Chapter Twelve

The city scenes somethin' from a magazine
Bright Lights
Fast Cars
Movie Stars and V.I.P.
'm treated like a QUEEN
They all cater to me
I get whatever whenever however it's up to me

Alexandra Amor, "Superstar"

Winter break was here and soon enough Taylor was beginning to miss her home in Southern California. And as much as she enjoyed the life of a rock star on tour, she also began to yearn for her old one back in Sweet Valley-her friends, her family and also Conner.

And so when the opportunity came to choose the place she would showcase her very first single to the world or just to anyone who was a fan after it was announced that she had been signed to a major record label following her roaring success on tour with Boys Like Girls, Sweet Valley had been the only town on her mind. She couldn't think of singing anywhere else other than the place she started at-the place she found fame at.

This was it—her time to shine and where she'd be able to show her true talent to the people who mattered most to her.

Taylor was coming home for Christmas. She couldn't imagine being away from her family on Christmas Day. She walked through the door of her parent's house to the aroma of freshly baked cookies waffling throughout the house. Yep, it was definitely Christmas. Her mother was baking delicious goodies in the kitchen. She hoped to at least be greeted by somebody in her family. Usually when she came home from a trip alone, no one was here to welcome her and as of right now, all she wanted was to be in the comfort of her loving family despite her younger brothers sometimes being a pain in the butt.

"Mom? Dad?" Taylor called out, dropping her bag on wheels on the marble tiled floor. "Jake? Sean? Matthew?" Taylor proceeded with her brother's names when she got no answer. Although she could smell fresh cookies, it appeared no one was home. Damn! This was not happening again. Where were her parents?

Then her cell phone buzzed in her jeans pocket. Her mother was calling her from her work number.

"Hello?" Taylor answered.

"Taylor? It's Mom. I wanted to be at home when you got there but the hospital called me at the last minute asking me to come in for a shift. But there are some cookies for you to eat keeping warm in the oven that Grandma has made especially for your homecoming. And your father and I will see you tonight after work. I love you."

"Love you too, Mom." The phone clicked off simultaneously.

Taylor sighed, walking towards the large spacious kitchen and opened the stainless steel oven door, pulling out a tray containing twenty four chocolate chip cookies. Taylor picked two off the tray, biting into one as she placed the remaining cookies back into the oven. Taylor drew in a deep breath, and then slipped her phone out of her pocket, punching in a quick message to Melissa. Two minutes later, her phone rang back in the sound of a wind chime. She would be there in five minutes. Exactly five minutes later; there was a knock on the front door followed by the sound of a door chime. Taylor pressed the button to the intercom and spoke into it, saying ''Come in.'' Taylor pressed another button beside the intercom that unlocked the front door.

''Hello? Taylor?'' she heard Melissa's voice. Taylor crept around the corner of the kitchen towards the walk way into the foyer and her eyes lit up when she saw Melissa and Will walking towards her.

"Liss!" Taylor screeched, embracing her cousin with a hug.

Once a round of hugs was out of the way, Melissa took Taylor by the hand and dragged her to the kitchen table.

''So I want to hear your stories from the tour. Give me the 411 on any gossip. What was it like?''

Taylor drew in a deep breath and giggled. ''There's not much to tell. When I was on the bus, I was usually sleeping or catching up on school work and when I was on stage, I was singing. I really don't have much to say at all. I really didn't do all that much partying.''

Melissa sighed with a frown. ''Well you're no fun. I was expecting something more interesting. But anyway I am really looking forward to hearing you sing tonight. It should be a good night.''

''Uh, yeah, about tonight...''

''Yes? What about it?''

''You haven't told anyone that I'll be singing let alone home have you?''

''And by anyone, you mean Conner? No I haven't said anything to him even though I strongly suggested he know. He ought to know you're home for a little while. He would want to know.''

"And I strongly regard your suggestion but it's got nothing to do with Conner. I simply want to surprise all my friends.''

"Well you're certainly going to do that. They'll definitely be surprised.''

Ten minutes before Taylor was due to take to the stage performing her debut single for the very first time, she sat in one of the back rooms of the riot and waited to be called upon, inhaling and then exhaling a couple dozen of breaths. She could do this. She could go out there and sing even if half the floor was occupied by people she knew-people she went to school with and people she called her friends. Yeah, Taylor was fine.

She would just need to keep telling herself that until she walked out onto the stage, standing beneath the bright white light. And in an instant, her name was called. It was time to face the music. Taylor rose to her feet, teetering on her three inch gladiator heels and pulling down on the little black dress she was wearing. Then she strode out of the room with sheer confidence, picking up the sparkly microphone on her way out. She was introduced and that was when she made her entrance, walking to the centre of the stage, all stage lights had turned dark so that she couldn't be seen until after she had started singing.

Taylor struck a pose and raised the microphone so that it was an inch away from her pink lip gloss lips. And as she closed her eyes, she sang the very first note of the song.

This town, Another Friday night in this town

Drivin' home from another week workin', Sun up, to sun down

Your eyes, those baby blues are lookin' real tired

Tired of the same old same old, Nothin' goin' on in this town

Two more exits till our exit, Why don't we just keep on drivin'

Then the white light shone directly down on her like a spotlight. And suddenly all eyes were on her like glue. She heard the beat of a drum and the sound of a bass guitar echoing in the background.

We won't be missin' till monday baby

Let's turn this car into a getaway Chevrolet

Push the pedal down, turn the radio loud

Just like that, maybe never come back and let's

Ride on outta here, disappear, what do you say?

We won't be missin' till monday

Taylor slowly opened her eyes but her focus wasn't on anyone in particular. Her time on tour had taught her to focus on the back wall so that she wouldn't show those nervous butterflies fluttering around in the pit of her stomach.

One more exit, Till our exit

Why don't we just blow right by yeah

We won't be missin' till monday baby

Let's turn this car into a getaway Chevrolet

Push the pedal down, turn the radio loud

Just like that, maybe never come back and let's

Ride on outta here, disappear, what do you say?

We won't be missin' till monday

She moved to the opposite side of the stage and stood on the spot, gripping the microphone with two hands to sing the final verse of the song.

I feel inside, Let's run away

We don't need a plan; I'm tired of talkin' 'bout one day

Someday, We won't be missin' till monday

Then she raised her hand to the side and repeated the chorus one last time.

We won't be missin' till Monday baby

Let's turn this car into a getaway Chevrolet

Push the pedal down, turn the radio loud

Just like that, maybe never come back and let's

Ride on outta here, disappear, what do you say?

We won't be missin' till Monday, Mm

We won't be missin' till Monday.

And finally after the song came to an end, Taylor gave a slight bow to the audience along with a thank you then exited the stage, returning to the back room where she kicked off her gladiator shoes, tossing them to the side of the table and sat back down in the cushy black chair.

She then picked up her phone, scrolling through her messages then checked on Facebook. She might have been on tour for almost a month but that didn't mean she didn't keep up with the gossip around school. She wondered if her friends would soon begin to comment on her first single. Would they like it? Would they like her?

Then there was a sudden knock on the door. Taylor called out come in, door's open. And when the door opened, she was surprised to see someone she hadn't expected to see, not since she turned down his offer to give him another chance.

"Conner." Of all the words in her vocabulary, the only word she could say right now was his name.

He hung back by the door, tucking his hands into the front of his jeans pockets. "Hi," he said back. Silence ensued for a brief moment, neither knowing what to say to each other. Almost four and a half weeks had gone by since that unfortunate night when Conner had asked her to stay here rather than go on the tour. She knew his heart was breaking when she left him for the tour. How were they to come back from that? What was she supposed to say to him to make things all better between them?

"So um, you were great out there tonight," Conner finally said.

Taylor drew in a quiet breath. "Thanks," she said softly. "And thanks for coming. It means a lot to me to know my family and friends are there to show their support."

"I wouldn't have been anywhere else other than here. We may not be a couple anymore but that doesn't mean I don't still care about you. You'll always be special to me."

It meant a lot to Taylor to have her ex-boyfriend talk about her like that.

"So how long are you back for?" Conner asked.

"Just for tonight. I'm leaving for New York in the morning. The record label want me to shoot the music video for my first song as soon as possible."

Then they were both interrupted by a woman probably in her early thirties with short auburn hair.

"Taylor, we really need to go over a couple of things for this video shoot before you take off to the airport. There are also people waiting to interview you about your debut single on the phone." She wasted little time getting straight down to business. She was obviously one of those ruthless record label people. The woman was talking as though Conner didn't even exist in not only the room but also Taylor's life. She had seen certainly seen straight though him like he wasn't there.

Taylor felt her attention levitate away from Sheila, her sometimes scary but highly regarded publicist, toward Conner as she watched her ex-boyfriend shy away, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his faded blue baggy jeans. He then vanished out of the room without so much of a quick goodbye. Taylor would have liked to have talked to him more but she knew she couldn't be rude to Sheila. Whatever she had to say was usually very important. Taylor just wished she had more time to spend with Conner. She missed his companionship. She missed him.

Two and a half hours later on the way to the airport, Taylor sat in the back seat of the yellow taxi contemplating her time away from home. The memories she had on the tour would last forever but was she ready to start her new life as a popstar? Would she be able to uphold her status and stay true to herself all the while being thrust into the spotlight of fame and fortune now she was signed to a major record label? Could she leave her friends and family for months at a time or as long as it would take before she produced a debut album. She wasn't so sure. As happy as she was that people wanted her to make the kind of songs she liked to sing, she wasn't one hundred percent certain she could do this all on her own right now.

Then her mind began racing back to Conner and of all the times she had shared with him. How he had helped her to realise she couldn't quit dancing even when she wasn't supposed to be dancing on her legs after the earthquake. How he had turned down her offer to have meaningless sex because he knew she wasn't that kind of girl. How he had publically confessed his feelings for her in the school parking lot. And how even after she couldn't go to the homecoming dance because she couldn't afford to buy a new dress when her father lost his job, he still managed to make the night special for her.

But then there were the bad memories she just wanted to forget ever happened but couldn't like the alcohol addiction and kissing Tia. But none of that mattered anymore because she couldn't lose Conner yet. She didn't want to let him go. She wasn't ready or prepared to leave him. Her heart belonged with Conner. But at the same time she couldn't pass up an opportunity as big as making a music video. She was torn over the choice she should make and really didn't know what to do.

It had been an impulsive decision but one she had mulled over too many times while sitting in the taxi on the way to the airport. And she thought it had been the right decision to make which is why she was standing where she was. She gave the right fare to the driver then before the taxi even drove away, Taylor jumped out of the cab and raced through the old white picket fence along the cobbled stones, tapping on the door which is where she stood for what felt like a century until the door opened. And then she saw him.