Read an Excerpt
"LISTEN…I'M sorry—what was your name again?"
Jane Kurtz turned off the handheld airbrush machine that was depositing a perfect layer of makeup over the zits of celebutante Casey Campella, today's guest on Just Between Us. "It's Jane."
"Oh…right." Casey wrinkled her nose. "Listen, I don't want to look orange on camera. I have a lot of friends and family here in Atlanta, and they'll all be watching the show."
Watching for tips on how to make their own home sex tape reminiscent of the one of Casey and her current boyfriend that was making the rounds on the Internet. Jane bit her tongue to keep from saying that as far as Casey appearing on camera looking too orange was concerned, it was too late.
Instead Jane wet her lips. "I promise you won't look orange, Ms. Campella. But I'm afraid you'll have to be still in order for me to do the best job possible."
Casey sniffed and looked away.
Jane turned the airbrush machine on again and continued to apply a flawless application of makeup on the young woman's face, conceding that what she lacked in skin texture, she made up for in bone structure. The only thing higher than the woman's cheekbones were her boobs, which allegedly had their own fan club and Website.
When the foundation layer was complete, Jane turned off the machine and proceeded to enhance the woman's deep blue eyes with strategic applications of false eyelashes, highlighters, shadows, and liner.
Next came the cheeks, which needed only a touch of sparkle, then the biggest challenge—creating the illusion of a pouty, well-defined mouth from pencil-thin lips in a shade of red that would make the woman's nicotine-stained teeth look as white as possible. All this while Casey talked on her phone with her boyfriend, who, from the one-sided R-rated conversation, appeared to be as immature as the giggling starlet—and very possible masturbating on the other end.
"I had a dream about you last night, baby…no, me first…no, me first…okay, you go ahead…oh, baby-cakes, that's so hot I can hardly stand it…uhhuh…I want you so bad right now…."
In the midst of her frustration and embarrassment, Jane tamped down a stab of jealousy. What would it be like to have a man so crazy for you that he called you up to say naughty things?
"Five minutes," an associate producer cued from the doorway, and Casey indicated that she'd heard.
"Gotta run, baby. Be sure to tape the show… we'll watch it together." From her throaty laugh, it was clear what they planned to do while they watched her discuss their sex life on the hottest regional talk show around.
Fighting an eye roll, Jane sensed another sex tape in the making.
Casey disconnected the call, then leaned forward in the bright illumination of the mirror to scrutinize her makeup from every angle. Her forehead furrowed in a frown. "Is there a problem, Ms. Campella?" Jane asked.
"No. In fact, I look…amazing."
Jane smiled and gave a little nod. "I'm glad you're pleased."
"Thank you, uh—what was your name again?"
"Right." Casey stood and tore off the paper cape protecting the red trench-coat style mini-dress that Jane had chosen for her from wardrobe. It struck the perfect balance between classy and trashy. The curvy celebrity did a twirl in the full-length mirror, winked at herself, then looked Jane up and down. "I'm just wondering, if you can make other people look this good, why don't you do something for yourself?"
Jane's smile dissolved as the woman strode away in the decadent Donald Pliner black stiletto boots that Jane had spent the better part of two days hunting down. A few seconds later, music sounded and the audience burst into wild applause and cheers, indicating that the current "it" girl had blessed them with her appearance.
In a spin that only host Eve Best could put on the eyebrow-raising topic, this episode, she claimed, was for women who wanted to add a little spice to their marriage. To hear Eve tell it, revealing the DOs and DON'Ts of making an at-home sex tape was practically a public service for housewives.
Jane shook her head and expelled a little laugh as she watched the monitor overhead. With the host of the show and today's guest both looking better than nature intended, her workday was essentially over, although, officially she stayed until the show signed off in the event of a shine-blotting emergency.
She carefully cleaned all the tools and containers she used to cleanse, moisturize, exfoliate, shave and tweeze, plus the appliances to apply makeup and false eyelashes and to fill in the occasional overplucked eyebrow. As her hands moved automatically, performing the job she'd performed every day for the past three years, her mind wandered back to Casey Campella's cutting remark.
Jane glanced into the mirror that was her customary work environment and acknowledged ruefully that the bouncy celebrity had only voiced what every other person whom Jane worked on probably wondered: restroom. Jane discovand highlighting assets…in others" faces. The few times she had experimented on her own face had been dismal failures—she had looked as if she were trying too hard to be pretty…as if she were trying to compete with her friends.
Making other people look good had become second nature…and in some cases, her plainness helped those under her ministrations to relax. Most celebrities were so insecure about their flaws, the last thing they wanted was to be at the mercy of a makeup artist who was prettier.
Her plainness had become her trademark, she reminded herself. She had taken the mediocre hand that life that dealt her and bluffed her way to an enviable job…a job that some might even call glamorous, although when Eve had first asked her to come on board, it had been a risk. In the beginning, she and Liza both had done whatever it took to get the show on the air, even if it fell outside their job description. But over the years the skeletal staff had grown to more than forty technicians, office and production staff, and station executives. Now Jane could concentrate on being the show's stylist and makeup artist. It was challenging and rewarding. It allowed her to rub elbows with the rich and famous. It made up for the social life she didn't have.
When the pep-talk smile she gave to herself in the mirror fell short of convincing, Jane simply looked away.
While she sterilized every brush and applicator, she watched the television monitor, pleased that both Eve and her guest looked great from every camera angle—somewhere between radiant and matte under the glare of the hot lamps of the set lights.
"So, Casey," Eve said with the solemnity of someone who was interviewing a political candidate, "what should our viewers know about making their own intimacy video at home?"
It was just the kind of scintillating topic that had increased the show's viewership by leaps and bounds over the past three years. Just Between Us was now commanding high advertising rates. A feature piece in a national media magazine had put the talk show and Eve on the radar of the major networks. The energy level on the set had increased—along with the pressure to deliver. Everyone seemed on edge lately.
Jane dropped a tray of makeup samples. Including her.