Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 7

The Chase school was, it seemed, a place where teachers and assistants handled every kind of handicap that came their way. Coco found the address in the phonebook, and she set out in her lunch hour on the next day to walk the couple of miles it would take her to get there. She could have taken the subway, but she wanted time to think. She'd been thinking hard for most of the previous day and partway through the night, but she hadn't found a sure way around her problem yet.

She passed four or five men sitting on the stoop before a brownstone, all of them having a small street-party of their own with beers and spirits in brown paper bags that were passed from hand to hand. Empty beer cans had been set neatly on the stone posts, and the pavement before them was dark with runoff water from an unclosed faucet. They whistled and shouted as Coco went by. She didn't even seem to hear them.

When she got to the school, she stopped outside. The wheelchair ramp up to the main door told her that she was about to step into new territory. She was suddenly, unaccountably nervous, and she was ashamed for it. She walked through the main door and up to the school clerk's desk, and she asked if it would be posssible to speak to Troy Phillips.

The clerk sent her to wait in an open area, a patio surrounded by classroom buildings. Some of the kids that she saw passing through were in wheelchairs, some had disabilities that were immediately visible, but most looked . . . well, ordinary.

She tried to relax a little. She didn't even hear Troy coming up beside her.

'They said you wanted to see me,' he said.

Coco looked up at him. There was something slightly different about him, as if he'd been building protective walls around himself and doing it in such a hurry that the cracks still showed. But there was also something else; a sense of relief, a feeling akin to that of the fox when he gets back amongst his own kind and away from the danger of the hounds.

'Sit down,' she invited, but Troy shook his head, Coco got to her feet, and they walked the length of the patio.

It wasn't easy to find an opening. 'Troy,' she began, 'everybody misses you. Bruno, Doris, Leroy . . . '

'I don't want to hear,' Troy said.

'I miss you, too.'

Troy stopped, and looked at her. What was whe trying to pull? 'You hurt me,' he pointed out. It wasn't an accusation, just a statement of fact.

'I know,' Coco said, 'and I'm sorry. I want a chance to make it up to you.'

But Troy was already shaking his head. 'This is where I belong,' he said. 'This is where I can be on top of the hill instead of right down at the bottom. No place else.'

'It'll stay that way, if you never try.'

'I did try. I'd rather stay here.'

'I want you to come back. Shorofsky's holding new auditions.'

There was a moment's heitation, but no more. 'If I come back and if they let me sing . . . well, we'll all know why, won't we?'

'Not this time, Troy. If you win it'll be because of your heart and your voice. I can handle that if you can.'

'You don't understand,' Troy began, but Coco understood only too well.

'I understand you're scared,' she said. 'But you're not alone in that. Every time I get up to sing or to dance, I'm sure the audience will see me shaking.'

'It's different for you.'

'It comes with the territory. If you're going to perform, you're going to be scared. You don't have a corner on stage fright, just because you're "different".' Coco smiled, to take any of the sting out of what she was saying.

'But I'm . . . '

'I know what you are. You're a singer, and that's what counts.'

She'd gone as for as she could; anything beyond that was up to Troy himself. She wanted to see him at the audition, even if his presence increased the pressure on her own chances, because she'd already made herself face the fact that she'd been trying to put over to Troy; coming out first wouldn't mean a thing to either of them if the competition itself wasn't the best on offer.

She moved to leave. Troy called after her, 'What happens when it's over?'

She grinned at him, walking backwards. 'You'll be on unemploment like the rest of us. That's showbiz!'

She gave him one last wave, and left. Over to you, Troy.

The story of Danny Amatullo's coaching had finally reached Diana Huddleston. Now almost everbody in the school was waiting for them for them to meet up again. Some were laying bets on which eye she'd black; others were only laying bets on which she'd black first. They were hoping to be around when it happend, but preferably at a safe distance.

The way that it turned out, the Big Event took place in a quiet corner of the library with nobody watching.

Diana was having to put in some extra time on her Spanish, because she'd been caught out over a passage from Don Quixote only the day before; Ms. Ramirez had pointed out in a marginal note to Diana's class paper that her summary of the book's theme bore an uncanny resemblace to the sleeve notes on the Man of La Mancha cast recording in the school's record collection. A little extra sweat, please, Huddleston.

So Diana sat on her own with a large stack of books disguising a quick-study aid booklet that she'd bought from the Barnes and Noble bookstore on Broadway, and she tried to get absorbed. It didn't help that she kept humming The Impossible Dream to herself, over and over.

When Danny arrived, he made straight for her.

She was startled; not so much by his sudden apperearance, but by the fact that he came at her with a full head of steam. He was the one who ought to be cowering in the corner with his arms held up over his head as he cried for mercy!

'I have nothing to say to you,' Diana said quickly, but Danny kept on coming.

'That's great,' he said, because I've got enough to say for the both of us.' He pulled out a chair and sat himself down beside her. And then, in a kind of token deference to the fact that they were in a library, he lowered his voice just a little. 'First of all,' he said, 'all that moon, June, spoon stuff wasn't me. Doris Schwartz wrote all those lines. I just delivered them.'

'I know. It's the dumbest thing I ever heard.'

'What was dumb is that you went for it.'

'I certainly did not,' Diana began to protest, but Danny cut in.

'Lock, stock, and barrel,' he said flatly. 'You went for the words, Diana, instead of me. Maybe when I talk it doesn't sound like Shakespeare or even Doris Schwartz, but I had feelings for you. Real feelings.'

Diana was still gaping at the intensity of his approach as he stood up to leave. After a couple of steps, he stopped and turned to face her.

'But do you want to know what's even dumber?' he said. 'That I even tried it in the first place. That was dumb. Next time, the kid is going to trust the kid. Period.'

With that, he walked off. He didn't even give her time to reply. Seconds later, the library doors banged closed.

'Do you think I let him off too lightly?' Diana said, to no-one in particular.
 
 

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