Laurel walked the streets of New York, looking for a certain address. The latest recording session had firmed her resolve to protect her own interest. Jenna and Harold had wanted her to sign a waiver giving the band the rights to the songs she had written. There was no way Laurel was going to let that happen, but she needed help to make sure they would not try to run roughshod over her.
It had only taken two phone calls before she found several attorneys who specialized in entertainment. The one she chose was the only one who could schedule an appointment with her that afternoon. For once, the bassists lack of patience paid off because the sooner she covered her own back, the less likely it would be that someone could stick a knife into it.
Finally, she found the building she had been looking for and entered the townhouse turned office buildings. Her new attorney was on the fourth floor and there was no elevator. Laurel was beginning to wonder if she should have waited, but knew that the building did not make the attorney, the mind did.
"Can I help you?" A nice looking and well-dressed young woman asked when Laurel approached the desk.
"Yes, Im here to see Ms. Baker. My name is Laurel Kendrick." Laurel suddenly felt under dressed.
"Go right in, shes expecting you." The receptionist smiled and pointed to the office.
"Thank you." She was strangely apprehensive about the whole situation. The door to the office was open and Laurel stuck her head inside.
"Ms. Kendrick?" The light accented voice asked.
"Yes, but call me Laurel please." She stepped completely into the room. The blonde attorney looked at her for a long moment over her glasses before standing and offering her hand.
"Im Krista Baker. You said something on the phone about needing help with copyrights and royalties?"
"Yes maam." Laurel grinned as she shook the attorneys hand. There was something about the woman that immediately put her at ease.
"Maam?" Ms. Baker laughed. "You must be Southern."
"And you must be Canadian, or did I miss my guess?"
"I am. I like New York though, so I moved here and started my practice. Its still rather small, but were growing. Now, what exactly can I help you with?"
"Well, Im with a band and we just got a recording contract." Laurel opened her backpack and pulled out the copies of her contracts. "Im the bassist, though thats not really the point. The problem is that I got hoodwinked into staying with the band because of a small addendum I didnt see in the contract, and Ive written half the songs on our CD."
"How many songs are on your CD?" Ms. Baker took the contracts and began reading through them.
"Twelve. The first one were releasing is one I wrote."
"And you want to make sure that no one else can claim ownership of them right?"
"Right. I brought copies of all of them." Laurel pulled out a binder. "This is every song Ive written for the band." She pulled out a CD ROM too. She had not taken any chances and had saved the songs on Mandys computer, a few CD ROMs and as hardcopies.
"OK. I can hold on to those. As of now, I have to advise you not to sign anything else with out first discussing it with me. That is if you want me on retainer." The easy smile made Laurel trust her.
"Yes maam. I do."
"Alright." The attorney laughed. "The second thing is to call me Krista. All my clients do, though their agents and everyone else are not allowed. Third, go explore this city after you give your contact numbers to my receptionist. Shell put them in the computer since shes better than I am at that, and Ill get some research done. Dont worry." She stood and offered her hand again. "Im not about to let them screw you out of royalties. As soon as I get all the proper paperwork gathered, Ill courier them over to your hotel. We can discuss them after youve had a chance to look at them. Fair?"
"That sounds fair to me. Um, and payment? How do you want to handle that?" Laurel was suspicious again. She never trusted anyone who did not name a price upfront. It was a product of her upbringing.
"That will be included in the packet of information as well. Dont worry. I only charge a flat rate for a retainer, I dont ask for a percentage. Now, if we were to go to court, then you would have to pay my hourly wage, which I have been told is pretty decent for New York."
"Thank you, Ms. Baker. I mean Krista. Ill read over that information as soon as I get it." Laurel shook her hand one more time.
"Ill talk to you soon. I didnt mean to rush you, but I had to pencil you in. Ive got another appointment in a few minutes, and I really need my tea break." She escorted the bassist to the door.
"Understandable. Later." Laurel watched her new attorney disappear down the hallway before turning to the receptionist and giving the young woman her contact information. As she left, she felt that at least she had not messed this situation up completely.
"What do you think, Mo, Utica?" To combat the silence of the house, Nicole was talking to her dog. It helped her to think if she verbalized her thoughts. "Too cold, youre right. Hmm what else do we have here?"
She scrolled down the list of available jobs. This was the second website she searched that day. It seemed as if the only places that needed photographers were places she did not want to live. In truth, she did not want to move anywhere unless it was back to New Orleans. She could not move back until her grandmother died.
"Seven children, almost twenty grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and its me she has a problem with." She turned to the dog. He was lying near the computer chair. "I guess it is time for me to echo the age old question. Why me?" Mozart had no answer for her.
She really had no answer for herself either. Though Adia ruled the family with an iron fist, that fist seemed to fall heavier on Nicole than it did anyone else. Long talks with her Aunt Kay let the photographer know that her father had been treated the same. For some reason, Adia expected more from her. She expected perfection. Nicole never understood that, though she tried her best to live up to it.
She graduated high school and college with honors. She turned down several scholarships to go to the university of her choice. She did not need the scholarship money; her parents had planned ahead. College had been paid for before she was old enough to think about it. Since the university she attended cost less than most, the rest of the money paid for everything else. She was financially independent. That really upset her grandmother.
As a result of her monetary freedom, Nicole chose the major closest to her heart. Only her grandfather had understood. He advised her to follow her dream. She took that advice until it was time to make a real decision. After college, she continued to work at Dougs music store. Selling CDs and music equipment was not what she wanted to do, but she did not know what else there was to do. She became content with the status quo.
Now it was time to make another decision, and she did not want to do it. Nicole knew she possessed a very bad habit. When it came time to choose a course that would affect her future, she froze. She did not trust herself enough to make a decision. She felt more comfortable letting it make itself for her. It was one of many things she admired about Laurel. The bassist had the ability to make snap judgments and not second guess them. Nicole always doubted her own judgment.
"Come on Mo, a little help here would be nice." She took her mind off the past and placed her concentration back on the computer screen. She needed to find a job. What little she had in savings would not hold her for long. "Where do we want to move?"
The job in Memphis was still open, but she had no desire to move there. She also vetoed Tulsa, Boston, Roswell, though that was more tempting than the others, and Pensacola. If she could not stay in Hattiesburg, she wanted to return to Louisiana. Unfortunately, it seemed as if all the papers there did not need an extra photographer.
"Damn." She shut down the web browser. "Of all the stinking luck. Oh well. I still have two weeks before they quit paying me. Thats one good thing about delayed checks. You always have an extra week." She scratched the dogs ears. He placed his head in her lap and whined. "Wanna go out? Ill take that as a yes." She laughed when he ran for the door. Some things never changed.
"Alright boy, the yard is yours." She let Mozart precede her outside. He ran off and began reclaiming his territory. Squirrels always tried to move in if he did not watch for them.
Nicole sat down on the old swing. It squeaked loudly when she sat down. Laurel kept promising to oil the chain, but she never seemed to have the time. It was one more little thing Nicole now had to do for herself. Adjusting to singlehood was not easy, but she would manage. She had to manage; otherwise she felt the pain might well drive her crazy.
"I need a vacation." She muttered. "Wait a minute, isnt this my vacation? Then I need to do something fun." She thought for a moment. What was fun? She needed help on this one. Well, that is what she had Sheryl for. If there were something fun in Hattiesburg, Sheryl would know.
"So that must be why they call it Impressionism." The college-aged male raised his voice slightly above the acceptable level for the museum. His buddy leaned in closer.
"You know if you squint and tilt your head like this." He demonstrated. The baseball cap on his head slid to the floor. He reached down, grabbed it and placed it back on his head. "Anyway, if you do all that, you can almost tell its a church."
"Yeah, like I said, it gives the impression of being a church, hence Impressionism." The first guy reiterated his point.
"Monet was almost blind. He painted what he saw, thats why its like that." Laurel could not take it anymore. She hated ignorant people who pretended to have a veneer of culture. "If youd read the guidebook they gave you, youd see that."
"Well, why dont you tell us about it since you seem to know all about it anyway." The one with the baseball cap turned toward her.
"Yeah, you seem to be here by yourself, perhaps you can teach us a thing or two about art. Then we can teach you a thing or two." He apparently thought his smile was charming. Laurel thought it was ludicrous.
"No thanks, I have a date with a guy named Vincent. I should meet him in a moment." Laurel looked down at her map. The display she wanted to see was in the next room. She was almost there.
"Youre loss then." The baseball cap guy turned to his friend. "I saw some private school girls go into the Grecian column room. Wanna follow?"
"Are you sure your brother said the museum was a good place to score?"
"Thats what he said. Lets go." They headed off in search of easy prey. Laurel shook her head in disgust. She almost felt bad for them, but then the more she thought about it, the less she felt for them.
She stuck the map back into the pocket of her jeans. Ever since her mother had bought a print of Irises, Laurel had been enamored of Vincent Van Gogh. It was one passion her parent encouraged. They provided her with art books on famous artist, trips to the museum in New Orleans, and other art related products. It was a pity that she could not draw a straight line with a ruler, but she enjoyed looking at paintings.
Her father believed that true artistic skill was rare. He also believed that the ability to appreciate an artist and their work was also a rare skill. He attempted to instill that into his children. Jon rebelled, Laurel flourished. It was the one thing she could do that her brother could not. It was the one thing she had in common with her father, but love of art was not enough to build a relationship on as she discovered. Still, she knew he would be proud of her for this. Instead of exploring the seedier sides of New York, Laurel was using her free day to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
If she admitted it to herself, the main reason she agreed to cross the Mason-Dixon line was to see the museum. The one in New Orleans could easily fit inside this ones entrance way. The place was huge. She had already been here for three hours and just entered the second floor. The medieval exhibit had taken an hour to tour by itself. She still did not think she saw everything. There was simply too much to see at once. She would have to come back before they left the city.
"Ah, there you are, Vinnie." Laurel stopped in front of one of Van Goghs self-portraits. Though it was not his best, and he still had both ears, she felt drawn to it. It was all in his eyes.
For several moments she stood there starring into his eyes. She was amazed how much depth and emotion he had been able to convey through paint and canvas. She saw wisdom, talent and pain in those eyes. They seemed to stare straight off the canvas and into her soul. It was, for her, almost a spiritual experience. It definitely made a greater impact than the tapestries downstairs.
She almost wept for him then. It was easy for Laurel to place herself behind those eyes and see the man within. She understood what it must have been like to be so talented and yet so unappreciated. Only his brother had remained beside him. She could relate to that so well. She understood his madness, his determination, but not his suicide. She never understood anyones suicide. She was grateful for that lack of understanding; otherwise she may have ended her own life several years ago. She could not fathom that. She had something to give to the world, as Van Gogh had, though she did not know what. That would be revealed in time.
"Thank you, Vincent. For everything." Laurel blinked as she returned to herself. The ride was over and it was time to explore the next room.
She ignored the kiosk outside the Impressionist room. She wanted to explore the rest of the museum before she bought any souvenirs. She followed the walkway through columns, urns, statues and plants before stopping at a small café. Coffee and pastry seemed a good idea.
Laurel waited her turn before ordering a plain coffee much to the disappointment of the counterperson. She rolled her eyes at the thought of flavored coffee. It simply was not her. However, she did splurge and order an apple strudel instead of a plain bagel. It looked like the ones her great aunt often made for breakfast on Christmas morning. She juggled the cup and the plate carefully as she chose a table.
"I see Im not the only lover of pure coffee bean." An elderly gentleman commented as he took a seat near her.
"I guess Im a bit old fashioned." Laurel looked up from the guidebook.
"I completely understand. Allow me to introduce myself." He tipped his hat. "I am Professor Morganstern."
"Laurel Kendrick." She extended her hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Kendrick. I do hope that you do not mind this invasion of your privacy, but the rest of the tables were occupied."
"Not at all, sir. If you dont mind my asking, what are you a professor of?" She did not know why she was curious. There was just something calming about the elder professor. He was wearing a tweed jacket, an English driving cap, and his accent still held a slight tinge of the Queens English.
"Medieval History. Are you a student?" He sat aside his paper.
"No sir. I graduated a few weeks ago. However, I did receive my degree in history." Laurel was suddenly ready for a decent conversation on one of her favorite topics.
"How splendid. What was your emphasis?"
"Oddly enough, one was Medieval and the other was Pre-American Civil War. I will admit that my favorite was Medieval England. I did my thesis on Celtic heritage and how their monks saved English civilization."
"Very astute. I am quite sure that did not go over well did it?" Professor Morganstern seemed pleased.
"I did well on it, but it was difficult trying to prove my point. There are not a lot of books available for resources on the subject." Laurel smiled a little at the memory. She spent an entire weekend at the New Orleans public library and still found little to support her thesis statement. She did find a lot more online. She believed it was one of the best uses for the Internet.
"Yes I have noticed that myself. The real battle I seem to fight is the misconception everyone has of the English kings of the period. Everyone seems to regard Shakespeare as truth rather than entertaining literature." He took a sip of his coffee. "So, what brought you to New York? I can tell you are not local from your accent and your demeanor."
"Demeanor?" She laughed.
"Twice now you have called me sir. Not many people in this region use such manners." He smiled gently.
"Ah, well I am here playing tourist. Ive always wanted to see the museums Van Gogh collection, and since I had the chance I jumped at it." She did not want to go into all the details even though she had a feeling he would have listened patiently.
"Understandable. I come here from time to time for inspiration."
"Are you a writer?" She knew that many universities required their professors to be published to keep tenure.
"Goodness no." He laughed. "I do publish a few articles from time to time, but I really come here to refresh myself for the upcoming terms. I seem to have the bad luck to have drawn summer teaching duty this year. A pity as I was hoping to return to London and visit with my daughter. My granddaughter is about your age, I think."
"Perhaps they can come over here then." Laurel suggested.
"Perhaps they might." He seemed to like the idea. "Now you have a major in history, correct?" She nodded. "What do you plan to do with it?"
"I was going to go to law school, but my recent encounters with attorneys have squashed that idea. I would like to get my Masters though." She answered after long thought. Every time she encountered an attorney, she always doubted her chosen calling.
"Mayhap you should consider continuing on for your Doctorate. I get the impression that you would be a delightful professor."
"I think Id be an eccentric one." She did not want to admit that the idea appealed to her.
"Ah, my dear, you see in academia, the more eccentric you are, the better. Otherwise it seems as if no one takes you seriously." He laughed as he pulled on his jacket to illustrate his point. "Keep it in mind, though. I must be off. It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Kendrick. Do take care."
"And you as well, Professor." She stood and took the offered hand. "I hope you find your inspiration."
"I believe I have, my dear, I believe I have." He smiled and then turned away. She watched him exit the café.
"Interesting." She mumbled to herself. The coffee was cool and the pastry was cold, but she still enjoyed them. It was an interesting day, but a good one.
"So this is supposed to be fun?" Nicole yelled over the music. Her pulse was keeping time with the tribal drumbeats. She hated techno.
"It used to be." Sheryl yelled back. "Wanna another beer?"
"No, Im still on this one." She held up the plastic cup to clarify the point. To get into the bar, they were forced to purchase a cup. It was to avoid the mandatory cover charge, but the beer was included in the cups price. Unfortunately, it was cheap beer. Nicole did not think she would drink her moneys worth.
"At least Aaron can dance." Sheryl yelled.
"Yeah. One of them has to." She looked out over the crowded dance floor. Aaron was leading Danny through an uncomplicated dance move. The poor deejay could not even perform that well. At least he could follow his lovers lead. Aaron solved the problem by taking Danny into his arms and gyrating to the music.
"You sure you dont wanna dance?" Sheryl asked again. "I mean you did want to have fun, and this is supposed to be fun."
"Yeah, alright." Nicole felt her resolve melt. She did request an evening out doing something they normally did not do. This was it. Danny had suggested the only gay bar in Hattiesburg, and the rest reluctantly agreed. They felt too old for that sort of scene, but decided to try it. So far, their feelings were right, but only because they wanted them to be.
"Come on, itll be interesting at least." Sheryl pulled her friend onto the dance floor.
There was one plus to dancing at a gay bar in South Mississippi. Not many people would dance, so the ones that did were not made fun of as much. Nicole used her height and her new perspective to watch the crowd. Every stereotype was present it seemed. A man in a white g-string, white cowboy boots and a feather boa was dancing alone in the corner, while a rather butch looking woman was waltzing with a well-dressed femme in full make-up. It was almost like someone had cast a movie, but had not provided Nicole or her friends with a script.
"This place has changed since weve been here last." Nicole pulled Sheryl in closer so the critic would hear.
"Yeah, it wasnt as popular then." The critic pointed to a table in the corner where several young co-eds sat.
As time passed, the crowd grew larger. Nicole could not remember ever seeing so many people at the bar. A lot had changed since she graduated college. Word of the little bar had spread and people responded. It made for some interesting combinations as people from all walks of life intermingled. More than one temporary couple was made that evening.
Finally, Nicole caught Dannys eye. She indicated the door with an incline of her head. He nodded and the four of them made their way through the throng. It was more crowded downstairs near the pool tables and bar area. Danny and Aaron collected the plastic cups and fought their way to the bar as Sheryl and Nicole made their way outside. The best part of the bar was its courtyard. It was modeled after one in New Orleans. It boasted tables, a fountain, and several leafy plants. It was a perfect place to cool off after sweating on the dance floor.
"Where did all my energy go?" Nicole asked as she flopped down into a chair.
"Probably the same place mine did. Wherever socks go when they disappear from the dryer." Sheryl pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. "Want one?"
"I have my own, thanks. It is strange to see you smoking again, you know that dont you?" Nicole asked as she lit a cigarette.
"Probably as strange as it is seeing you out in a club after so long." Sheryl answered. "I was worried you were going to go all hermit like on us again."
"I was never a hermit."
"Sure you were, but at least you were better dressed than most." Danny edged his way into the conversation as he sat down. "Here, another skunk beer."
"Thanks." Nicole took the plastic cup from him.
"Five dollars should buy us better beer." Sheryl complained as she took the cup Aaron offered.
"I agree, but they have to pay overhead with something." Aaron pointed out. "So are we having fun yet?"
"A blast." Danny told him. He sounded enthusiastic.
"Oh yeah, a tub of fun." Nicole could not keep the sarcasm from her voice.
"Well, theres always the old standby." Sheryl sat her beer on the table.
"I could go for a cup of coffee after this stuff." Aaron agreed. He had learned the groups ways quickly.
"Me too. Shall we?" Nicole stood. "Ill drive." They had taken one car, and she had consumed the least amount of beer.
"Sounds good to me." Danny handed her the keys. He drank the most. "To Mabels we go."
"Some things never change." Sheryl muttered as they headed to the car.
"True, but arent you glad for it sometimes?" Nicole asked.
"Yeah, Im glad this will never change."
"As am I." Danny turned around and attempted to walk backwards.
"Come on, lover boy, I dont want to spend the night telling the doctors at the ER how you busted your head open." Aaron grabbed his arm and turned him around again.
"And so am I." Nicole whispered more to herself than to her friends. In a sea of change, they were islands.
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