A Movie Starlet
Chapter Two: Make or Break

"What made you choose this song?"
Sylva glanced up from the sheet of lyrics, dropping them back down onto the coffee table. "It's a pretty song, Topaz, but isn't it kinda ambitious if you only have a few days?"
"Not really." I know the words, pretty much." Topaz shook her head. "I have the CD somewhere - well, more likely I left it in Canada when I left home. It's just a case of getting the phrasing perfect, that's all."
She sighed, dropping down onto the sofa. "I make it sound easy, huh? I hope it will be."
"You look beat." Sadie emerged from the kitchen at that moment, a sandwich in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. "It been a long day?"
"In a way." Topaz admitted. "Trying rather than long. I think I'm just not used to going to the music company on a whim any more, that's all." She looked rueful. "I feel like I aged a few years instead of a few months, actually. It'd help a lot if Hollie would give me a good night's sleep."
"Babies are thoughtless like that." Sylva remarked. Topaz nodded.
"It wasn't all her fault today, though." She conceded. "I had to bath and change her when we got in, which led to screams for her dinner, so I fed her. Then I'd just got the poor kid off to sleep when someone rang my cell - it was a wrong number, but it woke the babe up. The caller got treated to some choice epithets for waking my baby." She looked sheepish. "Luckily I don't think he knew which harried single LA mom he'd reached, so I doubt the presses will be buzzing with news of my tantrum tomorrow. Hol took ages to get back to sleep after that, and once she was I stuck the baby radio on and headed down here to work on this thing. Kinda takes it out of you."
"But Topaz, this is kinda how it's gonna be from now on." Sylva shot her a doubtful look. "Weirdos and wrong numbers aside. You do realise that? Once you get back to working full time..."
"Yeah, I know." Topaz nodded her head. "And I'm thinking about ways to work around it, but I've not worked one out yet. There must be one - I just haven't seen it yet. Emily manages with Michael, and maybe if I was to go ask Kimber at the foundation, she might help me out by taking Hollie whenever the creche can't. I mightn't be a former Starlight girl like Em is, but Kimber's a sweetie. I'm sure she'd help."
She indicated the lyrics.
"For now, though, I have to focus on this, if I'm to stand any chance when I meet this Warrington guy. I ought to do it whilst I've brain time to myself."
"Anything we can do?" Sadie asked.
"I don't see what, except tell me if it sounds really awful." Topaz got to her feet, moving over to the CD player. "Could you?"
"Sure, we'll boo and throw rotten eggs." Sylva told her with a grin. "We can manage that, can't we, Sade?"
"Sure." Sadie agreed good-naturedly. "I'll save some of my sandwich just in case."
Topaz merely grimaced at them, skimming over the lyrics one last time, then setting the sheet down and pressing play.
One thing that had never been in any doubt was Topaz's ability to sing. When Jewel had first met her in Canada, it had been her powerful, yet sweet voice that had attracted the group's attention, and had brought Phyllis into the equation. Behind closed doors, the powers that be at Misfit Music secretly believed that she was the best singer they currently had on their books, and consequently had gone to great lengths to ensure the girl remained with them in Los Angeles, despite the complications her personal life had begun to throw up. As she finished singing, Sadie and Sylva set up a round of applause which made the Canadian laugh.
"It wasn't that good." She reproached. "As pros you should know that. I've sung it better today, and I went flat in that middle section."
"You sing so beautifully though." Sadie told her, a dreamy look entering her dark blue eyes. "I can almost imagine you as the woman in that film. You put so much emotion into it - I wish I could sing like that."
"Thanks, Sadie." Topaz was touched. "Well, at least I'm good for something, huh? I mean, I don't play guitar properly, and I can't write music or sketch the way you do. I can't play keys like Syl or drums like Copper. And I'm no musical genius like Nancy. I have to have something going for me, for Phyllis and Jetta to keep me on."
"Maybe you'll be an actress too." Sylva suggested. "I still can't believe you're going to audition for Milton Warrington. That has to be the most exciting thing ever, surely?"
"The more I think about it, the more exciting it sounds." Topaz admitted. "I think I was a bit thrown for six when Phyllis suggested it, but I've had all day to get used to the idea and I can't help thinking that it would be amazing to do. Lots of fun and I'd still get to sing - maybe even prove I can be more versatile than I thought. But it is still a big 'if', girls. Milton Warrington might not like me. When he meets me, he might decide I'm not what he's after. I refuse to get my hopes up too much - I'll just go in there and do my best - we'll see what comes next."
"Sane way of looking at it." Sadie looked approving. "But I hope you do get it, Topaz. If nothing else, noone could beat you on voice."
"Well, if you say so - but they could definitely beat me on experience and acting skill." Topaz rolled her eyes. "Those two things count a lot in films too."
"You've done music videos." Sylva objected.
"Not the same thing."
"No, but you're used to wardrobe and makeup and cameras and all of that." Sylva shrugged. "That's partway there, at least. You're not some showbiz rookie."
"True." Topaz grinned. "At least I have my own cheering squad at home, if nothing else!"
She glanced around her.
"Speaking of which, where are Copper and Nancy?"
"Nancy stopped behind to discuss album tracks with her Mom and Phyllis." Sylva told her. "Copper got a text from Aaron and I think she went to meet him - it's his free afternoon. There's just the three of us - and Hollie, of course - at home."
"Well, I'm dearly hoping that the younger Miss Stapleton will sleep for some time to come." Topaz said dryly. "Though we'll see. She is teething."
"Already?" Sadie looked startled. Topaz nodded.
"Yeah, though it doesn't seem to be troubling her majorly as yet. She's just dribbling a lot. The pacifier keeps her fairly happy - I'm not looking forward to when it becomes full scale."
"Well, if you need any extra help, just yell." Sadie offered. Topaz grinned.
"Thanks." She responded. "I'll keep it in mind."
At that moment the cellphone on the table began to bleep and Topaz scooped it up, hitting 'call receive' and putting it to her ear.
"Hello? Topaz." She said. "Oh, hi Phyllis. You did? And?" There was a pause, then, "Oh, fab. How did he sound - is he still keen to hear me? Great. That gives me more confidence." Another pause, in which Sadie and Sylva exchanged looks, then, "All right then. No, the song is going fine - I'm working through it and there are no problems. I'm gonna give it my best and we'll see how it goes. Well, all right. More than my best. Okay. Thanks for letting me know, Phyllis. Bye!"
She terminated the call, setting down the phone.
"Friday." She told her expectant companions. "At eleven thirty. That gives me two days. Apparently Phyllis thought he still sounded eager - he'd fitted me in as soon as he possibly could, and he hadn't forgotten calling her, so that's good. Seems I have something of the right 'look' as well as the right voice. But we'll see. I'm taking nothing for granted until I've seen him."
"Where do you have to go?" Sadie wondered.
"His office. Phyllis is gonna fax me through the details." Topaz replied. "Are you girls working on Friday morning? If so I'll drop Hol at creche, but..."
"We'll probably be in studio." Sadie pursed her lips. "We've got to lay the new track down this week or early next, apparently - so I can't see us having another free afternoon like this. We're only off now because someone blew up a tape deck."
"Cynthia has Friday free. Maybe she'll Hollie-sit." Sylva suggested. "You know she adores spending time with Baby Jewel."
"I'll ask her." Topaz nodded. "But for now I want to give that song another go. It's got to be perfect if I'm gonna blow this guy away on Monday, after all!"

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 "So, 'ow did she take the idea?"
Jetta Pelligrini pushed open the door of her colleague's office, casting the woman behind the desk a quizzical look. Phyllis set down her pile of paperwork, shrugging her shoulders.
"Well, she needed to be talked into it some, but she's gonna do it." She responded. "I just called her to tell her what time he wants her and all of that - she sounded more enthusiastic. Dunno. Guess we'll see how it goes."
"This is make or break for the girl." Jetta sat down in the empty chair, her expression thoughtful. "We both know that she 'as a damn fine voice, an' she's worth a fortune to this company. But she 'as to get back into singin' and the public eye before people forget she ever existed. Jewel are movin' on leagues without 'er, an' though they do miss 'er strength of voice, they've been able to 'andle more complicated melodies since Sadie signed on with the group. Topaz is in very real danger of gettin' edged out of the scene altogether."
"Do you think we miscalculated, keeping her on when she chose to leave the group?" Phyllis looked surprised. Jetta shook her head.
"No, not yet." She responded. "Girl 'as a lot of talent in 'er, and this whole film business is a stroke of luck. Even though it's actin', as such, there's bound to be plenty in it for Misfit Music. Warrington's musical extravaganza's usually involve one or two big 'it singles, as well as a soundtrack album which would make a pretty penny for anyone involved. Stormer's worked on one or two of 'is things before in composition, so she told me a little bit about 'ow 'e works with the music side of things. I reckon Topaz might get one or two solo 'its from this business, and it keeps 'er tickin' over. If she continues to want to act, well, then we might 'ave to think things through, but so long as she's got some confidence to sing up there without the rest of the girls, then I think our problem is solved. Trouble is the kid's chicken. She's spent so long as part of a band that being a solo artist is scarin' 'er. This business is just what she needs to get back into the swing of things."
"I tend to agree." Phyllis nodded, pursing her lips. "If she gets the part. Warrington ain't the kind of person I can call up and, shall we say, persuade in our favour. He's well known for being straight down the line and honest as they come, which is a pity."
"You think she might not get it?"
"I think she has the best damn singing voice in the state of California." Phyllis said quietly. "But she's never acted before. That might let her down."
"Well, she can only do her best." Jetta shrugged. "And 'ope 'er voice carries 'er through. What if she doesn't nail it?"
"I'm not sure." Phyllis looked thoughtful. "I guess I'll put her on to Stormer to produce a solo album and hope for the best. She could really use the publicity, though. I grant that not all of Jewel's recent publicity has been good, with the whole murder business in England, but they won the contest in Morvania and were the guests of the royals there - that made a splash in the presses, and people keep asking them what it was like to visit a real old royal palace. They went down so well over there that I'm even thinking of getting them to stick the Morvania song on the album, when Nancy's done tweaking it for studio recording."
"Why not?" Jetta shrugged. "Damn good song, even if my girl didn't write it."
"That can only be good for Jewel, though, if they've got two potential sources of new music rather than one." Phyllis looked pensive. "The new song is one of Nancy's, I think...I've no worries about that one. Soon as the equipment is running properly again, we'll have them in laying the damn thing down ready for release."
She pulled open a drawer of her cabinet, pulling out a newspaper clipping and pushing it across the desk.
"See? This kind of publicity is what Topaz needs."
Jetta scooped up the clipping, glancing over it.
"Jewel score first number one with biggest selling single of the year so far." She read. "American rock act Jewel notch their first ever number one in the United Kingdom, despite the recent scandals in the local press. D.Js and music acts alike acclaim the girls as potentially the next big thing to sweep the country, and music stores are predicting that their album, Exotic, will sell more than half a million copies within it's first week of issue. At the time of going to press, Jewel's single, 'Freak', had sold more copies than any other Jewel single so far, and the UK special edition version of the album, including the hit track, goes on sale Monday."
"See? Positive, positive, positive." Phyllis shrugged, taking it back. "But noone asks any questions about Topaz. Noone wonders where she is, what she's doing, what happens next. Jewel are producing successful music, so noone's too fussed about the fact they've changed personnel somewhat. Topaz is fading out of the picture and we have to move fast. If she gets this part, we have to impress upon her the importance of packaging and promoting one of the songs from it as a single. As her representatives, we'll doubtless be involved in all of that. Warrington likes to involve music companies of our calibre, anyway."
"I see your point." Jetta frowned. "Does Topaz realise all of this?"
"Not yet, but if she doesn't start to hit the public eye soon, she's gonna get a rude wakeup call." Phyllis replied grimly. "Like you said, Jetta - it's make or break. This movie contract could save her career...I only hope she's going to take this seriously."


Chapter One: A Surprise For Topaz
Chapter Two: Make or Break
Chapter Three: Audition
Chapter Four: First Day
Chapter Five: Travis' Plot
Chapter Six: Making Choices
Chapter Seven: Jewel...and Jack
Chapter Eight: Topaz Shines
Chapter Nine: Trouble
Chapter Ten: Crisis
Chapter Eleven: Morgan Explains

Chapter Twelve: Topaz's Future