“You don’t make it easy to love you, do you, Kitty?” Six days to the music festival that will make her career as an events planner, Kitty’s meticulously scheduled life is thrown into chaos by the reappearance of charming but irresponsible Wezi, her deceased brother’s best friend. It’s been two years since he vanished and abandoned her when she’d needed him most. She should be fuming. Right? But Wezi’s always been her weakness, and maybe this time, things will be different.
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Katenekwa Mwaba stared at the poster on the wall without looking at the man in it. She had learned the skill when the Keystone Music Festival’s promotional posters and billboards appeared all over town. Her sanity depended on it.
Every day that she refused to acknowledge Wezi Sichizya’s existence was a victory. Someday soon, she hoped, she’d be able to stare right at his face, feel no pain, and not force down tears.
Katenekwa sighed, rolled her shoulders, and turned her attention to her wristwatch. The minute hand marched steadily toward the hour.
She had scheduled her daily debriefing with Lillian, Media GQ’s events manager, at four-thirty. That was a half-hour ago. If she didn’t drive out of the premises by five-thirty, she’d be stuck in traffic and would lose two hours—the only two hours she had each day to do work for her other clients.
Although planning the Keystone Music Festival was the most significant contract of her career, she still had other clients to satisfy. The closer the festival got, the less time she had. Sure, she could ask her assistant Gwen to take up more responsibilities. Still, she had a reputation to uphold, and Gwen wasn’t quite there yet.
Lillian popped out of her office jack-in-the-box style.
“Hi, Kay. Sorry, sorry. Come in.” she said, all in the space of a breath.
Katenekwa crossed the threshold. What was supposed to be a stylish, modern office in minimalist style resembled a hoarder’s paradise. Well, if hoarders kept nearly pristine, shrink-wrapped bundles of fliers everywhere. She followed Lillian’s lead, squeezing past the stacks, and took a seat on the only unoccupied chair. “Did the printer run out of space?”
Lillian slid between a stack of papers and her desk to get to her chair. Fortunately, her size-six body could make the manoeuvre with only mild difficulty. Someone of Katenekwa’s size, however, would need a bit more wiggle room.
“The printer made an error and hasn’t come to pick them up. I put them in here so he’d have to face me. Busy talking about us covering the cost when it was his mistake. Idiot.” Lillian collapsed into her chair, ran her fingers through her honey-gold weave, and propped herself up with her arms.
This was Lillian in her most relaxed state. That printer fella better watch out. In the two years, Katenekwa had known Lillian, no one had ever won a fight against her. Lilian was a decisive woman who made her expectations clear and wasn’t above litigation if needed.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting. It’s our busiest season. I wish I had you planning Zig’s album launch. The planner is a nightmare.” She waved her hands at the bundles. “Case in point.”
Katenekwa shrugged. “It would have been a lot to handle, even for me.”
At the very least, the rapper would have been. His larger-than-life persona drained Katenekwa even in their brief encounters—imagine hours with him. What’s more, most of her interactions with Zig involved him hitting on her and her refusing his company while wondering what it would be like to let loose with him.
She wasn’t going to lie. If she had to spend that much time with the way-too-charming and attractive Zig, she’d end up in his bed. She’d lose her mind. Give in to her basest of instincts and unhinge. She was no superwoman. She expended maximum energy keeping the animal caged, and men like Zig the Lyrical had the passcode.
“Hmm. That’s unfortunate. So, what’s the news?”
“I confirmed with all the vendors. We finalized arrangements for the booths, food, water, and merch. I just need the menu choices from the artists to give the caterer. Tomorrow,” She opened her day planner. “We’ll be setting up the marquee.”
“Wait. I thought tomorrow was the setup for the stages.”
“No, that can’t be right.” Katenekwa flipped through her binder. She scowled at her booking confirmations. Sure thing, she’d booked both set-ups for the next day. “How could I have made such a mistake?”
“Can’t you reschedule one?”
Katenekwa fought the urge to rub her temples. “Mike insisted that he needs the stages tested, and we booked rehearsals already. And I need the marquee erected if we’re going to have everything brought in and arranged in time for the gala. Besides, the marquee set up is in the morning and the stage in the afternoon. I’ll manage, somehow.”
“Don’t push yourself. Don’t you have an assistant?”
“Gwen’s going to be busy with another client tomorrow. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, then, if you say so. I don’t have to remind you that we’ve both invested too much money in this.”
“It will work out.” It had to. Her career, reputation, and future depended on it.
Lilian leaned back in her chair. “When do you need the menu finalized?”
“The caterer is pretty flexible, but Thursday, latest.”
Lilian nodded, wiped imaginary sweat off her forehead, and reached into her drawer. “I have that invite you asked for.”
Katenekwa reached for it, but Lillian pulled it away. “What?”
“I recall you collecting your father’s invitation weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when you asked for this one. Bringing a date?”
Katenekwa snatched at the envelope in vain. Lillian leaned back in her chair and tapped the eggshell envelope on an armrest. “Is it the banker?”
Katenekwa shifted in her seat. First, Josiah was no banker. Second, it was none of Lillian’s business. Not that Katenekwa would tell her that. Lillian may not have been her boss per se, but she cut most of Katenekwa’s pay cheques these days. What was that about biting the hand that fed you?
Katenekwa sighed. “Yes. I’m bringing Josiah.”
It was a decision she’d made after months and months of internal debate. But, in the end, she hadn’t been able to find a reason not to invite him. Although when she’d asked him, some wicked part of her had hoped he’d say no.
Lillian tossed back her hair and pushed the envelope across the table. “Hmm. He doesn’t seem like the party type. Are you sure? Why don’t you bring Zig? He has a massive crush on you.”
“Aren’t you the one always telling me to stay away from the talent? And Zig? No. He’s not even my type.” Katenekwa palmed the envelope.
Lillian parted her full, plum-coloured lips. “It’s one night. And I see you looking at Zig like he’s a forbidden candy bar. Besides, I’m starting to think you might need a little chaos in your life, missy.”
Kawana, Katenekwa’s twin and the Zed pop sensation known as Keystone, used to tell her that. Before…
“No one needs chaos.” Katenekwa shook off the memories and pushed herself to her feet. “I have to get back to my office. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Think about what I said.”
She did. All the way to her city-centre office. It wasn’t the kind of thing she was thrilled to let occupy her mind with, especially when she had work to do.
Was planning out her life so bad? Plans were good. She should know. She was a planner.
Nothing messed things up like spontaneity. And guys like Zig, they were all spontaneity and no structure. She didn’t need any of that.
Besides, technically she’d be working at the gala. What better place to make business connections than a party filled with all the Keystone Festival’s sponsors and then some? She needed to be at her best, and Josiah would make sure she was.
Yet, she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have it all back—the fun, the laughter.
Kawana had dragged Katenekwa out of her neatly folded lifestyle. Once upon a time, she’d dared to step out of herself. In the end, though, fun did what fun does: it took. It took Kawana, and it took Wezi. She’d stay in the slow lane, thank you very much. Life was safer there anyway.
Katenekwa pulled into her reserved parking space. She’d strong-armed her father into giving her the Toyota Spacio.
The parking lot was almost deserted at this time. Lusaka’s central business district had emptied over an hour ago. Although her office complex was secured, she needed to be out in under an hour if she planned to make it home before her overcautious neighbours locked the front gate.
She rummaged in the backseat for her Keystone day-planner. Nothing. She stretched and wracked her brain. Of course! She’d been so distracted by Lillian’s ridiculous suggestion that she’d left it on the desk. She’d have to swing by Media GQ before heading out tomorrow morning.
She waved to the night guard and began the two-storey ascent to her office. Despite its shoebox size, rent cost a fortune. The uptown location did its part to attract customers willing to pay a little extra for her services. Not to brag, but she was the best event planner in the business. Plus, the security meant she could work late when the need arose. And lately, the need arose.
She wrinkled her brow at the laughter that met her at her office door. She checked the sign. Yep, this was her office, and that was Gwen’s I-like-this-man-so-much giggle. A deep, sexy-in-a-musical-kind-of-way baritone said something to make Gwen snort and then hiccup.
Katenekwa pushed down the rising irritation with a deep inhale and a short mantra, strode into the room, and met Gwen’s sheepish smile with a, hopefully, not-too-stern face.
“Hi, Gwen. You’re here late.” She hung her bag on the rack and turned to greet, or rather, inspect Gwen’s guest.
Her mouth became the Sahara, and she turned to stone.
“He insisted on waiting, and I couldn’t leave a stranger in the office,” Gwen said, her voice booming, as usual, oblivious to her boss’s sculpture-like pose.
Katenekwa stared at the man in her visitor’s chair. Behind him, leaning against the wall, an all-so-familiar navy-blue guitar case.
“Hi, Kitty. It’s been a while,” he said in a voice created for song.
So much for staying away from chaos.