Copyright © Grace Harper 2021
The right of Grace Harper to be identified as the author of this book has been asserted by the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copying of this manuscript, in whole or in part, without the author and her publisher’s written permission, is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved
“EMOTIONAL: Jude North overcome with emotion as she stepped on stage to wow the crowd in Beijing. Tears almost poured down her cheeks as the hundred thousand fans screamed her name. The superstar bounded across the stage belting out the lyrics to her biggest hit as the crowd sang along with her. As China welcomes Jude North, Maverick is sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs waiting for their record label to send them on tour…”
Megan Moreland, Millennium Music Magazine
As I paced my spacious dressing room, clutching and relaxing my fingers around the microphone in my right hand, I chanted these sentences aloud.
“I can do this. With countless top ten singles, including five number ones, worldwide, remembering the first line of my song should be a walk in the park.”
I wore an oversized sweatshirt with knee-high boots. All white. Underneath I had a set of leather underwear, high rise knickers to my waist and a bra top. To cover my legs, my goto skin coloured catsuit. To anyone watching, I was naked under the sweatshirt. All of my clothing arrived this morning in my dressing room from a Beijing designer. There wasn’t a single item of clothing that was comfortable. Chinese styling didn’t allow for curves and I had hips, womanly hips and breasts. Whitney, my stylist, made it work like it was designed for me. False nails, bright pink makeup and bleach blonde wig in a short jawline bob.
“Ten minutes, Jude,” a voice bellowed through the closed dressing room door.
Ten minutes was an eternity when I couldn’t remember the first line to the opening song. Then there were the dance moves. Did I step to the left first or to the right? It was all blank in my mind. The months of rehearsals and hours on end in the dance studio perfecting the show hadn’t helped. I still thought I would get stage fright when I saw that no one had turned up to see me perform.
Tonight’s show was for a festival that started three days ago, culminating into the headline act.
Pop sensation, onetime actress, endorsements for every piece of clothing and jewellery out there and I couldn’t remember the first line of the song I’d sung a thousand times.
My phone was pinging with notifications on the arm of the sofa. I had two separate phone number accounts that filtered through to the same phone. From this distance, I didn’t know which number had chimed a message.
That part of my life I loved.
Grabbing the phone out of its sleek charging pad, I tapped on the Instagram icon to put up a live ten-second video of my stage outfit. As soon as it posted, I watched as the numbers next to the heart shot up to ten thousand and beyond. Comments came in, dozens every second but I read none of them. I couldn’t handle the horrible posts. I’d never leave my house if I got sucked into the realm of the haters behind their keyboards.
To distract my panic, I searched through my favourite Instagram account, Brad Evans, my best friend and actor. He was filming in Budapest. We were due to meet up soon. He was busy, I was working, making time to call him proved impossible, so texting was our only option. I took a picture of my outfit in the mirror and sent it to him. Within a minute, he’d replied advising to put some underwear on or the front row would get more than they bargained for.
I chuckled at his old fashioned comments and stuffed the phone in my portable lockbox behind the sofa. I preferred no one in my dressing room while I was preparing for a show, not just because I didn’t want them to see me freak out but all of my personal stuff was in the room.
“Two minutes, Miss North,” another voice called through the door.
When I didn’t answer, the door opened, and a head popped around the small opening to check I was ready. With a nod from me, whoever it was, closed the door quietly. My crew knew my routine and respected that I needed the quiet time to focus. They thought I was warming up my voice, but in reality, I was considering slipping out the back door and never coming back.
A deep breath in and then out I shook out my whole body, checked my boobs were safely encased in the body stocking, and turned the door handle. When I opened the door wide, my tour assistant, Billie, was leaning against the opposite wall talking into her headset, eyeing me up from ankle to hairline and tapping into her phone. She was a phenomenon in cowboy boots and I loved it when she was assigned to my tour. Billie had an effortless style that looked like she threw on the nearest clothes when in reality she must have coordinated her outfit carefully.
“Ready?” Billie asked.
It was a rhetorical question because ready or not she and Mike, my security detail, were escorting me to the box under the stage where I’d crouch for three minutes until I was lifted onto the stage at the top of the stairs that led down to the main level. That was where a white piece of paper, taped to the speaker in the centre of the stage said clearly which intro was about to be blasted out to the hundred thousand-strong crowd, in Beijing, China. The Times Roman font, in giant-sized letters, told me the first line of the song. It didn’t help the panic I had in my head but gave me comfort.
I brazened out the fear, smiling widely for Billie and the production staff. My false nails were far too long to do anything practical. I stood still long enough for Billie to push the earbuds into my ears. Obediently, I stepped over the black and yellow tape indicating the section I needed to crouch in and watched, wide-eyed as they closed the glass door. Deep breaths in and out, closed eyes and a steely grip on my microphone. The diamonte studs digging into the palm of my hand, kept me in the here and now. I sent up a quick prayer to ask that everything fell into place in my mind as the band started to play the first song. The screams and yells coming from the crowd were deafening over the buds protecting my ears. I hid the microphone behind my back and then quietly hummed up and down the chords like a genuine Von Trap.
All the time telling myself to keep my nerve.
The crowd were there to see me sing.
As the small plastic container lifted me up twenty feet, the crowd came into focus and I wanted to cry. Tears well in my eyes as the faces blurred. As far as the eye could see, people were chanting my name and screaming. Showtime.
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