"It should only be a few more minutes now," the well-dressed blonde who had been introduced to them earlier as Lisa said, adjusting the wireless headset she was wearing. "If anyone needs to make a last minute trip to the bathroom, it's right across the hall."
"Thanks, but I'm fine," the sandy haired seventeen year old sitting in the easy chair to her left said.
Lisa turned to the equally young couple on the couch to her right to check with them, but they seemed oblivious to her presence. They'd been canoodling practically from the moment they'd gotten here and seemed not to hear, or care, as twice, Lisa loudly cleared her throat. Thinking they were hardly the worst she'd seen on her six months on the job, she shrugged and turned back to her left.
"If you have the chance you might want to hose the two of them down," she smiled at the cute young man. "Otherwise just relax and I'll be back in a jiffy."
Nicholas Porter watched as the Administrative Producer stepped through the door and out into the outer hall. He couldn't help but contrast the way she dressed and acted with that of Hillary over on the couch. He at least had made sure he brought a suit with him for tonight, while the dark haired brunette was dressed as if it was just another Friday night at the local clubs.
After taking a brief moment to consider how much fun it might actually be to dump a bucket of cold water on those two, Nicholas took another long look around the room to try and permanently record every feature of his surroundings to memory. Part of him wished he had brought his camera with him, but another had decided that would only mark him as a hick from the sticks and he'd left it back at the hotel.
The room was actually rather ordinary, he had to admit, resembling a living room much like the room in his parent's house back in Cherrywood Falls. Aside from the chair he was sitting in, a duplicate of which sat just across the way, there was a large couch and an equally long coffee table. The latter of which doubled as a sort of buffet table and was filled with snacks and drinks. None of which Nicholas had dared to touch for fear he'd spill something on his suit. Hillary and Roger, the couple on the sofa, however, had devoured a large portion of the repast as if it were a last meal.
To the far left of where Nicholas sat stood a wide screen television monitor, tuned not to any station but to an area elsewhere in the building. It was the image on the screen that made this simple room important.
In a week of pretty amazing events, it was the call from the booking agent for "The Midnight Hour" that really stood out in Nicholas's thoughts. The Tonight Show it wasn't, but the syndicated talk show was seen nationwide and constantly ranked among the top five in the ratings. Even before he had said that he would appear on the show, the agent had promised that, even thought he only lived a few hours drive north of Los Angeles, they would fly him down to the city. In addition, they would put him up at a hotel for the entire weekend, even though the show they wanted him for was on Friday night. With an offer like that, it was almost impossible for Nicholas to say no. Which of course he didn't.
Then, the other shoe dropped and they told him the price of the ticket. Once he had agreed to come, the booking agent mentioned that they were also going to ask Hillary Parks to come as well. It wasn't so much having to put up with his co-worker that bothered him, it was the fact that she would undoubtedly ask Roger Mills, her boyfriend, to come along too. To say that Roger, whom he had known since grade school, and he didn't get along, would be the biggest understatement of the year. Still, not even that prospect was enough to cause a change of heart.
Arriving at the hotel from the airport shortly after lunch, Nicholas had been surprised to find a message that said they had to be at the studio by five o'clock to tape the show. Evidently, even though it ran at midnight, it was taped six hours earlier. In retrospect, that made a lot of sense but Nicholas wished he'd know that earlier. In anticipation of having to stay up half the night, he'd done so the night before and only gotten out of bed a half hour before they had to leave for the small county airport outside of town. With the show over at eight at the latest, he was going to have a hard time getting to sleep tonight.
On the television monitor, Billy Lee Young, the host of the show, was wrapping up the previous segment with some actress promoting her new movie. Nicholas hadn't really been paying that much attention to what they'd been saying until the white haired entertainer announced to the studio audience who his next guests were. Even after all the places his name had appeared this last week, it gave the teenager a rush to hear it on television.
As if on cue, which was precisely what it was since she'd been listening to the show on her headset, Lisa appeared at the door and said they should follow her to the soundstage. That, Hillary heard loud and clear, quickly disengaging herself from Roger and rising to her feet. In a flash, she produced a small compact mirror and checked her face. Confident that all was as perfect as it should be, she snapped it shut and headed for the door. Right behind her followed Roger, until he was stopped short as Lisa stepped in between him and Hillary.
Guessing that he expected to go along with the dark haired girl, Lisa had been ready. After physically blocking him, she said he would have to wait here in the green room.
"You'll be able to watch the taping here on the monitor," Lisa assured the young man.
"But I thought, was hoping, that he could come with me," Hillary implored once she realized that he wasn't.
"Sorry, but that would be against the rules," Lisa said with a patented smile. "Only guests actually booked on the show are allowed on the set."
Truth was, that only applied to non-celebrities, but she wasn't going to tell them that. Just like she wasn't going to mention the other waiting room down the hall with more elegant trappings and buffet for more important guests.
Hillary pouted for a moment, then deciding that she wasn't about to miss her chance to be on nationwide TV, kissed Roger good-bye. At the same time, she shot Nicholas a nasty look that said she wished he were the one staying behind. Not talking into account the fact that if not for him, she wouldn't be here at all. Or anywhere else for that matter.
Stepping onto the soundstage, Nicholas continued his interest in the world of television, taking in every little thing. He found it fascinating the way they took a set that was not much larger than the room they'd just come from and made it look so much larger on the screen. Even the backdrop curtain, where Young did a short monologue at the start of the show, was only a few feet from his desk, whereas back home it had always seemed to be on another stage entirely. The magic of television he mused.
A stagehand took over from Lisa and, after clipping small wireless microphones to their clothes, guided them where to sit. Hillary was a little miffed when she was relegated to just window dressing for Nicholas's story and assigned a place on the couch next to the actress from the previous segment. Nicholas, had been placed in the chair between the couch and the desk.
A minute later, Billy Lee came back from offstage where he'd had a quick readjustment of his makeup. In the few moments before they resumed taping, he welcomed the young couple, telling them to just relax and enjoy being on the show. As a casual remark, he said they made a cute couple, causing Hillary to immediately say that they weren't anything of the kind. Billy Lee didn't seem to hear as the director yelled five seconds at the same moment and the host quickly moved back behind his desk.
After welcoming his as yet non-existent home audience back from a commercial break that would later be inserted, Billy Lee began to talk about how the only time you seem to hear stories about teenagers these days was when they were in trouble or did something particularly bad. Well, the other day he was reading the paper, he told the studio audience, which was at least real, and came across a story quite the opposite. That an intern whose job it was to look for interesting stories in small town papers had brought the story to his attention was left out of his narrative.
The story, he went on, told of how a young man in a small town upstate had, at the risk of his own, saved the life of one of his co-workers. A propane gas explosion in the kitchen of the dinner where they both worked had, in an instant, filled the small restaurant with flames and smoke. Patrons and staff quickly fled to the safety of the street, but once they were all there, a headcount showed them one short.
Hillary Parks, who had been working the register right next to the kitchen, had evidently been left behind. With the local Fire Department not yet on the scene, and the smoky inferno growing worse by the minute, Billy Lee went on to say, Nicholas Porter, who had working at the diner as a waiter during his summer, took in upon himself to brave the flames and rescue her.
The veteran host paused for a moment to let the camera pan over to Nicholas so that everyone at home would be able to get a good look at him before he finished the story. To both the studio, and later the home audience, the young man seemed an unlikely hero. Standing only five six and a hundred and forty pounds, he looked more like the kid next store who mowed your lawn. Then again, as Billy Lee was quick to remind them all, what was a hero but an ordinary man propelled into extraordinary circumstances, and rising to the occasion.
.... There is more of this story ...