Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Brandy Lookingglass is reviving her stumbling career. Well…I’m reviving it. But she is doing exactly as I say, which is the way it must be. Our long days together are divided between the rehearsal hall and the recording studio.Brandy agrees to using my sister’s exquisite illustration for the album cover. It depicts a beautiful maiden surrounded by swirling flames standing on a craggy rock. The title of her comeback record is ‘Baptism By Fire.’ My idea and naturally, it is perfect.We’ve had some tough moments in the house. I caught her at the bar more than once, helping herself. I reminded her sternly, like a father to a child, that she was not helping herself in any way.But at last she rises up, proud and strong, to defeat her nectar-drinking problem once and for all. Her voice rings out clearly. She deftly strums her instrument, delighting the twins and my young daughter with impromptu performances when my wife is not around.Ariane would be furious to find out about Brandy’s propensity to burst into my bedroom unannounced, trembling with insecurity.
“Mr. Notorious, I just don’t think I can make all this work,” she cries out, her thick Southern drawl dripping with honey and anxiety.I quickly get up out of my bed, a little embarrassed to be caught in my pajamas and a strange thought flits across my brain. Did she watch me while I was sleeping? I feel vulnerable, a sensation that was foreign to me.One of my habits has changed since Brandy Lookingglass arrived in my home. I work out constantly. I have always liked to be fit but now for some reason, I am particularly conscientious about it. Today I find the only place I can work out is in front of the TV in Brandy’s basement room. The twins are in my home gym and Mariposa is playing video games on the living room television.Normally I become enraged if I am interrupted during my exercise routine. Yet I am able to keep my cool when Brandy sashays in, and I actually stop what I am doing.
“Mr. Notorious,” she begins.“Please, please–I would prefer that you call me Sigismund. And I will call you Brandy,” I declare. “We are going to be in very close quarters when we get to Bridgeport. Let’s drop the formalities.”
“All right, Sigismund,” she says, giggling a little. I feel a little out of sorts. Why does she find my name amusing and why does it bother me?We are indeed headed to Bridgeport. To reintroduce Brandy to her adoring but skeptical fan base, I have scheduled a series of concerts in the city. I procure the use of a highrise apartment that belongs to one of my clients and I make the executive decision to stay with Brandy. I fear if she stays alone, she will fall back into her old, bad habitsAgain our days are filled with non-stop rehearsals. It never ceases to amaze me how the public perceives her. Everywhere we go, she is recognized and fawned over, something she can’t seem to make peace with.One morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I approach her about her obvious discomfort. She drops her head for a moment and her shoulders lift and fall as she sighs heavily.
“I don’t deserve to be loved,” she replies and when she looks at me I see tiny tears like diamonds sparkling in her eyes.
“Why would you say that?” I am completely bewildered.“People do love you and you do deserve it! Your voice is so pure and sweet, your songs are incredible, and the way you play the guitar is magic.” I am not one to gush but I cannot have my superstar client be down on herself.
“No, no, none of that matters,” she responds with a flatness in her voice. “My secret–if I tell you, you will understand why I am such an awful person.”“Tell me, Brandy. Let me be the judge.” I have been waiting for this moment. I believe knowledge is power and I know that when Brandy makes this revelation to me, and I am the guardian of her secret, it will give me even more leverage over her. I wait, my eyes gleaming in anticipation.“When I was 15, I got pregnant–” I quickly interrupt her.
“Brandy, plenty of women get pregnant when they are young and unmarried,” I point out. “Half of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t true.” I’m a little disappointed that her secret is in fact quite mundane.
“I had the baby in a hospital very far from where I lived. I never gave them my real name because I knew…” she falters, her voice fading to a whisper.
“I loved that baby so much.” She is crying now. “But I knew what I wanted in life even then. I knew I wanted to be a big star. I…I knew my journey to fame could not include a tiny baby. So I walked out. I waited until no one was around and I just…left. I abandoned my son and I never looked back.”
“I see,” I say quietly.
I get up and I walk to the window and I gaze out upon the full moon. It has always drawn me, so cold and devoid of life. I do not feel bad that it is a reflection of myself. But as heartless as I am, even I recognize the gravity of what she has done.If the truth were ever to come to light, it would destroy her career for good. It might even have legal repercussions. I return to her and place my hands firmly on her shoulders.”You must promise never to tell another soul,” I say. I attempt to smile reassuringly. “Your secret will always be safe with me.”The next day, Brandy makes a request. She wants to return to her roots and jam in a public park. It is not the way I want to present her to the world but I relent.Few people are lucky enough to witness this rare performance. But the ones that are there stand transfixed, watching and whispering her name in awe. I too cannot take my eyes off of her as she turns out some of her big hits from years past.On the way to the soundcheck, we pass a taco truck. “Mmmmm, junk food,” Brandy says, happy at the prospect of a greasy meal.
“I would never put that garbage into my body and neither should you,” I admonish her.
“Oh, come on, Sigismund. Relax, live a little,” she teases. Again, I give in to her whim.At last the night of her comeback concert arrives. The venue I have selected is an elegant nightclub and I have chosen a gorgeous gown that clings to every one of Brandy’s ample curves. I stride to the elevator, feeling almost cocky. Behind me, Brandy is a bundle of nerves, muttering to herself and biting her nails.It is going to be a tough crowd. I have only invited well-known celebrities and hard-nosed critics.
I’m not sure if the audience is there in hopes of seeing her triumph or to get perverse pleasure watching her fall flat on her face.But as soon as Brandy begins to play, I can see the crowd is enrapt. I smirk to myself. After tonight, I will be the most sought-after talent agent in show business. And decidedly the richest.“I want to say a little something about my last song,” Brandy coos and the room grows silent. “I know you all know what it is to want something that you can’t get. Well, this song is about the man I love but can never have.”I settle back, preparing for her finale. The song begins and I am surprised to realize it is neither a song I have heard in rehearsal or that was recorded for the record. I listen closely to the lyrics, intrigued.Her voice is rich and sultry. It rises into a wail and lowers into a sob. She is a chantreuse full of hurt and desire, singing of unrequited love.I notice that Brandy is not shifting her gaze from one member of the audience to another. She seems to be looking at me, and only at me.She shakes her tousled chestnut hair and her stunning eyes of topaz lock directly into mine. I am mesmerized as her voice ascends with sadness and passion and then I realize…I am the man.