Shadows to Light

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Two

Submitted: June 16, 2018

Reads: 47

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Submitted: June 16, 2018

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Sam Preston was famous in the respectable sense of the word. Being a blues musician meant he rarely graced the covers of magazines and paparazzi never converged on the scene when he got his morning paper. He had settled into a nice life of predictability, something he craved since his wife Juliette died, and every other Monday he went to the market.

Ella knew this and any doubts were quickly pushed to the back of her mind as she

merged onto the 101 freeway, a feat in and of itself. Cars moved at a snail’s pace while their drivers honked and made crude gestures at each other. Ella tried her best to block it all out with some music. She turned on the radio, excited by the familiar chords of her favorite Gladys Knight tune Midnight Train to Georgia, and sang along.

Ella was always in the mood for music and she was grateful for the break it provided from her stressful morning, if only for a moment. However as the song faded into commercials, she prepared explanations for why she’d only written three lines of a song. ‘Truffle ate the rest of the paper’ was at the top of the list. Don’t be stupid, she said to herself, they’re never gonna buy it! ‘They’ being her manager Max Lamont and The Bobs – Robert Moody, music producer, and Robert Jeffs, lyricist.

She could just picture their reactions. Bob Moody, in all his pudginess, would take a drag from his cigarette and give a displeasing look to the lankier Bob Jeffs, who would look at Max as if to say, why are we taking a chance on her? There are a million aspiring hopefuls who are vying for the same opportunity. Then Max, who bore a striking resemblance to Richard Attenborough, would diffuse their doubts by praising his belief in Ella as an artist, and the Bobs would believe him because it’s true.

Max Lamont was Sam’s manager back in the day. He promised him that if and when Ella was ready to go into the business, he would guide her to success. She trusted Max’s judgment regarding the album, and felt guilty she wasn’t able to produce a song. Maybe it won’t be so bad, she hoped, as the top of Spin Records crested over the freeway and she merged for her exit.

Pushing through the front doors, Ella tried to slip in unnoticed like that time in high school when she was late for AP English, but the cream linoleum floor gave her away. Straightening her stride, Ella wondered why she didn’t wear her more comfortable Doc Martin’s as each click-clack of her blue pumps echoed throughout the building.

The walls of the lobby were white with gold accents and adorned with framed pictures of famous singers like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and her namesake Ella Fitzgerald. There was one in particular though, which caught Ella’s eye every time she walked these halls: a semi-faded portrait of a young African-American man dressed in a suit & tie with a closed-lip smile spread across his face. The plaque below it read Samuel Preston.

“Hi Dad,” Ella said as she passed. While it filled her with great pride to know that she was carrying on her father’s musical legacy, she couldn’t shake the looming pressure she felt to be just as successful. Ella chalked it up to being what she called a ‘recovering perfectionist.’ Still it was for this reason, and not about Truffle’s digestive habits, that she had writer’s block.

Out of the lobby now, Ella clicked and clacked her way towards the main studio. Through the large glass door she could see Max was deep in conversation with The Bobs and only caught a few snippets of it:

“…just 6 months left…” said Moody

“…worth our time & money…” said Jeffs

“…give it time…” said Max, who gave them a knowing look as Ella made her way inside.

“There she is! The woman of the hour!” Max announced, greeting Ella with a warm hug. Despite its sincerity, Ella couldn’t help but feel the same twinge of doubt as she did in the car, so she decided to get it over with.

“Max, about the song…”

“It’s okay if it’s not fine-tuned, remember that’s what Jeffs is for.”

“Yeah, but you see, I only could get a few lines down…”

“It’s okay Ella, let me see!”

Ella sheepishly handed Max the paper and waited for the worst. She looked away, as if staring at the sound mixing board would somehow auto-tune his annoyance into a different emotion. It apparently worked though as Max let out an empathetic sigh and asked,

“It was bad, huh?”

“I stayed up all night.”

The bags under Ella’s eyes confirmed her story. Poor kid, Max thought as he played off the awkward silence with a joke.

“Believe me, I’ve been there. Why’d you think I became a music manager?”

The four of them shared a quick laugh as Moody stamped out his Marlboro. He claimed smoking calmed his nerves, and he always smoked when Ella was around. Whether it was the nicotine or his client’s writer’s block that got him to light up, Ella didn’t know. She only knew that the Bobs had their doubts about her, and she was determined to turn them around.

“I can work with this actually,” Max continued. “We just need to expand it a little. Tell you what, you give me this song by Friday and we’ll work out a demo track over the weekend. Sound good?”

Ella nodded, just pleased that the meeting went slightly better than expected.

*

She’d decided on the way home that she was going to fix herself some lunch then get to work on the song. Ella parked on Lindley Drive just outside the apartment and made her way up the two flights of stairs to 303. From the hallway she could hear Truffle meowing as she jingled her keys into the lock.

“Hey girl, what’s going on?” Ella asked the cat, who sat by the landline and continued to make noise. She threw her purse onto the kitchen counter and opened the refrigerator.

Truffle didn’t stop.

“What is it?”

Ella down the salami she was holding and made her way over to the phone. A red light flashed multiple times on the receiver accompanied by a tiny number three just below it. Ella pressed the playback button and was met with the following messages:

The first one was from Charlie.

"Hey El, it’s me!  Could you stop and get some milk? I think ours expired. Thanks!"

The next one was from Seth.

"What’s up? My buddy got our TV working so I won’t be coming by tonight. Catch ya later!"

The last one was from Aunt Katherine.

"Oh jeez! Ella? I’ve been trying to call you all day. I guess you’ve been out. It’s…it’s about your father. He had a heart attack. I’m so sorry honey…he’s gone."


© Copyright 2018 KelseyAnn. All rights reserved.

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