AN: I apologise for any significant spelling and grammar
errors. I wrote this several years ago and, on re-reading it, I
thought it might be worth returning to.
I would love to hear whether you think I opugh to continue with this story.
She pushed open the door to the mixing-room and noted, with a slight jolt, that the composer and musical director were already sat with Tony.
"Uh," she interjected, uncomfortably. Tony looked up and nodded for her to enter. "I was wondering if you wanted anything to drink," she said, addressing her boss, swallowing down her scratchy throat.
"Tea, three sugars, remember," Tony smiled before turning to the others. "Would you guys like anything?"
"Tea for me, too, please," said Derek Hunter the director. "With milk and two sugars."
"Would it be possible to get a cup of coffee, please?" suggested Tobias.
"Su- Of course," Heather enunciated, remembering he did not have English as his first language. "Uh, what fixings do you take?" Tony smirked at her, but she just glowered.
"I like it black and sweet," Tobias Robinson said and flashed a smile at her that had a bit too much meaning. She bit her tongue and smiled.
"So, how many sugars is that, sir?"
"Two." She nodded and turned to leave. "Oh, and please call me Tobias or Toby, which ever you prefer." He flashed her that same smile.
"Of course, Tobias. Oh, Tony, I'll set up those mics once I'm done with the drinks." Heather walked out, closing the door softly behind her, and walked down the corridor to that floor's kitchenette.
She decided to fill both the kettle and the coffee machine as she knew they were going to have a stream of actors, actresses and backing singers through today. After the tea-pot was sufficiently stewed and the coffee machine had finished percolating, she fixed the four cups and set them on a small, round baking-tray. Heather picked up the tray, walked out the door, balanced the tray on her hip, closed and locked the door and carried the drinks back to the mixing-room.
"Here we- " She stopped dead when she noticed that four more had joined them.
"Come in, Sinclair," barked Tony. Oh great, she thought, he's in his alpha-male role. Heather threaded her way through the four new arrivals who were cluttering the four and handed the drinks to the three seated men.
"Ah, lovely," said the main star of the film, reaching for her cup.
"You probably won't want that," she warned.
"What, it's coffee, isn't it?" he asked, off-handedly.
"Yeah, but it's only got a splash of milk and no sugar."
"Just as I like it," he smiled. She merely raised an eyebrow, shrugged and turned to leave.
"Hey, can I get a cuppa tea?" asked Robert Curtis, the secondary male lead and one of England's greatest actors. Heather shot Tony an uncomfortable look; they both knew she still had those mics to set up and test and had hoped to do it during this brief period when they were all in the mixing-room.
"Go on," said Tony. "I'm sure they'll be happy to stay here, particularly once they get in there," he said with a grin, jerking his thumb at the window where the recording booths could be seen. Heather grinned back, it was an inside joke: everyone who worked there knew that that studio was always freezing, even in the hottest weather.
"OK. How do you take it?"
"White, two sugars."
"Black tea, three sugars."
"Coffee, white and four sugars, love, I'm on a diet," scoffed Dick Faradon, dismissively.
"And one for yourself, Heather," added Tony with a friendly grin. She shook her head at him, a smile on her lips, before picking up her tray and leaving.
Back in the kitchenette, she fixed her and Faradon's coffees and tested the the tea-pot to see if it was still hot enough. It was, so she poured the two teas, originally forgetting that Hal Thompson did not want milk. Once done with all this domesticity, Heather put all five cups on the tray and went back to the mixing-room.
"Ah, Miss Sinclair, bearing gifts," announced Faradon as she pushed the door open.
"Thankfully, I'm not Greek. Italian grandparents is the closest I come," she laughed and handed out the drinks. "I'll go deal with those mics now, Tony." She set the tray down on the radiator, picked up her own porcelain mug, slipped out, padded down to the studio door, unlocked it and went in.
As soon as she entered the
studio, her eyes flicked to the window, through which she saw the
seven men chatting. She put her cup on the side and zipped up her
fleece, before walking over to where she had left the microphone
case the night before. Heather undid the clasps and laid the case
flat. It contained four microphones, she just hoped they would
not need a spare. She hated changing mics under an artist's nose,
they were always so judgemental and invariably thought that they
Heather clipped each microphone onto a sound cable and slid each into its stand. Going into a separate partition, she plugged the cables in to the 'mic box', as Tony called it, which then relayed the sound to the mixing-room.
Through the window, Heather saw her boss turn as lights popped up on his desk to tell him that new microphones had been connected. He nodded and she went into the first booth. Tony held up his hand, fingers splayed; that meant, wait a moment. He nodded again.
"One, two... three, four, five... How's that?" In the mixing-room, Tony nodded as did the others. Great, Heather thought in exasperation, he's put it on speakers. The master-in-chief, as Heather and Clare referred to him, then signed singing. This was the bit Heather hated, even if it was only Tony listening and this time there were a musical director and several singers listening. She took a deep breath and sang a couple of lines.
"It was there that we parted, in yon bonnie glen, on the steep, steep side o' Ben Lomon'." Her boss nodded and she moved round to the next booth.
"Testing... three, four... four, five, six..." Tony gave her a thumb up and then, once he had adjusted his sliders, he nodded and she sang once again.
"Oh, you'll take the high road and I'll take the low, but I'll be in Scotland afore ye." Another chorus of nods from the mixing-room took her by surprise, they didn't seem to be mocking her. She made her way to the penultimate booth and ran through another speaking check, before singing on.
"Bu' me and my true love shall never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'." To her greater surprise, she got thumbs-up from everyone on the other side of the glass, except Tony who just nodded as per usual. Heather practically skipped to the final partitioned area.
"Six, seven... can you hear me?... seven, eight, nine..." Tony had his hand flat in mid-air, palm downwards, fingers splayed, and was rapidly shaking it. Heather sighed, she just hoped that it was a problem with his dials, not the microphone.
"OK... eight, nine... nine, ten, eleven..." This time he nodded, paused her and then nodded again for her to start singing.
"Crying, 'Cockles and mussels! Alive, alive oh!' Alive, alive oh! Alive, alive oh! Crying, 'Cockles and mussels! Alive, alive oh!" The studio's master-in-chief gave her a nod and she left the recording area, taking a swig of coffee en route, before jogging down the hallway to the mixing-room.
"OK. Uh, Tony, do you want me to take them all at once or do want to set them up one at a time?"
"Oh," he huffed, chewing the inside of his cheek and scratching the crown of his head. "Um, one at a time, I think. Let's have... Mr Keldrie in 1, Mr Curtis in 2, Sir Richard in 4 and Mr Thompson in 3." Heather closed her eyes briefly, to visualise his ordering. So, from the left, that's Faradon, Keldrie, Curtis and Thompson, she thought.
"Alright. So, does that mean you want Sir Richard in first, then?"
"That is what I just said, wasn't it?" Tony snapped in exasperation.
"Alright, alright, just thought I ought to check. You might have decided to do it in numerical order," she said, defensively, and turned to the knight. "If you'll follow me, Sir Richard," she instructed with false sweetness and a bitter under-current.
"With a voice like that, you can call me 'Pan' and I won't complain. Though, I generally prefer Dick," he flirted and smugly winked at her.
"Very well," Heather ground out with a sweet smile distorting her features. "Dick, if you'll be so kind as to follow me." Somewhat to her relief, he did so without further comment.
Heather guided him down the corridor and held the door of the recording studio open, while he entered past her. On reflection, she decided that had not been a wise idea, because he thought it good idea to trail his fingers along her jaw as he passed her.
"Round here, Dick," she said,
coldly, leading him all the way to the first booth she had
tested. Somehow Tony's numbering ended up with the booths going
4, 1, 2, 3, due to him having done too many sound checks, Heather
had decided. She stopped him just before he went into the
partitioned area that was Booth 4.
"Just a few instructions. We try to keep speech from the studio to a minimum, so when I hold my fingers up like this." - she made a wide-spread, three-pronged fork with the middle fingers of her right hand - "That means that Tony is ready to test. I will take down first my ring finger and then my middle finger and will, finally, shake my hand down when you should start your sound test. OK?" Sir Richard nodded. "When we're actually recording, Mr Hunter and I will be there" - she pointed to the 'music and tech' partition that was to the right of his booth and nearly in front of the window - "and he'll signal when you should come in." The knight nodded again and the pair entered the booth. The confines of the partition walls made it so that they had to stand too close for Heather's comfort.
After a moment, Tony held his three fingers up high. She copied the action, so that he knew she had seen it, and then brought her arm down and slowly folded down each of her fingers. She gave Sir Richard the final signal, causing him to nod solemnly and then burst into song.
"Be still my heart and yet you are, but how can this be when such a goddess is before you?" It was the start of his character's first song, and only solo, and belonged to a rather strange dream sequence. However, what really caught Heather's attention was that, even though it was only a sound check, he was giving it his all.
Grabbing another couple of mouthfuls of coffee, Heather dashed out to go get Nick Keldrie once Dick was done with his sound test.
"Mr Keldrie, if you'll come with me..." she said in one of her more professional and friendly tones.
"Of course," he smiled and began to follow her. "Please call me 'Nick'; 'Mr Keldrie' makes me feels old." He flashed her a grin that she was really too tired to return. "I'm only 25."
"You think she cares about that?" shot Tony.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence - if that's even what's required here."
"What? I'm 48 and I still can't get you to call me 'Mr Hannigan'."
"Oh, like you really want me to?!" she snorted and shook her head.
"If you two need to have these domestics, I'm sure we can come back another time," interposed Derek Hunter.
"Sorry," said Heather shame-faced but shot Tony a grin as she walked out with Nick following. Once they were at the entrance of Booth number 1, she gave him the same briefing of their signals. She stood by his side, waiting for Tony to put her on stand-by. Several minutes later, he did and she silently counted the actor in.
"Standing at the start, we look over the edge into the break of despair." It was the beginning of the chorus of Alex and Hannah's duet. Tony gave her the 'needs tinkering' signal again and she beckoned Nick back out of the booth.
"Do you have your mobile on you? Or anything that could be scrambling the radio waves?" He shook his head and she nodded. "OK. You're going to have to do another singing check and, hopefully, he'll get it sorted." They went back into the partitioned area and Nick squared up to the microphone.
"Standing at the end, we look into the brink of delight and fall back." This time, Tony nodded and gave Heather a thumbs-up.
After the other two sound checks and her coffee were done, they were finally ready to record the track. Heather took Derek into the fifth partition where he had a keyboard and she had all the technical apparatus that she would need.
"OK," murmured Derek into his
head-set. "Let's start with 'Everything Boys Dream Of'."
It took them three hours to grasp the first two verses and the first chorus.
"Right. Let's take it from the top again and then we'll take a break."
"One... two... three..." counted Heather, adjusting her own headset.
"We're on a roll toni-"
"Cut! Bob, you're flat!" Heather whispered into the microphone of her headset.
"Sorry," said Robert Curtis, blushing profusely. Derek, however, was giving the girl next to him a very odd look.
"Once more from the top, then, gentlemen," instructed the musical director.
"We're on a roll
And everything's gonna be alright,
With our slacks in place,
At a jiving pace:
"We're gonna get
Boys dream of
"A smile on her lips,
The grinding of her hips,
We're on the dance floor,
Having a ball.
"We're gonna do
Boys dream of."
"Well, thank you, gentlemen.
We'll do the other three verses after an hour's break." Derek
removed his headset and walked out. Heather sighed and shook her
head. It was no surprise that the musical director was in a bit
of a huff. They had already spent three days rehearsing this song
and the plan had had them recording it in full by the close of
office hours today.
Waking herself from her thoughts, Heather led the actors back round into the mixing-room.
"Do people want fresh drinks?" asked the junior technician.
"No. I want to get out of this studio," said Hal.
"I agree. There's a café round the corner," suggested Tobias.
"That sounds good."
"We've got an hour, right?" Derek nodded and the other five film types grabbed up their coats and headed for the exit.
"What do you fancy for dinner?" Heather asked her boss.
"Uh, don't worry about it. I'll finish up here and then go get something. Why don't you join the others?"
"We would be delighted to have your company," added Dick, who was just leaving.
"If you're sure..." Tony nodded, Heather dashed out into the corridor, went to the staff room and grabbed her coat and bag.
She made her way to the main entrance and exited to find the five gents waiting for her.
"So, ma'am," said Bob, sweeping her a mock bow. "Where's the best place to eat around here?"
"Depends on what you want. There's a wonderful Indian restaurant three blocks down on the High Street. Or there's a genuine Italian place down there." - she pointed left, out of the car park they were stood in - "Or there's a Winterbourne's next to the caf' you were talking about," she said to Tobias.
"What's closest?" asked Nick in a slightly pained voice. Heather twisted her mouth and thought for a moment.
"Probably Lucio's Taverna." She got a round of blank looks from her companions. "The Italian." They all agreed on that and headed off down the hill, chatting about the weather and how everyone thought the recording session had gone.
"Ah, Mademoiselle Sinclair. What does the master-in-chief want tonight?" asked a lanky, olive-skinned man in his mid-forties as she entered.
"I don't know; he's getting his own dinner tonight, Lucio."
"I was not aware he could," retorted her friend.
"Don't be unkind. Particularly as I've brought some guests." Lucio looked past her at the other five.
"Not exactly. I met them for the first time at lunch time. They're from the film, you know."
"Of course! Welcome, gentlemen! Carla, please take the gentlemen's coats." Lucio's wife bustled forward and relieved the men of their outer garments. "Where would you care to sit, signorina?"
"Oh, I don't know, Lucio. I'm no good at making decisions. Besides, I've only chosen the table once."
"Ah, yes, how is young Mister Hallum?" She glowered at him.
"That is not funny."
"Why? What happened, darling?" interjected Carla Romular.
"He was getting pushy, so I dumped him and he turned up the next day to collect a workmate of mine."
"Well, he had the sense not to bring her here," said Carla in a low voice that contained a slight threat.
"Where were we?" muttered Lucio. "Ah, yes, where to sit. Would you care for the table by the fire?"
"Would you recommend that for me?" asked Heather, shrewdly.
"Of course, he would, Signorina Sinclair," said Michelangelo, coming over to join them from the table he had just been serving, and inclining his head to her and then winking.
"Hi, Mike. Well, if you're sure, then yes, thank you."
As he led them over to the table set for six, Lucio muttered something that sounded suspiciously like: "Doesn't trust me. Takes the boy's word, but not mine." Heather merely ignored him. "Here you go, ma'am," he said, pulling out the chair closest to the exit, but on the side by the fire. She sat and smiled up at him as he passed her her menu. The gentlemen settled themselves in the remaining seats, so that Dick was to her left and Nick was straight across from her.
"What would you recommend?" asked Hal from the other side of Dick.
"Um," she mused, looking at the menu. After a few moments, she looked back up at their patient faces and smiled. "The penne alfredo is delightful, unless your vegetarian, in which case I would suggest their mushroom lasagne. If you don't want pasta, however, then the Scillian peperoni and Alpine sausage pizza is their best, either that or the Feta cheese and spinach one for the non-meat eaters."
"What would you recommend to vegans?" enquired Tobias from his place opposite Hal.
"Go elsewhere," suggested Michelangelo, darkly. Heather grinned up at the young man.
"You've been sent, huh?" Her lips twitched into something more like a smirk.
"Of course. Signorina Sinclair must have the best."
"His pride's still hurting." Michelangelo just laughed. "Anyway, how many times do I have to tell you, Mike, to call me Heather?"
"My apologies Mademoiselle Heather," the young Italian smirked. She growled in frustration and threw her hands up in the air.
"Hopeless. Completely hopeless. I don't know why they employ these foreigners!" Their waiter mock swatted at her and she ducked, grinning. It was a running joke, her mother's parents were Italian after all.
"What would you care for tonight, mademoiselle?"
"I think I'll go for the half, oceanic Greek meze washed down with a glass of whatever red you're not recommending this week," she said with a broad smile, handing him her menu and then stretching.
"And you, sir?" said Mike, turning to Dick.
"Hm, I think I'll have the vegetarian lasagne. I'm watching my figure, you know," he said, regally, handing over his menu.
"And for you, sir?"
"The peperoni and sausage pizza, please," demurred Hal, also handing over the leather-bound, gold-embossed menu.
"Very well." Mike gave Heather a look that said all too clearly that he knew who was responsible for their orders. "What would you like, sir?"
"Oh, the Feta and spinach pizza sounds lovely. I'll have a glass of whatever Heather's drinking," said Tobias, carelessly, flashing her that disconcerting smile again.
"And what can I get for you, sir?"
"The penne formage, if you would be so kind. I'd like a glass of cider, if that's possible." Mike flinched, what a British thing to ask for.
"Thank you, of course. And what, sir, may I interest you in?"
"Oh, I was considering
the Citron Sage Chicken breast with a glass of whatever white you
think best," said Nick handing Mike his menu.
Both the proprietor's son and Heather were favourably impressed; here was someone who actually took into account his own tastes, rather than hers. It always surprised Lucio and his family how Heather managed to influence her guests' choices. True enough, they had only known her fourteen weeks, but throughout that time, whenever she had brought someone else, they always chose whatever she suggested, even if she was not eating with them.
"I shall return with your drinks, shortly." Mike bent at the waist and left them to it.
"So, how did you get into your current line of work?" Bob asked Heather, evidently trying to start a conversation and trying to get to know her at the same time.
"I'm taking a year out from studying before going to uni."
"So you decided to work instead?" Dick asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yeah, why not? What else would I do?"
"Most people travel for their gap year," stated Hal.
"Yeah, well, I couldn't stand not doing anything productive. I did do three weeks in Ecuador with a Christian charity helping street children. But, I mean, I'd already been to Tokyo and I've got family in the States and friends in Australia, so it was either South America or Africa and it happened to be that they had places for Ecuador. Anyway, how did you guys end up doing this film? That's not directed at you, Tobias, this is your brain-child, I know." One of the waitresses came over, filled their water glasses and laid a basket of ciabatta slices on the table.
"I got hijacked," said Dick with relish. "My chauffeur was persuaded to drive me into a wretched alley, where Derek and the casting director were waiting to talk me into it. It took them about three sentences, but I finally caved in." He winked at her and she smiled back.
"They wanted at least one decent singer, which apparently is why they cast me," said Bob, giving her an embarrassed smile.
"I'd said in an interview, years ago, that if Toby ever did a film that I would be interested," Hal told her.
"And we held you to that," laughed the composer with a semi-malevolent smirk that was split between the actor and her.
"And what about you?" she asked with a smile, turning to the man opposite her.
"My agent called me - I was on the set of Bond - and said, 'you know how you've always been pestering me to get you a musical, well I've found you one'. Just a shame that it came up when it did, I had to cancel the 'rom com' that he already had me booked for." The grin he was wearing gave Heather the distinct impression that he was rather glad about this.
"What are you going to do at university?" Tobias asked her as she, unintentionally, tore the crust off her slice of bread when trying to take a bite. After swallowing more than she could comfortably chew, Heather sipped her water and then turned back to the men, who were all watching her inquisitively.
"I'll be reading history."
"Where are you going? UCL? Or Manchester, maybe?" Dick asked her, airily, picking up his own water glass.
"Oxford, actually." She smiled to see Dick choke on his water. "I got on the one with Italian Studies, so I'll be spending my third year studying in Italy."
"You didn't strike me as the public school type," said Hal, frowning at her.
"And they let you in?" Bob's incredulity was rather annoying to Heather.
"Of course, why wouldn't they? They are looking for interesting, but committed, students. Why should they discriminate on the basis of your prior education?" Before the debate escalated, Lucio and Mike appeared with their orders. As everyone was taking custody of their food, Lucio decided to do a little probing.
"Which of you do we have to thank for dragging our darling mademoiselle out of that stuffy studio and into the multitude of life?"
Heather muttered something rather akin to: "Melodramatic so and so."
"I guess you could say that was me," said Hal.
"Well, you were the one who said that you wanted out of the studio, but I was the one to impress upon her to come, once Tony suggested it," said Dick, evidently angling for Lucio's good opinion. Unfortunately, for him, he had said something that interested the restaurateur far more.
"Herr Hannigan suggested you came?" Lucio looked as though he was about to get a mouthful of flies and that his eyes were about to pop from his head.
"Tell me about it!" she drawled, widening her eyes to emphasise her point. "That's when he said he would get his own dinner."
"That's very odd," frowned Mike, putting down Tobias' pizza. "Don't suppose he could be going to see someone."
"We're only on an hour's break. Thirty-five minutes, now," Heather added for the benefit of the gentlemen with her. "So it couldn't really be pre-arranged." She was frowning hard and, even more to Lucio's annoyance, she was biting down on the the inside of her cheek.
"Don't do that, dear, you'll spoil your looks," he reprimanded and her face relaxed into a warm smile.
"Wait a moment! Derek was with him, wasn't he?" said Dick, so loudly that Heather jumped.
"That explains it," said Tobias, nodding.
"I wonder how long that's been going on," added Hal, lightly.
"I know I'm short, but would you guys stop talking over my head!" They laughed and Dick leant down and explained into her ear that Derek batted for the other team.
"What? Tony?" She looked up at the two Romulars. They frowned at her as if to ask what she was talking about. Of course, she mentally reminded herself, they couldn't have heard. "He says that Tony's dinner companion is gay."
"Herr Hannigan is many things, but I seriously doubt that is one of them," Lucio said, assuredly. Heather could only nod her thanks, because she had her mouth full of food.
"Well, has he ever shown an interest in you?" asked Nick, calmly, taking a bite of chicken. The young women opposite him gave him a shocked and enraged look and the Italian father and son duo seemed to swell.
"That, sir, is inappropriate," she said, suppressed anger seething beneath the calm façade. "Not only is he considerably older than I am, he is my employer."
"Yes, but even if he didn't act on it, any straight bachelor in his right mind would be interested in you," said Tobias in a matter-of-fact voice. The fact that he had been leering at her, and now was not, only leant his words more credence and Heather blushed.
"You're too kind," she mumbled. "You overrate me."
"No, I'm just being honest."
"What do I have that other girls don't have? And generally, they have it in more abundance."
"Beautiful and modest with it," remarked Bob.
"I'm not beautiful," she said, tightly, her anger beginning to rise again.
"Ah, how many times have we told you that you are?" said Mike, looking down at her with a warm smile.
"You guys just fill me up with compliments for some reason that I have yet to fathom," she sighed and took a sip of her wine, before setting at the suckling-pig steak and garlic-butter coated new potatoes.
"No," he said, softly, gently stroking a tendril of her hair, that was threatening to fall into her food, behind her ear. "We're just telling you the truth." There was something so intimate and loving about that scene that the other men felt compelled to look away.
"Besides," she returned, several minutes later, having finished the steak. "Even if you guys are telling the truth, which I highly doubt, what guarantee is that that Tony is gay?"
"Well," started Hal, but then had to stop due to a coughing fit.
"If he were straight, and we were correct about you-"
"Which we are," interjected Tobias.
"Then he would have taken at least a passing, appreciative interest in you," concluded Dick, shooting his friend a warning look.
"Of course, as your employer, he would not act on it, but he would admire you, if-"
"Alright, alright. I give in. You're right, I'm wrong and we have only fifteen minutes left, before we need to be back at the studio." That put the wind up them and the six then set to eating, while the Romular men went back to work.
Ten minutes later, they were all done and Heather was trying to keep from laughing as her companions tried to get their coats returned to them. Lucio had, as always, engineered it so one of the waitresses that only spoke Italian was left to deal with them.
"No, our coats. You know, the things you put on over your clothes?" said Dick with exaggerated patience and gestures. Heather checked her watch, fun as this was to watch, they did have less than five minutes to get back.
"Sabrina, cappotti, per fervore." The woman merely nodded and scuttled off. Heather rather wished she could follow her when the guys rounded on her.
"You could have gotten them all this time and you didn't, why?" said Tobias, fiercely.
"Well... why do you think Lucio did it in the first place?" They were staring at her blankly, but she was saved from having to answer by the arrival of Sabrina and Michelangelo with the coats.
"Take care," said Mike, having taken Heather aside.
"I might be seeing you tomorrow," she answered with a light smile.
"But you never work late two days in a row." He was frowning at her, so she reached out, emboldened by she didn't know what, and smoothed his forehead.
"These actors have a strict timetable to keep to. The song we're working on recording at the moment has to be done today. If they always struggle to keep to that, then I could be working late every night and you could be seeing a lot more of me." He smiled, leaned in and kissed her cheek, but then she had to go and left him looking after her with longing blazing in his eyes.
"She'll never be content here," said his father, somberly, coming up behind him.
"She needs intellectual stimulus."
"So why's she working there?"
"You know as well as I that it's a filler job before university."
"Maybe I'll leave and follow her?&rdq