Believe In Me © 2011
Chapter 1: No goal is attained without the First Step.
Max sat staring out the clear glass window of the coffee shop, eyes glued to the bus stop just across the street. Foot nervously tapping on the tiled floor below, she checked her wrist watch eyeing the two cups of untouched coffee in front of her.
"Are you sure you don't want some breakfast?" The friendly waitress asked, smiling as she paused by Max's table.
"No- thank you. I'm just waiting," Max answered quickly, swiveling around on the leather seat to smile warmly.
"I'm sure he'll be here," Maggie winked. "He's probably just running late."
"Probably," Max's smiled twitched as she turned to continue her search. Why today of all days did Daniel have to run late? Reaching into her warm fall jacket, she pulled out the audition slip, smoothed out the wrinkled pages while her eyes scanned down to the time.
"There's time, there's still time," Max reassured herself, eyeing the coffee again. Another bus pulled up, and this time the familiar figure of the most important person in her life stepped off and safely crossed the road to the coffee shop. "Daniel!" Max waved from her table and held up the two cups of coffee.
"Max, hi!" Daniel rushed over, pulling her in for a quick peck on the forehead before snagging a cup. "Sorry, I'm late-" He took a quick swig of the coffee.
"It's alright, we got time-"
"Actually, I can't stay. Sorry Max." Daniel set the coffee cup down. "I only came because you deserve to be the second person to know." He reached over to clasp her hand's, eyes suddenly brighter.
"I have something to tell you too," Max grinned, feeling the pressure of the audition papers against her chest.
"I'm going to be a father, Max," Daniel blurted out.
Max stared at him blankly, watching as his lips twitched between the strange bizarre smile of happiness, to one of worry and uncertainty.
"Remember Kaitlyn, that girl I told you about last month. We- well we hit it off pretty good. Even though I barely get to see her with the Army and all. Any how, she called to tell me this morning. I'm on my way over to see her now, that's why I can't stay."
Max nodded numbly, a smile slowly tugging its way across her lips.
"That's great big brother." She swallowed and set her cup of coffee down too.
"I need you to do something for me though, Max," Daniel continued quickly. "Please don't tell Mom and Dad yet, you know how they are."
"They'll want a list of references from her before they even accept the baby as their grandkid, yea I know," Max laughed, feeling suddenly giddy. "Wow, I'm going to be an aunt."
"A cute little aunt," Daniel grinned scoping her up into a bear hug. "Oh you have no idea how happy I am. I can't wait till you can meet her, them. Well the baby in 9 months." He set her back down on the floor, ignoring the curious looks of other customers, Maggie among them.
"I have news too, though- not as great," Max reached inside her jacket. A ringing sound came between them as Daniel quickly pulled out his cell phone.
"It's her-" he whispered, flipping the cell phone open. "Hey Angel, how are you. Feeling alright?" He glanced quickly down at his wrist watch, then out the glass window at the bus stop. "Yes, yes. I'll be there soon. Of course I'll stay with you this weekend. I-" he glanced over at Max. "We'll talk about that later. No- yes. I love you. Of course I mean that."
Max slowly sank back into her seat, watching Daniel squirm and practically dance in place. When he finally finished saying "I love you," four more times to soothe Kaitlyn, he hung up.
"I have to go, sorry for the rush. I'll call you later okay?" He leaned over the table to kiss her forehead. "Promise, not a word to Mom or Dad."
"Of course," Max nodded, "Be careful-" But he was already dashing out the store and across the street to catch the next bus to Denver. Shoulders slumping, Max sighed and stared across the table at the coffee cup her only older brother had left behind. "I'm going to my first audition today. Just wanted you to wish me luck," she whispered to the seat across from it.
She swallowed again, pulling out the audition papers. "Good Luck, Max."
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"Mr. Alexander, please." The pleading assistant held out the flashy looking black jacket. "The director would like you to wear this one."
Theo smiled down at her cute face before glancing between the jacket she held, and the designer jacket he'd picked out this morning. "Is the director implying mine isn't classy enough?" he asked curiously.
"Oh- No!" The assistant gasped looking mortified. "No, he just - they wanted you to match the other judges."
"So it's my style in colors," Theo let his face pout just a little, as he lovingly stroked his light blue jacket. "It's only been three months since my mothers funeral you know. I was rather hoping not to wear black again. It just-" he let his sentence hang there, brushing away the messy black bangs hanging over his probably tearing dark brown eyes.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Of course not." The assistant hid the offending jacket behind her back with a sheepish smile. "I am so sorry Mr. Alexander."
"You are too kind," Theo smiled. Around them the stage crew were still racing back and forth with make up, outfits, lights, scripts, but the assistant was too enthralled by Theo's eyes to even notice. "I should probably head onto set before I'm scolded again," Theo suggested, scratching his head with boyish charm.
"Yes, yes." The assistant nodded, gesturing for him to move past her. With one last charming smile, Theo headed through the door to the theater where his fellow judges waited. And among them: Her.
He clenched the cell phone inside his pocket harshly, while outwardly he smiled and nodded his head, behaving as modestly as any Twenty-Four year old with six Grammy awards for script writing under his belt can. And there, seated at the judges table, glittering as only the rarest jewel can - his Jezebel.
Theo smiled at the music director he dimly knew. Freeman wasn't it? His lips twitched in amusement when her shoulder jerked slightly at the mention of his name. The way she tilted her head, allowing her black hair to fall just so over her face, before tossing it back as she stood and squarely faced him: oh he'd seen it a thousand times.
"Teddy, so good to see you," Mariah spread her scarlet lips in warm welcome, her blue eyes staring at him with questioning worry.
"Ah, Mrs. Bennett," Theo smiled just as graciously back. Witch. "I didn't know you were back from your honey moon already." Her hand remained lingering between them, but he was determined not to touch it - or her again.
"Esteemed guests, please," the director pranced out with the impatience of a horse anticipating a winning race. "Places, places. You all have your judging paper."
Theo moved past her to the far seat on the left. Letting her sit between the other two directors, who would fondle her with the attention she always demanded. Actresses…
"Now, as you all know this is an open house audition. That being said we will try to eliminate as many as we can today for round two tomorrow, and then the finalist," Director Allen instructed. "You all are professionals, so I trust you can crush their dreams as gently as possible, yes!"
Theo accepted his stack of papers, pulling out his own pen to jot notes with.
How strange, to think it was only two years ago he'd found Mariah this way. Gritting his teeth, he focused his attention on Allen, trying not to think of the past two years. Trying not to think of how she'd broken his heart, as if he were any other man, and not the person who made her.
"Alright!" Allen clapped his hands together with a little too much enthusiasm. "We are recording today for insurance sake you might say. But some of the cuts will be put onto tonight's show, as well as those who made it into round 2 of course. Fifteen minutes." Away he pranced, nervously muttering to the assistant beside him who nodded along like a bobble head doll.
After ten minutes of listening to the untrained bleating one might expect from untrained dreamers, Theo stopped taking notes. Instead he chose to draw large X's or ?'s on his judging paper.
X for, 'Can't carry a tune to save his life.'
? For, 'What is this person even doing here?'
…For that matter what was he doing here?
He listened to Mariah and the other judges give a few encouraging lines, all the while jotting away at their papers. Director Freeman spent most of his time comparing notes with Mariah, who smiled and did her best to hide her annoyance.
It only took two years of being led around by her lying smile for Theo to finally see what lay beneath her perfect mask. Once the mirage was broken, the real Mariah wasn't so hard to predict.
Contestant # 211 showed some talent. Theo tapped his fingers to the tune, nodding slight approval when she hit her high notes well. Mariah sat back and let the other judges praise the girl, who beamed hopefully at the silent actress. But then it was on to #222, and the singing went down hill again.
Max watched the girl before her run off stage looking close to tears. She swallowed again, nervous chills moving up her spine even as her stomach twisted.
"Number 343!" The assistant was waving towards her, motioning for her to go on stage.
Max thought of Daniel. Thought of the happiness in his face as he blurted out his happy news. She tried not to think of how Mom and Dad would react if they knew she was here, skipping classes at school, putting her future at risk for a dream.
Her sneakers squeaked against the polished wood floor. She was half way past the curtain when she remembered she was still wearing Daniel's old stealers jacket. She hesitated for a moment, then kept walking, aware of the judges table directly in front of the theater.
This isn't a beauty pageant. Just sing. Just do your best, Max.
Eyes forward, chin slightly raised, shoulders squared, chest open, Max smiled down at the many empty seats, and the four people who would decide her future.
She sang 'Already Gone' by Kelly Clarkson.
And there it was. Like a fresh glass of the sweetest water pouring down his dry throat. Theo slowly sat up, trying to ignore the tingles down his arms as his listened to this girl sing. Natural, yes that was it. She felt entirely natural.
He didn't pick up the pen, none of the other judges were writing either, just listening. Folding his hands one on top of the other he allowed himself a rare smile, unaware of Mariah watching him from across the table.
Number 343's hand shook a little as she finished her piece, but she stood confidently, her posture damn near perfect as she smiled winningly at the judges. He simply couldn't help himself, hands moved on their own accord to applaud her.
The enthusiasm seemed to catch onto the other judges as well, who clapped appreciatively, except Mariah. Noticing this, Theo glanced her way. Her expression was sour as she leaned back, hands twisting the pen in her fingers. Feeling a little jealous of the future you? Theo smirked, standing to give his first vocal feedback of the night.
"I loved it kid. Where did you learn to sing?" he asked. Number 343 twisted her shirt nervously, eyes dropping to her sneakers briefly before she faced him squarely with a smile.
"Church," she answered sheepishly. To his right Mariah scoffed a little to loudly. The girls smile faded slightly, and her eyes dropped to her feet again.
"Well that makes sense, because you sang like an angel," Theo hurriedly expressed. She looked up at him, barely contained excitement and gratitude written on her face.
"For a complete novice you're not lacking," Mariah spoke from her seat, still playing with her pen. "You obviously know little about presentation, style, and your piece shows little imagination either."
"Everyone has to start somewhere," Theo protested with a laugh, inwardly wanting to remind the cold hearted bitch of their first encounter.
"Why did you pick that song?" Mariah asked the girl, ignoring him.
"I-" Number 343 hesitated, eyes darting between the judges.
"Have you broken up with someone before?" Mariah asked with a deceiving smile, as she leaned forward. "Dated before? Kissed before?"
The girl blushed scarlet, eyes back on her sneakers. "No."
"I see," Mariah smirked, her tone as cutting as a whip. "Perhaps in the future you should choose a piece you can express through experience, not just good vocal cords."
"Oh-" 343 looked confused and embarrassed. Theo cleared his throat wanting to help the girl.
"And just between us, woman to -girl," Mariah smiled even deeper. "I can forgive the tacky shoes, the invisible clothes, but you certainly could have at least spared us that audacious coat."
"Forgive Mrs. Bennett her confusion," Theo cut in, no longer caring to sit back anymore. "She's long forgotten the days she showed up to singing auditions in a ballerina costume." He glared down at Mariah, who stared just as coldly back. "What's important here-"
The stage was empty.
Max ran back to the bus station, feeling cold despite the warmth of Daniel's jacket. She tried not to look at her reflection in the glass, tried not to think about how ridiculous those judges had made her feel. I really could have put more care into an outfit though. She clenched her arms around her waist, scuffing her shoes against the sidewalk.
No good worrying about that now. It's only my first audition, there's always another one.
Her cell phone buzzed inside her jacket. Pulling it out quickly Max grimaced at the number.
"Hi, Mom. Yes, I'm on my way back. We had another cram class for calculus-" she lied smoothly.
"That's fine dear. Please remember to call ahead and let us know so we don't worry," her mother responded calmly. "We'll have Sarah leave a plate of food out for you then. Hurry home."
Max hung up after her mother. Tilting her head against the cold clear surface, she gazed up at the Autumn moon, humming softly to herself.
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