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Take Me by the Heart

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Most of the time Alice S. Cooper's life felt utterly absurd. One would think she would be used to it after 20-odd years of living on red carpets and interviewing celebrities.

Yet time hadn't made it any less surreal. She still felt like she was walking through a dream—one where her face was splattered on the sides of buses, her voice playing on every other radio station. She had a long list of endorsements, movie cameos, and more google hits and twitter followers than the Other (initial-less) Alice Cooper.

Years ago she would have been amongst the flashing lights beyond the red carpet, trying to catch an actor's attention for that money-making shot. She spent years hosting singing competition shows in the evenings and many mornings counting down the hits.

Now, Alice waited for the celebrity wranglers to bring their clients to her own eponymous talk show.  These people were always so eager to be interviewed by her, to have her light refract onto them for a brief moment. 

It was the perfect arrangement. She got the glamour, connections, the paycheque and none of the scrutiny.

That is until her weasel husband shacked up with Penelope Blossom, momager extraordinaire. Suddenly those who Alice turned to for information turned on her, hounded her at every possible opportunity for a statement on her marriage's demise.

On the bright side, if the email in front of her was to be believed, her ratings increased when the scandal broke six months ago. Scrolling through her emails, she supposed that it was worth the price of privacy.

A new email from Mary Andrews pinged on her phone announcing the upcoming line-up of guests that had been confirmed. Alice scrolled through it quickly; her heart stopped abruptly when her eyes fell onto the last name on her roster.

FP Jones.

She had heard murmurings that he was back in the business, but she hadn't really given it much thought. Just because he was filming in Vancouver didn't mean he was prepping for a comeback. He had been irrelevant for years.


"You booked FP Jones?" Alice demanded as she barged into her producer's office.

Mary looked up from her computer, eyebrow raised, unamused by Alice's harsh tone. "I did. Do you have a problem with that?" she said, calmly.

Alice blinked incredulously.

"He's a washed-up one-hit wonder!" she sputtered. "I know 90s nostalgia is strong, but there's got to be a better way to capitalize on it instead of relying on addicts who peeked when they were 17!"

"Former addict," Mary quickly corrected, folding her hands neatly on the desk. "My husband is his manager; I've heard the rough cuts of the soundtrack. Alice, it's really good. FP is about to have the comeback of the century."

"Please," Alice scoffed. "One movie is not a comeback."

"It is if it's a Lodge Production," Mary said pointedly. "Alice, this is his first interview in 20 years! He wrote most of the music, and Hermione Lodge must have seen something in him if she cast him in the movie. Why aren't you all over this?"

Alice clenched her jaw. Was it too petty to say that she just didn't want to do it?

"FP and I go way back…" she eventually confessed with a sigh. "We grew up in the same small town, Riverdale… have you heard of it?"

Mary shook her head.

"I don't blame you. It's a one-restaurant kind of town. I couldn't wait to get out," Alice said bitterly.

"So you grew up in a crappy town. So did I. What's your point?"

Alice hesitated. "We didn't part on the best of terms."

"That's it?" Mary blinked. "I thought it was something serious. Alice, this is Hollywood. We all have ghosts."

"He's a jerk!"

"So is Hiram Lodge and you get along with him just fine."

Alice cringed. Hiram Lodge was one of the most unauthentic people she had ever had the misfortune of calling a friend. But he was among Hollywood's elite. His entire net-worth was more than some countries' GDPs. Alice knew that she had to stay on his good side to survive in this town.

"This isn't the same thing, Mary."

Mary cocked an eyebrow, her judgemental gaze boring into Alice's soul. "So I am hearing is that you have too much baggage with FP to do your job professionally. Is that the case? "

"How dare you suggest that I could be anything but professional!" Alice bristled. "You know I'm more than capable of conducting this interview."

She turned on her heel and stomped out of Mary's office. If he was going to appear out the woodwork, she sure as hell would make him squirm.


The promotional merry-go-round Fred booked out was… ambitious, though FP was assured this was par for the course in this line of work. FP had spent the better part of the last few months living in and out of hotel suites that were bigger than the double-wide he once called home.

He was a one-hit-wonder-turned-construction-worker-turned-movie-star. It was strange to think of how much things had changed.

Six years ago he stumbled in from the bar to find his wife and kids had packed up. The only trace that there had ever been anybody else living there was a yellow sticky note on the fridge.

Five years ago he started going to AA meetings in the Church basement. He started finding better coping mechanisms, found his way back to music and picked up his dusty guitar.

Four years ago, he had a decent selection of original songs floating on the internet and he didn't think anybody other than his kids would ever hear them.

Three years ago he was answering a call from Fred Andrews. Two years ago he was trading production notes with Hermione Lodge.And one year ago, he was on set in Vancouver with a camera in his face because Hermione had decided nobody else was suited for the role of Sheriff.

Hermione's labour of love was set to be released in cinemas in just a few short weeks. Early screenings had garnered critical praise, and "Our Own", the first single to drop, was steadily heading towards the charts. It was the reason why FP waited in the green room to be reintroduced to Alice S. Cooper.

The truth was Fred Andrews didn't need to do a whole love of convincing. He was the one who plucked FP out of obscurity, who fought tooth and nail to have him included in actress-turned-producer Hermione Lodge's newest project.

All because Fred believed in the music. Because he believed in FP Jones.

Stupid talk shows were just a way to guarantee a viral video and FP would have rathered be doing anything else than contributing to the pandering. But he, more than anyone, knew that this was fleeting. So he prepared himself to perform like a monkey and to crack jokes with Ellen later in the week because for the first time in his adult life he could go to the dentist without feeling bad about it.

FP owed Fred everything.

The first time he was famous he blew all his cash on booze and fizzle rocks. This time around he was saving it for his kids. Jughead was in his junior year of high school and who knew? He might want to go to college or put a downpayment on a house one day. Jellybean still had some time—she was only 11—but the guy at the bank said that it's never too early to start investing.

FP would never be able to make up for the bedtime stories he never read, or the Christmas plays he never saw. But he sure as hell would give them a safety net in case they ever needed it.

Three precise knocks pulled him out of his thoughts. Alice stood in the threshold, looking just as good in person as she did on his crappy tv.

"My, my… FP Jones," she smiled tightly. "Who would have thought that this is how we would meet again?"

"It's good to see you too, Alice."

She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her baby blue blazer. "Save it for the cameras, FP."

"Hey, I'm just here to talk about the movie," he protested.

"You better keep it that way," she turned on her heel, and not for the first time in her life, she walked away from hi


The day of FP's dreaded interview had snuck up on Alice. Between photo shoots, events, and divorce court proceedings, she hadn't really given it much thought. He was just another pretty face desperate for the limelight.

She smiled widely as she introduced her newest guest to the audience. At her cue, the chorus from his horrible song started to play. The audience immediately went wild.

 

Ripped blue jeans.

Long blonde hair. 

She's got the flute.

She'll take me there!

Wanna strike. 

Venom in my bite.

But she's got me under her spell.

Yeah.

 

She's a snake charmer. 

 

FP hung his head down and ran his fingers through his gelled up hair. He was hating this.

Good.

"Welcome to the show, FP," Alice greeted in her best obnoxiously peppy presenter voice.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it, Al?" he grinned as he settled into his seat.

"Yes, it has," she agreed curtly. Almost 25 years in fact, but the audience didn't need to know that. "It's been a long five minutes since I saw you backstage."

He chuckled. The nerve of that man. "You look good, Alice. How've you been?"

She fought the urge to roll her eyes at his rookie attempt to derail her interview.

"We're here to talk about you, not me!" she responded cheerfully. "You're appearing in Hermione Lodge's directorial debut SoDale which is a musical...about a correctional facility?"

The audience sniggered.

"Come on Alice, nobody is going to see it if you put it like that!" he protested. "It's more of a political thriller... that happens to involve some singing."

Alice nodded her head, feigning interest. "Tell me more."

"Joaquin de Santos plays this kid from the wrong side of the tracks and I'm the town Sheriff with nefarious motives that put him away... And that's all I can say without the Lodges' legal team showing up at my door."

The audience laughed.

"Play the clip!" Alice commanded.

She, along with the audience, watched a 30-second clip of FP interrogating Joaquim. It gave away nothing, only serving to encourage everybody to buy a ticket to see the rest.  He was… good. Not that it was surprising—he did star in their high school production of Bye Bye Birdie.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed FP squirming in his seat and for a brief moment, she saw him as he was decades ago—a restless teenager who always had a stick of gum in his mouth, who could not sit still during class, who was always on the move.

The moment ended as soon as the clip did. Alice was back on. Pushing any invasive thoughts, she was determined to be professional.

"How does it feel to have this renewed interest in your career?" She knew full well that she was putting him on the spot. Perhaps it was a bit unfair, but FP recovered quickly and any guilt she might have held soon dissipated.

"Amazing. I still can't believe it," he ran a flustered hand through his hair, a move she was once very well acquainted with. "It's crazy how much things have changed while others stay the same."

"Well, I wish you luck with the movie. I'm looking forward to seeing it in theatres," Alice beamed, perhaps a little too brightly.

"Thanks, Alice. That means a lot."

She ignored him and turned to the camera. "SoDale will be out in theatres next Friday! Be sure to check it out!"

The audience clapped.

 

Later Mary would glance up from her clipboard and say. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"

And Alice would lie and say, "Not at all."