It was now, if ever, that she was nervous, waiting for the metaphorical curtain to rise. She was actually under the stage on a platform being raised to the surface. As her head emerged, she could feel the crowd's energy through the thick layer of fog over the stage, all her nervousness fell away as if she could syphon courage from the cheering masses. The atmosphere was so invigorating; she never failed to feel alive during a concert.
The music started as her rising platform came to a halt. Her brightly coloured flowing pants waved through the air as she walked purposely forward. They were so loose, in fact as to look like a skirt, but she could feel the skin tight fabric underneath. Her arms were clad in a stiff jean jacket, with red stripes that also concealed part of her second costume. She was barely five feet tall, and therefore, wearing high platform shoes to conceal this fact. Her light brown hair had ginger highlights in it, and was up in a neat bun at the back of her head in such a way that if she pulled the pins out, her curls would fall lose about her shoulders, revealing her second look of the evening. She could feel the layer of stage makeup covering her skin. She never did like the feeling, but it was part of the job. She did have to admit that the thick black lines she knew to be around her eyes, made her usually boring brown eyes look much better, more exotic.
There were blinding lights behind her, and backdrops on standby high above her head. Brightly coloured lights shone over the stage from every angle as she took the mic that was really just for show. She had a concealed microphone secured behind her ear.
Danica Louise Martin, known to her fans simply as Dani Brookes, greeted the gathered crowd who yelled back at her with great enthusiasm. She couldn't see the people past the bright stage lights, but she knew the Royal Albert Concert Hall in London seated over five thousand people. It was strange to feel so isolated while speaking to so many. The colour of the lights shifted, music began, and Danica started singing.
"The back of your hand touches my skin," Danica started her first song of the night, a slow romantic one. "As you walk by." Her hand not holding the mic, she slowly extended straight from her body in time with the music. "I can feel you here. Know you're near. I'm aware," she held the note, waiting for the cue from the music. "Of you." Again she held the note as she followed the melody, or rather, she pretended to hold the note. She'd actually recorded the song last week in the studio.
Two backup dancers joined her on the stage, swaying back and forth on either side of her as they snapped their fingers. They were dressed to match her costume, and were wearing the same jean jackets with red detailing, but on a more downplayed outfit.
"I'm aware, oh so aware of you," the chorus of her song started, and harmonies were added as she continued to lip sync to the recording of her own voice. "The lights go out, it's as if we are alone. I feel you in the room. I'm aware you are near me." The song ended, and Danica addressed the crowd, introducing her next track.
"Trash you ain't," she said between the beat of the drums as her next song started, a faster paced, self-love song. "You feel like the dirt on someone's shoe. I know you believe you aren't worth it." The music picked up as the drum rhythm intensified. "But trash you ain't." The song had a rap quality to it that made you want to tap your foot to the beat. She tilted the mic stand to the side for dramatic effect as she started the chorus. "You are brighter than the sun. Powerful like crashing waves against the rocks." Easing her jacket from her shoulders, Danica flung it into the crowd to the screaming fans in the front row.
The dance for this song was fast, and Danica was out of breath. Not singing live while performing really ruined her fun, but she had to admit, she sounded so much better recorded than gasping.
The lights dimmed as she started to hum the first few notes of her next slower song. "Empty conversation," she sang softly. "Hollow words and that vacant expression. Leaving your company I am cut down by shallow love, more painful than a knife to the heart." As she sang, Danica remembered when she'd filmed the music video for this song, the fake blood from her dramatic knife wound had stained her skin for days.
"Your shallow love won't do," Danica began the chorus. "Isn't worth my time. I can do better than you." As she completed the song, Danica walked out into the crowd and down one of the aisles. The lights followed her, and as the music changed and picked up speed, Danica moved faster to reach her costume change.
Her spot dimmed and shifted in colour. Danica reached down and ripped the outer layer of her pants off and threw them into the crowd, revealing the skin tight, high waisted shorts of her second costume. It was hot under the stage lights, especially with the dancing, and Danica was so glad to be wearing fewer layers. The roars of the crowd drowned out the first few lines of her next song, as the crowd took in the bright colours of her new outfit.
"Ohh I know you wish you were this tight cloth," Danica began singing the provocative lyrics as she ran a finger slowly up her leg along the fabric of her shorts. "Taunt against me. Oooh I know your hands want to touch me. Touch me bare. Strip it aw-ay and hold yourself-" She paused, her head down she pulled the pins from her hair, and then quickly flipped her head back up. Her perfect curls fell loose as she looked back up at the audience and delivered the last sultry line of the song. "Against me."
Danica finished the song as she walked back up to the main stage where her backup dancers were waiting for her. They too were in brand new outfits, though Danica knew they'd been able to leave the stage and change normally, rather than ripping half their clothes off on stage.
She stood now facing the crowd, with a back up dancer behind her on both sides, as she started singing again. "Those eyes, yours lips, they want me, bad." The song had a faster pace, more a dance song than a ballad. "Giving me power to own you. Oh sure, I'll be yours-" Then the music stopped, and she and her dancers stood frozen waiting for their cue. "If you know how to woo me." There was an abrupt jump in the music as the song moved quickly into lyrics about all the things a woman wants from her man. "And more I need before I am your-rs." She finished the song, and the stage lights went down. Danica took the chance to catch her breath while the stage was transformed around her.
A panel fell into place behind her as new props were wheeled onto the floor. A large elegant sofa with dark black lines mixed with warm yellow upholstery now stood in the center of the stage. The lights above changed to a soft deep pink, almost red, and Danica sat daintily on the sofa as a slow love song started. "You say you don't know how to love me," the song began. "You tell me I can do better. You say I am above you." She tilted her head up, holding the last note that moment longer. "But darling I know you are wrong." The music remained slow compared to her previous song, but it did get a little faster as she continued. "Your lovin' is all I really need. Can lift me high, high into the sky on a word. There is singing in my heart as I see you smile. You my dear are so very wrong about love. Our love is divine." She sang two more cheesy love songs on the fancy little sofa before her night's work was done.
"Thank you all for coming tonight!" Danica addressed the crowd. She was very glad they couldn't see her up close, as the hot stage lights were making her sweat. The lights went dark and the stage was flooded with her crew. The sets and props were moved back stage, and Danica herself slowly made her way there as well.
"That was great!" Steven congratulated her, his slight bald spot was just visible in the dim backstage lights, his greying hair evident at his temples, and a smile on his face. He was wearing his usual jeans and a wrinkled shirt, but luckily for him, producers didn't have to be on stage.
"Thanks," Danica beamed, still high on the thrill of a great performance. There was nothing like standing in front of a sea of people who loved you. Nothing except maybe standing in front of one person who loved you… but Danica pushed that thought away.
Speaking of love, next to arrive on the scene was Brody, her boyfriend. He had a great booming voice, and a six-pack for brains, but she wasn't quite sure if he even liked her. The phrase 'dumb blonde' came to mind when Danica thought about Brody. Sure, his jawline could only be described as chiseled, and his eyes were the perfect blue, but there was so little going on behind those eyes. They both loved music, but that was where the great similarities ended. When they went out in public together, Brody seemed to want to talk about his biceps more than anything else. Danica tried not to think the worst of him, but sometimes she couldn't help it.
"You were awesome!" Brody enthused as he came over to put an arm around her shoulders, his shady blonde hair getting in her face. She had to fight the urge to shake him off, though she wasn't sure why. The hug lasted only a second before he grabbed her arm and began to lead her back to the stage.
"Come on," he said. "The fans are waiting to see their power couple." Danica allowed herself to be dragged away, though slightly reluctantly. She usually greeted fans after a show, but somehow Brody was killing her high.
She plastered a smile on her face, and went to greet an ocean of fans all with arms outstretched. Then her smile became genuine; Brody was not going to ruin her day. Her fans were amazing, and Danica owed every single one of them for making her dreams come true. She moved through the crowd in a practiced way, signing what they put in front of her, and speaking to those who spoke to her.
"We're your biggest fans!" screamed a group of girls, all wearing her merchandise. One of them had an old edition of Pop Music Weekly and asked if she'd sign it. Danica agreed with a smile, trying not to think about how long it had been since she'd appeared in the magazine. As she signed her own face smiling seductively at her, Danica noticed just how much it didn't look like her thanks to the power of airbrushing.
"Thank you so much!" the girls giggled. "Our friends are gonna be so jealous." They were all still squealing excitedly as she moved on.
"Your music changed my life," said a boy, maybe twelve years old. He wasn't decked out in merchandise, and somehow this plain appearance made his statement carry more weight.
"In a good way I hope," Danica smiled at the boy who nodded, seemingly too nervous to speak. His mother stood beside him, encouraging him to say something more.
"Can you sign my CD?" he asked nervously.
"Of course I can," she replied. "What's your name?"
"Riley," he replied, and Danica scribbled her standard DB squiggle down with 'To Riley' above it. She loved watching the boy's face light up as he gazed at the CD in his hands. Danica tried not to think about how old that particular album was as she moved onto the next person.
She signed shirts, CDs, and all other assortments of her own merchandise for awestruck VIP fans who'd purchased backstage bonus tickets for what felt like hours, moving through the crowd as fairly as she could. Some of them told her they loved her, while others praised her music. One fan almost fell over in his desperate need to reach her, and Danica reflexively put her hand out to steady him.
"Wow," the boy said, a dorky grin on his face. Danica smiled at him as he tried to regain his balance. "Dani Brookes stopped me from falling over!" Danica laughed as he ran off, repeating that phrase over and over.
"We love you so freaking much!" Danica heard a group of maybe a dozen woman, ranging in age from teens to twenties, all shouting from off to her left. Danica yelled 'thanks' back to them, then turned and continued moving through the crowd.
One creep managed to get through Steven's security, and Danica found herself being hit on very obnoxiously by a guy who really needed to shower. She got comments in her fan mail sometimes about guys joking about marrying her, or simply wanting to have her for a night, but it was so much worse when they did it in person. The look in this man's eyes kind of scared her, and Brody was currently meters away and was therefore of no use to her at the moment.
Danica mumbled her excuses, then pointedly walked away from the creepy guy. She was very grateful to her fans in general, but there were a few that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She continued to move through the fans, trying to smile, but her heart wasn't in it anymore. Everyone was asking her about the love that inspired her songs, assuming they were about Brody or one of her other ex-boyfriends. She knew that telling them it was about her parents or her foster father, was not what they wanted to hear. Using platonic love to write love songs made her feel shallow and fake. Her thoughts spiraled downwards as she tried to make it through the crowd. Why her fans were so obsessed with her love life, she had no idea, but she knew they most definitely were. Danica felt old talking to teenagers, and she was sick of answering the question of which song was about which of her past lovers. She tried not to show her thoughts on her face as she continued to greet fans and sign merchandise for them. How was it that a hundred people praising her was so easily overlooked in favour of that one person cutting her down?
When she was finally done, Danica escaped to her trailer. She opened her contact case and placed the lenses into solution for the night. Opening the drawer to the right, and pulling out her glasses, Danica's world came back into focus, her eyes once again made to look smaller from the lenses in her glasses. Taking her glasses off again, Danica started scrubbing down her face, washing away all the eyeshadow, foundation, and lipstick from her skin. There was a knock on her door, and Danica called out for them to come in as she put her glasses back on.
"It was a great show," Steven said smiling as he sat down on the couch behind her.
"Yeah," Danica sighed. She had her face back to normal now, though her hair was a different story, still crunchy with curling products and hair spray.
"What's wrong?" Steven asked in that tone that reminded her of the man who'd raised her, rather than the business manager he was now.
"I sing about love," Danica said. "It's what I'm known for, but I don't know anything about it, and what's worse is that I haven't even put out an album about fake love in so long."
"I'm sure your writer's block won't last forever," Steven tried to console her. "And you have Brody."
"Oh yeah he's great," Danica said sarcastically. "I'll bet he's still out there signing autographs for me. He probably hasn't noticed I left." Danica stared at herself in the mirror and wondered if there was something wrong with her. What twenty-eight year old woman hadn't experienced love?
Steven sighed as he sat down on the couch behind her, clearly unsure of how to comfort her. "I stand on that stage observed by thousands, but seen by no one," Danica explained. "It's like the very fact so many people are looking at me, means I can't be seen by just one person." She turned to face him, and he held his arms out to her. She welcomed the hug, not realizing quite how badly she'd needed it until then. Some days Danica wished Steven was her father, as she could barely remember her own.
"After this tour is over you are going on vacation," Steven whispered.
"Yeah right," Danica laughed.
"I mean it," he replied. "You should go somewhere where no one knows you. That would be a real break."
"Sounds nice," she smiled, pulling out of the hug.
"Get some sleep," he told her as he stood up. "You are going to need it." Steven closed the door behind him, and she got started getting the gunk out of her hair before bed. As she climbed under the covers, her hair finally clean, her thoughts drifted to the days before she was famous. Travelling around the world with Steven, writing song lyrics on napkins in restaurants.
She'd hardly dated before her career took off, and now she feared it was too late to get it right. The tabloids made her out as this super sex goddess or something, who had a dramatic romantic clash with a new man every other week. At least when she was officially known to be dating Brody, the crazy died down a little, but not before Danica's friend Skyler had been pulled into it. They'd been friends since childhood, but the moment she started becoming well known, Skyler and her had quickly realized they had to be very careful about being seen in public together. Rumors started spreading that she was having an affair with him, despite the fact that Skyler had married his high school sweetheart a year after their graduation. It seemed that if you were famous and photographed next to the same member of the opposite sex more than once, they created an elaborate love story for you.
Danica woke up the next morning feeling sulky and unrested, but the show must go on. She repeated the same concert that night, and managed to keep a smile on for the VIP fans after. Then they moved again. Tours were always a non-stop trip to crazy towns, and by the time they reached the end, Danica was about ready to fall down and sleep until the end of recorded time. She loved it though. She loved her job. Creating something for others to enjoy was a dream come true. If only she could get past her writer's block, and publish a new album instead of just doing tours for her old ones.
As the lights went out on her concert in Toronto, Danica let out a deep sigh as if she'd been saving it since London. The tour was over. It was one of those moments when you are glad you did it, but so glad it was over. She got off the stage to huge applause, and was just finished signing things for her VIP fans when she heard Brody's voice. Turning she saw him talking to a woman holding a microphone with a cameraman behind her. The press, she thought with a sigh.
"Danica and I are like so solid you know," Brody bragged. "She loves it when I dote on her, bringing her breakfast in bed, that sort of thing." His voice had a sweetness to it, as if his tone could make the lies no longer lies. "She makes me, like, think about the future."
"Do have plans to propose to her?" the reporter asked, very excited.
"Maybe," Brody smirked. "She works so hard you know. Makes me want to help."
"I am sure she values your support," the reporter replied.
"Yeah," Brody said.
Danica wanted to roll her eyes. What the hell was she thinking? Dating Brody was not worth the slight relief from the paparazzi. There was no scenario in which she'd say yes to marrying him. Him telling a reporter of such plans whether they were true or not made her so angry. It was the feather that broke the camel's back. Calmly, Danica walked over to them.
"Brody," Danica began firmly, knowing there were at least three camera's on her at the moment. He turned slowly, stunned to see her, and hear cold anger in her voice. "We are through. This is me breaking up with you and your biceps." She turned swiftly, and then slowly walked away, surprised how much lighter she felt.
With a grin on her face, Danica texted Steven saying she was going to take him up on that secret vacation idea. Then she started packing. Once she had the last of her costume and makeup off her face, her hair clean, and product free, and her bag packed, Danica took a moment to appreciate where she was going. A vacation free of bodyguards and press. She was going to silence her phone, and not check a single media site for reactions to her breaking up with Brody, or any other trends with her name in the tag. This would be her escape, and she needed it.
Suitcase in hand, Danica moved quickly, still fueled by the thrill of the unknown. She didn't know where she was going, and she wasn't going to say goodbye. She would lose herself in the crowds of Toronto, get on a plane, and be free.
Danica got a cab, and left for the the airport, still not totally sure what she was doing. She felt like a child who had run away from home. She knew it was rather silly, being that she was almost thirty, but she couldn't help it. Danica took a deep breath before entering the airport and walking up to the lady behind the counter.
"How can I help you?" the woman asked. She was wearing a uniform that consisted of a light blue shirt with a dark red collar, and plain black pants. Her name tag read 'Trixie', and she looked bored out of her mind.
"I'm looking for a last minute vacation spot," Danica explained. She was wearing glasses, no makeup, and an oversized hat, which combined, she hoped was enough to allow her to keep a low profile. "Somewhere west of here."
"There's Winnipeg," Trixie offered. "Edmonton is a popular tourist spot because of their mall. Vancouver is very west. I've heard good things."
"Somewhere remote," Danica added, knowing those all to be big cities.
"Do you want to be on the beach?" Trixie continued, yet to glance up from her computer. "Vancouver Island is nice." Danica agreed, and Trixie continued. "There are five airports on the island. Which would you like?"
"The smallest one," Danica answered.
"One ticket to Tofino, BC," Trixie stated as she pushed buttons on the computer. "ID please, and how will you be paying?"
She knew it was illegal for airlines to give out passenger details, though she could still be recognized by staff and other people on the plane. The fate of her vacation at this point was totally based on luck. Just as Danica thought, this Trixie looked up, and her mouth fell slightly open. Danica winced. She knew that look, eyes wide with wonder. She was doomed.
"Oh wow!" Trixie said, suddenly ecstatic. "Did I just help Dani Brookes choose a vacation spot!?"
"Yes you did," Danica hissed. "And could you please keep your voice down?"
"Can you sign… like everything I own?!" she squealed.
"If you don't tell anyone I'm here, I will sign whatever you like," Danica sighed.
"Deal!" Trixie replied, grinning.
Thanks for reading the first chapter! Please leave me a review and let me know what you think.
Sneak Peek Chapter 2
The rain didn't seem to bother the locals that could be seen on the beach in rain or shine. Deciding it was best to join them, Danica went out in the rain. Not having packed a bathing suit, she simply walked along the beach. She loved the crashing of the waves, the taste of the salty air and the sound of gulls, but it was the rhythm of the water that held her focus. The back and forth had a calming effect, like all the troubles of the world were nothing compared to the power of the white foam crashing into the shore. There was a violence to the way the water attacked the rocks, slowly crumbling the hard stone into sand. It was quite something to think of, the ocean gradually carving up the land for hundreds of years. The harmless liquid winning against the seemingly impervious cliffs in the long run. Danica felt sure there was a song in there somewhere, but the harder she tried to come up with a tune or some lyrics the less she liked the results.
Giving up for the moment, Danica stopped to appreciate the beauty she couldn't find the words to express in a song. The peaceful sounds and happy laughter of those on the beach was so wonderfully different from the bright lights and flashing cameras she had come to associate with her life. There were a group of children splashing around in the water ahead of her. She'd passed a couple getting into a kayak a ways back and could now see them on the horizon.