Two hours into their first rehearsal, Jamie Fraser asked
Claire Beauchamp for a break.
Ever since he had shuffled out of The Broch and shrugged
his shoulders against the cold wind pushing toward the East River, heading to
catch the IRT back downtown, his mind had been swirling.
At this time yesterday he had been ironing his jeans,
dreaming of taking the stage at Madison Square Garden. Standing by the side of
some faceless frontman whose wails matched those of his guitar.
Now he was sweating in a third-floor room of a run-down
factory, in between the flophouses and Chinese restaurants which reminded him
why he always steered clear of the Bowery, praying the electricity wouldn’t fry
his only amp – and trying for the life of him to figure out how to coax Claire
into sounding like a rock and roll star.
Claire looked from Jamie to Ian – sweating behind his
drum kit – to Willie Coulter, another guy from The Broch who Ian had quickly
pressed into service as a bassist.
“Sure – I don’t mind if you guys smoke. But I could use
Willie set down his bass and Ian stood, stretching. “Want
us to bring you something? I gotta take a walk.”
“The Chinese place two doors down has good lo mein. I’ll
pay you back.”
“Get me one, too?” Jamie met Ian’s eyes in silent
understanding. “And a Coke?”
“Sure.” Willie nodded, and soon his and Ian’s footsteps
echoed in the stairwell.
Jamie shifted his guitar and turned to face Claire. She
was perched on a high stool – just like she had been last night – pursing her
“Look – you got a gorgeous voice, Claire.”
“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” she sighed.
He licked his lips. “But you can’t just sing like you’re
on a Broadway stage, or in a cabaret. Your voice is too thin above the music
that way. It’ll get lost. And you *can’t* get overpowered by the music.”
“I’m not overpowered – ”
“It’s not *you,* Claire!” He stepped a bit closer to her,
feeling the ancient floorboards give a little. “Nothing is about you. It’s your
*voice.* It’s about how you present your voice – it’s about your attitude. You
have to really *feel* what the song is. To really *feel* the instruments – the
rumble of the bass, the thump of the drums.”
She stood then, holding her ground. “I don’t want to yell
or scream. I can’t lose my voice.”
“You won’t,” he promised. “I won’t let you. Look – you
brought me here to help you. Let me help you.”
His eyes searched for hers, pleading. Willing her to
understand what he was saying.
Wanting more than anything to establish that connection.
He launched into the opening riff of Blondie’s “Call Me”
– the song they’d picked as the first to rehearse.
“Color me your color, baby, color me your car,” she sang.
“Color me your – ”
Abruptly he stopped. “No, Claire – no. You can’t just
sway into it – it’s not supposed to be a smooth transition from note to note. That’s
not how Debbie Harry does it – that’s not how you’ll do it. Make it choppier.
She frowned, nodded. Wanting to argue back – but willing
to learn. Open to his advice.
Four bars – sixteen beats for the intro. He nodded her
“Color me your color, baby – ”
Again he stopped. “No, Claire. Too much. Too choppy.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Show me, then.”
“You’ve got to remember that this is a song about a
gigolo, Claire. It’s not a nice topic. Put yourself in his shoes. ‘Color me
your color, baby…’”
Then she tried it again.
“Closer. Getting there. You have to just let it out,
Claire. Forget every fucking thing your fancy voice coaches ever taught you. Push
yourself into it. Let that beautiful voice just GO.”
She looked like she wanted to say something – but then
thought again. Steeled herself.
Holy God, she was a warrior.
He plucked the opening chords again – and then –
Her gorgeous soprano floated aggressively over his raw
“Keep going!” he yelled over the chord progression
between the chorus and next verse. “You got this. Keep going!”
She smiled triumphantly. So radiant. And drew from some
spirit dwelling deep within her, and sang her heart out.
“Come up off your color chart – I know where you’re
coming from – Call me!”
“Call me!” Jamie echoed the backing vocal.
“On the line, call me, call me any, anytime. Call me!”
Her eyes locked with his.
It happened then – a connection sparking between them. In
an instant, he recognized himself in her. Saw his future in her.
“My love, you can call me any day or night. Call me!”
And from the stunned look in her eyes, she did as well.
They finished the song, transfixed in each other.
Shaking with adrenaline.
And woke to the enthusiastic whoops and whistles of Ian
and Willie, arms weighed down with paper bags full of egg rolls and lo mein and
By three o’clock they’d nailed down not just “Call Me,”
but also a fun, rollicking version of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “I Need A
Lover.” A more traditional rock song, but with much different timing and tempos
It wasn’t too difficult for Willie or Ian – but Claire
was clearly exhausted. She was too stubborn to admit it, but the last thing
Jamie wanted was for her to truly blow out her voice on their first day.
“Hey – let’s call it a day?” he suggested after they’d
finished yet another run-through, watching Claire quietly lean against the
stool for support. She had been on her feet since they’d finished lunch –
rocking and lunging and strutting as she sang. Her voice – and, more
importantly, her confidence – seemed to grow stronger and stronger with each
But there was such a thing as too much practice. And
Jamie desperately wanted to get some time alone with her.
“Yeah, fine by me,” she agreed, bending over to take a
sip from her Coke. “You guys OK with that? Will you be ready for Murtagh to
visit in the morning?”
“Not a problem.” Willie was already packing up his bass,
and Ian reached for the bag where he kept his drumsticks. “You OK, Claire? Want
me to walk you to the subway?”
“We’re going to stay back a bit,” Jamie interrupted,
slipping his guitar off his shoulder and nonchalantly unplugging his amp. “Want
to pick another song for tomorrow. Three is always better than two.”
He turned back to Claire, who had climbed back up on the
stool, watching the three men put away their instruments.
“I want to thank all of you,” she said quietly. Voice
strong, but a bit subdued. Awed.
“Oh, it’s nothing, Claire,” Ian smiled back. “We’re happy
to – ”
“With respect, Ian,” she interrupted, “You don’t
understand. This is – I’ve waited for this day for so long. It’s a dream I’ve
risked a lot for. And you’re helping make that dream come true. So thank you.”
Willie picked up his case and softly crossed the room to
gently lay a hand on Claire’s shoulder.
“We’re not done yet – tomorrow’s another day.”
She smiled at him – suddenly looking so tired. “Indeed it
is. See you here at ten sharp?”
Ian shrugged into his backpack, clapped Jamie on the
shoulder, and once again the drummer and bassist for their still-unnamed band
slipped out of the rehearsal space.
Jamie knelt to close his guitar case, then stood to face
How to keep her by his side now, for even a few more
minutes? How to extend this indescribable, incredible day?
“You want to get a drink somewhere?” he heard himself say.
This time when she smiled, it went all the way to her