Eedy and I were sitting in the dressing room when a chain reaction of explosions went off, followed by an eruption of crowd noise. We looked at each other and rushed to the backstage area. There we saw Sensation, standing with Mic raised in the air.
He was a hazy figure standing in the midst of the residual of lazily hanging smoke from the pyrotechnics. Sensation, the headliner of the show, began to perform, moving flawlessly in synch with his dancers and music in the midst of dizzying flashing lights. I marveled at the showmanship of Sensation, the ultimate entertainer, thinking I could learn a lot from this man.
The shrill screams of women in the audience became louder as Sensation worked his hips provocatively with movements so fluid at times he appeared to have no bones in his body. Everyone seemed spellbound, watching something happen I had only heard about, but never seen before at a concert–women in the audience began throwing differing colors of panties and bras onto the stage: black, purple, green, red, ivory–almost any color underwear you could imagine, lay at Sensation’s feet. I hoped they were new or at least clean ones they brought from home. And for the sake of decency, the panties laying on the stage were a ploy, part of Sensation’s act.
“Normally, this would be the end of the show.” Sensation’s voice was as smooth as velvet with his New York accent. He wiped his face with a white towel. “But I decided to do one more song for one of the most beautiful women in here tonight.” Sensation sexily licked his lips and looked to the side of the stage and extended his right hand, “Sherri?”
My knees felt as if they were turning into water and I almost fainted, clinging to Eedy like a kitten to a tree branch, burying my nails and head into her shoulders and screaming, “Ahhhhh!”
“Would you do me the honor of coming on stage?”
I started jumping up and down, still clinging to Eedy and not wanting to let go, not believing what was happening. I never considered honoring Sensation’s request and joining him on stage.
“Girl, go!” Eedy pushed me toward the stage for extra emphasis, forcibly removing my hands from her shoulders.
Blushing after Eedy’s shove, I found myself standing on stage at the edge of the blue curtain in plain view of the audience, wondering why would Sensation chose me for this honor. Certainly women in the audience more beautiful than I clamored for his attention.
Timidly I walked toward Sensation, stepping over underwear littering the stage, watching my step so as not to slip. I stood next to this virtual sex symbol, allowing Sensation to put his hand tenderly in the small of my back. He started to croon a slow song to me in front of thousands of people. I felt as though we were the only two in the whole place. Sensation hit a high note and I almost fainted, but he held me upright, whispering, “Stay with me now, Sherri,” after getting the note out.
The curtain closed bringing the performance officially to an end. My mind was somewhere in the cosmos, paralyzed in the euphoria of the moment. Sensation kissed me on the cheek and I returned to earth.
“I want to see you and your people backstage.”
Sensation left me on stage trying to gather my wits about myself as he headed to the back of the arena. A very tall blond-haired woman, comfortably over six feet wearing a navy-blue skirt suit with a small fiery red handbag dangling from her shoulder, walked up and started talking with him. The red of her purse matched her stiletto heels perfectly. The two of them disappeared past the black entertainment equipment into the backstage area.
What a night! Joy was plastered on my face as I rejoined my friends at the edge of the stage. Sensation had given a blueprint to the way that you rock a concert. What a performance!
“Eedy!” I wanted to tell my best friend something, but didn’t know what. I felt as though I was about to burst inside. I wanted to scream to let some of the pressure off, but held my emotions inside of me. This was my night. I was the center of the universe. I told the guys what Sensation had told me about meeting him backstage.
“Let’s go see what’s up,” Aaron said.
We walked past the black equipment and found an events staff guard stationed outside Sensation’s dressing room door. We stopped a few yards away and waited patiently to talk with Sensation. All of us wanted to learn more about the opportunity to open for him on his nationwide tour, giving us a chance to hit the big time real soon.
Giggling and the incessant chatter caught my attention. Gazing down the other end of the long hallway, I noticed we weren’t the only ones waiting for Sensation. A group of young women in very tight-fitting, colorful, scantily clad outfits were clustered together—groupies. Their voices speaking a foreign language of incoherent shrills and hums about fifty feet from Sensation’s dressing room door, as security allowed them only so far backstage. These women represented the trappings of superstardom. Sensation would have his pick of them tonight. Even I knew that.
The blond-haired lady came out of Sensation’s dressing room and drifted our way deep in conversation on her bluetooth earpiece, pacing back and forth a few feet in front of Sensation’s dressing room door; her red heels tapping lightly against the wood as she continually flicked her golden locks away from her cheeks. A carefree movement of her hand highlighted a ring with a blue stone almost the same color as her eyes.
“Bev, came through for us. I’m going to send her some flowers and a thank you note. This is the break that we need.” Tony was obviously feeling himself in securing this opportunity for me. I looked at him indifferently. Something inside of me was living and dying each time my eyes rested on him. I loved Tony so much, but him being with Michelle killed me each time I thought of his indiscretion, with my sister no less.
“Tony, we need to be very careful when dealing with Raymond Rodriguez. He can be bad news.” Aaron seemed uneasy, almost like he knew Sensation from experience.
“Bad news or not, we can’t pass up on an opportunity like this, Aaron.”
I took my eyes off of Tony and started looking at the brood of women at the other end of the hallway, trying to learn the language they were speaking. To them this was the good life. They would probably do anything to say they lay with Sensation. And if they had his child, probably all the better.
After what seemed like hours, Sensation emerged from his dressing room talking with four guys. Sensation looked toward the women in the hallway and they screamed so loud I thought my eardrums would burst. Sensation, cool as the arctic, motioned with his head toward the groupies and said something to the guys. Three of them walked over and started to speak with the ladies. The other guy, a very large muscular man, easily over 6’6, 250 pounds, stayed close to Sensation.
“Tellissica.” Sensation motioned the blond to him. His voice went low so that we could not make out what he said.
Tellissica placed her blond hair into a red scruchy, creating a ponytail. She walked over to us, her expensive, sweet smelling perfume a harbinger of her arrival. “Sensation wants you all to join him tonight at his after party.” Tellissica put her cell phone into her fiery red purse.
“Bet,” Tony said.
Tellissica nodded her head at Sensation and he came over to us in the midst of his entourage, which now included several of the choicest ladies from the other end of the hallway. “You put on a show, Shawty.” Sensation extended his hand, which I took, and he gently shook mine.
“Thanks.” I was gushing, unable to hold back a smile. “Nothing compared to you, Sensation.”
“You can call me, Raymond,” he said, allowing a beautiful smile to surface
“How you doing, Sensation?” Tony introduced himself.
“I’m straight. Call me Raymond.” Sensation and Tony bumped fists.
“How you doing, Aaron?” Raymond asked.
We all looked at each other and then at Aaron and Raymond. That acknowledgement confirmed the two men knew each other. My best guess is the music industry is only so big. How big was Aaron to know Sensation personally?
“I’m straight, Raymond.” Aaron answered coolly, definitely not in awe of this man.
“I haven’t seen you in a minute. How’s life been with you?”
“Everything is what it is,” Aaron said.
“Where’d you find this one? Shawty got some mad skills.” Raymond winked at me.
“We lucked into her.”
“You got her locked down under contract I bet.” Raymond’s flashed his dazzling smile again.
“She’s on our label.” Aaron’s response was dry and almost cold.
“Oh. You got a label now?” Sensation voice was tainted with a little sarcasm, bordering on disdain.
“We’re just starting one.” Aaron seemed un phased by Sensation’s put-off.
“Knowing you, I think it will do okay. Good luck with that.”
“We got an after party at The Spot. You guys ready to chill with us?” Raymond opened his arms wide, smiling again. “I’d be happy to have you as my guests.”
“We can do that,” Aaron said.
“You guys need a ride?” Raymond asked.
“No. We got that taken care of,” Aaron looked down at his watch.
Raymond turned to the blond, “Tellissica, make sure you get their contact information.”
“Anybody have a business card?” Tellissica eyes roamed back and forth between each of us.
“Here you go, Tellissica,” Aaron handed her a business card.
“Thanks Aaron. I’ll give you a call later in the week.” Tellissica’s teeth were perfect and her smile awesome, just like Raymond’s.
“Let’s do this.” Raymond put his arms around two of the women standing next to him.
Aaron pulled out his cell phone; the screen glowing green. He called the limo driver and arranged for us to be picked up in back of the venue. We became unofficially part of Raymond’s entourage.
The feelings inside the limousine were high happy ones as we speculated what this would mean for me—for the company. The guys felt that I would be a national recording star soon. And they would be able to get the Meroe brand into the public eye quickly, far sooner than any of us ever dreamed.
The car slowed to make the turn into the parking lot of The Spot. I let the tinted window down and looked out. The club seemed more packed than before. There was no definitive line that I could see, just a gaggle of people snaking around the building waiting to get in–an indefinite mass of humanity.
Many different colors and kinds of vehicles packed the parking lot just as when we were here before. Some were domestic and other’s foreign, occupying every parking spot. This time unlike before, the police had tow trucks hauling the vehicles that were parked in the grass away.
The SUVs’ with Sensation and his crew stopped in front of the club, disregarding the fire lane. We parked right behind them. The driver of Raymond’s SUVs’ tossed the keys to security and opened the door for Sensation. He stepped out and was almost instantly surrounded by the incessantly chatting women from the other vehicles. Flashbulbs were going off from some of the patrons standing in the line. Men were staring and women screaming. Raymond “Sensation” Rodriguez had star power, and we were caught up in the glow. Everyone except Aaron.
“I got your number. We’ll give you a call when we are ready to leave.” He was all business, speaking with the limo driver as though he had done this a few times before. The driver pulled off.
Tellissica, all business just like Aaron, separated from the group a little ways talking on her blue tooth headset, drifting toward the entrance. The head of security, Tony’s friend, the flashlight cop, met her at the door.
There would be no waiting in a line for us; we followed Raymond’s entourage into the lobby.
“Welcome to Atlanta, Sensation.” The owner of the club, a young black guy dressed in a mango colored silk suit, wielded an unlit cigar. The end of which was stained with saliva. The diamond clad gold and platinum rings adorning his well-manicured fingers were beautiful and shiny.
“Thanks, I appreciate the hospitality. They say you guys do it big in the South.” Raymond looked around the establishment. “And I must say I do agree.”
“No doubt. Do you want to come into the VIP?” the club owner motioned to the elevator. The arm sleeve of his jacket moved, exposing a platinum watch on one of his wrists.
“Nah, I think we’ll chill in the club area tonight,” waiving the offer off.
“I’ll make sure you have some tables cordoned off and get a waitress over to see you right away.” The owner took a few paces away and made a call on his cell phone, motioning for Tony’s friend, the flashlight cop over to him, giving guard instructions.
All eyes in the building focused on Raymond’s entourage, as we followed the guard through the crowd. The flashlight cop made a way for us to the back corner of the club, where several tables with spotless white tablecloths were cordoned off with a thick burgundy velvet rope. Raymond sat down surrounded by a few of the choicest ladies. The big man and Tellissica sat in chairs at another table just off to the side of Raymond.
The waitress came over, smiling, taking Sensation’s order. Raymond had every table within our group set up with Moet, Corvosier, Patrone, whatever we liked. “What about you,” Raymond motioned his head in my direction.
“I’ll just have a peach schnapps,” speaking loudly over the music.
“And add Shawty a peach schnapps to the ticket. Bring my personal assistant a Coke.” Raymond motioned with his head to the tall blond lady.
“We appreciate this opportunity you’re giving Sherri, Raymond.” Tony spoke loudly so that he could be heard over the music, leaning over the table a little ways.
“No problem, Man. I remember when I started out and needed a break. Somebody helped me out. This is my way of giving back. It’s just a matter of time before your girl goes nova,” Raymond smiled at me.
“We hope so,” Tony looked at me and I looked away, denying him eye contact.
The waitress returned soon enough with our drinks. I sipped on my peach schnapps as everyone started casually getting acquainted and having an informal chitchat about the music business. A slow song came on. Raymond stood up and confidently extending his hand to me wanting to dance, as though he already knew I would not say no, and I didn’t. I blushed like a teenager going on a first date with the captain of the football team. I followed Mr. Rodriguez, as he left the other women at the table with a why her look on their faces. This was a moment in which I felt why me as well.
The big guy; obviously Raymond’s body guard, preceded us, clearing people away from the edge of the dance floor. Raymond stopped at a spot close to the railing and we started to dance. Sensation held me gentlemanly close, whispering things in my ear that made me blush. We danced off several songs before sitting alone at another table very close to each other. I was having a great time.
Raymond and I danced again off several other songs in the same spot as before, with the big guy standing guard. We never returned to the table that night with the others, much to the disappointment of those groupie women that were waiting at the tables. Instead, Raymond and I talked with each other the rest of the evening at our separate table. I was really enjoying myself.
“You write that song, Shawty?” Raymond spoke into my ear so that I could hear him over the music that was bumping. The club had been playing an inordinate amount of Raymond’s music. Talking about brownnosing . . .
“You got anymore more music you working on?”
“I’ve written a tablet full of stuff Aaron thinks sounds okay. He said he was going to start working with me closely to put the music together for some of the lyrics.”
“You got a little talent then, I see.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
Raymond changed the subject and started flirting with me. We continued to talk and eventually, Eedy and I made eye contact. She looked at her watch, a sign to me it was time to leave. I understood. This night was getting old and the guys were ready to go. Cinderella had to get home.
“I think it’s time for me to go, Raymond.”
“Don’t you want to stay and chill with me a little while longer?” Raymond looked at my friends who had stood up from their table. “I’ll take you home personally.”
“No. I better be going.”
“I’ll walk you out, Sherri.”
Sensation walked us into the lobby, trailing his bodyguard, who warded off unwanted people who ventured to close. We stopped in the lobby to talk for a while.
“I’ll have my people get with your people and we’ll get some things worked out for this tour, Aaron.” Raymond and Aaron bumped fists.
“That’ll work.” Aaron pulled out his cell phone, “Excuse me a minute, Raymond.” Aaron stepped off a few paces and made a call.
“You guys are going to be big if you got any more talent like Sherri on lock, Tony,” Sensation said.
“We’re just now getting our feet wet. We hope to introduce the music world to some of the talent from around the area that we’ve discovered real soon. I hope we can strike up an honest business relationship with you, Raymond.” Tony looked at me and I looked away again.
“Tony, the limousine is on its way,” Aaron walked back over to us. “Raymond, we appreciate this.”
“No problem, Aaron. Tellissica will be giving you guys a call in a couple of days.”
“Okay. That’ll work.” Aaron bumped Sensation’s fist again. Tony did the same and we all walked outside just as the limousine pulled to a stop in front of the building. The driver opened our car door and we set inside.
“I can’t wait to get started on this tour!” enthusiasm reverberating in my voice as the limo pulled off.
Aaron seemed quiet more so than usual. His attitude was dampening everyone’s spirit.
“What’s up, Aaron? What’s on your mind?” Tony voiced what I wanted to know.
“Tony, this guy is shady. Raymond Rodriguez isn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart. We need to really watch this snake.”
“I got you. How well do you know Raymond?”
“Aaron, how do you know, Raymond?” Eedy asked.
“We’ve worked together before a few times years ago. We know of each other.” Aaron’s voice had an edge to it as he knocked on the back glass of the limousine.
“Yes sir?” the driver opened the partition window.
“We need to go back to the Georgia Dome and drop our friend off.”
“Yes sir.” The driver closed the window.
“I’m so proud of you, Sherri,” Eedy said.
“I can’t wait to tell, Momma. She’ll be so happy for you!” Eedy was bursting inside, but not I. My mind was on my own mother. Maybe Mrs. Ross will be happy for me, but I already knew Momma would not share in the joy. I just knew she wouldn’t. I wasn’t singing gospel music, so she was not going to be happy at all. I brooded over her finding out about my singing career.
“What’s wrong, Sherri,” Eedy asked.
“Nothing. Just tired.”
The limo pulled to a stop and the driver opened the door. “I’ll call you tomorrow, Tony. We got some things we need to talk about,” Aaron gave Tony a fist tap and Tony stepped out of the car.
With Tony gone I got comfortable, kicking my feet up on the seat and playing with my limp hair.
“What did you and Raymond talk about all luvy duvy at your private table?” Eedy asked.
“Nothing.” I started smiling again. I was a little infatuated with Raymond.
“I think Tony was a little jealous, Sherri. He was watching you like a hawk watches a chicken.”
“Cut it out, Ed,” Aaron said.
“Don’t start that mess, Aaron. I was just making an observation.”
“Haven’t you made enough observations?”
Eedy rolled her eyes at Aaron.
“Sherri . . . Raymond is living the fast life. You have no idea of what this man is and isn’t capable of,” Aaron warned.
“I can handle myself, Aaron” I said confidently.
“What are the other two songs you are going to sing on the tour?” Eedy asked.
“I don’t know, Eedy. I’ll have to think about it.”
“One of them will be a song Tony chooses.” Aaron was resolute in his tone.
“I don’t have a problem with that, Aaron.”
“Good. I also think it would be a good idea if you and Tony work on writing songs together. We need to find more artists. Really get this thing going.”
“Aaron . . . I would rather not.” Aaron could have kept that idea. Tony Carter could go to hell for all I care. I had nothing to say the rest of the way home and neither did they. Tony and I had been through to much for me to ever want to work with him on anything.
I was half sleep when the limousine dropped us off at home. I went directly into my room and hit the bed, tired, thinking I would sleep good tonight, but couldn’t. I turned the light on and just sat up in my bed thinking about Tony for a while. That man had touched that deepest innermost part of me. My heart was still in pieces knowing he was somewhere holding, Michelle—my sister!
That was a troubling thought. I turned the clock radio on and Raymond’s number one song was playing. I perked up a little thinking that maybe Mr. Rodriguez had an eye for me. After all, he did call me Sunshine, whispering a few mannish things in my ear that I know Momma would have a heart attack if she heard. I looked in my purse on the night stand, pulling out Raymond’s number. I smiled.
“Sherri?” Eedy knocked on my door.
“Come on in, Eedy.” I put the number back in my purse.
“I saw your light on and figured you were still up.”
“You think you might be feeling, Raymond?” Eedy sat beside me on the bed.
“Maybe . . . he is kind of cute.”
“What did Mr. Raymond Rodriguez say to you that put your mind in outer space?”
“Nothing.” I wanted to blush again.
“Raymond didn’t mention anything about business with you . . . it was all personal?”
“You don’t think Raymond would have an interest in just getting to know me?” skillfully sidestepping the question.
“Well, just be careful when dealing with Raymond is all I’m saying, Sherri. Aaron says he’s a snake.”
“Okay, Eedy. I will.”
“You did good tonight.” Eedy gave me a hug and we talked a while. She left a little later, leaving me in the room still dealing with insomnia. Anxiety will do that to you sometimes.
Feeling tired, but not sleepy, I lay back down. The bed seemed vast and empty; feelings associated with Tony quickly crossed my mind—passing thoughts, because my attention shifted to Raymond, falling asleep dreaming about him around five a.m.