TITLE: Reply All
GENRE: Upmarket Women's Fiction
Luke’s disembodied voice shot through Vivi’s headset like a hammer. “Take it again from the second bridge, Vivi. It’s a ballad, darlin’, and I ain’t cryin’.”
For the fifth time, Luke counted down—three, two, one—and they were off from the beginning of the second bridge. Vivi held the third under Lacey Morris’s high C. With the steel slide, she bent the note on the dobro, made it quaver like a country singer's vibrato, and then took off on her solo. But Luke wasn’t satisfied. Four more times they tried it until Vivi saw Luke throw his hands up in the air.
“That’s enough. It’ll have to do unless you want to come in and lay down a …."
Lacey cut him off. “This is acoustic, Luke. You know I hate that overproduced shit.”
“Okay, okay. Then that'll have to do,” Luke said.
The musicians shifted; their arms sagged toward the floor. They took deep breaths, rolled their shoulders and began putting up their instruments. No one spoke. Lacey stalked out, trying to slam the door behind her, but it was soundproofed and braced, and politely refused to make a sound.
Vivi laid her dobro in its case. No one looked at her, which she appreciated. She was hot, and her skin felt like an itchy, fat balloon. Her hands shook.
She took a long time packing up, hoping everyone would be gone, but when she walked out of the studio, Lacey was waiting on the sidewalk, her bleached hair in her eyes, hoodie pulled tight around her skinny chest. Lacey was burning it up in Nashville at the moment, and everything about her was scary--her smoky, growly voice that could sail to crystalline heights, her fierce blue eyes, her honky-tonk swagger.
“You know what’s wrong with you?”
Vivi tried to meet Lacey's eyes, succeeded. “What?”
Something other than fury was there, so Vivi held still and let Lacey unleash.
“You are technically brilliant, maybe the best dobro player in Nashville, except for—"
“Yeah, Jerry f****** Douglas, Vivi. You’ll always just be the one I get when we can’t get Jerry, until you make me feel something when you play.”
Lacey spun around and charged up the sidewalk toward Broadway, her boots banging on the concrete.
Vivi watched her go, vibrating with self-loathing and near panic.
“Don’t let her get to you.”
Vivi spun around. Herbie looked down on her from the porch of the yellow house that housed Polyphonic. Banjo case resting on its narrow end, he leaned against a column. Vivi shook her head, unable to speak.
“She’s like that. You haven’t played with her much. Takes some getting used to.”
“Yep, she may be the next big thing, but she’s a bitch. Also really good.”
“Oh, all right then. Douglas will always be the big dog, and you’ll be the puppy. Go wallow in it, Viv-ee-ann.”