XVI - The Tower
"If I had known it was going to be this small, I'd have said we should all go back to the hotel, put on the CD and get drunk!"
Chance * Tower Theater
Greg's office buzzed with activity, stemming from the wrap-up of the current tour. People milled around, speaking in hushed tones about the impending hiatus. The ninth floor overlooking Beverly Hills reeked of anxiety. Greg himself sat sullen in his office, only donning a smile when he stood at the door where others could see him.
Tara, however, knew when she crossed the threshold of his sanctuary that the smile faded, and the fear returned. On one hand, she felt the apprehension. Everything was changing so quickly, and no one could predict the consequences. Greg knew he would be out of a job soon, or so rumor had it.
On the other hand, Tara has started the rumor. Much to her delight, it had taken on a life of its own. Now looking at him sitting pensively behind his stately desk, she couldn't muster enough sympathy to convince him that things would be okay. So, why try? Besides, it was all she could do to keep from laughing in his face, anyway.
You think just one of them would have figured it out!
Tara walked to the window, surveying the vast land that stretched into the horizon. Once her back was turned to him, she smiled.
I really do like him . . . I do.
She just couldn't explain why she had told those guys in the crew that Chance was going to fire him after the tour ended. Tara didn't really expect them to believe her but as Fate had it, it had been a slow news day backstage and the rumors abounded. By the time the story reached Greg himself, it sounded possible, even probable, especially since each person added to it speculation. There were many factors that could lead to his termination. When put that way, Greg would have fired himself, too. But Chance said nothing to Greg.
As the final weeks arrived, his suspicions grew. Here he was, only moments away from unemployment, and his best friend hadn't said a word about it. He figured that maybe he was getting no notice so he would continue to work hard, giving his all for the final dates, and then when it was over, Chance would pull him aside to break the news to him. That way no one gets hurt, you know. The show must go on.
The relationship grew strained.
Chance picked up the vibes quickly, knowing that something was amiss but he waited to see if Greg would confide in him or not. They were close, real close. His friend knew he was there for him. Doesn't he? After all, Chance often claimed that without Greg, he would have never left his hometown in the first place. It was Greg that discovered him in the first place, musically that is. It was Greg that got him on the charts. But in the end, it was Chance that the public wanted. In the end, it was Chance.
Tara knew this. She sensed that these two were inseparable, and it made her feel left out.
"Well, Tara, I guess this is it! You finally won!" Greg's voice shattered the silence with a Truth so loud that it reverberated throughout her mind, and would many times in the future. For a moment, all walls had been torn down. For the first time, someone had seen through her. All the lies, the deceptions, the bitter motives that ruled her life . . . had he discovered them? Maybe he knew how, secretly, she envied his relationship with Chance. It wasn't based on power, or sex, or even money. It had been based on trust, a sensation that Tara had been stripped of by her family.
How could he know?! Tara's mind raced, but she remained silent, waiting for the Truth to crumble around her. All she could see was the possible future, where all lies and alibis collide like a cross between Judgement Day and the old TV show This is Your Life. Breathless, she anticipated Greg's voice to continue. Hearing nothing, she began to panic. Finally, she felt like the criminal from the Poe story whose own conscience forces him to cry out,
"I DID IT! That's right, it was me!"
But no! Tara was too smooth for that. Adopting her best Scarlet O' Hara manner, she turned to face her accuser with her bright rebuttal,
"Oh, Greg, what ever are you talking about?!"
Without looking up, Greg spoke low, "You won, Tara!"
Hesitating, but unable to resist, she asked the deadly question, "What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
"The bet! You won! You remember the bet we made, don't you?" Greg looked her squarely in the eye, with a glimmer of the sparkle that reminded her of the past when it was a permanent fixture. It was good to see it there, even if it faded as quickly as it appeared.
Then an image floated to the surface. Not quickly, like some memories, but it came back piece by piece until it formed the big picture.
She realized that what Greg was referring to had taken place on the first tour. It was on the bus that they made the wager, but for what? Tara pressed to recall. It wavered on the brink, but she couldn't quite see it yet.
"I owe you a dollar!"
Suddenly, it came back.
Greg and Tara had been drinking together, trying to sort out a dilemma that had arisen. Greg had scheduled Chance to appear on that TV show that he knew would make Chance uncomfortable. It was risky. If Chance discovered it prior to taping, he would never have agreed to it.
Greg knew that and yet, when the opportunity arose, he weighed the consequences carefully and set the date. He could lose his job over it. By the end of the day, if he wasn't careful. But he hadn't.
The event would be the catalyst, marking in history the new phase. The public begged for it, and he delivered it to them. He hoped . . . prayed . . . that Chance would understand. They had discussed it before, but when it came right down to it, could Chance cross the borderline? Oh, he could sing about it or laugh about it, but come face to face with it? Become it?
"Oh, no!!" he would laugh, waving Greg away. Chance claimed that he would have no part of it, but there had been all those late night conversations when he revealed that . . . maybe . . .
"Why should I?" Chance had asked. "The media already calls me a sell-out. Why should I give into their whims?"
Sure, he came from a famous background, but he could manage to succeed despite that. Just his being born rattled an empire, virtually brought down the house. After all, how should he feel about being the first recognized bastard son of the pope?
" . . . or Pop, as I like to call him when we get together," he'd quip, "which isn't very often these days since we've never met."
And, of course, the event made history.
Tara remembered. Greg had gotten drunk and sworn her to secrecy, which seemed reasonable enough since the idea was so fabulous. She volunteered to help. Of course, she wouldn't miss something this priceless. But as they discussed it that day on the bus, Greg worried endlessly abut losing his job over it. So much that Tara made him a bet.
Greg took the bet, figuring that if he did lose his job, he'd come out a dollar ahead. And she wagered,
"I bet you take this boy to the top of the fucking industry, you'll be stroking them (your egos, that is), he'll turn to you and say, 'Later, dude!' "
Tara and Greg had laughed at the idea then, and even now, ten years after, they managed to find humor in the apparent irony of it. Chance was on top. Greg was losing his job.
Then, without warning, Tara's stomach knotted as she realized her part in fulfilling the prophesy. Unable to make it to the door, she grabbed the trash can. Lunch came back. Greg recoiled in disgust and laughter. It was truly the funniest thing he had seen all week. He didn't mean to laugh . . .
Tara accepted his apology gracefully, but the remorse which made her ill was gone. She felt vindicated.
Later that day, she would verify the pregnancy, but for now, she only seethed inwardly, smiling outwardly. Her mind voice spewed it barrage of obscenitiesat Greg, completely forgetting any connection to his soul. Those moments of contact were becoming fewer and fewer between, and they both knew it. Tara was hardening to the point of complete isolation. Soon she would be a hard core sociopath. Greg might have been worried about Chance, as he always was when it came to Tara, but this time was different. He was worried about himself.
As well as he should be! Tara thought. No more would she feel remorse. She heard the laughter before and never again . . . Besides, it was meant to be. Greg said it himself when he brought up that crap!
"So where's my dollar?" She actually heard herself ask.
He gave her one, as if resigning himself to the inevitable. The next day he was gone. Chance was devastated but not surprised. He knew something had been bothering Greg for a while and if he needed some time off to sort it out, then Chance agreed. But it was odd that he didn't say anything to anyone.
"Kind of rude, if you ask me!" Tara would later say.
Funny thing was that she knew she wa a bitch, good at it, too.Obviously, her money kept them coming back for more. Or for . . . No one ever said it but she knew. Even Chance once wanted her for her money.
Who do you think paid for the first tour? The record company? Ha!!
But now, he was rich.
It wouldn't surprise me if he dropped me like a bad habit any day now.
She began to look for hints that might confirm her suspicions, and found a whole box of them. Now every comment, every joke became a personal attack aimed at driving her away.
She couldn't leave forever though. What if she didn't come back, and no one noticed. That was her reason for dropping in and out of any scene so dramatically. It always surprised the boys when she made her grand entrrance surrounded by her entourage of wild beauties. Tara knew how to pick them! And the guys actually began to look forward to her visits. They never realized how tanked she got the girls beforehand, nor how many visits to the street it took to enlist them. She didn't even have to pay them, but she bought them all the same.