She was still lying on top of him. At his words, she sat up. "What?"
Surprised at his own words, Rob hesitated. Suddenly the idea seemed like a good one.
"Marry me, Lucy."
"Now I know you're crazy." She crawled over him and reached for her blouse when his hand stopped her.
"I'm not crazy," he said defensively, the doctor's visit flashing suddenly through his mind. He sat up, forcing the image away. "I want you with me. I hate it when we're not together."
"We barely know each other."
"So, we'll get to know each other."
She picked up her blouse again and slipped into it, her brow furrowed. "You're serious."
"As a heart attack," he said, warming up more and more to the idea. His excitement increased with his words. "We'll be great together, Luce. We both sing." He forgot she was too boisterous. "I can
teach you how to play the guitar. You can join me onstage." He meant at the bar. He also forgot about that, too. He would be leaving the bar now to sign a recording contract with Capitol Records in
the morning. "You can forget that karaoke bullshit. You said yourself that we make a great team."
Lucy tilted her head and pressed her lips together. "I don't know, Rob."
He watched her slip into her skirt and walk away. He got up and followed her to the bathroom, watching her wash up at the sink.
"Think about it, Luce." He was close to pleading.
"I will," she said.
Rob could hear the aggravation in her voice. He needed to stop pushing her, but he couldn't seem to let it go.
"I said, I will, Rob. Now let it go. Do you have any idea what time it is? You're going to be late."
"Shit," he swore, stepping out of the bathroom and racing to the kitchen. He glanced at the clock. It was almost ten.
Lucy was right. He was going to be late.
He dashed back to the bathroom, washed up, ran to the bedroom, threw on his clothes. His breathing was rapid and shallow. His body trembled as he sat down on the bed and tried to slip into his
He was bathed in sweat, and his shirt clung to him. He would have to change it. He clasped his hands over his head to stop the trembling, but it did no good. He ran, shaking hands through his hair,
his eyes scanning the room as he stood. He saw Lucy standing in the doorway, concern showing deep in her eyes.
"Rob, are you okay?"
"No." He ran his hands through his hair again. "I don't know. I can't breathe."
She approached him cautiously and placed her hands on his shoulders, and forced him to sit down. "Stay," she ordered. She opened both windows in the bedroom and let the cold air blow in, then
returned to his side.
He gasped for breath, the fear in his eyes discernable.
"Rob, look at me," she said, leaning forward, her eyes studying his.
He glanced up at her but only for a moment.
She shook his shoulders. "I said look at me." When she got his attention, she locked her eyes on his. This time he didn't look away. "You're having a panic attack. You to stop hyperventilating.
Take a deep breath in through your nose."
"I can't," he cried. "I think I'm dying."
"You're not. Now listen to me. Take a deep breath, gently and slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count to five in and then count to five out."
He tried to slow his breathing. He couldn't seem to do it.
He really was going to die.
"Rob," Lucy demanded softly. "Look at me. Watch my breathing." She demonstrated what she wanted him to do. "Now, breath with me."
His eyes left hers, and she used both of her hands to turn his head back to her.
"Rob," she said patiently. "Don't look away again. Watch me."
His vision grew darker as he tried to steady his eyes on her.
"If you can't do this with me, Rob, I'm going to have to call an ambulance. You'll have to go to the hospital. Do you want to go to the hospital?"
He wagged his head back and forth.
"Okay, then, you better do as I say, or I'll have to call an ambulance. Got it?'
This time he nodded.
Lucy repeated her instructions, waited to see if he understood, then started to show him again how to breathe with her.
The tips of Rob's fingers were numb, but he focused on what concentration he could on her face. He watched her breath in and out, counting to five with each breath. He forced himself to imitate
her. At first, he couldn't breathe in deep enough or hold his breath long enough, and the panic grew.
Lucy shook her head when she saw the alarm fill his eyes. She continued to breathe. She continued to count. She refused to let him give up.
Slowly, steadily, Rob's breathing became unhurried. The pounding in his chest slowed to a quick thump. The feeling started to return to his fingers.
"My job," he gasped. "I'm late."
"Stop it, Rob," she warned. "You're going to make it worse. Where's your cell?"
He pulled the phone out of his pocket.
"Is the bar's number stored?"
"What's the manager's name?"
"Jerry," he gasped. "Bartender is Jimmy. He might answer."
Lucy scanned the numbers in Rob's phone and found the bar. She pushed the number and waited for an answer. "Do you think you can still make it?" she asked while the phone on the other end rang.
"Have to," he answered.
"Hi," she said into the phone. "Is this Jimmy? Hi, Jimmy. I’m Rob's fiancé. Yes, he has a fiancé. Is Jerry there? My name’s Lucy. He's not? Do you know when he'll be back? After midnight. Okay, we
just wanted to let you know that we got a flat tire on the way in. Rob's going to be a few minutes late. Is that a problem? Good. We'll see you in a bit."
"You heard?" she asked.
Rob bobbed his head, his eyes smiling gratefully up at her. He breathed in deeply. "You just saved my life," he grinned. "Now you have to marry me.”
Rob stood outside of the Capitol Records Tower, his hands in his pockets to keep his palms dry. He felt fidgety and swallowed hard past the lump in his throat. He’d been worried about being late,
so he took an earlier bus, and now it was only twelve-thirty.
He entered the building, gave the receptionist his name, and took the elevator, glad he was the only passenger. He could practice the breathing exercise that Lucy had shown him to help avoid
another panic attack. The doors opened on the seventh floor. He stepped out. The rock in his stomach was doing flip-flops. The usual sense of doom hung over his head.
Julie stood to greet him when he entered the office. "It's nice to see you again, Rob." She shook his hand. "He's expecting you." She opened the door to Brown's office and stepped aside to let him
Brown stood up and came around his desk, his hand outstretched to shake Rob's. "Hello, Rob, are you ready for this?"
Rob quickly wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans and shook Brown's hand. "About as ready as I'll ever be, Mr...er...Larry."
Brown motioned him to a chair. "Have a seat," he said. "We have a lot to talk about."
The door opened again, and Julie stepped in, handed Brown a sheet of paper, smiled at Rob, and left the room, closing the door behind her. Brown was quiet while his eyes quickly scanned the
document, periodically nodding his head. "This is good," he finally said. He handed the paper to Rob.
On it, Julie had typed a schedule. Studio time every day from one pm to five pm, starting the day after tomorrow. Headshots at ten am next week. Guitar tutoring in two weeks. Photoshoots,
interviews with local radio stations, local gigs for the public.
Rob looked up from the schedule. Brown had been watching him intently from behind his desk.
"What do you think?" Brown asked.
Rob lowered his gaze back to the sheet of paper. "It's a lot."
"It is, but that's how this business works. Feast or famine. Speaking of which, you'll need to quit your singing gig at night. You have to be well-rested to keep up with this schedule."
"But..." Rob started to say.
Brown held up a quieting hand. "I know what you're going to say. You have bills to pay. You have to eat." Brown buzzed Julie in the outer office. "Bring in the contract, please, Julie."
Julie must have been ready for him. The door opened swiftly. She entered with several legal-size sheets of paper that she handed to Brown before leaving once again. Brown took the top copy and laid
the other one aside.
"I have two contracts for you to look over, Rob. This first one," he rattled the papers. "Is for publishing. It's a three-year contract, which is standard. You'll be working strictly for me." Brown
paused a moment and opened his desk drawer, taking out a cigar. "And since you'll be giving me publishing and copyright, I'll be paying you a draw. You'll receive a draw of five hundred dollars a
week the first year, one thousand the second year, and fifteen hundred the third."
Brown paused to let that sink in.
Rob's face had gone white. His eyes were staring a hole through Brown’s. Brown cut the top off the cigar and lit it with a match, puffing hard to make sure it lit. Then he shook the match out.
"Now," he continued, squinting his eyes against the cloud of smoke that surrounded his head. "Once the money starts coming in, then your draw will be paid back."
"Paid back?" Rob gulped.
"Let me try to explain it." Brown leaned back in his leather desk chair. "Say you receive a draw of five hundred dollars, but that same week one of your songs earns a thousand dollars. You pay back
only the five hundred and keep the rest. You with me so far?"
"I think so," Rob stammered. His head was spinning. He was trying his best to grasp what Brown was telling him.
"Good, Now, even though you get to keep that extra five hundred, you will still receive your weekly draw of five hundred dollars. So now you have a thousand dollars. Got it?"
Rob didn't get it, but he nodded at Brown anyway. Maybe once he got home, Lucy could explain it to him.
"It's not anything you have to worry about, Rob. That's why we have an accounting department."
Brown laid the contract aside and picked up the other one. "This is your recording contract. It's for three years also. You won't receive a draw with this one. You'll earn your money during live
shows. This contract is for representation."
Rob nodded again.
"Rob, I want you to take these home with you. Read them over and make sure you understand them. You can even take them to a music business attorney if that will make you more comfortable. They're
"We're going to be interviewing musicians in the next couple of days. You must have a band. No offense, but you can't just go out there with only your guitar. Oh, that reminds me," Brown opened his
desk again and pulled out a CD. "This is your demo. I made you a copy. I think you're going to be very surprised, Rob. I hope you're happy with it."
Rob took the contracts and the CD and placed them in his lap.
"The sooner you quit the bar, Rob, the better it will be. Your schedule is going to be very busy from here on out. Don't feel bad. I'm sure the manager will find someone to replace you. There are a
lot of half-assed musicians in this town.
"I'll tell him tonight," Rob said.
Brown stood up, signaling the meeting was over. "If you have any questions, Rob, just give me a call." He came around the desk and offered Rob his outstretched hand. Rob shook it. "Welcome to the
music business, my friend. "If it doesn't kill you, then you're going to love it.”
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