I can be obsessive but I’m not one to easily become infatuated. Despite that fact, Adrian Loose’s gorgeous hazels leave a searing impression. It’s been over an hour since the thirty-year-old rocker and I first locked eyes yet there he remains in my mind. Forever embedded as waves of mesmerizing gold, green and auburn paradise. The colors weave through my sparking imagination and send a deep buzz through my whole body. Worst timing ever.
All I want is a successful show. To make that reality, focus is the only lover I need. Besides, Adrian is dating a diamond studded movie star, lucky her, lucky him.
I turn to check the digital clock on the back wall. Showtime is in less than ten minutes. I breathe in deeply and take a glimpse back at my fellow Victoria Secret angels. Dark waves, blonde curls, high cheekbones, slender bodies, toned muscles, none a day over thirty. Some sway their hips to an imaginary beat, others pop out their legs, toss their manes and snap streams of endless selfies. Plastic. As much as I want to ignore the fact, that’s exactly what we are. A parade of contrived perfection, the earthly definition of an angel, the closest to flawless mankind can attain. Women envy us, men lust after us. Millions look to us as though we are heaven come to earth, yet our stories are not fairy tales. Perching on a flat, cold, hard pedestal can hurt. Yes, we hurt. We sacrifice and pay dearly and yep, we bleed. I know this for a fact. My right toe is gushing as we speak. I bend down to conceal it and stop the bleeding. Monica Snow, fellow angel and drama queen of the century, gasps a lot louder than necessary.
“Kare, what happened to your toe? Ow!”
“It’s nothing. I probably just bumped it.”
“It needs to be wrapped!” I start to protest, it has been a climb to the top and I don’t want to cause trouble. The only piece of advice my mother, an ex-supermodel, gave me was to never leave a producer with a reason to give me the boot. Much to my mother’s chagrin, my actor father was a lot more open about the ins of showbiz. He told me to be kind, sweet, compliant and do what the director of the show wanted. Always. Well, so far so good. But that perfect image was about to be ruined by a bikini clad string bean. Monica waved her bedazzled arm in the air.
“Monica, please. I don’t…”
She ignores me, her eyes wide as she strains to get someone’s attention. “First aid! First aid! Good, oh good! Here comes someone.”
I plant my hands on my hips and glare. “My God, Monica, I’m fine. Please!”
Her blue eyes turned icy as she backed into a circle of other girls. “Woah, sorry.” I turn away from the eyes watching me and face the stage. I want to apologize. That came out so wrong, no matter how hard I tried to fit the perfect mold, it never worked. Mom was right, I should have stayed out. Even though I finally looked like I belonged, the industry wasn’t made for me.
A woman with a blinking blue headpiece rushes in to inspect my foot. Her name tag reads “Patricia”. A loud, voice hollers from somewhere backstage, “alright ladies, five minutes before show time! This is it! Five minutes!” Patricia’s sharp eyes dart from my foot to my face.
“What the hell happened?”
“Not sure.” Yeah, that was a lie. I knew. The super high heels they forced me to wear at the five-hour rehearsal had rubbed my flesh chicken skin raw. When they handed me today’s pair of crème-du-la-torture I didn’t dare protest. I slipped them on and “boom” the scab popped off. The woman’s tinted lips pull back, her eyebrows lift but not too far. Botox. Plastic.
She pats down her silky pockets. “I’ll try to find a see-through bandage.”
The voice hollers again. “Ladies who need help with wardrobe, just let Patricia know, she’s back!”
“Dammit Clark.” Patricia shoved a chunk of choppy blond hair behind her ear and took off in a whirlwind of expensive fabric. The smell of exotic flowers and dark notes of vanilla tangle with the scent of hairspray and heated hair. I glanced at the line of Victoria Secret models standing a couple paces behind me.
Most keep their eyes closed. Their wings flutter as they draw their breaths in slowly, calming themselves. Was it true that the immortal could be nerve-wracked? Did goddesses work hard to earn respect and work to keep it? Apparently. We had sacrificed freedom, bared our bodies, strut for men three times our age and here we all are. Chosen by the prestigious, lauded individuals who deemed us worthy enough to walk the God ordained show of fashion. It was our time to shine, to show the world how beautiful, perfect and valuable we are. To make normal women feel like they don’t measure up like they aren’t worth a man’s attention. Ironically, I feel the furthest thing from an unshakeable goddess. I despise the person I have become, beautiful on the outside but inwardly so unsatisfied. Apparently, plastic wings can’t hoist me above and away from the hideous imperfection dwelling within. My mouth is dry. My stomach is twisting into thick knots. Nausea sweeps over me in waves. I can’t help but wonder what the point of all of this really is. The voice screams again. So shrill.
Patricia books it towards me, almost knocking over two crew members in the process. “Take the shoe off!” She hollers from a distance. I hesitate. Rude. She stands in front of me and looks up at me, her face beat red.
“I’m sorry. But please hurry. Hurry!” I step out of my stringy shoe and wait as she administers the bandage. The lights above us dim slowly. Waves of anticipating screams rise from the audience. Millions would be watching at home, their eyes glued to computer and television screens. Nausea. I can hear my heart in my ears. A loud thumping sound washes over the stadium, all falls silent. I hold my breath. Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Adrian Loose!”
Adrian’s smooth voice trills as it booms through the speakers. “Just shoot for my heart if it feels right… one life baby it’s yours better do it right.” A suited man stands beside me, black earpiece tightly wrapped around the outer lobe. His beefy hands press into the ear piece. My foot aches as Patricia finishes stretching the bandage over the wounded area. The suited man speaks.
“Karis Burdett, you’re on. In three, two, one.” I launch myself away from Patricia and towards the runway. Nope. My ankle dips to the right. I quickly snap it back. The cameras probably caught that. I beam despite the pain and give the audience one less thing to criticize later. Opening the show was a huge deal that many would kill for. I needed to pull my performance together with the cards I have left.
The main stage tonight far outshines how it had looked at rehearsal. Awash with blue, purple and green, the colors of the sea and decorated with large, glass pillars. Utopian, Atlantis. A place with no wars or fighting, no disease or disputed presidencies. Only the best of the best rule here, the stuff of legend, the immortal. At least that’s what the tabloids, star news, and fashion lines scream. Too bad the average person couldn’t plunge beyond the aquamarine mascaraed and into the ocean filled with plastic, plastic, plastic. This deep-sea world is so different from what I imagined. Yet the ambiance is still just as enthralling as the day I started. So confusing.
The handsome pop-star stands at the back of the stage, his gaze washes over me as I strut forward. He locks eyes with me again. I can’t help but be taken aback. The heated buzz I felt an hour ago, returns. It amplifies as he walks towards me and reaches for my hand. I take it. The crowd roars. Rumors will be buzzing tomorrow but who cares? This is show business. This is what the media wants. Publicity is how we make the money.
Adrian’s voice dips dangerously low then soars to new heights. “Girl, I found you. Finally, you’re here… shooting to those stars, why don’t we disappear into the night, together.” As we walk together, I notice his hands are warm and soft. Security. Something I hadn’t had since dad left. But Adrian has a girlfriend! How dare I hold his hand! He releases me as I near the end of the runway. I pause at the end, toss my glittery dress, twist my hips right then left, seek approval from the crowd. Am I good enough? Am I good enough? Cameras snap continuously. My eyes wander over the packed seats, gauging expressions. My attention settles on a young girl with a long ponytail. Her eyes wide.
She reminds me so much of me at that age. Innocent, young, unsuspecting and unaware of the dangers of the stage. I flash a smile in her direction, wave like a queen then strut back down the walk. The crowd erupts with applause. I feel the warmth of million of eyes as they scan me up and down. Adrian winks. I flash a bright grin. The buzzing continues. I disappear behind the curtain, enshrouded by the lie of perfection. If only I could disappear from myself.