A shot over the city opens the scene, and, in the distance, the magnificent structure known as Madison Tower is shown. The camera switches to the brightly lit streets, and over Madison Tower, fireworks are going on to signify the one-year anniversary of the creation of the skyscraper that stands stories over every other building within sight.
As the camera peeks into the penthouse of Madison Tower, we follow Jessica Gaston walking towards her bedroom as she wraps her nightgown tightly around her and heads up the spiral staircase.
Outside, fireworks continue to decorate the sky as Jessica stands in front of the window and lets the robe fall around her feet. She places earrings into her ears, and then her attendant zips up her elegant gown, then fastens the necklace around her neck.
As she fastens the second heel onto her foot and turns to leave, the servant gives her a respectful bow. Jessica picks up her purse on the way by.
The scene shifts to the celebration down in the party room off the foyer of Madison Tower. The residents are dancing, laughing, and having conversations. Sebastian Gaston is dancing with Zoey Kline, Chris and Angel Letter are dancing together. Amber Cian and Kyle Kline are chatting at the punch bowl.
Back up in the penthouse, Jessica gets onto the glass elevator. She presses the button for the 20th floor and then turns and looks straight ahead. The expression on her face is determination. She has been working herself up to make the announcement she plans to make tonight at the party, but she knows it’s going to cause a disruption in everyone’s lives. Some might even call it scandalous.
The door to the elevator closes and then begins to slide down from the 100th floor. She turns to watch the fireworks out of the glass walls as the elevator descends down. She’s late to the party, intentionally so, wanting to make a grand entrance. However, as she turns to the side, something catches her eye.
Jessica walks to the side of the elevator to get a better look when she sees a struggle between two people, though she can’t make out who they are. Her curious turns to fright as she screams when one of the combatants suddenly flies off the edge of the alcove and begins to plummet towards the ground from the 81st floor.
As the person falls in line with the elevator, the scene slows to a crawl, and we see that person is Layla Kwon. Her hands are bloody, her face looks like she’s been beaten. With the look of terror on her face as she makes eye contact with Jessica, we can see Jessica’s reflection in Layla’s eyes.
Suddenly, everything goes back to normal speed as Layla plummets towards the ground. Jessica drops to her knees, looking over the side of the elevator, and she screams again and again.
Layla continues to fall, and the camera angle is now from the top-down as Layla flails her arms and legs until she crashes through the glass ceiling of the foyer, through the stained-glass dome, and into the waiting arms of the angel statue that stands there proudly.
As she lands, blood splatters all over the angel as fireworks continue to explode, covering up the sound of the crashing girl.
We see Layla’s blood pouring down from the fountain as the camera pans up, showing us Layla’s blood splattered all over the angel statue and her dead body resting in the angel’s arms.
The scene fades to black.
TWO MONTHS AGO
The needle touches the vinyl as Mozart’s The Magic Flute begins to play.
Riley is standing in front of a mirror, tying the scarf from around her neck. Scarves have been a part of her wardrobe since the incident with Zoey back in college. She hears the music and is instantly annoyed by its presence.
She turns around, puts on a fake smile and enters the living room where an older man is standing in front of the record player.
The congressman turns to her as she approaches and smiles, “She has the voice of an angel, doesn’t she? I think you know her, don’t you? Zoey Kline?”
Riley hates talking about Zoey, to this day. She shakes her head at the inquiry, “I rarely get a chance to listen to music these days,” she lies, hoping to steer the conversation to something else. Like selling this house.
She reaches over and grabs the needle, placing it back on its stand and silencing the annoying music. “How do you like this place, congressman?” That’s it, back to business.
The congressman glances around, nodding his head casually. “It’s not bad. All these expensive appliances and in the middle of nowhere.”
“You have nothing to worry about when it comes to security, sir. Follow me.” Riley turns and leads the congressman. She leads him down the hall and she opens a large closet. She punches in a code and a door opens up. “If you are ever in danger, this is your panic room.”
The congressman steps through the door and looks down into the large room below, “Wow. Impressive.”
Satisfied now, they head back into the living room. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. It’s so warm out this time of year, yet I always see you wearing that scarf.”
Riley shakes her head, “It’s just a matter of style. I like to stay in fashion.”
“Nonsense,” the congressman says as he approaches her and starts to remove the scarf from her neck. “You know, I’m in the position to be very helpful to you,” he tells her, making his intentions very clear.
Riley screams and pushes him away, but not before the scarf falls from her neck and to the floor. Her hand immediately moves up the cover the long scar that adorns her neck. “I said I was fine. I prefer to wear it.”
The congressman just shakes his head.
“I should be going,” Riley says as she ties the scarf back around her neck. “About that brokerage fee…”
“Brokerage fee? How can you be so bold?” he asks her. “If you think I don’t know that you don’t have a proper real estate license, well, you underestimate me. With one phone call, I can ruin you. If we understand each other, you can go ahead and leave.”
Riley needed this commission. She needed it badly. “Sir, I showed you over a dozen houses and spend hours researching for you. You can at least pay me for my time.”
He’s annoyed. He pulls his wallet out from his jacket and plucks out a couple of bills and tosses them at her just as his phone rings. “Hello? Oh, honey! Yes, I’m here now. I can’t wait for you to see the place…”
Riley knows she’s been dismissed and there’s not a damn thing she can do about it. She grabs her purse and starts to walk off, only to pause and look down at the money on the floor.
Two $50 bills.
She storms out of the house and heads to her car. She gets inside and slams the door and places her hands on the steering wheel. “That useless piece of shit. Stringing me along to help him find the perfect house and then he tosses me to the side without even compensating me. Fucking scumbag!” she yells. She glances out the window and up to the house, “I should march right up there and break every bone in his goddamned body.”
She takes a deep breath, “I wonder what kind of woman would have an affair with that piece of trash.” Riley was well aware this home out in the middle of nowhere was for the congressman’s mistress.
A van pulls up and a woman steps from the van. Her bodyguard gets an umbrella up but not before Riley realizes who that woman is.
Juliana is rehearsing her piece for the audition and Kelly is leading the practice. Juliana is doing well through the classical piece until a high note approaches at which her voice cracks.
Kelly stops the pianist, “Juliana! How many times must we go over this? Focus on the diaphragm and project your voice forward. Resonate the Maschera. Is it so hard?”
Annoyed, Juliana turns to the teacher, “If it was easy, would I need to take lessons from you?” she snaps.
Kelly rolls her eyes, “Oh my God. Let’s be straight with each other. Did you go to karaoke last night?”
Juliana stomps her foot like a spoiled brat, “Of course! I finished my mid-terms and my friends wanted to celebrate.”
“You can’t harm your voice that way! You are a classical music singer preparing for your audition. Singing those pop songs will do more harm to your voice!”
Juliana knows that her teacher is right and is about to answer when she hears someone open the door. She snaps her head in the direction only to see whoever it is fleeing.
Juliana gives chase.
“We aren’t done, Juliana!” yells Kelly.
Juliana runs down two flights of stairs but when she gets to the bottom, the person she’s chasing is no longer visible. She clenches her fists, “That little bitch. When I catch her, I’m going to kill her!” she screams out.
It’s late at night at the schoolhouse and Mariah is inside one of the music rooms.
“Focus on the diaphragm. Resonate the Maschera.” Words she heard Jenny’s music teacher explain to her. Mariah’s mother isn’t wealthy like the other kids so Mariah can’t afford a private music teacher. It puts her at a disadvantage going into the auditions, so she has found a way to get those lessons without paying for them.
The sneaky way.
She would listen in to Juliana’s lessons, unfortunately for her, Juliana is catching on.
In the dark, Mariah begins to play the piano and sing her chosen classical piece when suddenly the lights turn on.
“I knew it!” yells Juliana as she storms into the room, “You were eavesdropping on my music lessons, Mariah Oh!
Juliana doesn’t scare Mariah, who rises from the piano bench and stands nose to nose with Juliana. “That practice room doesn’t belong to you. Anyone can use it.”
“I guess you don’t know as much as you think you do, Mariah,” Juliana tells her. “That room was bought and paid for by my parents. The piano too.”
Mariah isn’t fazed by Juliana’s boasting, “It doesn’t matter who paid for it. It belongs to the school, and anyone can use it. This school is for the students. I am a student. There’s no reason I can’t use it.”
Juliana is getting angry as she stomps her feet in frustration, “This is my practice room. My practice room! What part of that don’t you understand? I am using it to get into the International School of Music.”
“Well,” Mariah stalls. It takes her a moment before she finally blurts out, “Well, I’m going to go to the International School of Music too. I need to practice.”
Juliana begins to laugh right in Mariah’s face. “You? The ISM? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” When she finishes laughing, she shakes her head, “And how do you plan to do that? Can your poor mama afford to send you there? My parents can. There’s no way they’d accept someone like you.”
Mariah just stares at Juliana.
“Let me make myself clear, Mariah Oh.” Juliana tells her. “Give up your little fantasy and go find something more suitable for you to learn. Go be a mechanic or a waitress or something like that. You, getting into the ISM? All a fantasy. It’ll never happen.”
Mariah begins to gather her books up, “I guess we will see who is more deserving at the upcoming audition. I’ll beat you, I’ll get the recommendation and I’ll be going to the music school.” She stops in front of Juliana, “I don’t need help from my parents, unlike you. Just wait and see.” Mariah brushes past Juliana whose left standing there with her mouth open.
“What did she just say to me?” Juliana spins around, “What did you say? You! Stop right there! Mariah Oh!” she screams but Mariah ignores her and disappears out of the room, leaving Juliana heaving in anger.
Juliana steps out of the school and Amber, her mother, is there to greet her. “How as practice?” She notices that Juliana isn’t wearing her scarf, “Why is your neck bare? You know you have to keep it warm at all times!” Amber snatches the scarf from Juliana’s backpack and puts it around her neck while Juliana sits there and fumes.
As they turn to walk off, Juliana stomps her feet, “That… that… Mariah Oh!” she shouts.
Amber’s eyes go wide, “What happened? Are you crying?”
Juliana indeed has tears running down her face. “There’s this girl, Mariah Oh, she’s an ugly, ugly girl! She had the nerve to tell me she was going to beat me at the upcoming audition!” She grabs her mother by the jacket, “She even uses my practice room to study in secret at night. How can I possibly put up with that?”
“Someone is annoying my princess? How dare they! You shouldn’t have to put up with any of that nonsense at all. Don’t you worry, I will always have your back,” Amber tells her.
Juliana gets a determined look on her face and nods. “I’ll show that little bitch my skills, that’s for sure.”
They walk towards the car, and the driver opens up the door for them. Amber asks, “Who’re her parents? What do they do?”
Juliana shrugs her shoulders, “I just know her dad is dead,” then climbs into the car.
“Dead? Huh,” Amber says and as she gets into the car, “And her mom? What does she do?”
Riley spends the day showing house after house to a very picky couple. They complain about everything at every house. By the end of the day, they walked away, and she is no richer than she was the day before.
In fact, they leave her at the diner with the check, so in fact, she lost money on this day.
Her phone rings and when she checks the ID, it’s from the school.
“Mariah did what?”
Mariah walks into the apartment, “I’m home!” but her voice falls off when she walks into the living room to see her mother, Riley, sitting on the couch, arms across her chest and all of Mariah’s music books are scattered around the living room.
“Your math teacher call and said you hadn’t attended class in months.” Riley says. “You bought all these books with the money that I make trying to keep a roof over our head? I bust my ass driving ungrateful people around to buy houses, and you’re skipping school to buy music books?” Riley finally raises her gaze to look at her daughter. “How long have you been lying to me?”
Mariah is searching for a reason, any excuse. “Mom, I…”
“I told you! No singing!” Riley yells out in anger. Riley rises from the couch and picks up one music book and begins to tear the pages in half.
Mariah’s eyes go wide, and she moves in to intervene, but the book is already torn to shreds. Riley goes to pick up another when Mariah yells out, “I want to sing! I want to be a classical singer! Why can’t I? You never tell me why, you just say that I can’t do it! Why, mom, why?”
“Because you’re smart! All you need to do is study and you can be whatever you want to be. Why would you want to sing when you could be a lawyer, or a doctor or a surgeon? Look at me!” Riley yells, “I am barely making ends meet because I didn’t finish college! Singing will get you nowhere!”
Mariah shakes her head, “You’ve never even heard me sing.”
“Singing won’t get you anywhere!” Riley screams.
“I’m good at this, mom! Why don’t you want me to do it? I want to sing more than anything else in the world, so why are you so mad?” Mariah asks. “Why are you trying so hard to stop me?”
Riley starts picking up the books again and tearing out the pages. The two fight over the books for a moment before Mariah finally says, “Tear them all. I’ve already memorized them.”
“What?” asks Riley in disbelief.
“The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night, Aria,” Mariah says as she catches her breath. “I’ve memorized them already.”
Riley stands there as Mariah begins to sing from Queen of the Night. Tears begin to form in her eyes as she has a flashback to the night, she sang this very song.
Riley is on stage, performing for the 25th International School of Music Festival. She is singing Aria No. 14 by Amadeus. As she reaches the conclusion, suddenly the entire auditorium is on their feet, clapping, cheering and showing their respect for her flawless performance.
Mariah has stopped singing and is just waiting for her mother to say something.
Riley reaches up and angrily brushes away the tears that are falling down her cheek. She takes in a deep breath and turns to her daughter, teeth clenched. “If you say that you want to see one more time, you may as well stab me with a knife. You will become a singer over my dead body. Not a minute sooner. Do you understand?”
When Mariah doesn’t answer her, Riley turns and walks into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Mariah is left standing there wondering what in the world just happened.
The next morning, after Mariah leaves for school, Riley pours herself a cup of coffee and walks over to the dining table where she finds a note from Mariah.
“I’m going to sing, no matter what you say.”
Riley goes about picking up the mess from the night before, scraps of Mariah’s music books littered all over the living room, the news is on her television.
“As we approach the one year anniversary of the opening of Madison Tower, it was announced today that Madison Tower has become the most expensive and most lucrative places to live in all of the city. The high costs of the building have only seemed to make it more attractive to buyers as many are dying to live in the castle for the one percenters.”
Riley finds herself spellbound by the newscast, which actually comes across more like an advertisement. “In my whole live, I’ll never get to live in a place as luxurious as that,” she says to herself.
But she can certainly dream.
Speaking of Madison Tower, there are four valets outside of Madison Tower as a large, black luxury car pulls up to the entrance. A valet rushes over to open the door for Zoey Kline as she exits the vehicle.
Matthew, her assistant, gets out on his side and hurries to approach her side and the two walk into Madison Tower.
Exiting the escalator, Matthew hurries ahead to open the door for Zoey as she enters the music room.
A special purchase for this particular resident of Madison Tower. A special room for her to give music lessons to some of the residents. A select few. But, mostly for her daughter.
Inside the music room, there is a massive mural of Zoey on the wall, along with walls of trophies that she has earned throughout her life in college and as a professional classical singer.
A bit later, we hear the sound of a male singing as the camera pans around we see that Zoey is having a private lesson with Carson Letter. Well, private in casual sense as Carson’s mother, Angel is filming the entire rehearsal on her cell phone.
When Carson misses a high note, Zoey stops the pianist and turns to him. “Carson, do you really want to sing classical music?” she asks him.
Nervously, Carson glances over to his mother who gives him a nod.
Zoey nods her head, “Then why are you just copying this just as everyone else has? I mean, if all you can do is copy, there’s no way you’ll be allowed in the International School of Music. You must put yourself into every piece you perform. Not just copy what you’ve heard.”
Angel watches, grimacing.
Zoey takes one more step towards Carson, who’s suddenly looking at the ground. “If you show up to practice one more time without rehearsing, I’m done with you. I teach aspiring musicians, not copycats who don’t practice. Have I made myself clear?”
Carson meekly bobs his head, “Yes, ma’am.”
Zoey turns to the piano player, “Take him to the practice room. One hour, no, two hours.” As the two leave the room, Angel rushes up to Zoey.
“Don’t be too hard on him. He’s just having some trouble concentrating. I promise to monitor his practicing a little better,” Angel tells her.
Zoey walks over to her desk, “Just because our families are close, doesn’t mean I’ll teach your son if he lacks skill and determination.” She tosses the notebook on the desk and turns to Angel, “If Carson doesn’t have the skill, I will cut him loose.”
Angel sighs sadly.
“I have a waiting list of students who are dying for my assistance. I have made some preferences for you as we are friends, but in the end, I only teach those with potential.”
Angel doesn’t want to ruin this for Carson, “Trust me I know. It’s easier to pluck a star from the sky than to hire you as a teacher. I’m well aware. I give you my word that I will oversee all of Carson’s practices from now on.”
Zoey just nods her head, but Angel clears her throat as if she has something else to say.
“Do you remember my dear friend Angela? Her husband owns the Galaxy Grand Theater downtown. I thought maybe for the festival this year, we could use their theater? They’re promising an excellent rate.”
Zoey considers it for a moment, “Let me speak with my father about it and I’ll get back to you.”
“That place isn’t right for such a grand occasion as the International School of Music Festival,” a voice is heard as Amber walks into the room. Angel is about to protest when Amber continues, “The Landry Art Hall would be a much better location, don’t you think, Zoey?”
“The Landry Art Hall?” cries out Angel. “How in the world were you able to get such a booking?”
Smugly, Amber tells her, “I happen to be friends with the chairman’s wife. She’s already put in a good word for us, and the chairman is interested.”
Angel is appalled.
Amber smiles at Zoey, “If you mention my name, the booking is a done deal.”
“Thank you for your concern, Amber. I’ll take it under advisement,” Zoey tells her.
“Speaking of which, I heard you had room for one more student? I don’t suppose you’d be willing to train my sweet Juliana,” Amber asks, leaning in on that favor.
Zoey looks at her for a moment, then picks up the pile of potential candidates and dumps them in the trash can. “I’ll be in touch.”
Something catches Amber’s eye, right underneath the mural. “I don’t think I’ve seen that trophy in here before.”
Angel turns around and gasps, hurrying over, “Isn’t this the Festival Grand Prize trophy? It’s so legendary!”
Amber seems confused, “Why is this trophy legendary?”
“Haven’t you heard?” Angel asks her. “Why, the runner up to the trophy got so distraught over being defeated, she slit her own throat. Anyone who knows classical music has heard that story.”
Amber just shakes her head, “Who would do such a thing. It’s so awful. To hurt yourself out of jealousy, that’s crazy.”
Zoey has been lost in her own thoughts, when Angel asks her, “Whatever happened to that student?”
Zoey is silent for a moment, remembering the incident. “She touched something she should have even longed for. I’m sure she quit music forever to punish herself.” Zoey walks over to where the other two ladies are, “Since then, the prize was terminated as well.”
“If the trophy is that legendary, may I touch it?” Amber says as she moves towards the trophy, but Zoey cuts her off.
“This trophy got me a free ride,” she says, picking up the trophy before Amber can touch it. “Only one student ever got that, and it was me.” Zoey is staring longingly at the trophy. “Oh, by the way, the Madison Tower ladies meeting is tonight at my place. I hope you got the word.”
The three ladies walk through the lobby of Madison Tower and anyone in their way, stepped aside. Zoey leading the way in the middle with the other two flanking her sides. They were the ladies of Madison Tower.
Well, there was one other. But we’ll talk about her a bit later.
Amber walks into her condo, tosses her purse into the air, expertly caught by one of the housekeepers. She steps right out of her shoes and into some slippers as she removes her jacket and tosses it onto the bed angrily.
She stomps into another room and plops down on the couch, only to sit right back up, “What was that? How did you manage to book that place? What does Angel know anyway?”
She throws a couch pillow across the room.
Angel walks into her apartment, feeling tired. She walks the hallway and is bet by an annoyed husband.
“Where were you all day?” Chris asks. “How can you possibly be busier than me?”
“Are you home already?” Angel asks. “Didn’t you have a trial today?”
Another figure appears behind Chris and Angel’s eyes go wide, “Mother!” Not her mother, but Chris’s mother. “I didn’t know you were coming!” she stammers out.
Chris’s mother smirks, “I don’t need to tell you when I want to come see my son. When is dinner? I’m starving.”
“I’ll get something started,” Angel says apologetically and rushes by her into the kitchen.
Zoey arrives to her condo and walks by the kitchen. The kitchen staff has laid out quite the spread for tonight’s meeting. Zoey takes a moment to check everything over and then nods to the chef and moves on, seemingly satisfied.
She walks through the living room, where there is another mural of her singing on stage. She walks into her bedroom and begins to reapply her makeup, getting ready to greet the guests tonight.
Kyle walks in and stands in front of the mirror to check his jacket. He barely arrives when Zoey tells him, “Go change. How often must I tell you not to wear drab clothing. You are the host tonight. You must look classy.”
Kyle looks at her with some disdain, “I can pick out my own clothing, thank you.” Kyle looks at what Zoey has put on. “Don’t you think you’re overdoing it? We are having dinner with people we see every single day. This is not a special occasion. Must you make a fuss about everything?”
“You don’t like it when your wife looks pretty?” Zoey asks.
“Of course, I do. I just don’t like it when you go overboard,” Kyle tells her. “It’s a dinner, not a modelling runway.” Kyle leaves the bedroom.
Zoey turns around to look at herself in the mirror and just scoffs at the notion before walking out as well.
Dinner is in full force as Chris and Angel, along with Amber, are there with Zoey and Kyle. Zoey pulls a bottle of wine out of the wine cooler and brings it over to the table, making sure to give just the right amount of attention to Kyle so others don’t pick up on the fact that they aren’t getting along.
Kyle seems very annoyed at the grand show that she’s putting on.
“Dean Kline, the duck was absolutely fantastic,” Chris says as he leans back in his chair.
Zoey seems to blush at the compliment, “Please, call me Zoey when we’re not at the school.”
Amber wrinkles up her nose, “It seems wrong to call you anything but Dean, if I’m being honest.”
“Besides, you’d feel disrespected if they didn’t call you by your official title anyway, right?” Kyle says much to Zoey’s dismay. He’s not playing along with this at all.
Zoey stares at him, “Of course I wouldn’t.” There’s a look exchange, but Kyle just grins at her. Zoey turns to the others, “Just treat me casually. I insist.”
Amber looks over at Kyle, “Dr. Kline, you look absolutely shining tonight! I don’t know how you do it.”
“That’s impossible,” Kyle says with a smirk, “I am in the operating room everyday and almost always completely exhausted.”
Chris picks at his food, “I heard you only operate on VIP clients.”
Angel’s eyes go wide, “Honey? Are you drunk right now?”
Chris laughs out loud at his own joke, “I’m just messing with you, Doc. I’ve only heard glowing things about your performance in the operating room. No need to get all serious over a tiny, little joke.”
Kyle is staring daggers across the table at Chris, “Perhaps it’s just that I don’t find your jokes very funny, friend.”
Kyle reaches for his wine glass and holds it up. Chris holds his up as well and the two drink.
Amber glances over at the clock, “Where are the Gastons? Why are they always so late?”
Angel nods her head, “I wonder if Jessica will make it tonight?”
Zoey shrugs her shoulders, “I doubt it. She’s always so busy. Far too busy for us.”
“Sorry for being late,” comes the voice of Sebastian Gaston moments before he rounds the corner with his wife Jessica on his arm.
Everyone rises around the table at their arrival, “Jessica! It’s so nice to see you. It’s been a long time,” Chris says.
“Sorry for being absent so much, things are very busy,” Jessica explains.
Sebastian reaches out his hand to Kyle, “Thank you for the invitation,” he says as they shake hands.
“We’ve started eating already, but there’s still plenty,” Zoey says.
Jessica seems apologetic, “It’s our own fault for being so late.”
As everyone sits back down, Amber speaks up, “We all live in the same building, but we hardly see each other. I’m glad we have times like these we can catch up.”
Angel nods her head, “You should come to yoga with us. We really need to spend some more time together.”
“Well,” Jessica starts to say but Sebastian interrupts.
“She’d really like to, but you can blame me. I like to keep her all to myself,” he says with a smile as he reaches for her hand. He leans towards her, “Isn’t that right.”
Angel awwws, “That’s so sweet!”
“You are such a romantic,” Chris comments, impressed at Sebastian’s prose. Everyone oos and ahhs. Except for one person.
As Sebastian’s eyes glance over at Zoey, she’s not smiling. Not in the slightest.
“Look at all these wonderful couples and here I am, living alone,” Amber sighs.
Sebastian smiles at her, “How is Mr. Cian doing these days in Dubai?”
Amber clears her throat. It’s not like she can tell them the truth, “He’s so busy over there. The construction business is thriving over there, and he just can’t spare any time to come back for a visit. He’ll be coming back for good soon though.”
Jessica motions to all the food, “Everything looks delicious. It must have taken you all day to prepare.”
Zoey shrugs, “It was hard work, but worth it for all of you.”
“She didn’t really do much,” Kyle interrupts. “The chef we hired is very good at his job.”
Zoey slowly turns her head to look at Kyle. She is not happy. Kyle just laughs and laughs while everyone else looks uncomfortable.
Everyone except Chris who is also laughing, not reading the room at all. Amber glares at him and he stops laughing, but unsure why.
Sebastian tries to smooth things over, “I’m sure it’s not easy for a woman to work and feed guests. Zoey is the best music teacher our children could ask for, plus she is the director of the music institute. This is why I offered her the first spot in Madison Tower.” He looks across the table, “Thank you for your hard work, Zoey.”
Zoey smiles at him, “Thank you for the kind words.”
Jessica chimes in, “I didn’t want to come empty handed, so I brought a pecan pie.” She hangs the bag to Kyle who is more than happy to accept.
“Let’s eat it for dessert!” he announces as he hands it over to Zoey who looks at it with disdain.
Angel’s eyes go wide. She knows Zoey’s rules. “Zoey typically prefers we don’t bring food to her gatherings.” She looking at Zoey’s face which is not happy at all. She also knows that Zoey has pecan pie as well.
Chris is fucking clueless, “Can we have some now?” he asks.
“Sure!” Jessica tells him with a smile, happy they are going to eat it.
As Zoey holds the box of pie, Chris gets up from his chair and lifts the lid, pulling out a piece of pie and eating a big bite out of it.
“Let me try some,” Kyle says as he takes a piece as well. They are scavenging this pie while Zoey sits there, straight-faced.
Chris acts like he’s in heaven, “This pie is amazing!”
“She’s so talented,” Kyle says, looking right at Zoey, still doing everything he can to push her buttons. “You should start a bakery with a pie like this.”
Zoey has had enough. She sets the box on the table, “I have something that’ll go with the pie,” she forces a smile and rises up, then touches Kyle on the arm. “Can you go grab another bottle of wine from the cellar?” Kyle excuses himself and walks off.
Zoey walks into the kitchen where two other pecan pies are sitting on the counter. She picks them up and just drops them into the trash can.
As Kyle comes back from the cellar, Zoey is standing in his path. Angry.
“What are you doing?” he asks. “Move.”
He starts to walk by her, but she grabs his arm and whispers, “Are you having fun humiliating your wife in front of others? Does it make you feel better?”
“How about you relax and enjoy the evening. Isn’t it so tiring acting all pretentious all the time?” he asks her.
“I’m doing all of this for your sake, don’t you know that?” she tells him. That makes Kyle laugh.
“Please, just be honest for one goddamned minute. All you think about is yourself,” he tells her. “I’m just a mere accessory that you use to decorate yourself. Look at Jessica, you can actually tell she cares about her husband.”
Jessica is coming around the corner to find the restroom when angrily, Zoey grabs a bottle of wine out of Kyle’s hand and smashes it on the floor.
Kyle grabs Zoey by the arm and spins her around to face him, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“You think complimenting other women will endear you to me?” Zoey tells him then turns to walk back when she spots Jessica standing there, looking like she’s in shock.
“Sorry, I was trying to find the bathroom,” Jessica explains apologetically.
Kyle excuses himself and walks by Jessica to return to the others.
Jessica walks up to Zoey and places a hand on her arm, “Men can be like that sometimes.” She gives a supportive squeeze to Zoey’s arm and then walks by. As Jessica disappears into the bathroom, Zoey spins around and glares daggers at the woman.
The dinner continues and a few of the participants are getting rather drunk. Kyle and Chris are talking up a storm, while Amber is waving her arms about. Off to the side, Jessica and Sebastian are all smiles as they exchange whispers.
Zoey is watching them. She is the only one not having a good time at her own party.
“I have to use the toilet!” Amber announces as she gets to her feet. She manages to get around the table, but nearly falls over near Jessica, who quickly gets to her feet to help Amber back up.
“When did this chair get here?” Amber asks with a drunken slur.
“Let me help you,” Jessica offers and then walks Amber towards the restroom.
“Did you know,” Chris announces, “That my wife was the hottest day time talk show host in all of the city? That she was!” He’s obviously very drunk as well.
Kyle slaps Chris on the back, “I remember! I remember! She was very popular!”
Left alone at the other end of the table, Sebastian and Zoey exchange looks. Then Zoey reaches up and unbuttons the top button of her blouse. She rises from the table and makes a show of leaning over it, reaching for Sebastian’s glass. “Let me refill this for you.”
Sebastian’s eyes are all on Zoey now as he watches her pour a glass of wine. Their eyes meet as the wine pours into the glass. When she’s finished, she sets the wine down.
“Let me pour you a glass as well,” Sebastian tells her. As Zoey takes a seat, Sebastian rises from his and walks closer, reaching for the bottle of wine, refilling Zoey’s glass. Again, their eyes remained locked on each other.
When he finishes, Sebastian sets the bottle down and reaches for his glass. Zoey lifts her glass, and they tap their glasses together while looking at each other.
Zoey is about to drink it, but before it touches her lips, she steers the glass away and pours the wine down her arm. She immediately rises up, shrieking.
Everyone’s attention is suddenly on her. “Are you alright, Zoey?” asks Angel with concern.
Zoey brushes at her arm, “Yes, yes. I’m fine. Sorry to have made a scene. Let me go change.”
Kyle brushes her off. “Don’t bother.”
Zoey turns to leave and her eyes lock on Sebastian’s as she walks by him, sending a very clear message to him.
Sebastian watches her as she leaves.
Upstairs, Zoey has changed into a new dress, but has left the back of her dress unzipped. She looks into the mirror as she reapplies her lipstick.
A figure appears in her mirror.
She turns around to face Sebastian and asks, “Can you help me with this?” She gathers the back of her hair and holds it up out of the way.
Sebastian walks around her, his fingers taking the zipper and drawing it up her back. He leans in close and appears to whisper something into her ear.
Jessica returns to the party to find Sebastian missing and begins to look around for him while the others continue their drunken chatter.
Zoey slowly turns around to face Sebastian. The two are so close now, their foreheads nearly touch.
They each slowly tilt their head.
Jessica walks down the hallway when she sees a slightly open door.
Zoey and Sebastian are just about to kiss when Jessica’s voice is heard, “Sebastian?”
The two both look towards the door.
Jessica peeks into the room to only find Zoey standing there. The two women exchange smiles and then content, Jessica moves back down the hallway, still searching for her husband.
As the camera pans a little, we see Sebastian in the mirror, standing right next to the doorway. He walks towards Zoey and goes around her, their eyes locking once more as he walks out of the room.
Zoey’s eyes follow as this power man walks out of the room.
Jessica returns to the room with the others, but Sebastian walks up behind her and puts his arms around her, “Are you okay?” he asks her.
She spins around in his arms, “Where did you go?” Before he can even answer, she glances at the others and then turns back, “Everyone’s pretty drunk. Perhaps we should go.”
Sebastian nods his head, “Sounds good.” He walks her to the others, “We’re heading out now.”
“C’mon!” shouts Kyle. “Let’s drink s’more!”
Zoey walks back into the room, finding Sebastian and Jessica holding hands. She crosses her arms across her chest. Before Sebastian and Jessica disappear, Sebastian glances back at her with a sly grin.
Zoey has already decided what she wants. She’s determined to get it.
The next morning, Mariah arrives early to school so she can use the music room.
Setting her phone up to record, she begins to sing the Aria once more. It’s her favorite song and the song she’s like to use for the audition.
Juliana must have had the same idea as she walks into the music room and is stopped in her tracks as she listens to Mariah singing. She had underestimated Mariah. Her eyes begin to fill with tears as she listens to the other girl sing, knowing full well that Mariah is better than her.
Mariah finishes her piece and stops the recording, only then seeing Juliana standing there. “Can I have ten more minutes?”
Anger crosses Juliana’s face as she storms out of the music room and marches down the hallway to the art room. There’s no one in the room yet, so she starts looking for something.
She finds it.
She grabs the tube of red paint.
Mariah is sitting on the bleachers of the football field, talking to someone on the phone.
“I just sent you a vocal sample. Do you have room to take me on as a student? I’d love to take lessons from you. Please listen to the sample and call be back.” She finishes her voicemail and hangs up the phone.
A car zooms into the parking lot of the school, nearly running over a security guard.
Soon, we see Riley running as fast as she can up the long stairs to the school
Inside, Amber is berating Mariah, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
When Mariah doesn’t answer her, Amber gives the girl a push. “Are you mute? Say something!” She grabs her by the jacket, “You need to tell these people what you’ve done.”
Riley opens the door to the office, seeing Amber manhandling her daughter. She rushes over and pushes Amber away from Mariah, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Angry at being pushed, Amber flips over a table and turns back to Mariah and Riley. “Are you her mother? If so, you’re a horrible mother! You didn’t teach her any manners? Your child is pure evil! She drugged my child’s drink.”
This is the first time we notice Juliana. She has her hand over her throat. Amber continues her tirade, “My child can’t even speak right now. She’s going to be the next great classical singer and now she can’t even talk! I’m going to hold you both accountable for this.”
Mariah has heard enough. She turns to her mother and pleads, “Mom. I didn’t do any of this. I swear to you, it wasn’t me.”
Another teacher steps forward, “Stop lying! We have everything on video. You and Juliana were the only ones in the music room. Juliana drank from her glass and immediately began coughing up blood.”
Amber is out of her mind right now, “You tell the goddamned truth right now, you little b—”
“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” shouts back Mariah. Riley is still trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Mariah points to Juliana, “I bet she did it to herself! Now she wants to frame me?”
Juliana begins to shake her head back and forth.
“Why would my princess drug herself?” Amber asks.
“Because she knows she’s not good enough for the competition!” Mariah shouts, tears streaming down her face.
“Unbelievable,” Amber says.
Mariah spots Kelly off to the side, picking the stuff up that fell off the table. Mariah rushes over to her side, “Remember? You said her sore throat was because of karaoke! Say something! You said that!”
Kelly has nothing to say as she returns to picking things up, ignoring the girl’s plea.
“You dare to say my daughter did this to herself?” Amber asks. “I’ll see your ass in jail! I’m going to report you to the police.” Amber reaches out and grabs a handful of Mariah’s hair.
Riley’s eyes go wide, and she springs into action to protect her child, separating the two and getting in between them. “My child said she didn’t do it. You have no evidence. You all are going to believe this woman’s spoiled brat over my daughter?”
“We have proof!” yells one of the teachers, obviously trying to get in favor with Amber. “We have video footage…”
“Then show me!” demands Riley. “So, me on this video where is shows my daughter drugging this girl’s drink.”
They don’t have an answer for that.
“But it never happened!” Riley shouts. She’s getting pissed now and going into mama bear mode protecting her cub. “You are treating my daughter like a criminal when she did nothing wrong. Until you have concrete proof, stop treating my daughter…”
“What? What?” the teacher begins to get defensive, but before another word can be said, Amber strikes out and slaps Riley right across the face.
The entire room goes quiet as everyone’s eyes go wide.
“If something happens to my daughter’s voice, I will make sure your daughter pays,” Amber tells her as Riley gets back up, holding her cheek and glaring at Amber. “You better brace yourself. I’m going to have your daughter placed in front of the school violence committee and get her expelled!”
“Expelled?” Riley asks. She’s about to go all out on Amber when suddenly, Mariah rushes over to Juliana and grabs her by the jacket and begins to shake her about.
“Tell the truth! You tell the truth, dammit!”
Juliana is trying to get away from the other girl, but Riley rushes in and pulls Mariah off of her, but Amber pushes Riley to the ground.
“I swear to God, I’ll see you expelled from this school.”
As Riley sits there on the floor, she recalls something from her days at school.
It was there in black and white for all the college to see. Riley Oh, suspended.
Girls were talking behind her back as Riley, bandage over her neck, stands there looking at the suspension notice. Angrily, she reaches out and she rips the notice from the bulletin board and begins to rip it up.
Down the hall, Zoey was being pushed in a wheelchair by her father, Jan and her stepmother. Riley looks at Zoey, who’s looking very pitiful, at least until she flashes Riley a sly grin, then returns to acting pathetic.
Riley then sees red.
She charges the girl and grabs her by the jacket, “Why are you lying? Tell them the truth, you little bitch!”
To the others, it just seems as if Riley is once again picking on Zoey again, which is how she got suspended in the first place. Zoey’s stepmother pushes Riley to the ground. The bandage is accidentally pulled from Riley’s neck and her wound is reopened as her blood begins to splatter on the tile floor.
Jan walks over and points down to Riley, “You were already suspended, but I’ll see to it that you are expelled.”
And expelled she was. Not only would she never be able to sing again. She was never able to finish college.
Riley never recovered from being kicked out of college. She can’t let that happen to Mariah.
“Enough!” Riley finally yells and everyone goes quiet.
She slowly rises to her feet and walks over towards Amber. “I’m sorry, on behalf of my daughter.”
“Mom,” Mariah protests.
Riley ignores her and continues, “I’ve been a poor mother to her and have been unable to educate her properly because I was too busy trying to make a living. I will make sure she is punished severely, so please do not expel my child.”
“What are you doing?” Mariah shouts and rushes over to her mother.
Riley turns to her daughter, “Apologize to your friend.”
“For what?” Mariah screams. “I didn’t do anything wrong!” Tears of anger are streaming down her face right now. “I refused to apologize to that bitch!”
Mariah finally just storms out of the office. Riley rushes after her, “Mariah!”
Amber is beside herself as she shouts after the two, “I’ll make sure you never sing again!”
Mariah walks out of the schoolhouse and is about to go down the stairs when Riley rushes out behind her and grabs her by the arm, “You can’t just leave like that! We need to settle this.”
Mariah ignores her and starts down the stairs, but Riley isn’t going to let her go. She grabs her again, “Listen to me. If you get expelled, they win. Those rich people win. It doesn’t matter if you’re guilty or not. If you’re expelled, it’ll ruin your life.”
Mariah is angry and pushes her mother down, “How could you embarrass me like that? How could you make me apologize for something I didn’t do?”
Riley is quickly back to her feet, “I told you not to sing and you still joined the choir!”
Mariah starts back down the stairs but as they get to the bottom, Riley stops her again. “Just stop singing. If you stop singing, this will all go away.”
Tears are streaming down Mariah’s face as she turns to face her mother. “My father might be dead, but right now, I wish it was you who were dead instead.”
“Dad liked to hear me sing,” Mariah explains. “If he were still alive, he would have taken my side!” She takes a deep breath, “I hate you.”
Mariah storms off.
Riley is in shock. She’s never once heard those words uttered by her daughter before. Tears are streaming down her face as she watches Mariah run off, “Mariah…” She starts to run after her, but Mariah is long gone, so Riley sits down on the step and just sobs.
“I want a date for the school violence committee, and I want a date right now,” Amber demands a little later as she sits in the principal’s office with Juliana.
Amber has given a lot of money to the school and the last thing the principal wants to do is piss her off, so he rushes out to see what he can do.
Juliana grabs her phone and begins to type. When she’s finished, she shows her mother.
I want her expelled.
I want her out of my life.”
Amber rolls her eyes, “Just talk.”
Juliana’s eyes go wide.
“I know you can talk, so just talk already.” Amber is no dummy. She knows this entire thing is a farce, but she’s going to back her daughter up. Especially, if Mariah Oh is a threat to Juliana getting into the International School of Music.
Juliana looks around and whispers, “How did you know?”
“This is why you’re going to be a singer and not an actor,” Amber says with a smirk. “When Mariah started throwing a fit, I heard you call her a crazy bitch.”
Juliana begins to panic, “Do you think she heard it too?”
“Why do you think I began to yell? To cover up for your dumbass.” But then Amber gets concerned, “Did you really cough up blood?”
Juliana bats her eyelashes, “Red paint.”
Mother and daughter exchange knowing grins.
“Continue your lessons with Dean Kline. And try and cozy up to Penelope and Cross. It wouldn’t hurt for you to be in their circle,” Amber tells her daughter. “Those twins will benefit you.”
Speaking of the twins, Penelope is in class. She’s not doing the work but doodling on her notepad. She lets out a huge yawn. As she leans on her hand, her fingers tapping her head, she glances at the seat in front of her occupied by her twin brother, Cross.
Cross is the total opposite of his sister as he diligently focuses on his school work.
In the back of the room, Sloane glances up nervously at the clock, seeing she only has ten minutes left to finish her test.
When Cross finishes, he nonchalantly drops his pen on the floor which sends a signal to Carson, who raises his hand, “Excuse me, Miss Pent.”
“Yes?” the teacher.
“I messed up my answer sheet. Can I get a new one?” Carson explains.
The teacher walks over and brings Carson a new sheet. While the teacher is distracted, Cross slips a filled out answer sheet behind him to his sister. She gives him her blank one. Cross begins to fill out the blank one.
This has been their system. Penelope is either not too smart, or just very lazy and Cross has always been there for her.
Cross glances back to Carson, and they exchange grins. It’s a well-executed plan that works every time.
Penelope is quite happy with the arrangement as she writes her name at the top of the page, then leans back, quite content.
Zoey is glancing over this resume that was sent to her to apply for a tutor position for her daughter Sloane.
Of course, as “Anna Lee” is led into the room, we see that it’s not really Anna but Layla Kwon.
Layla introduces herself, “I’m Anna. I’m here for the math tutor position.”
Zoey takes one look at “Anna” and isn’t impressed. The girl wears a coat that looks to be three sizes too large for her. Her shoes are a mess. The fact that she’s standing in Madison Tower is almost criminal.
But Zoey supposes that the girl isn’t here for a beauty contest.
A few moments later, the two are sitting across from each other. “It says here that you major in mathematics at UCLA? But you’ve taken a leave of absence?”
Layla nods her head, “There were some things going on at home, so I left after my freshman year. I’ll be returning once things are cleared up.” Layla reaches into her folder and produces a piece of paper in a page protector and hands it to Zoey, “Here is my proof of enrollment.”
Layla is obviously not “Anna Lee.” Everything she’s providing Zoey is fake. But she needs money if she’s ever going to get into the International School of Music. She needs this tutor gig with these rich people who’ll pay anything to ensure their children’s success.
“I have a degree from UCLA,” Zoey says as she scans the document. “That place is beautiful, especially in autumn. Don’t you agree?”
Layla smiles, “All four seasons are beautiful there. I really enjoy looking at the front of the law school with all of those fallen leaves.” Layla knew she’d be tested, and she is prepared for whatever Zoey throws at her.
Zoey isn’t quite done evaluating this potential tutor, “What was the name of that famous bakery that’s right across the street from the school? They made the most delicious funnel cake.”
“You must be talking about Fullsweets,” Layla answers.
Zoey nods her head, “That’s right.”
“I’ve always loved their caramel apple cake,” Layla tells her. “But the line for them is so crazy, they typically sell out by 10.” Layla reaches into her sweater and pulls out an apple charm. “They sell this apple necklace there. Do you remember?”
Zoey smiles, nodding her head. This girl is bringing back a lot of good memories for her. “I remember.” She even laughs. “Now you have me craving it again. It has been a long time.”
Zoey is sold on “Anna.” “Let’s hear what sort of curriculum you have in mind.”
Cross is sitting, arms cross, obviously not happy.
“My name is Anna Lee and I’ve been hired to be your math tutor,” Layla explains.
“Why are we here? We aren’t normally given a tutor during testing season,” Cross asks.
“I wanted to give you all a practice test to see where you all are,” Layla explains.
As the camera pans back, we see not only is Cross Gaston there, but Sloane Kline, Penelope Gaston, Juliana Cian and Carson Letter are all present.
Not one seems happy to be there.
“Is there reason we’re getting together now just because it’s convenient for you?” asks Penelope, super annoyed right now. She pushes back from the table and starts to walk towards the door. As she opens it up, Layla walks over and places her hand on the door.
“It’ll only take ten minutes. You can spare that much time, right?” Layla nods to the table, “Sit down.”
Penelope is appalled to be spoken to like this. Her mouth drops open as she stares at Layla. She looks back to the others. Cross doesn’t seem to care, but the others are amused at Layla’s standing up to Penelope. That doesn’t happen often. She turns back to Layla, “No. I can’t even spare a minute for the likes of you.”
“You’re just wasting our time right now,” Cross finally says.
Penelope smirks and shrugs. She removes her jacket, and we see why she’s a tad annoyed. Penelope and Layla are wearing the same designer shirt, but not quite.
Penelope walks over to Layla, “This is a fake, isn’t it? Let me show you what the real thing looks like.” She spins around in a circle, showing off her designer shirt. When she finishes, she stares at Layla, “How about you be a good teacher and start living your authentic life. You are not one of us.”
Penelope, the obvious ringleader of this crew, turns to the others, “Let’s go.”
Cross is the first to his feet. Penelope turns and sneers at Layla as she walks out of the room. Cross stares at her too as he exits. Juliana is the next to leave. She pauses.
“You realize the authentic version of that shirt, there were only three made. Looks like you may have lost your job on the first day.” Juliana laughs and walks out of the room, leaving Layla standing there alone.
Carson walks by her without saying a word.
Layla sighs and as she turns around, she sees that Sloane is still sitting there. “Aren’t you leaving too?”
Sloane smiles, “You should know that the Gaston twins are the law around here. But I like you, so I’ll stick around.”
“What?” Layla seems confused.
Sloane’s smile turns to a grin, “Did you see the look on Penelope’s face? When you told her to sit down, she got a little intimidated at first. I’ll take your test. I’m Sloane Kline.”
At least she has one student, Layla thinks to herself.
Zoey is sitting at her make up desk, in her nightgown. She dots some make up under her eyes and she pauses remembering the night before when Sebastian zipped up her dress and they almost kissed.
Zoey’s heart starts to race as she stares at herself in the mirror.
Sebastian walks into his massive walk-in closet. He walks to a dresser and pulls open the top drawer, selecting one of his many watches neatly arranged and placing it on his wrist.
Next, he picks a jacket, slacks and shoes.
As he finishes dressing, he glances at himself in the mirror and smiles.
Chris zips open a duffle bag, and his eyes go wide. The bag is filled to the brim in cash.
Kyle also opens his bag and finds the same thing. He flips through one of the stacks of cash.
“It’s been six years since we acquired the property of the old Prison City and converted it to the most lucrative part of the city. My dream of building Madison Tower has come to fruition, and we are nearing the one year anniversary since we opened this building,” Sebastian explains to them. “It’s all thanks to the two of you, so this is my way of showing my appreciation and a return on your investment.”
The three are gathered in Sebastian’s study.
“You can thank me like this any day,” Chris says as he reaches for his glass of expensive scotch. He raises it up, “Here is to the prosperity of Madison Tower.”
The three men clink their glasses together and drink.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone love money as much as you,” Kyle says to Chris.
“I think you may have me beat, good friend,” Chris responds. “People who grew up poor are typically greedier for money.” Chris never fails to remind Kyle where he came from.
Kyle stands up, angry now. “Are you trying to pick a fight?”
Chris stands up, “What if I am?”
Sebastian slams his drink down on the coaster, spilling the amber liquid onto the table. “What are you two jackasses doing on this special occasion? I bring you together to thank you and you’re about to brawl?”
The two other men stop, looking down at him and then they both slowly lower themselves back to their seats.
“When is the next deal, Sebastian?” Chris asks, ready to make some more money.
This is the real reason he called them here, “Let’s take a look,” he tells them and reaches for a remote. First, he turns off the lights and then a projector comes on, showing a picture of a building on the screen.
Kyle is confused. This building seems rather ordinary. “What do we want with a convenient store?”
“That building is the center point of our next project,” Sebastian explains. “Within three years, a subway will be built near that location. If we buy this building now, tear it down and build something in it’s place, the property value will increase 800 percent.” Sebastian is grinning from ear to ear. “I will guarantee that you will earn a 250 percent return on your investment into this property with me.”
Chris begins to clap his hands enthusiastically. “That’s what I’m talking about.”
Kyle lifts his glass again, “Here’s to a 250 percent return on investment.”
They cheer as they clink their glasses together.
“Oh my God,” Amber screams out as she looks out over the city. “I never knew that the view from the penthouse was so spectacular!”
“I love what you’ve done with the inside of the penthouse as well,” Angel says as she walks around the room, checking out all the expensive artworks.
Jessica has finally gotten around to inviting Amber and Angel up for some wine and some conversation.
“Do you still paint?” asks Amber as she spots an incomplete canvas over in the corner.
Jessica seems embarrassed, “On occasion, I do,” she explains.
“It’s like an art gallery in here,” Angel says.
Amber asks, “Where are the kids?”
Jessica pauses for a moment, “They said they were going to the community room.”
“How did they do on the exam today?” Angel asks.
Amber waves Angel off, “I bet they came in first. They always do. They’re so smart.”
“I guess we’ll have to wait for the result,” comes a voice and a few moments later, Zoey is escorted into the room. She is dressed to impressed, having taken her time to make herself look gorgeous.
“Damn, Zoey, I thought we were just getting together for a chat,” Amber says.
Zoey tries to look bashful, but it’s a hard one for her to pull off. “I wanted to get dressed up for tonight.” She turns to Jessica, “What do you think?”
Jessica smiles, “You look stunning. And I love that dress.”
Zoey smiles at the compliment and glances around, “It’s been a while since I’ve visited the penthouse. The boys usually meet here, but I hope you’ll have us up here more often. It’s such an amazing place.” Zoey knows the best way to get into this penthouse is through flattery.
Jessica smiles, “Come by anytime. All of you.” She reaches down to pick up her wine glass and the others follow suit.
“Let’s have a toast to the penthouse,” Amber says, and they all clink their glasses together.
As they drink, Sebastian appears from his study and his eyes immediately fall on Zoey. As the other women chatter, Zoey and Sebastian share a moment, looking into each other’s eyes from across the room.
Jessica’s phone vibrates and she reaches down to pull it up. One look and worry crosses her face. She turns and looks at Sebastian with concern.
“What is it?” he asks.
Sebastian walks Jessica to the door, “I’m sure it’s nothing. But do call when you find something out,” he tells her.
Jessica hurries out of the door. A drunken Chris runs down the hallway, “Jessica! Where are you going? Why are you leaving us so soon?” but it’s too late as the door closes behind her.
Chris trips and falls. Seeing Sebastian’s legs there, he wraps his arms around one of them. “Sebastian? You know I love you?” he slurs drunkenly.
“Get up,” Sebastian says, reaching down to help the man up. “Let’s go get another drink.”
At the hospital, panic has ensued in one of the room. There’s a young woman on life support and shouting is happening.
“Her vitals are dropping!”
“Someone get the paddles ready!”
“She needs more oxygen!”
Jessica arrives and is watching everything through the window, panic on her face.
The patient’s mask is removed and replaced with another.
Jessica leans against the glass, “I’m here, darling. Mother is here. Hang in there.”
The doctors begin pumping the air into the patient’s lungs as Jessica watches on helplessly.
The party is on back at the penthouse. Chris has balled up a piece of newspaper and they are batting it around with golf clubs, with everyone cheering.
Everyone except Zoey, who couldn’t be bothered to show she’s having a little fun. She stands off to the side, drinking a glass of wine. In fact, she sets her glass down and walks by Sebastian and the two lock eyes.
She continues on and heads up the stairs as Sebastian receives the message, loud and clear.
Sebastian pulls out his cell phone and takes note of the picture sent to him from the hospital. He knew having someone keeping an eye on his wife would come in handy. Knowing full well, Jessica is occupied, Sebastian rises from his seat.
As a drunken Kyle and Chris begin to fence, using golf clubs, while Amber and Angel cheer them on, Sebastian disappears from the party.
When Zoey comes out of the bathroom, she pauses when she sees Sebastian waiting for her. She had wondered if he’d take the bait.
Slowly, the two approach each other.
But as Zoey gets to him, she starts to walk by him, but he grabs her arm sharply and pulls her to him, then pushes her up against the wall.
“Are you fucking crazy?” she asks him, staring up into his eyes. “What are your intentions?”
“Whatever I damn well want to,” he tells her. “They are all drunk down there anyway. We won’t be bothered.”
Zoey glances to the side for a moment, wondering if it’s truly safe for them.
“Isn’t this what you wanted?” Sebastian asks.
“Sebastian,” Zoey says, “I didn’t realize you were such a bad man.”
Sebastian chuckles, “You have no idea.” He starts to lean in to kiss her, but she holds him back.
They stare at each other for a moment, and then Zoey takes the initiative, pulling his head towards hers and kissing him hard.
After a moment, the kiss is broken and as they stand there, panting, they kiss again.
Downstairs, the party is still going on, but Kyle suddenly realizes that his wife and Sebastian are gone.
He sets down his glass and staggers to the stairway.
In the upstairs hallway, Sebastian and Zoey are still making out.
Kyle continues up the spiral staircase towards the second floor of the penthouse. He’s about to enter the hallway when a crash is heard below causing him to turn just in time to see Chris has fallen and dropped his glass on the coffee table, shattering it.
Screams come from the woman as they rush to deal with Chris who is also screaming, “I’m bleeding! I’m bleeding! I’m gonna die!”
Sebastian and Zoey hear the commotion and stop kissing, when they hear Kyle’s voice closer than it should be. “Are you okay?”
Angel is wailing in her drunken stupor, “Don’t die, my love. Don’t die!”
“God damn,” Kyle says as he forgets what he was going to do and walks back down the stairs to check on Chris. “Dumb ass,” he yells.
Sebastian and Zoey remain still for a long moment and then begin to kiss once again.
The next morning, Mariah is marching down the stairs on her way to school when Riley comes out of the apartment, following her. “Mariah! Mariah!”
Riley finally catches up with her and Mariah slowly turns to her mother.
“Today is the school violence committee. Please, I beg you, tell them that you’re giving up singing. If you get expelled, it’ll be hard to get you in another school and no college will accept you.”
Mariah is not amused, “You’ve said this a hundred time already. I know what to say.”
She turns around and heads down the steps. Riley calls out, “I’ll meet you at the gate at 3! Don’t screw this up!”
Of course, at 3pm, Riley is standing outside the gate. She’s already tried to call Mariah three times. “Why isn’t she answering?” She paces nervously. “She’s going to be the death of me.”
She’s about to call again when she sees a couple of Mariah’s friends walking by and rushes over, “Have you seen Mariah?”
One of them turns to the other, “Didn’t she say she had a singing lesson today? I think she left early for that.”
“She left early?” asks a confused Riley. “What lesson? Do you know where she went?”
Mariah is standing in front of Madison Tower.
Moments later, she’s sitting on front of Zoey Kline.
“I left a message,” Mariah says. “I’m Mariah Oh.”
“Mariah Oh?” Zoey thinks to herself. Why does that name sound familiar?
“I’m a huge fan,” Mariah explains. “I’ve watched every one of your performances. I’ve listened to all of your songs for over a hundred times. I really would like to take lessons from you.”
Suddenly, Zoey gets a text. “Shine Hotel. 6pm.”
Mariah folds her hands together, “Please teach me.”
Zoey had almost forgotten that girl was standing there. She puts her phone down. “Too bad. I have no spots available for any more students. I only asked you here to tell you in person.”
“I’m a really good singer,” Mariah tells her. “With your teaching, I’m sure I can improve.”
Zoey starts writing down some notes, almost dismissing the girl. “Listen, classical music is not just about passion. It’s about having a natural born voice and your own style.”
“Listen, I am betting my entire future on this. Please,” Mariah begs her. “Please reconsider.”
Zoey almost admires the girls spunk, “Why did you come alone? Where are your parents?”
Mariah’s face falls, “You see, the thing is, my mother is against me singing.”
“Against it?” Zoey shakes her head, “Then it’s impossible for me to teach you. I cannot even consider teaching you without your parents’ permission. If you really want to sing, I recommend that you persuade her first, then come back and see me with her. It’s time for you to go.”
Mariah knows if she leaves now, it’s done.
Zoey rises from her seat and seeing that the girl hasn’t left, snaps, “I told you to go.”
Mariah is heartbroken as she turns and walks towards the door.
Zoey gets another text message.
“I’m getting excited already.”
She smirks as she reads the message.
Mariah is halfway to the door when she pauses. It’s now or never, she realizes. She turns around and begins to sing her favorite. Aria.
At first, Zoey is about to dismiss her, but then she gets a flashback.
She’s on the side of the stage, watching as her nemesis Riley is performing this same song on stage. And she’s killing it. Zoey knows that Riley is the better singer.
Zoey slowly turns around and listens as Mariah sings her heart out.
This is why her name is so familiar to Zoey. They are so much alike. This must be Riley Oh’s daughter.
When she finishes, Zoey looks at her. “Mariah? Is that your name?”
Mariah nods her head. “Yes.”
The corner of Zoey’s mouth is twitching now, “Who is your mom?”
“Mariah!” Zoey won’t have to wait long for that answer as Riley is screaming her name as she runs into the room. “Where are you?” When she sees Mariah, she hurries over and smacks the girl on the arm, “Are you trying to make me lose my mind?”
Zoey watches with wide eyes at the woman who she hasn’t seen in 25 years.
As Riley continues to scold Mariah, Zoey finally says. “Riley Oh?”
Riley stops everything and turns to face this woman.
Riley’s mouth drops open.
Mariah looks confused as she looks from one woman to the other.
Riley immediately recognizes her mortal enemy, Zoey Sky and turns her back to the woman.
Zoey chuckles, “Is that really you, Riley Oh?”
Riley doesn’t answer but grabs Mariah and tries to drag her out of the music room, “Let’s go.”
“Mom, do you know Mrs Kline?” Mariah asks, struggling against the pulling of her mother.
Riley shakes her head, still trying to get Mariah out of there, “Why would I know her? We are leaving, Mariah!”
“I thought there was something familiar about her,” Zoey says as she approaches the two. “Especially her voice. Right in my very presence, the daughter of the famous Riley Oh.”
Riley still won’t look Zoey in the eyes, “I have no idea who you are. If I did once, I’ve completely forgotten you, so how about we never lay eyes on each other ever again.” She starts to drag Mariah away.
“Do you know my mom?” Mariah asks Zoey.
Zoey smirks, “Of course, we went to the International School of Music together.”
Finally, Riley turns to look at Zoey to give her a glare.
“Wait, you went to the IMS?” Mariah asks her mom. “You never told me you went to IMS! Why did you never tell me?”
Riley doesn’t have an answer, especially in front of Zoey Sky.
“Why won’t you let me sing?” Mariah demands.
Riley starts to drag Mariah out of there again, “I’ll explain when we get home.”
“It’s quite shameful actually. I don’t blame her for not mentioning it to you,” Zoey says. She’s actually enjoying stirring this pot of shit. “If you hadn’t wanted what you didn’t deserve, none of this would have ever happened.”
Riley stops, starting to seethe now.
“Seeing you like this,” Zoey continues. “I guess you’re still paying for your crimes. Am I wrong?”
Riley has heard quite enough from this woman she only wanted to forget. She turns to face her, “You shut your goddamned mouth. How dare you. Who do you think made my life like this?”
Zoey laughs, “So, this is my fault? You haven’t changed one bit. Always blaming others for your shortcomings. You want to blame me when it was you who lacked talent and ran away.”
Riley wants to punch this woman’s lights out, but she knows that’ll only end badly. She grabs her daughter’s arm and tries to pull, but Mariah breaks free of her grip and Riley spills to the floor.
“I’m going to sing,” she tells her mother. “I want to receive lessons from Mrs. Kline. You don’t have a say anymore!”
Zoey crosses her arms across her chest, “Take your daughter and go.” She says to Riley. “If she doesn’t want to end up like you, she should just leave now.”
Riley is about to say something when her eyes spot the trophy.
Sitting there, shining in its golden glory for all the world to see.
TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO
“And now, it’s time to announce the grand prize winner in the International School of Music Festival competition.”
Zoey and Riley are standing side by side on the stage with other singers from the evening. Everyone is nervously waiting the result as Zoey’s father Jan makes the announcement.
Zoey did great, but Riley knows she was perfect tonight. She was the only one tonight to receive a standing ovation.
Jan continues to read from the card, “The winner of the Boca Vocal Award, is Zoey Sky!”
Zoey’s hands immediately go up to her mouth as she acts surprised by this verdict.
In comparison, Riley has a look of shock on her face as she turns to watch Zoey play it up for the crowd.
She watches as Jan hands Zoey Skye the trophy.
She watches as Zoey family comes up and hugs her, giving her flowers.
Moments later, Riley is dragging Zoey by the hand through the backstage area.
“What are you doing? Let me go!” shouts Zoey as Riley pulls her towards the dressing room area.
Riley drags Zoey into the room and closes the door.
“What are you doing?” demands Zoey as Riley locks the door.
Riley turns her attention to Zoey, “You? The grand prize winner? How could you possibly win when your voice cracked, and you couldn’t even reach the high note?!” Riley’s voice is rising in volume. “Can you accept that award with a clear conscience?”
Zoey looks behind her, nervous now.
“Give me that trophy,” Riley demands.
Zoey hugs the trophy to her, “You don’t always get to win first place, Riley. This is mine. The grand prize. I won. Not you. This will get me a free ride to this college for the rest of my time here.”
Riley is having none of Zoey’s bullshit, “Do you think everyone doesn’t know your daddy paid off the judges to get you this award? Your incompetence was on full display today and I swear to God, I’ll make sure everyone knows about it.”
“Go ahead!” yells Zoey, “Do you think anyone will believe you? This world only listens to money and you’re just a poor broke bitch.”
That was it. Riley lunges towards Zoey, grabbing the trophy and the two begin to struggle over it. Zoey spins around and Riley releases it, staggering away from it but immediately turns back to Zoey, determined to wrestle the trophy away from her.
This scuffle turns into a brawl as Riley throws Zoey across a desk, knocking over a light stand. Zoey recovers and drives Riley’s head into a desk. Riley picks up a bouquet of flowers and smacks Zoey in the face with them. They scuffle some more until the trophy falls to the floor.
Both girls look at the trophy lying there and then at each other and at the same time, they jump towards it. Riley is just a fingertip away when Zoey snatches it from her reach.
As the two get to their feet, ready for another showdown.
“This is my win. Every year, you humiliated me by winning, but this time it’s mine. Do you get it? I am the best in all of the institute. I am better than you,” Zoey tells her. “Know your place and just stop singing, bitch.”
Riley laughs. “You’re pitiful.”
Zoey is shocked. “What did you say?”
“I pity you,” Riley tells her. “Just how long will you rely on your father to make chances for you that you don’t deserve?”
Tears are coming to Zoey’s eyes at the hurtful words, “How dare you say that to me. I deserve everything.”
“It’s been three years and I’ve beaten you at every turn. I’ve proved I am the better singer by leaps and bounds. You don’t deserve shit,” Riley tells her. “And knowing you can’t beat me, you had your dad buy you that trophy. A worthless trophy for a worthless win. Fine. Have your win today. I’ll let you have your bogus win.”
Suddenly, there’s a pounding on the door.
“Open up this door!” Jan yells from the outside. He can be heard telling someone, “Break it down.”
Riley turns to Zoey, “Trophy or not, you know deep in your heart that you didn’t beat me. You will never beat me.”
Zoey turns back to face Riley, tears streaming down her face as Riley shares some truth with her.
“The fake winner, Zoey Skye,” Riley says.
Zoey’s face suddenly turns stone cold, “Say one more word, Riley. I swear I’ll kill you.”
Riley just laughs at her. “If you have even one ounce of decency in you, you’ll give me that trophy right fucking now.”
Zoey’s expression becomes sad again as she looks down at the trophy and then over at the defiant Riley. Zoey raises the trophy high into the air and slashes down at Riley, blood spraying over some nearby flowers as Riley screams.
Riley is in shock as she sees the blood all over her hands, coming from the slash on her neck. She clutches her neck and falls to the ground, staring up at Zoey, who looks down at her.
The pounding on the door continues as Zoey slowly walks towards Riley, when she hears the keys at the door. She knows she’s done for.
Suddenly, she has a plan. She reaches down and smears her hand into Riley’s blood. Then brings her hand up and wipes Riley’s blood all over her face as she grins down at Riley with a look that says, “I got you, bitch.”
Riley watches her with wide eyes, having no clue what this crazy person is doing.
Then, Zoey falls to the ground, feigning being unconscious.
The door bursts open as Riley continues to bleed on the floor. But she’s largely ignored as everyone rushes over to help Zoey. As they carry her out, Jan stops and looks down at Riley, who is actually the one bleeding there and shakes his head and follows his daughter out of the room.
Riley is staring at the trophy that cost her singing voice. Her hands go up around her throat as if this incident has just occurred.
Zoey is watching Mariah’s expression.
Matthew rushes in, “I’m sorry, ma’am. She just burst in here.” He quickly moves to help Riley to her feet, “Let’s go, lady.”
Zoey just sighs, “Make it quick. I have a lesson.”
As Mariah and Riley are pulled from the music room, Riley continues to look at that trophy until she’s completely out of the room.
Zoey expression completely changes as she walks over and sits down hard on the piano bench, her hand hitting a few keys. “Riley Oh. That was your daughter? Their voices are so alike.” Suddenly, her expression turns to anger, and she slams her hands down on the piano keys.
“This child ruined my daughter’s voice,” Amber is standing at the podium during the meeting to decide if Mariah should be punished. “My daughter has nightmares every night now.”
This would be news to Juliana, but she knows what to do as she reaches up to wipe away nonexistent tears from her face.
“I demand that child be expelled,” Amber continues.
The principal rises up. “We cannot have actions like this at our school. This child has no talent, no future. Her presence will only lead to trouble in the coming days. I ask the school board to expel Mariah Oh from this institution.”
The school board begins to get loud with members demanding that Mariah be expelled for her actions. It begins with a murmur and then it’s hard to hear yourself think with everyone yelling at once.
Riley sits there next to Mariah, who’s trying to look apologetic.
Finally, Riley can take it no more as she leaps to her feet and screams, “Shut your goddamned mouths!”
Suddenly, the gym goes quiet.
The principal is about to speak when suddenly, Riley walks over and climbs up onto the tables that have been placed around the room for them to sit at and everyone gasps at the outrageous behavior.
Mariah’s eyes go wide, and she rises from her chair as she watches her mother act in a way she’s never seen before.
Riley begins to run down the table, stepping over paperwork and knocking over bottles of water until she gets to where the principal is sitting and she kicks him square in the jaw, knocking out three teeth and sending him sprawling to the gym floor.
As a few teachers rush over to check on the principal, Riley turns to the school board, “You!” she yells and points. “You are the ones, trying to destroy my daughter’s life.” She is shrieking at this point as she screams. “Your comments are irresponsible and dangerous. That you would ruin a child’s life over rumor and without proof!
Mariah is watching her mother, tears streaming down her face.
“My daughter, Mariah, will not be expelled. I will not allow it. I will make sure she finishes this school and goes to college, you filthy pieces of crap! If you expel my child, I will bring the biggest lawsuit this country has ever seen.”
Amber’s eyes go wide, and she plops down into a chair next to Juliana.
As Riley climbs down from the table, and she walks back to Mariah as the murmuring begins again. Riley grabs her purse and then takes Mariah by the hand. “Let’s go.”
As Riley and Mariah disappear from the gym, Juliana begins to throw a tantrum, but Amber breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that could have been her getting her teeth kicked out.
Riley leads Mariah into the school hallway, and they begin to run towards the exit. Riley has a big smile on her face, but Mariah just looks at her mother in confusion.
Riley reaches up and removes the scarf from around her neck and tosses it over her head. Mariah finally gets it. Her mother did have her back after all and she smiles as the two run out of the school house.
A short while later, Riley is still dragging Mariah by the hand as they walk back into Zoey’s music room.
Sloane is standing there practicing with her mother, but Zoey sees the two walk in and stops playing.
Riley leads Mariah over to where the statue is and grabs it. She turns and marches over to stand in front of Zoey who looks at her with confusion.
Riley doesn’t respond to that, but she turns around and looks at her daughter, “Mariah. Sing your fucking heart out.”
Mariah’s eyes go wide as if she can’t believe what she’s hearing.
“You want to sing classical music, sing classical music. You want to go to IMS, we will find a way. I’ll make sure you get accepted, no matter what,” Riley continues.
Riley steps up to her nemesis, “Zoey, I’m done running away from you.”
Zoey isn’t having any of this, “Get out of my office.”
Riley takes the trophy and looks like she might stab Zoey in the throat with it but stops just short of touching her.
Sloane’s hands go up to her mouth in shock as she gasps.
Riley holds the trophy there as she leans in really close and whispers, “You never beat me. You will never beat me. You will always be the undeserving winner, Zoey Skye.”
Zoey’s eyes go wide
We see the two facing off with each other as the scene freezes.