tagMatureWashed Up

Washed Up

bykomrad1156©

"Nice job!"

"Oh, thanks, but the crowd was really small. Even for me," she said, the concern in her voice showing.

"Don't worry about it! You've got a loyal fan base out there, and tomorrow we're renewing your contract. We'll make a big push for the rest of the tour, and things will turn around in no time," her agent told her. "You'll see!"

"I hope you're right. I've spent quite a bit of money lately," she said.

He knew she was anticipating a hefty advance on the contract so she'd gone ahead and purchased a very expensive car she didn't need. Then again, she wasn't exactly a spendthrift and even back when she was in her prime and making money hand over fist, she wasn't extravagant. It was just something she'd wanted for a very long time and finally went out and bought for herself. She'd bought it because she trusted him with 'him' being her agent of 25 years, William Howe.

"So what's next?" she asked.

"Um, well, the contract signing," William told her.

"No events tonight? Nothing?" she asked knowing this was becoming the norm rather than the exception to the rule.

"No. Not tonight I'm afraid," he informed her. "But don't be late tomorrow. The meeting starts at 10am and this new kid—and I mean kid—runs a tight ship. He's only 23 years old, but he's got this wicked sixth sense for business, so don't piss him off by showing up late."

Jeri Kennedy's only flaw, if one could call it that, was being late. She'd always been late to everything. Had she not gone on the road touring in her freshman year of high school, she'd likely have been expelled for excessive tardiness. She'd been late to class nearly every day that year and had been suspended twice for it. Even now, nearly 25 years later, she still couldn't get somewhere on time. Or more accurately, anywhere.

Jeri had been at the top of the pop charts back then with one hit single after the other. At 15, she had a fresh, sweet look about her and a voice that spoke to young girls and teens who went gaga for her bubble-gum music long before the term 'gaga', let alone Lady Gaga, was a household word. Because of the loyalty of her fans who were now in their late 30s and early 40s, Jeri Kennedy, who was on the verge of turning 40 herself, had been able to keep touring and continue making money. It was nothing like the money she'd made those many years ago, but it was still more every year than most people earned in any three-year period.

She hoped to keep touring for two more years before slowing down or even retiring, and she really needed this last, two-year contract to pay off her car and get completely out of debt. Unlike many famous young people, Jeri had been reasonably careful with her money. She owned a very nice home just outside of Los Angeles, had two luxury-type cars (a Mercedes and an a Audi), and had a small amount of her money was very nicely invested. This car had been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of purchase, and once it was paid off, the rest of what she'd make the next two years would all be invested for her future retirement.

Her still-youthful appearance had made it easier to keep touring and playing the same kind of music decade after decade, and the fact that her aging fan base was very loyal and forgiving also didn't hurt.

She'd been naturally blonde as a teenager, but now bleached her hair every six weeks or so as it hard darkened a bit over the years. She had a cute little button nose and high, prominent cheekbones and soft, full lips with an amazing smile she shared quite often. Jeri was still wearing braces when she her first hit made the Pop Top 40 chart, and they were the reason her teeth were still perfectly straight today.

She wasn't petite, but at 5'5" and just over a hundred pounds, she was a small woman who could wear a size 2 dress or an extra-small top even now. In a word she still did a reasonably good job as passing for a much-younger woman. She could no longer pull off the teenager look, something she'd done into her early 30s, but she was still more than believable performing her greatest hits year after year as well as the occasional new song her fans found enjoyable.

"Okay. Sounds good. I guess I'll see you there tomorrow morning," she told him.

"Ten o'clock, Jeri. Sharp!"

William just shook his head when she said, "No worries. I'll be there!"

Were she to show up on time, it'd be an historical first for Jeri Kennedy.

At 10:05 the following morning, William was trying to call and text her at the same time.

"Jeri? Where are you? The exec is getting ready to walk!"

At twelve minutes after, Jeri came running into the conference room just as the new signing executive stood up to leave.

"Sorry! Traffic was terrible!" she said knowing traffic had nothing to do with being late. As always she just couldn't get herself moving and had no one to blame but herself.

"Ms. Kennedy. How nice of you to show up," the executive with the cherub face told her snidely.

"Well, I am here!" she said with her normal, cheery smile and happy tone of voice.

"Unfortunately, you've wasted nearly a quarter of hour I don't have to spend on...."

He gave her a quick once-over then said, "Aging pop stars. William can fill you in."

Just before getting up to leave, the angry, young exec told Jeri's agent, "I almost felt bad having to be the bearer of bad news, but having sat here wasting precious time, I no longer care. Tell your client we're not renewing her contract."

Before he could reply, Jeri had stepped inside the conference room and had no idea what had transpired.

"Okay," she said as the much-younger man strode right on by her.

Once the door was shut, Jeri looked at William and asked, "What's going on?

"You might want to sit down," he cautioned her.

"So that's it?" she asked. "Twenty-five years down the drain just like that?"

"I'm afraid so," he told her.

"Did my being late effect his decision?" she asked.

"No. It just made it easier for him to deliver."

"So...now what?" she asked as she sat there trying to understand what had just happened.

"Nothing. At least not with this label. I'll get to work on finding another company to take you on, but I gotta tell you, Jeri, this isn't gonna be easy."

"I...I understand," she said as reality began setting in.

The first thing she had to do was either get the dealership to take the car back or try and sell it. She could absorb the depreciation, but there was no way she could keep it. From there, she'd have to get serious about her finances and do some real belt tightening until William came through for her. The thought that he might not be able to sent a chill through her for more than just financial reasons.

"For now, just go home and try and relax," William told her.

"Yeah. Relax. No problem," Jeri replied.

She was always late, but she never relaxed. She was on the go from the time she got up until she went to bed. Most of her days were filled with show prep, travel, meetings, or interviews, although lately there'd been precious few meetings and even fewer interviews.

Three days later William told her he was still beating the bushes but confessed it didn't look good. Later that afternoon she got the dealership to agree to take the car back with just 250 miles on it for a 'restocking fee' of $25,000. She'd had it for less than a month so she'd effectively spent a grand a day on a car she'd only driven a handful of times.

"And...now what?" she asked as she sat at home wondering what to do.

She picked up her phone and scrolled through her contacts until she got to the name 'Keri'. Keri Kennedy-Thompson was her only sister who'd never left their small hometown about 25 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington.

Keri was also a very talented singer, but she didn't have the 'girly edge' to her voice that Jeri did so she'd been content to sing in their church choir or at local events. A year after graduating from college, Keri married her high school sweetheart, Jeff Thompson, who worked in construction building and repairing homes in the local area. Two years after that, Keri gave birth to a beautiful baby girl they named Teri to keep the 'name theme' going, and Teri was the apple of Jeri's eye. Well, on those rare occasions when she went home to visit.

Jeri would never admit it, but she was as jealous of her baby sister's family as Keri was of her big sister's fame and success. Over the years, they'd drifted further and further apart, and Jeri had only been home three times in the eight years Teri had been alive.

She sat there and stared at her number for quite a while before finally hitting the 'call' button.

"Jeri?" she heard her sister say. "Is everything all right?"

"Sure! Why wouldn't it be?" Jeri told her trying to sound happy.

"I don't know. I guess I just assumed the worst. I mean, it's not like you ever call or anything."

There was no malice in her sister's voice. It was just a statement of fact.

"I'm sorry, Keri. I've been terrible about keeping up. It's just with all the touring and the...."

"It's okay," Keri told her. "I understand. You're busy. It's no big deal."

There was a moment of silence before Keri said, "So is there something you wanted to talk about?"

Another brief moment of silence was broken when Keri heard the first sounds of her sister on the verge of crying.

"Hey! What's going on, Jeri?" she asked with real concern.

For the next ten minutes, Jeri opened up and shared things with her sister they'd never talked about from the contract not being renewed to her feelings of jealousy over Keri having all the things she'd wanted for so long but never had.

"It's not too late, you know," her little sister said. "You're still a beautiful woman and you are famous."

"Ha! Famous? Yeah, with a tiny fan base maybe. No one else has even heard of me," Jeri said ruefully.

"You're still big news back home," Keri assured her.

"Keri?" she asked tentatively.

"Yes?"

"Would it maybe be okay if I, you know, came home to visit for a while?"

"Are you kidding? Of course it's okay! Did you want to stay with us?" Keri asked.

"Do you mind?" Jeri asked as she winced to no one.

"No. Heavens no! Please come home. Mom and Dad will be so happy, and Teri will be thrilled to see her favorite aunt!"

"I'm her only aunt," Jeri reminded her.

"Yes, but she adores you, Jeri. She talks about you all the time. She follows your tour and listens to your music. Sometimes, she and I even dance to it. It's so much fun to do the old moves, you know?"

"Old. Huh. Boy, do I ever," Jeri said wistfully.

"Not you!" Keri said.

"Easy for you to say," Jeri told her as she sat there looking out of her large picture window feeling for lonely than she could ever remember.

"So when can we expect you?" her sister asked ignoring the comment about age as she knew her sister, who was three years older, still looked much younger than she did. Then again, Jeri hadn't had a baby or a house to clean while working full-time along with her husband to make ends meet.

Keri did her best not to feel resentful, but it was hard knowing her sister was 'living the dream' while she was back in small-town America raising a family and eking out a living. But whenever she looked at her little girl or her still-handsome, hard-working husband, she knew she'd made the right choice. Still, she couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to perform in front of large, adoring audiences night after night.

If only she knew.

A week later, Jeri was on a plane heading north to the Pacific Northwest. William had touched base with every record label he thought might possibly take his client on and all of them had roundly rejected the offer. Several of them had no idea who she even was thus confirming Jeri's worst fears that her professional singing days were over. Making matters worse, not one person on the plane seemed to recognize her or even say, "Hey, aren't you that singer from....?"

By the time the plane landed at Sea-Tac airport, Jeri found herself wallowing in self-pity and wondering how things had gone 'south' so quickly. She now not only had no contract, she didn't even have a family of her own she could turn to beyond her sister and parents. Yes, she still loved them, but as a grown woman, they were temporary sources of comfort at best.

Keri was there waiting for her along with her beautiful daughter, who nearly went crazy when she saw her once-famous aunt walking toward her. Teri ran toward her and Jeri knelt down to receive a warm, loving embrace, and when they hugged, Jeri lost control and began crying.

"Hey! What's going on?" her sister asked as she caught up to her daughter.

Jeri had no intention of telling her how sad she was because of the way her life seemed. 'Hollow' was the word that seemed to fit the best. Her life felt empty and...hollow. On the other hand, her sister had a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, and the stability that came from growing roots somewhere. Jeri, on the other hand, had ripped her roots out years ago and now had none planted anywhere.

"I'm just tired from the trip," Jeri lied as she blinked away the tears and forced a smile.

"Can you sing for us, Aunt Jeri?" her niece asked almost immediately.

"Honey, let your aunt relax, okay? She sings for a living and that's like asking daddy to build something for fun," Keri said knowing she'd asked him to build many things for them over the years. In his 'spare time', of course.

"We'll see, okay?" Jeri replied.

By the time they got to Keri's, Jeri felt better. Not good—but better. Just being with her sister and niece and having talked the entire way home was just what the doctor ordered.

Since it was Sunday, Jeff was there waiting when they arrived, and Jeri suddenly felt melancholy sweep over her as he hugged her and welcomed her home.

"I promise not to stay too long," Jeri told him right after thanking him and letting him know how good it was to see him again.

"Nonsense! You're family. You can stay as long as you like," Jeff told her making her feel even worse.

"Yes. Don't rush off, okay?" her sister added.

They spent the evening talking about everything they could think of since the last time they'd been together, and at one point, Jeri said it might be time to start looking for a real job.

"I'm not destitute," she said. "Not even close. But I can't sit around all day doing nothing. So unless William somehow finds a label willing to take me on, I will need something to do."

"Well...." Keri said in reply. "The school needs a music teacher and if you're interested, you could probably sub for her. She's going on maternity leave any day."

"Seriously? Jeri asked.

"Yes. Seriously. Our music teacher is nine months pregnant and the principal has been interviewing people. The problem is she can't hire anyone permanently so that means someone with no music ability could temporarily fill the job. But were you to let her know you're interested...."

"Hmmm. How soon would I be starting?" Jeri asked.

"It could be another week. It could be tomorrow," Keri told her. "I mean, the pay is...ridiculous. But if you need something to do...."

"Yeah. Sure. That sounds like fun."

"Great! I'll let the principal know tomorrow. Just let me know when you're ready and I'll coordinate with her to set up an interview."

Jeri spent the next day with her mom and dad and after catching up with them, she really had nothing to do, and doing nothing wasn't her style, so she went in the following day and met with Keri's principal.

"You're a godsend!" the older, matronly woman told Jeri after less than 30 seconds. "The job is yours the day Ms. Olsen goes on maternity leave, and I'm thrilled to have you!"

That Thursday afternoon, the music teacher's water broke right after lunch. The assistant principal covered her classes the rest of the day and Jeri found herself teaching high school students the very next morning.

For the first time in...forever...Jeri was on time for something. That happened only because her sister nagged at her incessantly and almost literally dragged her out the door with her when it was time to leave.

"You cannot be late," Keri told her on the way to work. "You're a role model for these kids as much as a music teacher, and being on time is hugely important."

"I'm gonna work on that," Jeri told her knowing she 'worked on it' many times before and never had any success.

Keri took her sister to the office where Jeri signed for the keys to her room, then to the music room where she showed her around.

"I'm just down the hall to the right if you need me, okay?" she told Jeri after helping her get organized.

"Oh, someone from IT will be creating an email account for you as well as for the attendance program. You'll have to create separate passwords for them. Everything is done electronically so taking attendance is just opening the program, selecting the right class, then marking 'absent, present, or tardy' before hitting 'send'."

Keri gave her a stern look when she said the word 'tardy' and Jeri understood she meant her—more than her students.

"Okay, okay! Give it a rest already," Jeri said defensively.

"Good luck!" Keri said with a smile before leaving her famous big sister all alone.

There were lesson plans for the next month or so on her desk, but Jeri thought everything in them was downright boring. The principal had let her know she could do pretty much anything she wanted as long as the kids were ready for the annual Spring Fling event coming up in six weeks.

Jeri remembered Spring Fling from when she was a student and understood it hadn't changed a lot since then. The school choir would be performing several songs for parents and other family members as a part of the evening's festivities, and after that, there would be a series of other events followed by an informal dance.

The dance. Jeri had been too busy getting ready to go on tour her freshman year to think about something as silly as a school dance, but now she felt like she'd been cheated yet again.

There'd been two boys on whom she'd had crushes that year, and she couldn't help but wonder what it might have been like had one of them asked her to Spring Fling. What would it have been like to dance that first slow dance or possibly even to experience her first kiss?

Until she turned 18, her chaperones had been merciless in keeping track of her every moment. She'd only had two dates by then and they'd been very heavily supervised. The closest thing she'd had to a first kiss was a peck on the cheek from the second boy who kept looking at their chaperone before nervously bending down and sort of touching her face with his.

She'd made up for lost time almost the day after she turned 18, and yet here again, all she had were feelings of regret as she looked back on the long series of mindless hook-ups and meaningless sex. Being famous, she could choose pretty much any guy she found attractive during a concert and have security bring him by her room later on.

Initially, it was beyond thrilling to experiment with new guys doing new things, but at some point, it became more a burden than a pleasure. There was a fairly long period of time where Jeri essentially lived a life of celibacy preferring to stay in her room and read a book to having sex with another nameless face. The upside was she read a lot of books on a wide variety of topics and had learned more in those years than she had from all of her on-the-road studies preparing her for high school graduation.

Even that had been a huge letdown. Jeri took her final exams which were scored by some testing center and a few weeks later a diploma came in the mail.

Her trip down memory lane was interrupted by the sound of voices outside her room.

"Who's the new sub?" she heard one girl ask.

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