I didn’t want to be a hypocrite but once I started I just couldn’t stop. The moment I sat down in the leather chair across from the rest of the execs I was lighting up; the band was late, I was hungry, and worst of all it was five days until Christmas.
“That’s it,” I announced throwing down my cigarette into a full ashtray. Everyone in the conference room looked at me. I had broken a very uncomfortable silence. “I know I don’t exactly hold the record for being on time but look at me, I shouldn’t be smoking. This stress has actually driven me to smoking.” I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my heart pills. “‘Warning’,” I read aloud from the bottle, “‘Failure to follow these directions may result in a heart attack or heart failure. Do not combine with alcohol or nicotine, or any other sort of illegal substances, for combination will result in further damage to organ.’” I threw the bottle back in my pocket. “That’s all I need right now, heart failure.” I pushed the ashtray as far away from me as my arms could reach. “Ten years ago- no, more like five years ago, I would still be in bed recovering from my heart attack three months ago. Now with these new fangled cure-all drugs I didn’t even get to stay a full week in bed. I might as well not abuse them and their ‘no nicotine’ rule.” I glanced at my watch and then glared at Jim, “you did tell them nine, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Jim confirmed.
“When’s the next flight back to New York?”
“Mr. Hanson, please!” Someone begged. “Just give them another few minutes.”
I sighed. “I apologize,” I confessed. “I just don’t like being away from home this close to the holidays, especially if Mrs. Hanson is due in January. I’ve heard that twins do like to come early.”
There was laughter and I felt relived. I really hadn’t meant to snap like I did, I was just irritable. I hadn’t been able to get in touch with Clare or the kids all day and it made me nervous. I didn’t like having no contact with my family, it caused me to become high strung and worried. The feeling of emptiness in my stomach wouldn’t go away.
“I’m so sorry we’re late!” A voice exclaimed as the double doors were thrown open. We stood and pasted on smiles as five men filtered into the room. “I’m Ted Jenks,” the oldest man said walking towards me. “I manage Newstar.” He shook my hand firmly.
“I’m Taylor Hanson,” I said returning the handshake. “You must be Newstar,” I said turning towards the remaining four guys. They nodded. The four of them were young, the oldest must have been seventeen at the most and the youngest was probably fifteen. I could tell by the way that they were standing that they were nervous. This probably hadn’t been their first record meeting and I wondered if it would be their last.
“Yes we are, sir,” one teenager responded in a loud but timid voice. I knew right off the bat that he was the lead singer. I reached over and shook his hand. He had the hands of a guitar player.
“What’s your name?” I asked warmly.
“Todd,” he responded. “Todd Coolage.”
“You play guitar,” I told him. He nodded and tried not to look shocked by my knowledge. I came out from behind the table and perched myself on top of it, facing the boys. “You,” I pointed to a younger child, “you play drums.” I went down the line. “You’re on keyboards and you’re on bass.”
“Whoa he’s good,” the drummer responded.
I grinned, “I can tell the drummer right off the bat, my brother plays the drums.”
“I know, Mr. Hanson, sir, and you might find this hard to believe but he is my inspiration.”
I narrowed my eyes jokingly. “Really?”
He nodded frantically, “I don’t lie, sir.”
“I was teasing ya,” I said. “And everyone stop this ‘sir’ business. The name’s Taylor.” I glanced at the employees. “And I mean everyone.”
I stood up from the table and clapped my hands together. “I wanna hear some music. That is what I came here for, isn’t it? Where’s your instruments?”
“In the lobby, sir- I mean Taylor,” the keyboard player informed me.
“Well let’s go and get them,” I said walking towards the doorway. “I’ll help you set up, come on.”