dark as well.

Something about him was familiar. Not just his face, something else.

Ana lips parted and for a moment she was set on answering... something, but then she realised there had been no question, no words. He was too far for that. So, there she sat, holding her hair up high as if that alone could hold her world in place.

A second man joined him and Ana's flimsy poise slipped. The other man wasn't quite as tall, but he was more than beautiful. Blond hair and light eyes that danced with matching hints of the smirk lingering along his lips. This was a man aware of his effect on the world.

He and his intense friend exchanged a few words -- and from the way they watched her, Ana almost came to the silly conclusion that she might be the topic of discussion. She pressed her lips together and nearly shook her head at her own delusional wish.

Wish...?

And then Thandi walked right up to them, smiled and chatted as if she approached handsome men for no reason every single day. Ana was surprised. But when Thandi started leading them to her table, she realised who they were.

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byBaalatErotas© 40 comments/ 50293 views/ 110 favorites

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