Alex and Kelly rushed into the jazz club and looked around. Alex spotted a hand waving and they made their way through the crowd to a table not far from the stage. Alex met her sister’s harsh glare.
“Sorry, Kara,” Alex said, “Work got crazy and I swear I rushed as much as I could.”
“Really, Kara, she was running around the apartment like a maniac,” Kelly added, smiling shyly.
Alex bumped Brainy on the shoulder, making him switch chairs so that she could sit next to Kara. “I’m here now,” she said.
“It’s just – I’ve worked so hard for this. I’ve played so many open mic nights I can’t even keep count anymore,” Kara said, pouting at Alex. “This might be my big shot.”
Alex draped her arm over Kara’s back and leaned in and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. Kara teasingly protested then burst into laughter.
“Alex, stop it,” she said through her giggles.
Alex pulled away but kept her arm around Kara’s shoulder and smiled at her. “You’ve been singing forever, Kara. You’re gonna kill it.”
“I know, but it’s easier when I sing covers and throw in an original now and then,” Kara said, “Tonight the club manager said they want mostly originals and I can throw in a cover if I want. Even you haven’t heard all these songs. My hands are shaking.”
“Kara, relax,” Alex said, “Breathe. Pretend you’re just playing at home.”
“That doesn’t work,” Kara huffed out.
“Kara, what you’re feeling is completely normal,” Kelly said softly. She took Kara’s hand gently and waited for Kara to look at her. “Some of the most famous performers of all time have stage fright – Adele, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon – they’ve all talked about it. But you get through it. Alex really isn’t giving bad advice, even if she has no idea what she’s talking about. You need to stop focusing on what could go wrong and focus on the people here who are calm and relaxing. We love you and we love your music.”
“Did I ever mention how glad I am that Alex has a psychiatrist girlfriend?” Kara said, squeezing Kelly’s hand and smiling.
“God knows the Danvers sisters need it,” Nia teased, making Brainy and James laugh loudly.
“Hey there,” Alex protested, even as she was laughing along.
The club manager approached the table to let Kara know it was time for her to head backstage. She took a deep breath and Alex stood and engulfed her in a tight hug.
“Break a leg, sis,” Alex said, “I know you can do this.”
Kara nodded and gave a small smile then headed toward the side of the stage. The performer before her was on guitar and the club manager was busy instructing the stagehands to move the piano into place. Kara tried to regulate her breathing as she looked into a mirror hanging in the hall leading to the stage entrance. She had wavered over what to wear for the performance and finally settled on a dark blue vintage 1930s velvet dress. It hugged her body but still let her move freely and she thought it matched the soft, sultry style she was going for in her music. She looked up to see the stage manager giving her a signal and she moved to the edge of the stage.
“Our next performer is from the nearby small town of Midvale,” the emcee announced, “She’s been a hit at open mic performances in National City for a while now so we decided to bring her here to The Loft and give her a shot. Please welcome Kara Danvers.”
Lena got out of her Uber in front of The Loft and nodded at the doorman. He recognized her immediately and gave her a big smile as he held open the large wooden door.
“Good evening, Charles,” she said politely as she walked through. He smiled even wider, always a little amused by her formal way of speaking.
“Good to see you, Ms. Luthor,” he answered.
She walked in and saw Sam and Jack already enjoying a drink at her reserved table. She approached the table and Jack stood to greet her. She kissed him on the cheek then winked at Sam as she sat down. Sam was already motioning to the bartender, who nodded back his acknowledgment.
“The traffic,” Lena complained as she sat, “I thought I’d never get here. What did I miss?”
“There was a girl on guitar who made Alanis Morrisette look devoid of angst,” Jack said dryly, making Lena giggle.
“Oh, and a Bob Dylan wannabe,” Sam added, “Couldn’t understand a word he said.”
“So basically, nothing good,” Lena sighed out. A waiter walked up with her usual order of Scotch and placed it on the table. She took a long sip and sighed contentedly. The next musician was another guitar artist who played for about twenty minutes. When he was done they all agreed he was fine but nothing special.
“Looks like someone on piano,” Lena said, watching the changes on the stage, “We haven’t seen that in a while.”
“Please Lord let this person be good,” Sam said, chuckling, “When was the last time we heard anyone really good?”
“The night we heard Kacey,” Lena said, taking a deep breath.
It had been almost three years since Lena began managing Kacey Murphy. She was purely a singer. Her voice was low and sexy and altogether different from anything Lena had ever heard. She went backstage as soon as her performance was over and set a meeting. Within days Lena had Kacey in a studio with a band and background vocals and they turned out her first song, written by a songwriter Lena was managing as well. It was a hit and they were all still collecting very good paychecks from the sultry tune. Unfortunately, Kacey had been lured away by a big upfront bonus from a large label. She hadn’t had another hit since.
“It’s been over two years,” Jack said, “Time to find another meal ticket.”
“Jack, that’s a little harsh,” Lena said, eyebrow raised.
“I’m a lawyer, Sam’s a CPA,” Jack said, “We’re not in the business of coddling people. I’m not even sure why you drag us to these things.”
“You love the free drinks and the chance to flirt with every woman in the place, Jack,” Lena teased, “Don’t deny it.”
“You’re right,” he said, smiling, “And also, when was the last time you got laid?”
Sam nearly spit out her drink laughing and Lena shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Shut up,” Lena said, “It’s easier for you two.”
“What, because we’re straight?” Sam asked incredulously, “Have you seen most of the guys in here? They make Jack look like Liam Hemsworth.”
“Hey, I’m at least as good looking as Liam,” Jack said, as they all laughed heartily.
Lena loved her two best friends. They had all known each other since college. Jack and Lena had even gone on a couple of dates before she finally accepted herself entirely and admitted that she was gay. The accepted her immediately and fully and the three had been inseparable ever since.
They looked up toward the stage as the emcee came out and announced the upcoming act, “… please welcome Kara Danvers.”
Lena watched as the breathtaking woman emerged from the wings and walked out onto the stage. Her blonde hair fell in long waves and she pushed it back over her shoulders as she took her seat on the piano bench. She adjusted the microphone and Lena could see the slight shake in her hands. She didn’t know why but she felt herself desperately rooting for the woman to gather her nerves for the performance. The woman took a deep breath and leaned toward the microphone.
Kara adjusted the microphone and willed herself to be calm. She felt her hand shaking slightly but she got everything in place. She looked into the crowd and met Alex’s eyes and took in her encouraging smile.
Lena watched as Kara glanced across the room at a woman sitting at one of the far tables. The redhead was smiling at the musician and it was clear that they shared some sort of relationship. Lena sized up the woman with her closely shorn haircut and leather jacket. She was definitely gay and Lena wondered if they were girlfriends. She turned her attention back to the stage as Kara’s voice came over the mic.
“I wrote this first song after I lost someone I loved,” Kara said softly, “I guess we all go through that at one time or another.” She played the first note and closed her eyes and leaned toward the microphone.
I thought I’d get the chance to know you
I thought we’d have our lives ahead
But you left me, alone and frightened
And I had to find my own way…
Lena was lost in the performance almost immediately. The warm timbre of her voice and the haunting lyrics gave Lena goosebumps and she rubbed her arms as she listened. She wasn’t sure what the song referred to in Kara’s life but it was the kind of song that Lena felt could be meaningful to anyone. She gazed intently at the stage until the last rendition of the chorus was sung.
I don’t know how I carried on
But I managed to do it all alone
I don’t know where I got the strength
But I found a way to find my own way
The notes trailed off and the audience broke out into loud applause. Kara looked almost startled by the response and her face was covered in a relieved soft smile. She went back to the microphone and explained that her next song would be a little more upbeat and she promised she wouldn’t kill her audience with sadness in all of her songs. The club was filled with laughter and Lena knew at that moment that she needed to sign Kara Danvers. She had incredible talent and she had the x-factor in spades. Lena had no idea how this artist was still unsigned. As Kara continued playing Lena leaned in to talk quietly to Sam and Jack.
“Is she as good as I think she is?” Lena whispered.
“She’s fucking incredible,” Sam said, “She’s like if Brandi Carlisle and Amy Winehouse had a baby.”
“Shit, I didn’t even bother to look around,” Lena said, “Is there anyone else here tonight?”
“There’s the guy from DAM records over in the corner,” Jack said, tilting his head in the man’s direction. Lena glanced over and noticed that the man looked just as rapt as she felt.
“Morgan Edge,” Lena said snidely, “He’s such a douche.”
“He looks interested,” Sam said, noticing that he was clearly videoing the performance with his phone despite the strict policy of the club not to do so.
“I have to get to her first,” Lena said, “I’ll get Charles to let me backstage before she finishes.”
“Lena, I’m not gonna lie, you look a little turned on,” Sam teased, “Do you have a crush on the sexy piano player?”
“Shut up, Sam,” Lena said, smiling, “It’s business. But if she doesn’t want a manager and she just wants to get laid I wouldn’t say no.”
They all laughed as quietly as they could as Kara finished her song. She played a few more, each as good as the one before and Lena was completely entranced. Finally, she announced that her last song would be a cover of her mother’s favorite: Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.
Lena made her way backstage with Charles’ help as Kara sang the song with her own slow, haunting twist on the melody. Lena felt fluttering in her chest as she watched Kara from the edge of the stage. Kara looked lost in the lyrics and Lena was surprised to find herself tearing up from the emotional punch of her rendition. When the song ended the audience went wild and Lena peeked her head out to see people standing as they applauded. She had only seen reactions like this at The Loft on very rare occasions and usually it was when a famous artist popped back in for a surprise live performance. She watched as Kara took a bow, her big smile lighting up the room. Kara walked off the stage so quickly that she nearly ran right into Lena.
“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” Kara said as she stopped short just inches from Lena.
Lena smiled and thought how adorable it was that the woman had actually used the word gosh in a sentence. She took a small step back and held out her hand.
“I’m Lena Luthor, with Lsongs Records,” Lena said. Kara stood there looking utterly surprised and Lena dropped her hand back to her side.
“I’m sorry,” Kara said, suddenly holding her hand out. They shook hands awkwardly and Lena couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m a little overwhelmed.”
“It’s okay. You killed it out there,” Lena said. “I was hoping I could get a meeting with you to talk about management. You’ve got something really special, Ms. Danvers.”
“Wow, sure, that’d be great…” Kara started.
Suddenly a loud voice interrupted their meeting.
“Kara Danvers, Morgan Edge from DAM,” he said, quickly holding out his card just inches from her face. Kara took the card and her eyes grew wide.
“DAM records, really?” Kara said, sounding absolutely thrilled at the prospect.
Lena tried not to look disappointed. She knew DAM was a much bigger player in the business and competing with them was nearly impossible. Edge was already selling the company to Kara and promising her the moon and Kara looked like a fish being reeled right in. Lena shook her head and decided she couldn’t win the fight backstage. She decided to try a different tack. She walked back out from behind the stage and spotted the redhead still in her seat. She approached the table and sat at the empty seat, surprising everyone.
“Someone is sitting there,” Alex said, her voice clearly irritated.
“I’m guessing it’s the last singer,” Lena said, “Your girlfriend?”
Alex let out a laugh and eyed the woman like she was crazy, “She’s my sister.”
“Even better,” Lena said, as Alex eyed her quizzically, “I don’t have a sister but I know there’s a level of trust there so I’m going to give you my pitch and I hope you’ll listen.”
Alex glanced at Kelly who gave her an interested, why-not shrug. She decided she’d let the woman have her say, “Okay, go ahead.”
“Your sister is backstage with Morgan Edge from DAM records,” Lena started.
“Holy crap, that’s great,” Alex nearly shouted.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Lena said, “He’s a class one douchebag and DAM goes through artists like they’re a dime a dozen. I want to offer something different but he’s got your sister on the line right now.”
“What do you have to offer?” Alex asked, leaning closer and giving Lena a penetrating stare.
“I’m a manager, here’s my card,” Lena said, “I’m sure you’ll google me so you can find out who I’ve represented. That speaks for itself. What you can’t find out on the internet is how Kara will be treated depending on the choice she makes tonight. I may not have had as many successful artists as DAM but I’ve done very well by my clients. Kara will not be just another number to me. She’s special. I haven’t felt this way listening to anyone in a very long time. I just want one meeting with her before she signs away her life to Morgan Edge.”
Alex took the card. She took a picture of it with her phone in case she lost it then slipped it into her pocket.
“I’ll tell her,” Alex said, “But she makes her own decisions.”
“One meeting, that’s all I ask,” Lena said. She stood and walked back to her table and sat down.
“Who was that?” Sam asked.
“She’s the sister,” Lena said, “Edge got to Kara backstage and she was clearly impressed by the name on the label. I gave my pitch to the sister. I hope she gets me in.”
“She’d be lucky to have you,” Jack said sincerely.