Synopsis: Andi Winters is a barista and college student by day, and a professional opera singer by night. When a mysterious brunette with gorgeous green eyes appears backstage, Andi's world gets turned upside down, in more ways than one.
Disclaimer: No sex. At least, not yet.
Warning: This story is not yet complete. This is part one of a multi-part story.
Andi's eyes fluttered open. Her stomach was growling and her head spun a little. She heard music in the background, but it didn't seem important right then. She'd been having some sort of dream… no, a nightmare, about opening night—
Opening night. Oh, shit. I'm late! I—
She sat up, and found herself staring into a very worried pair of green eyes. In a flash, the whole horrible situation came flooding back.
“Are you okay?” Devon's voice was concerned.
“That depends. Am I fired?”
“Fired?” Devon looked confused. “Why the hell would I fire you?”
“Why the hell didn't you tell me? Why did you let me babble on like that?”
Devon sighed, looking down at the floor. “Because I was trying to learn what all of you really thought. What you really wanted. I'm not going to be a hands-off manager, but before I can fix something I need to know how it's broken. And I—“
“Used me. And God knows how many other people. How many late nights did you spend at that IHop, prying people's life stories out of them?” Andi tried to move, ignoring the wave of dizziness and trying to hear the orchestra. “What time is it? What act are we in?”
“Relax, okay? They've just started the overture—we started late because I gave a speech in front of the curtain. Just lay down until your head stops spinning.”
“I'm fine,” Andi insisted. “I need to fix my face before I go on, and they've probably already called places.”
“Girl, you're white as a ghost under that Beige #2. When was the last time you ate something?”
Andi finally got to her feet, fueled mostly by rage, and whirled on the worried brunette. “Look, you can stop pretending to give a shit now, okay? You got what you wanted out of me. Now let me go; I have a job to do.”
Stunned and hurt, Devon said nothing, and Andi swept out of the room.
Andi barely made it into the wings before the first cue, sauntering onstage with the rest of the gypsy girls. A few concerned glances came her way, but she was too angry to think—she sang and acted her part on autopilot. People were buzzing with talk in the greenroom at intermission, but she heard nothing.
“Andi, what happened to you?” It was Mary, one of the older altos, a grandmother and the resident mom of the chorus.
“I'm fine,” Andi managed a smile. “Just forgot to eat lunch.”
“Do you want some crackers or something? I have hot lemonade in my Thermos if you need it.”
“Thanks Mary, but I'm okay. I promise.” Andi smiled, and Mary patted her arm before wandering off to join another conversation.
The more she thought about it, the angrier she got. How dare that bitch— Mrs. Devon Chandler, indeed—trick me into looking like a silly gossip? Well, I guess I was right about her being straight. Andi didn't want to examine how much hurt came from the sense of betrayal, and how much came from the thought of Devon being married.
Andi checked her cell phone about a dozen times on Saturday, then showed up early for makeup call, half expecting Renard—or, worse, Devon—to pull her aside and tell her to turn in her costume. As the evening wore on, she decided that they were probably going to wait till the show closed before getting rid of her—otherwise they'd have to restage some bits of business, and it was probably going to be easier to just let her finish out the run. After all, it was the end of the season—chances were they'd just fail to hire her for next season, rather than making a big deal of it now.
Worse, she was beginning to realize that Devon had had a point—there was no way she would have aired the company's dirty laundry in front of the new general manager. Only in front of a gorgeous beauty with mesmerizing eyes.
She was nervous and preoccupied for the rest of the weekend's performances. Fortunately her classes were nearly over; one more push before finals and she'd be free. Maybe she'd pick up a few extra shifts to compensate; her stipend from Pacific wasn't much, but losing it would hurt.
It wasn't until the Sunday matinee that she began to really listen to the conversational buzz going on in the makeup room. People were talking, some excited, some concerned, about the speech Devon had made—about changes, big changes. Open auditions. New operas.
My ideas. She's using my ideas. Andi wasn't sure whether she felt betrayed or flattered. Well, even more reason to push me out—then no one will know that Mrs. Chandler isn't perfect.
No, the little voice in the back of her head said. She's damn near perfect. Perfect hair, perfect ass, perfect… everything. Except for that little problem of having a husband.
The show closed on a Sunday to a half-empty house and a single bow. The imported stars had been phoning it in for the last two weekends, and the mood in the chorus was less excited and more tentative. They'd all absorbed the fact that changes were in store—but what sort of changes? Would they be good… or bad?
Andi had decided to forgo the usual cast party, and as the rest of the chorus scrambled out, she changed slowly back into her street clothes. She was taking a good look—her last look, she was sure—around the familiar, cluttered makeup room, when Devon walked in. She hadn't shown her face during the run—Andi assumed she'd been in the audience, or home with her husband. Despite her fears, the sight of the tall, lanky brunette in her snug black jeans and the little hint of cleavage revealed by the rich green silk of her blouse made Andi stop to catch her breath.
“Andi, we need to talk.”
Andi's stomach knotted. This was it—the moment she'd been dreading, when they told her it was over. Pacific may not have been her dream job, but it was the oldest, and arguably still second-best, opera company in the city. Being fired at this level would probably mean the end of her career—at least on this coast. She could always change her name—
“Andi, please?” Devon's face looked concerned, as though she was afraid of something.
“I'm sorry. Of course, Mrs. Chandler.” Her voice was stiff, her throat swollen. Resolutely she followed Devon up to the third floor, into the manager's office with its dated and garish furniture, and sat wordlessly as Devon settled behind the ornate desk.
“Every time I walk into this place, I think Art Deco and Whorehouse Chic had a bastard child,” Devon muttered wryly. Andi, despite the flutters in her stomach, emitted a smothered giggle and, for the first time in weeks, looked up to meet Devon's eyes.
“That's better,” Devon said softly. “Andi, I—“ She paused.
Time to bite the bullet , thought Andi. At least I can leave here on the high ground.
“Mrs. Chandler—Devon—I'm sorry. For what I said to you. I've been thinking about what you said, and you were right in one respect—if you'd just come floating in here introducing yourself as the new manager, everyone would have either hated you or been afraid of you, and nothing would have changed.”
“Andi… I'm the one who owes you an apology. And an explanation.” Devon sighed, and smiled at the petite redhead. “You are right that I pushed you for details, and I pushed a lot of other people too. But no one had the insight on this place that you had—even people who'd been in the chorus for a decade didn't give me half the information you did. I went about it the wrong way, and that was probably… less than ethical of me. I'm sorry I put you in that position.”
“So… am I really not fired?” Andi smiled. For the first time in weeks, the sinking feeling in her stomach was beginning to lift. It wouldn't last long.
“Actually, I'm not firing you. I'm offering you a job.” Devon paused, and for a moment her mask of confidence seemed to slip. “I'd like you to be my artistic director. Please.”
Andi was stunned. “What?”
“Artistic director. You'd be in charge of—“
“No, wait. Why? I don't…” Her eyes welled with tears. All that training, all that education, and for what?
Devon looked confused. “I thought… I thought you'd be pleased. Look, you can finish school—I'll work around your class schedule. You don't have to keep up these twenty-hour days of yours. You know so much about what is needed here… “ Her voice trailed off as Andi let out a sob.
The tall brunette's green eyes were filled with worry as she moved to the other side of the desk. Andi wordlessly took the tissues she offered, and tried to force herself to breathe.
“Devon, I'm sorry. It's… it's a lovely offer. But… I joined this company because I wanted to sing.”
“Oh, my God. I'm sorry—I should have explained better. Andi, the position I have in mind for you is a day job. You're not going to be casting shows, and you're not forbidden from auditioning.”
“Management, singing in the chorus? I'd look like an idiot.”
“No. But management taking one or two roles a year is not unheard of. I know in smaller companies, sometimes the management takes all the lead roles, or gives them to their friends or students. Look at Renard—do you think you're the only one who noticed his casting methods? If we audition out the roles, and only hire in when we have to—there isn't a baritone in this house that could handle Rigoletto , for example—then you taking a role that you auditioned for and won won't even be comment-worthy.”
Andi looked up into the smiling green eyes. “You… you really mean it? You want me to work here, and let me audition for a real part?”
Devon smiled down at her. “I do.”
“Can you tell me—“ Andi swallowed nervously “—why me?”
Devon smiled. “Because you were right. You were right about Renard—I'm making him the marketing director, and giving him full rein to promote the company. A personal assistant he can lord over. And a big fancy overdecorated office… without a couch.” She grinned. “Your insights were right on, every time. Your ideas were worthwhile—you may have noticed I've already acted on a few of them.
“And, Andi… you were the only person I talked to who, no matter what you said about the company… you kept saying ‘we.' You never said ‘they.' Your belief in this company is something we're going to need, if we're going to haul it out of mediocrity and help it live up to its old reputation. So... will you do it?”
Andi's mind was whirling. So much to absorb… so much to think about… but when was she ever going to get another opportunity like this?
She nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, I will. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'll do it.”
Devon moved around behind her desk and took a split of champagne out of the mini-fridge. “At least Renard has good taste in something,” she muttered wryly. Pouring out two flutes, she offered one to Andi, who rose and took it from her hand. Briefly, their fingers touched, and Andi felt again that jolt of electricity that tingled through her whole body. She looked up at the tall, slender brunette who had just completely changed her life, and her heart stopped in her throat.
“To our new working relationship,” Devon toasted.
Oh, God, thought Andi as she raised her glass. What have I gotten myself into? Not only is she married, but now she's my boss.
End of Part Two
Copyright © 2009 sapphirebard. Any use of this story or its characters in whole or in part is prohibited without express permission of the author.
I believe Carmen is public domain but in case it's not, Carmen the story was written by Prosper Merimee in 1845, and Carmen the opera based on the story was written by Georges Bizet in 1875. I had nothing to do with any of this.
Feedback is always welcome at sapphirebard (at) gmail (dot) com
To be continued in Part Three
Return to the Academy