Chapter 1. Logistics
That night after I came home from my shift, I called my mom.
"Hi, sweetie!" She answered. How could she be lying when she always sounded this happy?
"Mom," I breathed out, on the verge of tears. "Did you lose your job?"
The line fell silent for a couple of seconds before I heard her sigh.
"Yes," she said, defeated. "But I'm fine, Charlie. I'm getting help from the government and I'm actually thinking of selling the house. It feels too big for me now."
"Why didn't you tell me?" I sobbed to her.
"Oh, Charlie baby, don't cry." She comforted me in a warm tone. "I just didn't want to worry you. You're doing so well. I know you're going to be big and this will just be a bad patch in a road full of success."
My heart sank as I pulled the check Don gave me out of my purse. Did I have a choice at this point? I felt so guilty, so desperate, and so powerless.
"Yes," I grimaced. "You just should've told me. I would've found a way to help you."
"Hush, I'm so sorry for lying to you but please don't worry about me," Mom warned. "Focus on yourself. I'm doing fine, Charlie." She reassured. "On a brighter note, how did the meeting go?"
I waited a few seconds to answer.
"Great." I faked enthusiasm. "I actually got a gig I'm excited for! Mr. Grant says it'll help as headstart before our actual deal, and the pay is great."
"Charlie!" Mom cheered. "Oh, dear! That's amazing!"
I blinked my tears away. "I'll transfer some money into your account tomorrow. They gave me a bonus and I want to help out, mom."
"Mom, it's $10,000. I can afford it."
I heard her gasp. "W-what? Charlie!" She laughed in disbelief.
"Exactly. I'll call you tomorrow, okay? I love you."
"I love you, sweetie. Congrats! I'm so proud of you." I swallowed in order to hold back from bursting out in tears. Oh, mom, if only you knew.
"Say hi to Anna for me." And with that, she hung up.
As soon as the line disconnected, I started sobbing into my pillow until I fell asleep. I really thought today would be the happiest day of my life, but instead I got to feel dirty, guilty and ashamed. I was nothing but a puppet.
When I woke up that morning, something had clicked in me. If I wanted to make it in this industry, I needed to get my hands dirty. Probably Taylor, Rihanna and Lana did too. And I wanted this. God knows I wanted it. This was a job like any other, so I would go in, do what I had to do, and get the hell out to start living my dream. Or at least that's what I thought at the time.
So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and called Don at his personal number that morning.
"Well, well, well..." he picked up, "Good morning, Charlie." He greeted me knowingly.
"I'll do it." I blurted out.
After a moment, his voice came on the line again. "Meet me at my office at 12. Did you tell your friends what I told you to say?"
"Great, see you later." He hung up.
I walked out of my room to find Anna making breakfast.
"Morning, sunshine!" What was it with everyone being a rainbow on steroids today?
"Morning." I answered as I sat down on the coffee table.
She placed a plate of pancakes in front of me before sitting down. We were silent a few seconds.
"So, are you going to take the job?!" She finally bursted out. I was expecting that.
"Yes, I am." I smiled at her as I poured myself a cup of coffee.
"Charlie!" She stood up to hug me. "Don't forget me when you're famous."
I rolled my eyes. "I am so ready to forget you."
"Oh pleaf, you can't lif withouf me." She said as she stuffed an entire pancake in her mouth.
I laughed in disgust and proceeded to eat my breakfast, suddenly feeling at ease again.
That is until of course, I had Don sitting in front of me again about to begin explaining the logistics of this scheme of his.
"Okay so, we will go over everything that is in this contract. Someone else is going to be working with you. She's their personal assistant and has been for years. You'll come into the tour as an intern. Her shadow, which means a lot of time with them, and she'll facilitate that too. Her name is Felicia Culotta." He explained.
"Your job is to spend time with them and make the most out of it. Get their dirty laundry, and we expect you to collaborate in the creation of situations that can make the headlines in a non-pleasant way, but don't worry, we will assist you with that. The tour lasts a year, so you have an entire year to become their best friend, especially Nick and Joe because they hold most of the public's attention. Clear so far?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
"Why doesn't she do it?" I asked, referring to their personal assistant.
He shrugged. "Because you're lower risk."
"You have to leave your feelings out of this. You don't share details about your personal life, and I don't believe I need to tell you you're not to say a word about this to anyone." He warned.
"What if I take you to the police?" I asked nonchalantly.
"Do it," he replied in the same tone. "And enjoy being a waitress for the rest of your life while your mom starves to death."
I didn't answer, which was his cue to continue.
"You'll get paid on the 1st of every month. Use it however you find fit. Any money you're forced to spend that is related to the work you're going to be doing, I'll cover it. Just e-mail me the receipt. All that I explained today is in writing on your new email inbox. I created emails for us to communicate through and you'll also have a cellphone that you'll use to explicitly talk to me and Felicia about this. Absolutely no one except her is to read it. Here is where you'll receive instructions and pass on information." He pulled a BlackBerry from his drawer and set it on the table.
"If you have any questions, you call, email or text me here at any time and I'll tell you what to do. Keep it in a safe space where no one will have access to it. You'll receive another work phone for your internship. You can use your normal phone for other matters. Understood?"
I nodded again.
"We are going to meet again down the road. When that happens, we do not know nor have we ever seen each other. Is that clear?"
"Any questions before you sign?"
I looked at the paperwork in front of me, my heart feeling heavy in my chest.
"What if we get caught?" I asked.
"We won't." He answered, sounding annoyed. "It will only go wrong if you don't follow my instructions. If by any chance we get discovered because of something you did, I will demand a refund for the money I've paid you in full. Effective immediately." He said dangerously. "If it is mine or Felicia's fault, which is very unlikely to happen, you don't need to worry about it. I'm a very powerful man, Charlie."
I nodded again. "And this all looks legal here?" I motioned to the contract in front of me, skeptic.
"Read it." He demanded.
Section IV. If the job ends up failing naturally (i.e., unable to build relationship) despite following instructions, the job will be deemed as terminated and THE EMPLOYEE will receive the benefits stated in this contract.
I don't know how, but it did look legal. After reading it, I signed. And that's how it all started.