It was a rehearsal day at The P*lace for the new Kids Incorporated, as they were going to try out some new songs for their next shows.
Before rehearsals, Kelly went over to The P*lace’s Wall of Fame and looked over the photos. Her fellow band member Matt went over to her.
“Matt, look at the photos. What do you see?” Kelly asked.
Matt looked at the photos of Kids Incorporated past. “I see a bunch of photos of kids wearing eighties’ fashions,” he replied.
“I can see that. But count how many band members there are.”
Matt picked out a photo. He looked at the photo of the band’s second incarnation. “I see Ryan, Gloria, Rahsaan a.k.a. The Kid, Renee, and her sister Stacy.”
“How many is that?”
“See, I knew he could count,” Tiffany quipped, as she and Ricky came over to join them.
“And if you toss in our backups, that makes ten,” Matt added.
“And how many of us do you count?” Kelly asked.
Matt looked at his friends, the current lineup of Kids Incorporated. “Four.”
“So what is the purpose of counting?” Ricky asked. “Are we scheduled to play Sesame Street?”
“Just wondering aloud,” Kelly said. “Historically, Kids Incorporated has had five singers, and for a couple of years, six.”
“I think I see where this is going,” Tiffany said. “You think there should be five on stage, not four.”
Kelly nodded. “The numbers bear out. It’s always been five.”
“Speaking of numbers,” said Ricky, “let’s look at them. There’s four of us now, plus our five backup musicians and dancers. That makes nine. We play here three days a week, sometimes four. The P*lace is open just six days a week, not Mondays, because even Joe needs a rest like us.”
“So what’s the point?” Matt asked.
Ricky thought about it, then said, “I don’t know if I have one.”
“Math geek,” Tiffany said.
“Okay, try it this way,” Ricky said. “Maybe we’re okay at having just four of us. Two guys, two girls. Perfect balance.”
Matt thought about it. “He’s right. We don’t need five.”
Tiffany added, “I agree. We’re good at four.” Then she said, “At least for now.”
Kelly thought about that. “Maybe you’re right.”
The band went and started rehearsing up on the stage, where they played Maroon 5’s “Payphone”, with Matt singing lead.
Meanwhile, outside the doors of The P*lace, a young sandy blonde haired girl, about twelve years old, peaked in through the window. She could see the band rehearsing. She tried to picture herself on the stage, but couldn’t. Instead, she quietly let herself in, and slipped into the ladies room unbeknownst to the others.
After a couple of more songs, the band decided to call it a day. Joe, the manager wasn’t around today, so Kelly had the keys to The P*lace. They all left, exiting through the main doors.
About a couple of minutes had passed when the girl quietly came out of the ladies room. She went up on stage, and looked out over the empty chairs and tables.
The girl then took out her iPhone and touched a music app on it. She selected a song, and placed it down on a stand, as it began to play her mother’s favorite song from when she was a teenager. Then the girl began to sing to the music.
“I could capture all the love the great romantics had/Sing you a song that ain't half bad/But that ain't enough... that ain't enough for you…../And I could run across the world, to bring you the sun/Look in your eyes one on one/But that ain't enough... that ain't enough for you."
She was all alone inside The P*lace, her words filling up the empty space. But not for long…
“I left my jacket inside,” Kelly said, as the four members of Kids Incorporated returned to The P*lace and unlocked the door to head back inside when they heard the singing.
“Who’s that?” Tiffany asked.
.“Someone leave a radio on or something?” Matt said.
“Maybe it’s a ghost who knows how to sing?” Ricky said.
“Shhh!” Kelly quickly said. “Listen!” They peaked over at the stage, as they tried to stay out of sight, as they watched the girl sing.
“….and I can carry the weight of your sad times dear/And give you the strength to face your fears/I know I’ll never be afraid to say/I’m here by your side and I’m gonna stay…”
“I know her!” Kelly quietly exclaimed.
They all continued to watch the girl sing. She hit all the notes perfectly, as her voice seemed solid.
“…..no, it ain’t enough, it ain’t enough for you….”
The song ended, as she slowly lowered her head. She went over to pick up her iPhone when she suddenly heard applause coming out of nowhere. The girl turned to see where the clapping was coming from.
“YAY!” the Kids cheered as they approached the stage.
The girl just looked at them….then turned around and ran for the backstage door.
“Wait!” the Kids called out, as they began to give chase. But not before Kelly grabbed up her jacket from a chair.
The girl ran out of the stage door, and the others followed her, calling for her to stop. But she just kept on running down the street, as the Kids stopped just on the other side of the door.
“Who was that?” Ricky asked, as they all caught their breath.
“I know her,” Kelly answered. “That was Donna Foster.”
“I thought so,” Tiffany said. “I didn’t know she could sing. I knew she could dance.”
“Whoa, just who is this Donna anyway?” asked Ricky.
“We’ve known Donna for a while,” Kelly said. “She’s kind of shy.”
“Kinda shy?” Matt said. “She looked scared.”
“Not on stage she didn’t,” Tiffany pointed out.
‘Whatever,” Ricky said. “But she sounded great.”
“She did,” Kelly said. Then she added, “Good enough to join us?”
The others looked at Kelly. “Just a thought,” she said.
The others walked back into The P*lace as Kelly looked down the street where Donna had ran down.
She could be one us, Kelly thought. But does she want to be?
Donna Foster ran all the way home from The P*lace. She quickly went upstairs to her room, and stayed there, sitting on the side of her bed, until she heard her mom calling for her.
“Donna,” she said, as she opened the door to her daughter’s bedroom. “There you are. I was wondering where you were.”
Donna just shrugged.
“So where did you go?” her mother asked.
Donna finally said, “I stayed after school, then I went down to The P*lace.”
“That’s all?” her mother said. Donna nodded. “Oh, okay.” Then she said, “Donna, I got a call from one your teachers today.” Donna looked at her mom. This couldn’t be good. “She’s worried about you.”
“What about? My grades are good.”
“That’s not what she’s concerned about,” Mrs. Foster said. “She says you hardly say anything.”
“I thought teachers liked quiet students.”
“She thinks you’re too quiet. She noticed that you hardly socialize with the other kids.”
Mrs. Foster sat down next to her daughter. “Look, I get it. You’re shy. I know the feeling. I used to be shy myself when I was in school.” Donna looked down at the floor.
“You know, Donna,” her mom said, “there was a girl I knew who was just like you. She could dance and sing, but she was afraid that people wouldn’t like her. She didn’t like being the center of attention. It turned out she was wrong. Her friends told her to put herself out there, because people want to like you.”
“I did,” Donna said, “and look what happened.”
Mrs. Foster knew what her daughter was talking about. “This isn’t about the recital, is it?”
Donna still stared at the floor.
“You know, Miss Robbins still wants to know when you’re coming back to dance class. She says what happened wasn’t your fault. It could happen to anybody.”
“It happened to me,” Donna said.
“You know, you’re going to have to get over it sooner or later,” Mrs. Foster said. “The best way to do it is to get back on stage.”
“I will,” Donna said. “Just not now.”
Mrs. Foster stood up. It was all she could do; the rest would have to be up to her daughter. “I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready,” she said as she left her daughter’s bedroom.
Donna took out her history book and started studying, but her heart wasn’t really into it. Sort of like wanting to dance or sing again. She wanted to, but she was afraid that something might happen like that recital.
Besides, her mom was popular in school. She had seen pictures of her mom and best friend Andrea when they were cheerleaders in high school. What could her mom possibly know about being shy?
Mrs. Foster was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. She went over to the front door and opened it.
Kelly stood in the doorway. “Hi, is Donna home? I’d like to speak with her.”
Mrs. Foster invited her in. “Are you one of Donna’s friends?” she asked.
“I have a class with her at school,” Kelly replied, as they went to the living room.
Mrs. Foster called out “Donna, there’s someone here to see you.”
A few seconds later, Donna came down the stairs, and saw Kelly. “Hi Donna,” Kelly greeted. Donna looked taken aback, but managed to say “Hi Kelly.”
Mrs. Foster said, “If you girls need anything, I’ll be in the kitchen.” She left the two girls alone in the living room.
Donna said, somewhat stammering, “What are you doing here Kelly?”
“I just wanted to see how you were,” Kelly replied. “You ran out of there quick. Why did you run off like that?”
“I wish you guys didn’t see me sing.”
“C’mon Donna, that was a great song.”
“It’s my mom’s favorite.”
“You have a great voice. Don't you like to sing?"
Donna nodded. "I just don't want to sing in front of people."
"What if I mess up?"
"No one's perfect. I mess up on a song now and then."
“Really,” Kelly said. Actually, not really, but if it helped Donna, she was all for it. “C’mon Donna, I bet the crowd would cheer for you if you sang on stage.”
“What if they don’t?”
“Trust me, they will.”
“Why do you want me to sing on stage?”
“Well, Donna, I was wondering if you wanted to join the band. I think you’d be great.” Of course, Kelly would have to convince the others.
Donna looked at Kelly. “Thanks, but no thanks,” she finally said. “I just can’t.” She turned and quickly went back up the stairs to her room. As she did, her mother came out of the kitchen.
“I’m sorry Kelly,” Mrs. Foster said. “Donna’s been a bit uncomfortable lately.”
“I’m sorry if I upset her,” Kelly said.
“It’s not your fault.” Mrs. Foster then said, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. Donna was singing?”
“I knew she could sing a little. She mostly likes to dance. I enrolled her in dance classes to help her overcome her shyness. She was very good and she got to make friends with the other girls in the class, as well as school. But a few months ago, her dance class had a recital. She was doing fine but then she tripped near the end and fell down. It wasn't anyone's fault, it just happened. She’s been afraid to get back on stage ever since.”
“Well, she wasn’t afraid today,” Kelly pointed out. “There just wasn’t anyone around at the time.”
“I just wish she’d get back on stage,” Mrs. Foster said. “It’s the best way to get over something like that.”
Kelly said thanks, as Mrs. Foster led her to the front door. “By the way, what’s this about a band?”
“I asked Donna if she wanted to be in our band, Kids Incorporated.”
“Kids Incorporated!” Mrs. Foster said somewhat excitedly. “That’s great! I knew The P*lace got reopened, but now there’s a new group of kids performing there?”
“Yes, they did. I mean, we did. A new version.”
“I can’t believe it! You know, I went to The P*lace a lot when I was growing up. I got to know Gloria and Mickey really well.”
“That’s great. Maybe Donna will come by as well.” Kelly said her goodbyes and left.
After Kelly left, Mrs. Foster went back upstairs and peaked in on Donna. Her daughter was on her bed, laying their quietly, seemingly on the verge of tears.
Mrs. Foster thought about what Donna was going through when it came to shyness and stage fright, as she thought about that girl from a long time ago and how that girl’s friends helped her out…
“I wish you guys didn’t see me sing."
“Why not? You were great!”
“Don’t you like to sing?”
“Not in front of people.”
"I get the picture. You’re just shy, that’s all.”
“That’s all?! I mean, isn’t that enough?”
“Everyone gets scared the first time they sing in front of a crowd.”
“Well, there isn’t going to be a first time for me.”
“C’mon, the crowd will go wild!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
It turned out that girl was wrong. Her friends were right all along.
Don’t worry Donna, her mom said to herself. Your friends will help you. Mine did…..
At rehearsal the next day, Kelly told the rest of the band of her visit with Donna, and why she was so shy and scared.
“She didn’t want to join us on stage?” Tiffany said. “I can understand that.”
“But the best way to overcome stage fright is to get back on stage,” Matt said.
"She's afraid of messing up," Kelly said, "like she's going to trip over her own feet or forget the words."
"As long as you don't think about it," Ricky said, "it won't happen."
"But why did you ask her to join us in the band?" Matt asked Kelly.
Kelly let that question hang in the air before answering. "I thought she sounded great. Didn't you?" The others nodded that she was right on that point. "I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask."
"I know you mean well Kelly," Tiffany said, "but I don't think she's going to want to join us. Not until she gets over her stage fright."
"And even if she did get over her stage fright, would she still want to join us?" asked Ricky.
"One thing at a time," said Kelly. "But there's something else too."
"What's that?" asked Matt.
"Donna's mom. I got some kind of weird vibe off of her. She seemed to get excited when I mentioned Kids Incorporated."
"Well, she probably knew Gloria, Stacy, The Kid and the rest of them when she was younger," Matt said.
"She said she did," said Kelly. "But it seemed more than that. I can't quite put my finger on it."
“Maybe it’s nothing,” said Ricky.
“Maybe it is.”
The Kids started their rehearsals, and tried out some new songs. When rehearsal was done, the Kids walked out of The P*lace.
“Any ideas on how to get Donna to get over her stage fright?” Kelly asked as they walked down the street.
The others thought about it. “Well, Matt said the best way to overcome stage fright is to get back on stage, no matter what,” Ricky said.
“Yeah, but how do you get her back on stage?” Matt said.
“I’m open to suggestions,” Kelly said.
The Kids stopped on the street and thought about how to get Donna on stage.
“I got an idea,” Matt finally said.
“What is it?” asked Kelly. Matt relayed his idea.
“That’s lame,” Tiffany said. They thought of another idea.
“I got one,” Kelly said. “We’ll just invite her down and….”
The next day, Kids Incorporated had another rehearsal at The P*lace. They let their backup musicians in on their plan to help Donna beforehand, as they rehearsed some songs to get it right for Friday’s show after school.
They just got done with a song, when Kelly said, “She’s here.”
Sure enough, Donna had quietly come into The P*lace through the backstage door and made her way to the stage. The curtains were down on the stage, cordoning them off from the rest of The P*lace.
“Hi Donna,” Kelly said. “Glad you could make it.” That day at school, Kelly has asked Donna to come over to The P*lace for their rehearsal.
Donna quietly nodded, trying to avoid everyone else’s gaze. “What did you want you to see me about?” she asked.
“We want to help you overcome your stage fright,” Tiffany replied.
“And we know just how to do it,” Ricky said.
Kelly stepped aside and gestured towards a microphone stand. “Go ahead,” she said to Donna.
Donna meekly walked over to the microphone. Suddenly, she turned around, saying “I don’t know about this.”
Kelly turned Donna back towards the microphone. “Don’t worry, we’ll be here,” she said to Donna. “Which song do you want to sing?”
Donna thought about it, as she took out her iPhone, and looked up a song off her music app.
“That one,” she said. It was “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys.
“We can play it,” Matt said, hitching up his guitar.
“Okay, Donna,” Kelly said. “Go for it.”
Donna took a deep breath and exhaled. The band began to play the song, then she began to sing…..
“You are my fire/The one….desire/Believe when I say/I want it that way….”
Suddenly, the curtain began to rise and the lights came on. All of them.
Donna looked around, as a bunch of kids started coming into The P*lace, cheering wildly. For all intents and purposes, they had tricked her into being on stage for an impromptu concert. Donna looked for a place to run, but the members were on either side of her, beginning to sing along with her.
To say that Donna was scared would be putting it mildly. Her stage fright was kicking in, but somehow, something else was kicking it back. Maybe it was the fact that she wasn’t alone on stage, and that Kelly and her friends were there for her if something bad happened on that stage.
Slowly but surely, Donna began to sing along with the others, as she felt her stage fright going away. She began to feel at ease with the others around her, as the small crowd of kids cheered wildly, and the song reached its climax.
“Tell me why…I never want to hear you say….”
And Donna sang the last words. “I want it that way.”
The crowd cheered, as Donna exhaled in relief. The Kids smiled at her, as Tiffany and Kelly each gave her a hug.
“Congratulations Donna!” Tiffany said. “You did it!”
Donna smiled back. “Thanks, you guys!”
“We try our best,” Ricky said.
“How’d you manage to do all this?”
“It wasn’t easy,” Matt said. “We weren’t sure what songs you liked.”
“Thank God for The Backstreet Boys,” Tiffany said.
Ricky added, "Plus, do you know how hard it is to get an audience on short notice, and keep them away until it's time to come in?"
“I guess this means you no longer have stage fright,” Kelly said.
“I don’t know about that,” Donna said. “But at least I know I’ve got friends like you to help.”
There were some cheers, as Kelly knew what she was going to ask next. So did the others.
“So, Donna, do you want to join us?”
Donna thought about her answer, even though the look on her face gave it away. It was no surprise.
But there would be an even bigger surprise waiting for all of them.
Donna didn’t tell her mom about what happened at The P*lace, for she wanted to surprise her Friday afternoon when Kids Incorporated had their first show of the weekend. Until then, she rehearsed with the Kids both at The P*lace and the garage.
That Friday, Mrs. Foster was headed from her work as a secretary at Grusman Accounting. She was looking forward to the weekend with her husband, who had been away all week on business and would be flying in from Philadelphia on Saturday and have a nice dinner together at Gina’s Bistro later that night.
The first thing she noticed was that Donna wasn’t home – again. Donna had told her previously that she had stayed after school studying, when in reality, she had been rehearsing with Kids Incorporated. But today was going to be different.
She heard her cell phone beep with an incoming text. It was a message from her daughter: “Mom, Come down to The P*lace. Trust me on this one. Love, Donna.” As soon as she finished with the text, Mrs. Foster headed to The P*lace.
Just before five o’clock, Mrs. Foster entered The P*lace, and stepped back into her past.
She looked around the newly rebuilt and remodeled P*lace. It had been so many years since she had stepped inside there, seeing how much had changed, yet it still felt the same. There were kids all over the place, from elementary school age to some high school students, sitting at tables while gabbing over shakes and sodas, all in front of the main stage.
Mrs. Foster eventually made her way to near the relocated counter and the wall which had the framed photos of Kids Incorporated past. She looked over the photos found the one that interested her the most.
It was of the first group, way back in the mid-1980’s. They were the original Kids Incorporated – Gloria, Mickey, The Kid, Renee, and Stacy. Behind them were their backup musicians and dancers, and she knew their names all by heart – Aaron, Andrea, Carleeta, Mario, and….
“Excuse me, can I get you something?” someone from behind the counter said to her.
Mrs. Foster turned to face the person. “No thanks, Riley.”
“Riley?” Joe Rogers looked nothing like the original counter person from The P*lace.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Mrs. Foster quickly apologized. “Force of habit.”
“No apology needed,” Joe said to her. “By the way, I’m Joe Rogers. Noticed that you were looking at those photos. You knew those kids from long ago?”
“I did,” Mrs. Foster said. “I was friends with them.”
“Riley too? You know, he owns the building now.”
“Really? I didn’t know that!”
“He’s the one who hired me,” Joe said. “I take it you spent a lot of time here as a kid.”
“You could say that.”
Joe checked his watch. “Hey, it’s show time! Gotta introduce the band,” he said. He went out from behind the counter and headed up to the stage.
On stage, he called out to the audience, “Hey kids, how are you all doing?” The crowd responded with a big cheer. “All righty then! Give it up for the coolest kids band around….KIDS INCORPORATED!”
The crowd cheered as Kids Incorporated came out on stage. Mrs. Foster cheered along with the crowd, thinking back to 1985. And then she saw her.
Mrs. Foster gasped in amazement. Along with Kelly, Matt, Tiffany, and Ricky, was the band’s newest member – her own daughter Donna!
She watched as Donna sang and danced with the rest of the band for the song. As she did, Mrs. Foster thought back to when she always went to The P*lace when she was younger, much younger. Of course, she had a different perspective than anyone else might think.
When the set was over, the Kids came off the stage and headed for the counter.
“Donna!” Mrs. Foster called out.
“Mom!” Donna ran over to her mother, and the two shared an embrace.
“You were great up there!” Mrs. Foster told her.
“I’m so glad to see you back on stage.” She then said to the others, “And thank you for helping her out. How did you manage to do it?”
“It was kind of easy,” Kelly said. “When she got on stage, she thought nobody else was around. So we quickly had an impromptu concert.”
“You tricked her?”
“More or less,” Tiffany said. “But it worked.”
“I’ve seen it done before,” Mrs. Foster said. She looked around The P*lace, and said “I can’t believe how much this place has changed since I was a teenager, yet it feels the same.”
“Feeling nostalgic?” asked Matt.
“A little. I’ll take a look around a little more.”
“Okay, mom,” Donna said. “We’ll be over at the counter.”
The Kids left Donna’s mom to her nostalgia, while they went over to the counter, where Joe had some sodas waiting for them. Each of them took a glass and raised them up.
“A toast to our newest member,” Ricky proclaimed. “To Donna!”
“To Donna!” the others said. They all toasted their glasses and took a drink. As they all took a drink, Donna looked over at the photos on the Wall of Fame.
“So that’s all of the incarnations of Kids Incorporated through the years?” Donna asked Kelly.
“That’s right,” Kelly replied.
Donna looked at the first photo, the first year of Kids Incorporated. She saw the lineup of the original five, and their backup musicians and dancers….
And that’s when she saw it.
“Oh my God!” Donna exclaimed, nearly spilling her drink.
“Donna, what is it?” asked Kelly.
“That photo!” Donna pointed at the one in question.
“What about it?”
Donna reached for the framed photo, but Matt was able to reach it and took it down, handing it to her. Donna showed Kelly what caught her eye in the photo. The others looked at Donna as she quickly said something to Kelly about the photo.
“Are you sure that’s her?” Kelly asked Donna.
“I’m pretty sure,” Donna replied. “But I’m going to ask her and make sure.”
Kelly and Donna looked to see where Mrs. Foster was. She was talking with the band’s backup dancers Debbie and Kimmie. They went over to where she was, while Matt, Tiffany, and Ricky followed them.
“Mom?” Donna said.
“What is it?” Mrs. Foster asked.
Donna showed the framed photo to her mother. “Is that you?”
Mrs. Foster looked at the photo. She started beaming and said, “Yes, that’s me!”
Donna’s eyes nearly popped out her head and her jaw dropped nearly a mile. She and the others looked at the photo, then at her mother, then back at the photo.
Matt finally said to Donna, “Your mom was in Kids Incorporated?” He looked back at the photo and said, “She doesn’t look anything like Stacy.”
Kelly resisted the urge go upside Matt’s head. “That’s her mom!”, she said, pointing at the person in question in the photo, one of the backups behind the group. Their names were autographed around them on the photo. There was Aaron, their bass guitarist; Carleeta on the keyboards; their drummer Mario; and their two stage dancers, Andrea and –
“Wendy?” asked Ricky. “Who’s Wendy?
“Me,” Mrs. Foster said. “I’m Wendy!”
They all looked at the photo, then back at Mrs. Foster, then back to the photo.
“I was one of their dancers,” she said.
Matt said to Donna, “Your mom was in Kids Incorporated, and you didn’t know about it?”
“Mom, why didn’t you tell me?” Donna asked her mom.
Mrs. Foster – Wendy – replied, “I did.”
“Remember the girl I told you about?” she said. “The one who could dance and sing but didn’t like being the center of attention?” Donna nodded. “That was me.”
Donna’s eyes widened in surprise. “That was you?”
“I told you that I was shy when I was growing up,” Wendy said. “Even though I loved being on stage, I didn’t like being the center of attention. The band helped me get over my shyness, especially when it came to singing in front of a crowd. When I did, they let me sing a couple of times.”
This was a bit much for Donna to process, but she was handling it very well. It’s not every day you find out your mom was once in a popular rock band made up of kids.
“Now I couldn’t make up a story like that, now could I?” Wendy said to her daughter.
“No one could make up a story like this,” Matt said. “Donna is the first second generation member of Kids Incorporated!”
Kelly then said to her friends, “Hey, it’s time to get back on stage! Let’s go!” The Kids headed back to the stage for their next set.
“Donna!” Wendy called out.
Donna went back to her mother. “What?
Wendy gave her daughter a big hug. “I’m so proud of you honey,” she said to her. “Now, go have fun on that stage.”
“I will mom.”
On stage, Kelly took center stage on the microphone, and addressed the audience.
“You may have noticed we had an extra member on stage with us tonight,” Kelly announced. “So, we’d like to introduce our newest member….DONNA!”
The crowd went wild as Donna began to sing “Call Me Maybe” as Wendy watched her daughter carry on the family name on stage as the newest member of a group that she was once a part of.
As her daughter sang, Wendy took out her cell phone and quickly took a picture of her daughter on stage. By the end of the song, the picture had been sent to her friends from her days in Kids Incorporated, along with a text message:
“Hi everybody. This is my daughter Donna, the newest member of Kids Incorporated. She’s so shy, just like her mom.”