Take Four (Above the Line Series #4)by Karen Kingsbury
In this Take Four ebook, the final volume in the Above the Line Series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, filmmakers Keith Ellison and Dayne Matthews finally ink a deal with the nation’s top young actor. But when the actor takes a public fall that threatens his reputation, the producers must act as missionaries to save the film, their… See more details below
In this Take Four ebook, the final volume in the Above the Line Series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, filmmakers Keith Ellison and Dayne Matthews finally ink a deal with the nation’s top young actor. But when the actor takes a public fall that threatens his reputation, the producers must act as missionaries to save the film, their families, and the young movie star.
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By Karen Kingsbury
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBailey Flanigan's legs shook and her arms felt like limp noodles. Outside, the heat in the heart of New York City sweltered, the humidity some of the worst of the summer. If the dance studio had air conditioning, it wasn't working. The mix of sweaty bodies and thick air made it almost impossible for Bailey or any of the dancers to catch their breath.
"And again!" Sebastian, the casting director from West Side Story shouted at them. "Five, six, seven, eight ..."
The music kicked in and Bailey grabbed a quick breath. Keep moving, she told herself. Don't stop! She couldn't quit no matter how hard the director pushed them. This was her dream; an actual Broadway audition in a New York studio. She would give it everything she had, until she dropped to the floor trying.
She'd worked with Katy Hart Matthews on her acting and stage presence, and that would help if she got past this stage. But the intensity of the audition was crazy. If she'd known how many hours of dancing they'd do and how they'd be expected to sing without any sign of exertion she would've practiced more. She wasn't sure if her old boyfriend Tim Reed felt the same way. He spent most of the summer working with a private dance and vocal coach, and from what Bailey could see, his efforts were paying off.
One thing was certain. Sebastian was right about the numbers. At the beginning of the audition he had told them there would be hundreds of talented dancers trying for a handful of ensemble spots. Bailey remembered the scene from earlier that day. There had to be a thousand dancers lined up around the block looking for a shot. The only flicker of hope was that the audition had grown into a combined talent search for not just the West Side Story, but also Wicked and Mary Poppins. Each show had at least two ensemble spots to fill.
Bailey's feet had blisters and she could barely lift her arms as she ran through the dance routine one more time. But she didn't care. She would've been thrilled with a part in any of those shows.
"Okay, take five minutes," the director waved his hand. "We'll pick up again after that."
Bailey moved to the side of the room and wiped her forehead with a towel from her bag. Every Christian Kids Theater performance, every dance or voice lesson, the hours of practicing and praying and dreaming-all of it came together for this moment in time. Her lungs burned as she pulled a water bottle from her backpack and downed it in three long swigs. Her mom had flown with her and Tim to New York the day before, and this morning she'd given each of them several water bottles, which was a good thing. Already the audition had gone on for five hours, and cuts were made every hour. So far, she and Tim were still in the running.
Throughout the studio the dancers clustered in groups of two or three while they drank water and caught their breath. Bailey wanted to talk to Tim, but she needed to get word to her mom about what was happening. She turned her cell phone on and moved into the hallway. Her mom answered almost instantly. "Honey, I'm dying ... are you in?"
"It's still going on." She tried to keep the weariness from her voice, but it was impossible. She could barely hold her phone to her ear. "It'll be at least another hour."
"How's it going?"
"The directors are tough. But they like us ... at least I think so. But the competition is so intense. It's overwhelming."
Her mom had hired a car for the day, and after dropping Bailey and Tim off early that morning, she was shopping along Fifth Avenue, killing time until the audition was over. "Okay." Her mom sounded upbeat, her enthusiasm contagious. "Give it your best, sweetheart. I'll be praying."
Bailey's heart melted at her mother's words. In the last few years her mom had admitted only a couple times that she wasn't looking forward to the possibility of Bailey moving to New York City. She and Cody had talked about it too. He made her promise she wouldn't think about the two of them or their future. Not this weekend, with her dreams on the line. Even so, Cody filled her mind constantly. If she won a part, they'd only see each other on visits. And would her stint here last six months or a year? Or maybe longer? There were too many questions and not enough answers, so Bailey doubled her determination. She had to win the part first. The answers would come after that.
The break ended much too quickly, before Bailey could connect with Tim. The next set started off with just the guys. There were maybe a hundred dancers left, and Sebastian placed Tim in the front row. "Follow me and pay attention. I won't repeat myself. Once we're up to speed, I'll walk the aisles. If I tap you, you're finished for the day. Thank you for coming out. If you remain untapped, stay here. You've made it to the next round."
Sebastian launched into a difficult series of eight-counts, all set to a ridiculously fast beat. Bailey wasn't sure what show the dance came from, but she doubted the ensemble would perform it at this speed. Probably just one more way the director could make cuts. Dancers who couldn't keep up would be eliminated. End of story.
The teaching session lasted only ten minutes, and then the guys were on their own, running over the series of eight-counts again and again while Sebastian and three of his assistants walked between the rows and tapped the shoulder of one guy after another. When they'd passed by every guy in the room, only eight dancers remained.
Tim was one of them.
Bailey wanted to stand up and applaud, but it wasn't the time. She hoped he could feel how proud she was. His dreams were coming true right here before her eyes. Enough time had passed since their breakup that they really had found their friendship again. A casual friendship, void of deep conversations or text messages-or any desire for something more. Best of all, there seemed to be no hard feelings between them.
Sebastian gave the guys a ten-minute break and ordered them back in the room to watch the girls. Then he barked orders to the female dancers, arranging them in rows similar to the guys. "Same thing, ladies. I'll teach you the dance and you'll perform it over and over until I've walked past every one of you. Same drill as the guys. If I tap you, thank you for coming out. If not, please stay for the next round."
Bailey walked out to her place on the floor. Here goes, she thought. Please, God ... give me the energy ... help me shine for You. I want this so badly, Lord ... please. Her legs shook as she found her spot in a middle row. Maybe she should've pushed her way to the front, or tried for an end position. So the directors could see her better. Please, God ... You made me for this, I know You did. She stretched her legs one at a time and again wished she'd done more to prepare. She was so tired she wasn't sure she could learn a single eight-count, let alone dance a series of them.
Sebastian clapped his hands, fast and intense. "This is the beat, girls. Stay with me."
He launched into a dance harder than anything Bailey had ever done. All her life she had figured she'd be ready for an audition like this, ready to leap and twirl and soar across a Broadway stage. After all, she'd done this for CKT for years, and she'd performed on the Indiana university stage only months ago. But it took all her physical and mental energy to grasp the dance in the brief time they'd been given, and in a blur Sebastian was finished teaching. "Ready, ladies?" he shouted, "Five, six, seven, eight...."
With that, the pulsing music began and the rows of dancers burst into action, performing as if their lives depended on their next moves. Bailey fought past the pain and exhaustion, and found another level-an ability she didn't know she possessed. Thank you, God ... I'm doing it ... I'm dancing better than any time in all my life! I can do this, I know I can. Thank you ...
Sebastian seemed to know exactly what he was looking for. He walked the rows, tapping the shoulder of nearly every girl he passed. She could imagine him passing her by, letting her stay. This was the best she'd ever danced, so she had to win a part, right? Bailey wanted to pray again, but all she could do was dance.
Finally it was her turn, and again she could picture the victory, feel him walking past her, avoiding her shoulder, giving her the privilege of making it to the next round. They sort of knew each other, really. They'd met last year when her mom brought a group of CKT kids to New York City. So maybe he'd have pity on her and ...
She kept dancing, pushing herself, but just then Sebastian hesitated near her. He gave her a sad look and a quick raise of his brow, as if to say she should've worked harder. Then without giving her another few seconds to prove herself, he tapped her shoulder.
And that was that.
When the music stopped, Bailey did everything she could not to cry. Her limbs ached, and every step hurt. She felt the blisters on her feet as she made her way to her backpack. Her lungs gasped for enough air to meet the demands of her worn out body. What had just happened? Had she really lasted all day only to get cut at the very end? She walked as if in a trance and found her things along the wall. God ... why? The prayer came instantly, silently. Is this really your will for me, the plans you have for me? I gave it everything I had, and I thought ... I thought You were going to let me shine for You here in the city. I thought this was Your will, Father ... so why? Why ...
But even as her wounded prayer overflowed from her hurting heart, she had a realization. This wasn't the last time she would try out for a Broadway show. She would go home and work harder, practice more often. Next time she wouldn't leave a doubt in the minds of the directors. But even as the plan formed in her mind, her disappointment caused her to slump against the wall. She sank to the ground and for a few seconds she covered her face with her hands. How would she tell her mom, her dad and her brothers? And what about Cody? He'd been so sure she'd get a part. He believed in her, and now ... now she'd have to tell them what happened. She'd let them all down-herself and God, and everyone who loved her.
She had told Cody at their Lake Monroe Campus Crusade retreat that she wasn't sure she wanted to live in New York City. But she did-she was ready for this, the next step in her future. But now ... now she'd have to go home and find a way to become better. She would return home to Bloomington, Indiana, for the rest of the summer and see Cody Coleman as often as she wanted. Rather than living nearly a thousand miles away, she would be home for college for another year and in the Clear Creek High School stands for every fall football game. But all of that did nothing to ease her defeat in this moment. The longer she thought about how God had opened this door, and how sure she'd been that she'd win a part, the more determined she became.
Next time the outcome would be different.
Tim was taking his place for the last and final stage of his audition. Bailey pulled her last water bottle from her backpack and twisted off the lid, her eyes on Tim. The other girls were gone, and she wasn't sure if she was allowed to stay. But until someone asked her to leave, she figured she could watch. She was too tired to stand, anyway. And she wanted to be there, because what if ... what if Tim was chosen? How weird would that be, him living here and performing without her? Her heart pounded in her chest, because Tim's future was being decided in the coming few minutes by strangers in an oversized New York City dance studio. She dragged her towel over her forehead and sipped her water. Your will, God ... let Tim receive your will ...
Sebastian paired up the eight remaining girls with the eight remaining guys. This time Bailey had no doubt where the dance came from. It was the ensemble number "Dancing through Life," one of the biggest in the musical Wicked. The dance was one any musical theater kid would've loved to learn.
Again Sebastian wasted no time. He taught them half the dance and then counted down as the music began. Tim was paired up with a small Asian girl, a beautiful dancer whose stage presence made up for what she lacked in height. Bailey watched them, and she couldn't blink, couldn't look away. When had Tim gotten so strong, so good at commanding the stage?
The decision was made quickly that four pairs would remain. "If I call your number, you may sit down. If not, please get your things and leave. Again, thank you for your time." He read from a list without fanfare or buildup. A minute later, half the dancers were leaving and the other half-including Tim-were sitting down on the floor, their eyes on Sebastian.
"Congratulations. We saw more than twelve-hundred dancers today, and you eight have won the jobs. You'll each be given a minimum six-month contract and ..."
The director was going on, giving them final instructions about connecting with a housing director and their weekly pay. Bailey couldn't concentrate on what he was saying after that. This was really happening for Tim, and it was all a little hard to believe. Tim Reed? Her first crush ... her longtime CKT friend ... now a professional Broadway actor and dancer? And he was taking on the role she'd always dreamed about. Dear God, how come I couldn't be here with him? It would've been great knowing someone, having a friend to connect with ... it would've been perfect ...
Tim didn't dare turn around until Sebastian released them, but then he dashed across the floor to Bailey. "I did it!" He helped her to her feet and picked her up, then swung her around in two full circles. "I can't believe it, Bailey. I'm in a real Broadway show!"
"I know!" She smiled as he set her down, and she tried to find a lighthearted laugh, but it wouldn't come. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, Bailey. This is ridiculous ... Help me be happy for him, Lord. She felt like an awful friend, unable to delight fully in his victory.
"Wow," he was breathing hard, dazed, clearly trying to grasp what had just happened, the reality of his success. Then he blinked twice and suddenly he seemed to remember that she didn't have anything to celebrate. She hadn't made it. He faced her, his hands on her shoulders, and his smile fell off a little. "They should've picked you, Bailey. You were amazing."
She blinked back tears, her smile firmly in place. "I'll try again." She leaned close and kissed his cheek. "But, hey, congratulations. I'm so proud of you. When will you know what show you're in?"
"Didn't you hear him? At the end there he pointed to each of us and told us where we'd be working." His face lit up again. "I'm in Wicked. I can't even believe this is happening."
Bailey couldn't draw a breath for a moment. Wicked? The top show on Broadway? "That's perfect!" She found a thrill of joy for Tim, her own disappointment pushed back for the moment. If he could win a role in the ensemble for that show, this first six-month contract would only be the beginning. She was grateful they'd broken up nearly two months ago. Otherwise they might've been confused by this goodbye-since the separation here was out of their hands. But Bailey had long since let Tim go, long before their breakup. Now she was truly happy for him and his future here in New York City.
"You'll be here one day, I know it." He hugged her loosely, their bodies both drenched in sweat. "Keep trying, Bailey. Don't ever settle."
She felt a tenderness work its way into her smile. She hadn't settled in love-that's why she was dating Cody Coleman. And she wouldn't settle when it came to her dreams of performing, either. "Thanks for that. I won't settle."
"Promise." Bailey took out her cell phone. "I need to call my mom." She dreaded this conversation, but she had to have it. She kept her tone upbeat and simply asked her mom to pick them up out front. No details yet. Five minutes later the car pulled up. Her mom jumped out and gave each of them a quick hug. "So ... what happened?"
Excerpted from Take Four by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2010 by Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission.
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