Thirty minutes after showtime and the meeting was about to begin without
the subject. The executives of one Righteous Babe Records were lounging on torn, overstuffed corduroy couches in the cramped,
wooden break room of a local coffee house, surrounded by paperwork and prepared to discuss the future of their most promising
new artist. Unfortunately, the aforementioned artist was detained by what she had deemed "just one last cover".
Powers, a tall woman with long red dreadlocks and tortoise-shell glasses, heaved a sigh and shook her head. The others in
the room would readily argue that the giddy little girl on stage was her responsibility. Elena had discovered the young lady
six months ago in the same bar, strumming on a guitar and allowing the drunk members of the audience to serve as witnesses
to a one-woman jam session without inhibitions. The girl was sexy, poised, strong, and impressive. Each song was a performance
of its own, and by the night, Elena was as sold as she was drunk.
She had cornered the young girl backstage on a whim,
and two weeks later, she was in charge of the newest rocker chick to enter Righteous Babe.
Mostly, she was proud of
her discovery. During moments like these, however, she could often be found cursing the day that she first laid eyes on the
young vixen with musical talent beyond her years.
It wasn't until the door closed behind the infamous suits, though,
that she smiled and shook her head at her protégé. Regardless of how many times she cursed the girl aloud, she would always
be inwardly amused by such an innocent passion.
Elena was scanning the final part of a ten-page proposal when the object
of stress burst in, shy, sweaty, and smiling.
"I am so sorry...am I late?"
Jackie, Elena's left-wing assistant,
rolled her eyes. "Oh, only by about half an hour..."
Elena chuckled at the horrified look that crossed her charge's
face. "Don't worry about it, Adia. Was it a good show?"
The panic-stricken countenance immediately faded into a bashful
smile as the girl recalled the music she had made only moments ago. "Wonderful. Thanks for asking."
what cover detained you, may I ask?"
The pink tint to Adia Chamberlain's cheeks deepened to crimson. "Alanis Morissette's
'Your House'. The crowd was just so excited, and it's a cappella so I didn't think it would take too long, and..."
Difranco, indie rock artist extraordinaire and the new diva-in-charge at the label, offered an understanding smile. Every
time she saw Adia, she was awed by how much the girl reminded her of herself when she had first started out. Adia was every
bit as delightful and idealistic as she had been, and she wanted to do everything in her power to keep it that way. "Been
there, done that. You don't have to explain."
Adia's grin of gratitude could've lit up the room. Regardless of her
professional naiveté, she did understand that she was very lucky to have appealed to a label as open-minded as Righteous Babe
Records. It was possibly the only place in the industry where the music really did come before anything, and she was beyond
grateful for their understanding of her creative needs. "Thank you. I'm really sorry."
Jackie sighed heavily, not bothering
to hide how taxing the day had been. "No need to be. What's done is done, and a cheering crowd is never bad. We do have a
few things to discuss with you, though..."
Elena rolled her eyes at the biting tone. "I'll take it from here, thanks."
She turned her attention to Adia, gesturing for the younger woman to take a seat. "This might take awhile, hon. We have business
stuff to tend to."
Adia nodded her silent understanding and lowered herself to the floor, folding her limbs Indian
style as she secured her wavy brown locks with a hair band. She still hadn't adjusted to the leather chair lifestyle and was
quite enjoying the grungy aspect of the coffee houses she had grown to frequent.
Elena suppressed a smile at the pragmatic
instincts of her artist and cleared her throat. "Well, here's the deal. The album is almost finished now, and the introduction
of your music to the local scene seems to be coming along well. However, you know how we've been talking about getting you
on someone else's tour so that we don't have to go about scheduling all kinds of random gigs just to get your music heard?"
Adia nodded obediently, and Elena continued. "Right. Well, see, I sent your demo tape out to a few labels who have artists
preparing to tour, and we got a response back a few days ago."
Ani chuckled as she caught sight of the papers in her
lap again. "It seems you're quite popular, babe. The first people to contact us were Jive Records, the mother of pre-packaged
Adia's surprise was evident, even in her gentle tone. "You mean they want me to open for a pop star?" Most
in her field would've been insulted by the offer, but she was hungry enough and unassuming enough to realize that a chance
was a chance, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
Ani shook her head. "Not exactly. Apparently, they've got
a former boyband member who's looking to rebuild himself as a rockstar. Naturally, the idea of such a transformation is raising
some eyebrows, so they're looking for a new but credible rock artist to emphasize his evolution." She looked down at Adia
with a serious expression, hoping to impress upon the young woman the full gravity of the situation. "They want you to do
a three, possibly four-month tour with this guy, opening for him in smaller venues like clubs so he can get his name out there
as a solo artist."
Adia frowned. "So, technically, this guy is as new as I am?" Though she didn't tend to take to strangers,
the idea of a joint discovery of the music industry was oddly appealing.
Again, Ani shook her head. "Not necessarily. You ever heard of the Backstreet
Adia gave a light laugh and arched a doubtful eyebrow at her mentor. "You're kidding, right?"
and made a face. "Well, I would say that I wish I was, but I can't decide." She had made a career for herself as a musician
that continued to produce just below the radar, and she still wasn't certain about thrusting one of her artists into a media
feeding frenzy just to get the music heard.
Elena nodded her agreement. "Truth to tell, as apprehensive as we are,
this is shaping up to be a pretty good offer. All of the legal mumbo jumbo checks out."
Adia was still staring at Ani
in a state of incredulity, however. "They want me to tour with a Backstreet Boy? Which one?"
Ani shrugged again and
tossed a picture in Adia's direction. "That one. Nick something-or-other."
Jackie stroked her chin thoughtfully and
stretched her neck to get a glimpse of the head shot that Adia was suddenly reaching for. "He's kinda cute, you know. Besides,
they aren't a bad group. There are worse things in life than touring with a former Backstage Boy."
Adia corrected quietly. "And I agree. They aren't a bad group at all." Judging by the picture in her hand, they weren't all
that bad looking either.
Gray, stormy eyes peeked out at her from beneath sandy arches and a mop of cropped blonde
hair. Thin lips were slightly pursed in examination and tanned skin shone against the sun, but her eyes were immediately drawn
to the mood that hid behind the physical aspects. He was squinting at the camera with what appeared to be a cool, confident
gaze, but she could see the traces of insecurity in his eyes and the uncertainty in the tilt of his head against the sky.
Outwardly, a broad figure stood tall and strong, but she knew intuitively that the man beneath the exterior was more unsure
than she had ever been.
"It'd be taking a risk, and it'd definitely be a first in the history of Righteous Babe Records,
but...what do you think?"
Elena's question registered dimly in her mind as she continued to examine the man-turned-boy
in front of her. Just his eyes were enough to convince her to leave.
"I'd like to do it."
Ani's eyebrows rose
in surprise. "Really? Just like that?"
Adia glanced up from the picture slowly and affirmed her answer with a small
smile. She was shy but sure, and she intended to let them know just how much. "Yeah, just like that. I'd like to get to know
Jackie snorted into her coffee. "Yeah, you and the rest of the prepubescent female population..."
looked at her seriously, ignoring the teasing tone of her condescending assistant. "Listen, Dia...he comes from a totally
different world than you do. He's been places that you probably don't want to go."
Adia's softspoken tone remained,
but the eyebrow that rose was enough to challenge Elena. "I guess I'll be able to learn that much more from him, then. Any
lesson in music is a good lesson at this point."
Ani, recognizing the expression of independence on the young woman's
features, nodded her agreement. "He's definitely got a lot of experience in the industry."
Jackie chuckled lightly.
"He could teach you a few dance steps to add to your sexy 'I'm a chick rocker' routine."
Ani winced at the thought.
"Maybe she can teach him to play the guitar better instead."
Jackie shook her head in frustration. "Oh, Lord...we haven't
even signed onto the tour, and already Ani can find room for musical improvement."
Adia frowned down at the promotional
picture in her lap, trying to decide whether or not to keep the picture as a reference. "He looks lost."
Ani let loose
with a bitter laugh. "If I know anything about Jive, he's lost in a sea of cubicles and techno-covering. They definitely aren't
known for their musicality."
Adia shrugged. "Maybe not, but I'm nto exactly known for my popularity. Perhaps we could
each learn a few things."
Elena glanced inquisitively at her favorite artist, trying to quell the maternal nature she
could feel rising in her chest. She knew her charge wouldn't appreciate the instincts. "Adia, are you sure about this? You
really want to do this?"
Adia frowned once more into the gray eyes on the glossy paper, wondering what kind of secrets
they were striving so hard to hide from the camera's telling lens. At the sound of Elena's voice, however, she looked up with
a ready and winsome smile.
"I'll do it."