The knock on her office door was enough to jar her from the temporary escape of the alt-rock blaring from her headphones. The respite had been far too short.
She sat up, brushed out her flaxen hair with acrylic-tipped fingers and beckoned apathetically. "What, Rai?"
The oak door swung open unceremoniously. The petite guitarist already had a scowl on her face before the door could shut behind her.
"How'd you know it was me?"
Emmi's half sighed, half yawned before rising from her hallowed place on the brown leather sofa. "That impatient, frustrated knock of yours. You never knock for good reasons. Give me a sec to regroup."
Dragging feet carried Emmi, Second's exhausted manager and lead singer, back to her office chair. Rai approached the desk with a lifted brow.
"You haven't slept in your bed in days. How much longer are you gonna drag this out?"
"As long as it takes to get the album where it needs to be. No, where it deserves to be. It needs a few more listens, some tweaking. They worked hard, we worked hard, and they need their debut to be big."
Rai scowled with a huff. "I'm not sure if that hardheadedness is a detriment or a not half the time."
"It's never a bad idea to be perfect," Emmi replied with a huge stretch and yawn. "The product needs to sell itself or the band won't be able to sell it. The first ten seconds are all the latitude they'll get."
Another knock, far gentler this time, rang out in the rectangular space, pausing their conversation. Without pause, the door swung open once again, revealing their butler Henry. In starched and groomed perfection, he swept in, placed a round tray on the corner of Emmi's desk, tied back the red brocade curtains and swept out again like an autumn breeze.
"That man is a saint," Emmi cooed, sliding the tray closer to enjoy the iced green tea and balled fruit salad he ferried upstairs to her.
"You know, I hate when you say stuff has to be perfect," Rai tossed in, dropping down onto one of the cobalt upholstered armchairs by the desk. "Perfection is way too elusive to be so deadest on."
"One man's perfect is another man's pathetic," Emmi replied after a sip, the ice and sunlight already returning color to her cheeks.
"And more riddles and antiquated sayings, Em. You know perfection isn't possible. Sometimes a little imperfection makes this better."
"When you're given expectations," Emmi began, resting her forearms on the polished wood. "You are expected to meet them. You are never expected to exceed them. But only exceeding them will make any difference in the long run. You'll never get the chance to exceed expectations if your standard is to only meet them. Your customers give up or move on way too soon to give you the chance. Anyone can meet standards, but you have to be the one that consistently exceeds them to stay relevant."
Rai's gaze dropped to her lap. "I just hate seeing the toll it takes on you. Our music, their music, everyone's music is so important to you. No one person can do all this."
Emmi smiled sincerely with tender eyes. "You're right, I can't and don't do all this myself. I have you, you giant pain, and Destiny, Deis and Marilyn. I also have the backing of a few dozen producers, agents, lawyers, PR reps, et cetera."
"Yet you're the one sleeping on the couch, listening to their demo over and over again for hours, ignoring basic human functions like bathing."
Emmi couldn't hold back the laugh. "I could use a shower. I bet my hair's a rat's nest."
"It's not good," Rai confirmed, sitting back. "But understand that my worry's not because I think you're incapable. You're damn capable. It's just hard to watch."
"Rai, it's my job." Emmi accepted with another smile. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
~ JMD, 8/22/19