Also, there’s an unusually high number of thin young women, all very colorfully dressed, doing stretches and cartwheels along the sidewalk. Tourists wouldn’t do this, and neither would students. Maybe, I think with a spurt of excitement, there’s going to be a flash mob.
Then, as I get closer, I realize the thin young women in the brightly colored clothes aren’t young women at all, but girls, and the people leaning against the cars, fanning themselves impatiently in the heat that is starting to grow a little uncomfortable, are all women—most likely the girls’ mothers—all waiting to check in for Tania Trace Rock Camp.
Except I’d been assured by Cartwright Records Television that check-in wasn’t going to start until ten o’clock sharp, giving me, arriving at nine, an hour to make any necessary last-minute adjustments.
“Shit,” I say.
I want a replay
When are things gonna start to go my way?
Don’t hafta happen to me every day
Just wanna replay
Written by Heather Wells
“What’s wrong?” Cooper asks over the phone.
“All the campers are here an hour early.”
I’ve noticed a couple of familiar-looking people leaning against the redbrick building, on one side of the front door—namely Pete, in his New York College security guard uniform, and Magda, dressed in her pink food service uniform. They’re both holding cups of coffee. Magda, for some reason, is holding two.
“Early bird gets the part, I guess,” Cooper says.
“That’s not a show business term,” I say. “That doesn’t even make any sense. They already got the parts.” Then I realize Cooper never replied to my previous statement. “Wait a minute,” I say into the phone. “You don’t own a fanny pack, do you?”
“I have to go meet Tania now.” Cooper’s voice sounds funny. “She’s coming later this afternoon to give the welcome speech. Give my regards to Broadway.”
He hangs up. So do I, but not before squinting curiously down at the phone. Men are so weird.
“I think Cooper just admitted to me that he sometimes wears a fanny pack,” I say as I walk up to Magda and Pete.
“Of course he does,” Pete says. “Where else is he gonna keep his gun in the summertime?”
“Cooper doesn’t own a gun,” I say as Magda passes me a tall plastic refillable mug in New York College colors. “Thanks. What are you doing here? Not that I’m not overjoyed to see you, but—”
“You didn’t hear?” Magda reaches up to pat her hair, which she’s teased to stand nearly six inches from her head. Her nails have each been painted with a tiny letter. When I peer at them, I see they spell out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D! “The producer man came into the café last week to buy a latte, and he said he liked my style so much, he had to have me on the show.”
“Of course he did,” I say, sipping from the mug. My favorite, a café mocha. Delicious.
“He said they’re reopening the cafeteria,” Magda goes on. “Have you seen it? They fixed it up to look so byootiful!” Magda’s voice, with its heavy Spanish accent, is so distinctive that several of the young girls stop doing their gymnastics and their mothers glance up from their cell phones, all looking curiously in our direction. Coming from the heart of the Midwest or wherever, it’s possible they’ve never heard—or seen—anyone quite like Magda, except maybe on TV.
“Excuse me,” one of the mothers says, hurrying toward us. She has on more necklaces than Mr. T used to wear back on those A-Team reruns, and enough makeup to make Magda look like she’s going au naturel. “Are you someone in charge?”
Startled, I look around for Stephanie or Jared, but it’s clear she’s speaking to me. “Me? No, I just work here.”
The woman doesn’t seem to believe me. “You look so familiar,” she says. “Weren’t you at the Nashville callbacks?”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Lady, like I told you before,” Pete says in a tired voice, “when the people with Jordan Loves Tania are ready for you, they’ll come out and say so. In the meantime, you can’t come in. You’ll just have to wait like all the others—”
“I don’t think you understand. We’ve been waiting here for an hour already,” the woman says, annoyed. “My Cassidy is very special. The producer said so when she auditioned. And now she is starting to sweat.” She points a perfectly manicured nail at a young girl dressed in a lime green tank top and black leggings who does indeed look a little sweaty, but probably because a minute before she was demonstrating how to do a handstand to some of the other girls, who were admiring her perfect form. “How is Cassidy going to look her best on camera when she is sweating?”
“I don’t know,” Pete says. “Maybe if you’d come when you were supposed to, which is at ten—”
“There are some coffee shops in the area where you could take your daughter to get her a soda or something to cool off while you wait,” I hurry to offer, thinking Pete is being a little gruff. These people are from out of town, after all. They don’t know about New Yorkers and their notorious brusqueness. “The Washington Square Diner is right around the corner—”
“Oh, everyone would like that,” the woman steams, “wouldn’t they, for my Cassidy to get addicted to soda and get so chubby that she looks like a blimp at the Rock Off? Well, it’s not going to happen.”
I widen my eyes. I’m finding this lady as familiar as she seems to find me, but I can’t quite put my finger on why that is.
“Tell me this,” she says. “Are professional hair and makeup stylists going to be provided for the girls? Because I don’t see a trailer parked anywhere nearby. Are they in a room inside?”
I’m so confused by this question, I can’t speak. Fortunately, Magda takes over.
“No, ma’am,” she says. “I already asked this, and they said only Tania Trace gets professional hair and makeup, because she’s the star. The rest of us have to provide our own.”
The woman looks so outraged, I half expect, when she reaches into her enormous designer tote, for her to pull out a weapon. Instead, she’s simply diving for her cell phone. “We’ll just see what Cassidy’s agent has to say about this,” she says and stalks away on her spindly high heels, the phone to her ear. “Girls,” she calls to the other mothers, “you will never believe this.”