Dedications on a small and almost reader-less blog orbiting the unfashionable end of the blogosphere are pretentious nonsense, which is a specialty of mine, and this part of the story is for the fans. Dorkchops and Ipsy V, maybe one day you’ll say ‘hi.’ This one’s for you, and thanks for ‘liking’ the stories so far. Miss Zee! Hello, You! And even Bob the Wordless gets a mention, too. I think this series will ultimately have six parts.
“Smile and wave, Mariana. Smile and wave,: her agent whispered through a fake smile he’d practiced with a hundred clients and through a thousand photo opportunities. She was smiling. Smiling through her ‘million dollar headlights’ as she called them. You only had to look at the perfect outline of her breasts to know they were the ten million dollar ones.
Mariana was beautiful in an ethereal, lush, and tempting way but her real power, what helped her to rise so far above other beautiful people, was that she could make you believe her beauty was all for you; that you were the reason her beauty existed. Even women loved her, as much as they wanted to be her.
Another smile, another wave, and she was through the red carpet entrance and into a heavily made-up reception area that did its best to look as good as her. Cameras flashing, stark lights from minicams, and enough spotlights to melt gold at ten paces signalled her entrance. That’s what it was: the entrance and arrival of Mariana. She looked around, smiling at everyone in general and no one in particular.
Hers was a busy table that night, as people of repute and fame came to see her and, hopefully, get a peek at her ten million dollar headlights. It was a night like many others; unremarkable to her because she had done so many of them and part of the price she paid for being the ‘face’ of so many things. Her wide appeal came not only from her mainstream media exposure, but also from the breathless and kind words of a small army of bloggers who followed the fashions, reverse engineered her latest ‘look,’ and shared their tutorials with their wide and avid followers.
Her particular favourites were there that night, and she jumped to her feet and hugged them dearly. “Hello, Dorkchops! How are you, Pretty?” she beamed before turning to Ipsy and teasing her with “Ipsy V! Get that camera away from that lovely face of yours!” Tomorrow morning WordPress servers would be straining all over the world. “Hello Miss Zee! If my eyes were as amazing as yours I’d think I was really beautiful!” Even Bob the Wordless had flown in, in the vain hope of finding some more motivation – as if he needed it – for writing his, ahem, ‘refreshing’ and honest depictions of the STD-covered underbelly of the word porn world. The young ladies were let in and feted; Bob was tasered at the door and shuffled onto the next flight out.
In the closing hour of the event, Mariana saw him. Once seen, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. She’d seen many beautiful men and she understood the almost visceral attraction many women had to them, but she also saw beyond that, into the realm of pure attractiveness. And he was that. He had that indefinable quality that makes you look, and look again, and want to keep looking forever.
Surrounded as she was by revolving chairs of people from sponsoring companies and the media, she couldn’t break away, but she also couldn’t concentrate on them anymore. A quickly whispered conversation with her agent and she went back to earning her keep. When, a brief half minute later, her message had been delivered she felt his eyes on her, steady and quizzical, unhurried and thoughtful. Without taking her eyes off the media representative she was talking to, Mariana became so aware of the look trained upon her that she blushed and faltered mid-sentence. Her agent returned to the table and, with a very slight nod to the interviewer, whispered his reply into her ear.
After the next twenty-two minutes had been endured – she knew exactly from glancing at her watch – she was free of the obligations of stardom. She smiled, turned to look at him again … and he was gone. Without being obvious, her eyes scoured the room, looking for him or even the faintest sign of him, but he was nowhere to be found.
“I’m feeling tired and restless, okay?” she snapped when her agent, Edward, called a few days later. “It’s probably just period pain,” she eased, “It’ll be over soon.” As he hung up Edward couldn’t help but think he had a pain, too. It looked and sounded like her and it was right in his arse. “The only thing worse than celebrities is …” he thought for a few seconds, and coming up blank he finished the thought with: “Nothing.” One day, he promised himself, he’d write a memoir – not naming names, but just giving impressions – of how we elevate people and hold them to be special, amazing, and in control of the mysteries of life when really, they’re just in good wrapping or are talented on a movie set.
Mariana was gloomy, alright. She had a strong tendency to fixate on people or things, and the world could not be put to rights until she had what she wanted. She was very careful to make sure she never, ever lost it in front of anyone who wasn’t personally close to her or in her pocket and on her payroll. “What’s wrong with me?” she asked herself in moments like this. “I have everything I desire and nothing I want.”
She knew what it was. She wanted him. Was he playing hard to get, or did he just not want her? “He must be gay,” she thought, because that is always the correct answer when a man doesn’t want a woman who wants him. Maybe Edward had botched the message. Maybe he was married. Maybe he was so overwhelmed that he had to step outside and she had missed him. Today, her world was full of the uncertainty of ‘maybe’.
There was no safe way she could enquire about who he is without raising suspicion, or at least raising eyebrows accompanied by knowing smirks. Her only recourse, it seemed, was to ask Edward to look into it, but he had a way of stonewalling her when he felt she was treating him as a lackey. They’d already had that argument and she didn’t want to revisit it. A week passed and she was having a rare night at home when the thought struck her: she could watch the show online, see if she could find him, and then contrive some time soon to see it again in company and ‘innocently’ point him out. “Do I know him? He looks familiar,” she’d say, hoping whoever was with her would have a clue or a next link in the identity chain. It took her a few attempts and she was heartily sick of watching reruns by the time he was identified.
“No, I don’t know that guy, but the one on the other side of the table, see there? That’s Michael Yee. He’s some sort of business guy. Company rescues, or receivers, or something like that.” Mariana could have kissed the hair and make-up girl who had given her the clue. Never underestimate those women; they know everyone who counts and just about everyone who knows anyone who counts.
From there, it was easy. Mariana googled Michael Yee, found him on linkedin, followed his profile to his company website, and there in the ‘About Us’ section she found her man. She googled him and found a few mentions and snippets of information about him in the financial press. He wasn’t a big hitter, but he’d turned around the fortunes of a few companies that had shown promise before falling on hard times. She googled those companies to find out if they’d survived beyond the praiseworthy reporting, but none of them mentioned him. It was good to have some background on him, though, just so she could surprise him when they met.
After all that effort it occurred to her that she could have found out who was sitting at that table by simply looking at the seating plan all guests had been given. She looked now, curious about how a few middle-business guys had scored an invitation, but she came up none the wiser. The table was booked to two companies that were unrelated and had no obvious connection to Michael Yee. It was there; it just wasn’t obvious. A further look at those company’s websites and a lot of drilling down later, she found in the small print of a report that Yee’s company had been retained to look over a business prior to it being acquired. So, he was a sort of Mergers and Acquisitions guy who dabbled in saving failing businesses. “Busy boy,” she said to herself with a smile. The tickets had been passed on by invitees who thought they’d pass the event off.
Knowing all this now, the question arose: how to contact him without seeming obvious and desperate? It seemed that as one question was answered, another more problematic one arose. She wracked her brain for a few more days and drew a complete blank. She was now at Day One Plus Twelve since she’d seen him and if she didn’t act soon she couldn’t act at all. Too much time was passing and it was making her crazy. Did he think about her? Was she an unreachable fantasy he thought he’d just have to admire from afar and in the darkness of his own home late at night? Was he with someone else, fantasising about her? Probably, but the thought made her furious.
The slight brushing of a hand on her backside brought her back to the moment and the owner of the hand; a lighting technician with delusions of adequacy. She glared at him. “I said keep your fucking hands off me!” she spat, voice raised. He looked genuinely stunned. “You didn’t say anything at all,” he replied. She had him removed from the set. Innocent of everything but an accidental graze as he adjusted a tripod, he’d now be known as the guy who groped the goddess.
“I don’t care if he ends up shovelling shit for a living! He groped me, and I’m sick and tired of people who think that looking at me somehow means they own me!” she said later when Edward tried to calm her down. “Mariana,” he replied, “the last thing you want is to earn a reputation for being difficult.” It was code for ‘you’re making enemies faster than you’re losing friends’, and she knew it. “Well, piss off, then!” she said hotly. “You’re a nobody going nowhere.” Edward looked at her calmly. He’d had enough of her, and he had enough people on his books so that ditching her wouldn’t hurt. “Okay,” he said, and that was all he said before turning around and walking out of her life.
She felt reckless, wilful, and on the edge. “Hello, Hayden, it’s Mariana,” she said when he picked up the phone. “Sorry, it’s who?” he replied, not making the connection between her name and who she was. “Mariana … ummm … you might have seen me on a magazine cover occasionally,” she laughed. He was as nonplussed as before. “Oh. Hi … hello, Mariana. How can I help you?” She was at her charming best, playing on an uneven field where she knew the rules but he didn’t even know the game. “Hayden,” she breathed his name, “It seems we know some of the same people and your name came up today. I’m looking for a new manager and I hope you’ll be willing to talk to me about it.” Hayden was still on the back foot. “Mariana, sorry, but I’m not an entertainment manager. It’s something I know nothing about.”
There was the briefest of pauses before she said: “Could we at least have a quick chat? I think I need some ideas on strategy and I’m told that’s your forte.” She went on to mention some of the companies she’d looked at while she was looking for him, and that seemed to sway him a little. “Ummm … sure, I suppose, although I think I might be wasting your time,” he said. “You could never do that,” she laughed, bringing her considerable charm and practiced loveliness to bear.
He was thinking of an office meeting; she was thinking of dinner. “Unless there’s a ‘Mrs ‘Hayden’’ who’s expecting you for dinner,” she said artlessly. “No, there isn’t,” he replied, and the first salvo had been fired and the skirmish won.
By the end of dinner, he was starstruck. By the end of a week that was completely and utterly immersed in her, he fell into her arms and, as events would later show, her curious and spectacular version of madness.