Chapter 30

       "Hello, Mr. Ardelean. How are you today?"

       "I'm doing well, thanks. May I ask who's calling?" Nicolae inquired curiously.

       Clearing his throat, David answered politely. "Glad you're well. My name is David Gould, and you're the manager of Love and a Piano, correct? 

       Feeling taken aback by the question, Nicolae suddenly remembered that Symphony would list he and her as the band's managers on their demo tapes. Since he was great at securing higher pay for their gigs, Symphony had made him co-manager of their band.

       "Yes, I'm the co-manager of Love and a Piano, how may I help you?" Nicolae replied confidently despite the band no longer being together.

        "Great! I'm the senior director of the global catalog at Sony Music, and I recently came across your amazing demo tape. Have you guys been signed to a label yet?"

        Nicolae sighed. "No. Unfortunately, not."

       "Wow! I'm surprised to hear that. Your band is amazing! I'm a big fan," David spoke exuberantly.

       "Thanks, Mr. Gould. But what's this phone call all about? I have a studio session at two o'clock, and need to get going," Nicolae sputtered. With the band no longer being together, he had finally taken Symphony's advice and became a session musician. It wasn't the same as playing in a band, but he had bills to pay — he'd take any job he was offered.

       Leaning back in his chair, David spoke compassionately, as he smiled at a photograph of Symphony. Included with their demo tape was a short biography of each band member, their headshots, and a group photo.

        "I understand, Mr. Ardelean. The reason I'm calling is to offer your band a lucrative deal — I'd like to sign you to our label, 'Epic Records.' I'll be in town on Thursday and would love to set up a meeting with you and Symphony. I see she's listed as the manager of the band as well. I tried calling her, but the phone number listed on the demo was disconnected."

       Though David could have gotten in contact with Symphony through Michael, he chose against doing so. He wanted to talk with her directly without Michael's knowledge. He knew Michael would hang up on him immediately if he so much as uttered her name.

       "Really? Are you serious? Hell yeah, we'd love to sign! Nicolae shouted. "Any time you wanna meet is good with me."

        David smiled wickedly. He couldn't wait to take Symphony under his wing and get her into his bed. "Great! And would you mind giving me Symphony's phone-number? I want to speak to her as well," he spoke gleefully.

        "Oh, um... She just lost her phone and is getting it replaced," Nicolae lied. There was no way he could give David Symphony's phone number without getting her onboard first. He'd somehow have to convince her to replace April and Dylan and restart the band.

         Praying that David would accept the bald-faced lie he told, Nicolae let out a shaky breath and said, "When and what time would you like to meet?"

       "Let's meet this Friday at the Four Seasons hotel located in downtown Baltimore. I'll be visiting a friend there for a few hours before heading to Denmark. Is noon alright with you?

        "That's perfect! Symphony and I will see you there," Nicolae babbled, fearing David would ask him more questions about Symphony. "I'm sorry to rush, but I do have to get going now."

       David chuckled and said. "No problem, Mr. Ardelean. I understand. Time is money. It was great speaking with you!

I'm looking forward to meeting with you and Symphony this Friday."


***

       Michael breathed deep. His heart raced a mile a minute, as the memory of him and Raven having sex in his classroom repeatedly played in his head. "It was just one time. One damn time I didn't protect myself. Fuck!" he cursed angrily to himself. After splashing some cold water on his face, he looked at himself in the mirror and began to cry. Never did he imagine the possibility of him becoming a father would trouble him so profoundly.   

        Though he longed to have children, he didn't want them with a woman he didn't love. A whole myriad of problems came with having a child whose parents weren't involved with one another. And with Raven being jealous of he and Symphony's relationship, he didn't know if she would keep him from seeing his child out of spite.

He didn't want to be in a constant battle with Raven; he just wanted to love his child and take care of his responsibilities.

       After Michael got dressed, he joined Symphony in his Piano Room. She was playing Requiem Mass in D Minor by Mozart — a solemn but soothing piece that evoked pain and sadness all at the same time. As he watched her play, he felt as though a dagger had been lodged into his heart. She was in pain, and he was the cause. Though she had told him she'd be there for him, he knew it was killing her inside.

       "Hey, Beautiful," he whispered, stroking the side of her arm. "We should get going soon."

        Staring out into the distance, Symphony stopped playing piano abruptly and sighed. She had been dreading the paternity test for the past couple of days but knew it had to be done. If the baby belonged to Michael, she would continue to be there for him, but she couldn't deny she was hurt. Her feelings weren't a faucet that she could shut-off to avoid her pain.

       Turning to face him, Symphony looked into his eyes and said, "no matter the outcome, sweetheart. I still love you. But that's not to say my heart isn't hurting."

       Cupping her chin, he pleaded softly, "I know, Symphony, and I'm sorry. You have every right to be angry with me. I hope you can forgive me someday."


       "Michael, I was never angry with you per se. And after you explained the situation to me, there was no cause for me to be. We weren't dating exclusively at the time, and you hadn't made any commitments to me. However, I am disappointed. I wanted to be the one to bear your children. Raven doesn't deserve that honor. She's done nothing but cause us trouble and pain."


       "Thank you, Beautiful. Thank you for your understanding of this terrible ordeal.

I'm disappointed in myself as well. I know you've said you wouldn't dump me, but I have to ask — would you resent the baby if it's mine?"


       "Of course not! The baby has done nothing wrong. Because I love you, I'll love the baby as well. The baby is a part of you. Sure, Raven will be a pain in the ass for me to deal with, but the baby is innocent in all of this. For the sake of the child, I'm willing to put my differences aside and try to get along with her."

       Pulling Symphony into his arms, he closed his eyes and said, "I love you more, Beautiful. Your heart is incredible. Not many women would be so accepting of a child that wasn't their own."

       "I know, sweetheart. But I have to be mature about this. The only way for us to move forward is to accept this situation and deal with it head-on."

       When Symphony and Michael arrived at the hospital, they were surprised and relieved to find that Raven and Todrick had completed their portion of the DNA testing the day prior. During Raven and Symphony's heated conversation, Raven never mentioned that she and Todrick's appointment was scheduled a day before Michael's.

        While checking-in for his appointment, Michael let out a deep breath and asked, "would it be ok if my Fiancee accompanies me during the procedure?"

       "Yes. That'll be fine, Dr. Black," the receptionist replied politely. "Please proceed through the double doors behind you and go directly to room one hundred and one. The doctor will see you shortly."

       As Symphony and Michael awaited the doctor, Michael nervously bounced his knee and sighed. "Gee! This is so nerve-wracking. I'm just ready for this to be over with!"

       Grasping his hand, she stared into his eyes and said, "everything is going to be alright. This process will be over within a few seconds."

       "I know, sweetheart. I know. This is just unfair. All of my life, I've wanted kids, but not like this... God, I feel terrible. A child is a blessing, and here I am being ungrateful."

       Turning his face towards hers, Symphony shook her head sideways and said, "no, baby. You're not being ungrateful, and there's no need to feel terrible. You're human. The feelings you're having are normal."

       When the doctor entered the room, he kindly introduced himself, asked Michael a few questions, and then swabbed his cheek a few times with a cotton swab. The procedure was quick, easy, and painless.

        "All done, Dr. Black." The doctor announced cheerfully. "Once the laboratory receives your samples, the test results will be made available to you in one to two days via the email you've provided."

        After the doctor left the room, Michael cocked his eyebrows and sighed. "Well, I knew it would be quick, but not that quick. So what do we do now?"

       Giving his arm a light squeeze, Symphony smiled and said, "We go home and wait."

       Later that afternoon, Michael decided to go out for a drink alone. The pending results of the paternity test had him on edge, and he needed a drink to soothe his nerves. Whenever he was under intense stress, he'd head down to Pratt Street Ale House for a quick drink. The place was usually quiet on weeknights, which he was happy about. He didn't like the rowdy crowds that frequented the bar during the weekends.

     As he sat in a private booth tossing back his third glass of Moscato, he could have sworn he heard Nicolae speaking nearby. Just the mere sound of his voice made his blood boil.

       In that instant, Michael began fuming over what Nicolae had said to Symphony. He wanted nothing more but to curse him the fuck out, and possibly punch his lights out, but he decided to chill. He had classes to teach and didn't need to spend the next couple of days in jail. As Michael continued to sip his drink, he overheard Nicolae telling someone about he and Symphony's record deal. Michael knew he was a bit drunk, but not that drunk to where he heard things.

       "Yeah, man! It's going to be great! I can't wait to sign the contract!" Nicolae spoke excitedly to his best friend, Steve.

        "Congratulations, bro! But umm, what about Symphony, Dylan, and April — I thought you all broke up?

       Nicolae sighed. "Yes, we did. Or well, Symphony broke up the band due to April and Dylan's departure. Once she sees the contract, I'm sure she'll be willing to put the band back together. We'll just have to find replacements for April and Dylan."

       Steve furrowed his eyebrows and said,

       "Wait! Symphony doesn't know about the contract? And how does Dr. Black, aka Michael Jackson, feel about this? He was signed to Sony Records, you know?"

       "I know. And that's why I'll have to convince her to leave him. Ever since he came into her life, she started acting differently. Once he's out of the picture, I know she'll be down."

       "I don't know, man. This sounds like a terrible idea. The guy still does business with Sony — he's part-owner of their entire catalog of songs. He basically has the power to make your life hell if you think about it."

        Nicolae scoffed. "But he's not in total control of the label itself. David Gould, the record executive that wants to sign us, will be overseeing our careers. Not Dr. Black — Michael Jackson — or whatever the hell his name is these days. I can't stand his bitch-ass noways. Just when I was planning to ask Symphony out a few months back, she started dating his wack-ass."

        No longer being able to subdue his anger, Michael exited the booth and said, "I don't know who the hell you think you're fooling with, but I'm not to be played with. Stay the fuck away from Symphony!"

       When Nicolae saw Michael stalking angrily towards his table, he jumped up and balled his fist. "Isn't it a school night, Dr. Black. Shouldn't you be at home grading papers or something?"

       Looking at Nicolae as if he had lost his mind, Steve grabbed his coat and said, "you need to quit while you're ahead. I'll catch you later."

      As Steve exited the bar, Nicolae yelled, "oh, come on!" What is a punk-ass music professor going to do to me?"

       Michael fumed. "Listen to me, you little dipshit. I just overheard your entire conversation. Symphony isn't signing a record contract! And by the way, not only am I the part-owner of Sony's entire ATV catalog, but I'm also a board member as well. I have input over every single decision that Sony makes. Now just how far do you think you'll get away with your idiotic plan?"

       His face turning a deep red, Michael clenched his teeth and drew back his fist. At that moment, the anger he held for Nicolae, Raven, Todrick, Cassandra, Mercedes, David, and any other person that had crossed him would soon be released in a powerful blow to Nicolae's cheek. But just as he was about to lose control, he felt a soft hand tighten around his fist.

        "No, baby. Please. I know you're upset, but it's not worth it!" A gentle voice whispered from behind, trying to quell his anger.

       "Beautiful, what are you doing here?" Michael spoke in surprise at the sound of Symphony's voice.

       "I became worried when you didn't come home after two hours like you said you would."

       When Michael turned to face her, Nicolae laughed. "God, you're such a pussy. Come on, Symphony; you can't be serious about this guy?"

     Placing a tender kiss on Symphony's lips, Michael stroked her cheek and said, "I'm sorry, Beautiful. Please do me a favor and close your eyes."

       When Michael clamped down on his jaw, Symphony already knew what was to follow, and there was no use in trying to stop him — nor did she want to. After hearing Nicolae disrespect Michael, she had a change of heart.

      Symphony grinned. "You know what? On second thought, I'd like to see this."

        Turning around swiftly, Michael gutted Nicolae in the stomach with his knee and said, "I'll be giving Mr. Gould a call — I'm voiding your contract."

        Clutching his stomach, Nicolae jeered. "Man! You don't speak for Symphony. If she wants to sign the contract, then she can. You don't control her."

       Symphony furrowed her eyebrows and said, "what contract?"

       "Sony Music offered our band a great record deal, but your so-called boyfriend is calling all the shots for you!" Nicolae huffed.

       "First of all, no one speaks on my behalf. But in this case, my fiancé knows exactly how I feel about the band, and he knows how disrespectful you were towards me. He was looking out for his future wife. And second of all, you're crazy as hell! The band is over with, Nicolae. I want nothing more to do with you! If you come anywhere near me, I'm calling the cops on top of letting Michael whoop your sorry ass. The only reason he went easy on you is that I asked him not to kill you."

       Nicolae laughed as he struggled to stand upright. "Wife? Whore is more like it. And as far as killing me, I'd like to see him try! That was a lucky shot."

       When Michael stepped forward to punch Nicolae in the face, he stopped himself short. He didn't want to cause a scene, and the few people that happened to stop and watch their heated altercation had quickly moved on.

       "Man, look at you! You can barely stand," Michael scoffed. "If it weren't for Symphony, I'd drag your ass outside and beat you to a pulp. But since I don't feel like serving time in jail, I'm going to be the bigger man and let this go."

       "Whatever, punk!" Nicolae jeered."Your old music videos must got you gassed up. Try that shit in real life and watch your ass get fucked up."

        Michael knew that Nicolae was all talk and no action. So to fuck with him, he lunged forward, pretending as if he were going to punch him. When Nicolae flinched, Michael snickered and said, "That's what I thought. And they're not music videos — they're short films! If your going to try and insult me, at least know what you're talking about."

       Growing tired of Nicolae's stupidity, Michael wrapped his arms protectively around Symphony and said, "come on, baby. I'm tired. Let's go home. I have to get up early, and so do you. I'm done dealing with fools."

      As Nicolae lowered his head in defeat, he began to weep. He knew he had fucked himself over, and hoped that Symphony would hear him out. "Symphony! I'm sorry for disrespecting you! I miss you; I miss the band. I miss your friendship —  I love you!"

      Not bothering to turn around, Symphony waved him a dismissive hand and yelled, "you're full of shit, Nicolae! Go to hell!"

      Once they were outside of the bar, Michael punched his fist in the air and yelled. "Damn it! If it's not one thing, it's another!"

       Looking around the desolate street, Symphony eyed a police car and whispered, "Michael, baby. Please settle down. We've been through enough tonight. Let's not add going to jail to the list."

        Michael roared with tears in his eyes. "I'm tired, Beautiful. I'm sick and tired of this shit! Why can't people let us be happy?"

       Pulling him into her arms, Symphony stroked his hair and cooed, "I know, sweetie. I know. I'm tired as well. But rest assured, things will get better."

       Easing out of her arms, Michael pulled out his phone and started punching numbers frantically. His blood was still boiling, and he needed to handle one last thing before he and Symphony headed home. When a male's voice answered the phone, his eyes turned dark and stormy.

      "Hello David, this is Michael," he snarled. "I just had a conversation with Nicolae, and the deal is off! Don't fuck with me and most certainly not Symphony! If you so much as think about crossing me again, there'll be hell to pay!"

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