Chapter 3: Making our own choices
~ All the beautiful young girls in the land were invited, so that his son could select a bride for himself. ~
Peyton sighed as he sat at the head of the table. His advisors were rambling nonstop. Most were appointed by his father, which meant that they were mindless fifty year olds who knew nothing of how it felt to be young.
Having a group of advisors that don’t really understand how the entertainment system works comes into conflict much more often than you’d think.
Being an international pop star also came into conflict with his schooling. Peyton had to beg his father for the chance of going to school the last half of senior year. Peyton’s father thought that he didn’t need a full high school education if he wanted to make it big. What his father chose to ignore was that he was already big. He’d been on two world tours and released two platinum albums since the night he became a breakout star almost three years ago.
Peyton thought that he should at least have the high school experience. He didn’t want to end up as one of those washed out stars in their fifties who still attempt to make music because they have nothing else going for them.
Peyton never wanted to be famous, but with a good voice, good looks, and music producers as parents, he was bound to become something someday.
It was also the afternoon of his second to last day of his first week of high school. And, if he did say so himself, it went pretty smoothly.
Peyton never had the problem of becoming popular when he first went to the high school and he didn’t have a problem with it now. He found that now that he was a famous pop star, people crowded him even more.
Peyton was sure that being in a class with a pop star wouldn’t affect the student body for much longer. They’d eventually get used to it and he’d just be another student, right?
But Peyton did realize something since he’s come back to school. His friends that he used to have are fake. They crowd around him at every possible moment, hoping that his being a celebrity will rub off on them.
He’d been invited to multitudes of parties since he’s been here, but he’s declined all the invitations. The last thing he needed was an underage drinking scandal.
Even his own party planned for Saturday was starting to feel forced. It was his father’s idea to have the competition. The last thing that Peyton actually wanted was to have a ‘win a date with Peyton Charming’ competition, but his father insisted that it was a necessity. The more publicity he got while off tour and in between albums, the better.
The only problem with that philosophy was that Peyton Charming didn’t care whether he was a rock star or not. He just wanted to have a normal life for once.
Peyton liked that at least he’d get to pick out the girl from the party himself. It would be a freedom that he never normally got.
(He bet that he could count the number of decisions his father let him make himself on one hand.)
“Peyton!” Andrew Charming, his father, snapped at him. “Pay attention to your advisors.”
He mumbled an unapologetic apology and tried to actually listen to the fools.
“So,” started a particularly older one in the corner, “as I was saying before, I feel like the girl he chooses at his party thing on Saturday should be-”
“Wait,” Peyton interrupted, “I thought that I was picking out the girl myself.”
The advisors looked a little choosy, “In theory, yes, but we feel that it would be better for us to choose the girl ahead of time. And since it’s a masquerade dance, you wouldn’t be able to see any faces to start off with.”
“Why should how they look be important?”
This time it was Peyton’s father who spoke. “Well, we, of course, have to make sure that the girl is pretty. The press will go wild if she’s pretty.”
“Why should it matter that much if she’s pretty or not? Isn’t this contest about picking out a fan to hang out with for a day? It should be about them, not the publicity that this could bring me.”
"Us,” Andrew corrected, “the publicity that this could bring us.”
Peyton sighed in frustration. All his life choices were made for him. You work too hard, they’d tell him. Let us make the decisions for you, they’d say.
He hated it.
For once in his life he wanted to do something, anything, that wasn’t orchestrated by his trusty advisors or his father.
It also didn’t help that his father cared more about how famous he was than Peyton actually did. It was like he was living his father’s dream, not his own.
“Fine,” he sighed in defeat, “then who do you all have in mind?”
Peyton would’ve spit out water if he’d been drinking any.
"Evelyn Queen? As in my ex-girlfriend Evelyn Queen? You can’t be serious.”
Andrew looked at his son, shocked. “She’s a nice girl. And, if I remember correctly, you two dated for quite a while back before you became famous.”
Another advisor spoke out from his seat. “It could promote coming back to your roots. Dating the girl that you were dating before you got famous could prove to the press that you don’t care about the status of the women you date.”
“It could also boost her parent’s support of your career. Their record company’s alliance with ours could make us even bigger.”
As he looked around the table, most of the advisors agreed with his father’s idea. And, yet. None had asked him his opinion on the arrangement.
“But I don’t like her anymore,” Peyton spoke out, “What if she’s not the girl that I want to choose?”
“Of course you want to choose her,” Andrew says, “She’s beautiful and a press magnet. Think of the record company, Peyton. Think of your career.”
Yeah, that’s all he was ever told. Think of your career, Peyton. Think about the company. Think about your father.
But where did his concerns come in?
“Fine, discuss the rest of the meeting amongst yourselves.” Peyton stood up and headed for the door. And, as an afterthought, he added, “It’s not like you listen to me anyway.”
When he got out of there, he immediately took the evasive maneuvers that he had to do every time he left the office. He would leave through the back door, as to avoid al the screaming fans standing at the front door. He’d then run around the block and jump into his limo before anyone spotted him. It was a blessing that his limo driver was completely okay with this arrangement.
That day, when he’d jumped into the limo, he found that his thoughts weren’t about his upcoming album like they should’ve been. He was thinking about the stupid masquerade dance.
Of course, he shouldn’t have been worrying at all about it. His father would take care of it, like always, but there was still the nagging feeling of the contest. Peyton didn’t want to have to date Evelyn yet again. Evelyn was a nightmare.
But, for some reason, his thoughts were also gravitating towards that girl that he’d bumped into twice now since his return. She seemed to be one of the only girls at the school, besides certain circles that he was sure hated him, that didn’t want an autograph or freak out for even being about to touch his skin.
She was refreshing, and he didn’t even know her name. It was no worry though, she probably never even thought about him once since the encounters, seeing as her reaction was quite harsh.
He was just glad to have met someone at his old school who didn’t hate his guts or obsess over his every move.
He leaned his head against the headboard and sighed. “Take me to the house.”
Johnson, his driver, nodded through the mirror and made a sharp left.
Peyton turned up the radio and wasn’t surprised to hear one of his songs playing. It was the one called ‘Work of Art’. Apparently it was also the one at the top of every music chart in the nation.
There’s no way to describe your perfection, baby
The way your hips move just right, oh it makes me crazy
And now that you want my heart
Just know that you’re a work of art
If you asked him, which no one ever does, the song was stupid. It was written for him to sing by one of the song writers signed to the label. They had said that these were the type of songs that his fans and the public like from Peyton. It was about a beautiful girl and how she was perfect in every way and how they were perfect together.
It was tiring and extremely cliché.
Peyton wanted to write something of his own for once. His advisors and his father thought that idea was ludicrous though.
When he got home he was met with a pleasant surprise, no screaming fans outside his gates. Peyton walked straight into his bedroom and was met with a different kind of surprise.
“Duncan, what are you doing in my house?” Peyton questioned his best friend, Duncan Grand.
“The key is still under the mat, is it not?”
Peyton smiled at his best friend and went in for a hug. He hadn’t seen much of Duncan in school, especially since he’d been crowded by fans since he’d started school. They hadn’t had a chance to reconcile since he came back home.
“So, how’s the famous life doing for you? Got no time for your humbled best friends?” Duncan asked.
“No, I just didn’t have the time to meet up again. So, what are you doing here?”
Duncan laid down on Peyton’s bed, much to his dismay, and looked over at him. “Well, I’m here, of course, to help you pick out a girl for your contest at the ball.”
Peyton sighed. “Well then, I guess that you’re too late. My record label and my father have decided that Evelyn Queen will be the winner of the competition to win a date with me, no if ands or buts.”
Duncan let out a low whistle. “That sucks, dude. How long will you have to date her this time?”
“I don’t know, but I also don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal out of this stupid contest. It’s not like I’m going to meet the girl of my dreams there anyway.”
Duncan sat up on Peyton’s bed and gave him a shocked look. “Dude, how many guys in the world get the chance to choose any girl from the crowd to go out with?”
“I think that you’re forgetting one important thing, I don’t get to choose. The choice has already been made for me.”
Duncan shook his head at Peyton. “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t rebel. Pick the one girl in the crowd who stands out. Pick the one girl in the crowd that’s different form Evelyn Queen and the rest of the school. Do something that you want to do for once.”
He sighed. Doing something on his own was harder than his best friend realized. All his life he followed his father’s rules. His whole life up until this point was controlled and regulated by his father and his advisors. He’d never lived a moment without his father’s plan being held over his head.
Peyton Charming didn’t even know how to rebel.
“But how can I choose someone like that? I at least want someone that my father can say is talented at something. My father is very picky in that way.”
“No problem,” Duncan smiled conspiratorially, “you just have to convince whoever you choose to sing on stage. After all, how bad can they be? I can bet anything that they’ll be better than Evelyn is on stage any day.”
Peyton smiled at the idea. He could actually choose something for once in his life. He could have one decision for himself.
“Okay, but I’m blaming you if anything goes wrong,” Peyton pointed at Duncan.
“Great,” he smiled, “I just love being the root of all your rebellious problems, Peyton.”
Peyton just hoped that his father didn’t care too much that he was changing the plans. Because, if there was anything his father hated more, it was Peyton going off his plan for international stardom.