Authors: Krista McGee
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Religious, #Christian, #General
nna Grace, you’ll be fine,” Addy said. “I heard you practicing earlier, and you are amazing. You sound like a professional.”
“Well, I have been taking voice since I was four,” Anna Grace said, fanning herself. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous.”
Addy hugged her, surprising even herself at this display of emotion. “Don’t be nervous. If you sing even half as well as you did at practice, the audience will be blown away.”
Anna Grace smiled. “Thanks, Addy.”
“You’re next, Anna Grace.” Eric motioned for the young woman to stand in the wings.
She left and Eric walked over. “And how are you, Addy?”
“More nervous than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
“Understandable. The latest numbers I’ve heard are twenty million viewers—”
“Not helping,” Addy said, hands over her ears.
“Picture everyone in their underwear?”
“Break a leg?”
Addy chuckled. “With my luck, I just may.”
Their banter was interrupted by the first angelic notes of Anna Grace’s song, and Addy glanced down at the kazoo in her hand.
What in the world am I doing?
Maybe she could fake an asthma attack. Or a heart attack. That would buy her more time. Maybe even send her home.
Home . . . No cameras, no packages, no talent shows. God, I would give anything for this to be just one very long dream. I’m ready to wake up. Anytime now .
“All right, Addy. There’ll be a three-and-a-half-minute commercial break. Get in place and then Dan will give you the thumbs-up sign. Your music will start right after that. Got it?”
“If I say no, can I get out of it?”
Eric pushed Addy onstage, where she walked to the blue
. Downstage center was what Eric called it. She wasn’t allowed to move from that
Addy wasn’t sure she’d be able to move anything ever again. Thousands of faces looked at her, cameras were hugging the stage. Behind those cameras, millions of people were sitting at home watching her. She had never been so terrified in her life.
“The next contestant tonight is Miss Addy Davidson,” Hank said from his post at stage left. The audience erupted in applause and the stage lit up around her.
Addy took a deep breath and lifted the kazoo to her lips. She closed her eyes and tried to pretend she was in the trailer with Kara, just practicing, as she had the last few nights.
Kara had helped Addy find background music suitable to accompany her kazoo. The two decided a patriotic piece would be best, and Kara insisted on “The Star-Spangled Banner” and taught Addy how to hum “runs”—a series of notes like the pop stars sing—to be included at the end. On “Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,” Addy hummed her heart out, putting her whole body into the effort, just like Kara had shown her.
The audience began laughing and clapping.
They actually like it
Thank you, Coach Kara
By the time Addy hit the last line, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the audience in the Nashville theater was on its feet.
As she took her bow, Addy looked down and saw Jonathon on the front row, a big smile on his face and a thumbs-up in her direction. She stood and stared at him for a moment, taking in his double-breasted tuxedo and brilliant smile.
“Pssst.” Eric waved from offstage. “Let’s go, Addy.”
She tore her gaze away from Jonathon and walked back to a squealing, clapping Kara waiting in the wings.
Hank walked over and pulled her aside. “Not bad, Addy. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
Is he actually complimenting me?
“So, are you ready to play by my rules now? I’m still willing to give you a shot.”
Addy stepped back. “Your rules?”
“Don’t act innocent. Your parents can give me a call and we can work something out. Here’s my number.” He held out a card.
“Thanks, Hank, but I don’t think so.” Addy refused to take the card.
He put the card in his back pocket and scowled. “I hope you enjoyed this week, then. Because it will be the last one you have here.”
Addy tried to speak, but Hank cut her off. “No, no, Miss Addy. You’ve made your choice.”
Addy woke up the next morning to Kara’s screams.
“Addy, Addy. You are
going to believe this.” Kara jumped up and down and clapped.
“What in the world . . . ?” Addy croaked, rubbing her eyes.
Kara hopped over to Addy’s bed and deposited her laptop on Addy’s lap. “Read.”
“More blogs?” Addy groaned. “I don’t want to know. I’m sure I already know: ‘Addy Davidson is the biggest idiot in America,’ right?”
“Wrong,” Kara sang in her best opera voice. “Read, Addy.
.” Kara was still jumping up and down.
“Fine.” The headline read “America’s Sweetheart.” Addy looked at Kara. “What?”
.” Kara grinned.
“‘Thumbing her nose at the other twenty-nine contestants, Addy Davidson triumphed with a rousing kazoo solo in last night’s
Book of Love
“Honestly, Addy, if I didn’t know you, I’d think you were a genius.”
She pushed Kara off her bed. “Thanks, roomie.”
know you weren’t using any strategy, but everyone else thinks you are, and brilliantly. Well played, my friend. You’re a shoo-in for the Top Twenty-Five. I wish I could see Hank’s face right now.”
“There was no strategy,” Addy said. “I just don’t have talent.”
“I know. Well, I mean, no offense, but . . .”
“None taken. I am aware of my inabilities.”
that you don’t have talent. Look.” Kara grabbed the laptop and clicked to an entertainment website. “‘Addy Davidson, Our Hero.’”
Addy frowned. “I don’t understand. I play a kazoo and I’m a hero?”
Kara shut her computer and looked at Addy. “Pretty much. You see, the rest of us were acting like this was Miss America or
America’s Next Star
. And I’m not gonna lie, we were all pretty amazing. It was like putting twenty-nine Picassos onstage with my little niece’s drawing of Barney. Picasso may be great, but Barney stands out. It’s cute, original, and endearing.”
“So you’re Picasso and I’m Barney. Is that what you’re saying?” Addy asked with a crooked smile.
“No. I’m Picasso and you’re my niece—she’s
cuter than Barney. And smaller. And less purple, and definitely not as annoying.”
“Okay, okay. So people like me because I’m untalented?”
“People like you because you’re not ashamed of being untalented.”
Addy was still trying to understand when she heard a commotion outside her door.
“Addy Davidson! We’d like to talk with you, if y’all don’t mind.”
Addy looked questioningly at Kara, then walked to open the trailer door.
A mob of girls in pajamas was crowded around the little metal steps leading to Addy’s trailer. A mob of
girls in pajamas.
Lord, give me strength
. “Yes? What would you like to talk about?”
Southern belle Anna Grace stepped forward. “Don’t act all innocent with us, Addy.” She tossed her short blond hair. “Do you think this is a joke?”
Addy thought of at least half a dozen fabulous comebacks, but, remembering her desire to be a light, she held back. “I’m sorry?”
“Well, you should be. We work our butts off preparing for last night, and you waltz in with that stupid kazoo and get the entire spotlight?” Anna Grace crinkled her perfect little nose. “First you act all nasty; now you’re a clown. You’ll just do anything to get people to notice you.”
Addy massaged her temples and tried to speak but was cut off by another of the contestants—Taylor from Tacoma.
“Don’t even try to deny it. We’ve all been watching you and we’re onto you. You’re going to regret this, Addy. We’ll make sure of it.”
With that, the girls turned their heads and walked off. It was so perfect Addy wondered if they had choreographed the whole thing. She shut the door.
These girls are ridiculous. Last night everything was fine. Lila even told me I was creative. I thought things were finally getting better, that maybe we could all be friends
“How could they change so much in less than twelve hours?” Addy picked up her pillow and threw it back down.
“Don’t listen to them. They’re ridiculous and self-absorbed and jealous.” Kara squeezed Addy’s shoulder. “They were fine last night because they thought you weren’t any major competition. They’re upset today because they found out that you
. You have the spotlight they all want.”
Addy took a deep breath. “I guess I’m just getting a little taste of what it’s like to be a celebrity. And I’m even more convinced this life is
“Don’t worry, kid. They mess with you and they’ve messed with me. And believe me, they don’t want to mess with me. Now, get dressed. We have a meeting in ten minutes.”
“Yes, ma’am. Your public awaits.”
Addy groaned, dressed, and dragged herself to The Mansion’s front porch.
Help me, God. I don’t think I can handle any more of my “public” right now
adies,” Hank began, “and
,” he spat, causing the other girls to laugh conspiratorially. “The Top Twenty-Five will be announced tonight. Jonathon is making his decisions as we speak.”
“Excuse me.” Taylor raised her hand, looking sideways at Addy. “Will there not be any kind of discipline for last night’s
fiasco? I mean, it’s really making us all look bad.” A murmur of agreement arose from the crowd. “Can’t someone talk to Jonathon and make sure he doesn’t make any choices that would cause him to appear less than intelligent?” Taylor leaned forward. “I’m just trying to look out for
. He has a reputation to maintain, you know.”
Kara stiffened. “Really, Taylor? You think Addy should be disciplined for playing the kazoo? What about you and Anna Grace and the others outside our trailer this morning, yelling and screaming? Shouldn’t there be discipline for that? Or is behaving like a jerk okay? Kazoo playing, yeah, that’s the real crime.”
Several of the girls began yelling at once. Hank motioned for them to stop. “Kara, what happens when I’m not around is not my business. I am sure, however”—he smiled at Taylor—“that the other producers and myself want very much for the integrity of our show to be upheld at all costs.” Hank glared at Addy. “And I think much of our frustration will end tonight when the Top Twenty-Five is announced.”
Her stomach turned to lead.
“Now,” Hank said, “I have a surprise for you girls. The world-famous Jacobson’s department store is celebrating its one-hundred-year anniversary. And as one of our show’s sponsors, they’ve invited you to come to their flagship store in New York City enjoy a shopping spree. And then”—Hank paused, his too-white teeth glistening—“off to Central Park for the announcement of the Top Twenty-Five.”
The girls cheered and jumped up and down. Even Addy was excited.
Home sweet home
,” Kara sang.
“Quiet down, girls,” Hank yelled. “The plane leaves in an hour.”
The other girls ran toward their trailers, laughing and talking, making sure to shoot Addy at least one more dirty look on the way out.
“Hey, Addy, are you okay?” Kara asked, her face a mask of concern.
“I’m going to New York City.” Addy smiled. “Of course I’m okay.”
“Seriously. Hank was pretty brutal.”
“You know what? I don’t care. I get another day with you,
I get to go to New York City. What more could I ask for?”
“I like this new, positive Addy.” Kara patted her on the back. “Let’s pack.”
he Top Thirty girls sat in Central Park, lights, cameras, and thousands of people surrounding their live broadcast of
The Book of Love
. Jonathon, flanked by Secret Service and his Top Thirty, was perched on a huge rock, looking relaxed and gorgeous in faded jeans, blue button-down oxford, and brown blazer.