A loud, urgent beeping noise wakes me and causes me to fall from my top bunk.
"Wow, that was amazing," I hear Danny laugh.
"Shut. Up." I say grumpily. I stand, legs wobbly. "What is with the alarm?"
"You wouldn't get up," Danny shrugs. I look around to see Aleric and Zach standing by me.
"Wha-?" I get out sleepily.
"Clarisse woke us up. You were like stone."
"Damn you, Clarisse," I mumble murderously. "Why?"
"Apparently," Aleric says, "We have a freaking photo shoot before the show."
"What time is it?" I ask.
Danny and Aleric look and each other and back away from me slightly. "5:00. AM," Aleric tells me, a bit guiltily.
I cover my eyes and groan before throwing a sweatshirt over my tank top. A photo shoot, at least, means that I don't have to get ready as it will be done at the studio. 5 AM means I got about two hours of sleep last night.
"We're in Florida already?" I ask.
"Yeah," Aleric answers. "The traffic cleared, we left the rest stop a few hours ago."
"Let's go already," Zach says. His voice is slightly pitched higher, and by the looks of his face, from excitement.
"Aw, it's Zachy's first photo shoot," Aleric teases.
Well, that explains why we're having the damn shoot, to promote Zach as our new Bass player.
There is a sleek, shiny black car waiting outside that we get into, with tinted windows to prevent the Press from taking pictures of us in our sweats.
We are driven to a tall, sleek building. I get out and instantly regret wearing a sweatshirt. The warm, sticky Florida air hits me like a blanket. The guy's groans sound similar to mine.
The air conditioner inside makes me sigh with relief, at least until I'm hustled by some woman wearing a pantsuit into a small changing room.
"Here," she shows me a rack with five outfits grouped together. "Hurry. The makeup room is in room 101, down the hall."
I barely get enough time to say "Okay," before she leaves.
I peel off my sweatshirt and pajamas and pull on some tight black pants, a red tank top, and a shredded sleeveless cardigan.
The makeup takes at least a half hour and the hair an hour. They make my eyes much like the makeup I do myself, making my eyes look huge and my lips bright red. The hair is practically baked straight and curled at the ends, until it shimmers around my face and down my shoulders.
Zach gives me a look as they finish the touches on his makeup, then we all walk into the photo shoot room together.
The shoot is much like our other ones. They have me stand by myself, sit on a box, stand between the guys, whatever. It takes all kinds of facial positions; smiling, staring dramatically at the camera, etc.
"Okay, now, pick Allison up you three," the photographer instructs. "And let her lay in your arms, head at Aleric, feet at Zach. Allison, prop your head in your hand like that- big smile- great," the camera flashes. He stops for a moment and I think we are done until he calls to some tech crew, "Let's get some photos with their instruments, hm?"
I change into my last outfit; a 50's style swing dancing dress and heels for the last picture. In this one, I'm sitting on a box with one of my feet propped up. I have an old microphone from the 40's in my hand. Danny is behind me with his drumset, Aleric leaning against me with his Les Paul guitar, and Zach on the other side with his awesome vintage bass.
"All right, you guys are good," the photographer says. I sigh in relief and practically rip the black vintage heels from my feet. I skip to the dressing room and change back into my pajamas.
Clarisse stops us just before we get into the bus. "Kiddos, don't take a break yet. You've got practice, remember? You're introducing Zach tonight."
"Right," I hear Aleric mumble. We follow Clarisse back to the studio where our instruments are set up still.
For the next two hours, we practice finishing our last song and introducing Zach onto the stage.
Finally, Clarisse lets us go. "Just to let you know," I snap at her grumpily, "Whatever happens onstage, happens. We might introduce him your way, or our way. Whatever is best for the audience."
Clarisse purses her lips. "I find it amusing how you seem to think that you decide what happens. If you remember, I could drop you from the record contract in a moment."
I roll my eyes and get in the car to ride back to the bus. I don't mean to be disrespectful, I mean, she was the one who took us in and made us a record deal in the first place. I'll apologize later. Maybe.
I sit on my bunk and peel off my sweatshirt again. Suddenly, something buzzes beneath my butt, making me jump.
"What the hell was that?" I gasp. Danny starts laughing.
"Your phone, duh," he laughs.
"Shhhh," I say offensively. "It's not like I get calls all the time." I dig it out from the drawer installed under my bed and answer it.
"Hello?" I say.
"Sweetheart?" I hear.
"Daddy?" I say happily and grinning. I curl up on my bunk and hold the phone close to my ear.
"How are you honey?" there is a smile in his voice too.
"I'm... Fine, dad. I'm great. I haven't talked to you in forever."
He sighs into the phone. "I know. And I'm sorry. Things have been... Complicated."
"Why?" I ask worriedly. "Is there anything wrong?"
Aleric looks up when I say this, a concerned look on his face.
"Can we meet somewhere?" my dad asks.
My stomach drops. "No, actually. We're on tour. But... What is it?"
He clears his throat. "Don't worry about it. Let's talk about you. Tell me about the tour."
"Dad..." I start.
"No," he says firmly. "Promise be you won't worry about me. It's fine."
"Okay..." I say slowly. "We're tired, but doing good. We just finished a photo shoot."
"Was that fun?" Dad asks.
"Yeah," I tell him. "We got a bass player, it was to promote him."
"They didn't make you wear anything too sexy, I hope?" he asks, another smile in his voice, making me relax. Maybe what he had to tell me really was nothing.
"No," I tell him. "We're coming out with an album in a few months."
"I'll be sure to buy it."
We talk about the band for a few more minutes, until he asks, "So... Um... Have you talked to your mom or your brother lately?"
"Yeah," I lie quickly, "They're fine."
"Good," he sighs. "Good."
I hear talking in the background, then dad says, "Pumpkin, I have to go. I'm sorry."
"Oh," I say softly. "Bye daddy."
A click is the only response. I sigh and replace my phone in the drawer.
"You okay?" Aleric asks in concern.
"I'm fine," I say softly.
He looks at me like he doesn't believe me, by leaves the issue.
"Our sound check is in an hour," Danny suddenly comes in to tell us. I jump; I hadn't realized that he'd left.
I get up and grab my concert clothes from the closet; dark washed and frayed jean shorts, a striped black and white shirt, and black shoes.
The tour bus brings us to the concert hall and we hop out, carrying the guitars and instruments.
"Showtime," Zach mumbles excitedly.