Chapter 10: Cage (5/6)

[Previously in 4/6]

[While he was driving, JZ tried to keep an eye on Elle by glancing at the rearview mirror, but all she did was look out of the window with a face that did not show what she was feeling or thinking.  The silence was making CeeCee and Big extremely uncomfortable.  “Hey JZ,” CeeCee said like she was saying a fun fact, “did you know that Elle listened to your music all the time when she was in America?”

Elle jerked her head in CeeCee’s direction and threw her an angry look that said, “That was supposed to be between us.”]

JZ had a small smile on his face.  “Really?” he asked curiously.

CeeCee looked very uncomfortable, like she was afraid Elle was going to attack her.  She tried to keep her voice steady when she continued, “Yeah, she listened to your music every day, watched all your music videos, and watched you in concert.”

“Really?” he asked more curiously with a smile forming as he glanced in the rearview mirror at the angry person behind him.

“Yeah, she was quite the fan,” still trying to keep her voice steady.

“Why did she stop listening to my music?” he asked, a little more serious.

She looked at Elle who had a look that said, “I dare you to continue.”

“That’s something you need to ask her.  I’m afraid if I say more she might do something to me,” she said honestly, her back up against the car window.

“Why did you stop listening to my music?” he asked craving more information about his interest.

Elle did not respond, but kept glaring at CeeCee.  Trying to resurrect the deadly chatter and liven it, Big said, “I listen to your music all the time.  Why don’t you ever ask me why I listen?”

“Why do you listen to my music, Big?”

“Because you can write a song for just about anything you want, plus, your music and lyrics are original which makes it really cool.”

“Did you listen to my music before you worked for me, CeeCee?”

“Yes, I did.  I love your love songs.  I wanted to be the girl who you were singing about and spending time with, I wanted to be the girl who inspired you, and I wanted to be the girl that has a lot of fun,” CeeCee answered honestly in an awkward loud voice.

“Why did you listen to my music, Elle?”

He did not get a response.

They arrived at the studio.  Everyone got out of the car, but Elle continued to glare at CeeCee like she was saying a lot of things an angry person would say to the person they were mad at.  When Elle was done glaring, she ignored the fact that the lights were still on in the studio.  Once she entered, she ignored all the merry noise emanating from the common area until people in there saw her and merrily greeted her with a “Hey!” of welcoming.  Her back hit the hallway wall.  Her hands glued to the wall, eyebrows raised like a marionette pulled by strings, and she did not know what to say.  “Why does it look like there are twice as many people here as there were on Monday?” she said to herself slightly panicked.

When they were all quiet and staring at her still up against the wall and frozen, there were whispers of, “Is she ok?”

“She’s ok, just a little surprised,” JZ announced.  “Go back to whatever you were doing.”

They were hesitant but began doing what they were told.  Once her brain registered that everyone in the common room was ignoring her presence, she regained control of her thoughts and body.  “I have to get my purse and get out of here,” Elle said to herself and began squeezing through the crowd to the spot where she left it  It was not there, but Hero was.  “Have you seen my purse?” she asked.

“I’m glad you’re back! We were all so worried.  How’re you doing?”

“Thanks.  I’ll be fine,” Elle responded with a smile.  “Do you know where my purse is?”

“That’s good! What a relief! Oh, JZ’s assistant has it.”

“Do you know where his assistant is and what he or she looks like?”

“She’s wearing a blouse with a skirt and glasses,” Hero said, scanning the room, “but I don’t…oh, there she is,” pointing toward the graffitied wall and plant in the corner where the room formed.

“Thanks.”

“Wait,” she said, getting a hold of Elle’s arm.  “We had this party for you to show you that we’re glad you’re ok.”

“That’s very thoughtful of everyone, but I don’t like parties.  It’s very overwhelming so I’m going home after I find my purse.”

“Oh, alright.  Will you come back to work on Monday?”

“I plan on returning but if any more craziness happens, I don’t think this place is for me or I’m not right for this place.”

Hearing a déjà vu, Hero asked, “Why do you feel that way?”

“I imagine that you guys didn’t have all this drama before I was here.  If JZ had a girl in his studio, they would spend time in private and she wouldn’t be working for him.  It could also be because of JZ and this place that’s causing all of this drama for me.  I feel cursed and if I am cursed, it’s best that I leave so you guys can return to your regular schedules.  I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m going to find my purse now.”

“Alright.  Good luck,” Hero said as she waved good-bye.

Elle squeezed through the crowd again, trying to reach across the room to the corner with the plant.  She found the petite girl about the same age as CeeCee, made tall by her high heels, wearing a white blouse and a navy blue pencil skirt and glasses.  “Hi, are you JZ’s assistant?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile.

“Have you seen my purse?”

“I gave it to JZ.”

“Great,” Elle thought sarcastically.  “Do you know where he is?”

She pointed toward the hallway.

“Thank you,” Elle said with a smile and squeezed through the crowd once again.  “Just a few more steps until I’m out of this room,” she said to herself.  She leaned her body on the hallway wall and breathed heavily, and said to herself, “What a workout.”  She looked up and saw JZ standing there real cool swinging her purse on his index finger.  Elle walked toward him and asked very nicely, “Can you hand me my purse?” He swung the purse over his shoulder as if it was a jacket, and walked down the hallway.  She followed him, focused on getting her purse.

She tried to squeeze through to get ahead of him, but he purposely took up much of the hallway space and did not want to touch him to get ahead.  She was not focused on where he was leading her, but she soon found out.  He swung her purse in front of her face in the tiny room.  She grabbed it by the handles.  “Why did you take me here?” she asked like it was a waste of time.  She looked at the door knob and his hand was on it.  “Dammit, he won’t let me out of this supply closet until he gets what he wants,” she said to herself.  She looked at him, waiting for an answer.

“Why don’t you listen to my music anymore?” he asked in a serious tone, his eyes failing to hide his attraction to her.

“You won’t like what I have to say,” she said frustratingly.

“I still want to know.”

“Phone,” she said, holding her hand out.

He took it out of his pocket and handed it to her.  She typed, “This room is running out of air,” and showed it to him.

He laughed and said, “You’re not answering my question.”

She sighed in frustration, “You’re not the man I used to listen and watch diligently.”

“How so?”

“If you want more, I need more air.”

He looked at her frustrated but honest face.  He held her wrist with his free hand and opened the door with the other.  He led her to the pool with no one around.  The air was still a bit stuffy from Beijing’s summer heat.  “Sit,” he ordered.

She began typing.  “These words will hurt you.  Are you sure you want to know?” and showed him.

He nodded yes, and watched her type with the light from the screen lighting up her face.  After a several minutes of typing, she finally showed him with a slightly sad face.  He read it once, surprised that this was what she had thought, and read it again to make sure he was reading it correctly.

“1. Your songs are no longer your songs or One Word’s songs.  You hire song-writers like me to write songs for you so you can put them in your album.  Those lyrics are not yours, they are ours.  By having song-writers and putting their songs in your album, I do not hear your thoughts and I do not feel what’s in your heart.  I also understand that One Word has been your lyricist since the beginning of your music career, and that’s why I include him in your work.  After over a decade of working with you, he still writes lyrics that make me listen. I only listen to the songs with his lyrics and ignore the music.  When I memorize his lyrics, I listen to them without music.  His lyrics are so excellent and timeless, that they don’t need to be accompanied with instruments and machines.  I’ve sung his lyrics without music and they still convey the passion he has for the topic.  I don’t know who or what inspires him but you should model yourself after him.

“2. Meaningful songs that aren’t written by you or One Word = bad music videos.

“3. Three years ago, you told me to do my job.  On Monday, you told me that I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to.  You used to expect people to work their hardest, now you chase young ladies like me.  What I’m trying to express here is, if you have song-writers writing for you, you don’t have to work, and you have the time to chase after young ladies.  If you don’t spend the time writing meaningful songs, it will lead to bad music videos, so there is no need for me to listen to your music or even watch your music videos.

“In summation, you are not the man I admired and you have changed for the worst.”

He typed, “Wow, you told me these words would hurt and they do.”  He handed the phone to her.

She typed.  “I’m changing the subject.  I want to work out a payment plan because you paid my hospital bill even though I told you I didn’t want you to, which makes me now indebted to you.”

He typed, “I don’t want the money,” but decided to type instead, “I want to swim in this pool with you right now.”

She read it and had a wrinkly face that said, “How ridiculous is this? Is he serious?” then made a tired face that said, “He doesn’t joke about these things.” “What are your other options?” she wrote back.

With a smile on his face, he wrote “I want a date with you,” and handed the phone to her.

Unhappy, she wrote back, “Are these my only options?”

“Yes,” he wrote back.

“What are we specifically going to do if I choose to swim with you right now?”

He laughed and asked, “Why are you asking this question?”

She held out her hand so he handed the phone back.  “Because if I don’t know what’s going on, I expect one thing and you introduce a surprise, and I don’t want any surprises.”

He laughed again.  “We are only going to swim.  I’ll get each of us a bathing suit and towel, and we will swim.  That’s all.  It’s a great way to cool off,” he typed.

“How long are we going to swim?”

“At least an hour.”

“Will you swim for a little bit and then watch me swim the rest of the time?”

He laughed and wrote, “I don’t know.”

She looked suspiciously at him after reading that, and typed, “If I chose to go on another date with you what will it be like? What will specifically happen on this date?”

He laughed harder reading the question no one asks.  “We will do normal things people do on dates: talk and eat and laugh.”

“Where will the date take place and how long do I have to stay for?”

“You can come to the cafeteria if you like, since the paparazzi won’t be here.  You will have to stay at least twice the amount of time we spend eating.”

“I want a more definitive time frame.”

“Why do drive such a hard bargain? Two hours.”

“One hour,” she handed back with a serious face.

“One hour and a half.”

“When is the date?”

“Tomorrow evening.”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

“We’re not in grade school.  In the evening.”

“A date is not limited by the time of day.”

“Ok, lunch.”

After some consideration, she wrote back, “I will go on a date with you.”

“I want you to wear what you wore on the day I saw you at the café.”

“I already agreed to the date,” she said loudly in her head.  “If you want me to wear what I wore that day, the date would last one hour and fifteen minutes.”

After some consideration, then looking at her serious face, he nodded.

“Good, I’m going home,” she said as she grabbed her purse, and her hair floated in the breeze as she walked toward the studio.

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