Sway Records was busier than it had been the first time I’d been there. Urban music was playing at quite a loud volume. There were customers in every aisle. As I headed towards the counter I felt a pang of disappointment as Toby wasn’t alone; Mia was standing next to him. At the warehouse I couldn’t get a good look at her, because she was too far away. With her short, jet black hair streaked with three deep purple stripes at the front, Mia was all attitude. As I took in her appearance - her studded bracelets, her bra straps showing provocatively under a loose T-shirt with cut-out circles - I sensed Mia was not someone you wanted to get into an argument with. Yet, that was precisely what seemed to be happening at the counter, as she and Toby were engaged in a heated conversation. Both of them were looking at a flyer that Mia seemed to be pushing under Toby’s nose.
I hovered in the entrance area, unsure what to do. I realised that it wasn’t the possibility of barging in on their argument that was really troubling me. It was the intimate manner they seemed to have with each other – you could only really fight with someone you were close to. And I didn’t like the idea of Toby and Mia being that close. Was this how jealousy felt, I wondered? I had never been jealous of anyone before. I wasn’t sure I liked how it felt. My curiosity getting the better of me, I slowly walked closer to the counter. By this point I was near enough to overhear them.
‘Laila’s doing four shows this weekend?’ Mia asked. There was an edge to her voice.
‘There was an odd number of gigs to split between the two of you this time round, that’s all,’ Toby calmly answered.
‘She did four shows last weekend,’ Mia countered hotly.
‘It just worked out that way. Chill, Mia.’ Toby was still relatively relaxed.
‘It just worked out,’ said Mia, mocking his relaxed tone of voice. ‘How bloody convenient.’
‘Why are you making such a big deal about this?’ A note of irritation had now crept into Toby’s voice, though he may just have been raising his voice to be heard over the music in the background, which was growing louder.
Either way, by now the two were attracting glances from the customers on the floor. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to walk back out, as Toby may spot me from behind and wonder why I hadn’t spoken to him, yet I also didn’t feel like interrupting this conversation. Toby wasn’t the one who made me nervous; it was Mia. I imagined she’d have no problem yelling at me if I walked up to the counter right then and there.
‘Maybe you should ask yourself that question, Toby – why are you making such a big deal about Laila?’ Mia placed both hands on the counter, leaning forward, closer to Toby.
The body language was unmistakably hostile, threatening. I noticed a few customers leave. It didn’t surprise me; I just wished I had the courage to leave, too. Instead, I stood, rooted to the spot, as though I’d lost the use of my limbs. It didn’t even occur to me to pretend to peruse the aisles. I simply stood, staring at the two, like some kind of idiot.
‘I’m a better DJ than Laila. But then, I suppose Laila’s much more your type, isn’t she?’ Mia took her chewing gum out of her mouth and stuck it provocatively on top of the counter, smack in the middle of it. ‘You never did go for sassy girls, did you? Why’s that, pretty boy? Too much to handle?’
Now that I’d heard Mia’s insinuation that Toby may have had a thing for this Laila, I felt even more upset. This was beginning to sound like a messed-up love triangle and I certainly didn’t want to stretch it into a quadrangle.
‘Come on Mia, you’re being ridiculous.’ Toby swallowed hard. He looked away from Mia.
Mia lifted the flyer she had been holding onto the whole time and tore it up into tiny pieces, throwing them theatrically up in the air.
‘I’m being ridiculous? No, this whole thing is ridiculous. You claim this is supposed to be some sort of girl power, having female DJs? I’ll show you girl power. I’m striking out on my own.’ Mia’s tone was no longer aggressive. In fact, there was a little glimmer of satisfaction as she uttered those last words.
‘What? You’re quitting? But you can’t!’ Toby looked astonished.
‘Correction – not quitting. I quit.’
Not waiting to hear Toby’s response, Mia sauntered out, giving me a brief sideways glance. Terrified, I could have sworn she had given me the evil eye. Watching her swagger, I wondered if it was a pre-requisite to be a female DJ. If it was, I had no hope of having a go at it. It was only at that moment that Toby saw me. I wondered if he could guess that I’d overheard most of their talk.
‘Sorry for the office drama,’ Toby tried to make light of the situation, but I could tell he wasn’t indifferent to what had just happened. ‘I don’t recall your brother stealing from me again…’ He looked up in mock concern.
I smiled. ‘I need a favour.’
‘Let’s see – we’ve know each other for two days and this is the second time you’ve asked me for a favour. Your average is pretty scary, girl.’
I hoped I wouldn’t go red. Whenever I felt embarrassed, even slightly, I had the misfortune of blushing.
Toby smiled at me reassuringly. ‘So, how can I help you?’
‘You know how we talked about DJ-ing... Well, did you say that DJs can pull a grand a night?’
I knew I was walking a fine line. DJ-ing was a passion for Toby, so the fact that I may have come across as too focussed on the money side of it could have gone down badly. I could well imagine him saying that DJ-ing was something you did because you love it, not because of the paycheque.
‘Some of them do, yeah. Why?’
‘Can you teach me?’
‘What?’ He looked momentarily confused.
‘How to DJ – can you show me?’ I asked. Not only my cheeks, but even my ears were burning red by now.
Toby seemed to look at me with new eyes. ‘Okay,… Well, funny you should ask…’
He bent underneath the counter to join me on the other side and put an arm around me, leading me away. Toby reasoned that there was no point waiting when we may as well start our first lesson right away. I must have looked petrified to be put on the spot like that, because he grinned widely at me. When I’d asked for him to teach me, I hadn’t expected such an instant response. I’d had no time to mentally prepare and I inwardly panicked, afraid I was going to be rubbish and he’d regret ever laying eyes on me. It wasn’t just about the money anymore, although that remained the top of the list of my reasons. If I was being perfectly honest with myself, it had become also about impressing Toby – DJ-ing was what he was into, so it was important to me to be able to show him I could handle it.