I wrote the following short story for the Round Hill Writers’ Group in December, 2011. It was in response to a writing prompt to tell a story based on an idiom. At the group, everyone reads his or her story aloud, so I like to keep mine short, 1000 words or less. I also try to write a “normal” story: no aliens or ray guns.
Below is the story. In my next post, I’ll relate the story about me reading this story to the group.
In her hotel suite, Meaghan waited for her close friend, Sarah, to return with her disguise. Ten days ago, Meaghan’s boyfriend since high school dumped her because he disliked the glare of fame’s spotlight. Ever since, the paparazzi had been circling like vultures.
Sarah entered and tossed bags of clothing and cosmetics on the bed. From one, she pulled out a handful of trashy gossip rags and announced, “It’s week two and you’re still front page news.”
“They’ve driven me from my house. I can’t even shop for groceries. All I need is some time to sort things out.”
Sarah upturned the bags, dumping their contents on the bed as she said, “What made you think of this?”
“My agent forwarded an interesting script he thought would demonstrate my range. The role’s a young goth protagonist. I had always planned to hang out with some Goths to see what they’re like, but perhaps masquerading as one will also let me slip by the paparazzi.” Meaghan grabbed the midnight black hair dye and said, “Let’s get started. I want to leave first thing tomorrow.”
* * *
As the sun’s first rays peeked through the balcony door, Meaghan readied for her escape. She wiggled into the skintight black jeans and tugged on the black three-inch heeled boots.
“Sarah, what’s the big idea with this bra and top?”
“Those paparazzi expect Meaghan, the girl next door. You have to go all-in goth. So, put on the push-up bra, and quit complaining.”
“You’re loving this,” Meaghan said.
“If you can’t goth it up for a couple of hours, how are you going to play the role?”
After she fastened the bra’s clasp, Meaghan squeezed into the clinging top, feeling like she was on display. “The top doesn’t even cover the bra,” Meaghan said.
“They’re both black,” Sarah said. “What does it matter?”
Meaghan continued the transformation: eye shadow brushed across her temple to the hairline and lipstick–all black on an ivory foundation. Next, she applied a healthy dose of mascara. After she put on a cheap Ankh necklace that flirted with the low cut top, she clipped on a nose ring, which elicited a sneeze. Lastly, she brushed black nail polish on her fingernails. She reentered the hotel bedroom with hands raised like a surgeon and asked, “So, how do I look?”
“Nothing like yourself.”
“Good. You’re on.” Sarah, wearing beige walking shorts and a white polo shirt, donned a large brimmed gardening hat and oversized sunglasses. Meaghan chuckled and said, “You look so wholesome.”
“I’m doing you a favor here.”
“I know. Thank you. Remember, you’re supposed to be me, so don’t strut it.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” Sarah said, smiling.
They walked to the elevator and headed to the lobby. Meaghan followed Sarah off the elevator and loitered around some potted trees. She watched Sarah check out. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve sworn she was watching herself.
At first, the gaggle of lingering paparazzi outside didn’t notice Sarah, but they stirred when she stopped the bellhop from going through the front door and directed him to take their bags to the garage. Flashes erupted, and several camera operators shouldered video cameras.
As Sarah turned and followed the bellhop to the elevator, most of the paparazzi scurried like cockroaches to the right where the underground parking exit was located. Meaghan waited until she received Sarah’s text saying, “outta here.”
Meaghan stood straight and slowly exhaled, feeling overexposed. “Get over it,” she mumbled to herself. She sashayed out the front entrance. As she walked among the few remaining paparazzi, they looked past her to watch the main herd stampeed after Sarah, who drove by heading left. At the sidewalk, Meaghan turned right.
As she strolled the streets, she acted far more confident than she felt. Many of the men along the way eyed her from head to toe, a few giving her a smile or saying “good morning.” The women–to a person–were dismissive, averting their gazes almost immediately. She couldn’t tell if they were disgusted or jealous.
Meaghan arrived at the car rental office she had found yesterday when she had devised the escape plan. Behind the counter, an older woman wearing a nametag bearing the name “Carol Jamison” shot her a disdainful look.
“Can I help you?” Carol asked.
“I need to rent a car for two weeks.”
“How’re you going to pay for it?”
Meaghan fished a credit card from her jean’s pocket. “With this.”
“Driver’s license?” Meaghan handed it over. Carol frowned and continued, “I recognize the picture. You look nothing like Meaghan Gildroy.”
Meaghan smiled, leaned forward, and said softly, “Thank you. Look closer. I’m ducking out on the paparazzi who’re hounding me.”
After a few long seconds, recognition washed across Carol’s face. “I’m sorry, Miss Gildroy. What an excellent disguise. Let me get started with the paperwork.”
After a credit card swipe and a couple of signatures, Meaghan got into a tan mid-sized car. Finally, she breathed easy–there wasn’t a camera in sight.
She texted Sarah, “im leaving.”
By this point, Sarah should’ve turned in her car at the airport, leaving the floppy hat and sunglasses behind. Shortly, she’d take a small commuter plane to San Diego where Meaghan would pick her up on the way to a private resort.
Meaghan smiled broadly, imagining the look on the paparrizi’s faces when they realized that Sarah duped them. Once she hit the southbound lanes of the coastal highway, she considered the role. The disguise worked; not a single paparazzo gave her a second look. The makeup didn’t bother her, but she disliked the clothes, which were too tight and revealing. Wardrobe tape would bring peace of mind, especially during the action sequences. She decided to accept the role on the condition that she received final wardrobe and makeup approval.
With that decision made, she looked forward to a couple of weeks of getting used to being single again without being stalked by vultures with cameras.