“Aaahhh…?” Melody wailed like a broken siren of an ambulance.
Her best friend, Jay, mustered all the determination he could to not roar in annoyance and smack his hand on his forehead. However, he finally rubbed his palm on his face in pained frustration and inhaled deeply as if praying for patience.
“Let’s go over this one more time,” he suggested. Melody chuckled sarcastically. “You don’t have to pretend to be understanding, Jay. I know you are not really happy with me right now.”
Jay shook his head. “I know you can do this, Mel. I have complete faith in you. I trust you to do this excellently.”
“I don’t have any faith left in myself. What is others’ trust going to help me with?” she said, wringing her arms.
“That attitude isn’t helping.” he retorted.
“But I can’t!” she cried desperately again.
“You have to. For yourself, and for your mum.”
Melody slumped down on the couch in her house right in front of the television. “This is so un-cool,” she murmured. Jay sighed and settled down beside her. “Tell me all about it. Just vent,” he said. She closed her eyes peacefully.
“Did I ever mention how lucky I am to have you as a friend?” she smiled weakly.
Jay grinned. “Too much.”
She buried her face in her palms. “Fine… mum’s business at the café has been declining faster and worse than ever. She had just started getting popular in the district, but now… people want everything unique and different. I feel that getting a sound system will give it a boost, but… they are damn expensive these days.”
“Mmhm,” Jay mumbled in agreement, even though he knew the whole story. “Sound systems do cost a small fortune.”
“Yeah… so I told her I will try to arrange for one, but she is adamant on buying one with her own money. The blow we will suffer is something very painful to recover from.”
“True,” Jay added supportively.
“But then this vocal music contest was like a beacon of light for me, you know?" she continued. "When I realized they were giving away a perfect sound system to the winner, I was desperate. I thought I could pull it off, but now… it seems like a dream. My sense of tune is trash. Singing is out of my reach.”
“Why don’t you let me win it for you?” he suggested for almost the fifteenth time that week.
“I have my self-respect, you know!” she yelled. The last two words came out as strained shrieks, and she realized that the moment they left her mouth. Her head tilted up towards the ceiling. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled. He smiled. “Don’t worry.” But deep inside, he was more worried than she was. A bitter laugh echoed in his head. How ironic. She probably was the most tuneless person in the whole world, and her name had to be Melody.
He stood up abruptly. “I must go back home now. I suggest you don’t practice for today and try to check where you are lacking. I am sure you can come up with ways to improve.”
Melody nodded, and saw him out. She flopped back onto the couch the moment she returned.
“This… rotten feeling…” she said aloud through gritted teeth. She thrashed on the couch, resulting in her inelegant dropping to the floor. “Ah, whatever,” she groaned, staring at the ceiling again. “I am in dire need of quality songs right now.”
She sat back upright and flicked on the television. It glowed to life, and she skipped directly to her favourite channel. There were K-pop songs being broadcast that evening, and she sat devotedly listening to them. Before she realized it, she was jamming to each of the songs that were playing one after the other. As each of the raps came flowing by, she felt satisfied. She had always felt that the rap made the song what it was.
Before long, her lips were moving at top speed, matching the pace of the professionals and rapping along with them. She looked up at the clock suddenly. It was an hour past her bedtime.
“Aw… I haven’t even thought of any improvements!” she grumbled, but then her eyes widened. A particular something dawned on her mind.
The next day, Jay sat waiting anxiously in his house for Melody to arrive. He had already prepared the emergency handling equipment- huge packs of juices of three different flavours, potato chips, fries, cakes, and tons of funny videos downloaded in his fully-charged mobile. He was hoping she wouldn’t bawl her eyes out, but there was no telling what would happen.
But when she did arrive at his house, he was delightfully surprised to notice that she was beaming. Light seemed to radiate off her.
“What happened? Did you get some ideas?” he inquired. She nodded vigorously and sauntered into his house dramatically. He shut the door.
“Share it with me.”
She looked up at him, eyes brimming with enthusiasm. “I discovered something about myself yesterday. I cannot sing, my tuning is horrible, but…”
“Stop the suspense already.” Jay nearly roared.
“… I can rap.”
His eyes flickered momentarily to the television screen towards which his couch was pointing.
“Have you prepared a song?”
“You pick. I know all of them.” she laughed.
His fingered slid over his mobile and came to a stop over one title. “This one,” he spoke and passed the mobile to her.
From the moment she clutched the mobile, played the background music and began- to the point when she dropped to the floor, panting but full of energy and anticipation, he never let his critical gaze linger away from her. Her talent, he understood finally, lay elsewhere. Ever since he had known her, he could not help but be left in awe of that fantastic brain of hers which drew ideas from the oddest of places and times.
“You know,” he chuckled. “At this rate, you’re going to win all the sound systems in the city.”
She grinned brightly.
On the day of the contest, Jay waited backstage for Melody to arrive after getting ready. The moment he turned around, he saw her- happy, cheerful, level-headed and somehow different. Her outfit reflected the fast nature of her rap song, and she had even got her hair cut.
Her name was announced, and he gave her the thumbs-up. She returned it in earnest and scampered away.
His gaze followed her boots climb confidently towards the stage. He smiled to himself.
She had finally appreciated what she was good at.