Jeremy tapped his foot, trying to hide his impatience. He stood in line with Rebecca, his daughter, at the coffeehouse just around the corner from the Roslyn Derkins Theater. Despite being late in the afternoon, the shop was still crowded. There was a long line of mostly men stretching back almost to the front door.
The single father rubbed his daughter's back. Her navy wool sweater felt rough to his hand. There was no mistaking the couple's relationship as father and child. They were a spitting image of each other. Jeremy's strong features and trim body made him look dashing and athletic. The same build, however, made Rebecca look boyish and wispy.
Checking his watch, Jeremy was glad to see they still had thirty minutes until Rebecca's audition. A drama girl throughout high school, she'd been the star in every production. Her supporting father's small IT firm that he ran kept them happy and would have provided the financial resources needed to send her off to a large Arts school. Her grades and applications, on the other hand, hadn't been enough to get her in.
She decided to take a shot and work her way into the industry, rather than study her way in. Today was her first major audition and she'd asked her dad to go with her for moral support. She'd been insistent that they arrive early for the audition and they'd arrived way too early. The theater hadn't even opened yet. Rebecca was a nervous wreck waiting outside so Jeremy suggested a cup of coffee or tea to calm her down.
"Do you really think I can get a part?" Rebecca asked, not for the first time that day.
"Yes, honey. You'll be terrific. You'll do just fine. They won't be able to stop from falling all over themselves just to get you to contract."
Rebecca beamed and hugged her father's arm. "Thanks, Daddy. I'm just so nervous because I'm not beautiful or busty like those girls on TV."
"You're beautiful to me, sweetie, plus there's more to acting than just looks, and you've got it. You'll do just fine," he answered and patted the hands hugging his arm.
The line in front of them was barely moving. Jeremy checked his watch. At this rate, they wouldn't have time to drink their coffee. Jeremy wondered what was taking so long.
As if she'd read his mind, Rebecca said, "I bet all of these people are here for the same reason we are. They're here early and wanted a drink before auditioning. I'll never get the part over all of these people!"
"Shhh," Jeremy said and hugged her head to his chest. "You'll do just fine. There's lots of rolls to be had, plus most of the people here are men. They wouldn't be going for the same parts you are. You'll do just fine."
"You'll do just fine. Just think of what you want to drink and don't worry about the audition."
The two stood in silence for several minutes and the line crept forward. They hadn't made it half way through when Jeremy saw the reason for its sluggishness. The barista working the counter was topless and had the most massive breasts he'd ever seen. She was filling orders for cream by milking herself directly into the customers' cups. The process in itself wasn't slow, but the gawking patrons prevented the line from moving with any kind of speed.
The startled gasp from his daughter showed that she, too, had noticed the reason for their delay. "Oh my god, daddy! Look at her! If a girl like that can't get a part, how could I ever imagine that I could?"
"It's okay, honey. You'll do just fine. Not everyone wants to be an actress."
"This isn't like auditioning for my school play. This is serious."
"You'll do just fine."
A man reading a newspaper nearby folded it up and slammed it on the table. If it hadn't been for his outburst, Jeremy would never have noticed him. He was too average looking, too ordinary. "That's enough," the man said. "You two, come sit down." He pointed at the empty seats across from him.
"I'm sorry, we don't really have time for..."
Against his will, Jeremy's feet moved him forward. Rebecca gave him a terrified look that let him know she'd gone over against her will as well. They each pulled a chair out and sat down. Jeremy gave his daughter a reassuring look and said, "Don't worry. You'll be just fine."
The man let out a frustrated cry. "This is ridiculous! How many times do I have to hear you say, 'You'll do just fine'? I know, technically you just said, 'be just fine' but it's still close enough to piss me off."
"I'm sorry, mister. I didn't know I was offending you..."
"It's not just me. Anyone within earshot is probably wishing for bad things to happen to you."
The man cut Jeremy off. "Hey, lady," he said to a girl sitting nearby. She was dressed as if her natural habitat was a night club, not a coffeehouse. Her pink floral print halter top v-ed down to show every inch of her artificial looking breasts. Her long blond hair hid the strings tying her top on and draped down the sides of her body causing Jeremy's eyes to focus even more on her exposed cleavage. Jeremy wondered what sort of upbringing could produce a girl like her. "What would you do if you heard this guy say, 'You'll do just fine' one more time?"
The girl glared at Jeremy. "Probably kick him in the fucking balls."
"See! It's not just me."
Hanging his head, Jeremy glanced over at Rebecca. He couldn't read her expression. "I'm sorry, I won't say it anymore."
"No, it's too late for that now, Jeremy."
"How did you..."
The man waved his question off. "Really, Rebecca here is already 19 and if she doesn't have the self confidence to make it on her own without you constantly saying, 'You'll do just fine'." The man shuddered. "I don't think I'll ever be able to say those words again. Anyway, as I was saying, if she doesn't have the confidence to make it on her own without ... those words, then you really messed up as a parent.
"I think you have done a pretty crap job. Look at your daughter. She's pathetic. She's got this whole," the guy waved his hand around in a small circle pointed at Rebecca, "innocent girl next door thing going on, but it's really quite annoying. You're 19, girl! Grow up. You don't need daddy around to hold your hand.
"'Aww, everyone's so much prettier and better than me.' Please. You only do it because you want the attention. You want the sympathy. You've got the confidence in you. Hell, there hasn't been a single play you haven't had the lead roll in. How you fucked up on your applications so bad, not even I know that. My only guess is you did it so Daddy here would feel sorry for you."
Their host took a sip of his coffee and let the scared stew for a minute.
"Here's the deal. Your daughter, like always, she's going to get the lead in the audition and be wildly successful. I'm telling you this now. And you know it's true that I can do this."
Both Jeremy and Rebecca nodded their heads. Jeremy didn't know how he knew, but the core of his being radiated with the knowledge that the man was telling the truth.
"So, you see, there's nothing to worry about. There's no reason to say those words. If, for any reason you [i]do[/i] happen to say them, there will be a punishment." The man snapped his fingers and the huge breasted barista left the customers at the counter and came over.
"Are they going to help me remove whatever is stuck up my ass?"
"No. They disgust me. Get their orders so they can leave and I don't have to look at them anymore."
The woman turned to Rebecca. "Well, aren't you just so cute! Has anyone ever told you, you should be an actress?"
"Actually, I'm waiting for an audition to start."
The man clapped his hands once. "No chitchat! Just orders."
"Sorry, sir. What can I get for you, dear?"
"I'll have an earl grey," Rebecca said.
"And you sir?" the waitress asked Jeremy.
"Just a black coffee."
The woman looked downcast. "Are you sure you wouldn't like some cream? It's homemade!"
"Okay, two creams."
Jeremy and Rebecca still hadn't regained the free will to move about, so they sat in silence while they waited for their orders. The man sat back and started reading his paper again. Jeremy wondered what their table companion meant by "punishment".
From the other side of the newspaper, the man said, "You know, this wasn't my paper at first. Belonged to a guy not much older than you, Jeremy. I made a bet with him that he couldn't resist fucking this slut." The man let out a chuckle. "I kind of cheated, though. I took away his distaste for nasty skanks. It's not like I made him like them, it's just that he no longer hates them. Would have been too easy for him to pass on temptation otherwise. But don't worry, I'm playing straight with you. Just guaranteed success and punishment for you-know-what."
Not really having a clue what the man was talking about, Jeremy nodded. "What do you mean by punishment?"
"I mean, you will become an even worse parent than I think you are. I'm sorry, Rebecca. You'll probably have to suffer through it until things get better."
A drop of sweat rolled down the side of Jeremy's face despite the cool temperature. "What will happen? What do you mean?"
"Tsk tsk tsk. Now where would the fun be in telling you? You'll just have to wait and see."
At last the woman came back with their orders. She gave them their cups and then backed up. "Hold your cup up a little higher, mister," she told Jeremy.
He held it up to shoulder height and then the woman grabbed one of her nipples. She tweaked it once, twice, sending two streams of milk flying towards his cup. Not a drop spilled outside of it. "There you are. Miss, would you like any cream in your tea?"
"No, thank you," Rebecca replied.
"Alright then. And since you're special guests, it's on the house. Have a nice day and come back soon!" The busty barista made her way back to the counter and started filling orders again.
Once they had received their orders, Jeremy and Rebecca found they were free to leave. From behind the newspaper, their host said, "Don't say it, Jeremy. Just don't say it."
The 40 year old father sat next to his brunette daughter. They sipped on their beverages while the auditorium filled. They hadn't said a word to each other since they'd left the coffeehouse.
Rubbing a hand through his thick hair, Jeremy looked over the information about the comedic musical Rebecca was auditioning for. Not being the biggest play goer, Jeremy hadn't heard of it before, but apparently it was a huge success on Broadway. It was a modern day, musical rendition of Shakespeare's [i]Taming of the Shrew[/i].
Rebecca was hoping to land the role based off of Katherina. She and Jeremy agreed that she had a better shot at it. Even though he'd reassured her in the coffeehouse, her assessment of her looks was quite realistic. She wasn't remarkable or beautiful enough to fit in the Bianca role.
The auditorium filled around them. Rebecca twitched in her seat. His green eyed daughter pulled her pony tail over her knit sweater. It went well with the sensible blue jeans she was wearing. Letting go of her hair, she started to fiddle with the silver bracelet her daddy had given her for her 18th birthday. At the time she'd refused it, knowing how thin their budget was spread. The down turn in the economy had really hurt her dad's private business.
Rebecca's mom had passed away while she was very young and Jeremy had raised her the best way he knew how. He had trouble running his IT company and being a single dad. The man at the coffeehouse's insult about him being a bad father had cut deep.
Jeremy reached over and rubbed her shoulders. "You'll do just fine," he said. As soon as the words left his mouth, Jeremy flinched. What was going to happen?
"Daddy! That man told you not to say that!" his daughter admonished him. She flicked her golden ringlets off her shoulder and Jeremy withdrew his hand from her pink and gray diamond-checked sweater. She turned her crystal blue eyes up at him and gave him a smile.
His stunningly beautiful daughter put her hand on his chest. "It's nice of you to come down with me and reassure me and stuff." Her diamond laced, gold Tiffany's bracelet sparkled in the light. "But what would really give me confidence would be some new Dior earrings. I know I could nail the Bianca part with some of them..."
She didn't care that her father was juggling his debt on two mortgages and three credit cards. Rebecca's insatiable appetite for brand name clothing had run Jeremy into the ground. Without the jewelry, Jeremy knew his gorgeous daughter would be a shoe in for the part of the beautiful and spoiled Bianca. She wouldn't even have to act the part. Being her father didn't spare him from her charms. "I'm sorry, honey. There's no time to get them before the auditions start."
The punishment! Jeremy cried in his head. Did Rebecca notice it, too? The daughter he'd so lovingly raised was gone. In her place was a beautiful, spoiled brat that he felt no connection to. This version of his daughter would never be caught in something as plain and simple as the navy sweater she used to be wearing.
Memories of his plain daughter refusing the simple silver bracelet were joined side by side with his new glamorous daughter throwing a tantrum because he'd bought her a Tiffany's bracelet and not the Chanel one she'd wanted.
He looked at the alluring creature next to him. Questions ran through his mind. Was the old her still inside there? When she looked at him, did she see the old him? The him who ran a floundering, but viable IT company, or did she just see the new him, the low level, underpaid IT clerk and a soon to be bankrupt security firm?
If the old her was still in there, she must be crying out about how her new lust for name brand items had done to her father. It'd driven him into massive credit card debt, taking a third mortgage out on their house and finally forcing him to get a graveyard shift just to have enough money to eat. She looked up at him and her sky blue eyes sparkled at him. "Do you promise to get me some after?"
On the outside, there was no hint if she was still there or not. As far as Jeremy could tell, the insecure girl he'd comforted in line at the coffeehouse had been completely replaced by the new Rebecca. This version of her had tried to flirt her way up to the front of the line at the coffeehouse. After she hadn't gotten any where with her attempts, he'd reassured her to try to keep her calm and his reassurances had angered that man. Jeremy tried to picture him in his head but came up blank.
"I'm sorry, honey. I don't have the cash today. I get paid next Wednesday. I'll get you some then." Even if his old daughter was in there, she probably couldn't see the old him inside his new beer-bellied, thinning haired body. The loser persona that had come as a punishment to his words masked the former father.
Pouting her full lips, Rebecca looked down. "You'll be just fine without them," Jeremy told her. He couldn't believe what he'd just said. Even after tasting the punishment for the first time. He winced. He couldn't look. He didn't want to know how he'd changed them.
A man stood up on the stage. Jeremy focused on him so he wouldn't have to know what he'd done to them. The man tapped on the mike once and the auditorium went silent. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming out today to audition for a Women's Network original movie, [i]Trouble Daughter[/i].
"We've gone through the applications that you handed in this morning. We're going to be calling out parts and then those who we'd like to have audition for that role. If you don't get called, it's because we're not looking for someone with your particular talents and we wish you luck in your future endeavors."
The play had changed. It wasn't even a play anymore. It'd turned into a tryout for a bad movie on a cable channel Jeremy had never even heard of. Unable to control his curiosity, the nervous father glanced over at his daughter to see what had happened to her. Neither the pink and gray sweater vest she wore nor the unbuttoned pink dress shirt underneath it did anything to cover her new, full cleavage.
Thick makeup adorned her features. On the previous incarnation of her, those features were delicate and cute. The only words that Jeremy could find to describe them now were "sexy" and "tease". Long gone were the plain features that she'd once fretted over so much.
Her taste in clothing matched her taste in jewelry now: gaudy, revealing, and above all name brand. He could count his meager paychecks by counting the articles that adorned her. High stockings stretched up from her black heels and stopped bellow her knee. Just like her enlarged breasts, her now well toned, creamy white thighs were put on display as the black lace DKNY skirt she wore only covered her legs to mid thigh. Or was it a Banana Republic skirt? No, Jeremy didn't think this new girl would touch something as cheap as Banana Republic, let alone wear it.
Jeremy's once athletic form was nowhere near to be found. While his daughter was getting sexier, he was getting fatter. The IT company that he'd once owned was now his employer. His old business was now more successful than anything he could have ever dreamed of. It had become a major player in the technology industry. Jeremy had nothing to do with it, though. He was just the parking lot security guard. All day he sat in his booth and ate donuts while watching the little portable TV he'd put in. Former friends and employees now sneered at him as he checked their ID badges and let them into the lot.
Today, he hadn't come down to be moral support for his daughter. In this changed reality, he was here to make sure she actually came to the audition. The new him hoped that she'd get the lead part of the troubled daughter, not for her success, but so she could start paying for some things on her own.
"You should cover up some," he told her.
"Relax, dad. I'm looking the part."
Jeremy rolled his eyes at that. He knew this edition of his daughter wasn't dressed any different today than normal. She took any opportunity to flaunt her ample chest and toned legs. In this life, he was never strict with his daughter. She was beyond control. Even if he tried to lay down rules of some sort, he was constantly working to keep one step ahead of the nonstop collection agencies and was never around to enforce them. As a result, Rebecca didn't even pretend to obey him.
" ... Next is for the part of Bianca, the daughter. Please go up to the second floor and wait in room 203. Clair Abraham, Alexandra Douglas, Fran Driver, Rebecca Elman, Tracy..."
"That's me!" Rebecca bounced up out of her seat. She handed her drink to her dad. "Go on up and wait for me. I wanna go out and get a quick smoke before my audition."
"Rebecca Elman! I thought I told you to quit smoking."
"Dad, I'm 19 and if I want to smoke, I'll smoke all I want."
She walked off and left him to stare at her back. Her expensive skirt swayed back and forth with her steps in her three inch heels. The motion called attention to the bit of creamy white flesh visible just below the short hem down to the knee high stockings.
Having finished his drink long ago, Jeremy took a sip of his daughter's tea. He sputtered and spit most of it out. There was more bourbon in it than tea. It explained why she still had some left when he'd finished his coffee, but he couldn't figure out what the hell was she thinking getting drunk before her audition. Things were getting too far out of hand.
He knew as part of his punishment, he couldn't change who they were, but maybe he could stop them from getting worse. Maybe he could fight it somehow and make them better in the future.
Jeremy went into the men's bathroom to dispose of her drink. He started to pour her drink out, but his hand froze as memories of the most recent Rebecca came to him. To put it simply, she was a pain.
This daughter had never been in a play at school. This daughter hardly ever [i]went[/i] to school. She'd been suspended numerous times for smoking in the girl's bathroom, or being drunk during class. He didn't know how she had heard about this audition, but the movie seemed like a parallel to her life story. This version of her's life story.
The balding factory worker looked at himself in the mirror. Bags were permanently sketched under his eyes. In this world, he couldn't remember the last time he hadn't worked a double shift. The job as parking lot guard was no more. It'd gone the way of his base level IT position and his career running his own company. His real self seemed forever away.