The BetterCorp building towered above the rest of the skyline. It was a glittering glass arm reaching into a clear blue sky, the horn of the unicorn that was downtown Los Angeles. Andie stood on the sidewalk below, craning her neck to spot the logo at the top. Looking at the streams of attractive young people moving around her into the building reminded her why she’d come so far, leaving Bloomfield, Iowa behind for the first time. She moved into the flow of people, trying not to look at her feet when she caught someone’s eye.
Stepping into the lobby of the BetterCorp building was somehow more mesmerizing than the outside had been. Each floor could be seen from the lobby with bridges spanning from one side of the building to another, the front glass windows allowing light in all the way to the 101st floor. The day’s visitors were moving with purpose toward a glass columned bank of elevators where eight boxes floated between floors. Andie stopped in her tracks, earning a grunt of disapproval from the man behind her.
People were filing in to the elevator cars like synchronized sardines. She glanced down at the printed email– her invite to BetterCorp’s Fall casting call. Meeting room 212, Floor 62. It was either get into the tiny box with everyone else or climb 62 flights of stairs. For a few moments, Andie stood there considering it, weighing out how fast she could take each flight and how sweaty she’d be when she arrived.
Digging her nails into her palms, she moved into the elevator, sliding into a space that felt increasingly smaller while others filed in after her. She hadn’t thought to check that floor 62 was selected, but considering all of the beautiful faces and coiffed hair, Andie felt certain she’d get there. If the box didn’t snap off of its cable and kill them all. Keeping her eyes trained on the digital numbers, she tried to remember not to lock her knees.
Don’t faint, Andie, I swear to God, don’t embarrass yourself, it’s fine, it’s fine.. she thought.
Floor 15… 16… 17..
Ding. Some people got off, opening the space, but still not enough to breathe.
If you just keep counting, you’ll get there. Think of something, distract yourself… Ok, remember, don’t say too much in the interview…
24. More people exited.
They like when you’re adaptable, not too polarizing…
The elevator stopped again and Andie felt a popping in her right ear. She gasped and touched her earlobe, unable to hide her surprise.
“Yeah, that happens,” said the girl next to her. She had the most beautiful, full curls Andie had ever seen. The girl smiled, flashing a gleaming set of teeth the color of fresh snow. “You get used to it.”
“Uh, you’ve been here before?” Andie asked, unable to think of something more clever to say.
“Oh, yeah. I go to auditions all the time. That’s where you’re going, too, right? The Fall Call?” She asked, flashing a folded sheet of paper like the one Andie carried.
Andie nodded, then offered her hand, “I’m Andie Rowe.”
The girl grinned and took her hand, “Nice to meet you, Andie Rowe. I’m Marcella.”
The elevator arrived at floor 62, and Andie stepped off after a line of others, surprised by the lack of wobble in her legs. Along the length of the bridge were tables set up with official BetterCorp employees donning clipboards assigning badge numbers to bright-eyed hopefuls of all ages.
Andie and Marcella headed in the same direction, to the table marked ‘Last Names R-T.’
“Marcella! How are you?” asked the woman behind the table, eyes alight with recognition.
“Good, Isabel, how are you? This is my new friend, Andie Rowe. Andie, this is Isabel Berg,” Marcella said. Andie shook the woman’s hand and mumbled that it was nice to meet her.
“Nice to meet you,” Isabel said. “I think you might be one of the girls my scout found in the middle of nowhere.” Her smile looked friendly, but the movement of her eyes over Andie’s makeup-free skin and plain, cotton dress betrayed her disappointment.
“Thank you so much for the opportunity,” Andie said, standing up straighter. She fought the urge to run a hand over her long, dark hair. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
The crowd outside the big double doors to the audition room thinned out by midday, but Andie sat in the same aqua blue armchair just outside, waiting to hear her number called. Each time the doors opened, Andie knew whether the casting directors liked the candidate based on their faces upon exiting the room. Some were brilliant beams of light, striding past Andie with a gaze that met every eye; others were wilted flowers, barely holding their composure, and then other rejections were stones, revealing nothing.
Marcella was called in after only fifteen minutes, and she came back through the doors jubilant. Before departing, she handed Andie a scrap of paper with her phone number on it and offered to meet up for drinks later that evening, an invitation Andie planned to accept. After three hours of waiting, a petite man with bleached hair and a pierced eyebrow opened one of the heavy wooden doors and barked, in a voice much louder than his frame would suggest, “Number 477. Andie Rowe.”
Andie jumped out of her seat and tried to hand the envelope holding her headshots and sparse resume over to him.
“You give that to the casting directors, honey,” he said, waving the envelope away. She could feel her cheeks warm as she followed him inside.
“Miss Rowe, step forward please,” said the man at the table across the room. The space was open and filled with light. Los Angeles sprawled out in front of them outside the wide, tinted window. Too far away to see the ocean but facing the wrong direction to pretend to see the Hollywood Hills in the distance. A breathtaking view nonetheless of a concrete city spread like butter toward the coast.
The man who had called her forward had a round face and balding head, and he took the slim envelope from Andie without looking up from writing his notes. The women to his right, on the other hand, both stared at her unabashedly. The younger woman offered her a small smile of encouragement. She looked down at the contents of the envelope and tapped her pen on the desk top.
“Andie, why do you think you belong in a BetterCorp campaign?” asked the young woman.
Alright, no small talk, Andie thought, I could get used to this.
“Ever since I was a little girl I–”
“No,” the man cut in. “We want to know the real reason. Not some half-baked shit you practiced on the plane over from–where are you from?–” he asked, glancing over her details to find her address.
“Iowa. Bloomfield, Iowa.”
“Right. So tell us why you really think you should be here,” he said, his eyes boring into her for the first time.
Andie looked down at her shaking palms. She thought about the one way ticket from Des Moines, and the look on her father’s face when she’d told him she was leaving. She thought about her younger sister’s hushed whispers in their shared bedroom about Andie’s rise to fame as though it was fated to happen. She thought about the single tear that had streaked down her mother’s cheek when she slipped Andie the small envelope with twelve one hundred dollar bills in it. The money was nearly gone now. She’d put eleven of the bills toward the deposit on a grimy studio apartment in Los Feliz. She was all in, but the lie she’d practiced on the plane and before falling asleep on her inflatable mattress the night before wasn’t fooling anyone. So she chose the truth instead.
“Honestly, I don’t know.”
The older woman gaped and leaned over to whisper in the man’s ear. He grunted.
“But what does that matter?” Andie continued. She pushed her hair out of her face and stood straighter. “All that matters is if you think I belong here. So, sure, I cooked up an entire story about seeing BetterCorp commercials on the TV when I was a kid, about loving the campaigns you run and caring about your company’s message–” she said the last part in a mocking tone and air quotes. Realizing that might be too candid, she tried to regain an earnest tone.
“And yes, it was bullshit. Maybe it’s all bullshit, everything everyone tells you when they walk in here. Maybe it’s just what they think you want to hear. Because you’re the man with the clipboard and the money, and you’re the woman with a face full of opinions. We all just want a shot at a big future, whether we think we fit in or not.”
The young woman who had asked the initial question leaned forward, a smile breaking over her face, and then she began to laugh. “I like her!” she yelled. The other two looked less amused.
The older woman’s face had turned sour and she whispered something else into the man’s ear.
“Alright, well that was honest Andie. What other Andie’s are in there?”
“Sorry?” she asked.
“I don’t like repeating myself, Miss Rowe.
“I-I’m not sure I understand,” Andie said.
“We want to see what else you’ve got,” said the young woman.
Play the actress, Andie thought. Give them a show.
For the next ten minutes Andie did just that. By the end she was sure there were even the faintest traces of a smile at the corners of the old woman’s mouth. She took a seat in the chair across the table from the trio, mind whirring with adrenaline. The three of them dipped their heads together and spoke softly. There was nodding, gesturing toward her resume on the table, and sharp edges to words that Andie couldn’t quite grasp. She sat, folding and unfolding her hands in her lap while they deliberated.
When they were finally through and turned to face her, each of them was smiling. The man shuffled some of the papers in front of him before giving the verdict.
“Andie, you won’t be cast for our Fall Call. Sorry. You didn’t make it.”