Bright Star

I’m in Khan’s office. I’ve picked the one swivel chair to sit in and I spin slowly back and forth as I listen to what’s being said. Well, I say ‘listen’ but I’m barely tuned in. There’s no point. These meetings with Khan, Max and Adam the newish booking agent are so predictable. The three of them ask me questions, ask me to make choices, but everything’s already been decided. If I happen to agree with what the mighty triumvirate want, then it’s made to look as if my opinion counts. But when I disagree they then use those moments of ‘agreement’ as currency.

“Is it okay if we make the call on this one thing?” Khan will ask, like he didn’t really make the call on the last thing and the thing before that and the thing before that.

It’s just another question to which the answer doesn’t matter.

The atmosphere of self-congratulation and passive-aggressiveness is thick in the office. If I had any dignity left, I’d walk out. Instead, I swivel harder on my chair.

“Do you mind?” Adam says.

Is he serious? I glare at him and he smiles like it will cover up the tone of his voice. But I heard it. I heard him telling me off. I heard him trying to control me.

“If she wants to play on the chair, Ad,” Khan chimes in. “She can play on the fucking chair.”

It’s my manager’s turn to grin in my direction. Like he’s come to my rescue. But that implies I needed rescuing, which I definitely didn’t. I can deal with Adam. I’ve met his type before. Many times.

I know Khan’s real game. On another occasion he might have been the one telling me to sit still. But right now he’s prioritising squashing our agent. No one tells me what to do but Khan. And, anyway, no one here really thinks Khan’s just done me a favour. We all heard him say that I was ‘playing’. That I’m a child. Khan’s put me in my place. I need to open a window.

That stink of passive aggressiveness is really fucking overpowering.

“Anyway,” Adam says, trying to draw attention away from the fact that he’s just been handled. “What do we think of this for 1st September?”

I look up at the screen that’s covering the best part of one whole wall of this enormous office. Adam’s displaying the poster for FTRE.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

What would I play?

Sugar Lips?

There’s a feminist anthem if I ever heard one.

Not.

Fuck me.

These guys get more stupid by the day.

“It’s going to be huge,” Adam says. “Half a million dipshits. Maybe more. Plus the whole world watching on TV.”

Khan’s lips are pursed. Is he actually thinking or just posing?

“Half a million..” he says quietly. Then louder: “How much are they offering?”

“We’d be doing it gratis,” Adam says and I swear I hear his voice quiver. “For charity.”

I try not to laugh but I can’t help it. Does he not know who he’s talking to? It doesn’t take long for Khan to explode.

“Are you fucking with me?” he yells. “Seriously, are you? Are you?”

“I think he is,” I say.

I can’t help myself.

Adam shoots me a look that’s half lustful, half hateful. It’s a look I know well.

“He definitely is,” Max agrees seriously.

I laugh again and this time I can’t stop. Adam’s suggesting that I – a girl constantly criticised for looking like a slut and acting like one too – play some kind of festival on behalf of women’s lib. Not only that, he’s suggesting I do it for free.

I hope he’s got a chair as comfy as mine, because there’s no way Khan’s coming round to that idea till hell freezes over.

Or till pigs start flying.

Or till having principles starts to pay more than being a total asshole.

Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from chapter 1.