We open back up where we left off. Riley has the sharp tip of that trophy right at Zoey’s throat. “You will never beat me,” Riley tells her. “You were a fraud then and you’re a fraud now.”
Sloane is still watching, appalled at seeing her mother threatened right in front of her eyes. “I’m going to go get help.”
“There’s no need,” Zoey says as she pushes the trophy away from her neck and looks at Riley with disdain, “Have you lost your mind? You’re going to threaten me in front of our kids? And I can still see you aren’t over me besting you at the Festival. You haven’t changed a bit.”
Riley just stares at the other woman, “Haven’t I?” Riley reaches up and pulls the collar away from her neck, exposing the long scar that has been there for 25 years now. “Remember this?”
Zoey remembers quite well. Vividly. She looks away from the scar.
“I guess you want your daughter to take lessons from me now?” Zoey says, quickly changing the subject. “First, I’m completely booked. Secondly, I have no desire to ever get involved with you or any member of your family again. Now, if I have made myself perfectly clear, you can leave.”
Riley laughs at Zoey, “If you think for one damn minute, I’d let my daughter take any lessons from you, you are still as deluded as you were in college.”
Mariah rushes up and takes her mother’s arm, “What are you doing? What’s wrong with you?” She has no clue what’s going on right now. All she knows is that there would be no better music teacher for her than Zoey Kline.
Riley brushes Mariah off, not quite finished with Zoey yet. “I could care less how exceptional of a teacher you are, to me, you’re always going to be second best. My daughter will be accepted based on her talent, I can assure you of that.”
“And you call me delusional,” Zoey scoffs. “Get out of my office before I have my daughter call the police.”
Riley smirks and walks by trophy still in hand. She brings that trophy up and slams the base of it on the piano, the off-key pitch echoing through the chamber. She turns back to Zoey, “I’ll be back,” she tells her, moving her eyes back towards the trophy, “for this. I just wanted you to know.”
She walks over and takes Mariah by the hand, “Let’s go,” she says, practically dragging her daughter towards the exit.
As the door closes, Sloane’s eyes are wide as she looks from the door back to her mother, “Mom! Who is that crazy lady? How can she barge in here and be so rude?”
Zoey casually picks up the trophy, “We went to the college together,” she explains as she walks over and places the trophy back on its pedestal. “Now? She’s just a mother upset that I refused to teach her daughter. She’s been that way since I’ve known her. Nothing changes. I don’t need you worrying about any of this. Concentrate on your studies.”
“That girl is going to audition for the institute?” Sloane asks, concern in her eyes.
Zoey whips her head around to face her daughter, “That will never happen!” she yells causing Sloane to take a couple of steps back. Sloane has never seen her mother yell like that before. To her, Zoey has always been all class. Confident, calm under any circumstance. To see her mother lose her cool like that causes some concern for Sloane.
Zoey realizes is to as she forces a smile, “Listen, that girl has no talent. Her mother was just being cocky.”
The look on Sloane’s face isn’t convincing, so Zoey gets serious again and walks towards her daughter, “Listen to me. You are going not only going to get into the ISM, but you’re going to first place in the audition, do you hear me?”
Wait, what? Sloane looks a little worried now, “First place?”
Zoey narrows her eyes, “You have to come in first place now. There is no other way. Your grandfather Jan has already invited several famous singers to come here you sing the solo at the entrance recital. Only the first place winner gets to sing the solo. I’m sure that Penelope did better than you in her finals, so you are going to have to beat her in the audition!”
Sloane is starting to stress and snaps back, “I will! I’ll beat her! I want to be better than her!”
Zoey grabs her daughter by the shoulders, “Listen to me. I have worked with you and spent more time teaching you than any of the others because you have to be the best. Do you know how many kids grow up and receive no support from their families? I have always placed you first and given you everything you need to succeed. Now is the time for you to return the favor by being first place in the audition. Your grandfather Jan is the director of the International School of Music, and you are going to have everything you’ll ever need, but you have to win this audition, Sloane. Do you understand?”
As if she wasn’t under enough pressure already, Sloane’s eyes are as big as saucers as she just bobs her head, “I understand,” she responds.
Zoey releases her daughter, “You must practice. Since and keep singing until everything is perfect. I need you to memorize every word and every note. I need you to eat, sleep and breath this piece of music. I want you to sing it in your dreams even after you fall asleep at night and sing it as you wake up first thing in the morning.” Zoey is pacing back and forth now, “If Penelope sings it a hundred times, you will sing it two hundred times.”
Zoey is back in front of Sloane who looks nervous as fuck right now. “That is the only way you will beat her. Now, let’s practice.”
“Did you mean it?” Mariah asks as they walk out of Madison Tower. “Can I really sing?”
“Did you mean it?” Mariah asks as they walk out of Madison Tower. “Can I really sing?”
Riley realizes that if she wants Mariah to be happy, she must let her sing. “If that’s what you want, then sing. I know you don’t have much time to prepare, but I’ll do whatever I can to support you.”
Mariah grabs Riley around the neck and hugs her excitedly. “I won’t let you down, mom. I will get accepted.” She finally pulls back, taking her mom’s hands in hers, “No, I’m going to come in first place. I will prove to you that you didn’t make the wrong choice.”
Riley’s eyes are tearing up, “That school will be full of children with privilege. In order for you to survive, you’re going to have to beat them with your talent. Do you understand?”
Mariah nods her head, “I can do this, mom. I know I can.”
Riley nods her head, smiling.
Mariah let’s her mom’s hands go, “But what’s the deal with you and Ms. Kline? You should have begged her to teach me, so why were you so angry at her?”
Riley isn’t sure she’s ready to tell this story to her daughter yet. “She and I have a complicated past.” Riley starts to walk on and Mariah rushes to catch up. “We’ll find you a good teacher. Don’t you worry. And I’ll make sure they stop picking on you at school.”
Mariah now looks worried, “Not sure how you’ll pull that one off, since you kicked the principal in the face and all.”
Riley had almost forgotten about that.
“We aren’t rich and powerful like Juliana’s family.”
Riley reaches for Mariah’s arm, stopping her from walking, “Listen to me. Trust me. I will take care of this.”
The principal is wearing a neck brace and has gauze in his mouth as Riley stands in front of him.
“How shameless are you that you show up here again?” asks Amber. “You’re violent and reckless. If your daughter is anything like you, I don’t want her in the same school as my precious princess.”
Riley is ignoring Amber as she faces the principal who hasn’t, or more likely can’t, say anything. “I’m very sorry, sir. I just lost my mind for a moment, really. This was entirely my fault, so whatever punishment you think I deserve to do, I’ll do it as long as you don’t let it tough my daughter.”
Amber rolls her eyes, crossing her arms across her chest.
Finally, the principal opens his mouth, and his two front teeth are missing, and Riley’s mouth drops open. “Do you think I can forgive something like this? Look at my face! You have ruined my face.”
Riley’s mouth isn’t the only one that drops as Amber’s jaw drops even more.
“I will never…” he tries to say another word, but his tongue gets caught between his teeth, so he tries again. “I won’t let this slide.”
“You kicked out his two front teeth,” Amber says. “You may as well have stabbed this man in the heart!”
Riley is really feeling badly now at what she’s done.
“I say you hold both mother and daughter accountable,” Amber continues. “Let’s nip this in the bud right here and now and send them packing.” Amber knows if she can get Mariah kicked out of school, it’ll be too late for her to find another school to host her audition, meaning one less piece of competition for her darling Juliana. “You’ve now ruined your daughter’s life. This is all on you.”
Riley has heard enough of Amber’s bullshit, “I’m here to apologize to the principal! Why are you still here?”
“You are crazy!” Amber tells her.
Riley shakes her head, “I know your daughter was putting on a show. I heard her speak during the altercation earlier, so I know your claim that her voice is ruined is complete bull shit.”
Amber’s eyes go wide.
“I realize you want to protect your daughter, but I’m going to protect mine as well,” Riley continues.
Riley turns and apologizes to the principal once more, then walks out of the office.
The principal rises from his seat, “I guess she caught on,” he says, then reaches for his neck in pain.
Amber turns her head to the principal, “Do you think you can return all the money I’ve given to this school? If not, get your shit together. Do you understand?”
The principal understands alright as he gingerly lowers himself back down onto his chair, “Right.”
Riley is a little disappointed in herself. As she walks into the city center, she sits on a bench and puts her head in her hands and whines, “What is going on with me?” The fact is, she’s been acting very unlike herself lately.
Frustrated, she brushes the hair out of her eyes, “Dammit,” she mutters.
Even if Mariah gets into the IMS, there’s one problem.
Riley has no idea how she’ll pay for it.
She finally rises from the bench and drapes her purse over her shoulder and her eyes fall on a billboard. A makeup billboard. And she’s seen that model before.
Suddenly, she has an idea.
Sometime later, Riley is walking up the path to a house. Well, not just any house, it’s the same house we saw earlier that the congressman bought without so much as paying Riley a dime for her trouble.
There are no cars parked so Riley lets herself in with her key that she just so happened to have not given to the congressman after his rude behavior the other day.
Walking up the stairs, she looks out for anyone who might be home and then walks over to the bookcase and between two photos, she places a tiny little video camera.
She just gets it positioned when the door downstairs opens and closes.
“Shit,” she whispers as she runs off.
“Where are you? I just got here,” the congressman says to someone on the phone. It would make complete sense that it was his mistress whom he got this house for. The same person that Riley saw on the billboard.
Riley is standing right outside the back door. She takes the back stairs down and ducks down in the tall grass just as a black SUV arrives and as before, the model is ushered in with as much discretion as possible.
As the woman disappears into the house, Riley rises up. She doesn’t seem happy to do what she’s about to do, but damned if she’s gonna get stiffed out of her realtor fee. “You reap what you sow, congressman,” she mutters under her breath. “I will do what I have to do for my daughter.”
“What? You have an opening? Oh, thank God!” Riley says into her phone as she scarfs down a candy bar. “I’ll bring her over tomorrow. She’s a senior in high school and trying out for the audition for the International School of Music. Her name is Mariah Oh.”
Suddenly, confuses crosses Riley’s face, “You don’t have an opening? Didn’t you just say there was an opening? Hello? Hello?”
She looks at her phone and the caller hung up. “What on earth…?”
Riley has no idea what happened, but then, suddenly she does. “She wouldn’t…”
Matthew is standing in front of Zoey’s desk. “I sent out Mariah’s details to everyone we know that teaches music.”
Zoey seems pleased, “What about her grades?”
Matthew hands over his tablet that has Mariah’s high school record on it.
Zoey smirks as she looks at the data page, but when she flips to the second page of the record, her smirk fades. Every class, from freshman to senior. “All As?”
Zoey is not happy about that at all.
“She’s the only one that could have done this. She’s got us banned,” Riley says to herself as she continues to sit at the convenience store. She puts her head in her hands, frustrated. “I need to get her a tutor.”
She crosses off that name off the list. A look at her notepad sees that every name she had has been scratched off.
She shoves her stuff in her purse, grabs the corndog and gets up running out the door, taking a bite.
Behind her, we see Layla putting some items into a basket. She’s wearing a vest with the convenient store logo on it. The bell rings and someone yells, “Sorry I’m late.”
At the cash register, Layla hands over the vest to the next person on shift and sets her basket on the counter. Everything inside is expired and marked down 50 to 75%. Milk. Cakes. She begins to load everything into her purse.
“You’re taking food again? The boss isn’t going to like it,” her replacement tells her.
Layla just smiles, “It’s all expired food. He doesn’t care.”
However, she pays for a can of dog food and some dog treats.
Tutoring has begun and Layla begins to go over the class for the afternoon. “As you can see here, we’ll be going over polynomial expressions and factorization, with a focus on inequations and quadratic function.”
She starts the class but sees that Penelope is engrossed in a texting conversation on her phone.
“Penelope. Can you put your phone away?” Layla asks.
Penelope smirks at her, “I sure can.” But then she continues to text, each button pressed sending out little clicks through the phone’s speaker.
Annoyed, Layla rises up and walks over to Penelope’s book shelf and pulls out a school workbook and begins to flip through it. “You didn’t do any of the work in this book. How are your grades so good?”
Cross watches her get up and walk to the shelf, but it’s Penelope who looks up from her conversation and gets up, marches over and snatches the book out of Layla’s hands and throws it on the ground.
“Rude much?” Penelope asks.
Layla doesn’t back down. “I’m checking to see how good you are so I’m not repeating stuff you already know.”
“We don’t need your tutoring, but I can see you need the money. So, I suggest you just sit here quietly and then when the time is up, get your money and leave.” Penelope glares at her. “Just like every other tutor we’ve had.”
Layla isn’t sure what to think of all of this.
Penelope’s phone rings and she answers it. “What’s up, Sloane? For real?” Penelope turns around and walks out the door.
Cross rises up, “Let’s take a break.”
Layla just sighs. This is not working at all.
“Wait, what did you say?” asks Penelope, still on the phone with Sloane.
Jessica is setting the table for dinner when she hears Penelope down the hallway. She stops what she’s doing and peeks down the hall to find out what’s going on. She knows it’s the twins tutoring time.
“That was perfect. Good job,” Penelope tells Sloane over the phone.
Jessica walks down the hall and Penelope notices, rolling her eyes. “I’ll call you back.”
“We paid for a tutor because finals are coming up. Why are you out here on the phone?” Jessica asks. “Turn it off and get back in there.”
Penelope steps up to Jessica, “I’ll do whatever I damn well please.” She turns and walks off.
Jessica goes after her, “Penelope!” But Penelope goes into her room and shuts the door. Cross comes down the stairs and Jessica turns to him, taking his wrist, “What is going on with Penelope?”
“Think about it for just a moment and you’ll understand why she might be acting like that,” he tells Jessica. He pulls his hand free and walks towards his bedroom, shutting the door behind him as Jessica looks on with concern.
Zoey is in the gym, running the treadmill. She’s having trouble concentrating as her might flashes back to the sudden intrusion into her life by Riley Oh. The incident earlier sticks with her and she finally slams down on the stop button of the treadmill, and it comes to a stop.
Zoey has moved to the rowing machine when Sebastian walks into the gym. He spots her immediately and walks towards her, then takes a seat next to her and begins to row.
Zoey glances to the side and sees Sebastian, but plays it cool, returning to her workout.
“You didn’t get my text?” Sebastian asks in a hushed tone. “I waited at the hotel for you.”
Zoey continues to row, “You and I have a lot to lose to meet at a place that’s typically so crowded.”
“At least I know you’re still interested.” He stops rowing and gets up from the seat. He walks around in front, and something falls from his pocket. He casually reaches down to pick up a wallet from the floor and walks over to Zoey. “I think you dropped this.”
Inside the wallet is a key card.
Zoey slowly reaches for the wallet and when her fingers touch it, Sebastian releases it into her care and then leans forward. “I think you know where this key goes to, am I right?”
Sebastian doesn’t give her a chance to answer as he walks away.
Zoey watches him leave and with a mild smirk, she begins to row again.
Sebastian steps into the penthouse and is greeted with the unsightliest pair of shoes. He pauses and looks down at them, wondering who in the world could be in his penthouse that belongs to these pair of shoes.
He walks away but returns with a gadget he uses to pick up the shoes, so he doesn’t have to touch these filthy things. “Mrs. Sharm!” he yells as he carries the shoes down the hall. Holly comes down to meet him.
“Whose shoes are these?” he holds them up as if it were a dead carcass.
“Sir, those shoes belong to the tutor.”
Sebastian is not happy. “These things are disgusting. Throw them in the trash, right now.”
As Holly takes the shoes, Jessica, the twins and Layla walk around the corner.
“She’s the twins’ new tutor,” Jessica explains.
Sebastian is absolutely disgusted by these shoes, and he can barely look at Layla in her worn, old clothes. “Thank you for teaching my children.”
Layla takes her shoes from Holly, “I should get going.” She hurries to the door.
Sebastian throws that gadget he was using against the wall, “Must she teach them here?” He doesn’t even care that Layla can hear him. “I hate having outsiders in here! Who knows what she could have walked through and trampled her soil into my home! Throw out anything she may have touched. Right now!”
Layla is putting her shoes on and can hear every word. Tears are starting to form in her eyes.
“If she used a cup, throw it out. Clean the bathroom again. Clean these carpets. Everything!”
“Yes, sir,” Ms. Yang tell him and goes to start cleaning.
“Aren’t you being a little harsh,” Jessica asks him. He ignores her and stalks off to shower.
The twins just grin at each other as Jessica rushes after Layla, who just walked out the door.
“Miss Lee! Anna!” Jessica yells, catching Layla before she gets on the elevator. Layla turns around to meet her.
“I’m sorry about that. My husband has serious OCD. I want to apologize on his behalf,” Jessica explains to the young woman.
Layla shakes her head, “It shouldn’t be you who apologizes, right?”
Jessica smiles at Layla, “The twins are a bit rough, aren’t they?”
Layla isn’t going to admit she hasn’t figured out how to get through to them yet, “It’ll be okay. I’ll do my job.”
“If it makes you feel any better, they’re just as harsh with me,” Jessica says. “Please tell me if there’s anything I can do.”
Layla smiles at the woman, “I’ll do that.”
There seems to be some sort of connection between these two.
Sebastian is just out of the shower when his phone begins to ring.
“Good evening, sir. Do what do I owe the pleasure of your phone call?” he says as he answers his phone.
After a moment, his smile fades away. “Penelope did what?”
Sebastian walks over and turns on the record player and moves the needle over and music begins to play.
Penelope, followed by Cross, walk into Sebastian’s study.
Once they enter, Sebastian walks over and locks the door.
Penelope reaches out and grabs onto Cross’s hand, looking worried.
Sebastian walks back to the desk, turning to face Penelope. “I just heard the most unbelievable story,” he says to her. “Your teacher tells me that you turned in a blank answer sheet for today’s exam.”
Cross’s eyes go wide and his head snaps to the side to look at his sister, “What is he talking about?”
Penelope’s gaze drops to the floor.
Cross turns back to his father, “That can’t be true,” he tries to tell him.
“I wasn’t talking to you, Cross,” Sebastian says to his son. His eyes fall back on Penelope, “Is this story true or false? According to your grade up until yesterday, you had all As and were at the top of the class.”
Penelope winces as he continues.
“Today, you submitted a blank answer sheet. I implore you to tell me this is just a fabrication, or that I misheard your principal. Or maybe, he’s just mistaken. Tell me something, Penelope!”
Penelope’s eyes are closed and she’s even shaking a little bit as she answers.
Cross can’t believe it. He gives her all the answer sheets after he fills them out. How could it have been blank.
“I don’t want to go to the International School of Music,” she explains, finally, barely lifting her eyes up to look at her father. “That’s why I did it.”
“What?” Sebastian asks with confusion on his face.
“Penelope!” shouts Cross. “What is wrong with you?”
“I don’t want to be a singer,” she explains. She finally gains enough courage to look at her father with disdain, “That’s your dream for me, but not my dream.”
Sebastian sighs, “And I told you I wanted our family to have a famous classical singer.”
Penelope marches up and gets in her father’s face, but Cross tries to pull her back, “That doesn’t mean it has to be me.” She’s starting to get angry and begins to yell, “You never once asked me what I wanted!”
Sebastian just watches his daughter meltdown right in front of him as she begins to cry now, “I hate singing on stage more than anything in the world. I have had it. I’m done with it all. I hate school, I hate singing, I hate this fucking house!” she screams at him. “Can’t you see I’m slowly dying here?
Sebastian doesn’t all that sympathetic to Penelope’s pleas. Taking a step towards her, he asks, “Then what is it you want to do, my dear daughter?”
“Send us across country to another school. Just not a music school,” Penelope says with a deep growl, tears still running down her face.
Cross’s eyes go wide at the word ‘us.’ All of this is news to him.
“UCLA? Berkley?” Sebastian asks, “What prestigious school would my children attend across country?”
This was the last thing Cross wanted to happen to them tonight. He hadn’t known his sister was going to fuck up so royally and now dad was pissed.
Penelope, of course, has no answer for her father as she sits there, face full of tears.
Sebastian is a strict father. It’s his way and no other way. He wants Penelope to go to the International School of Music and by God, she will go. He has a saying in times like these as he lets out a big, annoyed sigh. “We should spend some time together.”
Penelope’s eyes go wide because she knows exactly what that means.
So does Cross.
Sebastian pushes his way between the two and Cross immediately reaches for his arm, “Father, it’s all my fault,” he exclaims as he rushes in front of Sebastian. Penelope has grabbed her father’s other arm. “I should have paid more attention to her at school. I promise that this will never happen again!”
Penelope is trying so hard not to just completely break down.
“You know I hate it when a man grovels and whines,” Sebastian tells his son.
Cross places his hand on his heart, “I will make sure she changes her mind.”
Sebastian suddenly just slaps Cross in the face. Hard. Cross staggers back, his hand going to his cheek. Sebastian moves closer, “I warned you. You both seem to forget who runs this household. Whose money pays for all your privilege. I have rules and I expect them to be followed. And you know what happens with you disobey my rules.”
Suddenly, Cross is angry! He yells out, “You promised me you wouldn’t hit her!” He takes a deep breath, “If you want to hit someone so badly, then you hit me!”
“If that’s what you want, so be it.” Sebastian tells him. “Your twin sister is the wrong who should be punished. It could have been a learned lesson for her. Perhaps, with this, you’ll be more attentive to her.”
Sebastian walks over and opens the door to his wardrobe. Penelope rushes over and tries to grab him, but Sebastian turns and pushes her down to the floor where she starts to bawl.
From her place on the floor, Penelope begins to beg her father, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Dad, please!”
Sebastian ignores her, pulling a belt from the rack and handing it to Cross. “Hold this.”
Cross takes the belt that he will soon feel as Sebastian literally drags Penelope across the floor and into the hallway, slamming the door behind her. She hears it lock.
It’s quiet for a moment as she sits there, crying and then jumps when the first sound of the belt is heard. Then another. And another. And another.
Penelope sobs uncontrollably.
Jessica rushes into the penthouse, Holly is standing near the door. “Why doesn’t anyone pick up my call?”
Holly shakes her head, “I’m not sure.”
Jessica starts down the hall when she nearly runs into Cross and Penelope. Penelope is helping Cross down the hallway. Cross has his hand over his back.
“What’s wrong, Cross? Are you sick?” Jessica asks.
Penelope’s eyes are on fire as she snaps a look at Jessica, “Where were you this time? You always seem to know when to disappear. It’s kind of like you know this is going to happen.”
Jessica is completely confused, “What are you talking about?” She turns to Cross, “What’s wrong with you?” she reaches a hand towards him, but Penelope bats it away with her hand.
Cross’s eyes are red, puffy as he looks at Jessica, “Do you even care about us?”
Jessica is shocked.
“Move,” Penelope demands and leads her brother towards the stairs.
Jessica turns to Holly, “What happened to them?”
Holly knows where her paycheck comes from, “I wouldn’t know.”
Jessica heads down the hall towards Sebastian’s study, meeting him as he’s coming out, “What happened to the kids?”
Sebastian looks almost innocent, “They were fighting, so I scolded them.” This little form of punishment has always been hidden away from his wife. She’s their stepmother and in the end, in Sebastian’s mind, it doesn’t concern her how he punishes his children.
“What were they fighting about?” she asks, concern in her eyes. Cross and Penelope have been acting odd towards her and she has no clue why. They won’t tell her. She’s completely in the dark. Jessica shakes her head, “They never fight.”
“That’s why I scolded them,” Sebastian explains. “It’s the final year of school before college. I’m sure they’re just getting anxious for it to be over and it’s making them irritable.” He shrugs, then turns to her, “Are they giving you a hard time?” he asks.
“No, of course not,” she lies. Whatever is going on with the twins, she can handle it. She doesn’t want to seem incompetent in front of her husband.
Sebastian accepts that answer, leaning over to kiss his wife on the cheek and then walks past her, leaving Jessica with a look of concern on her face. Something is going on here, she just knows it.
Upstairs, Penelope has pulled the back of Cross’s shirt up and is putting ointment on his wounds. “Does it hurt?” she asks. It’s a stupid question, but the silence was getting to be too much. She knows she is responsible for all of these marks on her brother’s back.
As the ointment touches the open flesh, Cross winces, breathing in sharply, “It’s fine. Stop worrying.”
Tears are still streaming down Penelope’s face as she applies the ointment. “You know you’re all I have, right? You are my only ally.”
She reaches up and wipes at her nose with her sleeve as Cross gingerly lowers down the back of his shirt. He carefully turns around to face his sister and tells her, “I will protect you. I will make sure no one can hurt you.”
Penelope breaks down now as she leans into him. She manages to sob out an “I’m sorry.”
Layla has taken her puppy to the vet. The puppy isn’t really a puppy, but small enough to be confused for one.
“The tumor is growing. There’s really nothing we can do for him,” the vet tells her.
Layla reaches into her purse and pulls out the envelope that was given to her by Jessica. She offers it to the vet, “I have the money now. Can you operate? Please?”
The vet reaches into the envelope and pulls out the money.
“You said, $2,000, right?” Layla seems hopeful.
“You must have misheard me,” the vet tells her. “The $2,000 is just for the operation. But, there’s so much more to it. Hospitalization, rehab. It’ll be closer to $6,000.”
Layla’s heart falls.
The vet can see that, “Listen. If you can get together $5,000, I’ll take it and do the operation. Just make sure you bring cash,” he explains.
He slides the envelope into his pocket as she looks at him, “Is it really that much?” She has no clue how she’s going to get another $3,000.
“The tumor has grown and so the operation will be more difficult, as will the recovery. I need to tell you that your puppy doesn’t have a lot of time.”
Layla is about to cry as she scoops her puppy up into her arms and holds her, “I can’t let her die. I’ll do what I have to. I just have to save her.” For Layla, her puppy is all she has left in the world.
“I’ll get the money somehow,” she tells the vet. The look on his face shows he hopes she doesn’t find it. He’s already pocketed two grand.
Back at her apartment, Layla scoops some food into the dog dish, but the puppy just looks up at her.
“What’s wrong? Why aren’t you eating, Sugar?”
Sugar gives a tiny little bark.
“Fine. Fine. I’ll eat too,” Layla tells her. This dog seems to take care of Layla, as much as Layla takes care of her. Layla reaches into her bag and pulls out one of the stale sandwiches from the convenience store and starts to eat. She finishes her bit and looks at Sugar, “See, I’m eating.”
Satisfied, Sugar dips her head into the dog dish and begins to eat.
“You’re such a good girl,” Layla tells her.
After dinner, Layla is cutting something from paper. In a chair next to her, Sugar is sitting up listening intently as Layla explains her day. “I actually went to Madison Tower today. It’s where all the rich people live. The lobby is huge and shiny. Oh, and there’s a massive angel statue in a fountain. I had to leave my ID at the door, just to get in. Isn’t that fascinating?” she says, turning to look at Sugar who is staring up at her as if she’s actually paying attention.
“The kids there are my age, but I have them right under my thumb. I’m teaching them a lot as a tutor, so don’t you worry about me,” she tells her pup. “You just worry about your operation and your recovery.”
Sloane walks into the condo, schoolbooks in her arms. She wasn’t expecting to find her mother Zoey standing in front of her bedroom door.
“Your Italian tutor is coming. Make sure you’re ready and give him your undivided attention,” Zoey tells her.
Sloane’s eyes go wide, “Right now?” She glances at the clock on the wall, “It’s after 11. I’m exhausted.”
One look from Zoey and Sloane reconsiders, “I’ll go get ready, I guess.” She walks past her mother and into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Zoey walks down to the living room where Kyle is nursing a drink.
“Aren’t you being a little tough on her?” he asks his wife as she sits on the couch opposite him.
Zoey reaches for a music book and flips through it, “Her audition is coming soon. Besides, aren’t you the one always pressuring her to be better than Penelope?”
Kyle sneers, “That’s because Sebastian Gaston is a pompous asshole. I’d love to see him get knocked down a peg or two. He tries to be so high and mighty but comes across like a condescending son of a bitch. Always thinking money can get him anything he wants. And he has the gall to order me around like I’m his little puppet. I am the lead surgeon of International Hospital. I save lives. What does he do but sit around on his ass all day inside his cushy office and scheme?”
Kyle doesn’t mention how he shares in the dividends of Sebastian’s investments.
“You realized that thanks to him, you have an overflowing amount of VIP patients, right? Rock stars, politicians, actors. All of those are thanks to him,” Zoey reminds him, perhaps even coming to Sebastian’s defense.
“That’s why I’m being nice about it,” Kyle says as he gets up and walks over to refill his glass with more scotch. “Sebastian Gaston is still fairly useful to me.” He glances down at the bottle of scotch, “This isn’t what I normally buy. Isn’t this the same shit that Sebastian buys?”
Zoey almost looks guilty. She knows if she’s going to lure that man into her snare, she’s going to have to get to know him a little better, so yes, she went out and bought a bottle of scotch that Sebastian likes.
“There’s something not right about this scotch. Don’t buy this kind again, it tastes like crap,” Kyle tells her. “How can he drink this shit?”
Zoey has had quite enough. She slams her book closed and sighs. “Then don’t fucking drink it, Kyle!” She turns to look at him, “Why are you badmouthing him when you follow him around like a sad little puppy? The penthouse, the scotch and look at that sweater! Isn’t that his sweater that he wore once and handed down to you? What is your problem?”
Kyle looks down at the sweater he’s wearing. Of course, what she says is true about it. As he glances back up at her, wondering what’s gotten into her all of a sudden, she says, “All of this? You just feel inferior to him.”
Kyle slams the scotch bottle on the table and points to her, “Say that shit one more time and we’re getting a divorce. Don’t you ever say that to me.”
Kyle gets up and starts to walk away, behind him Zoey just rolls her eyes. After taking a few steps, he turns around, “Can Sloane beat Penelope?”
“Sloane has more competition than just Penelope.”
Kyle seems concerned, “Who else besides the twins?”
Zoey knows but is not even going to say that bitch’s name.
Speaking of Riley, she walks into Mariah’s room with a tray. On the tray is all the things she needs for a sore throat. Tea, lemon, honey, but as she walks in, Mariah is passed out. Riley sets the tray on Mariah’s dresser and then walks over, drawing up the blankets for her daughter.
She walks over and sees the crumbled up music pages. Mariah has taken the time to smooth them all out so she can still use them after Riley trashed them. She still feels badly about that and if she could afford to buy her more books, she would. She’s got to save up enough money to get her daughter into that school.
Running her fingers across the uneven wrinkles on the page, she turns to her sleeping daughter and says, “I’m sorry. I had no right to try and stop you from pursuing your dream.”
As she watches her daughter sleep, she whispers, “I’ll sort this out. I promise.”
As Riley turns to leave the room, Mariah’s voice is heard. “I’m sorry for saying all those awful things to you. Especially about dad passing away.” Mariah is awake, but after she finishes speaking, she closes her eyes again.
Riley is about to lose it, so she closes Mariah’s door, stepping out to have a good cry.
“Did you take this video?” the congressman asks with a look of surprise and anger on his face. Riley is showing him the video of him and his mistress in the house.
Riley isn’t stupid. A café was the best place to extort a congressman.
The congressman forgets where he is and yells out, “Are you fucking crazy?” which gets everyone’s attention. He realizes that now, a little too late.
“Might want to watch yourself with so many people watching,” Riley tells him. “Can you compose yourself now?”
The congressman lowers his voice, “How dare you try and blackmail me. Do you think you can continue as a realtor after this?”
“You act as if I have something to lose in all of this. I don’t,” she explains. “Let me cut to the chase here. If you want to run for another term in congress, you better pay me to keep my mouth shut.”
The congressman clenches his fist. The look on his face says just how much he wants to punch this woman right in the face. He’s starting to lose his cool again. “You realize that with one phone call, I can make you disappear right?”
Riley has already queued the video to be sent to newspapers, television stations and the like. With a press of the button on her tablet, “Shall I send this video out then?” Her finger hovers over the send button.
The congressman looks like he might try and move her hand, but he realizes he could cause her to inadvertently send this video out to the media, so he pulls his hand back.
“You cheated on your wife. You cheated me out of my commission. You even sexually harassed me. You have lived your life as a lying, cheating bastard. You should be thanking the God almighty that you can stop this with money,” she scolds him, staring him right in the face.
He knows he’s been beaten.
Moments later in a parking garage, he hands her an energy drink box and then waves her off. “Get lost now.”
Riley waits until the car drives off before letting out a sigh of relief.
An hour later, that same box is dropped onto the principal’s desk.
Still in a neck brace, he looks at the box with some confusion. “You’re here asking for forgiveness? With energy drinks? Do you think I’m the type of guy who takes bribes, Ms. Oh?”
“You might want to open the box,” Riley tells him. This is where it starts to make her daughter’s dreams come true. She has to keep her daughter in school, no matter the cost.
The principal eyes her for a moment and then reaches over and opens the top of the box. His eyes go wide as the box is filled to the brim in cash. Lots of one hundred dollar bills. He immediately closes the box and looks up at her.
“I imagine you know how much is in there, since you’ve received them so often,” she grins at him.
His eyes go wide, “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about…”
“Jenny’s parents and all the other parents. I know all about those bribes,” Riley explains. “I have no intention on telling anyone. As long as Mariah graduates, you take this money and I keep my mouth shut.”
The principal still has his hands on the box, so when he doesn’t answer one way or the other, Riley knows she’s won this one too. She turns and walks out of his office.
Sebastian walks into the school superintendent’s office and is greeted with a hardy handshake.
“It’s good to see you, Mr. Gaston,” the superintendent says.
“Mr. Rice, great to see you as well. I brought a proposal for the redesign of the school gym,” Sebastian hands over an envelope to the gob smacked superintendent.
“You have already donated brand new computers to the library, this is too much.”
Sebastian waves him off. “It’s all for the kids, right?”
Mr. Rice leans in, “And I took care of the issue with Penelope’s blank test sheet. The teacher involved was very appreciative of the donation.”
Sebastian grins. Of course, she was. “Let’s schedule a special dinner for that particular teacher soon.”
Sebastian just continues to grin, knowing that once again, he got his way.
We see a neighborhood, littered with trash and graffiti. Over the street, a banner is hung that says, “We lost our land and homes!”
A black van pulls up and stops, with several large men getting out of the van. Asher gets out of the driver’s seat and watches as his men begin to systematically destroy a small family store on the corner of the street.
With bats, they smash anything they can from food, to windows, to shelves and boxed and canned goods.
An old man is yelling for them to stop, but they have their orders:
Run these people out of this neighborhood.
We finally see Asher turn back to another car and sitting in the back, casually swiping through some property on his tablet, Sebastian seems to be the one giving the orders. He glances up and with a big grin, he nods his head to his right hand man.
Pretty soon, all Sebastian will be able to smell is money for miles around him.
He dials his phone, “Kyle, the first stage is underway. You can start on your part next.”
“You got it,” Kyle says into his phone then drops it into his pocket. Kyle leads a group of residents through the hospital corridor, and he stops at a room, opening the door and stepping inside.
“Mr Chu!” Kyle says as the residents gather around. “How are you feeling?”
The older man is lying in a hospital bed, “Don’t you worry, doc. I’m gonna be around another fifty years.” Everyone laughs.
Kyle leans in and speaks frankly with the man, “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“What is it?”
“The residents in our new developmental area are refusing to move out and hampering our progress to get things moving over there.”
“The media took the story. You’re up, Chris,” Kyle reports to the lawyer of the group. Chris points at the statue of Justice that decorates his office.
“Of course, the final part is up to me. The law will be on our side,” Chris says dramatically as he stares at the statue. Turning to the others in the room, he hands a portfolio to Sebastian.
“The owner of that building has a loser for a son.” He hands one towards Kyle, but just as Kyle is going to accept it, Chris lets go of it and it drops on the table.
Kyle is annoyed as he reaches for it.
Chris ignores him and continues, “The son is currently on trial for homicide, which stems from an assault which resulted in a death. It’ll take quite a bit to get that taken care of. The lawyer of the victim went to school with my father. I told him to take that runt for everything he can get out of him.”
Sebastian is looking over the documents, “If we report him for tax evasion, along with this case against his son, he doesn’t stand a chance. He still owes half of his original loan on the building, and he tried to get additional funding, but all the banks have turned him down.”
Chris grins, “Bingo. I say he’ll be done before the end of the month.”
“Chris, you must treat your father well for him to spoil you like this,” Kyle says as he sets his portfolio back on the table and reaches for his drink.
Chris doesn’t even take offense to it as Kyle intended. “It takes quite the talent to accept everything my father gives me.” He turns to Sebastian. “How much profit are we talking about on this piece of land?”
“At least 300 percent return on investment,” Sebastian explains. He’s really the money man of the outfit. Kyle can cozy up to his VIP patients and Chris takes care of all the legal stuff. “Here is the first return on investment,” he slides a briefcase on the table, “right here in solid gold.” He picks up another briefcase and slides it to Kyle.
They each open their briefcases and inside are layers of gold bars.
Chris nearly orgasms at the sight of the gold in his briefcase. “It’s a thing of beauty.” He goes so far as to lay his face right on the gold bars. Kyle just admires the metallic beauties in his briefcase.
“Let’s finish this up and move on to the next deal,” Sebastian says. “You’re going to love this one, but your investment will have to be more than anything you’ve done up to this point combined.”
With grins on their faces, they toast to their success now and in the future.
Amber is pissed as she walks into a coffee shop. She spots who she’s looking for and walks over, slamming her purse down on the table in front of Riley, before taking a seat across from her.
“What sort of deal did you make to the principal to make him cave to you?” Amber demands, crossing her arms across her chest.
Riley wasn’t expecting this woman and scowls across the table.
“Do you think buying off him washes away your crimes against my daughter?” Amber continues. “I will follow you to the ends of the Earth to make you pay for what your brat of a kid has done.”
Riley just shrugs her shoulders, “Fine. Do it. In fact, let’s take Juliana to the hospital so I know how much damage has been done so we can settle this once and for all.”
Amber seems surprised, “What?”
“Let’s get her examined. If she really has damage to her throat, I’ll pay you whatever is fair.” Riley suggests, “However, if there’s no damage, I will ask that you kindly apologize for your behavior.”
“Are you high? How can you possibly insist that my darling Juliana would ever do anything that she should have to apologize for?” Amber asks, her voice starting to get louder.
Riley is not intimidated in the least by this aggressive woman, “You would know her best, wouldn’t you?” Riley says, keeping her voice calm. “And I wouldn’t even begin to tell a woman she’s not raising her child right, but… you’re not raising your child right. Nothing good ever comes from making someone else’s child cry. So, think about this. Who will lose more if this continues? You should think about it very carefully and then determine how you want to proceed.”
Riley reaches for her purse, tosses a smirk at Amber who’s still mulling over Riley’s words, and then gets up and walks out.
“Hey! Stop right there!” Amber yells, standing up from her seat. “I’m not done talking yet!” she yells at Riley who walks by the window of the coffee shop. Amber starts pounding on the window and Riley tosses a brief glance her way and then continues walking.
Mariah is standing outside of the school, practicing Handel’s Rinaldo when her mother walks by behind her. Mariah doesn’t see her mother, so continues to sing her heart out.
“Ms. Oh?” Kelly says as she walks by. “Do you remember me?” she asks the mother.
Riley nods her head, “You’re Juliana’s tutor, aren’t you?”
Kelly shrugs, “I got fired. Juliana got in with one of Zoey Kline’s classes. I was just filling in while she waited for an opening.” She turns to Mariah, “She’s got a lovely voice. I can see why Juliana was jealous of her.” Kelly turns to Riley, “Is she going to audition?”
Riley nods, “She is.”
“Does she have a tutor?” Kelly asks.
Riley finally turns back to Kelly, “She’s teaching herself at the moment.”
Kelly seems concerned, “Why is that?”
“No one will teach her.” Riley is trying to keep her composure over all of this. “I think word is spreading around about her. Perhaps about the stuff that happened at the school.”
“Listen,” Kelly says, “I know that Mariah was falsely accused. And I’m sorry about what happened in the office. I really had no right to get involved.”
“It’s fine,” Riley says. “If you’d have come to her defense, it would have turned out badly for you anyway. It’s all over with now.”
Kelly turns to watch Mariah who is still singing, but oblivious to the conversation going on behind her. “Someone with a voice like that could easily get passed the audition. All she needs is a little bit of coaching.” Turning back to Riley, she offers, “Would you let me teach her?”
That takes Riley by surprise, “What?” she squeaks out. “Are you being serious?”
Kelly nods, “Mariah has so much more potential than Juliana does. She has a beautiful tone and hits each note nearly perfectly. I’d like a chance to mold her. I have no pull to get her into one of Mrs. Kline’s classes, but I can certainly work with her, if you’ll allow.”
“Thank you so much!” Riley says, a little louder than she meant to. It gets Mariah’s attention as she turns around to see her mother with Kelly. A look of confusion crosses her face.
Moments later, they are in the music room. There’s a pianist playing, and Mariah is singing her heart out to the second act of the Handel piece she was singing earlier. Kelly is guiding her along.
As Mariah hits the final note of the song, Kelly begins to clap her hands. “Bravissimo! You are so good, Mariah.” She glances at the music on the stand, “This should do well for the Italian song for the audition. Which German song will you do?”
Mariah is confused, “What German song? Don’t they test on two Italian songs?”
“Didn’t you see the notice?” asks Kelly with concern. “The exam was changed this year to one Italian and one German song.”
Mariah starts to panic, “I don’t speak any German. What am I going to do?”
“Oh my gosh,” Kelly says as she considers this dilemma. “Juliana has already been practicing her German song. This won’t do. Starting today, we’ll focus on your German song and get you ready for the competition.” Kelly walks over to her shelf and starts to pull out a few songs, “But which shall we do?”
“Are we going to have enough time?” asks Mariah.
Kelly finds the right piece and walks back over, “You are a brilliant child. You will catch up quickly. Just practice hard and follow my lead.”
This seems to reassure Mariah as she smiles again. “I’ll work hard. You got my word on that.”
“This is Schubert’s “Die Forelle.” Kelly turns to the pianist, “Shall we start?”
The piano begins to play.
Sloane is singing The Queen of the Night from Mozart with Zoey playing along on the piano. She’s having some difficulty reaching some of the higher notes.
When we transition to Mariah, performing the same piece, but hitting each note flawlessly.
When Sloane completely botches a high note, Zoey gets frustrated and slams down on the piano keys several times.
“That’s not how you sing that! You keep going flat at that note. Use your Maschera and project the sound forward!”
Sloane nervously reaches for her water bottle and takes a drink as Zoey continues to rant at her daughter.
“Sing each note separately! Do not clump them all together! You keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Why?” Zoey whines a little at the question.
Sloane puts her bottle down and turns to her mother, “I’ll try again. I know I can do this. I’ll sing it perfectly this time.”
Zoey isn’t convinced, but as she goes to start the song over on the piano, her phone chimes. She pauses to reach for it. The text simply reads.
“35th Floor Garden.”
A slight smirk crosses Zoey’s face.
Chris sneaks into the condo and with a grin on his face, slips his pants off at the door. He sneaks down the hallway in his shirt and underwear and leaps out in the living room, “I’m home!” he shouts out as Angel looks appalled. She throws her magazine down and leaps to her feet, rushing over to grab Chris by the arm. “Carson’s tutor is here! You can’t strip out here!”
She drags him over to the couch and then as he sits down, she drapes his coat over his lap. “Didn’t you say you’d be late preparing for trial?”
Chris is still laughing about his little antic, as he usually does. “Dad went home early, so I checked over my fault and escaped the office. I can’t prepare for a trial without dad around.”
Angel’s frustrated, “You need to start being able to do things on your own. That way when your father is ready to step down, he’ll have confidence you can run things. Or do you just plan to be an employee all your life?”
Chris’s amusement dies out at Angel’s scolding. “It’s going to be mine anyway,” he tells her. “My sisters aren’t interested in taking over the law firm.”
“You don’t know that!” says Angel. “Your middle sister…”
“Rachel…” Chris reminds her.
“Rachel! She keeps asking me to set her up with that young attorney over there. What’s his name? Park?”
“Parker,” Chris reminds her yet again. “And what are you talking about? The ink isn’t even dry yet on her latest divorce.”
Angel sighs, “Isn’t it obvious? She’s trying to claim her share of the law firm. Wow, you really are dumb, aren’t you?” A hint of disdain is in her voice at the moment.
“Are you badmouthing my sister?” Chris asks Angel, seriously. “She’s my big sister.”
Angel realizes she may have overstepped and slowly a seductive smile comes across her face as she reaches for Chris’s arm, “I’m just saying you’re a bit naïve.”
Chris pouts and pulls his arm away from her, “I’m upset at you now.” He stands up and leaps over onto the other couch, still in just his underwear, burying his face into a pillow.
“You trust them too much,” Angel tries to explain.
“Hurry up and make me feel better,” Chris continues to pout. “If you don’t, I’ll tell my mom.”
Oy, not the mom threat again. As Chris rolls onto his back, Angel reluctantly rises from her feet and walks over to the couch.
Chris puckers up.
Angel hates it when he’s like this. She actually looks a little disgusted to have to do this right now when he’s being a big jerk, but she places her hands on each side of his face and leans down.
She kisses his forehead.
Chris’s eyes open up. He shakes his head and puckers up again.
Fine, says the expression on Angel’s face. She starts to lean down and kiss him when a voice says, “Excuse me.”
Angel looks up and sees Layla standing there. She grabs a pillow and places it over Chris’s lap, “Oh! Are you leaving already?” Angel asks Layla, putting on the fakest smile she can muster.
Chris tells her, “I’m Carson’s father,” of course the pillow on his lap, doesn’t hide the bare legs sticking out from underneath them.
Uncomfortably, Layla heads to the door, “Nice to meet you.”
As Layla rushes to the door, her phone chimes. “Kwon, let’s delay our lesson for 30 minutes.”
That girl makes Layla fume.
A bit later, Layla finds a spot on the 35th floor of Madison Tower to sit and eat her dinner of expired food. She has to kill half an hour anyway. She pulls out a half-eaten sandwich from before and is about to take a bite when she hears footsteps.
Not wanting any trouble, Layla gets up and hides behind a fake tree and watches as Zoey Kline walks by.
Zoey walks up to a door, then looks down each side of the hallway to make sure no one is watching as she pulls out the key card to this room. She places the card against the sensor and the door unlocks for her.
She pushes the door open and steps inside as Layla watches her curiously. Her eyes travel up to the windows one floor up. She sees Mr. Gaston standing there.
Layla slowly steps out from behind the plant as she watches Zoey walk into the same room that Sebastian is in. She watches as Sebastian walks over to Zoey to take her into his arms and Layla’s eyes go wide when she sees them kissing.
Layla goes back to her bench and picks up her bag and then goes up the stairs to the next level.
Sebastian leads Zoey deeper into the room. Candles are lit and the fire is lit in the fireplace. The walls of the garden are windows that look out over the city. And of course, it’s the garden, so there are plants growing everywhere.
“I had no idea there was a place like this in Madison Tower,” Zoey says as she takes it all in. It’s really quite romantic. Her hand it in the crook of Sebastian’s arm as he leads her towards the couch.
Sebastian seems very proud, “I had a great deal to do with the designing of Madison Tower. Feel free to come by anytime you like. You do have a key now. You’re helping train my kids, so you’ve more than earned it.”
“Are you trying to bribe me, Mr. Gaston?” Zoey teases him.
“I don’t think my kids are that bad that you would need a bribe to teach them,” he responds with a grin. He takes her hand from his arm, holding on it as he turns to face her, “So, who’s going to take the top spot in the audition? Have you determined? Will it be Penelope or Sloane? I mean, you have decided already, haven’t you?”
Zoey plays it coy, “We’ll all find out after the competition. It’s going to be a fair competition.”
“Fair?” Sebastian chuckles, “I hadn’t expected that from you. You don’t seem to be the type to leave things to chance.”
Outside the room, Layla has found the high ground where she can look down into the garden. She watches as Sebastian leads Zoey to sit on the couch and then the two begin to kiss.
Concern crosses Layla’s face, but that expression changes to something out as she reaches into her bag and pulls out her cell phone. She turns it sideways, opens up an app and begins to record the two lovers.
Sebastian reaches for Zoey’s neckline, wraps his fingers around her expensive pearl necklace and pulls hard, snapping it off her neck.
Zoey’s eyes go wide, “What in the hell are you doing?”
She watches as he places the damaged piece of jewelry on the table in front of them and reaches behind him to pull out another box. Zoey got that necklace from her husband many years ago. Now it lays in pieces on the table.
However, when Sebastian opens the box and she sees the much more expensive necklace and earrings in the box, her eyes go wide.
“I thought this might look nicer on you than that little trinket,” he tells her with a confident smirk. “I mean, your husband can only afford so much, right?”
Zoey’s shocked expression turns to amusement as she takes the box from Sebastian’s hand. Her fingers trace the golden length of the chain that leads down to a large ruby pendant. “And if I wear this necklace? Are you trying to stake your claim with this?”
Sebastian laughs. “Of course not.”
“Let’s not make this into something complicated,” Zoey tells him. “No leashes. No clinginess. When one of us decides that it’s over, it’s over. Deal?”
Sebastian slowly nods his head, “Sounds like we have a deal.” He places a hand across her back and draws her to him and they begin to kiss again.
Layla is still recording.
A bit later, Layla is lost in her own thoughts about what she has witnessed as Cross is doing his homework. Absentmindedly, Layla reaches to pull a macron from the dish in the center of the desk and takes a bite.
Suddenly, her eyes go wide. She’s never tasted anything so delicious in all her life. She glances up at Cross to make sure he’s engrossed in his work, and she begins to reach for more, not realizing that Penelope has walked by the room and happened to peek in at that same moment.
Layla slips a few of the treats into her bag, thinking no one is paying her any attention.
Penelope scoffs as she sees the tutor steal some cookies and she walks by to enter the room.
As she slams the door, Penelope asks, “Can we finish early today?” She sits down at the desk and Cross looks up from his work, annoyed at the question.
Layla glances at her, “I guess you forgot we are starting late.”
“If we finish early, you can go teach someone else and get more money,” Penelope tells her. She chuckles, “I mean, you like money, right?”
“You’re damn right, I like money,” Layla tells her. “I need to make money which is why I’m here to teach the both of you. If I don’t stay and teach, I don’t get paid. Are we clear?”
However, what Penelope is working on isn’t school work, but her application for the International School of Music that she has to attend. Layla snatches the application away from Penelope, “Do your school work.”
Penelope snatches the clipboard back. “I don’t want to.”
Cross sighs, looking up from his work. He actually wants to get his shit down.
Layla leans against the desk, leaning in close to Penelope, “Is it because you can’t do it? You don’t know how, do you?”
That hit a nerve as Penelope stares angrily at Layla.
“How are you one of the top students, when you can’t even do the work?” Layla asks. “I guess you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
Penelope slams the clipboard down on the desk and rises up from her chair. “Get the fuck out of my room right now.” She steps up and gives Layla a shove. “Now.”
Cross has seen enough and he sure as hell isn’t getting any work done with these two catty women going at it. He stands up, “Let’s call it a day. We need to finish our applications anyway.”
Layla glances at him.
“Our mother already gave us permission,” he explains.
Penelope is still staring down Layla, but at her brother’s words, she walks by the other girl. Penelope eyes some of her keychains that she’s collected over the years, hanging on the wall and of course, she gets an idea. She’s gonna get rid of this bitch once and for all. She reaches for one of the keychains.
“Fine,” Layla says. “Just for today.” She starts putting away her material in her bag. As she moves to get some more of her things, Penelope steps up and slips the keychain into Layla’s bookbag.
Cross looks at her with a confused expression.
Penelope just grins at her brother.
Layla finishes putting on her jacket and grabs her bag and storms out of the room.
“What are you up to?” asks Cross.
Penelope looks at her brother, “I’m about to teach this bitch a lesson. She needs to know her place.”
As Layla heads to the door, Jessica spots her and carries over a box, “Miss Lee? I want to say thank you for all your hard work.” Jessica offers the box to the young woman, “Just a small token of my appreciation.”
“My keyring is gone!” shouts Penelope as she storms down the hallway. “Dad got it for me! It was a limited edition!” She’s putting on quite the show. Innocently, she turns to Layla, “Did you take it, Miss Lee? It was hanging by my desk a few minutes ago.”
Jessica is confused by all of this. Something isn’t quite right, and she knows it.
“Maybe you misplaced it,” Kayla says.
“Maybe you should let me check your bag,” Penelope tells her.
Layla knows she didn’t take Penelope’s stupid keyring. She hands her bag over to Penelope who immediately just dumps it all out onto the floor.
And there is the keyring.
Penelope bends down to pick it up, “Here’s my keyring! You even took snacks from the tray! You’re just a little thief!”
“That’s enough, Penelope,” Jessica finally says. She turns to Kayla, “I’m sorry, Anna.” Jessica bends down to help pick up Kayla’s things.
Penelope is beside herself. Her plan was perfect, and her mother is apologizing to this interloper. “What do you mean ‘that’s enough’”, she asks.
Cross walks up to the scene.
“She stole something from me, and you expect me to be calm?” Penelope asks her mother. “You saw it was right there in her bag! How can you take her side?” Penelope is livid.
Jessica lifts up the bag and hands it to Layla, “Please don’t mind her. I’ll take care of this.”
Penelope steps up to her mother’s face, “How dare you take her side? You’re my mother!
Uh oh. Sebastian just walked in. “How dare you talk to your mother that way!”
Penelope explains, “The tutor stole something from me, and mom is taking her side.”
Layla turns to Sebastian, “I didn’t steal anything. I wouldn’t do that. Why would I need to steal?”
Sebastian sizes up the woman, looking at the way she’s dressed. “I can easily see why.”
Jessica looks at her husband.
“I think it’s time for you to go,” Sebastian tells Layla. “This is between me and my family.”
Layla sighs and heads for the door.
“Let me explain,” Jessica says to Sebastian, but he cuts her off.
“I’ll hear what Penelope has to say first. She seems quite angry.”
Penelope is watching Layla head to the door
Layla is trying to hold it together as she walks through the lobby of Madison Tower. She’s about to the exit when two security guards stop her, “Are you Anna Lee?”
Layla is very confused, “Yes?”
“Please wait here,” she’s told.
Layla is confused now, “What exactly am I waiting for?”
“We just received a report that you stole something from the penthouse,” the guard tells her.
Dammit. That family. “I didn’t do anything,” Layla says, pleading her case. “Feel free to check again, but I didn’t steal anything. I was told to leave.”
“I think,” Sebastian says walking into the lobby with Penelope at his side. She’s grinning from ear to ear. She’s obviously convinced her father she’s telling the truth. “I think we’ll let the cops investigate this matter.”
Sebastian starts walking towards her, “Obviously when you see something expensive, it’s a natural urge to possess it. I completely understand that emotion. We found the lost item, so we’ll let it slide…”
Layla seems relieved until he finishes.
“If you apologize.”
Layla shakes her head, “I’m not going to apologize for something I didn’t do.”
“You think my daughter’s keyring fell into your bag all on it’s own? I guess we could just let the police sort this out then,” Sebastian tells her. He knows he has this bitch right where he wants her.
Layla was already on the verge of breaking down about all of this, but she’s not going to give them the satisfaction. If she didn’t need the money, she wouldn’t have anything to do with this fucking family. Of course, then she sees the stupid grin splashed across Penelope’s face and it hits her.
“You put it in my bag, didn’t you?”
“Why would I do that?” Penelope asks her.
Sebastian silences his daughter, “Now, you’re crossing a line you don’t want to cross.” Sebastian found this fun at first, but now he’s annoyed, maybe even a little angry. “My family is above reproach. I want an apology and I want it now. Apologize for stealing and apologize for tossing an unfounded accusation at my daughter!”
Layla just stands there as her eyes begin to fill with tears. Yet, she doesn’t say a word.
Sebastian turns to the guards, “Call the chief of police.”
“Yes, sir,” one of the guards leaves to do so.
Layla watches the guard leave and she starting to suspect she may be in over her head here.
Sebastian can tell she is looking to run, “Move from that spot, and I’ll make sure you’re charged with leaving the scene of a crime.”
Layla can imagine it now.
Two policemen are dragging Layla away from Madison Tower towards the squad car. She’s struggling in their grip, “I’m not a thief. I didn’t do it!”
The officers are not sympathetic towards her as they put her in the car and soon the car is driving away with residents of Madison Tower watching her go.
Instead, Layla speaks up, “Wait.” With tears in her eyes, she says, “I’ll apologize.”
One wouldn’t think that Penelope’s smile could get any wider, but it sure has. This couldn’t have gone any better for her. She pulls out her phone and sends a text, “Meet me at the swimming pool.”
Carson and Juliana arrive to the swimming pool and Juliana asks, “Did the tutor really steal something?”
Penelope wasn’t going to let this chance go without making quite the public spectacle over it. She’s invited all her friends to the pool to watch Anna Lee grovel at her feet.
Penelope is sitting in a pool chair, looking smug as fuck as her friends hurry over. Once Carson and Juliana make it around the pool to where Penelope is sitting, Penelope looks at Layla and simply says, “Let’s hear it. Apologize.” She leans back, closing her eyes. She’s going to enjoy every word.
Layla doesn’t even look her in the eyes but stares at the floor. “I apologize for suspecting you.”
Penelope opens her eyes, “And? Don’t forget, you need to apologize for stealing my keyring.”
Layla just wants to do this and get it over with. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Carson and Juliana begin to snicker at this. They wondered who would get the best of who. Penelope or Anna.
Penelope nods her head, “Okay. I’ll accept your apology, but there’s something missing…”
Layla starts to leave, thinking this is finally over but Juliana steps in her path. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Layla turns to go around Juliana, but Carson steps in her way.
Penelope, so full of smug, tells her, “By the way, Ms. Lee.” She rises from her chair and walks over and places her hands on the sides of Layla’s face. “Do you know that you smell really bad? You make me want to puke.”
Then, Penelope gives Layla a shove.
Layla’s eyes go wide, and a look of fright crosses her face as she falls backwards in slow motion and splashes into the pool.
“Oh my God! Did you seriously just do that?” Juliana squeals in glee. Carson is just watching with his mouth open.
Penelope is laughing her ass off.
However, something triggers inside of Layla, who is trying to stay above water. She has a flashback.
Layla is pushed into another pool, at another place. That place is her foster parents in Korea. As she floats in the pool, her angry stepfather points at her and screams, “I can’t believe we adopted a thief!”
“We are going to have you deported, immediately!” yells the mother, arms crossed over her chest as Layla starts to swim towards the edge to get out of the pool.
Layla finally reaches the edge of the pool and grabs onto the edge, catching her breath.
Penelope places a foot on the woman’s shoulder, “If you were hungry, you should have said something. I’m so disappointed that you would steal our snacks.” She pushes Layla back into the water.
Layla makes it back to the edge and Penelope leans down. “Miss Lee! Miss Lee!” She tosses some money at her in the water, “Use this to get your clothes cleaned.”
Layla just stares at her as she bobs in the water.
Penelope rises up and turns to the others, “Let’s go.”
“Bye, Miss Lee,” Carson says and as the three laugh, they head towards the exit.
Layla coughs some of the water out of her lungs as she watches for them to leave so she can get out of the pool. She sits on the deck, shivering and shaking.
Jessica opens the box she had tried to give Anna and inside are a pair of brand new shoes. She really wanted to show her appreciation, but now that’s ruined. She isn’t even sure Anna will even come back after all of this, and Jessica doesn’t even know most of what happened.
Suddenly, Sebastian storms in after being in the lobby. He marches right over to Jessica and says, “Fire the tutor. I don’t even care whether she stole or not. I never liked her from the start. Get rid of her.”
Without even waiting for a response, Sebastian turns and walks out of the room.
Jessica watches him leave, but the expression on her face says maybe she has something else in mind.
Penelope is pleased as punch, sitting there on the couch in her bedroom when Jessica opens the door. Jessica walks over and stands in front of Penelope, crossing her arms across her chest, “Why did you do that?”
Still grinning, Penelope asks, “Do what?”
“Put that keyring in Miss Lee’s bag.”
Penelope stands up, “What are you talking about?” She walks by, but Jessica takes her arm.
“I want to know why you did it. Is this really what you do now?” Jessica has seen the change in her children, especially her daughter. “I never took you as someone who’d hurt others.”
Penelope brushes off Jessica’s hand. “So what? What will you do about it?”
“You’re going to apologize to her.” Jessica is not playing around. “I’ll drag you to her if I have to.”
Jessica goes to grab Penelope’s hand again, but Penelope pulls it away again. “I won’t. Just who in the hell do you think you are to tell me what to do?”
Jessica’s eyes go wide and even flare a bit with anger. “I’m your mother! How dare you speak to me this way!”
Penelope looks surprised, “Mother?” Penelope’s eyes start to fill up with tears, “You’re not even my real mom.”
Jessica’s looks shocked, “What are you talking about?”
“Did you think I’d never find out?” Penelope asks her. “I know you’re not my real mom. Cross and I were given birth by someone else!”
Jessica has no idea how Penelope found out. It was something she and Sebastian agreed to long ago, considering the circumstanced. “Penelope, I don’t know who told you that, but I am your mother. I may not have given birth to you, but I have raised you since you were a baby and I’ve loved you like you were my own child.”
“Love me?” Penelope asks as tears begin to stream down her face, “My recitals. My graduations. All of it! Where were you when I needed you then?” she screams out. “It was all because of her, right?”
Jessica is trying to understand, but Penelope continues to shriek.
“Your daughter who’s lying sick at the hospital.”
Jessica is crying now too as she brings her hand up to her mouth. Only one person knows about her other daughter. Sebastian. Tears begin to stream her face. “How did you find out about that?”
“Do you have any idea how much I loved you?” Penelope asks her. “And then to find out that everything was a lie?” She is sobbing now, “You abandoned me for your biological daughter!”
Quickly, Jessica wraps her arms around Penelope and hugs her, “That’s not true! Not at all!” She’s sobbing too now, “I never abandoned you! I love you so much!”
They don’t see Cross entering the room.
“I never once thought of you as someone else’s daughter!” Jessica continues to cry. She pulls back to look at Penelope, who has stopped crying. “I am telling you the truth.”
A flash of anger crosses Penelope’s face as she pushes Jessica down onto the couch and stands over her, “Don’t ever act like you’re my mom ever again.”
Jessica just can’t believe Penelope is speaking to her like this. Penelope turns and walks towards the door, pausing to look at Cross before leaving the room. Jessica sees Cross for the first time and gets up and runs over to him.
“Cross, let me explain,” Jessica tries to reason with him but Cross just turns back to her and speaks.
“Don’t interfere in our lives anymore.”
Cross turns and walks out of the room, leaving Jessica to completely break down.
Jessica’s eyes are red and swollen from all of her crying as she sits there. Sebastian is at her side. “I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what it was,” she tells him.
Sebastian places a hand on her back, “They were going to find out sometime. Don’t blame yourself. Once day, they’ll understand. I’ll have a talk with them.”
Jessica turns to him, “I appreciate you’ve been caring for my sick child all these years. I only wish she would get better.”
Sebastian scoots closer to her, hugging her to his side, “Don’t ever say that in front of April. Even if she can’t speak, doctors say that she can hear you. Stay positive. I only wish I had enough money to find a treatment for her.”
“Don’t say that,” Jessica tells him. “You’ve treated her as if she were your own child.” She lays her head on his shoulder.
“No matter what anyone says, April is my child,” Sebastian tells her. “Cross, Penelope, April. They are all our children. We will get through this.”
Something comes to Jessica’s mind as she rises up from his shoulder to look him in the eyes, “How do you think they found out?”
Sebastian shakes his head, “I couldn’t tell you.”
Holly is in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for dinner when Penelope walks in. She stands next to Holly and turns to her.
“You were right.”
Holly stops chopping and turns to look at Penelope.
Penelope just shakes her head. “I thought she was my mom, but we don’t share a drop of blood.” Penelope pulls a photo out of her pocket. It’s Jessica with another man and she’s very much pregnant. Penelope drops it on the counter, “Get rid of that for me.” She turns and walks out of the kitchen.
Holly just glances at the photo before picking it up. She stares at it for a moment before sliding it into her pocket.
Sebastian’s feet make a loud sound as he walks down the hospital corridor and stops in front of April’s room. Through the window, he watches the girl. She has an oxygen mask on and just lays there unmoving.
“It’s about time we end this charade,” he says softly as he watches her. “You’ve done well playing the part of Jessica’s daughter.”
Asher walks up next to him. After a brief acknowledgment, Sebastian asks him. “Has it really been 16 years?”
Asher nods his head, “Yes, sir.”
“I appreciate all the time you’ve put into maintaining this for me.”
Sebastian just watches the girl, knowing her time will soon come to an end.
Layla has taken as many part time jobs as she can in order to save up money to go to college. Everything on her resume was a lie. She just graduated high school last year and is hoping to get into college, but she hasn’t the funds.
So, today, she’s helping load a truck. She picks up some boxes and carries them over and hands them to the guy inside the back of the truck.
As she goes to get more boxes, her cell phone chimes. She pulls it out and smiles.
Sloane: My grades have improved so much because of you! Thank you so much!
At least someone appreciates her hard work.
Speaking of Sloane, she’s back in the music room. Zoey is playing the piano and Sloane is singing along, but then again, she misses the key and Zoey lashes out in frustration, pounding her hands down on the key.
“That same note! At this rate, you’ll never beat Penelope. You need to get it together, Sloane! I won’t have you losing to that second rate child. You are the daughter of greatness and I expect you to be great, just as I was.”
Sloane is nervously pulling at her hair, but other than looking anxious, she doesn’t respond.
Zoey looks at her, “Let’s do it again.”
In the music room at the school, Riley is peeking through the glass door as Mariah rehearses with Kelly. The song is just starting, and Mariah has gotten the German lyrics down well.
She barely gets a phrase in when Kelly claps her hands, “Mariah, that is fantastic. I knew you could do it.” She walks over and points out a part on the score, “Right here, however, can we go legato here?”
Mariah nods and they start again.
Riley is listening and just in awe of how good Mariah. This work with Kelly has really improved Mariah in every possible way. Riley is finally feeling like things are going to work out.
She walks into the empty classroom next to the music room and as Mariah’s voice fills the space, Riley begins to fill out Mariah’s application for the audition.
THE DAY OF THE AUDITION
Cars are pulling up to the auditorium as we see some familiar faces exiting vehicles, preparing to go inside.
Carson and his mother Angel arrive, and Juliana with Amber shortly after that.
Riley and Mariah walk up to the auditorium, while Jessica gets out of her car.
Jessica spots Penelope and tries to give her some tea, but Penelope just keeps walk, ignoring her.
Inside, everyone is warming up. Mariah walks over to the rules posted on the wall and suddenly her face drops. “Mom?” Mariah starts to panic.
Riley rushes over, not sure what’s going on. “What’s wrong with you?”
Mariah just points at the poster where it’s clearly marked that singers must perform two Italian songs and they must be sung in the original language.
Riley isn’t sure what’s going on, but Kelly was very clear it was one Italian song and one German song which is what Mariah prepared for. She turns to her daughter, “It’ll be okay.” She leads her daughter out to the hallway where she tries to call Kelly.
“The person you are trying to reach is unavailable,” the message begins.
“Why is she not answering?” asks Mariah, as she stands there nervously.
Riley looks dejected as she answers honestly, “I think we’ve been fooled. This is all my fault. I don’t think German was ever part of any of this competition.”
Mariah begins to cry, “What do I do?”
When Riley doesn’t have an immediately answer, Mariah runs back to their table and sits down, putting her head on the table and starts to cry.
This is the moment that Zoey and Matthew walk in.
Riley kneels down at Mariah’s side, “Don’t start crying. You’ll ruin your voice for the competition.”
Zoey smirks as she turns her head towards Matthew, “I am assuming you took care of the music teacher problem.”
“It’s all taken care of, ma’am. They won’t be able to reach her for the rest of the day,” Matthew responds.
Zoey makes a special note of the shoes that Mariah is wearing.
“Mrs Kline!” someone yells out. Of course, Amber rushes over, and Angel is right on her heels. They are trying to cozy up to Zoey because she’s one of the judges today, but Zoey holds her hand up. “Just be aware that I’m going to judge this competition fairly.” She turns and looks right at Riley after saying that. Riley has also noticed Zoey’s entrance and she’s not happy at all.
Riley is starting to figure things out.
Riley has gotten Mariah out of the cafeteria and into a quiet hallway. “Mariah. Pull yourself together,” Riley is trying to get Mariah to calm down but having very little luck.
“It’s all ruined!” Mariah wails, tears streaming down her face. “It’s all over!”
Riley shakes her head, “It’s not all over. There’s one song you can do.”
Mariah shakes her head.
“You’ve sang that song so many times, there’s no way you don’t know it by heart,” Riley explains.
“I haven’t even had the chance to practice it properly,” Mariah weeps. “I don’t think I can do it. I can’t do it.”
Riley takes her daughter’s face in her hands, “Look at me. I believe in you. You can do this. What other choice do you have? Will you just give up your dream? You need to try. You need to get up there and try. Aren’t you pissed off that stupid music teacher tricked you? Mariah, you have the best voice out there. No one sings better than you.”
Riley drops her eyes to the floor. She has one chance to convince her daughter to go through with this. Not for Riley, but for herself. Riley reaches up and places a hand around her own throat, where her scar is. She takes in a deep breath.
She begins to sing the Aria.
Mariah immediately stops crying as she hears her mother’s voice actually singing. In all of her years, she’s never heard her mother sing. The voice that comes out is just amazing, as Riley continues on.
A look at her face, you can see that singing this is painful for her, but for her daughter, Riley will do anything. She starts to get more confident in her vocal, she gets louder. She rises up to her feet, pulling Mariah up to her feet as well.
Suddenly, they are singing together in this empty hallway.
At the end of the hallway, some students walk by one of them in particular is Sloane. The others continue on, but she stops to listen to the two singing. She knows right away she’s not as good as this girl and nervous tries to put her hair behind her ear and stomps off.
As they finish the song together, Riley pulls her daughter in and hugs her tightly.
Moments later, Mariah has gotten herself composed and Riley gives her one more hug before sending her off to the audition, standing there like a very proud mother.
The auditions are blind auditions. The performers stand behind a curtain and sing while the judges listen. There are five judges, and one of those judges is Zoey Kline who sits in the center.
As Mariah sings behind the curtain, Zoey has become very attentive. “Is this Mariah?” she wonders, and her eyes drop to the floor where they can see the shoes of the contestant. Zoey saw those same shoes on the feet of Mariah Oh.
Zoey glances from side to side to see the other judges are all entranced by Mariah’s singing ability as they listen on in awe.
Zoey already knows Mariah is much better than Sloane will probably ever be.
Out in the waiting area, Amber is sitting with Jessica and Angel. Amber is being ridiculous, as she clutches a Bible to her chest and rubs her hands over some rosary beads as she prays for her daughter to win.
Jessica and Angel exchange looks and try not to laugh.
Mariah has finished her audition and is waiting in the hallway with the others when Sloane bursts out of the audition room, obviously upset as she smacks herself in the forehead a couple of times and starts to bawl as she runs off to the bathroom.
Juliana turns to Penelope, “I think she fucked it up.”
Penelope blows her off, “Not that it matters. She’s getting in no matter what. Her grandfather runs the school.” Penelope stands up and prepares to go in, she turns to Juliana, “Just worry about yourself.”
Juliana nods, “Good luck!”
Mariah walks in the cafeteria and sees her mom waiting and rushes over.
Riley gets to her feet, “How did it go?”
Mariah tries to fake her but fails miserably as she can’t stop the smile. “I did great!”
“Good job!” They hug and bounce around excitedly. Of course, this causes worry in the others who watch them carry on.
“Let’s go!” Riley tells her and they grab their things and head on out.
Angel watches them go and turns to the others, “I’m so nervous! My heart is beating so hard.” She looks at Jessica, “I guess you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Jessica shakes her head, “I’m nervous too.” She is, but that’s not all that’s going on with her and the twins.
Amber scoffs, “The twins just have to breathe on stage, and they’ll make it in. With all the bricks that Sebastian has donated to the school, they’re a shoo-in.”
“You’re making me uncomfortable,” Jessica tells her. She never wanted her kids to get by with money, but with their own effort. She knows that Sebastian greases a few palms here and there, but she always hoped it wouldn’t affect the kids.
“Don’t be uncomfortable,” Amber tells her. “I’m just stating facts. Obviously, Sloane is in and so are the twins, which means the leftovers are fighting for those few scraps that are left over.”
Angel puts down her cup, “Leftovers? Is my Carson a leftover? My Carson is way above Juliana’s level. She might be a leftover, by Carson is a prime candidate.”
Amber smacks her hand on the table and rises up, moving behind Jessica to go around the table to stand in front of Angel, “Do you think Carson stands a chance to get in? Zoey looks down on you, more than she does me. You don’t know a damn thing, do you?”
Angel’s eyes go wide as she looks up at Amber.
“To be frank,” Amber continues, “He sucks at singing and studying.”
Angel stands up, “What did you say to me?” She gets in Amber’s face, “Say that one more time.”
Jessica finally stands up, “What are you two doing?” She stands up to move around to stop this before it gets out of control, when she accidentally bumps into someone hurrying by, wearing a mask. She looks at the girl hurrying out of the room, thinking she looks very familiar.
Then she looks down.
The shoes are a dead giveaway.
Jessica wonders what she’s doing here.
Layla walks down the hallway just as Penelope walks out of the audition room, looking very smug about her audition.
But as she passes Layla, she pauses. The mask Layla is wearing makes it difficult to tell exactly who it is, and Penelope is almost sure that it’s Anna Lee, but she glances down at the badge that reads “Layla Kwon.”
Penelope pauses and looks after the girl, then decides it’s nothing and moves on.
“This is the last one for today,” Zoey tells the other judges as she looks at the sheet in front of her.
The girl behind the curtain begins to sing acapella the beginning strains of “Follie! Deliero vano e questo” and the judges all grin. They know this is a really hard piece and this student will be lucky to get through it. Very ambitious.
Zoey, however, is very attentive.
As the piano begins and Layla Kwon continues to sing, the judges’ amusement fades and they all begin to take notice as Layla soars through every difficult note flawlessly. Even Zoey has closed her eyes to just listen to the beauty of this girl’s voice.
Zoey open her eyes and gives the singer all 10s on her scorecard.
The night is storming as an anxious Mariah Oh, sits out on the fire escape of her apartment building and clicks “Check Again” repeatedly, each time getting the result that “The Results Have Not Yet Been Announced.”
As rain begins to fall, her phone rings as she sits down on the steps.
“Mom? No, they haven’t announced anything yet. I’m not sure why it’s taking so long.”
Layla Kwon as her jacket over her head as she runs into Madison Tower.
Up in the Madison Tower music room, Zoey is watching the storm outside. Finally, she turns back to Matthew and tells him to, “Announce the results.”
The Gaston family is walking towards the lobby exit when they slow down as they see Layla walking towards them.
Layla goes to move around them, not wanting anything to do with this family when Jessica says, “Miss Lee. It’s been a while.”
“Nice to see you,” Layla says and starts down the hallway.
Suddenly, everyone’s phone chimes, including Layla.
Everyone stops moving and reaches for their phone.
Cross is the first see that he passed, he turns to Penelope, “You passed too, right?”
“Mmhmm,” Penelope says. “Who is this in first place? I’ve never heard of her before.”
Mariah sees Riley walking slowly up the stairs towards her, “Mom! Mom!” Mariah gets up and rushes to her mother.
Riley sees her and rushes to greet her.
“Mom! They announced the results, but I’m scared to look,” Mariah tells her.
Riley reaches for her daughter’s wet hair, “Why are you outside. You’ll catch cold. Let’s go inside and I’ll check.”
“Penelope? You didn’t come in first place?” Sebastian doesn’t seem pleased.
“I’ve never heard of this Layla Kwon before,” Penelope tells him. Then suddenly, it dawns on her where she saw that name before.
The girl in the hallway had a name tag with that name on it.
She also realizes who that is as she turns her head and looks at Layla, who’s still looking at the results on the phone.
Layla starts to rush off, but Penelope runs towards her and moves in front of her. Penelope reaches out and grabs Layla by the hair and pulls off her wig and drops it on the ground.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” Penelope demands. “I thought it was you!”
Jessica hurries over, “Penelope, what are you doing?”
“I saw her today with my own eyes at the audition site,” Penelope explains. She reaches over and snatches Layla’s bag from her and pulls out her wallet. She starts to open it, but Sebastian snatches it from Penelope and looks for an ID card.
Her ID card that says she’s Layla Kwon, not Anna Lee.
Sebastian looks at her, “Layla Kwon?”
Jessica looks confused by all of this.
Layla looks terrified.
Huddled in the hallway, Riley has Mariah’s phone in hand. She pulls up the results. Mariah is just watching her mother, terrified of the results.
When the result pops up, Riley’s eyes go wide.
“Mariah Oh. Not qualified.”
But right underneath it reads.
“You are number one on the reserve list.”
Mariah takes the phone, “What is this? It doesn’t make sense. Why didn’t I pass?” She’s starting to cry, “I didn’t make a single mistake! Why didn’t I pass?”
But the words never finish as Mariah bolts out of the apartment house and starts running down the street in the rain.
Riley runs after her calling after her daughter.
Mariah runs right through a busy street, lucky to not have gotten hit by a car.
Riley tries to wait for the traffic to pass, but the longer she waits, the further ahead Mariah will be, so she bolts out and nearly gets hit, as she falls to the ground.
Horns are honking as she struggles to her feet and limps the rest of the way across the street, but Mariah is nowhere to be found.
Penelope is staring at the ID card with Layla’s name on it.
Layla has been escorted up to the penthouse and stands there, while the rest of the Gaston family are seated on couches.
“Are you really the same age as Penelope?” Jessica finally asks.
“Are you blind?” Penelope snaps. “Look at her ID. She’s my age. I thought she was in college!” She turns and looks at Layla in disgust. “We don’t even know where she came from.” She turns back to Jessica, “You hired a scam artist to be our tutor.” She throws the card on the table, and it lands next to the rest of Layla’s things.
“You lied about going to college. You lied about your age. You told us you just arrived from overseas. Why?” asks Sebastian.
When Layla doesn’t answer right away, Sebastian growls, “Answer the question.”
“I’m sorry for lying,” she finally says. “I returned all the money you paid me when you fired me and I’m not teaching them anymore.”
Sebastian shakes his head. “That doesn’t make any of this better for you.”
“I’m smart enough to have taught them enough to improve their grades,” Layla says defiantly. “I put up with your kid’s crap, especially Penelope. I was humiliated, thrown into a pool and called a thief.”
Angrily, Penelope gets to her feet, “Shut your mouth!”
“Penelope,” Sebastian says. Penelope sits back down.
Sebastian rises up this time, “So, how did you manage to get first place at the audition?”
“I passed with my talent, fair and square,” Layla tells him.
Penelope is tired of this girl’s shit, “You’re a con artist. Who knows what you could have done in there? Who knows what else you took from us here?”
“There’s nothing in here I care to have enough to steal,” Layla says.
Penelope hauls off and slaps Layla right in the face.
Jessica rises up, “Penelope!”
Penelope isn’t quite done yet, “That’s for making fools of us.” She hauls off and slaps her again, this time hard enough to send Layla to the floor. “That’s so that you know your place.”
Layla looks up at Penelope, anger in her eyes.
“What? You’re mad now?” Penelope says.
Sebastian walks over and places his foot on Layla’s shoulder and pushes her back to the ground. Jessica gasps, covering her mouth. She’s never seen this side of her husband before.
“If you’re done acting like a reckless brat, it’s time for your punishment,” Sebastian tells Layla. “Give me your parents’ phone number.”
“Stop,” Jessica says, finally intervening.
“I don’t have any parents,” Layla says from her position on the floor.
Sebastian scoffs, “An orphan?” He pushes down with his shoe, “How pathetic…”
Jessica has seen enough, “She has nothing to do with us. Just let her be. She’s already apologized.”
Sebastian removes his shoe and Layla slowly gets to her feet.
“You disgusted me from the moment I laid eyes on you,” Sebastian tells her.
Slowly, Layla makes a fist. She’s had just about all she can take.
She looks up at him, looking all high and mighty when she knows his secret. “You’re not exactly living an honest life either, right?”
Sebastian is in shock that this girl would talk back to him. No one talks back to him. “What did you just say?”
Layla’s eyes fall on Jessica. She’s been nothing but nice to her. She’s not about to destroy this woman’s life right here, right now. “If you’re done, I’m leaving.” Layla moves to pick up her things and heads towards the door.
“Hey!” Penelope screams at her, “Where do you think you’re going?!”
Sebastian just watches her go and mutters under his breath, “Vulgar little brat.” He turns to look at Jessica, “I can’t believe you let someone like her into this house.” As he walks off, Jessica goes after Layla.
Penelope walks up to Cross and tells him, “This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.” She pulls up her phone and puts Layla on blast to her friends for pretending to be a tutor.
Sloane: She was lying?
Juliana: I never liked her from the start.
Carson: I knew there was something off about her.
Juliana: We need to do something about this.
Penelope: I have an idea already.
“Layla!” Jessica comes running from the elevator.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Gaston,” Layla tells her. “I really owe you an apology.”
Jessica looks at the girl, “May I ask why you had to lie? The Anna I know… I mean, the Layla I know isn’t someone who would do something out of malice.”
“You might not believe me, but I was in urgent need of money. Not for anything bad, I promise,” Layla explains.
“I believe you,” Jessica tells her. “But you should apologize to the other families you lied to. You need to take responsibility for your actions.”
Layla nods her head, “You’re right. I will.”
Jessica smiles and happens to catch a glance at Layla’s shoes and remembers, “That’s right. I have something for you. Can you wait?”
Layla nods her head, “Sure.”
Jessica hurries off.
As Layla waits, she turns to look at the angel statue, not knowing just how that statue will play a role in her future.
She reaches down to pull out her phone when suddenly a bag is placed over her head, and everything goes dark.
Jessica hurries down with the box of shoes, but Layla is nowhere to be found.
The bag is pulled from Layla’s head and her eyes squint because there are several phone flashlights shining right in her face.
“Who are you guys?”
Penelope smirks, “Just sit still otherwise it could get worse for you.”
Juliana nods, “I can’t believe I fell for your shit.”
Sloane is after that, “I can’t believe I tried to be your friend, you damn liar.”
Penelope chuckles. “Don’t forget, she’s just a poor orphan girl.”
Carson puts his arm over Layla’s shoulder, so she doesn’t try to run.
Layla knows what she needs to do, “I’m sorry. Really, I am so sorry.”
Sloane leans in, “You’re sorry? You totally had us fooled. I’m sure you were laughing at us behind our backs at how easily you tricked us. An apology isn’t going to cut it.”
“Listen, I’ll return every penny that I earned while I tutored you guys,” Layla tries to bargain her way out of this.
“Unbelievable,” Carson says. “You give me the creeps. You’re our age and you tried to teach us? There should be a law or something.”
“She even tried to steal Penelope’s keyring,” Juliana says. “You’re a thief and a con artist.” Juliana pokes Layla hard in the side of the head with her finger. “How in the fuck did you get first place in the audition anyway?”
Penelope brushes past Juliana and reaches out, grabbing a handful of Layla’s hair, “Here’s what you need to know. You don’t deserve to go to the IMS. You don’t deserve to breathe the same air that we do. You’re going to drop out of the audition. Once the school finds out about your little fraud, you’ll get dropped anyway so just tell them you aren’t interested and drop the fuck out.”
Throughout all of this, Cross has stood in the back, observing.
Layla has had enough. She pushes Penelope’s hand off of her and snaps at them. “I’ve spent the last year doing part time work just to survive, but none of you would know anything about that. I self-taught myself to sing. None of you would know anything about that. But let’s look at it another way. All of you high and mighty rich kids, just lost in that audition to someone as insignificant as me.”
All the smiles drop.
“So, how about a little honesty here,” she says as she looks around to each of them, eventually her eyes falling on Penelope, the ringleader. “Are you upset that I was able to teach you? Or are you upset that you lost to me?”
Penelope slaps her for the third time tonight. “You didn’t beat us.”
When Layla looks back, her lips is bleeding. “You have it all. Fancy houses, rich parents, lots of money. You get everything you ask for. So, why in the fuck are you so obsessed with bullying someone like me?!” Her eyes travel around the circle, looking at them all. “The truth is that I pity you. You’re all pitiful and sad.”
Layla gets up and starts to walk off, but Cross steps in front of her. “You pity us?” He walks towards her, and Layla has no choice but to step back. “Who are you to pity us?” She finally has no choice but to sit on the stoop of the open van. “Who in the fuck do you think you are?” he asks her, leaning over her in a threatening manner. He turns to the others, “Did you bring what I asked for?”
Carson produces a set of handcuffs and two large bottles of booze.
Confused, Layla asks, “What are you doing?”
“Aren’t you a college student?” Penelope asks her. “The UCLA student who took a leave of absence. You must be of age to drink, right?”
“You don’t have to do this,” Layla pleads. “Please, just let me go home.”
Cross smirks at her, “We’re going to celebrate your great victory over us today.”
Riley spent the early part of the day at the audition and then at her job. She’s exhausted as she walks the streets of the city trying to find Mariah.
Each bottle of booze is opened up and they begin to splash Layla with the contents. “Have some!” yells Juliana as she splashes some over her.
Layla climbs all the way into the van and moves to the back to try and avoid getting splashed.
“I can totally see why your parents abandoned you,” Penelope yells.
After the bottles are empty, Cross arrives. In his hand, he carries a cake with candles on it. “Let’s not forget that we need cake for this party. Congratulations, Anna Lee.”
He places the cake at her feet and then places an empty bottle of booze in her hand and whispers, “Do as your told, we’ll let you go.”
Cross flips the child lock on the sliding door of the van and slams it shut.
Layla starts to panic as everyone pulls out their phones and begins to record Layla inside the van with bottles of booze and the cake.
“Let me out!” she yells.
The others are getting a little overzealous as they begin to rock the van back and forth, all the while yelling and laughing as they bully Layla.
“Just as you asked, we put Mariah at the top of the waiting list,” Matthew tells Zoey as she sits at her office.
Zoey recalls Mariah’s voice. There was no way she would not get in with a voice like that. Zoey casually drops a pen and the judge next to her leans down to pick it up for her. As the pen is handed back, Zoey and the other judge exchange glances and a nod.
While Zoey gave Mariah high marks, the other judge gave her low marks. This way, it won’t be traced back to Zoey.
Zoey glances up at Matthew, “How did you deal with Ms. Sprit?”
Matter of factly, Matthew tells her, “I gave her the money and told her we’d donate generously to her next concert.”
“Good work,” Zoey tells him. “You may go now.”
Matthew turns to leave when Amber barges into the room, “Zoey! Zoey! Did you hear?!?”
Zoey waves off Matthew who leaves. She turns to Amber, “Why are you so distraught?”
“Layla Kwon. The number one pick for the audition. She’s apparently the tutor we hired for our children.”
This doesn’t make any sense to Zoey, “What are you talking about?”
Amber takes a deep breath. “Anna Lee? The tutor. Her real name is Layla Kwon.”
Zoey’s eyes go wide, “What?”
TO BE CONTINUED
CAST (Alphabetical Order)
Sebastian Everett Bryce III
Zoey Madigan Star
Jan Van Der Roost