This is a novel-in-progress that I'm working on developing. I'd really appreciate some reviews if anyone's in the mood for giving them.

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"We're never going to get this right," Emily's voice was even more discouraged now than in had been the last time she spoke these words. She shook sweaty strands of bubblegum pink hair out of her face and popped a lozenge into her mouth to soothe her rapidly increasing hoarse throat, swirling her tongue around the medicinal-tasting drop until it began to dissolve.

Dan ran a shaky hand over his scarlet-tipped ebony hair and gave a heavy sigh laden with exasperation. "Stop saying that. You're going to jinx this."

Emily sat down on the edge of the bed, leaning the violet guitar against the chest of drawers beside it and stretching her legs out, shaking the pain out of them. "I think it's already jinxed, Danny. I think we should just face it; I can't sing. Never have, never will. Lessons aren't working, practice isn't working, and, to be frank with you, I don't like it. I'm not a vocalist, I'm a guitarist. Maybe we should just forget the whole thing."

Dan rubbed his hands over his face. "But we can't just forget it. You can't have a band without a vocalist! Unless you're writing elevator music, you need vocals."

"But we don't have a vocalist. You're too afraid to sing outside of the shower, my voice sounds like a dying gorilla, and nobody else will get off of their sofas to bother giving us a decent audition. It's not worth the effort anymore. Maybe we should call the whole thing off and start making video games for a living," Emily was now carefully sliding her guitar into its glittery pink case, signifying that she was finished for the afternoon. "You don't need a vocalist for that."

"We can't give up on this!" Dan said, slamming a fist into the carpet and absentmindedly running a careful hand over his keyboard. "We agreed when we started this band that we were in it together no matter what. You said you wouldn't quit on me."

"I never said I was quitting." Emily was calm, inspecting her fingernails and picking at the polish, sending flakes of it drifting to the carpet like glittering lime green petals. "But I never said I wouldn't suggest stopping when it started to become obvious that we're not cut out for this sort of thing. You're the one who has the secret obsessive dream of becoming a famous rock star."

"Emily, I am 22 years old. I'm not going to waste another year of my life working at a dumpy foreign pizza place. If I have to sell someone one more slice of 'cheese hold the anchovies', I am going to blow a gasket and kill everyone within a ten block radius with a dull pizza cutter. I'm holding another audition at 7 tonight. We'll find a vocalist eventually. Just give it some more time, okay?" Dan was scratching at a sticker on his keyboard and speaking as calmly as he could.

"Fine. I never said I was quitting, did I? I think we've had enough practice for the day." her guitar was placed against the wall with a soft bumping sound and she headed for the door. "I've got a date. I'll see you at seven." she was about halfway down the hall by now. "And don't forget your half of the rent is due."

"Fine, fine, yeah," Dan grunted, standing up and packing up his keyboard. Once it was safely stored away, he stretched his limbs and headed out for the porch. Tapping a clove cigarette into his palm, he leaned against the porch railing and smoked in silence, taking in his surroundings and watching the tendrils of smoke swirl up around his face and then into the air to drift out of sight.

Life was so dull these days. Starting a rock band was not at all what he had hoped it would be. They were going nowhere. What with Emily's less-than-perfect voice and his own stubborn terror at the thought of public singing, they were probably the least qualified people in the world to be in this line of work.

Things didn't change anymore. Dan was in a steady routine of waking up at noon, practicing with Emily and getting little results for most of the day, eating a sparse dinner, and staying up late into the night on a passionate quest for lyrics and keyboard parts. What with all that and working 3 mere days a week, life was becoming increasingly tedious. The only break in the routine for him was the auditions.

Their search for that perfect vocalist had taken them through endless hours of performers with promising talent, but never that special something that Dan was searching for, that special quality that would perfect their band and turn it from mediocre to professional. It had to be something that reached out to him, that completed his visions of the band. Emily told him that he was a perfectionist and a hopeless dreamer, and that no one would ever come along that fit his criteria. But he knew there was a vocalist for them out there somewhere. It was just a matter of patience and strategy, and begging strangers on his knees to come and audition for them. He had come to believe that to be in a rock band, you had to be alright with mass amount of begging. It had started with his begging his father for a keyboard seven years ago (which had resulted in his first broken nose), and now had come to begging for vocalists to sing for them.

If anyone had told him when he was fifteen that 7 years later his band (which had at the time consisted of only Dan) would still be going nowhere, he would probably have kept pressing onward. You had to be determined and stubborn as hell to get anywhere in the music industry, and Dan knew it, just as his brother Cain had known it when his band on just getting up onto its feet. Just as every successful rock star had known it in the beginning.

Dan had gone through several cigarettes by this time (cancer sticks, as Emily called them. Their landlord wouldn't let him smoke them in the house), and decided now was as good a time as any to make an early appearance at the warehouse where they had been holding auditions, just in case there were a few early birds who wanted to perform. He checked his watch. 6:15. Plenty of time. Dan stubbed out his cigarette and climbed into his Yugo, making sure the radio was blasting loud enough that he couldn't hear the sound of the car.

XXX

The lot around the old warehouse was as deserted as ever when Dan pulled up. It was just the way he liked it. The old place had a creepy, foreboding feeling, damp and musty, and the perfect place to collect his thoughts while waiting for today's bunch of singers. Shoving open the heavy steel doors, he wandered down the concrete-floored hall inside. The hallway had always been a favorite place of his. Lined with aluminum garage-door style doors, behind which lay storerooms long emptied of their possessions, cold and damp, an old and metallic scent in the air, a long and empty walk before reaching the actual inner chambers of the warehouse. It was drafty, shadowy, and, to most people, a bit unnerving. Dan prided himself in the fact that he was not 'most people'.

The inner chambers met him with their familiar dusty, hay-like scent. He wandered over to where their equipment was set up. It was nothing but a few small speakers and the one microphone that Dan had been able to afford with his Scantalini's paycheck. Not exactly a rock star's dream. But it was enough. Enough to make it look like they were reasonably serious about the whole 'band thing' at least.

Dan sat down on the edge of the makeshift stage (which was made out of discarded wooden crates pushed together) and swung his legs, waiting for the earliest participants to show up. He was bored, but he wouldn't dare smoke in the warehouse. It was a sacred place, and the smoke would irritate the participants' lungs, anyhow. And so he sat fidgeting on the edge of the crates in the semi-darkness until his watch confirmed that it was nearly 7:00. He then proceeded to get up and switch on the cheap stage lights he and Emily had set up weeks ago, wipe any excess dust from the 'stage', and then sat down impatiently to await Emily's arrival.