I held the coffee to my chest even though the weather was beautiful and sunny this time of year, I always had this aspect of having heat against me, I stood next to Chester and Steven as we watch a very glamorous Cecilia Abrams walk around the set she needs to get an emotional feel of the place before she could even go through the read-through, she walks with sudden grace as if she flowed through the wind like a reed, she was a tall woman with pitch-black hair, porcelain skin and bow-shaped lips in the deepest red you could find, she wore a tight bodycon dress with a pair of pointy-toe heels; she hung on every word Edward said as if it was the bible being manifested in front of her.
"so, what are your thoughts?" I asked as I took a sip of the warm liquid in my travel cup.
"she is very beautiful" Steven expressed with a frown "which is awful because it's accompanied by being a Diva"
"Diva is not a bad thing," Chester said as he watched the woman "its how she exhibits her Diva ways"
"well, she didn't bother to show up on yesterday, then show up late today ans now she is wasting countless peoples time by trying to get emotionally attached to a set" I said as I stared at her "so she is already on my bad list" Julia's assistant suddenly appeared in front of me.
"Ms McCain would like to see you," She said before walking away.
"Tari please don't go all Tari on her" Steven pleaded as I shook my head.
"I will only do that if she starts it," I said as I followed the assistant to Julia's trainer, I walked in without knocking but I dropped myself onto the couch.
In walked Julia McCain, my oldest friend and the one of the lucky few to have gained my interest, she was an average-sized woman with round lips, deep brown hair and a puckish smile, she always had mischief in her eyes and evilness smile to accompany it. "hey, babe, so sorry about yesterday" she explained before grabbing a few of her things "Cecilia has some sort of process that I have to stick to" she walked toward for a hug that I gladly received "but I will make it up to you, picture this you and Rhea, party, A-list celebrities and a penthouse view"
"I don't know, Jules, aren't we too old for parties now," I said as I went to her draw, knowing there was chocolate somewhere here.
"Hush, don't say that," she said as wiped her head towards me. "we young, independent women looking for someone to rattle our chains"
"I will see what she says, ok?" I said as I moved to the door, she nodded before scooping up my arm and walking with me to the set.
We glided into a very casual conversation about work, life and play until we were suddenly stopped by Cecilia who places her hand in mine.
"Your soul is pure," she said as caress the light skin of the back of my hand "I listen to you singing, those notes are truly amazing and I am happy we get to work together" she smile carelessly before letting go of my hand.
"ok" I looked at Julia who rolled her eyes "I am Nefe..."
"I know who you are" she inhaled with a dreamy eye "Nefertari black"
"ok," I said wide-eyed as Edward appeared next to me, in a pair of black jeans and a sweater.
"Morning, Julia, Nefertari " I nodded my head as I turned to leave but Edwards next words stopped me "I see you have met, Cecilia is a natural with people" Cecilia laugh fakely as I turned to Edward.
"Well, if she was, she would have been here yesterday and maybe on time today..." I said as I saw Cecilia visage break for a moment "but the universe had different plans" I smiled as I walked away when Victoria appeared and directed me back to the group.
"Now that you have seen the set and have been emerged into its creativity, lets head to the music room and start the read-through session" she smiled as we hopped into our golf-carts and drove off.
The music room was drifty, cold and wasn't the best place to sing but I sat there listening to Cecilia go through the same line over and over trying to 'perfect' the writing by making shorter ironic clips of the beautiful message, I tried to get over the entitled behaviour yesterday and try to work with the woman but now she was disrupting the whole character with cheesy one-liners; I mean this character was outspoken, smart and independent but Cecilia turn her into a one-dimensional character which I couldn't stand, so bite my lip and sang when said to.
"Ms Black now" I heard Page say with a sign.
Cecilia had chosen what I expected, the four octaves but of course she had notes about the singing voice, she wanted more headnotes and less chest, saying that her 'singing voice' was similar to that which I took with a fake smile and a look to Steven and Chester, I stood to my feet and began to let the words flow from my mouth without any resistance; the music rolled off my body as if I was performed from my gut and not a part I was playing. I stayed in the moment as the room went silent and when I was done, Edward began to clap as the room stared at him, he gave me a thumbs-up before Page cleared her voices:
"We gonna have to cut that a bit" she mentioned as I nodded sitting down which I noted on my copy of the script.
"really? I thought it was amazing the whole song" Edward commented as the room looked to Page "not to pry but Cecilia character is the leading lady, shouldn't her performances be full, she should exhibit characteristics of a leading as if she were on Boardway, a centre stage performance "
"Sure" Page said "but if we cut parts of the song there is more time for speaking parts for Cecilia" she encouraged.
"yes, and My character has a lot of long rants," Cecilia said with confidence "we want to include that fixture instead of boneless singing" she smiled at the end.
"I disagree, I mean your character are speeches, not rants," he said to Cecilia "speeches are the music, the song is everything she had bottled up inside, the emotions, like the quote by Bob Fosse "The time to sing is when your emotional level is just too high to speak anymore, and the time to dance is when your emotions are just too strong to only sing about how you feel." He said as he smiled at me, closing down the whole discussion.
"well, we will discuss it more later" Victoria broke the awkward tense "shall we go on...Cecilia?"
"oh of course," she said with a fake smile because going on with her reciting.
After a long hard session, we sat in the music room having lunch well the cast left for a fabulous lunch at the cafeteria but I preferred this quiet music room where music laid in the instrument that all you had to do with play it, it was always fascinating to me how much music there was in the world and how I wanted to hear it all but my peaceful remains where interrupted by Steven and Chester walked into the room with smiles as big as Africa.
"What's happening," I asked as I sipped a lemon, honey and ginger tea.
"Oh nothing," Steven said as he waves his arm before getting super excited and grabbing my arm "you just missed the two most amazing characters, Charlie Harold and Alicia McPherson" he expressed "I felt like my heart gonna explode"
"oh, good" I smiled at the two.
"Yes, they were taller then I thought," Chest said thoughtfully as he walked over to the drums, sat down and began a steady beat. "Doesn't this remind you of old jam sessions" he continued as Steven and I looked at each other.
"like Sunday mornings, warm fur blankets," Steven said picking up a guitar and strumming along.
"...and coffee," I said as leaning back into my chair.
"like...easy" Chester sang and began humming to the song "easy like Sunday mornings" he shook his head at the thought of music moving through him "literally" he laughed as Steven began to play softly.
"Nah, you need more this" he brought the guitar to a beautiful screech before bringing it down. "Oh...Tommy used to work on the docks, unions been on strike. He's down on his luck, his tough, oh so tough" he ended in a low voice which I smiled at as I nodded my head to beat when a familiar song came blaring through the speakers.
I got up and ran for the mic "we've been here too long trying to get along pretending that you're oh so shy" I sang as I shaking my hips but still keeping with the beat of the song "I'm a natural ma'am doing all I can my temperature is running high" I turned to Steven and Chester as they moved with music as well, before I knew it was I had detached the mic and jumped into the nearest table, doing all sorts of table dance while singing the song which I couldn't sing as a teen, something about being too sexual.
I jumped off the table landing in a classic rock star pose before half twerking the ground as Steven and Chester laughed behind their instruments when I spin around fast, making my hair come loose as it feathered around my being before blowing up in a mane of curls but as I turned I caught a glimpse of someone by the door, I stopped midway to find Edward leaning against the door frame with a secret smile.
Cecilia spoke profoundly of crystals, healthful herbs and sunlight cleansing but my mind was elsewhere, I kept thinking about Nefertari and her abstract forms when I first met her, she was this button-up singer to the glitter dress night singer to this Hawaiian shirt-wearing sassy queen who snapped at Cecilia; she just didn't seem like herself while I didn't know her either.
With that in mind my eye caught Steven and Chester making their way out of the cafeteria towards the music room again, I excuse myself before following them knowing they would lead me to her, I followed them silently as not to disrupt their company while they enter the music room I stood by the door as I opened it I was confronted by a dancing Nefertari on a table, she seemed in her own world as she shakes her hips and pretending to undress as Steven and Chester laughed probably at her faces she was making.
She jumped off the table in a rock star pose then spin around at a fast speed then her hair came loose, curls on curls of ribbons flowed around her form and everyone went slow as she smiled in the middle song, my heart stopped at the carefree smile on her face and I wish I could stay in that moment forever but she spotted my intrusion, she stops in a deep exhale before subconsciously touching her clothes
"Sorry," I said with the struggle "but they wanted us in the booth"
"oh" she breathed heavily as her curls descended around her small oval face. "yea, sure" she walked to her hairband, picking it up and my heart dropped as she tied her hair, waving to Steven and Chester.
We walked side by side down the hallway as I watched her mind go a hundred miles with every step, the awkward tension stood in the air as we round the corner to the exit and the golf cart, I ran to the driver's seat as she settled into the passenger side and I started up as we pulled off. I watched her in the corner of my eye as the wind took us through the park but something told me to speak to the beauty:
"would be out of my element to ask about that singing lesson?" I asked as she turned to me.
"I won't think so," she said as smiled.
"Well, I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers after work?" I looked at her contemplating the suggestion "Page mentioned that you said I need some work" I said with a chuckle behind the statement.
"you are a very talented singer, Edward, I won't have said that if I didn't mean it," she said not looking at me "your voice is amazing but with a bit more vocal training you will steal the show"
I smiled "what do I need to work on?" I asked as we pulled up to the studio.
"Your pitch and breathing," she said as she moved out of the golf cart and waited for me to join her.
"What about the growl?" I asked as Page had mentioned it "its distracting some say"
"keep it" she reached for the door but I beat her to it "its part of the charm, if you sounded like every tom or dick, you won't stand out, believe me" she turned into the studio where Mike sat.
"You two ready?" he asked in his casual suit when Nefertari nodded before moving into a booth and I went to mine.
The Booth was hot and humid which wasn't pleasant as we went through the pitch and starting points of the song, I grabbed my water taking a sip and turning to the earphones, I placed on my ear as Edward stood in front of me with only glass to separate us, we began singing the duets but as soon as the words flowed from his mouth my insides began to dance, I watch him move through the words effortlessly, I watch his blue eyes lighten in the artificial lights before they met mine and we began to dance or maybe in the corners of my mind which made me forget to sing my part.
"Tari," Mike said over the speakers to my room "come on, babe" he whispered as I shook my head.
"sorry" I whispered into the mic when I looked up at Edward he looks confused as I shook my head and he began again.
I dropped into my part and sang incorrect fashion until we sync our voices together in a beautiful harmony which made me smile and when I looked up at him with the same smile as me, I smiled before turning to Mike who gave me a thumbs up and shoo sign to look back at the man behind the glass which I did, we kept looking at each other like we were the only two in the world at the one moment until we interrupted by Page who knocked on the window of the booth I was in; I gave Edward a one minute sign before slipping out of the booth.
"what?" I asked as she smiled with glee.
"I was talking to Victoria and she was telling me about how on Les Mis, they did all the singing live," she said.
"so?" I asked as I stuck my fingers into my jeans.
"Well, I thought we could do this whole thing live" she expressed as I crossed my arms.
"How are we gonna do that?" I asked as I turned to Mike who lifted his hands and turned away "we are already behind schedule and you want to change everything"
"well, not everything, like the fact that you are still hired even though you disregard my creative personality" she hissed before smiling at Edward.
"This film wouldn't be happening because of me, so what is it?" I said in hush tones before turning to Edward who looked confused.
"You wanna bet?" she asked as she stepped closer to me "find a way for us to sing live or find another job and be blacklist again" I looked down at my feet "you remember that, Tari" she smirked before moving to the booth and stopping "oh and have a solution by the time I come out of here" she smiled before entering Edward's booth.
I walked over to Mike who was playing back Edward and Me singing, I put my head in my hands as closed my eyes "you know you can quit and go to the audition I was talking about" Mike said as I shook my head.
"I could but I know my name will be blacklisted before even got there and I don't want your friend's movie to fail because of me" I whispered as I stood and turned my back away from Edward as I felt his eyes on my back.
"This blacklist is bullshit" Mike expressed as I let out a small chuckle.
"I can't do that again, I need something" I whispered as I tried to think of a way Julia and Cecilia could sing live even though they couldn't sing, I was listening to my perfect tunes and couldn't help but think of the choreography and moving affecting the range and tone of the voice, with Edward singing and dancing while Cecilia would be dancing certain parts and letting me control the vocals. "what if I sing off stage with James going through the choreography with me?" I said to no one in particular "wouldn't the level of breathing be intoned with Edwards?"
"would be perfect" Mike leaned into this seat.
"So, Nefertari do you have a solution?" Page asked with a smirk with Edward behind her.
"Yes, if I sing off stage with James taking me through the choreography if will be a perfect match for Edward strain in the dancing parts," I said with a smile "Edward is still doing his dancing?"
"yes, I am," he said with a smile.
"Good" Page frowned walking to the door "oh, cut this session and join Cecilia in the dance studio, Ms. Black can join as well," she said over her shoulder.
I turned to Mike and blow him a kiss as he caught it, placing it in his pocket before turning to his desk "let's go" I said to Edward who looked confused.
"Hey, you didn't answer me," he said as I turned to look at him confused "about the lessons?"
"oh, I can," I said but I thought of dinner "I mean, I can't"
"Ummm" he looked down at me confused.
"I mean I can, I just have to attend dinner with the family, sorry," I said as I cringed my face.
"Oh, it's ok" he brushed it off as I shook my head.
"maybe we can meet up after, I won't be too long," I said as we entered the cart once more.
"Sure, about nine?"
"yup" I smiled as we drove away.
I stood against the counter as Rhea stood in a flowery a-line dress with a cute apron that reminded me of the '60s while she slowly slides some cucumbers for the salad, the knife was new and I recognised the signature red handle against a flowery blade as she slides the cucumber clean through:
"That's cute," I said as I stole a cucumber and placed it in my mouth.
"Thank you" she smiled before continuing "so, you need to be out of here by nine because you have an appointment"
"yup, Edward wanted a few pointers," I said grabbing another cucumber "he is working on his pitch"
"so Edward and you, a saucy singing lesson in a preferable quiet area with good acoustic" she hummed as she turned to grab some cheese then pulled out another knife for it "so is it a lesson or an excuse to get you into his hotel room?" she winked as I rolled my eyes.
"No" I waved her off
"so he is just a horrible singer and you are working overtime" she divided the cheese into three sections and began to slide paper-thin slides from the one section.
"he is amazing" I commented as I walked to further into the old massive kitchen, which was long and bright with concrete floors, a full-blown pizza oven in the concern and big windows "his voice has this growl to it but still holds the potential to do head notes" I said as I turned to see her cutting the second section of cheese into cubes "his voice makes my insides curl" I whispered looking at my feet when I looked up, I saw Rhea with the knife held over her head as she began to stab the last section "what are you doing?"
"oh I am testing out the knives I made for a famous chefs custom set" she smiled before turning to a wooden board against the wall next to me and threw the knife that flipped a few times before hitting it straight in the middle.
"And?" I asked as I didn't flinch at her aim.
"It's pretty good" she took out a notebook to write it down.
"Wait," I said as I moved towards her "since when are you making custom knife sets?"
"since the season is over and I need something to keep me busy," she said as she picked up another one and threw it at the board.
"doesn't that take down your creditability," I said as I hopped into the counter.
"It is a publicity stunt because Victor took my ultimate gig, so now I am taking on the chef's world by storm," she said as she walked to the board.
"What did the dick do now?" I asked as I ate the salad.
"He is the top restorer of vintage weapons in the world and if I get into that business the people are gonna say I am copying him but he stole the idea from me" she hissed as I patted her back as she threw the knives at the board aggressively.
"I thought knife throwing was only allowed when kids were not in the house" Danny appeared behind us before taking his seat.
"As long as it's my house, I can throw as I please" Rhea as she put down the knives while the kids file in for dinner.
We set up the table, said a little grave before diving into the magnificent meal of Rhea's famous chicken and mushroom pie with a side of salad, through this whole interaction Gabby sat on her phone without looking up, I gave Rhea a look before she turns the conversation towards her:
"so Gabby, how was school?" she asked as the dinner table went quiet.
"its school, another word for hell" she whispered the last part before going back to her phone.
"How are Stacey and Becky, they haven't been around here in a few months?" I asked as I leaned into my seat while Ariana was making a mess of the pie while Raven was trying to summon something out of it.
"Stacey and Becky are not my friends anymore" she stated as I looked at Rhea.
"Why?" I asked as I leaned forward "did something happen? You know you can talk to us?" I said as Danny choked on his drink.
"They just weren't relevant," she said before turning to Tim and Jake who were stuffing their pie with the salad. "Why don't you ask Tim and Jake about their day?" she huffed before going back to her phone.
I looked at Rhea and shook my head "Tim how was school?" I asked him as I leaned back into my seat.
"It was fine, I gonna take part in an art competition" Tim smiled.
"That amazing, sweetie, just send me a list of the art supplies and I will get everything you need" Rhea smiled as she cut into her pie. "And yours? Jake"
"he gets art supplies and I can't get the PS5" Jake complained as I shook my head.
"He gets supplies because it's a privilege" Rhea explained calmly "you don't get a PS5 because you hacked into the country database to find out if they are withholding information about aliens"
"hey, we, as the people, deserve to know" Jake explained before going back to stuffing his pie, as I rolled my eyes
"What about you two?" I turned to Ariana and Raven.
"Raven caught a squirrel today, she was fluffy, I tried to turn her pink but she didn't appreciate the notion" Ariana said as she smiled up at me.
"he" Raven spoke up in an emotionless voice "he didn't enjoy the notion because its demeaning to be called fluffy and turned into an accessory" she growled the last part then turned to Ariana.
"ok" I whispered as we continue our conversation and not before long dinner was finish, Danny and Gabby cleaned up as I gave Ariana and Raven a bath, I won't say Raven was delighted, she did growl from most of it but they were tucked in when I finally made my way downstairs again.
"So you are going out tonight?" Danny said with a dry cloth of his shoulder. "don't do anything I won't"
"it's a work thing," I said as checked my phone "where is Gabby?"
"she is sitting outside," Danny said as he looked down "hey, can I tell you something?"
"you can tell me anything? Dan" I said as I looked up at him concerned.
"I am worried about Gabby," he said as he turned to the back door "she is not hanging out with the right crowd, I just don't want to see her hurt" he explained.
"don't worry, I will take care of it," I said as I gave him a hug "see you later"
I walked out the back door instead of the front so I could dump into Gabby, who sat on one of the porches swing chairs with the light reflecting off her face, I sat down in the chair opposite her, swinging back and forth. "Gab, you know you can tell me or Rhea anything right?" I was greeted with silence "I know High School is shit time and you changing along, not just your body and hormones but your perspective of life" she was silent again as I looked to my watch "just don't lose yourself trying to please others, ok?"
She suddenly stood to her feet "I dropped out of technical design and engineering" she said as she walked into the house, I let my head drop as I walk to the workshop at the end of the garden
I walked into the dusty place, it was hot, bright but still had this artsy look to it, it was a long structure that forms a rectangular, they were different tools hanging from the walls and in the middle of it all was a dark burnt furnace, accompanied by the different equipment around the well-organised place; I turned to the workbench to see Rhea hammering as blade into form in an oversized overalls and helmet.
"Hey!" I shouted over her banging.
She stopped and pulled off her helmet "yes" she answered in a sweet tone "are you off?"
"Yup," I said as I walked deeper into the room "Gabby just told me, she quit her technical drawing and engineering classes"
"Oh" she looked down to her blade "so close to the science fair," Rhea said as she took the blade and placed it back in the furnace. "Something is up"
"yea, I think we should give her space before confronting her about it," I said as I leaned against her work.
"Sure, no problem," Rhea said as she wiped the sweat from her brow.
"you ok?" I asked as I stared at her.
"yea, yea, I am fine," she said as she began to shoo her hands "go, I am ok, don't worry about it" she smiled as I patted her back before heading out the door.
"I will be back soon" I shouted as I rushed for my car and I was off to Edwards hotel room.