Beat Girl | Chapter #15 Struggling

As soon as I got home from my first DJ lesson I decided to start listening to the music Toby had given me.

I stayed up till late, familiarising myself with the eclectic selection, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of melodies I did, in fact, know. Where I had expected it all to be new to me, maybe one third of it was relatively familiar. The only snag was – I wasn’t feeling it, and that had been Toby’s instruction.

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1. Chapter #15 | Struggling

 

As soon as I got home from my first DJ lesson I decided to start listening to the music Toby had given me.

I stayed up till late, familiarising myself with the eclectic selection, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of melodies I did, in fact, know. Where I had expected it all to be new to me, maybe one third of it was relatively familiar. The only snag was – I wasn’t feeling it, and that had been Toby’s instruction. For the rest of the week I immersed myself in the music and slowly I was beginning to understand the rhythms, the way the music flowed; I was even coming up with combinations in my head – which song would work well in tandem with another one, and so on. By the end of the week, when I went into Mike’s room to try out a couple of ideas I’d had, I found myself dancing while I was spinning the records, as the music had taken hold of me.

Finally, I was feeling it. Jumping on the bed, I swayed to the beat, my hands up in the air, at one with the rhythm. It felt the same as it did that night at the warehouse. I now knew what Toby had meant.

I spent the weekend holed up in my room, jotting down DJ-ing ideas, all the time repeatedly listening to the music. I was looking forward to my next assignment from Toby. But even more than that, I was excited about going to Sway Records after school the next day.

 

First thing on Monday morning I had a rehearsal for the upcoming memorial concert, but I had made the mistake of falling asleep with my iPod in my ears, on continuous play, so that in the morning I didn’t hear my alarm clock ring out. I was running late by about twenty minutes and, by the time I’d got to the auditorium, I found they had already started without me. Mouthing an apology to Ed, who looked up from conducting when the door squeaked as I opened it, I took my seat as quietly as I could and quickly glanced over at my neighbour’s music sheet to see where we were before joining in.

Afterwards, Ed was a bit distant, which was understandable, but I didn’t go overboard with apologies. I was never usually late for anything, so I felt I ought to be forgiven the odd tardiness. I phoned Amy during my lunch break. What with all the DJ tuition, I hadn’t had a chance to see her in a week and I was long overdue that promised phone call to discuss her financing problem. I discovered she had been just as busy, having been visiting banks with a view of securing a loan for the fashion show. After three banks refused her, the fourth one signed the loan contract with her, so Amy was a very happy bunny right now. All was going well for her, and I was pleased. Things were looking up for both of us. After the call, I was counting down the hours until it was time to head off to Sway Records.

When I got to the shop, I was slightly shaky with excitement.

Toby was handing a bag and a receipt to a geeky-looking customer, who obscured his view of me, so when the customer left, Toby was surprised to see me standing there.

‘You want to install yourself over there?’ Toby pointed towards the decks.

I nodded eagerly, and set myself up. My start was a little delayed as I realised Mike must have mixed-up some of the record sleeves, but luckily I quickly located the right record and began. Not wanting to get distracted, I avoided looking across the store towards Toby and instead kept my gaze on the turntable. I knew he was waiting for the first segue – that was the big test. It went smoothly, and sounded even better here in the store than in my bedroom, with the quality speakers emitting the tone flawlessly. I did a few more switches, then brought the set to an end and waited expectantly for Toby’s comments.

‘I knew you’d be a quick study.’ Toby put on a mock deep James Brown voice. ‘Girl, you got that music in your soul.’

Strangely, this compliment meant more than any of the praise I’d garnered in the past year at music school. Maybe it was because only the best was expected at the academy that it didn’t feel as such a big deal when you did perform a piece perfectly, or perhaps I didn’t get the same kick out of it because I wasn’t authoring anything. I was just following someone else’s notes. Here, on the other hand, I was being creative, I was producing sounds that were unique and based on my interpretation of how songs could meld together to produce a completely new experience.

Sadly, the moment was cut short by the entrance of a girl covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings. She had a very strong presence.

‘Laila!’ Toby greeted her.

I felt my stomach lurch. So this was the infamous Laila, I thought, studying her closely. She was better-looking than Mia, but I couldn’t work out what Mia had meant when she said Toby didn’t like assertive girls. This girl looked like she could eat me for breakfast. I don’t stand a chance next to her, I thought.

‘Forgotten my rule number one, Toby?’ Laila asked.

‘Not to call you before eleven in the morning?’ Toby smiled.

Laila put a hand on her hip. ‘Noon, and don’t pretend like you forgot. This had better be good.’

‘Well, yes, this is important.’ Toby turned and pointed towards me. ‘Let me introduce you to Heather. She’s filling in for Mia.’

Laila looked me up and down as though eyeing a piece of meat hanging off a slab. I felt mortified. My smile froze and I wanted to disappear. Not only that, but Toby seemed to think I was capable of replacing Mia! What was he thinking? I couldn’t possibly go before a crowd, I wasn’t even nearly ready for that step.

‘Okay, but you still haven’t told me why you got me out of my bed, when you know I had a gig last night. And I need my sleep for tonight’s gig.’ Laila didn’t even acknowledge me.

‘I forgot how grumpy you could be in the morning,’ Toby commented.

A wave of jealousy swept over me. Even though this remark suggested Toby was no longer waking up next to her every morning, it did say that there had been a time when they had shared a bed. I didn’t even know this girl and already I couldn’t stand her. This wasn’t like me at all, I thought with surprise. I didn’t normally take to disliking someone so passionately without even knowing them.

‘I called you because of tonight’s gig,’ Toby continued. ‘I want you to share the decks with Heather.’

‘Wait, let me get this straight – you got me out of bed for a beginner? You’re not trying out some newbie on my set!’ Laila shouted at Toby, talking about me as though I wasn’t even there. Now I disliked her even more.

But there was a more pressing concern. ‘You want me to perform tonight?’ I asked Toby, incredulous.

‘See?’ Laila said. ‘She doesn’t even want to do it.’

‘Now let’s all just calm down, okay?’ said Toby. ‘I’ll explain how it’s going to go down.’ He took a deep breath. ‘Laila, you will play most of the night, almost to the end. Heather, you’ll only come in when the crowd’s died down. Laila, I want her to experience a live show, that’s all. And remember, everyone had to start somewhere, including you.’

‘And the dosh?’ Laila no longer seemed to be fighting it.

‘All yours. Heather will only get paid when she does her own night.’ He then turned to me. ‘Is that okay with you, Heather?’

‘I don’t know… I mean, if Laila doesn’t want me there…’ I began, unsure of myself. It struck me that Laila may even be doing me a favour by being so against sharing the booth with me, as it could be my way out.

‘I’m not going to lie. I’m old-school, and I don’t like the idea of having to share my set with a beginner,’ Laila said, which raised my hopes that Toby’s big plan would come to nothing.

However, Toby shot her a disapproving look, and Laila begrudgingly added that the bottom line was that Toby was the boss, so she’d go by what he said.

‘Great, so that’s settled. You’re on tonight!’ Toby smiled at me reassuringly. It did nothing to reassure me, though. 

Laila looked from me to Toby and I got the distinct impression that she was wondering if we were an item. Without saying goodbye, Laila then marched out of the store. This is going to be fun, I thought, imagining her stone-walling me at the gig. Would she even be capable of sabotaging me, I wondered with an uneasy feeling. I wouldn’t have put anything past her.

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