Cole finished belting out the daily specials to the large eight-top table and turned to go fill their drink orders. Her boss would probably complain again that she had not sung it like the others had, but she had worked here long enough and knew that the little twists were appreciated by her customers. It had been a long day and she still had four hours left in her shift at the Singing Showgirls Diner, a small dive at the old end of the Strip near Fremont Street. The diner was popular among the local gamblers and even occasionally attracted B-list movie stars who were in town to blow their money. It was a small place that operated twenty-four hours a day, as did everything else in this city. The attraction was the waitresses, former showgirls or at least women who looked like showgirls, who would sing the menu to the customers in slinky costumes, heavy cosmetics and outrageously tall high heels. It was not the most sensible uniform for a waitress but the tips were outstanding.
After making sure her tables were taken care of and agreeing with a customer, yet again, that yes, he did know her from somewhere, Cole went outside to take a much needed cigarette break. She slipped the black stiletto heels off and traded them for her pink flip flops that she kept stashed in the back of the kitchen. Her platinum blond hair was pulled into a tight knot at the nape of her neck with the sleek ponytail lying against her bare back. The red sequined, backless dress reached the length of her five foot seven frame yet had a slit up to her thigh. As she stepped out into the desert night, she shivered despite the fact that it was July. Leaning against the stucco wall, she lit her cigarette and inhaled deeply and wondered what Lilly was doing in her absence. Her green eyes began to get misty under the heavy stage make up as she thought of what her life had become now.
She had not been a showgirl, never served cocktails in any of the numerous casinos in Las Vegas and certainly was never employed at the strip joints. In fact, she had once been the opening act for one of the Strip’s biggest headliners. Ten years ago, she had the world at her feet and was well on her way to becoming a headliner in her own right. He had discovered her when she was only twenty years old, singing in a weekend theater production that was a showcase of songs she had written too. He was twenty years older and suave, charming with his dark skin, chocolate voice and a show of his own at Caesar’s Palace. He was looking to cultivate new talent and her dreams allowed herself to be swept away. Not only did he offer her a contract but he gave her a new name too. In less than a year’s time, her first song “That Night” was a hit; she was opening for his weekend shows, planning a tour of her own, writing songs for her debut album and falling in love with him.
Then she found out that Lilly was coming and all of her plans were put on hold. Despite his pressure, she just could not bring herself to terminate the pregnancy. He was furious and wanted nothing more to do with her or the child she was bringing into this world. A family did not fit into his plans; he had a world tour coming up, no time to be tied down. The show at Caesar’s wrapped up a few months later and he was gone. She survived off the money from her song through Lilly’s first year and tried to get work at other casino shows to no avail. The hours of practice and the length of the shows would take her away from her daughter for more time than she was willing to give up. She was grateful when the diner opened and was given a spot on the coveted evening shift. The tips, combined with the monthly checks he sent to ease his guilt, were enough to support them and she was able to sing, which had always been her first love and she was home more often than she was gone.
Yet, she still dreamed of more, she longed to sing again in an environment that would allow her to cultivate her creativity. In the first few years after her song was at the top of the charts, she tried to get on at a few of the big name record labels. Nobody wanted to touch her though, they all viewed her as a one hit wonder; the woman who gave birth to a legend’s love child and then broke her contract to be a mother. Even the songs she wrote and submitted were never given a second thought. She still used the name he gave her, which was just a shortened version of her middle name. Sometimes she thought she should go by her first name, Darlene, and then maybe she would not be remembered. Yet, the altered version of Nicole fit her now and she didn’t know who Darlene was anymore. There had to be more than this to life though, so she kept the longing tucked in the back of her mind and focused on raising a healthy, intelligent child. Maybe someday when Lilly was grown, she would be able to devote all her effort into reviving her career.
Sighing at the weight of her hopes, Cole bent and crushed her cigarette against the black asphalt with the tip of her acrylic red nail and turned to go back inside. After trading her flip flops for her stilettos, she walked past the cooks working over the hot grill and headed back to the crowded dining room. Another waitress had collected tips for her and left them under the cash register. As Cole flipped through the green bills, a business card fell on the counter. Picking it up, she read his name and recognized the advertising agency; it was one of the largest in Los Angeles. Turning it over she read the handwritten words, “You look and sound so familiar but I can’t place you. Love the voice and spontaneity. Need a jingle writer, call if interested”. Cole felt her heart speed up as she rushed to finish her shift and get home to Lilly and the possibility of starting over.
~~ Copyrighted by MB 11/1/2008