|Bernie tapped his pen against his teeth. Jessalyn squirmed in her chair, looking down, avoiding his eye.
“I don’t have all day, Jessalyn. Have you made up your mind?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Kriegbaum. It’s an important decision for me and I don’t like to rush.” If the truth be told, thought Jessalyn, I wish Daddy was here to tell him for me.
Jessalyn Jones hated to disappoint anyone. That made her difficult to deal with at times, but immensely popular.
Bernie drew a deep breath and let out a long, heavy sigh. “Well, why don’t you get back to me when you have a decision? I’ve got a lunch date and I don’t want to be held up waiting around for your answer.” He reached into his desk for his wallet and keys. Under his breath, but loudly enough to make sure she heard, he added, “I should know better than to work with little girls.”
“Excuse me?” Jessalyn’s head snapped up. Her hands dropped to her side and gripped the edges of her seat. She locked her eyes with his and asked, “Could you repeat that, please? I’m not sure I heard you.”
“It’s nothing. I just need to go,” he mumbled.
Jessalyn stood and placed both palms flat on his desk, looming over him. The light from the window blinded Bernie as he looked up into her face.
“Don’t tell me you buy into that ‘air-headed pop-tart’ nonsense, Bernie,” she chided. “It’s just a TV show.”
“I wasn’t finished.” She paused, giving him a chance to speak. He declined. Good boy, she thought.
“Who do you think you’re dealing with? Some bleached blonde bimbo from one of your cliché-laden music videos? Jessalyn Enterprises grossed $750 million last year. We netted more in lunch pails than you will make in your entire career, directing geriatric rock stars that want to prance around as if they still matter. I auditioned you to make my next video as a favor to a friend, and you have the nerve to sit there in your fake leather chair with your bad comb-over in your tawdry office suite and dismiss me as a little girl?
“I’m not some size two genetic lotto winner basking in my fifteen minutes, waiting for the gleam of public fascination to wane as I make the sad transition from the cover of People to the inside page of The Globe. My parents didn’t turn me into a Little Miss Davenport and then hand me to the Hollywood machine to manufacture into another flavor-of-the-month. When I turn twenty-one I will have to decide at which of my nineteen restaurants I want to have my first drink! I’m thinking Denver, although my jet may not be able to land there that time of year. Maybe I’ll just fly a few friends out to my island.
“Do you really believe my ‘official’ bio when it says my parents encouraged me to drop out of high school at age fifteen to pursue singing? I tested out of high school because I couldn’t be bothered. And I was only fourteen. Fifteen was the year my first album went double-platinum."
Jessalyn took her seat again, her rage subsiding. She had been having a bad day, but suddenly she felt so much better. Bernie stared dumbfounded, jaw hanging open.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Jones,” he managed to stammer.
“I’m a business woman, Bernie, and I make it a point to keep my business relationships on a professional level. In your case I could be persuaded to make an exception. Maybe when I’m finished with you, you might get a gig walking Paris’ dog. On the other hand, I would be more than happy to forget all about this little meeting. You’re not at all right for my next video, Punk Me Hard. I want something edgy and now. But I saw the work you did with Diana Krall and you might be right for my next ballad.
“I’m going to leave now so you can get to your lunch. Call my assistant next month if you are ready to do some business. That is,” she couldn’t resist adding with a flash of her million-dollar smile, “if you don’t mind working with little girls.”