"Reaching For Success" Excerpt

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Reaching For Success
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

Sitting in the line of chairs outside the double doors, I clutched the sheaf of papers in my sweaty fingers, hoping desperately that this was my chance, that this time would be my time. The room was filled with the scent of fear and silk flowers, too much perfume and the chalky smell of freshly applied makeup. My stomach fluttered again, perhaps protesting the variety of smells, perhaps protesting the churning nerves that had filled me for weeks. I closed my eyes - again - and heaved a breath, trying to gather my scattered emotions, trying to latch onto the ones I'd be needing to lean on in just a few short minutes, when it was my turn to give a second-round audition.

The sound of clapping from behind the doors dropped my heart from my chest, freezing it, turning it into a cold rock in the pit of my stomach. I tipped my chin back, my face turning up to the ceiling, perfectly in time with the girls who sat to either side of me.

"No, they can't have chosen already," the girl beside me whispered to herself.

"I know, right?" I answered quietly. She took my hand in hers, smiling as I settled my script in my lap and took the hand of the girl to my other side. We sat quietly, watching those double doors. Fear rolled through me, anxiety brought my shoulders to my ears, and the quiet dread sharpened everything.

Finally the doors opened, and the girl who'd been auditioning stepped out, her dark hair slightly mussed, her makeup trailing with her tears down her cheeks. Her eyes were swimming, flooding, and my heart was breaking. She'd gotten the part. I just knew she'd gotten the part.

"Oh honey, you got it?" An older woman asked, walking over to drape an arm over her shoulder.

"No, Mom, but they said I'm perfect for something else they have on another show," the girl sobbed. "I got a part though; I made it. I finally got a break." Her voice trailed off softly toward the end, and her mother smiled.

"I knew you would. Come on, let's get you some lunch," the mother said. They walked away together and I exchanged a look with the girls sitting with me. We were the last three; one of us would leave knowing that we'd finally gotten our big break.

"Candace Middlesworth," a woman called from through the open doors.

"Oh God, oh God, that's me," I whispered.

"Go," said the girl to my left, releasing my hand and nudging me with her shoulder.

"Good luck," whispered the girl to my right.

"Candace Middlesworth!" the woman said again, louder. I gathered my script and leapt from my seat, straightening my dress as I walked.

"I'm here, I'm here," I said nervously, walking into the room and turning to close the doors. Taking one last breath, I turned back to the panel of studio executives. Now was my time to shine. "But I'm not Candace," I said, slipping into the silky voice of the character I was hoping to play.

"My name is Olivia James, and I'm here to speak with Michael Masters." I delivered the line from the script effortlessly, watching with false confidence as the handsome actor on the other side of the room looked to the panel for guidance. The man on the left nodded, and the actor stood, lifting his chin, becoming his character.

"That's me," he said, stepping closer to me. "I'm Michael Masters. What do you want with me?"

"I want to know why you took my sister out that night. I want to know why you drove her into that dead town. I want to know why she was given to the demons there. And I want to look into the eyes of the coward who left her."

"Left her?" he whispered, his hands drifting up to cover his heart. "You think I left her? Olivia, I didn't. I couldn't."

"You did," I answered coldly, feeling the anger of my character wash over me. "You left her to be possessed, to be driven insane. You left her to find her own way back, scared and broken and ... different."

"No!" he shouted. "No, damn you! I didn't leave her there. I didn't, and I won't be accused of it either!"

"You are accused!" I shouted, stepping forward, moving closer, bringing my hand back behind my hip as I prepared for the slap.

"No! She left me!" he shouted, and I swung my arm in a graceful arc, my palm connecting firmly with his cheek as his face turned away from me. He brought his hand to his face, rubbing the burn away from where I'd hit him. "I'm not lying. She did," he whispered.

"Why, then?" I asked, forcing myself to tremble in sadness, his face blurring in front of my as tears flooded my eyes. "Why would she do that? Why would my sister do that?"

"I don't know," he whispered, stepping closer to gather me in his arms. "But I miss her too, you know. I loved her, too. I begged her not to go in that house, Olivia, I begged."

"You begged -"

"Alright, then, that's enough," the woman from the executive panel broke in. I stepped away from the actor, pretending that I hadn't seen him in a dozen movies, pretending that I wasn't completely starstruck. He took my hand and my breath caught as we turned to look at the woman who held the ultimate power.

"Okay," I said quietly, wanting to ask how I'd done, knowing that she hated that question, knowing that she hated any indication of insecurity.

"How do you think you did, Candace?" she asked, surprising me. Closing my eyes, I prayed that I wasn't about to say the wrong words.

"I told you," I said coldly. "My name is Olivia James."

She stared at me silently for a moment before exchanging looks with the men that flanked her. Finally, she turned back to me, her face softening slightly. "For a minute though, I thought so too," she said. "You got the part."

And as I left the room, shedding the character to be just myself again, I stifled a smile. I was triumphant - I had reached the great success of my career thus far. But in the lobby were two hopefuls headed for heartache.

I stepped into the lobby, feeling their hungry eyes searching my face. "I got the part," I said. "I'm so sorry."

But I wasn't. It was just the break I'd been waiting for.