Friday, May 20, 2011

Chapter 4 - Audition

NOTE: This story has a rating of PG-13. It is intended for a mature audience, as it contains strong references to things such as woohoo, crime, language, etc. You have been warned!

Whitney's appointment to see Simon wasn't until 2pm, so she spent the morning dressing as best as she could (with a little help from Darcy) and practicing her songs. But she didn't want her fingers and voice to get tired before the main event, so she would occasionally take breaks and paint pictures to hang on the walls of the apartment.

When the clock said 1:30, Whitney headed out with her guitar. She cleared her throat at least a dozen times on the subway, causing passengers to look at her oddly, but she didn't let that phase her. Today's audition could make or break her career, since no one else had approached her the previous night and offered her a contract or even an audition for one.

When Whitney looked up at the intimidating building, she felt nervousness and anxiety mix in with excitement in her stomach. Simon Burke must be a very big agent to have an office in a building like this.

With a sigh of determination and holding her head high, she walked forward through the double doors. The building was both an office building and a restaurant, the latter being downstairs and the former being upstairs. A receptionist was seated behind the desk and Whitney introduced herself and asked to see Simon Burke.

"Oh yes, Simon told me to let you right on in. Take this elevator to the fourth floor and his office is the second door on your left."

"Thank you."

Whitney walked toward the elevator and punched the button to go up. When it arrived, she climbed aboard, clutching her guitar, and pushed the button for the fourth floor. When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, Whitney felt a little more nervous. She'd never been one to be overcome with stage fright, but then again, she hadn't been trying to make a career out of her music until now.

Whitney found the second door on the left and knocked.

"Come in," she heard Simon's voice say.

She walked in and saw Simon sitting behind his desk, writing notes on a piece of paper. He looked up when the door opened and smiled.

"Miss Cross!" he said, motioning her in. "Glad you could make it."

"Me too," Whitney replied as she closed the door.

"Have a seat." Simon indicated two chairs across from his desk. Whitney sat in the one closest to the door and sat her guitar down next to her.

"I suppose we should get to it," Simon said as he put down his pen. "I'm not one to beat around the bush and stall for time. I did love your music last night and want to hear more of it. I hope you're prepared."

"I think I am."

"You think, or you're sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Good, you always want to be sure before you perform for anyone."

"Of course."

Simon reached into a nearby file cabinet and withdrew a recording device. "I'll be recording this just in case I do sign you."

"That's fine."


Simon pushed a button and the machine sprang to life. He looked at Whitney expectantly and said, "Let's hear it."

Whitney stood up, grabbed her guitar, and began playing.

She played four songs before Simon indicated for her to stop and he stopped recording. He made a few notes while Whitney sat down, waiting for the verdict of what could make or break her dream.

At last, Simon looked up at her. His face was expressionless, and Whitney thought that was a bad sign. Until he cracked a grin and said, "Cross, you shouldn't have been hiding in Riverview all this time. You were made for Bridgeport!"

Whitney hoped her jaw didn't drop. "You liked it?"

"I loved it! It's refreshing to hear real talent out of someone so young. Normally I'm bored to tears, but you. You could be my big break."

"Wow, I'm so flattered."

"You should be. Now the question is, do you want to sign a contract with me?"

"Of course! I want to get started on my career."

"It's not quite that simple. I'm your agent, yes, but I have to get you gigs, we have to get an album out for you, and there's the whole...appearance."

"Excuse me?"

"You're a very attractive young woman, don't get me wrong, but in this business, looks are a major factor."

Whitney should have seen that coming. Darcy had told her that many times.

"That's what I've been told."

"Not that you're ugly, by all means you're not. But we should really get your face out there some more, and you're in the city now so you should probably lose the country vibe."

"Uh...why? I mean, I want to be a country music star. Why should I have to lose my country image?"

"Because this is Bridgeport. You don't have to completely lose it, but you should also be 'upgraded', if you will."


"Yeah, just to make you look even better than you already do. Does that make sense?"

"I guess."

"Trust me, I've been doing this for a long time, and I know what I'm talking about."

Simon looked at his watch. "I haven't had lunch yet. What do you say I take you out someplace and we can go over the contract before you sign it."

"Sounds okay to me."

"Great. After you."

Whitney grabbed her guitar, still a little baffled but mostly ecstatic, and headed out the door with Simon behind her.


Simon took Whitney to a place called Waylon's Haunt, a dive bar that wasn't very busy. They sat down at a table against a wall near the bathrooms and Simon summoned a waiter over.

"What'll you have?" he asked Whitney.

"A hamburger, please," she said, her mouth beginning to water as she thought about her favorite food.

"Make that two," Simon said. The waiter nodded and headed off. Simon looked at Whitney and grinned.

"You know, if you're seriously going to be a star, you won't be able to eat that kind of stuff all the time."

"I know all about that, only eating foods that keep me thin and looking the best. But I swear I have some sort of awesome super power - I can eat whatever I want and I won't gain a pound."

"Oh come on."

"I'm serious. Since I was a kid, everyone would pig out on the most fattening and unhealthy things, and they'd all gain weight, but not me."

"Well, there's also the health factor."

"True, but come on, who will know about that?"

"Well, I want to see that super power in action before I let you eat anything you want."

"Okay, sounds fair to me."

"And if that is true, I also want to make a compromise - you can eat that stuff only if you also eat the healthy stuff, just to be on the safe side."


Just then, their hamburgers arrived. Whitney dug in while Simon watched her with a look of amusement on his face.

"I can't believe you don't gain weight by eating that stuff, not to mention the way you eat it," he chuckled as he took a bite into his own burger.

"I love hamburgers."

"I can see that."

"I really can't get enough of them. They're easy to make, go with practically anything, and you can put practically anything on them. What's not to love?"

"Plenty if someone's a vegetarian."

"I find that kind of a crock. Vegans eat fish, but to me, that's still meat."

"All right, now if you're going to be my client, you have to watch comments like that. Sometimes even the smallest thing, even if you don't mean it to be offensive, can get you into trouble with the press."

"That comment could get me in trouble with the press?"

"If the wrong person hears it, yes. Some people just wait for celebs to screw up so they can report it to the press and get their fifteen minutes of fame."

"How rude."

"Very, but there's not much we can do about that except try to avoid it."

Whitney let out a low burp. "Oops, excuse me."

"Yeah, you'll need some training on behaving more like a lady too. This isn't Riverview."

"That comes from living with my little brother for too long."

"No excuses. We'll have to get you a makeover, and you'll have to start behaving better in public."

Whitney put her hamburger down and puckered her face into a pout. "What's wrong with the way I act?"

"Nothing, unless you want to be known in the tabloids as the Belching Champ from Riverview. A lot of people want to be celebs because they think it's all fame and fortune, all about living the glam life and the dream, but it's not. In fact, it's a lot harder than working in a factory at times just because of the press."

"Well, I knew the press would be involved in my life if I came here, but this is a little too much."

"Backing out?"

"No way. I can handle it. I know I can."

"That's the kind of attitude I want to hear."

The two finished off their burgers and pushed the plates to the side. Simon then pulled a piece of paper out of his briefcase and spread it across the table.

"This is the contract," he said. "It's basically saying that you agree that I'm to be your agent, you won't do anything illegal, and you won't have any conflicting relationships."

"Conflicting relationships?"

"Yeah, as in a relationship that could conflict with your contract with me. Such as dating another one of my clients, someone that could get you into trouble or give you a bad image, or myself."

"No offense, but you're not my type."

"Good, because you're a little young for me."

Whitney rolled her eyes. "Mind if I read it over?"

"Be my guest."

Whitney took the paper and began scanning it thoroughly, but it seemed to be just as Simon described. Many agents wouldn't allow their clients to date at all, so as long as Whitney didn't fall for a guy working for Simon (not that she planned to be dating while focusing on her career), or a guy that was nothing but trouble (as if she'd be that dumb), she'd be fine. She'd never been involved in anything illegal and wasn't about to start now.

"Okay, I'm ready."

"Satisfied with the contract?"

"Yeah, and I want you to be my agent."

"All right then."

Simon withdrew a pen and handed it to Whitney. Her heart began to race as she signed her name on the dotted line at the bottom of the contract. It was like signing herself away to a new, better life.

"Congratulations, Miss Cross," Simon said as he tucked the pen and contract back into his briefcase. "You're now signed on with me as my client."

Whitney tried to keep from jumping up and down like a maniac in ecstasy.

Just then, Whitney heard a familiar voice call her name. She turned to see Riley, followed by his band, waving at her. She waved back.

"Hi Riley!"

Riley walked over to the table and Whitney stood up to greet him.

"Didn't expect to see you here," Riley said. "What's up?"

"Riley, your gig isn't until later tonight," Simon said teasingly.

"I know, we just figured we'd stop by beforehand and maybe show our faces to draw a crowd. And check out the games."

"Well, maybe you could even show Miss Cross around. She just got done signing a contact with me."

"Far out! Great job Whit!"


"Listen, I hate to cut this short," Simon said, "but we need to head to the salon."

"Now?" Whitney asked, surprised. She thought this big makeover wouldn't take place for at least a week.

"Yep, the sooner the better. No offense of course, but if you want to get started as soon as possible, we need to take the first steps now."

"Hey, maybe you can come back later then," Riley said to Whitney, "and see the band. We go on at 7."

"Sure, that sounds cool. Maybe I'll bring Darcy."

"The bigger the crowd, the better."

"Okay, I'll see you later then."


Whitney followed Simon out the door. She climbed into his car and he drove toward the salon. She hoped when they got done with this makeover, she'd still be able to recognize herself.

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