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By Katie Delahanty, Karen Grove, Nicole Steinhaus
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Katie Delahanty
All rights reserved.
Mark Vancleer @BrightsideBP
Oh, you didn't ask how the SI fashion show is going? Too bad. Swimsuitingly well!
Parker Mifflin @IsIndulgent
@BloomOlivia It's not so bad, honey. It's not like you were wearing ... oh wait. Nevermind. ;)
Taking a sip of my champagne, I attempt to blend into the potted palm tree I'm standing next to. Blend in. Clearly I didn't get the half-naked model memo. I sneak a peek across the after party at Hollywood's current darling, Allie Russo. Still wearing the skimpy bikini from her last trip down the runway, she is at the center of a group of A-listers who are hanging on her every word. They can't seem to get enough, and she's not even the most famous person in the room. What am I doing here? This is nuts.
I've never seen so many pretty people in one place, and I marvel at how quickly life can change. Last week watching Project Runway on TV was the closest I'd been to a fashion show, and now here I am surrounded by household names. Having just moved to LA, I'm a little short on cash, and to help me out, my new friend and neighbor Blair hired me to dress models at the taping of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Fashion Show that the PR firm she works for is putting on. This is a huge step in the right direction.
All of these women must have personal shoppers, trainers, and fairy godmothers. I so don't belong ... Concentrating on my drink to avoid making eye contact with any celebrities, I slowly become aware of a presence to my right. My skin heats as I glance up, nervously scanning the crowd to locate the eyes I'm certain are examining me. But I find no one. Don't be ridiculous. You're practically invisible — the girl with nobody to talk to — the help. Who would be looking at you when every one point five seconds a supermodel in a swimsuit walks by? Despite my all-black ensemble being form fitting, my skin is mostly covered, and I'm certain I look like a frumpy Puritan shadow by contrast. I should probably go home and spare everyone the snowsuit.
Making my way through the boisterous crowd, I head toward the exit on the far side of the airplane hangar, in search of the restroom before I leave. The bathrooms are located in a poorly lit, narrow corridor, and I avoid touching the pale blue walls as I squeeze through to the end. Twisting the knob on the door to the ladies' room, I find it's locked.
Sighing, I turn to wait and come face-to-face with the bluest eyes I've ever seen. Jumping in surprise, I do a double take. The face attached to the eyes is so familiar ... perfectly formed jaw ... messy dark brown hair ... I can't help but look twice before the recognition registers. Berkeley Dalton. Lead singer for Berkeley & the Brightside, my favorite band. Sucking in a breath, I tear my eyes from him as my stomach contracts, and I resist the urge to hyperventilate Miss Piggy-style at his feet. I stand perfectly still, sweating and praying to the Restroom Gods to open the door so I can escape. What is she doing in there?
"I always wonder why they don't have more restrooms at these things."
OMG. He's talking to me. His voice is smooth and slightly hoarse as though he's been screaming into a microphone all night. Hmm. Think. Think. Think. Words. Use them. But it's no use. My brain shuts down and fills with champagne bubbles. Say something!
"Yeah. Tell me about it," I say. "You'd think they'd plan it better." I stare at the floor. Good. So far so good. And then, for a reason I don't understand, I raise my eyes to his and continue. "So, I'm a huge fan. I know you're Berkeley Dalton, and you know I'm — "I try to stop myself. Where am I going with this? What am I saying? But it's too late: the champagne is talking now. "Well, actually, you don't know — so let's move on. You're taller than I expected."
What? What kind of crazy talk was that? Why would I say that? What is wrong with me? I want to reach out and pluck back each and every word, but it's too late. Maybe I can just stab myself in the throat with a stiletto — there has to be one around here somewhere.
Berkeley, to his credit, registers only a moment of confused surprise across his perfect features before he resets his expression and studies me with amusement in his eyes.
Great. He's laughing at me. As well he should.
"Um, thanks? I think?" he says with a hint of a smile that sends my heart straight to my toes. "Maybe I should know you?"
Just then the bathroom door opens and I turn to see a scantily clad model towering behind me. Scrambling to get out of her way, I rush to the right, but so does she and I end up blocking her path again. We both scoot to the left. Right. Left again. Finally, with an exasperated glare, she stomps her foot and stands still as I stumble backward against the wall, tripping over my feet in the process, but blessedly out of her way.
"Oh, Berk," she coos, with no further regard to me. "You found me. So sweet." She easily wraps an arm around his waist. "Let's get out of here. I'm starving."
Unable to ignore the body she reveals as she adjusts her tiny dress, I try to console myself. Enjoy your cucumber slices.
As the pair turns to leave, Berkeley leans toward me, catching my eye. "It was nice talking to you."
My cheeks hot with humiliation, I grant him a disbelieving half smile before slinking into the bathroom. Nice talking to you. Right.
Back home at the Vicente, I slump into a chair in the courtyard and pour myself a glass of wine. The cool night air washes over me as I try to make out the Hollywood sign, barely visible in the hills to the north, and allow the tinkling water from the stone pineapple fountain that dominates the space to soothe my nerves. Behind me an apartment door closes, and I don't have to look to see who has come to join me. I've lived here less than two weeks, but I already know Parker has a sixth sense for cocktails.
"The adorable mistress of apartment one is back so soon?" he asks as he leans down to greet me with a one-armed hug and kisses my cheek. I'm still not used to the kissing thing, and turning my head with an awkward sucking sound, I blow a kiss into the ether. Terrible. After all of those years in junior high practicing kissing my hand, who knew it would be cheek kisses I'd fail so miserably in?
Taking a seat, he pours himself a glass and settles in. With his flawlessly waved hair, knotted ascot, and boat shoes, he looks like he should be sipping champagne on a yacht instead of slumming it with me in our little Spanish courtyard.
"Yes. Another job gone awry," I reply. The costume design job I moved here with has already disappeared. It was on a super low-budget movie and didn't pay anything anyway, but I'd been hoping to make some connections that would lead to future work. No such luck. After my first day on set the film's main investor backed out, leaving me unemployed. I've been applying for jobs ever since.
"I'm starting to think I'm doomed. I accidentally switched two of the models' outfits and one of them had to go down the runway wearing a seashell bra the size of pasties. I'm sure they'll never hire me again."
"Please. It'll probably make the teasers," Parker comforts me. "Wardrobe malfunctions are ratings gold."
The Vicente's iron gate clangs shut, and Blair rushes in. Even after a long day at work, with her brownish-blond hair pulled into a messy bun that is a perfect complement to her smooth, cocoa skin and blue eyes, she is stunning.
"Liv! Thank God. What happened to you? I was worried when I couldn't find you."
"I'm sorry. I should have texted. It was a weird night. I should probably do LA a favor and book the next flight back to Pittsburgh."
"What happened? Did you get abducted by swimsuit models?" she asks, taking a seat and grabbing Parker's wine for a sip. He gives her a dirty look.
An image of Berkeley's charming smile pops into my head, and my stomach contracts. "No. Worse than that. I had a run-in with a rock star."
"Ooh. Who was it?" Parker asks.
"Ugh," I groan, my face heating. "I met Berkeley Dalton."
"Berkeley Dalton!" he says. "That's like hitting the celeb lottery."
"Please don't say that. It makes it so much worse," I say, hiding my face in my hands. "I'm such a huge fan — I listened to Berkeley & the Brightside on repeat all the way to California — it was all I could do to keep from melting at his feet."
"He's super hot," Blair says, fanning herself. "How did you meet him? He wouldn't have been mingling with the regular people — he was on the VIP party list for sure."
"VIP list?" I ask.
"There's a party within every party," she explains. "Full access is reserved for the A-list. Most of the people at that event would have given up Botox for a year if it meant an invitation to the VIP party. We're talking major sacrifice here."
If those were "regular" people, what does that make me? Insignificant. "Oh, well, I definitely wasn't in the VIP section — I was waiting in line for the bathroom while he was waiting for the model who was in the bathroom, and he started making small talk."
"Wait. He talked to you?" Parker's jaw drops as he stares at me. "You minx!"
"Yes, but I don't even know what I said. I've almost completely erased it from my mind — that happens in traumatic situations, you know. I think I told him I knew who he was, and I know I told him he was taller than I expected."
"Oh, wow. That violates, like, a hundred rules. I take it back. Not a minx," he says, shaking his head as he turns to Blair. "Didn't you brief her?"
She throws her hands up in defense. "I didn't think I needed to. She was supposed to blend in."
My eyes flit back and forth between them. "Rules?"
Parker studies me. "The rules have been compiled from years of experiences, and many a glass of Cabernet has been spilled in this courtyard during their creation. We don't share them with just anyone," he finally says with a questioning glance at Blair.
She nods her permission.
"But we like you," he says. "We think you have potential, Olivia Bloom, so we're going to let you in on some of LA's secrets. Being with celebrities is an art." He folds his hands and looks at me like he's about to share the long-lost secret of the universe. "Those of us in the industry are not in the business of meeting them from a fan point of view. Instead, we have to strive to be on their level. We may not be famous, but we're still their peers. Celeb inner circles are reserved for the elite, and once you enter the circle, there are certain unspoken rules you must abide by."
"For me, it helps to look at it this way," Blair says. "Celebrities are people, no different from you or me, who are living their dream. That's why we all come here. We're dreamers, and we don't want to settle for ordinary. We'll all meet with varying levels of success; some of us will be great artists whose names will never be known, and others will make it to the level of celebrity. Regardless of where you are in the journey, it's safe to say you probably have a fragile ego. For this reason it's important to remember Rule #1: If you don't know who someone is, just assume they are someone."
"LA is a place where everyone might be anything," Parker continues. "Your barista could have just sold a screenplay, that actor walking the red carpet at a premiere might have had to get his shift covered to attend, the guy working at the Apple store's band might be playing the Staples Center that night. You never know, so Rule #2: Never ask anyone what they do. It's okay to ask general questions until you figure it out, but don't be too obvious. 'What are you working on?' is a good, vague question."
"On the other hand," Blair takes over, "Rule #3: If you do know who they are, don't let on you know. You can assume you both know who they are and move on. This is not a time for fans. Be professional. If it gets overwhelming, remember Rule #4: You can always decompress later. Just breathe."
This is getting confusing. "So basically," I clarify, "assume everyone is someone, and if you do know who they are don't let them know you know, and if you don't know who they are, don't let them know you don't know."
"Right!" they exclaim in unison.
"And," Blair continues, "to take it a step further, keep in mind we are all public until we don't have to be. The people at the lowest rungs of success are the ones who require publicity to fuel their rise to the top. They're the ones who need the tabloids and will call the paparazzi any time they leave their house. You don't have to worry about them as much. It's the people at the top you have to look out for. Once a celebrity reaches the top, they become fiercely private, shutting out all the leaches that helped them get there, and keeping only the most trusted around."
"Rule #5: Never breathe a word of what you hear when you're with an A-list celebrity," Parker whispers. "It's suicide."
"Personally, I rarely utter a word about anyone," Blair says, "because if the people at the bottom ever make it to the top, they need to know they can trust you. Unless it's around you guys, of course," she adds. "I trust you, and sometimes you've got to tell someone!"
"I think I'm just going to avoid ever talking to anyone," I say.
"That's probably for the best," Blair agrees.
"Especially in restrooms," Parker says. "Rule #6: Never talk to a celebrity in a bathroom. They hate that. Everyone deserves a little privacy now and again."
Of course they do.
My head is spinning with information but I venture, "Technically, he talked to me ..."
"That's true," Blair says to Parker. "Maybe he was hitting on her."
"Oh no." Waving my hands in front of my face as if they could erase her words, I dismiss that notion immediately. "He definitely wasn't hitting on me — he was probably just being friendly because I looked like such a loser. I'm sure he's benevolent and wonderful and strives to make those of us who fall into the excessively clothed category feel appreciated. I felt so frumpy next to his girlfriend."
"Hold on," Parker interjects. "You were wearing that?"
I look down at my shirt. "Yeah. So?"
"Oh. My. God. Now I really can't believe he talked to you. Those aren't your pj's? What are you wearing?"
"Blair said I should wear black. It's my 'blend in' outfit."
"Honey, were you trying to be a 1950s beatnik from Funny Face or something?" He guesses correctly. "It is one thing to channel your inner Audrey Hepburn, but it is quite another to wear a mock turtleneck and capris to a Hollywood event. This is the big time, sweetheart; you best check your costume at the door."
"But I love Hepburns." I sniff.
Blair and Parker look at each other and a moment passes between them. He shakes his head. "It'll take a lot of work," he warns her. "Accent elimination. She'll need to be able to talk the talk, not just look the part ..."
"Yes. But it could be the true test of our spinning ability," Blair replies.
"If we turn her into an It girl, it could put us on the map. At the very least it would look good on my resume. I don't want to be an assistant forever, and this could send me on my way to becoming 'the super spinstress'! And, don't you need a project? You'll go crazy sitting around all hiatus."
He considers for a moment. "It could be fabulous ... as head writer on The One, I am qualified to craft her into someone worthy of assumption ..." The One is a reality dating show where either a gorgeous guy or girl must choose their fiancé from a group of attractive singles who live in a mansion together, and Parker is in charge of coaching "The One" on what to say during the lily ceremony.
"What are you talking about?" I ask.
"Operation Loverly," Parker says, seeming to come to a decision. "Your Hollywood initiation."
Excerpted from In Bloom by Katie Delahanty, Karen Grove, Nicole Steinhaus. Copyright © 2014 Katie Delahanty. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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