Chapter 28:

Their First Album

Purple Prose

“Wait a minute!”

Feeling the heat leave his head, Issei thought what Sayoko had even done was strange.

“How do you know what Murasaki’s studio is?”

After all, Issei had no idea, and he’s pretty sure Murasaki doesn’t know his either.

Sayoko winked. “That’s for you three to find out later.”

Her face became stern as she threw a finger at him. “But you’re not going to find out if you don’t hurry up with your album. Develop three more songs, and we’ll be set to finally reveal Secret Prose to the world!”

Issei spent the rest of the studio time finalizing his guitar chords, then, when Sayoko flicked the light switch off-and-on as a warning, he wrapped up and stuffed the tabs in his folder.

“Alright dude, you ready to celebrate our new careers?” Takao asked, his elbow on his shoulder. “Or are you gonna spend the night with Murasaki?”

Kanka looked pleadingly at him, even sticking out his lower lip.

“Come on you two, having a girlfriend doesn’t mean I can’t make time for my band. I promised we would celebrate, so celebrate we shall.”

Kanka shot his arms out. “Excellent! I’ll tell my family I’ll be home later than usual.”

Shouldn’t your family be a priority though?

“Hey Sayoko, wanna come with?”

Takao faced Sayoko with a grin, who drew back in surprise. “Eh? You want to invite me along?”

“That’s what I said! You’re our producer, so you’re a member of the band too!”

Her smile trembled as though she had never been invited to an outing before. “Well, if you’re fine with including me, I’ll join you.”

Secret Prose and Sayoko went somewhere different this time, and though they probably should have gone to a more casual spot, they decided on a bar. The four lined up on bar stools in front of the bartender as they ordered drinks, but before Issei flashed his card to put it on his tab, Sayoko flashed hers.

“Remember, you’re on contract–as producer, that upfront pay is going towards all your expenses, including…bars.”

Issei shrugged. “Works for me!”

He expected Kanka to go down for the count early–the man never could hold his liquor down–but Issei did not have “Sayoko out-drinking them all” on his Bingo card.

“Okay…okay…you win,” Issei said, the room spiraling around him. “I gotta stop so I can…walk myself home.”

Three Sayokos pumped ten fists in the air. “Woohoo! That’s how it’s done! What’s the matter, Takao? I thought men were supposed to be better drinkers than women?”

Takao was unresponsive. Too bad–Issei thought he’d enjoy her more social personality with all the drinks in her.

“Thanks for…for hanging out with us,” Issei said, slurring his words, and he stumbled out of his stool in his attempts to pull Kanka to his feet. “I’ll take…take this lump with me, you grab Takao.”

“Wait! Where does Takao live?”

“Ah. Uhm…”

Issei let go of Kanka, toppling him face-down on the hardwood flooring, and tore a piece of paper from his pocket to write down his address. Issei couldn’t read his own directions, but Sayoko must be able to. Then he handed one of the Sayoko’s the paper, but she must not have grabbed it because the paper fell to the floor. “Come on Kanka.”

Issei managed to find a cab for Kanka–hopefully he was able to correctly state his address–then he shuffled home and didn’t even change as he collapsed on the bed.

His phone vibrated with a jingle. Issei thought Murasaki’s name showed up, and lazily pressed a button. However, the jingle returned, forcing Issei to press the button again, but the phone kept making noise until finally Murasaki’s lovely face appeared above a pillow. For some reason, her brow was furrowed, and her cheeks puffed out with downturned lips.

“Why did you keep refusing to video chat with me? I almost thought you didn’t want to talk to me!”

“Sorry…I went guys and really drunk.”

Murasaki sputtered out laughing. “You sound drunk, that’s for sure–and you look drunk too. Your eyes are all droopy. So, did you have a good time?”

“Yeah…made new song, need three more before…uhm…thing happens.”

She giggled. “Make sure to drink plenty of water, okay? I don’t want you to get sick.”

Everything got dark. “I’ll try.”

“Oh no, are you gonna fall asleep on me? I won’t mind, but your phone might run out of power.”

Issei forced his eyes open. “How was…your day?”

“It was good.” Murasaki smiled sweetly. “Since we have our set list already made, we’re about to produce our first album. You gotta catch up with us, okay?”

“Okay, Beautiful.”

The camera on Murasaki’s end jumbled. “Huh?”

His eyes fluttered shut.

“Wait Issei, what did you say?”

With the last of his strength, he pried his eyes open. “You’re beautiful. Goodnight…”

Issei heard kicking, but he was sure his legs were still. His eyelids like solid lead, he fell asleep with the video chat still facing him.

“Alright…goodnight, you handsome man.”

Issei found out the next day that, not only did he give Sayoko a bunch of illegible nonsense, forcing her to take Takao home with her, he also told the cab driver the wrong address to Kanka’s house, which made his wife look all over for him in the night.

The days flew by like a Speed Metal guitarist on caffeine, and August gave way to September. Every day, Secret Prose worked on their first album, and every week, Issei made sure to take Murasaki out on a date. That was what they agreed on: every Sunday, they would go out together for the whole day and recharge for the next week. Each date was different from the last, and while it made sense to go to a music festival for their first date, Murasaki loved animals too, so their second date was at an aquarium and zoo. Then she revealed that, since elementary school, Murasaki had never been allowed to play video games, so Issei took her out to a video arcade for their third date.

Each date made Issei learn more about Murasaki, and he was sure it was the same way for her. They opened up more to each other, and every day Issei was with her made him feel closer to her.

Their third date finished, they walked on home, Murasaki’s hand clutching his with such a tender warmth that, even having held hands with her several times before, the rush of warm feelings never went away and were just as strong before–perhaps even stronger.

“It’s September,” Murasaki cooed, and she caressed his arm. “What are you gonna get me?”

“You say that as if I’m gonna tell you,” Issei said, chuckling. “What if I told you I already have it?”

“Well, look who’s so thoughtful they got their birthday gift early! Impressive.”

Murasaki's head nuzzled his shoulder. “I can’t wait to know what it is…"

Then she stopped. "Can I stay over at your house again?”

“Nice try, but I hid my gift in a place no one would look.”

She shook her head. “It’s not that. I just think I saw those thugs again.”

Issei stopped in his tracks, the horrible aftermath of his first date hitting him like a truck. “Seriously? How are they out on the streets so soon?”

She looked at him amusingly. “Do you have to ask?”

Murasaki sighed. “My father must have something to do with it. He probably paid their bail, or told them to dismiss the case. If they’re back, then they’ll be trying to…wrest me away again. That’s why I need to be somewhere where I know I’ll be protected.”

Issei held her shoulders and brushed with his thumbs. “Well, you don’t need to worry about that. We can finish the date at my house again.”

Murasaki smiled and leaned into his body. “That’s my boyfriend.”

Days of developing music at The Garden Enterprises yielded fruit, and though Sayoko only requested a minimum of ten, Secret Prose had pushed through and created thirteen songs for their first album.

“A couple of these can be bonus songs,” she said, “and I recommend we either put Ebisu or Here We Are at the top of the track list.”

Ebisu at the top, Here We Are at the bottom,” Takao said, and when Sayoko spun around in her chair, he nodded even harder.

Issei shrugged. “Takao’s got an ear for presentation–he had us play Ebisu first when we headlined at The Montauk, so he must be doing something right.”

Sayoko sighed. “Alright. I just want your first album to be as good as it can get.”

She held up a finger to a button dramatically. “When I press this button, the data will download to a drive which will then translate to the album in your hand–and all first albums in the future. Do you understand?”

Takao bobbed his head so vigorously Issei thought it would pop off, but he nodded with him. “What do you say, Secret Prose? Any objections?”

“None at all,” Kanka said.

With finality, Sayoko pressed the button, and the studio computer went to work, thousands of its micro switches clicking as it read the data and compiled their music to a drive. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.

An hour later, Sayoko brought them to the manufacturing area of the company, and Secret Prose watched as a cutting lathe had carved a vinyl record–with their music on it.

Takao sobbed as he held the record with both hands, but he wasn’t allowed to hog the glory, because Issei grabbed it next. It was impressive how something so slender could hold his life’s work–but this is the end result of all bands’ efforts. It truly was their first album.

Kanka had the album in his hands when the door flew open.

“I heard the cutting lathe! Is the album finished!?”

It was Mr. Kiyabu, his nose flaring and his hair unkempt as he looked harried and restless.

Sayoko sprung to attention and saluted. “Yessir!”

He slumped against the wall. “Oh thank God. You guys were cutting it close.”

“Hey Boss Man,” Kanka said. “Cutting what close?”

Mr. Kiyabu went purple in the face. “Did Sayoko not tell you yet? We were trying to coordinate this event with Archipelago Records–but they’re getting impatient because one of our bands decided to make bonus songs on their first goddamn album!”

Sayoko blushed and stuck her tongue out. “Sorry…they had so much passion in their work, I gave them the go-ahead.”

“It’s fine–it’s fine.” He stood up and composed himself by fishing a cookie out of his vest.

Mr. Kiyabu did not eat the cookie yet, instead thrusting it in their faces. “Things will start to go a little fast now. Sayoko, it’s time: get our social media manager on the line and tell them to start advertising Secret Prose, then tell our artist I want them to design their logo and cover art on the double.”

The manager pivoted on his heel. “Secret Prose, guess what you’re doing on the twenty-fourth: you’re doing your first gig with Purple Lotus and both of you are opening for Embryology!”

“YES!” Takao pumped his fist, and Kanka whooped.

Mr. Kiyabu continued. “You’re playing six songs–double what you’re used to back in The Montauk–and you’re out of practice, so you’re gonna do regular run-throughs in our practice venue until then.”

Finally, he bit into his cookie and it cracked in half. “Congratulations on your first album, gentlemen.”

“That’s a strange coordination, don’t you think?” Issei said.

Sayoko, smiling, asked “Why is it? You and Purple Lotus were the talk of Morioka before you two were signed. You were two of the biggest amateur bands in the area, and now the public wants the two of you to debut at the same time. It’s going to be a big day for you!”

It made sense to Issei, of course, but the day was what stuck out to him the most: the twenty-fourth of September was Murasaki’s birthday.