Chapter Five: Eric Raymond
“What are you doing?”
Mary glanced up from where she had been writing a letter to her brother, casting Roxy a hesitant smile. A week on and Mary still did not know quite where she stood with her new housemate. One minute Roxy was almost a friend, the next she had pulled away into her tough, hard shell.
“Just writing a letter.” She replied. “Why?”
“Can’t we do something?” Roxy demanded. “I’m bored!”
“Like what?” Mary set down the pen, folding the sheet of paper and sliding it into the envelope. She had realised over the few days they had been together that keeping Roxy amused was one girl’s job at any time. Her letter to Craig had explained only the briefest of details about her new acquaintance, focusing on the night of the burglary in order to try and make her brother feel she had done the right thing. And she knew she had. However unsure Roxy still made her feel, it was nice to have company.
“I dunno. Go out? I’ll drive.”
“Can you drive?” Mary looked doubtful.
“Course I can.” Roxy grinned. “I don’t even need keys.”
“Hotwiring cars is all part of the education system where I grew up.” Roxy shrugged. “But yeah, I can drive.”
“You have a licence?”
“Of course not.” Roxy grinned. “Don’t mean I’m a bad driver, though.”
“If we go out, I’m driving.” Mary responded. “I don’t want to get us into trouble, Roxy.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Roxy rolled her eyes. “Wimp.”
“No! I just don’t want to end up in jail. Do you?”
“Nope.” Roxy admitted. “They’d never keep me there, though. Never caught me yet, dumb cops.”
“Always a first time.” Mary reasoned. “You have a criminal record?”
“No. Like I said, they didn’t catch me.” Roxy looked unconcerned. “And never will, either.”
“What did you do?” Mary opened her eyes wide.
“Oh, not much. Swiped a few things and messed about with a few cars, that’s all.”
“You stole stuff?” Mary demanded. “But…”
“Look, it’s not stealing where I come from.” Roxy retorted. “There are people who have more than they need and people who have less…we just balanced things out, that’s all.”
“I…I still don’t like it.” Mary frowned. “Promise me you won’t steal anything from any store or anything while you’re here, Roxy!”
“Wasn’t going to, so keep your hair on.” Roxy offered her companion a lazy smile. “Don’t need to, do I? No point in stealing what you don’t need…pointless risk.”
“I…I guess so.” Mary hesitated. Then, “So where do you want to go?”
“I dunno.” Roxy shrugged. “Anywhere. Just out. I’m so bored I could scream…you telling me this is all you do with your life?”
“Well…yes.” Mary admitted. “Some evenings I write music, but otherwise…pretty much.”
“Great.” Roxy rolled her eyes. “Fun city.”
“Well, you’re not being scintillating entertainment yourself.” Mary retorted.
“Hey, so you do have some spark inside of ya!” Roxy looked amused. “I don’t know what scintill…whatever is, but at least you can fight back! I was beginning to think you were completely wet and that there was no hope for you!”
“I’m not wet.” Mary muttered. “I…I want to be strong.”
“You do, huh?” Roxy laughed. “Well, for a start you gotta wear that stuff you bought instead of these prissy dresses. Got me?”
“I suppose so.” Mary sighed, getting to her feet. “Hang on. Let me change and we’ll go out, all right?”
“All right!” Roxy punched her fist in the air. “Finally!”
“Make yourself useful and go find my brother’s address to put on this thing, then.” Mary indicated the envelope. “If you want to go out then the least you can do is help me out by addressing an envelope for me.”
Roxy pulled a face.
“Bo-ring.” She protested. “No way.”
“Come on, Roxy…help me out, please?” Mary begged. “You’re the one who wants to go out.”
“I don’t want to, all right?” Roxy snapped. “So…so address your own dumb envelope, okay?”
“What’s wrong?” Mary opened her eyes wide in surprise. “Roxy, it’s just a letter – no need to get bent out of shape over it.”
“Well, I don’t want to do it, so there.” Roxy folded her arms. “Go change. Your letter can wait.”
Mary scooped up her address book, tossing it towards her companion.
“Here. Please, Roxy. It’s kinda urgent I send this to him.”
Roxy picked up the book, glancing at it then flicking through the pages. Mary, who had been about to go change paused for a moment, eying the other girl thoughtfully. The book in her hand was upside-down, and yet she didn’t even seem to realise it.
A startling thought occurred to her.
“Roxy?” she asked. Roxy glanced up, her face creased in a frown.
“What now?” she demanded.
“Can’t you read?”
“What do you mean? Of course…of course I can read! Do you think I’m dumb?” Roxy’s temper exploded into action and she was on her feet. Despite herself Mary took shelter behind the door, peering round at her angry housemate.
“I don’t think that, of course! I just…”
“Well, you’re wrong. Totally wrong. Of course I can read.”
“It was just that you had the book upside-down, that’s all.”
“I knew that.” Roxy snapped. “I was just…looking at something, that’s all.”
“I said I can read!” Roxy tossed the book at her companion and it skidded across the door, winding up at Mary’s feet. “Okay? Leave me alone!”
“It doesn’t matter, you know, if you can’t.” Mary ventured, scooping up the book. “It doesn’t mean you’re dumb.”
“It…doesn’t?” Roxy stared, momentarily taken off balance. Mary shook her head.
“No. It just means you didn’t get the opportunity, that’s all.” She paused. “You really can’t read, can you?”
There was a long pause, then,
“No.” Roxy admitted. “But…if you dare say a word to anyone I’ll…I’ll blow it out your ears, all right?”
“I won’t say a word, I promise.” Mary assured her. “What happened, though? Why didn’t you get to learn?”
“I…didn’t like school.” Roxy said sullenly. “I didn’t like to go, that’s all, so I didn’t.”
“You played truant?”
“Sure. Didn’t you ever skip off school?” Roxy demanded. Then, “Why did I even ask that? A good girl like you…of course you didn’t.”
“No…I didn’t.” Mary admitted. “I didn’t like school either, though.”
“Bet you topped your class.” Roxy was bitter. “Bet you didn’t get hauled up in front of the principal for fighting when it wasn’t even your fault.”
“I never got into trouble, and I did make good grades.” Mary nodded. “But grades aren’t everything, Roxy.”
“You’re telling me.” Roxy nodded. “I was done with school when I left home – that was eight years ago and I’ve done fine on my own since. Who needs education, huh?”
“Eight years? You mean you’ve been on your own since you were fourteen?” Mary looked horrified.
“Yep.” Roxy agreed proudly. “And the best decision I ever made, too, leaving home. Not that it was a home…” she trailed off, frowning. “I’m done talking about this now. Are we going out or not?”
“Sure.” Mary nodded her head. “I’ll just go change.”
As she made her way into her bedroom, she turned over in her mind all that she had learnt.
“If she’s been on her own that long it explains a lot.” She mused. “Why she doesn’t want to be friends and why she’s so easy to rouse. But…well, maybe I can help her. If nothing else I can keep her off the streets…if only I knew what else I could do! But to help her…I think she has to want to be helped, and I have a feeling she’s just too independent to let me!”
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Well, this is it. Number seventy three, fifth avenue.” Eric stepped
of his car, pushing the door shut and indicating to his driver to drive
park a short distance away. He straightened his suit, walking
purposefully up the path to the front door and ringing the bell. He had
finally figured out in his own mind how best to tackle the girl to get
the most favourable response from her. Over lunch, he had finalised the
contract with Phyllis – now to be known to all and sundry under the
stage name of Pizzazz – but he needed someone of Mary’s talent to hold
the band that was beginning to
take shape together. How Mary would react to Pizzazz, or vice versa was
little interest to him. In his world, money spoke, and he knew just how
wheedle his way around the shy little girl from fifth avenue.
But then, Eric had reckoned without Roxy.
He rang the bell, waiting impatiently for the door to be answered. When it was, he got a shock, for the girl staring back at him was not the same girl as he had seen that night in the club. He frowned.
“What do you want?” The girl demanded, her hands on her hips.
“Excuse me, I was looking for Mary Phillips.” He said, pulling himself together.
“So?” The girl raised a heavily made-up eyebrow. “Maybe she doesn’t want to speak to a sleazy creep like you.”
“Roxy, who is it?” Mary emerged from the living room, dressed in attire that took Eric aback, for though he recognised her face, the girl before him had very little of the demure and retiring air of the mysterious performer. The only clue to her sensitive side was a red daisy tucked neatly into the curls of her hair, but her face was made up with slashes and lightning and he began to wonder if he needed to rethink his strategy.
“Some stiff in a suit.” Roxy turned, and Mary came to the doorway. “Says he wants to speak to ya.”
“Oh!” Mary looked surprised. Then she offered the visitor a smile. “Well, what can I do for you?”
“My name is Eric Raymond, I’m manager and co-owner of Starlight Music – you might have heard the name mentioned.” Eric turned his attention away from the blond who was lounging against the wall, watching him with a decidedly wary eye. “I came to discuss business…may I come in?”
“Business?” Mary repeated. “Well, you can come in, but I don’t know how I can help you. I don’t know much about business and that kind of stuff.”
“That’s fine.” Eric smiled, realising that whatever the girl was wearing, her insecurities and coyness were still deeply ingrained. He followed her into the lounge, taking the nearest seat. Roxy leant up against the doorpost, her arms folded, like some kind of bodyguard, and it was all he could do to ignore her. “Miss Phillips, I was at the club the other night, when you got up and performed for the audience, and I have to tell you that your display intrigued me greatly. I understand from the people I’ve talked to that you’re very keen on music and that you write a lot of songs…have you ever considered a career in the music business?”
“Me?” Mary’s eyes widened. “But…Mr Raymond…”
“Please, call me Eric.” Eric offered her a widely insincere smile.
“Well, Eric…I’m not really that good. I just dabble a bit, that’s all.”
“Its true that you still have a lot to learn.” Eric nodded, acting as though he was considering the situation carefully for the first time. “But in the right setup, with the right promotion and backing, I think perhaps you could make a name for yourself. This is my proposition, Mary – do you mind me calling you Mary?”
“No, not at all.” Mary shook her head. “Proposition?”
“I am working on Starlight Music’s latest project, a new, hot band to climb the charts and put the company on the map.” Eric explained. “Of course, it’s still extremely experimental, but I’d like you to be a part of that band. You’d learn a great deal from that kind of a situation, and there’s no doubt that it would assist your writing.”
“You…you really want me in your band?” Mary’s eyes could not get any wider. “Oh, Mr Raym…Eric, I…I really don’t know! Are you sure I wouldn’t let you down?”
“My dear Mary, I have the contacts to make this group stars overnight.” Eric assured her. “Think about it…you’d go from nothing to a name on everyone’s lips within a matter of weeks. All you need is the right band to do it in.” He smiled at her benevolently. “And a raw talent such as your own needs to be nurtured, so I would like to give you a chance.”
“What do you get out of this, Mr Raymond?” Now Roxy spoke up, and Eric cast her an irritated glance.
“I’m sorry, Miss…”
“Miss Pelligrini, but I came to discuss things with Mary here – I would appreciate you giving us some space to discuss matters in more detail.”
“Oh you would, would you?” Roxy’s eyes narrowed. “Tough luck, buster. You take her, you get me too. You got that? She and me, we’re a team.”
Eric glanced at Roxy and then back at Mary, who was nodding her head slowly.
“Mr…Eric, it’s…well, sort of true. I’d feel better if Roxy was with me…this is all very new to me.”
“I don’t know that…well, it’s extremely irregular.” Eric began, but Roxy was having none of it, and she grasped him by his tie, glaring into his eyes.
“Both of us or neither of us, creep.” She muttered.
“Roxy plays guitar.” Mary offered, trying to diffuse matters, for she was still unused to Roxy’s rough and ready solution to everything. “Please, Eric, I’d feel so lost doing it on my own.”
“You play guitar?” Eric’s dislike of Roxy faded into vague interest. “What kind of guitar?”
“Whatever kind you give me.” Roxy said abruptly.
“Well, in that case…” Eric smiled. “I’m sure there is a place in my project for you too, Miss Pelligrini.”
“Good.” Roxy allowed herself a slight smile, dropping onto the couch. “Because I came a long way to get to California and I ain’t going to be disappointed.”
“How many other people are going to be in the band, Eric?” Mary asked.
“One. I have a vocalist already signed up.” Eric responded. “And if you’d come to my office first thing tomorrow morning I will have contracts for you to sign too. Strictly procedure, you understand.” He held out his card. “Thank you, it has been a most…educational visit.”
Mary took the card, examining it then setting it down on the tabletop.
“We’ll be there, Eric.” She said, her face glowing with excitement. “And…and thank you for giving us this chance. Do you really think I’ll be good enough for a band like this?”
“So long as you do as I tell you, and turn out some more hard hitting songs like the one you performed the other night, I think you will be fine.” Eric told her. “There is of course, one slight alteration that will need to be made…”
“Alteration?” Mary looked startled. “What do you mean?”
“Well, your clothes are great – in fact, it’s pretty much the look I intended, but your name…Mary. It’s a pretty name…and I’m not sure pretty is quite…right.”
“Well, what should I do? I don’t have any other names.” Mary looked anxious.
“What you need,” Eric replied slowly, “Is a stage name. Something to make people sit up and take notice of you.”
“Like what?” Roxy demanded.
“Let me see. How about…how about Stormer?” Eric smiled. “A name that catches the attention…a name that means business. How about it?”
“Stormer?” Mary hesitated, then, “Are you sure? It isn’t very me.”
“I’m positive.” Eric nodded. “Stormer is the name to make you a star.”
“Well, if you say so…” the newly christened Stormer looked doubtful. “But what about Roxy?”
“What’s your real name?” Eric turned to the blond.
“What’s it to you?” Roxy demanded.
“I need to know if you’re going to sign on with me.” Eric said patiently.
“Roxanne.” Roxy replied. “Roxanne Pelligrini. Why?”
“Well, Roxanne is a bit…”
“A bit what?” Roxy’s expression became dangerously grim. “It’s my name, all right?”
“Of course, of course.” Eric held up his hands. “Just, a stage name would give you…”
“A headache, that’s what it would give me.” Roxy interrupted. “I’m Roxanne, or Roxy if you prefer, but nothing else. Noone gives me a dumb nickname, all right?”
“All right, Roxy it is.” Eric gave up. “Then that’s settled? Good. I’ll see you girls tomorrow morning, and you’ll meet your vocalist then.” A smile crossed his face. “Congratulations, girls. You just agreed to become a part of the next big thing to hit America.”
Chapter One: Mary Phillips
Chapter Two: Enter Roxy
Chapter Three: Developments
Chapter Four: Birth Of A Star
Chapter Six: Outta My Way!
Chapter Seven: London
Chapter Eight: Shawn Harrison
Chapter Nine: The Tinkerbillys
Chapter Ten: Jerrica
Chapter Eleven: Only The Beginning