Tipping Point - NaNo 2013 (Chapter One)
There was a time when I used to be the go-to girl for any Tipping Point related information. I knew everything: when they were born, their full names, the times; Wesley’s favorite color, Laughlin’s preferred form of transportation, Hector’s most inspiring quote. It was a hobby of mine, finding things out about them and filing it away for later use. Except it never got much use. Despite the fact that I sent my friends their then-EP and every video I could find, I seemed to be the only one in California who cared about them.
I’d discovered their music while absently surfing iTunes one day, just hoping to happen upon something groundbreaking. I clicked some artist which recommended another which recommended another—and there they were, filling up the screen of my computer with their vastly different (yet harmonious) smiles. It was love at first sight.
Their music was exactly what my fifteen-year-old ears needed to hear. They wrote it all themselves—tales of revenge concerning evil ex-girlfriends, edgy stories about growing up and—my personal favorite—long, dreary songs about nothing but yearning for someone. I liked to close my eyes and imagine they were singing about me.
Eventually, they started to catch on—enough that a small crowd was gathered around the local venue when they finally came to a town near mine. I was nervous as I waited to meet them in my dress and heels.
Having been one of the first people to purchase a ticket when the listing went up, I was considered a VIP, and therefore was afforded the opportunity to stand in front of them for five seconds, pose for a picture, and have them sign something of my choice (the agreement I had to sign actually stated that body parts and lingerie were excluded from those choices, to my utter dismay). I felt sick, nauseous, and stupidly hopeful. Maybe one of them—any one, really, I had no favorites—would fall in love with me, kiss me, marry me, and then have children with me.
Or maybe they’d just sign my CD and get on with it.
Finally, the big security bouncer let me in and a woman checked my name off a clipboard. I was ushered back, along with a group of five equally nervous girls, to a little room to wait. It took forever. I continually smoothed invisible wrinkles from my skirt and decided between crossing my ankles or legs.
“All right, girls,” the woman said, poking her perky blonde head in. “Come on back. The guys are waiting.”
I was third in line as we entered the room, and it stayed that way. They were hard to see at first—obstructed by some very large guys—until they moved aside and they were there. In front of me.
The first girl let out a squeal. I watched their faces for a sign of anything—a knowing smile, a rueful shake of the head—but their expressions remained stoic. They were nothing like their pictures and videos. I watched the other girls pass in a blur, and then it was my turn.
Hector Dubois was first, dashing as ever in his button-down and dress pants. He shook my hand and signed my CD. I gazed at him, willing with all my might: please fall in love with me.
But no. Laughlin was next, all smiles as he took my CD and scribbled across it.
“Hm?” He looked up. The grin faded a little at the edges.
“Could you maybe possibly write To Ina on there?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
He handed my CD back. “Sorry. No-can-do. Got to make this fast.” Now his mouth was in a firm, straight line. “Thanks for coming. Enjoy the concert. Have a good day.” Everything came out in a monotone. I could barely squeeze out a, “You too.” It was all such a letdown.
Wesley Allender was nice, but too babyfaced to satisfy me. I didn’t even have the strength to muster up one last, pointless please fall in love with me. It just wasn’t going to happen.
“Hi, how’re you?” He beamed, scratching a sharpie across the surface.
“And what’s your name?”
“Awesome! Edna, have a great time.”
He handed back the CD. Surprise, surprise, he’d spelled my name wrong.
I was sent back to wait with the other two girls who had gone before me. They were both entranced, comparing stories and swooning over the crazy amounts of eye contact that had just occurred.
“Wasn’t that the most amazing thing ever?” One of them asked, turning to me. Her top was low cut, her skirt way above the knee. Campaigning so hard for their attention, which they hadn’t felt the need to give.
“Yeah, not really,” I said, shoving the CD into my purse.
She blinked. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. They just acted like total tools.”
“They’re probably tired. What they do isn’t easy, you know.”
“Okay, yeah, sure.” I folded my arms across my chest and forced back tears. The disappointment was coming over me in waves, now. All my obsessing, loving, and daydreaming had been for naught. They weren’t who I thought they were.
I watched miserably as the rest of the girls took their turn and then as we were all posed for a group picture. I ended up next to Laughlin, who rested his hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t comforting, though. He wouldn’t remember me a minute after I’d left.
- - -
Mom was on me the second I walked in. “How did your audition go?”
She stood earnestly in the foyer, wringing her hands. She was probably more anxious than I was.
I shook my head non-committally, hanging up my purse. “It was fine.”
“What did they have you do?”
“Sing a Katy Perry song. Sing a Lorde song. Sing a Taylor Swift song. Sing my own song.”
“In that order?”
I thought back. It was all one long, nervous blur. The people had been friendly enough. They checked my name off a long list, fired off song titles, and recorded me as I sang my favorite bits of each.
“They let me sing almost my whole original,” I offered at last, hoping to please her. “I don’t know if they usually let everyone do that.”
“Oh, honey!” She beamed, stepping forward to wrap her arms tight around me. “That’s wonderful! I think you’ll be hearing from them for sure.”
“Maybe,” I hedged, not ready to commit. “Is Dad home?”
She sighed. “He’s running late. As usual. Come on—I made you a special dinner!” She rose up on her toes at the last word, and I tried not to laugh. Enthusiasm was so unusual for my mother, but she was giddy. Probably because she knew that if I did get this, I’d have a future set.
I didn’t think I had much chance. My competition today hadn’t been anything spectacular—from the looks of them—but then there had been a couple stunning girls, and stunning girls probably had incredible voices. They just seemed to go together like that.
I wasn’t stunning, but I did have a good voice. I didn’t think that would be enough, though. They needed to get somebody with a wider appeal. That was the truth, and that’s what made Tipping Point so popular.
That’s what would make their opening act popular.
I felt ridiculous even submitting my application to audition in the first place, after our brief, horrid history. But they were going on their fourth world tour—starting in Cali—and their executives were seeking out some new, fresh-faced person to get the crowd excited for their show.
I think they had enough hype as it was. After my slow descent into no-Tipping-Point-dom (trashing all my calendars, posters, t-shirts, novelty buttons) they’d slowly gained a few more followers. And then a few more. By the time a year had passed, the venues were too packed to even do meet-and-greets anymore. I was glad to be away from the frenzy. I knew the truth about them—that they were a bunch of thankless jerks—and it was all I needed to propel me forward in a life void of any Tipping Point.
Until I saw the notice online that any girl in California could audition to be the opening act. I mentioned it in passing to mom, and that was it.
“You have to do it,” She said, laying her book aside in order to give me her full attention.
“No I don’t,” I argued back, focusing on my computer screen. The pixels blurred.
“Ina, if you want a music career—”
“I’ll do just fine without any help.”
“—this would be the perfect way to start it.”
“I can do it on my own, Mom. I’ll play more open-mics, whatever.”
“Close the computer, Ina.”
“Mom, I’m doing something.”
“Close it or it goes away!”
I snapped it shut. It was so irritating that I was seventeen and my mother could still boss me around. Although I knew that’s how it usually worked. But she couldn’t make me do this.
“I’m not doing it.”
“First of all, I don’t even like them. Why would I want to support them in any way?”
“You do too! You have their faces up in your bedroom!”
“Mom! That was forever ago! I’ve grown up a little since then.”
She ran a hand through her hair, narrowing her eyes. “They’re pretty good, Ina. I’ve heard their music. Would it really be so wrong to be involved with them?”
“Yes. And quit talking like I’d get it if I tried. I wouldn’t.”
“Why not? You’re a wonderful singer.”
“And you’re my Mom,” I muttered.
“Nothing. I said I’m not doing it.” I stood up, tucking my laptop beneath my arm. She bit her lip.
“I’m prepared to make a deal with you.”
“What? Are you serious? You haven’t even seen the ad yet!”
“Ina, sit down.”
“If you don’t branch out and try new things, you’ll never have any idea of what could happen. You know that, right?”
“Yes.” It was only the most cliche saying in the world. “I know that.”
“Then I need you to try this.”
“I said no.”
She rested her chin on her folded hands, reddening with frustration. “Ina! Do not be so down on yourself! How do you ever expect to get a record deal if you don’t have confidence?”
I shook my head. “I do. I just don’t want anything to do with Tipping Point.”
“Ina, if you try out—”
“Ugh, please don’t barter with me.”
“No, listen. If you try out and everything goes well, you can take a gap year and work on your ER-thingy.”
“Right. Well, you can.”
I pressed my lips together, refusing to believe her. “But college is so important to you.”
“If it’s not important to you…”
“No, wait. You’re getting something out of this.”
“Maybe. But I want to see you succeed.” She stood up and walked over to lay her head against mine. “Please just do this. I promise you can take that year, and you’ll hear no complaints from me.”
“Fine,” I relented. “But nothing’s going to happen.”
That was four months ago. I didn’t get the call to secure my spot for most of that time. Mom practically sprinted to the phone when it rang, ever the believer in me. Each time a brief trace of disappointment would flit across her features, and her next words (usually “Hi, Mom! Yes, everything’s fine!” or “Honey, I told you not to call me from the car! You shouldn’t talk while driving!”) would be spoken while making eye contact with me to check if I was okay.
I was. I really never expected them to call me. Nothing about my applications stood out aside from my name, which belonged more to an old lady and less a teenage girl. Hardly the girl they needed to rile everyone up.
Now Mom pulled out my chair for me at the dinner table and sat down, getting right to work filling my plate with spaghetti and meatballs. “Dad’s really sorry he couldn’t make it in time! Double shifts.”
“It’s okay, Mom, really.” I bit off the smallest piece of garlic bread. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Oh, but I wanted him here to congratulate you. We’re both so proud.”
All this sentimental stuff was getting on my nerves. Mom wasn’t hardly ever nostalgic. She was level headed, and kind, and loving but this doting was something new.
“All I did was audition, Mom.” The annoyance slipped through my tone, and I tried to mask it with a smile. “It’s something a lot of other girls did, too.”
“I realize that. No need to be so rude about it.” Now, that was more like the old Mom. I got my sassiness from her. “Be grateful for all you’ve been afforded.”
“I am. And now I can take my gap year!”
She groaned. “You’re relentless.”
This time my laugh was genuine. “But you promised.”
“I know, I did.” She took a bite of pasta. “I just have a feeling your gap year is going to be spent touring.”
“Okay, you’re relentless.”
- - -
I met up with Jess the following evening. We had a deal—she would bring her guitar, and I would bring my voice. We liked to play together sometimes, at her Aunt’s cafe. The crowd was mostly composed of college students, so I always got some good exposure.
“What’s up?” She asked as I walked through the doors, barely giving me a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. I glanced at the crowd around us; it was leaner tonight.
“Hey,” I said, giving her a half-hug. “Sorry I haven’t seen you. It’s been busy.”
She was sitting on one of the barstools, fiddling with her pick. Her long red hair was pulled over her shoulder, cascading in curls to brush the top of her wrist where it rested against the guitar. “How’d your audition go?”
“Fine. It was a little fast.”
“Sit down. I can get you something to drink.”
I waved the offer away. “I’m fine. Just ready to sing.”
“We can start in a few.” She pushed her glasses further up her nose. “So do you think you’ll get it?”
I let out a short laugh. “Hell no. You should have seen the girls there.”
“But it’s about the voice. Not the look.”
“You can keep telling yourself that. Whatever keeps you happy and out of the real world.”
She gently shoved my shoulder. “You are a true debby downer. Cut it out and drink some coffee.”
“The last thing I need right now is caffeine,” I argued, but I sat.
“I think you’re going to get called back,” She said, strumming lightly. The din of various conversations drowned her music right out.
“So what are we going to do tonight?”
“You’re avoiding my question.”
“It wasn’t a question. There was no question asked.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. You’re avoiding my question-not-a-question.”
“And you’re avoiding mine.”
“I don’t know! You pick.”
“Let’s do a couple older songs and then a newer one. It’ll be a nice change.”
“Chili Peppers, perhaps?”
“And Green Day?”
“And then maybe that Panic! at the Disco song that just came out?”
We high-fived our approval.
“I like the way you think!”
Jess smirked. “I like the way you avoid my questions.”
“Ugh.” I rested my hands against the countertop. “I really don’t want to talk about it anymore. My Mom has practically interrogated me. Even Dad told her to let up.”
Jess laughed. “Oh, but can you blame her? It’s Tipping Point. That’s freaking huge.”
“Not to me.”
“But everyone else.” She tucked the pick into her pocket. “Here’s an idea. Let’s do one of their songs.”
I sat up arrow-straight. “No. No, no, no. Absolutely not.”
“It’ll be for good luck.”
“I said no.”
“Then I’ll do one by myself.” Jess hopped off the stool. “Come on.”
“What do you mean you’ll do one by yourself?” I followed her to the mic set up at the front of the room.
“We can do our original plan, and then I’ll sing and play.”
“Jess. Oh my God.”
She fiddled with the microphone stand, ignoring me. She knew this was what would convince me. Jess could play guitar better than anyone I knew—male or female—but she was an awful singer. Horrible.
“Jess, please dont. I can’t let you embarrass yourself like that.”
“Then sing it.”
“Fine. Then I’ll sing it.” She flipped the mic on, leaning forward, wiggling her eyebrows in taunting.
I elbowed her out of the way and covered the mouthpiece with my hand. “I’ll do it. But we’re doing Glory Days, okay?”
“Fine by me. I love that song!”
I faced the crowd. “Of course you do.”
A minute later everyone had noticed us enough to quiet down a considerable amount. I put on my best performing face (bright eyes, wide smile, good posture) and took the mic off its stand. I found performing that way was a lot more casual. People liked casual better than formal, nowadays.
“Hey, everyone. How are you doing?”
This was met with various replies. I pointed at Jess.
“For those of you who haven’t heard us before, that’s Jess Hawthorn. And I’m Ina Galet. We’re not a band or anything. We just like to play together. Although I do the singing, because she can’t to save her life, and she plays guitar because I tried it once and failed miserably. We take requests. And this is Glory Days, by Tipping Point.”
This was met with an irritating amount of applause. Why oh why did everyone have to like them? Male, female? Old, young? Blind, deaf? I seemed to be the odd one out.
Jess started her melodic, effortless playing and I leaned toward the mic, closing my eyes. I let myself forget this was a Tipping Point song.
“My bed is older than yours/I’ve spent more time in it. My lies are longer than yours/I’ve spent more time with them. And everything’s falling to pieces/You don’t like what you see. Why would you even give this a chance/You knew how it would be. And we don’t/won’t have glory days. There isn’t any room for those/in this place…”
I kept my eyes closed as I went through the first verse and then the chorus. When I opened them, my heart momentarily stopped. Because there was Mom, with tears running down her face.
Why was she here? I immediately stopped, fearing the worst, and flipped the mike off. Jess missed a note in her alarm until she noticed my mother, then went right back on playing. The college kids followed me with slightly disinterested eyes for a moment as I hurried toward mom, then focused back on Jess, probably figuring I had stage fright.
“Mom?” I asked, once I was within hearing distance. “Is everything okay? Is it Dad?”
She nodded, sniffling and struggling to calm her tears. I grabbed her arm and pulled her outside, letting the door swing shut behind us. The cooler night air seemed to bring her back to her senses.
“Did Dad get hurt? Grandma?” I was verging on hysterical. “Please answer me.”
“No, honey! Everything is fine.” She took a deep, soothing breath. “I’ve been trying your cell but you didn’t answer.”
“Are you okay? Mom, talk to me.”
“Honey, it’s fine! I’m just overwhelmed. When I walked in there and heard you singing...I lost it. Sorry.”
“Then what is it?”
She put her hands to her mouth, but it did little to conceal her smile. “I think you should sit down.”
“Sit down? What?”
She pointed to the brick hedge that lined the building. “Sit.”
I did. She was always telling me to sit and I was always listening.
She crouched in front of me, taking my hand. “They called, Ina.”
“What?” Already? I felt awful. What horrible news for her to take.
Then I guess it was too much for her, because it all came out in a rush. “Ina, they want you. They signed you on to open for Tipping Point, and they want to fly you to LA.”
My stomach dropped. Surely she was joking.
“Mom…” I said, breathless. “Are you…”
“Honey, you got it. You got it! You’re going to be touring with Tipping Point!”
My jaw dropped. From inside, I could hear the clapping start as Jess wrapped up the song. Everything seemed like it was in slow motion, underwater, being heard through clogged ears.
I was going to open for Tipping Point—a band I didn’t even like.
And I was going to have to “meet” them all over again.