Public Relations(7)

By: Katie Heaney

“No,” Keiran practically purred. “Come on, dude, don’t be modest.” (Did Keiran Fitz just call Archie Fox “dude”? I thought. I wished that I would evaporate into the air.) “What woman wouldn’t be into you?”

“She’s gay,” I said. I figured I’d already broken Joanna’s command once. It was too late for me, and I couldn’t bear to let Keiran, Sam, and Ryan embarrass themselves—and, by proxy, Joanna—any further.

The men looked at me, and then at Archie, as if for confirmation. He simply smiled.

“Apparently she’s dating that French tennis player, something Marchand?” said Maria. “There was an item in the Star last week.”

“Ah,” said Ryan. “My apologies. British gossip doesn’t always make it across the pond.”

It was mortifying, really. Joanna didn’t work with actors, but she at least kept up to date with celebrity gossip at large. But if a celebrity existed outside Ryan’s sphere, he couldn’t be bothered.

“What about Raya?” I asked.

I’d heard the phrase “You could cut the tension with a knife” plenty of times in my life, but had never truly understood it until this very moment. Ryan, Sam, and Keiran looked at me with as much disgust as if I had leapt across the table and asked for an autograph. Maria and Archie wore expressions of more decided amusement. Regardless, every eye in the room was on me.

“She’s up-and-coming,” I said, shrugging. “She’s young. She’s cool.” All of which was true. Raya, the otherworldly-looking singer/songwriter/animal rights activist/style icon, was infuriatingly cool. The kind of cool that, somehow, seemed intrinsic to her personality. Like she slid out of the birth canal with pale-blue hair and a coy smile, and her mom was like, Huh, that’s it? What a breeze. She was only twenty (I was still coming to terms with the fact that I’d reached the point in life after which every new pop star would be younger than me), but she had this air about her that suggested she was wise beyond her years. Her Instagram was filled with gray-tinted photos of mugs of loose-leaf tea and tarot cards and, like, the scarf she was knitting. I was obsessed with her.

Archie’s eyebrows rose. “I didn’t know Raya had reached corporate-level recognition.” She hadn’t; he was right. The only reason I knew anything about her was that I’d heard her song straining over the crowd at a warehouse dance party in Bushwick, one of the places I went to hear new music, and had researched her thoroughly as soon as I got home. As of now, though, Raya was still only releasing tracks here and there on SoundCloud. Complex had given her a little blurb as a person to watch, but it was a Web-only list. The chances of her being on Ryan’s radar were slim to none.

“Oh, of course,” said Sam, eyeing his phone under the table. “We’re huge fans of… Head Bush. Rush. Head Rush.”

“I think we can probably make that work. Archie?”

He was rubbing his face with the butts of his palms, his cheeks and temples flushed red. He looked exhausted by the meeting—which had been going on for roughly fifteen minutes, but felt like hours—and I didn’t blame him.

“I like Raya,” he finally said. “I’m a fan of her music. We’ve crossed paths once or twice, and I’ve found her to be good company.” He chuckled. “But what are we going to do, have my people hand a note to her people: Does Raya like Archie? Check the box, yes or no? Couldn’t I just give her a quick ring?” There was that charm he was famous for, I thought. It had been a while since anyone had seen it.

“In a simpler world, yes.” Ryan rose from his chair and patted Archie on the shoulder with an almost-wistful look—like he was a father giving his son dating advice, unaware that his son had been messing around with girls in the backs of cars for years. I caught a glance from Archie and tried to stifle a laugh when his eyes widened slightly in bewilderment. “But that’s what we’re all here for,” Ryan continued, gesturing to the room. “Besides, it’ll make much more of an impression on her if she’s contacted by your team. She’ll know she’s playing in the big leagues. Really wow her.”

I doubted any woman with even an ounce of heterosexual interest in her body needed much wow-ing to be convinced to have dinner with Archie, but I held my tongue.

“Are we sure this is the best choice, though?” Keiran piped up. “I mean, personally, I’m a huge fan, but it’s no secret that she isn’t exactly topping the charts, right? And the whole point is to increase visibility, is it not?”

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