A little background, Keisha is a back up singer on tour for a popstar, and her entire life she's wanted to get her own record deal. Basically, I've set up a bit of a conflict between Keisha and Rachael - jealousy, maybe. But a few people have mentioned that I don't show it or build it up enough between the two of them.
This is the opening to the story, up through the first time we see Keisha and Rachael interacting and I would really love some help in developing some kind of rivalry or conflict between the two of them so the ending isn't a complete surprise. My mother said it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Rows of CDs lined the shelves, separated first by style and second by artist’s last name. Keisha Albertson ran her index finger along the edges of the As until she found a spot between Clay Aiken and All-4-One. She slid the tip of her finger in between the two CDs and leaned over to look down through the rack as she pushed them apart.
She tapped her foot and hummed the opening lines to the song that had been stuck in her head since the night before. She pulled her hand back, and the CDs slid together again as if she hadn’t been creating a spot for some other artist, particularly an artist whose name slid easily between Ai and All.
She turned, finding Trey, the guitarist, on the other side of the country albums.
He tipped his cowboy hat at her and winked. “We need to get to the venue before the rest of the guys eat up all the good stuff. It’s Mexican night and I want a hot taco.”
She nodded vaguely.
He walked around the display and peered over her shoulder. “You still doing that?”
She shrugged and reached down to gather up her three shopping bags. “One day I won’t imagine another CD there,” she said. “It’ll just be there.” She tilted her head and smiled crookedly.
Trey smiled back and offered to take a bag or two, but she told him she was fine. “I bought a new dress,” she said. “It looks like Rachael’s. I don’t know if I like it, but I need something.” She had tripped over a wire backstage the night before, tearing a hole in the side of her dress with the edge of the microphone table.
His hand drifted to her lower back as he followed her out of the record store, but then he let it drop to his side. “Did you finish those lyrics you were working on the other night?” he asked. “I finally finished up laying down that demo track for Rachael, and I’d love to give the music a go with you.”
“Of course,” he said. “If anyone deserves to record a demo, it’s you. And I’d love to help.”
She shifted two of the bags from one hand to the other. “I appreciate that.”
“Sure you don’t need any help?”
“I’m good,” she insisted, but she realized she’d probably purchased too much with money she really didn’t have. “You ever been here before?”
“Here? As in Cleveland?”
Trey pushed open the glass double doors and motioned for Keisha to step out into the overcast afternoon.
She pushed her purse strap higher on her shoulder. Pushing up her sweater sleeve, she glanced at her watch. “We don’t have much time.” She quickened her pace. Her breath puffed out in small icy clouds.
Even with his longer legs, Trey stayed a couple of paces behind Keisha. “Shane said she heard something about representatives from J calling for tickets tonight.”
He caught up with her when she missed a step. “Yeah. Terrel overheard Chuck and Jerome talking about needing extra security.”
“They need extra security just for some label reps?”
“Who knows,” Trey said, wagging his eyebrows at her. “Maybe Mr. Davis himself will be in attendance.”
If he is, Keisha thought as she tried to calm her breathing, it would only be to make sure his own superstar’s first national tour was running smoothly. “Maybe.”
Trey didn’t say anything else as they jaywalked over to the hotel. They hoped that not everyone had left for the Pavilion yet, and they didn’t have to catch a bus for the Flats.
Keisha and Rachael had taken to doing each other’s hair themselves, instead of waiting for Eli to get done down the hall. He had other, more important priorities, than the back-up singers to a world-renowned popstar. It took them a combined total of two hours to get ready before each performance, starting with hair and make-up and moving onto wardrobe.
Terrel stuck his head in their dressing room door while Rachael still had her hands in Keisha’s hair, twisting it into tight braids. “Trey told me to send word that you’ll be doing the duet tonight, Keisha.”
Keisha looked at Rachael in the mirror.
Rachael’s cheeks flushed, and her grip on Keisha’s hair tightened.
She turned and swallowed tightly. “Any reason?”
“I think it has something to do with record reps being here tonight.” He winked. “But I could be wrong.” He opened the door and stepped in. “How come I can be ready in five minutes and you two take hours?”
“Because you’re a guy,” Keisha said as she stood. She leaned in close to the mirror and examined the twists in her hair. Rachael had done a good job. She wiped an eyelash off her cheek.
“What’s that mean?
“It means that you don’t have to worry about your hair and your make-up like we do,” Rachael said.
“It doesn’t take Eli two hours like it takes you.”
“One, Eli doesn’t have to be on stage, and two – two, you know what? Never mind.” She hated when she couldn’t come up with anything worth saying in the middle of a sentence.
Terrel barked out a laugh and clapped his palm against his thigh. “Go on ahead then ladies, and finish up your padding and primping. We’ll meet for prayer as soon as you’re all done.” He shut the door before either of them could respond.
Keisha clenched her fist. “Oh, sometimes I could just kick him.”
Rachael laughed. “He likes you, honey. He likes you a lot. Just let him be. He’s like a dog; he’ll follow you home, but if you stop feeding him, he’ll just roll over and die.”
She scrunched her nose and plopped back into the chair. “You almost done?”
Rachael returned to work on her hair. “Should be. Now, what’s this about record reps?”
Keisha shrugged. “Dunno. Trey mentioned something earlier.”
“They here to look at you?”
Keisha almost said that she hoped so. At her side, she crossed her fingers. “They could be here to look at you too. Or Terrel. Or just checking up on the tour.”
Rachael swatted her shoulder and shushed her, starting on about there being no other reason why Trey would change the duet tonight to include her when it was Rachael’s night. She said that everyone knew Keisha was looking to strike up a deal soon. “We know you been writing music.”
“Yeah, so what? I like it.” She tensed, and it began to hurt on her scalp where Rachael was tugging at her hair.
“You going to record something?”
She didn’t know, and she said as much.
Rachael snapped the last rubber band in place and backed away. “Maybe you should.” She sat in the seat two over from Keisha and pulled her make-up bag out from her duffel bag.
Keisha squirmed and looked down to where her own duffel bag lay at her feet. “Maybe I will,” she muttered, but Rachael made no pretense of hearing her.
It wasn’t for another hour that the two women finally clicked the straps on their heels into place and headed for the door. The rest of the band would be meeting just offstage for the prayer circle.
Sure enough, when Rachael and Keisha got there, everyone else was already gathered.
Terrel tipped his bottle of Pepsi in greeting. He pushed off the wall with his elbow. “The misses prom queens have decided to show up.”
“Let it go,” Keisha said under her breath. She slid into the forming circle between Trey and Rachael.
Terrel winked at her from across the circle.
She looked away.
Darryl, the bassist, asked whose turn it was to lead.
“Why don’t we let Keisha?” Rachael blurted out. “Since she has the most at stake tonight.”
Some of the band members looked surprised, and whispers moved around the circle until finally Trey held up a hand. “I’ll do it.” He took Keisha’s hand in one of his and Shane’s in the other.
Before bowing her head, Keisha mouthed a thank you.
“Heavenly Lord, we thank You for another opportunity to do what we all love to do here, to perform, and we ask You to bless all of us tonight, especially Keisha, who we know You have big plans for.” He squeezed her hand. “We ask, as always, for our healthy and our sanity and for us all to get along. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord Almighty, amen.”
“Amen,” Keisha and everyone else echoed. She kept her head bowed to whisper her own prayer quickly.
When she lifted her head, Rachael, Darryl, and Terrel were already checking out the microphone table. She started toward them, but Trey grabbed a hold of her elbow. “Do great tonight,” he said, pulling her into a brief, awkward hug.