EXT. NIKKI’S HOUSE. DAY.
Clint took a long drink of coffee, before getting out of his car and pulling his set of keys from his pocket. He unlocked the front door and entered Nikki’s house.
“Nikki?” he called out.
“In here,” came an answer from the living room. He tossed his styrofoam coffee cup into the nearby trashcan and headed towards the voice.
He was a little surprised as he entered the room and saw Nikki. She was sitting down on one of the sofas, still in her pajamas and looking exhausted.
“Hey,” he said, edging nearer and taking a seat near her. “What’s up?”
“What’s up?” she looked at him accusatorily. “What do you mean what’s up? The IAA Gala is what’s up! It’s tonight if you’ve forgotten.”
“Of course I haven’t forgotten. Why do you think I’m here this morning? But why do you look like you’re about to go in front of a death squad or something? You’ve performed at a thousand places, a thousand times. Aren’t you used to it by now?”
“Yes. Maybe.” She looked miserable. “Usually. But this is different.”
“How? You’ve performed at the Grammy’s, that’s a much bigger audience.”
“I was seventeen and at the height of my popularity. And now everyone keeps telling me what a big deal this is, and how important it is I do a wonderful job. Of course they all have different ideas how I should do that, which doesn’t help any. And I just keep playing over and over in my head all the ways I could mess up.” She got to her feet and started pacing. “I mean I can perform. I know I can perform. But there’s been so many slip ups. My latest concerts, my latest shows, I’ve just…lost it.”
“You haven’t lost anything.”
“I’ve been bad. Reviews, critics, fans. They’ve all said it.”
“You were brilliant on The Bailey Show.”
“But what if I can’t recreate that? What if it’s my Fires Tour all over again?”
“There’s a difference.”
“Well please tell me what it is, because I’m freaking out here!”
Clint kicked his feet up on the coffee table. “The difference is you. You’re changing.”
“No I’m not. I’m just doing what you tell me to. That doesn’t really mean I’m any different. Deep down I’m still the same Nikki Steele who parties too hard and throws things.”
“I don’t believe that. You were falling and you needed help. But just because I helped you, doesn’t mean you had nothing to do with it. You picked the song Nikki. You sang it. And you were brilliant.”
“I’ve messed up so many times in the past.” She sunk back down next to Clint. “I’ve had people trying to save my career so many times. I’ve tried new acts, I’ve tried to stay out of the papers. And in the end I was always mess up.”
Clint shrugged. “Everyone does. You just tend to mess up in a stadium full of people.”
She rolled her eyes. “Thank you Clint. That’s really helpful.” She gave a heavy sigh. “I just can’t help but shake the feeling that I’m going to mess up again.”
Clint hesitated for a moment and then sighed. “Look, I’ve messed up too. Really big, really bad. And I saw the world react to it. My name wasn’t on it and they didn’t know it was a mistake…but in a way that was worse. I did something that I really can’t forgive myself for and watched as the tabloids ate it up.”
Nikki cocked her head to one and looked expectant. “What are you talking about?”
Clint sighed. “You remember we talked about Peter Glades once? Or rather we didn’t talk about Peter Glades once?”
“Yes. Of course, you got weird.”
“Well I did something to him. If there’s one thing I regret doing, one picture I shouldn’t have taken…”
Clint turned to face her. “It was actually several pictures. Five years ago. His wife had just died and the police were asking questions. They were looking at him but no one else was really yet, public opinion was still on his side. I got a tip from one of my contacts saying they’d spotted him at some seedy bar downtown. It was one of the first times he’d been out since the murder and it was a fantastic opportunity. I got down there and found him absolutely wasted. He recognized me but in his alcohol induced haze it didn’t process that I was a photographer and not a friend, so he asked me to get him home.” Clint shrugged. “I should have ignored him. Or dumped him in a cab. But a little voice kept playing in my ear asking what if he didn’t go home? He was drunk enough to do anything. My pictures were completely exclusive at that point but if another photographer saw him they’d plummet in value. So I took him home and upstairs to his apartment where he promptly passed out on the couch.”
Nikki frowned. “That really doesn’t sound so bad. He was drunk and you gave him a ride home.”
“But then I was in his apartment. It was the same apartment he had shared with his wife and…some of the blood was still on the carpet. He was out cold surrounded by empty bottles. There were torn photographs all over the place, everything scattered everywhere, her clothes strewn all around the bedroom. It was mess and it looked…bad. And I took pictures. Of it, of him, everything. And then the next day I sold them for thousands of dollars and it was the best business I ever did. But the thing is that was when it really turned around. Public opinion. There was something about those photographs that made him looks, wrong or sleazy. And they were everywhere, and suddenly everyone was talking about them. People saw them and they judged him. And I did that.” He leaned his head back again the sofa and looked up at ceiling. “All through the trial I kept hoping somehow I could be convinced that he deserved everything they were saying about him, but I could never be really sure. I mean he absolutely could have killed his wife. Heck, he probably did. But I still-…I took advantage of him, while he was drunk and vulnerable and lost his wife. Because it took a really good picture and I made a lot of money. And I wonder. How much damage did I really do to him? How much of the backlash against him was my fault?”
Clint felt Nikki’s hand cover his own and he looked down at her fingers, softly going stroking the back of his hand. “When I met you at the club,” he continued reluctantly, “And you passed out in the men’s room…there was a second there when I really wanted to just take the picture and leave.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No. Because I remembered what it felt like when I did. My very long point here Nikki, is that just because you have messed up does not mean you will make the same mistake again, because you can use that mistake to remind you of why you can’t do it another time. And we all slip up. The Glades photos weren’t the last I wish I’d never taken. But every time you mess up, it’s just another reason to get it right the next time.”
“So you’re taking a very roundabout way to say I’ll be fine?”
Clint laughed. “Yes. I am. And you’ll be fine.”
“Thank you.” She hugged him.