“Nick Rolland?” Stacy repeated. “I have no idea!”
“Well, he left a message on the machine for you. I saved it. I need to go to the bathroom!” Frank zipped out of the room.
Stacy wasn’t sure if he could hear her or not, but she thought out loud anyways, “None of the managers I spoke to gave me their name…Nick Roland… Sounds like a famous actor or maybe a rock star…” Suddenly, it clicked, and she knew who had called her!
With great anticipation, she rushed to the answering machine and pushed play. A familiar voice rang out, “Hi! This is Nick Rolland calling for Stacy Alyson. You can call me back at five-five-five-three-one-seven-two. Thanks, bye!”
His message had been brief enough that she didn’t get a chance to write down his number the first time. She replayed it and wrote it down on the notepad by the phone. She could hear her father go into his room, and since she knew he routinely would change out of his police uniform, she guessed that his curiosity about the phone call had ebbed. She sat on the chair next to the table where the phone stood and feverishly dialed Nick’s number. Her heart beat wildly as the phone rang. For a moment, she thought he wouldn’t pick up. She nearly jumped when he finally answered, “Hello?”
Stacy couldn’t believe she actually had the chance to talk to him alone! She almost felt too nervous to speak, but she remembered his warmth and friendliness from their conversation in the library and realized she had nothing to worry about. “Hi! This is Stacy.”
“Oh hi, Stacy!” For a moment, he didn’t say anything. Stacy got the impression that he was searching for the right words to say. “I just wanted to say thank you for the note you gave me a few days ago. No one’s ever done that before!”
“Most people probably tell you in person,” Stacy guessed.
“Well, they used to,” Nick told her. “I used to get a lot of it in high school after my band played, but once we graduated, we all got jobs and none of us had time to play anymore. I play the guitar on my days off if Janet is busy, but I haven’t performed in front of an audience in years.”
“What about your family?” Stacy inquired. “They must give you loads of encouragement.”
“Not really,” Nick replied sadly. “They think I’m good but they kinda think I’m wasting my time. They never viewed my interest in music as practical. They said the odds of making a living in that field are slim to none. They were right. I mean, lots of people wanna become rock stars and never do, so it just becomes a hobby.”
“But you have the talent to make it!” Stacy exclaimed. “My ex-husband’s marketing firm represented a few record companies, so I’ve seen the talent they signed and I know a future star when I see one! And I can tell from the tone of your voice that you still dream about it! You should go for it!”
Nick despondently argued, “You make it sound so easy! It’s not like record companies put ads in the paper to recruit people. I can’t just walk into a studio and audition. It’s not one of those things you can just wake up one day and decide to do!”
Stacy countered with, “If it was impossible, we wouldn’t have any rock stars! All you need is the right exposure. You gotta build up your image…” Stacy cringed realizing she had learned all this from Hadeon and that it actually helped her, so if he became famous, he would claim credit for her success. She pressed on anyways, “Make people believe that you’re already famous, create some buzz. Then put yourself out there! There’s lots of ways- concerts, commercial jingles, corporate events… Eventually the gigs would get bigger and bigger and record companies will come to you! It’s not impossible, you just gotta put the work in!”
Nick fell silent for a moment as he absorbed what she expressed. “That makes sense, but I don’t really have the time between work and family.”
“You don’t have an hour here and there?” Stacy challenged. “Any time spent on your craft is still progress forward. You can write songs, look for gigs, hand out your card… It all adds up!”
“I suppose…” Nick considered this notion.
“I can help you,” Stacy offered. “You have too much potential to just give up on your dreams!”
Nick pondered, “Don’t you think it’s too late? I mean, I’m thirty-four years old and-.”
“You never know unless you try!” Stacy stated firmly. “A small chance is better than no chance! Do you wanna spend your whole life with regret, wondering what could have been?”
Stacy stayed quiet while he mulled it over. Finally, he gave in, “I guess it couldn’t hurt to try!”
“Great!” Stacy rejoiced. “When can you meet?”
“How about Thursday after work?” Nick suggested.
“That’s totally fine! When do you get off work?” Stacy asked.
“At five,” Nick answered. “Meet me at the entrance of Gilmar’s Brake Factory.”
“I’ll be there!” Stacy confirmed.
Nick told her, “I gotta go or Janet will start to worry. See you Thursday!”
Stacy took a moment to relish in the joy of having a conversation with him before she really analyzed all that happened. He mentioned needing to leave so Janet wouldn’t worry, which, most likely, meant he had called from somewhere besides the place he shared with her. She vaguely wondered where he had called from and whose number she now possessed, but she figured she could ask him about it on Thursday. This led her to remember that she had the chance to spend time with him alone, and she inwardly celebrated. She felt so excited about it that it took a long time to realize that her father had been standing behind her in the kitchen! She quickly exclaimed, “He’s a friend!”
Frank didn’t look like he believed her, but he responded with, “Hey, as long as you’re not breaking any laws, it’s none of my business!” Stacy laughed while feeling grateful that he didn’t press for more information.
On Thursday, Stacy dressed up as pretty as she could while still maintaining a claim of casualness. This wasn’t a date, and she knew that she couldn’t have him, but she still wanted to impress him. She got to the factory a little early, but she kind of had to because the next bus would have made her late. She found a rock to sit on and waited in view of the entrance. The factory had light gray walls with patches of brown stains sprinkled on it sporadically. It didn’t have any personal touches or decorations to give it any kind of welcoming appearance, and if she didn’t plan to meet Nick, she would have turned around and never looked back! With its cold, sterile aura, she couldn’t imagine an artist like him enjoying working there!
She finally saw people begin to trickle out, and she leapt up to make sure he saw her when he came out. More and more people came streaming out, and she knew at any second Nick would come into view. Her fervor began to dial down though when the crowd size had started to ebb. She wondered if he changed his mind about collaborating with her. She hoped that if he had that he would have called her to cancel so she wouldn’t waste her time coming there, and she feared that he might have called while she rode the bus to get there. When the flow came down to a few people, she sort of felt foolish for standing there with high expectations and considered turning around to go home.
Just when she was about to give up, he suddenly popped out to see if she was there! He wore a blue work shirt and slacks, but in her mind, he still looked very attractive! She noticed that he didn’t have smudges on his arms or face like the others did, so she realized that he had cleaned up for her. Stacy thought that maybe it was just her imagination, but he seemed to find her appearance alluring! He non-chalantly greeted her, “Hello!”
“Hi!” she chirped.
She had expected for him to come out and lead her somewhere where they could converse, but instead, he invited, “Come on in!” Stacy felt a little taken aback by this move, but she couldn’t help but trust him and willingly followed him inside. She thought she would encounter rows of machinary, but instead, she found herself in a dimly lit hallway lined with offices. He told her, “We have to use an office ’cause I told Janet I’m working late, so if she calls to look for me, she won’t get suspicious.”
“That makes sense,” Stacy said congenially, but secretly, she felt it was a shame that he felt like he needed to hide something he’s so passionate about doing. She understood that his family had a pessimistic viewpoint about the music industry, and she probably wouldn’t want to get judged either. Actually, she hadn’t told her family about the project either for the same reason! It felt a little odd that they were hiding things while not doing anything wrong, but that wasn’t about to stop her!
He took her to a small room at the end of the hall. Most of the doors were marked with someone’s name on the glass, but this one did not have anything on it. When he opened the door and flicked on the light, she saw a bunch of boxes and file cabinets had taken over most of the room. It had a small desk with a ratty, old chair behind it as well. He pulled up a metal folding chair for her and remorsefully remarked, “I know it’s not very nice in here…”
“Inspiration can come from anywhere!” She attempted to buoy his spirits.
He smiled in appreciation as he pulled up another folding chair for himself. “I’m a team leader, so sometimes we have meetings in here. I like to think of it as my office, but I’m not that important.”
“Not yet anyways!” Stacy stated encouragingly.
Nick looked like he wanted to buy that argument but couldn’t get himself to do it. “I keep telling my family I’ll be manager someday, but, honestly, I can’t see myself ever getting there. Isn’t that horrible?”
“No,” Stacy replied. “Your heart isn’t in it. I think you’re meant for something more, which is why I’m here.”
This seemed to have touched him a bit. He grabbed a clipboard and a pen, and he asked her, “Alright, where do we begin?”