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Bad Hair Days

                          Another Girl Friday Mystery


Bright lights flashed through the dark limousine windows, creating a surrealistic shadowy, strobe light effect. The result was almost eerie, as the people that were visible through the windows seemed to move in a wave of slow motion. 

            Between the blinding flashes, I could just make out throngs of people in the distance behind a roped off area. They were cheering, waving signs and banners, and in general contributing to the tremendous noise level we could hear at a deafening intensity inside the car, despite its luxuriously padded interior.

It was finally our limo’s turn to stop in front of the event’s entrance and red carpet. The process was more like the landing of a plane than the curbside parking of a vehicle.  Three people directed the car into the exact space it needed to be to ensure we could make a truly grand entrance.  

            The car finally rolled to a stop. “Ready, Sara?” Alex asked.

             I sucked in a deep breath, “It’s your night, Alex, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.  Thanks for inviting me.  It’s just so exciting!” 

            “Let’s do it then,” he said putting up a closed fist.  We did a knuckle busters gesture and both laughed, albeit with a tad of nervousness hidden under the humor. 

            I nodded just as our chauffeur opened the door, and his hand grasped mine in an elegant gesture that made me giggle.  I slowly stepped from the vehicle so that my posture remained lady-like and my dress would neither hike up nor rip in the transition from the car.  I carefully ensured that my feet and body were properly positioned so that I looked comfortable walking in high-heeled shoes.  I had spent two weeks practicing walking in them to ensure I could pull it off, and was grateful I wasn’t wobbly as I walked onto the start of a long length of carpeted sidewalk.  This was the proverbial “red carpet”, and I prayed that my first and very public visit to it would not be face down.

            My appearance from the car elicited no response from the crowd, and more of a feeling of wonderment at who in the world I might be.  When Alex followed, though, the level of noise increased ten-fold as soon as his face became visible.  Screaming, cat-calling, and even crying could be heard from among the crowd, who were now pushing at the rope that kept them away from those of us on the red carpet.  Several security guards buzzed about the lines to keep the mass of people under control.

            Alex and I looked at one another and grinned in anticipation.  He took a deep breath.  “Here we go, Sara.”  He squeezed my hand, and then took my arm to head down the red carpet, following other well-known people through the path of reporters, cat-callers and star struck fans.  I felt completely lost and clueless as to how to act or what to do.

            “Smile,” Alex said, and demonstrated his own well-practiced technique, a semi-open mouth with all teeth showing.  I followed his example, but it took a lot of effort.

            “Good.  Now relax.”

            I realized I had been holding my breath since we left the limousine, so I let my body relax and tried to allow natural functions such as breathing and blinking appear normal, although I still didn’t know what to do next.  I was still worried that I’d stumble in the heels I was not quite used to wearing.

            Thankfully, Alex kept me steady, and indicated by touch when I was to stop, turn, smile, or do anything at all.  Each time we stopped, I turned in the direction Alex indicated, and smiled as light bulbs flashed in my face. 

            It was like a dream.  There were VIP’s on the red carpet ahead of us, and more to follow based on the endless line of limousines, each awaiting their turn to stop and provide an “entrance” for the cheering crowd.

            I recognized some of the people in the red carpeted area, but there were many I didn’t know by sight or name.  There were a sea of people wearing gowns in various styles; from the most gorgeous I’d ever seen, to those that seemed a little ridiculous.  For as many bona fide stars, there were twice as many media type folks milling in and out of the stream of people.  They were taking pictures, holding cameras, and some reporting directly into the camera, submitting live TV footage, as the action continued.

             I was a guest at a Latin American Awards show.  This was like the Emmys, but for Latin Americans whose work had impacted the community the most.  The star power slated to attend the event was huge, and the fashion statements made by those around us validated the fact that this affair was no small shindig.

            After just a few painfully slow steps down the carpet, Alex had a microphone stuck in front of his face.  Before I knew what was happening, Alex began conversing in Spanish with some reporter.  I just stood by his side, cameras flashing, and feeling rather awkward, like a freshman that had crashed the senior prom.  Alex‘s gestures and words were perfectly mannered as he answered question after question, and taking time to look directly into the camera and even giving an impish wink, which made the watching crowd ooh and aah with adoration.  

He was a star in the making, and was one of several guests of honor to the event for a small part he was now playing on a Spanish soap opera.  Alex said they called them “telenovellas” in Spanish, and millions of people watched them in the states and Mexico.  His small part on the show had made a big splash in a very short period, and the crowd called out his name in almost a chant.

            It was such a shock to be here, insignificant me, as a part of such a major event, when just a few months ago Alex was working as a teller and trying to get modeling jobs and I was out of work.  Through a bizarre recent chain of events, Alex and I were featured in a local media interview that received nationwide coverage.  It seemed that within hours of the national broadcast, he was signed by an L.A. agent and immediately started working as a Calvin Klein underwear model.  He was gorgeous, well built, and had “the look” that made this overnight transition seem natural.  Then, during one of his first shoots, he met one of the stars of the soap, was picked up for a small role, and now here he was, on the brink of being a star in his own right.

            Since his first appearance on the show, women all over the world, and some men too, had gone gaga for him.  Alex could ooze manly sexuality right through the TV screen.  I didn’t even understand Spanish, but Alex definitely had proven his natural acting ability to me despite the language barrier.  Heck, sometimes I even got a little hot and bothered when I saw his scenes. 

            Unfortunately for those adoring women, Alex preferred to play for the other team.  His acting must be really good, as Hollywood had obviously not noticed this fact yet.  He was receiving oodles of mail from thousands of the show’s fans, mostly from women who swore their undying love for him.  Along with the letters, some sent him everything from flowers to underwear, and sometimes even naked pictures of themselves.  Even some of the actresses on the show had thrown themselves at him as well, but he’d held them off somehow without offending them.  He was naturally good at dealing with the politics that came with the entertainment world.

            I would’ve thought this industry could tell who went which way from miles away, but the gaydar in Hollywood appeared to be broken when it came to Alex.  It was probably because he was so good looking; he’d appeal to just about anyone.

            Alex nodded in my direction as he was speaking, so I gave my brightest smile and nodded to the camera.  I got a brief shot, and then the reporter went back to Alex.   In another moment, it was time to move down to the next “station” on the red carpet.   We passed an area in which the reporter didn’t show any interest in speaking to Alex, and then another came by and practically grabbed him by the arm to ask a few questions.

            It was just like I’d seen on similar events for TV and movie stars a hundred times before.  I even felt like I looked the part, in a sparkly ruby red dress that showed off everything good about my tall, somewhat slender body, and hid the fact that I had a small chest and that my hips were a bit wider than my shoulders.   The dress was nearly backless, ending appropriately above my rear end, and showed off my back.  I was pale, but felt I looked best in red, so I didn’t care.  My dark brown hair and scarlet lips seemed to make pale look elegant.

            The front of the dress draped down glamorously in the front, not too far, as there wasn’t any cleavage to feature.  It was more of a billowy drape, with the side coming up my shoulders and all was held up with a strap that went across the back of my neck.   The length of the dress went about halfway past my knees towards my feet, and had enough give to allow me to walk with regular strides without waddling.

            I’d borrowed the dress from a good friend, Shelby, who attended glamorous parties all the time.   Alex had gotten offers to wear designer clothes, but I was on my own, a nobody, and not about to buy a pricey dress for the event.  Shelby’s closet was full of fancy clothes, and I was happy to let her pick one for me since I was fashion challenged in addition to being frugal.

            Of all the choices I had, this was the one that said “Wow” when I tried it on.  It was a little small, as I was several inches taller than Shelby, but I felt like a million dollars in it.  I had sparkly red high heels that matched the dress.  They made me think of the shoes Dorothy took from the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz, but with killer, spiked heels and fashionable. 

            My make-up job had been professionally done by Alex’s cosmetic artist friend, and included false eyelashes that made my green eyes even more intense.  He also gave me a hair style that I couldn’t duplicate on my own in a million years.  My mid-length hair had been swept back with gel in a sleek style, and held in place at the nape of my neck by a gorgeous rhinestone clip, borrowed from the set of the show.   I felt good, looked great, and thought just maybe I could blend into this sophisticated crowd for this one night without giving away how awkward I really felt.

            It was just a one time thing for me, until Alex met other industry folks that would be more grateful to attend an event like this.  Regardless, I planned on enjoying tonight to the hilt, and could not hide my happiness to witness firsthand the instant success that my good friend had achieved in such a small amount of time.

            “Alejandro, bebito,” came from somewhere from within the sea of beautiful people.  A stunning woman approached Alex, and smothered him with air kisses and an unnecessary amount of attention.  “I’m so happy to see you came after all,” she hesitated, “with your, ur, little friend.”  

            I recognized her as Cecelia Barbaron, the lead actress on Alex’s show.  She was decked to the hilt in a silky white dress that hugged all of her ample curves.  She was rather short, and had her normally long, dark tresses piled on top of her head.  She had a white feather boa around her shoulders, and I could not help but think a bird could confuse the hair and boa for a nest and dive in.

            Her make-up was also professionally done, and no one could deny she had lovely features.  She also had a sensual appeal that couldn’t be dismissed, and I saw many glance her way as she spoke to Alex.  Her personality matched her attire, so big that her small body couldn’t seem to contain it.  Alex returned her affectionate pecks as gentlemanly as he could, and then turned her to greet me.

            “CeCe, this is the friend I was talking to you about.  Her name is,Sara”

            “Jes,” she said, her accent suddenly getting heavier, “Mucho gusto, Sara.”  

            She made the same air kisses to each of my checks, embracing me with forced feeling.  Then, instead of turning to include us both in the conversation, she placed herself in between Alex and me, with her back now roughly two inches away from me.    She tossed her boa around her shoulders and it smacked me in the face.   I gently moved it away from me, a little miffed at her rudeness.

             Alex had already told me she had been trying to bed him since the day he arrived, and he had used me as the “girl back home” excuse to get her to retract her claws and leave him alone.   I had expected her cold shoulder treatment in advance, and was prepared to accept it gracefully.  Despite this, I could not help but enjoy a moment of guilty pleasure when I realized her lovely white boa now had a two inch red smear from where it had brushed against my mouth. 

            Good luck with the dry cleaners on that stain, sweetie, I thought to myself, and then felt rather catty about it.  Get over it, Sara, this is her world, not yours. Just enjoy the moment.

            Luckily, I had little more to endure, as it was over as quickly as it had begun.  CeCe was off to spread her love and affection to others in the crowd.   We moved down the red carpet again, and more stars were appearing.   There were TV and movie actors, singers, writers, politicians and more. 

I gazed around when we paused again.  We were getting closer to the entrance of the complex, so I could look back at the crowd of the power players, all made up for a night out.  We stood still for what seemed like five minutes to me, so I soaked it all in.  It was too much; famous faces, beautiful appearances, excited greetings to see one another.   I could not help wonder what power struggles, competition for camera time, and other problems lie beneath this surface of pretend perfection.

            After several minutes of gawking and supposition, Alex brought me back to reality by tightening his grip on my arm.  He had started conversing with a reporter from one of the entertainment shows whose name I actually recognized, and this time in English so I could follow along. 

I recognized the woman, having seen the show a million times, but I could not remember her name.  Short blond hair, professional clothing and appearance, perfect teeth.  She blended into yet stood out from the crowd in her own way.   It was exciting to see her in person, and Alex answered her questions in a casual manner that I knew he’d prepared for in advance.  He came off like he had done it a hundred times before.

            Suddenly, the buzz of the audience became even louder; someone VERY important had apparently just arrived.  Could it Be J. Lo and Marc Antony, George Lopez??  It was rumored that Madonna might even attend.  From our position at the far end of the red carpet, it was hard to tell, but is seemed that catching the first picture of whomever had arrived was a big deal. 

             Catching the buzz, the reporter left Alex in mid-sentence, running off, and the media portion of the red carpet crowd rushed back down the carpet towards the curb.  I could hear from others around us that a very famous singer had just arrived, but not who it was.

            A group of people standing just to the side of us pushed in between Alex and me in a rather rough manner.  Alex started to laugh and said “What a bunch of cutthroats” when it happened.

             It felt like a ten minute process, but it must have occurred in just seconds.  From being pushed, I had stepped back awkwardly on my heel and it snapped right off of my shoe.  Being off-balance, I started to fall backwards. 

            We were so close to the building’s entrance that I fell into the wall that had a large banner attached to it, naming the event in huge letters.  As I fell backwards, Alex attempted to keep me upright.   My back hit the edge of the banner that had a nail or some other metal fastener that held it to the wall. It stuck out from the wall quite a bit.  I felt pain in my back as it scraped upwards, digging into my skin.  The pain was pretty intense.  Alex kept me from fully falling, but then the WORST thing of all happened.     The neck strap of my dress got caught on the sign’s fastener.  As Alex tried to get me loose, my hair clip came off, and then the strap snapped.

            In a slow motion of horror, I watched as the front of my dress fell down to my waist.    Despite the majority of the crowd ogling over the big stars, there were enough left to ensure that the entire event was caught on both camera and video.  Being small-chested, I hadn’t worn a bra, and I was completely exposed. 

            Light bulbs flashed, and a video or camera or two was turned in my direction before I could cover myself.  I heard loud gasps from those nearby who sympathized with the situation, and laughs from those who apparently didn’t.

            Alex quickly grabbed me, and placed me between himself and the wall so no one else could take pictures.   He then started yelling at the camera crews and photographers to back off.   One of the camera men shouted something in Spanish.  Alex made sure I was covered and standing upright, then shouted back at the man, gesticulating wildly in apparent outrage.

            The pain in my back was unbearable, and I could tell I was bleeding profusely.   I closed my eyes and clicked my now uneven heels together three times, thinking “There’s no place like home” in a vain wish to get away.  I was still there when my eyes opened again.  Toto, we’re still in Kansas, I thought to myself.

            Someone apparently on the event team took my arm quietly and indicated that I follow her.  She led me away from the scene to a side door of the building.   As I walked away with her, I saw Alex hitting the shouting man square in the jaw, resulting in his camera’s hitting the ground with a loud crash, barely heard amongst the louder crowd.  A full-on fight had now broken out, and I saw police officers coming to break it up as I was whisked inside.

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