Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

When a tired Jessica returned to her house, the living room was dark. She glanced around, trying to find any sign of life, of her husband. Finally, after a moment, she heard soft music coming from the second floor. Frowning, she started up the steps.

The only light came from the bedroom. It was a golden light that only came from the flame of candles. Something inside her softened, and she pushed the door open.

Jessica took an astonished look around the room. There were too many candles for her fatigued mind to count, and her eyes welled up with tears. Josh turned away from lighting the last candle and stared at her. The look in his eyes indicated that he was sorry.

He came to her and took her hands in his. He rubbed his thumb along her knuckles, then looked down into her eyes. Wordlessly, he embraced her, spoke into her hair.

“I’m sorry, Jess,” he murmured. “I…I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” He shifted so that he could look into her face. “Do you forgive me?”

“Of course.” Jessica gave him a tired smile. “And I’m sorry for all the things I said, too. Now let’s go to bed.”

He lowered her onto the bed and worked buttons and zippers loose. She laid there, staring up at the ceiling. Before she could stop herself, Jessica felt herself slipping away from the scene. Not too long afterward, Josh found that she was asleep. With a sigh, he blew out all the candles and went to sleep himself.

* * *

The next week, Claudia-Michelle came over, much to Jessica’s surprise.

“Claudia?” Jessica smiled bemusedly at the raven-haired beauty in an oversized sweater that looked like it was Aidan’s and jeans. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, some of my colleagues call it a jam session,” Claudia-Michelle replied. “In short, we’re going to write a song.”

Jessica was still blinking in surprise as Claudia-Michelle came into the house. She closed the door behind her and led Jessica to the living room, carrying a briefcase in her hand. She sat herself and Jessica down on the couch and opened the case. She took out a legal pad and a pen and gave it to Jessica.

Right in the middle of Claudia-Michelle about to explain how she began a session, the doorbell rang.

“You stay right here,” Claudia-Michelle told her, patting her thigh. “I’ll get it.”

Jessica went back to the notepad and scribbled some words down as Claudia-Michelle opened the door in the hallway. She heard Claudia-Michelle greet someone warmly, then footsteps coming closer and becoming louder.

She didn’t know how she could tell the second he walked into the room. She could feel the presence of people behind her, but there was something imperceptibly different. A certain feel in the air. It changed now, almost crackling around her.

Jessica looked up into Nick Lachey’s eyes.

“Hello, Jessica,” he greeted her.

She felt the hello, from head to toe, even without him touching her. “Hello, Nick.”

And Claudia-Michelle felt something in the pit of her stomach. Dread? Fear? Exasperation? She placed a hand to her belly and forced a smile.

“Nick? Why don’t you take a seat?” Nick sat down, indeed—beside Jessica. Claudia-Michelle felt her stomach tilt. She had expected there would be some sexual tension, but this was ridiculous. She took in a deep breath. “Okay. As Nick will tell you, I like starting songwriting sessions with feelings.”

“Kind of like a session with a shrink?” Jessica asked.

“Sort of. The best way to start a song is to think of something that’s been bothering you and go with it. Well, at least for me. It’s had some success with Nick, wouldn’t you say?”

“It has,” Nick agreed. “You’ll get better at it. Claud’s fond of doing what she calls role-playing. Putting herself in someone else’s shoes,” he added when Jessica appeared confused.

“If you’re fresh out of ideas, or can’t verbalize your feelings, we can start with my role-playing technique, as Nick calls it.”-

A little excited and overwhelmed, Jessica chose to have Claudia-Michelle start the writing session.

“Alright.” Claudia-Michelle took out her own legal pad and pen. “Right now, I’m thinking about a possible album direction. The last thing that you want—and the last thing that would suit you—is to feed off of the image of a wife of a record executive. I want something for you that’s down-to-earth, fun, and multifaceted all at the same time. You strike me as a person of many faces, but you are what you are. You’re delicate, but not breakable. You’re fun, but not flighty. But I want to surprise everyone by showing a side of you no one would expect.

“So last night, I was thinking, and I came up with this. We can go in whatever direction you feel once you see this.”

Claudia-Michelle took a moment to write a few words down. When she was done, she passed her legal pad to Nick and Jessica, who looked at it. Nick’s eyebrows came together as he thought over the words. But Jessica…Jessica was downright astonished.

I wake up and close the book
Can’t be the princess sleeping her life away
Once upon a time I bid adieu
Because the story of my life is through
The story that’s full of pretenses
Oh no, I can’t continue this story anymore

“You’re good at this,” she remarked to Claudia-Michelle in such an awed voice that Claudia-Michelle laughed.

“Thank you.” She sobered a bit. “I hope you don’t mind me saying what I’m about to say, Jessica.”

Jessica shook her head. “No, go ahead.”

“Remember when we met at that costume party? You were dressed as Cinderella. I know it probably wasn’t something you thought too deeply about. I mean, who’s going to ponder over the meaning over a Halloween costume? But last night, as I was going over this in my head, this image of you as a jaded princess came to mind.” Claudia-Michelle paused then, considering her word choice. “Okay, not jaded, perhaps. Maybe more mature. More grown-up. More aware of things.”

“I think I see where you’re coming from,” Nick broke in. “It’s kind of like she’s waking up from the fairy tale to realize that it isn’t real. Everything about the fairy tale world doesn’t suit her anymore.”

“Right,” Claudia-Michelle returned. She turned to Jessica. “Anything coming to mind here?”

Frowning, Jessica turned to the legal pad that Claudia-Michelle had given her at the start.

“Just write,” Claudia-Michelle suggested. “I usually try not to worry about rhyming as much as meaning.” She sent a grin to Nick. “It drives Nick crazy when I say that.” Nick rolled his eyes amusedly and said nothing.

A couple of minutes later, Jessica stopped writing. Claudia-Michelle and Nick moved in to see what Jessica had written. Nick and Claudia-Michelle shared a knowing glance over Jessica’s nose.

I’ve got no fairy godmother to light my way
No glass slipper to fit upon my foot
To find me some prince charming
That is not as charming as he seems

“Yes, I like it,” Claudia-Michelle said. “Fairy godmother, glass slipper, prince charming. All fairy tale stuff.” She grinned. “I think we’re on a roll here, guys. Let’s keep going and see where we get.”

Half an hour later, they had a song. Jessica looked at it in its entirety with wonder. She, in her own hand, had contributed to the birth of this work. And it felt awesome. She felt like a new woman.

“You think it’s good?” she asked Nick.

Nick looked at her meaningfully. “Jess, I think it’s best song ever written.”

Story of My Life
Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, Claudia-Michelle Thomas*

I’ve got no fairy godmother to light my way
No glass slipper to fit upon my foot
To find me some prince charming
That is not as charming as he seems
I’ve got no gilded forest with chirping birds
No theme song filled with pretty imagery
That gets stuck in my head when I’m unhappy

I wake up and close the book
Can’t be the princess sleeping her life away
Once upon a time I bid adieu
Because the story of my life is through
The story that’s full of pretenses
Oh no, I can’t continue this story anymore

I’ve no need for a wicked witch to mess with me
I’m having too much trouble with reality
I can’t spend my time to wonder where
Have all those charming princes fled
I can’t waste time looking for a crowned head
Because through my life I have learned
Royal or common, men are bred the same

I wake up and close the book
Can’t be the princess sleeping her life away
Once upon a time I bid adieu
Because the story of my life is through
The story that’s full of pretenses
Oh no, I can’t continue this story anymore

I’m through with thinking that
The magic is worth something
I’m going to get my own ride
And not wait around for a magic pumpkin
To whisk me away to paradise
Where the story of my life begins

Oh no, I’ve no need for happily ever after
My life begins wherever I set my feet
You don’t need to fade out on me
Waving goodbye on a majestic steed
Because I’d rather have that open ending

*Written by Dennie-chan © 2006 Fear Not Productions.

 

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