Tawny was rushing this morning, having overslept by fifteen minutes. She grabbed her purse, slipped it over her shoulder, slurped hot coffee from her thermos and ran a brush through her blond hair on the run, and was nearly out the door when her phone rang. She didn't have enough hands as it was. She almost didn't answer it, since she was never late to work, and didn't intend to be today, either. Sighing and setting the thermos on the counter, she yielded and answered as she applied lip gloss, only to hear an unfamiliar male voice.
"Ms. Tawny Nichols?"
"Yes," she said almost coldly, and certainly impatiently, but also striving to be polite, rocking back and forth in her mid heel pumps, itching to get out that door and into her car. He was probably a telemarketer, as a name didn't appear on the screen and therefore was not entered in her contacts. Then why the hell had she answered it? Damn it . . .
"Congratulations. I'm a representative of Cosmopolitan magazine calling to let you know that you've won a drawing you entered that is entitled, "Win a night with Hazza, Tommo, Nialler or Leeyum. My name is . . ." and he went into his spiel, but she could hardly hear him for the rushing in her ears. Her breath hitched and her throat convulsed.
What? It couldn't be true. She'd actually won that ridiculous drawing she'd entered a few months ago? No way.
"I need to verify who you are, and that this call is legit," she said with what she hoped sounded like firm, self-assured authority and confidence.
"Of course," the man gave her a number to call to document and confirm that his call was indeed genuine. "You'll need to call anyway to arrange the specifics and location of your encounter and settle on a day and time that would work for everyone's schedules."
Encounter. What a strange word to use for this instance.
Tawny's heart pounded as she ended the call, not at all sure she was going to call the number he'd given her, her first instinct telling her not to. She was suspicious, because why, of all the tens of millions of girls all over the country, had her card been drawn? It seemed nearly impossible. What were the odds? She'd done it on a whim too.
But when she started thinking about it, the man had certainly not sounded like a prankster. He'd been polished and professional. Not that that meant he was kosher, but added to the fact that she'd told absolutely no one that she'd entered this contest, not a single soul, it just might be authentic. In fact, she'd almost forgotten about the drawing until now.
As she rushed to her car, she remembered the day she had picked up the Cosmopolitan magazine in the grocery store that had featured an article on One Direction. If the group hadn't been on the cover, she might not have looked twice at it. At age forty-six, she was slightly embarrassed that she was so taken with the boy band. Most of One Direction's fans were teens and twenties. She was nearly twice their age.
She also was very taken with the Monkees, but they had been One Directions' age back in the sixties. Big difference. The Monkees were now in their early seventies. Even so, she had frequently watched videos of both bands on Youtube, mesmerized by both. Must be a pattern here. In the videos, of course, both bands were in their twenties. The difference was One Direction was now. They were young now, not guys that were young fifty years ago.
Pictures of Harry had caught her eye a couple of years ago, when Harry was about twenty. She'd had no idea who he was, but had been blown away by his looks, and taken time to find out who exactly he was. She began watching videos once she learned he was front man for One Direction, and slowly realized she liked Louis too—a lot. Louis grew on her, and in time, he became her favorite, with Harry being a very close second.
Tawny had always been a music lover. And as luck would have it, she discovered she loved 1D's music as much as the boys themselves. She was rather picky about music, so this had been quite a surprise. She'd never, in her day, experienced such cheerful, upbeat, positive music with prominent guitars, drums, bass and hand clapping brought right into the foreground with the singers. She thought it very cleverly done. She liked the beat best of all. It was feel-good music—the kind you want to crank up until the walls shook. It was impossible to feel down, anxious or sad when listening to it. And shockingly, there wasn't a single song of theirs that she didn't like. That had never happened with any musical group before. Not even the Monkees.
To add to that, every song was unique. She began buying their CDs next, and steadily gathering information.
The group had a blast onstage, doing things that were original, and reflected their personalities. They were truly funny, every one of them. She quickly discovered that Louis was the trouble maker, the instigator. He'd freely throw water on any of the others to the point of drenching them, except for Harry, and all of them frequently slipped in that water, causing them to fall on a regular basis. They all tried to dance on occasion, with varying degrees of success, but it didn't come naturally to any of them. They had to work at it. The more she read about them, the more fascinated she became. No wonder they were so famous the world over—they had something to offer with their voices, their unique music and the constant entertainment that made up their concerts. They were quick witted and humor came almost too easily to them. Niall was Irish, the rest were from England. The most pleasing element in all of this was how famously they all got along. As if they were all of one mind.
Her mind drifted back again to that day she'd picked up the magazine and flipped through it as she waited in line at the check-out counter. There were several nice pictures of Harry and Louis she hadn't seen before and what looked like a good sized article on the band. On impulse, she threw it on the conveyor belt along with her milk, butter and ice cream.
Early on, she had told a couple of people about her passion for One Direction, and gotten the strangest looks in return. Dazed, disbelieving looks. A look that said she had to be kidding. One day when she purchased a CD of theirs, the lady cashier had said, "For your babies?" When she had replied, "No, me!" the woman hadn't known what to say. She had just stared at her the way the others had. As if Tawny had two heads or something. After that, Tawny never mentioned liking the group to anyone else. Enjoying music coming from a boy band half your age was apparently looked down on, never mind lusting after them! And yep, there was no denying it no matter how hard she tried. She did find herself lusting after them. She suspected a lot of people believed that to be perverted.
When Tawny had read the magazine that night at home, there had been a full page advertisement announcing a drawing. She skimmed over it quickly, then had gone to the article she'd bought the magazine for, which told a bit about each boy. But her fingers kept shuffling back through the pages, her eyes flicking back to the advertisement, seemingly of their own will.
After looking at that magazine every night for a week, along with reading everything she could find about the group online and continuing to watch videos, a seed of an idea, albeit an insane one came to her. Why not? Why the hell not? After studying the magazine ad for what seemed the hundredth time, she found herself infatuated with the idea. The chances of her winning were so ridiculously small, anyway, she reminded herself.
One important thing that stood out to her was that this contest was for eighteen and over only. Apparently, this was nothing like the "dates" you could win with David Cassidy, Davy Jones or Bobby Sherman back in the sixties. It featured "A night with the 1D member of the winner's choice." Zayn had already left the group so he, of course, was not included.
But just what did a night entail? She was really curious now. It couldn't hurt anything to enter, she reasoned, even though in the same breath she thought it was silly for a woman of her age. After about ten days, she finally filled out the entry form, the deadline being only days away. She had almost thrown the form away several times, but in the end, in the mailbox it got dropped, and then mostly forgotten. But she certainly didn't stop watching videos of ID or listening to their music. She had to admit at this point, that she, along with millions of women and girls many years her junior, was now a Directioner.
The group was very diversified. Liam had a truly fantastic, versatile voice with a very good range, and it was clear he really enjoyed performing. Niall was a cute, energetic boy who could jump shockingly high, was very young looking, as well as having a very bright, cheery outlook on life, but it was clear by now that Louis and Harry had a secure hold on her heart.
She'd discovered the Larry Stylinson craze at some point, and found it captivating. It added a whole new dimension to the band's lore. The videos of all the open affection, and sometimes sneaky ways the boys tried to touch each other without the cameras picking it up, even on stage at concerts and during interviews was most riveting. At first she imagined people were making something out of nothing, until she saw a handful of "moments" that finally convinced her that there was indeed something going on between Harry and Louis. So basically she had been slowly learning about One Direction, and Harry and Louis in particular for a couple of years now.
As she drove to work, Tawny's mind raced. She needed to get the low-down, find out exactly what winning this contest entailed. The magazine had been rather vague, so she imagined it would be the same "date" type of thing like they'd done back in the sixties. The girl would get to spend an evening with one of them. Dinner and a movie, or something along those lines The difference was, the girls back in the sixties had been young teens, and this particular contest she'd won was only open to those who were at least eighteen. Tawny had a naturally inquisitive nature, so this contest really had her wondering. Would this date be pre-planned and what they would do be predetermined by the sponsors? Or would there be more freedom?
Wait . . . she wasn't really going to do this, was she? Of course not. None of the young guys of One Direction would want a middle-aged woman. They would feel cheated, as well they should. She should call and say she'd changed her mind, and then an adoring fan would have the chance to win. This was just weird. She shouldn't in all good conscience, accept it.
Tawny herself was young looking for her age, people having commented often that she looked ten years younger than she was. She still had a shapely body, kept herself fit, and her long blond hair also made her look youthful. And if she were younger, she wouldn't even hesitate to take on this incredible opportunity. She simply felt lame, dishonest, and like a cradle-robber to be dating someone so young. Even if it were for only one date.
Then out of the blue she vaguely remembered an article she'd seen about Harry liking and dating women who were older than he, in fact some were twice his age. Harry was her number two choice, and no red-blooded woman, including herself, would turn him down. She pondered on whether or not she could bring herself to choose Harry over Louis. He would be the obvious choice, considering his history. Both of them must be bi too, hence this Larry Stylinson thing, if it were, in fact, true. With that face, she could forgive him for just about anything. There was nothing to forgive, however, since she had no problem with him being bi anyway.
She shook her head as if it would shake loose all her muddled as well as inappropriate thoughts. Thoughts of kissing one of them. But why even give this a second thought? It was hare-brained and insane. She must be losing it.
Nevertheless, she did find herself sitting in her car on her lunch hour, calling Cosmopolitan magazine, her fingers punching in the number as if of their own accord. Her fingers did the talking. Trouble was, it was more true than she wanted to admit.
She told herself it was just her inquisitive nature, and that she would tell the representative that she had decided against it after hearing what it involved. She had to, at least, satisfy her curiosity. She got through quickly once she identified herself as the winner of the drawing, quoting the number she'd been given as identification. She had been directed to the correct extension within seconds.
The woman on the other end barraged her with what seemed to be hundreds of questions. What did she do for a living? Did she have her own place? (What did that have to do with anything?) When would she be available for the "date?" They wanted a list of dates from her when she'd be free, so they could match up a time when the boy of her choice would be available.
When the woman asked her birthdate, Tawny flushed bright pink before blurting it out. There was a generous pause after that, although the woman did not elaborate on her thoughts, nor did she give away her presumed shock. She did, however, repeat the date, asking if that was correct. She was probably stunned, thought Tawny. When Tawny verified it was, in fact, correct, there was yet another pause. She was then advised that it would be best if she had the next day off after the date. What? Finally, the woman asked which boy she had chosen.
Somehow, she had not been able to find her tongue long enough to tell the rep that she'd decided against the whole thing. Oh hell, why not play along for now? She'd gotten this far—might as well get the scoop on what this "date" would be like. She hated wasting the woman's time, but she'd already been on the phone at least fifteen minutes. Why not go for broke? That was the excuse she gave herself to prolong the call and ferret out more information.
Back to which boy … just as she earlier had, she briefly considered Harry, his affection for older women being a big plus, and much more likely to make the date successful, but although she had a soft spot in her heart for Harry, she had an even bigger one for Louis. So the word "Louis" came out of her mouth in a slightly garbled kind of way.
"Now just let me make sure you know which one Louis is. This is only a formality, as I'm sure you know what the boys look like, but I'm also sure you can understand why I have to ask this. It would be quite a surprise to get a different boy than the one you were expecting, an inconvenience to the boys, and a need to reschedule, which would throw everything off, and possibly cancel the date altogether," the woman explained. She sounded disapproving, although that could have been Tawny's guilty conscience.
"Louis," the woman continued, "has brown hair, straight, not curly, is five foot nine, and one hundred fifty pounds and is twenty-four years old. He has vivid blue eyes. He is the one with the unique singing voice, with a higher register than any of the others. Make sure you know for sure who he is, and if not absolutely certain, Google him so you know exactly who will be showing up."
"I know who he is. No confusion at all on that," said Tawny, feeling slightly defensive and not knowing why.
She remembered reading how Harry referred to Louis as the "leader" of the group, with Harry being much more passive. Louis was also the class clown of the group, managers jokingly referring to him as being the hardest one to control. It seemed he was packed full of personality, energy and ideas, and was also a prankster—at least with the other band members. Would he be too much for her to handle?
Had she picked the wrong one? Considering Harry was more quiet and actually a little on the shy side, and the fact that he liked older women made her second guess her decision. Harry, in theory, would be the ideal one to pick, but she also knew she'd end up kicking herself if she didn't stick with Louis.
"Okay," the woman snapped Tawny's mind back to the conversation. "Now the final step is that you'll have to come into an office nearest you so you can show your picture I.D. Either that or a rep will call on you at your home. Whichever is most convenient for you, and makes you feel more comfortable. We will also run a background check on you. You cannot be married, and cannot have ever committed a felony or been in prison. You must be a citizen of the United States …" the woman read a few paragraphs of further terms and conditions.
Good God, all of this for a date? Tawny could have been toppled over by a slight breeze at this point. She realized though, that Louis was a celebrity, a big one, and they had to take all precautions that nothing happened to him.
"You do realize, also, that this will air on television?" the woman inquired.
Tawny, apparently, had not read the fine print. She remembered nothing about television mentioned in the ad. Back in the sixties, they would show a picture or two of a sweet, innocent kiss at the end of the date with Bobby Sherman or whomever in a following magazine issue, but that was the extent of it. This airing on television sounded terribly intrusive to her.
"The whole date, on television?" she asked, dumbstruck.
"Yes, but it will be tastefully done, and there's more, but we were not at liberty to put all the details into the ad for the drawing, nor to disclose it on the phone. You'll be filled in on all of that when you go to show your I.D."
This was getting way out of hand, and weirder by the second. Just what the hell did "tastefully done" mean anyway? Tawny took down the address of a Cosmo satellite office that was about thirty minutes away, promising the woman she would be there this coming weekend. She didn't really care for the idea of the rep coming to her home. She wanted an easy way out if need be, and she felt she'd be more in control of the situation if she were to travel to their office instead of them coming to her.
The woman did mention that she could always change her mind after hearing all the particulars. Tawny thought the woman must have heard the wavering hesitation in her voice. Who wouldn't be nervous… but she was starting to feel uncomfortably like a cougar. Or worse, a pervert.
That night, Tawny listened, really listened to 1D music, after dropping by Best Buy on her way home, and her new, high quality earphones helped her to pick out Louis' voice. There could be no missing it though, regardless of what equipment you had or didn't have. He led the chorus, carried it, and dominated it. He did indeed have the highest register of the group. That was a no brainer. His solos were sweet and bright, and once again, his voice unmistakeable, yet not humanly possible to describe. It was pleasant, sweet, and innocent sounding. Yet, it was also raspy, raw and it cracked at the conclusion of some of the notes. Purposely, of course. The cracks were one of the trademarks of Louis' voice. Somehow, all their voices came together to create a truly unique sound that couldn't be mistaken for anyone else's, probably in the entire world. She found herself enraptured with it.
His confidence showed through in those choruses. And although his voice was sometimes referred to as weak and thin, the choruses seemed to bring out the very best in his voice. When watching Youtube, Tawny noticed hesitancy showed up when he was live. Studio recordings had to be perfect, with oftentimes dozens of takes being done before satisfaction was reached. Live was, as with every band, raw to a point, and that was when Louis seemed to wilt just a little. He seemed almost to shrink away, reluctant to solo. She also noted that when Louis seemed relaxed he sang with much greater confidence than if he were nervous or tentative. It was almost as if he didn't trust his voice. This made him even more dear to her heart because it showed he was human and fallible, one that was not complacent and smug.
Of all their songs, "No Control" "Moments" and "Night Changes" were her favorites. She loved Harry's low, sexy, almost careless voice in "Night Changes," and Louis' bright, very aggressive approach in "No Control."
But TV? She would be on TV? The only reason she'd entered the drawing in the first place was because the opportunity of being alone with Louis excited her, amazed her, and she wanted to experience it. She already felt like she practically knew him from all the research she'd done on him. But to have cameras and cameramen around, then millions of viewers when it aired? Um, no, she didn't think so. Now she was seriously considering not going to the interview, and calling to tell them she was withdrawing.
Television was getting more bold all the time. The reality shows were trying to outdo each other for ratings, and some were going all-out. It seemed that nothing was sacred or private anymore. Viewers wanted the most out-there, edgy material they could possibly find. Stuff that would eclipse Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild, Survivor Man, Alone, and several others. Pushing it to the limit, they were also bringing sexual situations in on adult reality channels, Big Brother having brought on that trend, and now with less and less censorship. Even the Newlywed Game had become racy! The ratings for these types of shows were astronomical. In the end, she decided she'd go, mostly because of the curiosity it sparked, and the novelty was getting to her. She had a lot more researching to do the meantime. She wondered what type of show this would turn out to be, and was almost afraid of the answer.
She'd have to wait until this weekend to find out . . .