The bright sunlight is the first thing the blonde sees as she exits the bus station. This is what she had saved for. Hours of tedious work at that hole in the wall diner. Sure she didn't plan beyond the trip, but she couldn't help the smile that engulfed her face. This was her first step in making her dreams come true.
She secures her duffel bag after checking her money stash. First, she needs to find a place to sleep.
She really should have done some research before leaving Storybrooke. She pulls out her phone and does a quick search for cheap hotels. The thought of being in such a big city for a small-town girl should be scary, but there was no time for fear. I am not nothing, I was never nothing.
She can't believe she is riding in a taxi. Sure, she's from Maine, but even they've heard of Uber. The car stops suddenly. "Miss, we've arrived."
She looks out the window and smiles at the man. She hands him his fare. "Thank you." She grabs her bag and leaps out.
The hotel is the least expensive one she can find, and she pays for a week in advance. She's tired, so tomorrow her search for a job will start.
The next day, the blonde, Emma, is full of energy. She has been applying online but decides the old way can still work. First, she needs to get something to eat. She enters a small diner that reminds her of home and circles a few printed ads while she has her lunch.
She walks the Sunset Strip, trying her luck at a few bars looking for new talent with no luck. She sighs and makes her way to the next one. The day ended quickly as her feet clicked on the pavement.
The darkened street is lit by a lounge's marquee with inviting lights. On the balcony, a woman smiles. The blonde crosses the street hurriedly and her eyes fall onto the enticing poster calling for her to enter the lounge. The entrance walls are filled with images of old-timey beauties of the past along with great singers and dancers, and the music caught her attention, drawing her further in.
"We don't have windows but we do have the best view on the Sunset Strip. Twenty dollars, come on honey. Help a man out."
"Excuse me?" she replies as she was taken out of the enchantment of the music.
"Fill out this fine establishment," he smiles hopefully.
She looks around the jammed room and asks, "Is this a stripper club?"
"No, no. Darling, I should wash your mouth. You haven't seen anything like this before. You won't find a pole inside unless you count the waitress. Come on." He extended his hand out for the fee.
Emma bites her bottom lip. She digs into her jeans pocket, pulls out a twenty-dollar bill, and hesitantly hands it to him.
He smiles brightly and invitingly points to the lounge. "Enjoy!"
She's hesitant as she makes her way through the tables to the bar. The smile was instant; she loves music, it's her escape. She finds a stage with a group of beautiful women dancing and singing.
Show a little more
Show a little less
Add a little smoke
Welcome to Burlesque
The bar is full but what she really needs is a drink.
"Lass, can I get you something to drink?" an accented voice calls for her attention. Her green eyes meet dazzling blue ones surrounded by kohl that enhance the color; the auburn-highlighted, dark-haired scruff unable to hide the square jaw surrounding luscious lips.
She smiles. "Only if you're buying."
"Welcome to L.A. and the Burlesque Lounge." He smiles brightly as he hands her the drink.
"Uhm, thanks." She smiles and turns her eyes back to the stage.
"So where are you from?"
"Oh, from a small town in Maine. How about you?"
"Ah, from Boston."
"Boston, you don't sound like you're from there."
He laughs, "Aye, originally from London but moved to Boston years ago. I still can't rid myself of my accent, I'm afraid. Killian Jones, at your service."
"Emma Swan. So tell me, who do I have to flirt with to get up there?" she says as she points to the stage.
Killian scratches behind his ear as his attention is turned temporarily towards the waitress. "Sweetheart, how about doing your job?"
The girl giggles. "Yes, Captain," turning to go to the nearest table.
"Sorry about that, Emma Swan, and if that's you flirting, you are in dire need of lessons," he smirks.
"I'm sorry. I'm not about to waste my talents on someone who wears more eyeliner than me," she smirks back.
He laughs. "Fair enough. Through that door over there, flirt away, Swan. Ask for Cora."
"Oh, and Swan? Use my name." Killian smiles and starts pouring some liquor into a glass.
"Thank you." She follows his directions.
Behind the doors, it's complete chaos; girls running around half-dressed, rushing to get ready for the next act, all talking at once.
"We're on in five minutes, five minutes, ladies. Come on..." a deep voice comes through the speakers.
"I'm almost done!" one of the girls yells.
"Ladies, tick-tock, time is almost up," Henry says.
"Does anyone know where Zee is?" Cora asks, annoyed.
"All spotlights are supposed to pull in!" Henry screams.
"Ashley, your boyfriend is so hot!" another dancer says.
Cora sighs. "Tonight, Netflix and Chinese?" she asks Henry.
"Yes, I wouldn't miss it." Henry smiles fondly.
"Cora, I lost a contact lens on stage," Rory says.
"Alright, if you fall off the stage just remember you're still a princess," Cora says.
"You're a goddess," Henry reminds her.
"Thank you, Henryyyy!" Rory says with a bright smile, while Cora rolls her eyes.
"Jonathan, the sink is broken, again."
"I'm not calling a plumber, Tiana," Jonathan declares. "Cora, we need to talk about this letter."
Cora sighs dramatically. "Jonathan, how many times do I have to say it? I don't want to discuss this while I'm working."
"Cora, Graham Humbert is coming tonight."
"And what do you want me to do?" Cora asks.
"This isn't going away, Cora. You never want to discuss this. You avoid me like the plague," Jonathan says, holding a paper.
"I didn't divorce you so I could spend more time with you."
"I still own half of this place," he says and walks away.
Emma timidly walks up to the woman she saw on stage earlier. She is sitting regally in front of her mirror putting make-up on.
"Why are you in my mirror?" Cora asks with a raised brow.
"Excuse me, are you Cora? I'm looking for her. I'm friends with Killian and I'm looking for work."
Cora continues to refresh her make-up. "Where have you danced?"
"In front of my mirror at home, but I can dance."
Cora sighs. "Leave your information with Henry. He will let you know when we're having our next audition." Cora points to Henry.
"Uhm, do you know when I should expect the call?" Emma asks.
"Henry?" Cora calls out.
"Where the hell is Zee? She is really late!" Henry says, annoyed.
Emma quickly says, "I'm never late."
"That's good to know," Henry says. "Sweetheart, leave your details with Killian, your friend, and we'll be in touch. We are currently trying to run a show here."
Emma smiles. "I have never seen anything like that before. I need a job and I really want to work here."
"Sweetheart, I love the enthusiasm, but it's really bad timing. We'll be in touch. Promise," Henry says with a warm smile.
"Let's move, ladies!" Henry turns to the dancers, finally in their costumes.
Emma starts to walk out deflated when the door bursts open and a fiery red-head enters.
Cora and Henry both turn to her, matching mock smiles on their faces. "We are so happy you could make it. You missed the opening act and we were saying how amazing it would be if you made it to the next one."
"Sorry, I'm late, but beauty like mine takes time," she smirked as she started getting ready for her number.
"You know what else takes time, Zee? Finding a new job," Cora says with a deadly glare.
Zee laughed. "Yeah, right! You wouldn't have a show without me and you know it." Looking towards Emma, she orders, "Hey you, waitress. Get me a sour-apple martini A.S.A.P." She snaps her fingers as if by magic the drink would appear in her hand.
"Zee, she doesn't work here," Ashley said, smiling.
"Then she isn't busy, is she?" The redhead turns her attention to her mirror.
Emma stares back at the rude woman.
"Didn't your mama teach you it wasn't polite to stare?" Zee said mockingly.
Emma gasps, "I just can't help myself. You are so breathtaking."
Zee laughs, "Well, at least you have good taste. Stare away."
"You know, no one would ever guess." Emma smiles.
"Guess what?" Zee glares.
"That you're a man. Not that there's something wrong with that." Emma shrugs as she walks away.
Zee shrieks. "You little-"
Henry and Cora interrupt, "Zee, the show must go on."
Emma's on her way back to the bar as she notices the waitress from earlier flirting with a customer and ignoring the other patrons calling for her.
After a few stops, Emma finds her way to the bar. "I'll have a vodka and a cosmo for the big guy over there."
"Swan, what are you doing?" Killian asks.
"Killian, give me a chance and I'll show you I'm way better than her. She is too busy flirting to do her job. If I'm not better, you don't have to pay me," Emma pleads.
Killian sighs, "Alright. Let's see what you've got."
The next day, as Ashley starts the routine to 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend', Cora and Henry look on. The lounge is busy and the patrons are enthralled by the act on stage.
A kiss on the hand
may be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl's best friend
"Henry, isn't that girl the one that was backstage yesterday?"
Henry smiles, "I believe so."
Cora turns her attention to Killian. "Why is she tending to the customers?"
"She really needed the job and now she is our new waitress," Killian says.
Cora looks at the bartender. "Killian, darling. When did I make you, head of Personnel?"
"She just picked up a tray and started taking orders," he says as he scratches behind his ear.
Henry mutters, amazed. "Really?"
"Her name is Emma," Killian says with a hint of a smile.
Cora calls out, "Emma, hey Emma." She waves the young girl over.
Emma walks with purpose as if she's ready to fight to keep her newfound job.
Cora stands up and looks Emma up and down. She sighs. "You need to maximize your assets; you got them, show them. Work them to your advantage. Oh, and Emma, don't ever go behind my back again." The warning was evident in the older woman's voice.
Emma smiled, "Yes, ma'am."
"Emma, don't ever call me ma'am again," Cora hissed.
A flustered Emma replies, "Yes, sir. No, I mean your Highness. Cora."
Cora shakes her head. "Get on the floor, and remember to work it."
Black, Starr, Frost Gorham!
"Excuse me," a masculine voice calls to Emma.
Emma smiles. "Yeah, what can I get you?"
"Dewar's 18 on the rocks and a bottle of Dom for the table, and keep them coming. Oh, and will you let Zee know I'm here?"
"I'm sorry and you are…?" Emma asks.
"A Platinum member, Graham Humbert. And you are?"
"Emma," she replies.
"Emma," he repeats as she walks away.
Zee rushes backstage as she struggles to finish getting into her costume. She finds Henry looking on. "I know I'm late, but better late than never. What is that waitress doing here? I want her gone!"
"What did she ever do to you?" Henry asks.
"She said I looked like a man!" she scoffs.
Henry smiles. "Well, that can't be the first time you've heard that. Zee, go get dressed for the next act. Ashley had to go on in your place."
Zee shrieks, "Merlin, my spotlight!" She goes on stage and once there, pushes Ashley out of the way as she dances and lip-syncs.
"Damn it, Zelena!" Henry yells, frustrated. That girl is going to give him a heart attack.
I've heard of affairs that are strictly platonic
But diamonds are a girl's best friend…
"Emma!" Killian calls out. "Swan, what do you need?"
Emma snaps out of her singing daydream. "Dewar's 18 on the rocks and a bottle of Dom-"
"And keep them coming?" he asks with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, so he is a regular then," Emma confirms.
"Graham Humbert, real estate tycoon and currently dating Zee," Killian says.
Emma sighs as her attention lands on the stage, "I wanna be up there."
He smiles as he finishes getting the order ready. "And do you have the talent?"
She nods, "Yes, I do."
"Good, you're up." He pushes the tray to her.
She rolls her eyes as she takes the tray.
He simply laughs.
Meanwhile, inside Cora's office in the back, Jonathan, Cora, and Graham are in conversation.
"Cora, the way I see it is simple. I assume all your financial obligations, and I pay you each five hundred thousand."
"Where is the partnership in that?" Cora turns to Jonathan.
"How about a partnership?" Jonathan asks Graham.
"Sorry, I'm not partner material. The deal is very generous. I leave with my final offer."
"Graham, tell me why is it that you want my club so badly?" Cora asks.
Graham shrugs. "I just like it, and when I see something I like, I have to have it."
"That must have made you very popular growing up as a kid," Cora snarks.
"I did okay."
"Cora, just think of what you could do with that money!" Jonathan says.
"You know what you can do with that money, Jonathan?"
"The way I see it is simple, you're in trouble and I'm in the position to help. We can all come out winners. Remember, you got that balloon payment due at the beginning of next month."
Cora turns angrily to Jonathan. "Seriously? Did you also tell him about the queen-of-hearts tattoo on my ass?"
"Of course not. This is just business."
"I don't think you will get another offer. At least not as generous as this one," Graham insists.
"Graham, I'm not interested. My club is not for sale," Cora says with finality.
"Think about it, the offer is on the table," Graham states before he leaves.
Zee has just returned backstage to get ready for the next number. as Emma arrives with drinks. "Ladies, here are your drinks!"
The girls stampede to get their drinks.
Cora makes her way through. "Wait one-second girls, which one of the drinks is Zee's?"
"Tom Collins and the shot," Emma replies.
Zee tries to grab the drink, but Cora beats her to it and drinks it with a smile on her face. "Here's mud in your eye, Zee.
Now I got a buzz, and you gotta change, you're on," Cora says.
"Just because you're my mother doesn't mean you can tell me what to do." Zee crosses her arms.
"Zee just go get ready," Cora demands with a look that could stop a beating heart.
Zee leaves in a huff.
Henry approaches Cora. "Honey, I don't know if you noticed, but was Jonathan talking to Graham Humbert?"
Cora sighs. "That would be because Graham wants to buy my club."
"Are you serious?" Henry replies.
Meanwhile, Emma hesitantly approaches the duo after hyping herself by the door.
"Cora, I was hoping I could run an idea by you," she stammers, "on how to make the show better. I know you are really busy but-"
"Speaking of the show, have you talked to Dave about the new vocals?" Henry asked Cora as he looked over the costumes.
"Vocals, that's exactly what I was trying to talk to you about." Emma smiles. "None of the girls sing, they lip-sync."
"Except for Cora," Henry states as he turns all his attention to Emma.
Emma lets out a nervous laugh. "Right, except for Cora. I just think the audience would really love it if the girls would sing and dance."
Cora stands in front of Emma. "No, they wouldn't."
"Honey, the people come here to watch the dancers dance and lip-sync to the greats." Henry grabs Emma and guides her to the door.
Emma tries for one last attempt to make her case. "I just think this would work, I don't understand why we can't try something new."
"Because it's above your paygrade," Cora says. "Henry, please remove her."
"Emma, honey, I think your friend Killian needs you back," Henry says as he gives her the final push outside the door.