Trashed / Page 19

Page 19


And suddenly, it hits me: What the FUCK am I doing here? I did my own makeup, my own hair. This dress came from the fucking bargain rack at Kohl’s.

I feel a panic attack coming on; I force the smile to remain on my face, force myself to breathe slowly.

Adam pulls me closer, so I’m molded to his side, so I don’t fall over. He leans down, whispers in my ear. “You’re doing great. Smile. Stop thinking. It’s fine.”

The questions are a nonstop barrage, coming as hard and fast as the flashes, but I’ve stopped hearing them. I’m not sure I could answer anyway. I’m not sure I have a voice right now. I’m not sure of anything, except that I’ve gotten myself into something huge, and I’m in no way prepared.

Adam turns with me, presents us to the opposite rank of photographers. He seems totally oblivious, at ease, as if this is totally normal, an every day occurrence. He’s a natural. Loose, smiling, shifting his gaze from one camera to another. I try to mimic him, try to focus on making my smile seem more natural and less deer-in-the-headlights. I stand taller, turn into Adam slightly, shake my hair and turn my head. The cameras go nuts when I do that, and the shouted questions become a repeated refrain:

“Who is she?”

“What’s her name?”

“How long have you been dating?”

“Where is Emma Hayes?”

Emma Hayes? Adam’s ex-girlfriend. Oscar-nominated for Margo and Me. Golden Globe winner. Three-time Emmy nominee for Garden of Evil.

Jesus. I’m so out of my league, out of my element. I’m a fish out of water; I’m drowning, unable to breathe.

I toss my hair again and focus on a single camera, stare into the black lens; focus on the lens rather than the face above it. Another lens, to the left. Another, and another.

And then we’re moving and I have to focus on each step, because I can’t feel my feet. The sheer terror and overwhelmed panic has made me numb, I think.

Now we’re stopped again, this time in front of one of those checkered backdrops plastered with logos of companies I’ve never heard of. Adam steps away from me, gesturing to me as if silently saying to the cameras, here she is. The questions still come in shouted rolling waves, and the flashes have me seeing stars, but I dig deep, dig down into my reservoir of strength, that place I go when I’ve got nothing left but can’t give up. It’s where I went when LeShawn would get drunk and angry and I’d be the only target, when Frank would come into my room late at night —

I viciously shove those thoughts down. I smile. I pose. I don’t know what I’m doing, why I’m here, why Adam dragged me into this, but I’m here and there’s no escape, so I have to keep going. I turn, smile, toss my hair and look in another direction, and then Adam has my hand in his and he’s pulling me through the doors and into the parlor of the Grand Hotel. The flashes and the questions are left behind, but now I’m faced with an all-new crisis.

Rose Garret is standing directly in front of me. Gareth Thomas, one of the most well-known directors and producers in the world, with over a dozen films to his name, all of them blockbusters, is standing next to her. Lawrence Bradford is there, an older supporting-role actor, one of those guys you’ve seen in dozens of roles but never in the lead. Amy Jones, as stunningly resplendent now as when she was a fresh-faced actress in the late sixties and early seventies. I see other faces I recognize, even more I don’t.

And they’re all staring at me.

Conversation stops. Drinks pause in mid-air.

Rose Garret is the first to step forward. She smiles at me, but it doesn’t quite reach her curious hazel eyes. “Hi. I’m Rose.”

I take her hand and shake it briefly. “It’s an honor to meet you, Rose. I’m Des.”

“Des.” She says this as if judging me by my name alone. She eyes me, examines me, and then shifts her eyes to Adam. “I thought you were bringing Em.”

“I was. But she couldn’t make it. They shut down the ferries.”

Rose grins. “I bet you’re devastated.”

Adam nods. “Completely. I cried.”

I’m missing something, obviously. I know Adam and Emma broke up a while ago, which I suppose could be awkward if they were supposed to attend a gala as a couple.

“So, Des. You’re a model, I take it?” Rose asks.

A server drifts up to us, a silver tray balanced on his palm, and offers us each a glass of champagne. Adam takes two, hands one to me, and I sip it delicately, slowly. The last thing I can afford in this situation is to let alcohol cloud my judgment or loosen my tongue.

“I—” I have no clue how to answer that. She thinks I’m a model?

“Des is a college student. An intern.” Adam answers for me.

Which is true enough, but probably not in the way Rose is assuming. Maybe that’s Adam’s intent, though. I don’t know.

Gareth Thomas moves into the circle beside Rose, and Adam introduces us. “Des, hmm? A unique name for a uniquely beautiful young woman.” He shakes my hand vigorously, and his eyes cut speculatively to Adam. “You’ve been holding out on me, Adam.”

“Man’s gotta have a few secrets, Gareth,” Adam says, nudging the director with his elbow. It’s a joke, but it’s not. I’m a secret? Not so much anymore, obviously.

Lawrence and Amy join the circle next, and now I’m suddenly surrounded by Hollywood royalty, and it’s hard to breathe. I try not to stare at each of the people surrounding me, people I’ve seen in movies and on the covers of People and OK! and Time and US Weekly, and on Entertainment Tonight or TMZ.

Again, the thought hits me like a ten-pound sledge: What am I DOING here?

Adam deflects all the questions directed at me, introducing me without explaining who I am in relation to him, or what I do. I’m an impostor, surely? I don’t belong here: I’m a trash collector.

I smile and nod and take tiny sips of champagne, and do my best to keep my emotions buried and off my features. Rose drifts away from the circle, but I see her eyes go to me more than once as she joins a different conversation. Eventually Adam pulls me away from Lawrence, Amy, and Gareth, and moves me through the crowd, waving to one person or another, pausing to chat with this person or that, and he always introduces me politely but neutrally, and leaves no room for probing questions. But I can sense, in every new person we meet, every conversation Adam steers us away from, that everyone is curious. Everyone wants to know who I am, where I came from, and why I’m here so unexpectedly at Adam’s side.

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