Bexley Maddox glances around at her dirty surroundings and takes another long swig of her drink. Roscoe, her mentor and boss, sent her to Jericho to sign some band of rag-tag teenagers to their record label, and this rundown joint is the only place that will allow the unknowns to perform for her.
And are they ever unknown. The bar is almost completely empty except for a couple of high schoolers hanging out around the stage, and Bexley has a sneaking suspicion that even they aren’t enjoying the show. Nevertheless, Roscoe wanted to find a group with absolutely no professional experience or previous knowledge of the industry, and this band fits the bill perfectly.
After the end of the next song, the keyboardist comes over to introduce himself.
“Mrs. Maddox?” he greets her. “I’m Kieran. Kieran Everard.”
“You’re the one who sent in the video,” she surmises with a wide, but wholly insincere smile. “Pleasure to meet you. Shall we sit down?”
“I’d like to offer you four an exclusive contract with our label,” Bexley tells him in a blunt, straightforward tone of voice. “Roscoe, my boss, has been looking for a hot new band, and you guys are perfect.”
Kieran eyes her suspiciously. “Why us?” he asks with a frown.
Bexley looks taken aback by the candid question. “I, uh…” Because you were the first group we could find, she thinks to herself. “Because you have talent,” she lies instead. “A spark, a je ne sais quoi that we, as a record label, love to see in our artists.”
“But we suck,” he persists.
“It’s not about the quality of your music, but the quality of your motivation. Tell me, Kieran, are you guys ready for the big time?”
He nods. “Absolutely. We’ll do whatever you tell us. We want this more than anything.” The line flows easily off his tongue, but in truth Kieran only wants this for Delilah and his band mates. While he loves music, he hates the idea of signing with a big name record company, and he wants fame just as much as he wants a bad case of the chicken pox. But for Delilah, he doesn’t hesitate. “When can we sign?” he wants to know.
“I’ll need to speak with your parents, of course, as you four are technically still minors,” Bexley says as she rises to her feet, “but I can come over tomorrow and we can go over the details.”
“Alright,” he agrees. “Thank you, Mrs. Maddox.”
And with one final handshake, Bexley leaves, eager to exchange the seedy bar for her plush hotel room.
“No way!” Delilah excitedly throws her arms around Kieran’s neck in an enthusiastic embrace as he tells her the news. “She liked us? She really liked us?!”
Kieran smiles at the delighted look on her face. “Yeah, and she’s coming over tomorrow to talk with Luca about our contract.”
“Thank you, Kieran,” she beams. “This never would have happened if it weren’t for you.”
“We did it together, Lila. All four of us are in it together.”
After their “audition”, the band spends the rest of the evening hanging out at the bar with their friends.
Despite his normally laidback, easygoing attitude, Rigby does indeed have a competitive streak, especially when he’s playing against his sister. Delilah is always in the spotlight at school and home, but physical activities are when he gets his chance to shine.
All thoughts of winning are abandoned, however, upon the arrival of his crush Heidi.
With just a few weeks left until prom, Rigby and Heidi decide to make their fledgling romance official.
“You need a boyfriend too,” Heidi insists once she and Delilah break away from the rest of the group. “Have you ever even been kissed?”
“No I haven’t, and no I don’t. A boyfriend would just drag me down and stifle my creative spirit. I need to breathe, Heidi, and I don’t want a man bossing me around.”
“What’s with the feminist crap all of a sudden?” her friend demands.
Delilah shrugs. “I am enjoying my life at the moment, and a boy would just needlessly complicate things.”
Heidi looks bemused. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she sighs.
“Duuuude. Electrical sockets. They’re, like, the best invention ever.” Austin, their bassist, tried the bubble bar upstairs, and… Yeah.
Just smile and nod, Rigby. Just smile and nod.
Meanwhile, Mason Gallagher, Rigby’s best friend since forever, is pouring his heart out to a rather reluctant Mia Sinclair.
“But I want you to be the mother of my children!” he pleads. “I want to marry you and have babies with you and-”
It’s probably well deserved, but Mason feels more than just his nose breaking.
Delilah feels unreasonably nervous the next day when Bexley comes over to meet her father.
“He’s going to embarrass me,” she whines to Kieran.
However, her worries prove unfounded. Luca and Emily ask all the usual “concerned parent” type questions, but they both seem onboard with the idea. Nevertheless, Bexley makes sure to skim over some of the more… uncomfortable clauses in the contract.
“And you’ll take care of them?” Emily wants to know. “Watch out for their best interest? I’ve heard some scary stories about teenagers in the music industry, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen with our kids.”
“Of course!” Bexley reassures her. “Their group is my personal project, and I want nothing more than to see your children succeed. Their happiness and health is my first priority.”
As soon as the ink is dry on the paperwork, Bexley corners Delilah.
“Your first photo shoot is Monday morning,” she barks. “We need some cover art for your group’s breakout single, and Roscoe wants you to be the face of the band.”
Delilah frowns. “But we haven’t recorded anything yet…”
Bexley has to consciously force herself not to roll her eyes. “Delilah, dear, the song has been written and ready to go for a month now. Your band will learn it later, but for now we need to get you all ready to face the public. Monday morning, 10 o’clock,” she says, handing her a card with the address. “Don’t be late.”
Bexley sighs dramatically. “I’ll have my secretary take care of it. Just show up on time ready for hair and makeup.”
“Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” Luca asks that night once the kids are all in bed. “Letting them sign a record deal at their age?”
“They are mature, responsible teenagers,” Emily replies. “I don’t think they will do anything stupid, Luca. I trust them.”
“Rigby I trust, but Delilah?” He shakes his head. “I worry about her.”
Emily reaches over and squeezes his hand. “I know, I know,” she soothes. “Lila is your little girl, but at some point you are going to have to let her grow up and make her own decisions. And this is such an incredible opportunity for her, for all three of them, that I’d hate to see you stand in their way.”
Luca nods, feeling better about his decision. “Have I told you recently that I love you?” he whispers as he leans in to kiss her. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, my darling.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she smiles.
“Marry me,” he breathes as he pins her to the bed.
“Is that a question?” Emily laughs.
“Marry me,” he repeats again, more determinedly this time. “I want to have you forever, Em. I want to make our family whole.”
“I thought it already was, Luc,” she tells him gently.
“Let’s make it official. Marry me.”
Reaching up to kiss him, she nods her agreement. “I don’t want a big wedding though,” she murmurs. “Just us and the kids.”
“Deal,” he says with a wide, contented grin.
“You’ll go with me though, won’t you Kieran?” It’s Monday morning, two hours before the shoot, and Delilah is suddenly feeling overcome with nerves.
Kieran frowns. “I have school, Lila. I really can’t-”
“Please?” she begs. “I’ll cover for you if my dad finds out…”
He sighs. Luca would be livid if he knew that Kieran skipped class, but how can he resist her big, pleading eyes? “Fine,” he relents after a pause. “I’ll go.”
At the shoot, Delilah is quickly hustled off to get her hair and makeup done while Kieran waits for her outside. An hour or so later, they finally allow him in to see her.
“What do you think?” she asks with a shy smile. “They kind of went overboard with the makeup.”
“Your hair is different,” he observes.
“Yeah, the stylist straightened it.”
“It looks… different.”
Delilah fidgets uneasily with the ends of her locks. “Bad different?” she wants to know.
Walking over to her, Kieran softly runs his hand along the side of her arm. “You always look beautiful to me,” he whispers. “But I like your hair natural, the way it looks when you first wake up in the morning.”
“Well I think it is simply fabulous,” Bexley chimes in, causing the teenagers to jump apart in surprise. “Roscoe has arrived, Delilah dear, and he and the photographer are ready for you now.”
“Oh, um, okay. Thanks Mrs. Maddox,” Delilah mumbles as she hurries off.
Kieran starts to follow her, but Bexley cuts in front of him.
“Whatever is going on between you and Delilah needs to stop,” she tells him sternly. “Inter-band romances are frowned upon here, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to put my foot down.”
Kieran feels his face flush with anger at her bossy, condescending tone, but he manages to keep his temper in check. “Lila and I are friends,” he replies, choosing his words carefully. “And we wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the band.”
“Excellent,” Bexley purrs. “Good choice, dear. That’s exactly the kind of attitude we like to see in our artists.”
“You must be Delilah,” Melvin Roscoe greets her with a firm handshake and his characteristic smirk. “Shall we get started then?”
Delilah’s eyes widen as she glances around the room. “There are so many people here,” she notices. So many men, she thinks with trepidation.
Roscoe’s smile falters. “I hope you aren’t the shy type, young lady. Our musicians spend much of their time in front of the camera, and I need someone who can handle the attention. Such a pretty face, it would be a shame to let it go to waste,” he adds with a wink.
Delilah clenches her jaws together with renewed determination. “I’m not scared, Mr. Roscoe,” she insists. “Let’s do it.”
Once out of her robe, however, Lila’s hesitation returns full force.
“Are you sure?” she squeaks, feeling blinded and dazed by the intense glare of the lights. “I mean, I can’t leave it on?”
“You’ll be fully covered in the photos,” Roscoe assures her in his velvety smooth voice. “And we’re all your friends here. There’s nothing to be worried about.”
“O-Okay,” she stammers.
Kieran stops dead in his tracks as he follows Bexley into the studio. It takes him a minute to fully process the scene in front of him, from Delilah’s petite, topless figure to the crew of adult men hovering around her like a swarm of hungry flies, but once he does his initial shock and embarrassment quickly turns to anger.
Three whole days pass before Delilah can get him to talk to her again, and even then it’s only because he needs help with his math homework.
“I don’t know why you’re so mad at me!” she exclaims as they work through a simple geometry problem. “Nothing was showing in the photos.”
“Because, Lila. They’re taking advantage of you. They don’t give a damn about our music; they just want us to be the face of their newest brand of pop. It’s bullshit, and I can’t believe you’re playing along.”
Delilah rolls her eyes. “Do you think I’m an idiot?!” she demands. “I know that, Kieran, but once we’ve made a name for ourselves in the business we can start recording our own stuff, and then we’ll become famous in our own right. We just need to get our foot in the door, and working with Mr. Roscoe is our best option.”
“You think?” he says, eyeing her skeptically. “Mr. Roscoe seems like a hard man to get away from.”
“Sure,” she enthuses. “First comes fame, then comes fortune, then comes creative freedom. It’s the way it’s always worked.”
“I hope you know what you're doing, cause your dad is going to be pissed when he sees those pictures.”
Delilah freezes, the realization hitting her like a bus. “Shit,” she groans. "I'm screwed."
Kieran shrugs awkwardly, not knowing what to say. While he would do anything to help Delilah reach her dreams, he honestly hopes that Luca will see the photos and cancel their contract. That way, at least, she'd be safe from the vultures.
Delilah's not a slut, she just doesn't always think things through. Whether or not Roscoe's a perv, however, is up for debate. ;)
I'm very, very sorry about the lack of updates recently, but I'm going to try to post more regularly from now on. I've already written and edited the next chapter, so that should be up soon, but I must warn you- The transition between this chapter and the next is extremely rough, and while I tried to maintain some consistency there are a few things that just don't make sense (like parts of the timeline). In order to revive my interest in the challenge, I decided to skip the rest of Delilah's teen years and start over with her as my generation one founder. It was a difficult decision to make, and I'm not entirely happy about it, but I needed to do something to get me playing the game again. I hope you guys understand.
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for putting up with me and my spotty updates! =)