INT. NIKKI’S HOUSE. DAY.
Nikki leaned back in the armchair, hands clasped around one knee, smiling as the photographer flitted from side to side, snapping shots. The interviewer, Tobin, was sitting across from her, a recorder between them.
He looked to be in his 30’s and he was bald, but Nikki wasn’t sure it was by choice or genetics as it certainly fitted with his image: a light grey suit, a silver necklace of which only the top was visible, the hint of a tattoo under the left cuff of his jacket and, while it was currently empty, a piercing in his left ear. She vaguely wondered if in his youth he had wanted to be a rock star.
Nikki had always had a dislike for interviewers who insisted on asking questions while the photos were taken. She suspected they did it to put her at a disadvantage by splitting her focus.
“And what in your immediate future?” Tobin was asking.
“I’m about to perform a new song. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before. It really says something to me,” she answered.
“So your music in the past didn’t?”
She could hear Clint’s words shooting through her memory: you want to be sure the new you comes through. Smart, normal and mature.
“I’m thinking more about my choices now,” she answered calmly.
Tobin paused a moment. Something about the way he looked at her, warned Nikki she wasn’t going to like the next question. She focused her attention on the photographer. If she was only half listening she’d be less likely to noticeably react.
“You’re saying your recent spate of DUI’s and similar exhibitions including throwing that glass at the stand-up last year, all of that was a result of thinking more about your choices?”
You need to answer him in less than three sentences, and then move on. This interview can’t be overtaken with your past. We want it to focus on the future.
“I’ve grown a lot in the past few months, partly because of some of my mistakes. It’s taken me awhile but I think I’m finally getting there. Which is why I’m so excited about my new music. It really represents the next phrase in my life and I’m so thrilled to share it with my fans. I also think it will also reach out to a whole new audience.”
Tobin smiled. There was a distinct hint in the air of an unspoken ‘well played’.
“I think we have enough pictures in here,” announced the photographer. “Let’s move to the kitchen.”
Tobin picked up the recorder and as Nikki led the way, she shot a silent thanks to Clint. He had seemed overly fussy and repetitive at the time but she was grateful for it now and glad it had stuck.
The photographer started snapping away as soon as they entered the room and Nikki noticed Tobin looking around appreciatively. She sent another mental nod in Clint’s direction. He had set the kitchen up wonderfully.
“Do you think I could get some pictures of you at the stove?” the photographer asked.
It was a good hour before they made it through the first floor and at last Nikki led them outside into the backyard. She took a deep breath of fresh air as she stepped out. It felt like reinforcements.
“You like to dive?” asked Tobin nodding towards the board as he walked next to her, alongside the pool.
“I’m taking lessons. I’ve always loved swimming. Debbie Meyer and Jenny Thompson were my heroes growing up.”
“Not Madonna and Britney?”
Nikki sensed she was on dangerous ground. Clint hadn’t touched on the issue but her last manager stressed that no one ever understood a millionaire sounding as if they had the slightest regret over their career. She guessed that was where Tobin was heading.
It’s might as well be called entrapment, she thought a little icily.
“You don’t think Olympic gold medalists are suitable role models for little girls?” she asked, smiling at him winningly.
Tobin grinned and shrugged. “Tell you what. Why don’t you change and we get some shots of you swimming?” he asked. He turned to the photographer. “That would be good, huh?”
“I don’t think so,” said Nikki calmly.
“It would add some variety to the spread,” the photographer pressed.
“It’s not a good idea,” she said firmly, taking a determined step away from the pool.
Tobin opened his mouth to argue and then shut it. He chuckled. “Very well Miss. Steele. You seem to know what you want. Are we about done?” he asked the photographer.
“I’ll show you the way out,” said Nikki. She led them back into the house and to the entrance hall. The photographer started packing up his camera and lenses and Tobin turned to Nikki. “By the way,” he asked, his tone casual. “How do you know Clint?”
Nikki blinked. “What?”
“Clint Morgan. The guy who asked the magazine for this feature. You must know him.”
She glanced down at his hand and noticed he was still holding the recorder.
And last, but not least, don’t lie. Just… don’t always tell them the whole truth.
“Oh right yes, Clint. I’ve met him. He’s a very good friend of my new manager. My manger asked him for a favor.”
“Really? Clint must have owed him a big favor, because he cashed in a pretty large one himself with my editor.”
Nikki shrugged. “I really don’t know anything about that. I just know what my manager said.”
Tobin nodded. “Well Miss. Steele, it’s been a pleasure.” He held out his hand. “And very, very interesting.”
“Thank you and I appreciate your time.” She held the door open for the two men and then shut it behind them with relief but a sense of exhilaration. For once she had gotten through an interview with a sense of control and direction. She had kept it on track and guided and it gave her a heady feeling of elation.
She pulled out her cellphone and pressed the speed dial.
“How did it go?” Was the first think Clint asked, as he answered his phone.
“It went pretty good I think,” she said. “I remembered everything you said and I kept the interview on my own terms”
“Fantastic! I knew you could do it.”
“Was Tobin too hard on you?”
“No. He fished around a little. Asked about you. I’m actually not really sure how you’re friends with that guy.”
“We’re not friends. I told you, just did freelance work for him once. He’s really okay, just good at his job. So I’m not that surprised he asked about me. He probably suspected there was more going on when I asked for the feature.”
“He said you called in a pretty big favor from his editor for the feature,” said Nikki, curiously.
“Yeah, well they owned me.”
“I just gave them a really good exclusive five years ago when I could have taken it to any magazine. Look,” said Clint, “I was happy to call it in for you. Never would have done otherwise. So, what did you say to Tobin when he asked about me?”
Nikki got the strange sense he was trying to change the subject. But she was in too good a mood not to let him. “I told him you were a friend of my new manager,” she grinned.
Clint laughed. “Alright, I want to hear about the whole thing from the beginning”.
“Well…” Nikki headed into the living room and plopped down on the couch, putting her feet up on one of its arms. “It started easy…”