Thank you, and enjoy!)))
-- Ms. Mesh
My daughter Anabelle has always been a fantastic singer. She started lessons at age 5, and was the talk of the town before long. With a voice lovelier than an angel's, me and my wife were always full of pride. Growing up in the age of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Annie wanted to be a famous Idol like them when she grew up, but I always told her to stay in school and finish her studies. Talented as she was, fame was always a longshot, and I wanted our little girl to be taken care of.
Unfortunately, my wife grew ill when Annie was eleven, and her condition only worsened before losing the fight shortly before our girl's thirteenth birthday. Before she passed, my wife asked both Annie and I to see her separately so that she could make private requests of us both. Her request to me was that I not die alone; find someone new, remarry and have the additional children we'd always planned but she'd never be able to give me. I told her I would, but my heart died a little -- I was prepared to spend the rest of my life with her but was now forced to move on.
What she told Annie I had no idea, which was the point. However, it must have lit a fire under our daughter, because she became more determined to succeed than ever. Annie had always been a B-student at best, but after her mother's death, she was almost straight A's. She was able to enroll in the finest private high school with paid tuition and took advantage of their elite music program. I didn't think it was possible, but Annie's singing got even better, and she even learned to play the piano almost as well.
Shortly before Annie turned sixteen, I got called into the school, and while I expected to be told that Annie was in some kind of trouble or failing one of her courses, I was instead told that she'd be participating in a music festival in a nearby city, and they wanted me to go with them as chaperone. Annie was scared I'd refuse, but I readily agreed, unwilling to hold her back. She did like I asked and was doing amazing in school, so I had no objections to giving her whatever she wanted besides. She was giddy as could be and told me I was the best Dad in the world.
New best day of my life.
That festival was a turning-point in our lives. Annie was sensational -- easily the major highlight of the event, and the crowd went crazy over her rendition of Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time", giving a standing ovation. She came running to me in tears, terrified and excited at the same time. Of course, I was even prouder than ever and told her as much.
We were approached by a well-dressed man who gave us a business card and said he represented an agency that pushed talent like Annie's. He said that she had one of the greatest gifts he'd ever seen and felt confident she could reach the big time. Naturally, I was divided; I was wary of allowing my daughter to be exploited...or worse...by the horrors of show business, but at the same time, this was her big chance.
I took his card and told him we'd call later with an answer, and after spending a couple of days talking things over, Annie seemed ready. She was smarter and much more capable than someone her age should be, so I carefully tried to warn her of the risks.
"I'll be okay if you're supporting me, Daddy," she said. "And I'll always tell you everything. I'll never lie, and I'll never do anything behind your back. No matter what anyone says, I won't push you away."
I felt a little more confident and gave my blessing. The next day, we gave the agent a call.
Things progressed faster than either of us were ready for. Annie said goodbye to her friends and schoolmates at her Sweet Sixteen, and the two of us moved to San Francisco so that she could perfect her singing, dancing, musician and songwriting skills, as well as start recording demos. Again, I was stunned by the difference it made; with professional coaching and production, Annie sounded as good as any music star I'd ever heard.
It was then that it finally hit me: this was actually happening.
My little girl was going to be a star.
But I was putting the cart before the horse a bit, because roughly a year later came our first major snag.
"They want to sign me and send me on tour, Daddy," she told me one day. "And before that, I'd need to get completely made-over."
"What kind of make-over are we talking about?" I asked. She was prepared. She brought out her tablet and clicked on it a few times, bringing up a mock image of herself that someone had made in some kind of Photoshop or CG editor or something. And when I saw it, my jaw hit the floor.
Annie was already blond, but more on the "sandy" side of it. In the image, her straight, sandy hair had been completely consumed by a bright, golden blond that made her look like a Barbie doll with fuller and wavier hair, like an ocean of gold.
And that wasn't all.
Annie wore makeup and lipstick like any teenage girl, but she'd always been on the modest side -- not wanting to look plain, but afraid of standing out too much. But in the mock-up, she was wearing full eyeliner, fake eyelashes, and a deep dark red lipstick that made her lips look even plusher than before. If I didn't recognize the shape of the eyes and face, I would hardly believe that the image was supposed to be of her.
But the worst of it was the outfit. While Annie had always preferred wearing loose denim and had always felt too modest to show off anything more than an inch or two of her stomach, or to wear skirts any higher than just above the knee, the "her" in the mock-up was wearing an outfit that had bare shoulders and stomach, along with a skirt that rode up high onto her thigh. Also, Annie barely wore heels higher than four inches, but in the image, she was sporting a full six-inch arch.
All in all, I wasn't looking at an image of my daughter. I was looking at some vapid piece of eye candy that was supposed to take her place.
"Err...can't say that I'm in favor of that change, honey," I told her, trying to sound supportive but still honestly voicing my misgivings.
"Yeah, I figured," she whined. "It...makes me kinda nervous, too. They really want me to look like that when I go on tour? But they say that I won't stand out enough if I don't do it, and I might even blow my chances."
"I understand that, honey," I told her. "But I'm more worried about you getting some pervert for a manager that can't keep his hands to himself and locks the two of you alone in a room. I can't be everywhere to protect you, baby, and I know what those creeps are like."
Like most fathers, my biggest fear was the moment my daughter would finally outgrow me. I knew that, eventually, she would need to leave me behind and make her own choices...but I was hoping that that day would come later rather than sooner. Looking at the image of what they wanted my Annie to become, I felt that day creeping faster
But what could we do? Annie was beautiful -- to me, she was already perfect in every way -- but when you're talking about becoming as famous as Kylie Minogue or Ke$ha, you had to look how the masses wanted you to.
But then, Annie's eyes seemed to spark.
"Daddy, what if...you were my manager?"
"Huh? What do you mean, dear?"
"You could...be there with me, when I'm on tour and stuff. Kind of like when you came with me to the festival as a chaperone."
Now there was an idea. But, I didn't know if that would be allowed, let alone possible. I had just found work in San Fran after picking up my whole life and moving here less than a year ago, and wasn't in a position to ask for time off. My only option would be to quit and then follow Annie and the label around like some middle-aged groupie.
"But I don't know anything about music."
"That's okay, I know plenty. Mom taught me a lot, and I've read all kinds of books about it."
"Honey, if I do that, I'll have to quit my job."
She looked over the contract they'd offered. "The money is good, and legally, you're my natural guardian and have the right to act as my manager. That way, you'd be allowed to accompany me on tours and make sure everything is on the up-and-up."
What she said made sense; Annie had always been bright, but the speed at which she picked up on things of such importance astounded me. I would have never thought of becoming her manager, even though I rightly should have. I just didn't know the nuts-and-bolts of how all this showbusiness stuff worked.
But it made sense that Annie would figure it out -- this was her life's dream, after all. She'd worked hard, even managing to get her diploma a year early, and she definitely could have gotten a scholarship at any university of her pick if she'd continued. But either college or her music career had to be put on hold, and well, we'd come way too far to give up now. Life doesn't give many second chances.
"That might work," I told her, after giving her idea some thought. "But what about this 'make-over' nonsense, honey? They're still gonna make you look like that."
She blushed, trying to hide an awkward smile. "Weeeellllll...Daddy...would you hate me if I said I'm kind of excited about it?"
I choked in my throat. "W-What...?!"
"I know that I don't normally...look like that...but, I'm curious to see if I could actually pull it off. You know...sell the aesthetic? Look, I know that you said you're not thrilled about it, and I know that really oughta be ashamed of it, but...
"If you're managing me, then I know I'll be safe."
I sighed. Her tone and wording made it clear where this was going. She really wanted to do it, but she was afraid I'd reject her or, worse, hate her for it. I was pretty sure that if I told her no, she wouldn't go through with it, but...she was 17 now and less than a year, she was going to be her own woman.
I knew how the real world worked -- looks were everything, especially when it came to fame, and double especially if you were female. Her label had been right -- not changing her image into something so..."eye-catching" would drastically reduce the chances of her making it in the biz, and I didn't want to be the one that held her back from that. I didn't want her looking back a year later or beyond and wondering what could have been if only her father hadn't held her back.
"If that's what you want to do, honey, then...I guess...I guess I'll give you my okay," I said, relenting.
"Oh, Daddy!" she said, throwing her arms around me and sobbing. I hugged her back, grateful for the affection, but a bit melancholy because it felt like I had surrendered my only child...my sweet princess...just a little bit. I didn't want her to be some fancied-up trollop for a thousand boys to masturbate over.
But I wanted her happiness, and to be all that she could be.
After hiring a decent lawyer and signing the record deal, I sold our house in San Francisco and officially became Annie's manager. Annie underwent her makeover, having stylists and fashionistas poring over her for hours while I sat outside in the hallway doing crosswords. When they were done, I was the first person Annie called into the room to debut the new her.
The mock-up before hadn't done it justice. If I hadn't known what to expect, I never would have recognized Annie even if walked past each other on the street.
She looked like a chick born from old money, adorned with expensive jewelry, facial complexion smooth like a matte finish, with long pink nails adorned with a pattern of stars and swirls. The long strands of hair streaming down each side of her head were like pure gold spun into silk, with the tips gently curving into curls that almost looked like soft waves crashing into a shoreline.
Annie's pretty, round eyes were framed with noticeable amounts of eyeliner, and topped with thick lashes. Her eyebrows had been trimmed into sharp arches, but wisely, the beauticians didn't tamper with the perfection of their golden-brown color. They perfectly aligned with the blond-er tones of her new hair color.
Her lips had been colored with a rosy-pink color that was slightly different than the red I'd seen before in the mock-up, but it fit much better, feeling much closer to what a girl her age should wear.
Hanging from her neck was a slim gold chain necklace with a pearly pendant shaped like a swan. The entirety of the necklace touched nothing but bare skin, as the top Annie was given was completely shoulderless and only stayed aloft on her torso with what I could only assume was voodoo magic. Fortunately, it didn't dip down far on her neckline, stopping high enough on her chest that there was no cleavage.
Aside from the very upper parts, her arms were bare aside from expensive wrist chains and bracelets, and the bottom of the top stopped high enough that you could see well above Annie's navel. Most of her life, Annie had been slightly pudgy in her midsection -- not nearly enough to have a muffin-top, but it had certainly never been as flat as it was now. After a year of strict diet and exercise, she had a perfect line of lean muscle cutting down the center of her abdomen, indicating that the studio's instructions had worked perfectly.
Even lower, she was wearing a short, pleated skirt, and if my eyes weren't deceiving me, I would have sworn that it was a bit shorter than we'd even seen on the mock-up. Aside from her beautiful face, it was clear that the length of her skirt was meant to be her main selling point. It was just enough to appear innocent, also high enough that movements would entice the eyes to see where it shifted.
By now, I noticed that Annie was staring at me, virtually motionless. Her face was stiff, and I don't even think the poor girl was actually breathing. It was clear that she was waiting for me to say something, to give my take on the new "her".
I didn't know what I should say, so I just blurted out the first words that popped into my mouth.
"You look sexy, honey," I said. And immediately wished I could have taken back those words.
Annie's eyes bugged out, and even through her makeup I could see her cheeks turning beet red. The two stylists by her sides looked at each other a moment and then tried in vain to stifle their giggles. I just stood there with every hair sticking out from my body like a prickly white cactus, wishing I knew where the nearest dark hole was so I could throw myself in it.
"Um...Dad..." she said, her voice lowering to an embarrassed tone, "I appreciate the compliment, but...."
Annie only ever called me "Dad" when upset, like the time when she'd had schoolmates over at the house to do a school project, and I pranked her by telling all her friends dumb "Dad jokes" to lighten the mood. It was obvious that this was probably an even greater level of embarrassment.
"Uhhh...let me rephrase," I said. "You look terrific, dear, and I, as your father, am proud of how well you've brought out your true beauty."
I said that in the most corny, robotic tone that I could, sounding like such a doofus that Annie had no choice but to laugh, finally deflating the tension and letting the stylists return to their professional poise. The way Annie doubled over, clutching her gut as she let out that girly giggle of hers...well, that's when I knew that she was still my little girl under all that designer bullshit.
"Oh God, Daddy. I was hoping you'd say something less awkward..."
"Less awkward than almost telling my daughter she looks fuckable?" I said, in the most blatant and harsh tone I could. "Yeah, that wasn't doable, honey."
She laughed even harder and instinctively facepalmed before realizing that it would ruin the makeup she'd spent a long time getting done. She was forced to pull out a handkerchief she'd tucked somewhere in that getup and wipe the corners of her eyes to touch herself up and wipe away any tears.
It took another couple of minutes to compose herself. "Well, I guess that's as good an endorsement as any. I think we're ready to go on tour now, don't you think?"
It was early in the Spring, just after Annie finished her first album, that the tour officially began. She took the stage name "Anniebell", and the record label chose to go with a "preppy Christian Rock" theme for the music genre. Annie co-wrote most of the songs and their lyrics. As her manager, I was present for most of the recordings, but I tended to tune out since none of this was really my thing. I've always been more of a Marilyn Manson/Megadeth thrash and death metal kind of guy. Songs about dating boys, trying to fit in, puberty and "totes-loving-God" were never my area of interest.
But Annie seemed to be having fun, so it didn't really matter.
The first part of the tour took us across the U.S., from Seattle to Boulder to Minneapolis to Pittsburgh to Birmingham. She started as one of the middle acts warming up the stage for the more famous artists. The first couple of nights, Annie had to fight off a bad case of the jitters, but however nervous she was before, once on stage she shined like the North Star. Once the lights came on and her hand wrapped around the mic, Annie could be her truest self, letting her voice and the melody carry her away.
It felt good to venture out from Wyoming -- I was a native of Columbus, Ohio but went to college in WY, married a local girl about a year later, and decided living close to her roots was better than returning to my own. I hadn't been out of the state since Annie was born, and I hadn't put much thought to what I'd do once she grew up and moved on. I remembered my promise to my wife to meet somebody new, but I doubted I'd be able to accomplish that staying local. Still, I just didn't have the financial security to worry about moving anywhere else -- until it became necessary for Annie's career.
But now, dating was still an impossibility for me. Money was no longer a problem, but I was just so damn exhausted all the time. Being the manager to an up-and-coming superstar had me running from meeting to meeting, booking flights, reserving hotels or renting temporary apartments for extended stays, and constantly accompanying my daughter as she went to rehearsals, songwriting sessions, photo shoots, publicity events, and on and on and on...
Sure, I met a lot of fine women in my new line of work, including a lot of celebrities -- but that was my curse: I was either too rich or not rich enough. Either I'd be approached by desperate, sleazy bimbos that wanted me to ditch Annie to manage them, or I'd get snubbed by some Platinum-selling diva who took one look at me and held up her nose like she smelled 25 years of poverty. I didn't really care, though. I figured throwing myself into my work would help me forget all about women.
...But I overlooked something.
You see, I was too ashamed and prideful to admit it, but even a blind fool could see that my daughter was hot. I mean red hot. Since her makeover, Annie had gone up to a 12. Out of 10. I thought the transformation on that first day was unbelievable, but Annie took to it like a duck to water. Her stylists taught her how to "quick fix" her makeup and hair so that she could always look photogenic at a moment's notice, even if she wasn't scheduled to get done up by a professional. So, the new beauty-queen-looking Annie was more-or-less here to stay.