A young musician meets her father for the first time.
This story began as simply as watching a television show. Only Haley’s name and the fact that she is a musician got inspiration from the show, however. The rest grew, as this writer actually allowed her mind to go down its melodramatic wanderings. Initially, I intended for this piece to focus only on Haley and how her growing fame affected her relationships with her friends.
However, slowly but surely, the background of her childhood and the relationship between she and her parents (her father in particular) began to appear to me. I am still working on the lives of Elizabeth and Jacob Scott- their youth, their careers, their relationships and, eventually, the end of their marriage. Unfortunately, these segues from Haley’s story are only coming to me a few snippets at a time. I know that I want to stay in Haley’s present for the main story line and intersperse her story with the different flashbacks from her parents’ younger days. The idea that I am most attracted to for the time being for an overall format for the story will be to join a series of short stories into one, larger story.
I honestly enjoy this piece, even in its sometimes angst- driven plotlines. Though I am certainly not a musician on my way to fame, I do play guitar and I based a lot of Haley’s actions both from childhood and her present on aspects of my own personality. As a child, an only child, I spent many a night in my bedroom giving concerts to an audience of stuffed animals. Like Haley, I didn’t see my actions as childhood pretend-play, instead, every bit of me saw these actions as rehearsal and I spent a great deal of my youth just waiting to be “discovered.” As an adult, though a tiny bit of my heart still waits for my discovery, which has given way to a bit of neuroticism. I tried to convey Haley as having a bit of that same trait in the scenes backstage when she so frantically tries to remain in control of the situation by double- checking behind her staff before going on stage. I feel that a child who spent her childhood rehearsing for something that is becoming her reality would try frantically to keep that reality just that, her reality, and would try everything possible to keep it from again becoming her dream.
As a student of history, I don’t often get the chance to write anything other than reports on real events. Rarely do I get the chance to offer any real piece of my own personality in my writing. At first, this task proved quite difficult for me and my first few writings showed that; not only did I write two historically based stories (one in the old west and the other in ancient Sparta) but both stories were far more narration than anything else. I had a difficult time incorporating a lot of dialogue into my stories- a lot of “telling” as some peer readers aptly put it, and I knew that, and I still have some issues with that in this story. However, I do think that I am improving on that a bit with the additional writings I been working on.
The writings that have been submitted in class to this point have mainly focused on Haley, the concert she is giving and what is going through her mind with the onset of her father’s return to her life. I am looking forward to working on the stories about her mother, father, their relationship and careers and I am hoping to get quite a bit of writing done for the portion of the story for the final project. The Scott family story can go in so many directions, actually choosing the story lines that I want to take are bringing with them a slight case of writer’s block. I hope that the storyboards I am creating will prove themselves right for the story.
She could feel the concrete floor beneath her feet trembling under the excitement of the crowd waiting for her to appear. She could hear them cheering and screaming for her. Flanked on all sides by her employees- manager, Steve, barking orders into the radio he kept with him at all times; make- up artists, painting foundation on her face; hairdressers teasing, brushing and spraying her brown locks; and the lighting technicians reviewing her stage choreography- she never felt more alone.
She always thought she wanted this. What little girl didn’t sing into a hairbrush in front of her mirror and dream of the days spent traveling the world singing to thousands of adoring fans? But, unlike the others, her childhood was different. She too sang in front of the mirror; but instead of acting out a fantasy, she was rehearsing- all the while knowing her destiny as a musician. Her father was musician and her uncle, both singers, and players of bass guitar and drums, respectively. Her mother and aunt even joined in during the band’s heyday, taking roles as back-up singers, costume designers, managers, band chefs and merchandise salesmen. Music had brought her parents together, what brought her into the world, and what, ultimately destroyed her family.
Uncle Charlie and Aunt Diane ended up divorcing when she found that he had gotten too friendly with a number of the band’s groupies, and several children had resulted from those encounters. From there, Charlie squandered most of his acquired fortune on child support, lawyer fees, and whatever number of drugs he’d take to numb the pain. Aunt Diane didn’t fare much better, she remarried three more times following the divorce, each time losing part of her multi- million divorce settlement to the men who had convinced her she would never have to go through the pain of a divorce again.
Jacob, her own father, had disappeared without ever getting to know his daughter. But, every year he sent a birthday card and a check, but nothing else. Never with an apology and absolutely no attempt at scheduling a meeting. He never seemed to realize that it takes more than a simple “Happy Birthday, Little Girl” on a card every year or money to make up for the pain of being abandoned. He’s never figured it out. Her mother fared surprisingly well, given her circumstances. She raised her daughter in a secure home, wanting so desperately for the young one to get an education and to be more than a fledgling musician. But, deep down, her mother knew that music was in her daughter’s blood, awaiting revelation.
She always knew that she loved music, it felt as if she knew where the lyrics came from and how the writer came to put them to paper and then later to music. That feeling was explained to her one day after school. She and her best friend, Michelle, had come home to her empty house and began playing an innocent game of hide and seek with other kids from the neighborhood where she found herself hiding in the attic. Her mother never let her in the attic and this was the perfect opportunity for her to find out why. In the far corner, under a thick blanket of dust, she found a pile of concert posters lying on a large wooden chest. J & C: Live in Concert- Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Jacksonville... The venues continued at cities all across the country. She had dismissed the posters as nothing more than the idea that her mother was merely a fan when she saw it. Her mother’s faced looked back at her from the posters- and Aunt Diane’s and Uncle Charlie’s. Smiling coyly at the camera, with a face strikingly familiar to her own, stood her father.
She closed her eyes and drifted back to the first time that she had ever seen him. She was five years old and had found a torn picture in one of her mother’s dresser drawers. In the photo stood her mother, in a wedding dress, next to a man that she had never seen before but whose face looked a lot like her own. She asked her mother that afternoon if the man she married was her father. Failing to meet her daughter’s strong gaze, Elizabeth could only nod her head.
She opened the chest to find more piles of papers. Hand -written song lyrics, set lists, love letters sent back and forth between her parents, concert T- shirts from different tours and what seemed to be costumes worn by her family on tour. Tears began to well in her eyes, she tried blinking them away, but it was no use. Bawling, she stumbled backwards, away from the only thing that could offer her any connection to her father and she spotted it- tucked even further back behind the chest, stood a guitar case, shrouded in dust and shadow. Slowly, she opened the case. With dust and stale air filling her lungs, she picked up the shining instrument and the feeling wafted over her for the first time ever.
“Haley! What are you doing?” She heard her mother call from the attic opening. She opened her tear-filled eyes to see her manager, inches from her face.
“Are you ready to go on stage? The crowd is waiting for you.”
“Of course I’m ready. I was just… thinking” she said, reluctantly.
“That’s nice Hales, but those fans out there aren’t screaming for you to stand there and think” Steve replied in his always businesslike, ‘I’m a rock star’s agent’ voice.
“Okay, okay- I’m going. Is everything ready? Are my guitars all tuned? My earpiece set up? Are the set lists are posted for the band? Are the costume changes ready? How does my hair look? How’s my make up? How’s my outfit? How’s my?”
“Haley! Everything is all set up, ready and waiting for you. The guitars are fine, your mic is ready, and your earpieces are on you. The band knows what they’re playing, you look gorgeous and those people are waiting for you- calm down. This is what you hired us to worry about” said Michelle, smiling.
“I know, I know, I was just thinking about dad and you know how that gets me once I get started down that memory lane” She replied with a sigh.
“Honey, it’s ok, I know and we’ll talk about it later. But for now, you really have to get going; it sounds like they’re going to start a riot if you don’t get out there. Have a great show” Michelle said with a brief hug followed by an outfit check.
Haley took a deep breath and tried to clear the thoughts of her father out of her mind. This was her biggest show to date- nearly five thousand people- a sold out crowd-all screaming for her. Alone, she continued up the tunnel, walked around the back of the stage, up the steps, picked up her guitar the crossed the stage to her microphone stand.
As the arena lights went down and the stage lights came up, she took a deep breath and swung her guitar strap across her shoulder. When the crowd’s screams began to subside, she calmly said with a smile, “Hello, I’m Haley Scott” and the screams started again.
With the first strums of her guitar, she lost herself in the music. All the memories from earlier that day faded further away with each new chord. As she sang, she looked into the faces of the young girls in the crowd, each one singing along with her every word. It wasn’t long ago that she found herself in those same shoes, and each concert found her searching the faces for the one. She always looked for that young idealist in the crowd that seems most involved, most lost in her lyrics, the face most like her own. She remembered the days of camping out on sidewalks trying to get tickets for her favorite singers and standing for hours, smashed against barricades singing along with the artist at the top of her lungs.
It took her several songs to see him. Since he was standing quietly in the middle of the crowd with a slight smile on his face and not singing along she thought he was just the father of a young fan. Then it hit her- this man was obviously lost in the lyrics, and looked exactly the same as the concert posters she’d found in the attic so many years ago. His moustache was gone and his hair was graying at the temples, but the face was the same- square jaw, sparkling blue eyes and dimples stretching down the length of his cheeks. She blinked away the tears and tried to hide the look of shock from her face and tried to make sure that the man she saw was her father, but when she returned her gaze, he was gone.
To her fans’ dismay, she finished the song and headed backstage for a quick cool down, drink of water and costume change. Again, she found herself surrounded by costumers, make-up artists and hair stylists while frantically telling the story to Michelle.
“I swear I saw him! I know it was him! It has to be! But then he was gone when I looked back.”
Michelle, not knowing what to say, tried calming her panicking best friend. “Hales, you know it was just wishful thinking. The man probably just kind of looked like him and you just thought you saw him because you wanted to.”
“Yeah, you’re right” Haley sighed. “It’s just so close to the time of year that I found that chest and I’ve been thinking about him so much. But you’re right. Thank you.”
As she rushed back onstage, from the right wing shadows a figure stepped toward her. “I do believe you’re using my guitar, Little Girl.”
“Jacob… Charlie… You boys better get down here ‘fore your daddy comes in from the east field. I told him y’all had schoolwork to do so you could play the afternoon away…” Dorothy Scott yelled to the sound of faint drums and vibrations coming from the attic door hiding her sons and their instruments. She could barely hear the laughing boys from under their feet and the boom of the base drum.
“Be right down, Momma” Jacob yelled back, muffled by the wooden floor.
Dorothy smiled to herself. That smile immediately dissipated as she heard her husband slam the screened kitchen door behind him. Glancing to the sounds above her head, she worried Boys, you better get your tails down here, she thought to herself.
“Dot! Dorothy! Where you at? I told you to have my dinner ready by the time I got in… Woman you gonna be in a world ‘a hurt if I don’t have supper on the table by the time I get back to the kitchen!”
Rushing down the stairs, she tried to intercept her husband before he got within in earshot of their two boys.
“Hi Honey!” she said with a smile, trying to muster enough believable happiness to convince her Sasquatch of a husband she was excited to see him. “How was work? Did you get everything done that you wanted to? Dinner’s almost ready you go sit down, Ill go get the boys from their studies, they been working all day so…”
“Yeah, I’m sure them two been ‘workin all day.’ They ain't gonna amount to nothing if you keep coddlin them and lettin em waste time on them instruments all day. Neither one of them is Elvis… or Johnny Cash… or Hank Williams. They come from working stock not music stock. They’re built for work. And no, I didn’t get everything done I need to- I was two workers short because you’re letting them play all day. Dot, they’re almost full- grown men and they ain’t hardly done a lick of work in years- not since you let them start singing in the choir with you.”
“My family’s musical, Jack. My momma was a music teacher; I’m musical- singing, playing organ at church. Then again, if you came to church with us more than once in a month of Sundays, you’d know that” Dorothy said to husband, looking him straight in the eye.
Clenching his fists and his jaw, Jack Scott shook his head. “You’re getting brave, aintcha? Shit, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you wanted to get smacked in the face before dinner.” He’d never hit her when he was sober, he’d been in the fields all day with nothing but water, he and his wife knew he’d wasn’t able to raise a hand against her.
Disgusted, her response held no emotion, “Go rest, Jack, I’ll get your dinner in just a minute… after I get my “lazy, good for nothin’ wastin time boys” from their studies- like I told you they’d been doing all day.” She turned her back and walked away before even seeing her husband’s response.
Over the years, Dorothy lost all guilt about lying to her husband. When they first married, nearly 20 years ago, she never lied. But then again, she had no one to protect with her lies. They married only 3 months before the Japanese attacked Hawaii and Jack enlisted right after that. She spent the next four years by herself, living with her parents on their farm, making money by giving music lessons alongside her mother. When Jack returned, they immediately bought a small farm on the outskirts of Atlanta and began trying for a family. In 1950, she had their first child, Natalie. When Natalie died, Jack became a different man.
Her husband absolutely doted over their “golden angel.” Everywhere he went; there she was, at his heels. He’d taken her out for a horse ride and as usual, she sat in front while he held the reigns, sitting behind her. Dorothy had just begun to worry about them as the sun set then she saw them riding toward the house from the kitchen window. Relieved and smiling, she turned to the stovetop and began plating the family’s dinners.
She could hear Jack crying through the doorway, a sound she only heard while he slept, dreaming of his days in the Pacific during the war. To her horror, she saw him walking up the steps, the lifeless body of their five- year old daughter across his arms.
“A bobcat… the horse spooked… she fell… on her neck… and then the horse came down on her…”
It took years for her to get pregnant again; Jack would hardly touch her, out of fear of having and losing another child. He blamed himself for everything and whiskey became his only solace. One night, in a drunken stupor he convinced both he and his wife that he wanted another child and promised her that he would die himself before he ‘let anything happen to this one’ and said that ‘everything would be different… this baby’s going to fix everything.’ Dorothy had regretted the decision to believe him everyday since.
“Hey, Momma! How’s dinner coming?” Charlie asked her, coming out of his bedroom, “Boy, that studying is good stuff. I learned so much today” her youngest said with a wink.
Jacob followed, smiling at his brother’s sarcasm and shaking his head. “Thank you, Momma” he said quietly.
“How’s the practice working out for you? Is he coming along at all?” Dorothy asked her elder son while nodding toward the younger.
“Yeah Momma, he’s coming along great. He’s a great player and he could be one of the best. It’s just that… well, he’s just too showy. I swear, Momma, if he keeps it up, he’s going to be known as the Jerry Lee Lewis of the drums.”
Laughing, his mother could only say, “Be patient with him, Jake. You know he’s still young. He’ll grow out of that when he realizes he doesn’t have to upstage everyone to get your daddy’s respect.”
Haley stood there, mouth gaping at the sight of the man she’d dreamed about meeting since that day in the attic so long ago, she found herself unable to say a word. Her father smiled softly and took a step closer to her. As he neared, she instinctively stepped backwards, away from him. The moment she did, she saw the pain in his eyes. At first, he looked at her squarely, but when their eyes met, he looked down to the floor.
Jacob took a deep breath and quietly said, “I know you don’t know me and I shouldn’t expect you to do anything for me; I just wanted to finally see you and talk to you... in person.”
After a moment of silence, she couldn’t help but look directly into his cold but tear-filled eyes. As she got lost in the overwhelming joy of finally being face to face with the father she’d wanted for so long, she shook her head. “You cannot do this! You can’t just show up after twenty-one years with your charm, a smile and some tears and expect everything to be okay. Do you not understand that I have a show to do? How am I supposed to go out there in front of all of those people now?” she screamed at him, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks, ruining the fresh make-up from her team.
“Easy. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to sing. That’s your job. Do you think your mother and I or even Chuck and Diane didn’t have fights in between sets and then have to go onstage and sing love songs to each other? It happened all the time, but we sucked it up, we hid it from the audience and they bought it. If your mother could hold it back; or shit if your Uncle Charlie and gin-soaked Diane could, surely you can- or can’t you?” The disdain escaped his lips as he immediately regretted what had turned into the first conversation with his only child. For the first time, his fears of actually becoming his own father showed their distinct possibilities.
It took less than a minute for him to utter these words to her, but this was certainly not the way he’d planned. He’d followed her career since she first began singing, though not by his own accord, at first. When she turned eighteen and began singing at the local bars and nightclubs, gaining a fan base, he had begun receiving newspaper clippings showcasing this rising star. The articles described her career as promising and alluded to her having parents who had supposedly toured in the seventies. He knew who the clippings were from, and he knew why he’d gotten them; they came with no return address and only the first envelope came with any sort of message from the sender- “Look what’s happened. Look what you’ve done- E.”
He had been rehearsing this meeting for years, always too scared to actualize his feelings and every time in his head both his words and his daughter’s subsequent reactions were decidedly different than those playing out in reality.
“My mother” Haley said with a sigh of disgust. “You mean the woman you abandoned along with your infant daughter? The woman you left so you could hide behind your cowardice? Don’t you dare mention her again- not after what you did. How you can come here, for the first time ever, and chastise me?” She could not help but let the rage escape from her mouth. Her words bled with hatred for him, but she wasn’t angry for her own sake, only her mother’s. She knew that she owed everything she had to the man standing in front of her.
Shocked by the strength in her eyes, Jacob couldn’t help but smile. For so long he had feared that both she and her mother would be weak without a man, without him, in their lives. Obviously, he was wrong; it was his absence that made them strong. Cautiously, he took a deep breath and looked at her again. She was so beautiful, just like her mother. She had his eyes and dimples, but everything else was Elizabeth- she was her mother through and through.
“I have to tell you something that may ruin your career” he said.
“I don’t believe you! What is it you really want?” She coldly said to the man in
front of her. “Your tears didn’t work, so now you’re trying to scare me into a relationship
with you?” A look of revelation washed over Haley’s face, “Are you trying to blackmail
“It’s nice to see your mother and her soap opera stories have completely warped your mind. Haley, I don’t want anything, I swear. I really just have to tell you something” Jacob said calmly. “But first, you need to go out and finish the show. I’ll meet you back here when you’re done.”
“Haley, is everything okay?” Said Steve, flanked by Michelle and a security guard.
“Um, yeah. Steve, Michelle, this is my father, Jacob.”
Disbelief flooded their faces. Immediately, they turned from employees into concerned friends. This husband and wife had both known Haley since childhood and had always known how badly she wanted to meet her father. Now her dream was coming true, but obviously at the price of her first sold-out concert. Though they loved Haley entirely, they both knew she was something of a flake and would in no way be able to finish the concert. Steve, despite his concern for Haley, couldn’t quell his need to be in control of the situation.
Clearing his throat, he calmly said, “Hales are you going to be able to finish the show? I mean, if we can think up a reason to tell the audience, I’ll go out there and tell them the concert is over.”
Never pulling her gaze from her father’s eyes, Haley calmly said, “No, I can do it. It’s my job, right?” Her words dripped with a kind of cynicism that her friends had never heard from her before.
With another deep breath, the young girl slowly walked back on the stage to the fans she wanted so badly to impress. Only now, she had someone more important to impress, and it showed in her performance.
As she walked onstage, she took a deep breath and called her band in around her.
“I have a few changes to make to the set list. We’ll start out with the first song and then follow me for the changes. I love you guys.”
From the outside, the second half of this night’s show was the most professional and most heart-felt show she’d ever performed. She hit notes she’d never hit before and sang with a stronger voice and more conviction than anyone (even herself) had ever heard before.
She sang her biggest hit song first, more to regain her confidence more than anything. The sight and sounds from the crowd so happy to hear their favorite song gave her back the strength she felt during the first half of the show. When the band began to incorporate the new songs she’d written into the list, the crowd fell to silence- not singing along, but smiling, listening to the lyrics so blatantly about someone being abandoned by a parent. As the song closed and tears welled in her eyes, the screams began again.
“Thank you guys so much” she said to the faces in front of her. She looked to the band members behind her and gently nodded them off stage. She knew immediately that Steve and Michelle would hit the roof at this move, so she looked to them and nodded, as if to say “I’m okay. Stop worrying.”
“You have made this such an amazing night. So, as a little something different, I’m going to sing something you may not have heard before. It’s called ‘By the end of Tomorrow’ and it was written in the seventies-- by my father.”
When she said this, in her peripheral, she could see the jaws of Steve, Michelle and her father drop to a gaping position. The chords came easily and she surprised herself with how easily the lyrics escaped her lips. The more she sang the lyrics so poignantly written by her father to her mother so many years ago, the strength she felt throughout the show only grew stronger. For the first time, she appreciated the harsh first words her father said just moments earlier- in his own way, through the hostility he helped her get on the stage and finish the show.
With the final lyrics and guitar strums, the crowd’s roars stunned her back from her thoughts and into the present reality. The cheers from the beginning of the concert, from the finale of her biggest hit, didn’t compare to the cheers she received after singing a song she knew none of the young teens in the audience had ever even heard before. Calmly, though visibly emotional, she took a bow, blew a kiss to the audience and walked off stage. She was immediately bombarded by her entourage once again; only this time, instead of a barrage of orders, hairspray and make-up brushes, everyone offered congratulations and amazement about this new great song.
Graciously, she accepted the congratulations but couldn’t help searching for Jacob in the madness. Much to her chagrin, the father that brought her so much sadness, anger and, surprisingly strength was nowhere to be found. She broke away from the crowd and made her way to her dressing room, where he had promised to meet her after the show. She poked her head through the doorframe, scared about what she would find waiting for her and didn’t expect what she found- nothing.
Frantically, she began to look around for her father. You son of a bitch. How could you leave me high and dry… again? Tears again flooded her eyes and the hot droplets began to stream down her cheeks as she fell to the floor, sobbing hysterically. Michelle ran into the room, knowing how frantic her best friend would be.
The only thing he left was a small note on her mirrored dresser. It only said, Before you keep hating me, ask your mother what really happened back then.
“Hales, I’m so sorry. I saw him walking down the hallway… toward the exits. Do you want me to send Steve to go get him?”
“No. Let him go. He left me once, right? I should be used to it.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The ringing telephone woke her from the restless sleep. She could feel the rotation of the bus tires underneath her and the subsequent rocking of the tour bus- the only thing that helped her sleep tonight. Groggy and still fully dressed, she stumbled to the dresser in the corner, fumbling through her purse for the ringing cell phone by touch only. She heard the phone click over to voicemail. She only heard one word of her mother’s voice before she knew of the trouble she could expect.
“Haley. This is your mother. Why didn’t you call me? I cannot believe you! Singing one of his songs? How do you even know the lyrics? How did you even know who he” Click. She shut her phone before she even finished listening to the angry message from her mother.
Her mother had never known her daughter ever found the chest so long ago. Haley only got the guitar from the attic when she and her mother cleared the house of old junk for a garage sale and begged her mother not to sell the instrument. She remembered her mother claiming that the guitar belonged to an old friend and she had completely forgotten she even had it. A likely excuse, the fourteen year old had thought to herself, fully knowing the truth.
As she thought back on that day and debated over whether or not to call her mother back and surely have an argument lasting until sunrise at least, she could feel the fingers holding the telephone start to stiffen into position and then the whole hand began to shake fiercely.