Chapter 2

Carlene walked into the studio looking like she owned the place. She was smiling, confident that she was the star and knowing that even being five minutes late, no one would hold it against her.

Alex spotted her boss entering the room and canceled the phone call she was about to make. She was about to call Carlene again and ask where she was but thankfully she'd just walked in. Alex loved her job, it was challenging and fun and gave her valuable experience around the fashion business. Alex wanted to be a fashion designer and this was the perfect job. Plus the hours were great, not interfering with her school work so her parents weren't always on her case about it and she had a great boss who never really treated her like an employee, even letting Alex call her Carlene and not Ms Phillips.

But on days like today, when her boss ran late and Alex, being the advance person, was stuck trying to keep everyone happy while they waited, sometimes frayed Alex's nerves. But it was worth it when her boss came into view and smiled at her. Alex admitted to having a crush on her boss. Hell the woman was hot! But she also knew that she would never jeopardize her job for a crush. Not that Carlene had ever even hinted anything to her. It was just as well, they worked great together and the pay was incredible.

Alex walked up to her boss, smiling, "You're late Carlene."

"Relax Alex, it's only five minutes." Carlene said, hoping to get Alex to calm down. She knew that Alex had been dealing with an impatient photographer and his staff. She felt bad but she also knew how to turn on the charm.

Carlene moved over to the photographer, Marco de Paolo, an Italian man who knew better than to try to act like a diva with Carlene. "Marco, darling, I am so sorry I'm late. You know how Friday traffic can be here in New York. Forgive me?" Carlene put on her best contrite face, knowing it always worked to disarm men. Carlene, like her alter ego Jessie, was a die hard lesbian but that didn't mean she didn't know how to get her way with men.

Marco, falling prey to Carlene's beauty and her act, said, "not to worry bella. I would wait forever if I had to." It wasn't all a lie. Carlene was very picky about who she worked with and if you were lucky enough to work with her, it was always worth any wait.

Carlene smiled, hook line and sinker, it worked like a charm every time. Carlene headed to the back room to change into the clothes she would be modeling while Marco set up his lighting.

In less than five minutes, Carlene was standing in front of a blue backdrop smiling for the camera as Marco clicked away, yelling out directions for how Carlene should move or pose or smile.

Alex stood at the edge of the room. She watched silently as Carlene worked, admiring the body beneath the sexy, sinfully red dress that was cut almost illegally low on top and high in the hem. Carlene's long legs, tone and firm, seemed to stretch out forever in that dress. Alex carefully checked for drool just as her cell phone buzzed an incoming call.

Alex answered, "Russo, go for Carlene." It was her standard greeting. This cell phone was for business only, her other phone was for personal calls.

"This is Robby Ray, Hannah Montana's manager. I wanted to confirm the meeting for the duet."

Alex opened her PDA and looked up the meeting. "Yes sir, this Sunday the 11th. Brunch at the Waldorf."

"Good, just wanted to be sure. Hannah's gonna be in New York for the weekend setting up studio time. Don't be late please."

"Not a problem Robby Ray, Carlene will be there. See you then."

"See ya."

Alex terminated the call. Carlene was venturing into the music business. She'd already put out a single that went to number one within two weeks of its release. Now, she wanted to do a duet and for some reason she wanted to sing a song with Hannah Montana. Carlene hadn't explained why and Alex didn't really need an explanation, she was just lucky that she'd met Hannah Montana once on the SS Tipton. They'd hit it off and Hannah had given Alex her personal cell phone number to keep in touch. Alex had called Hannah's line and pitched the idea.

Hannah had jumped at it and after weeks of phone conferences, they were meeting face to face to discuss the song they'd do. Alex wondered what song they'd pick, knowing only that Carlene wanted to remake a duet rather than a new original song.

Alex waited patiently as the photo shoot continued. She flipped open her laptop and began surfing the web, looking for the latest gossip on Carlene to hit the net. She always looked out for any false rumors that could hurt Carlene's image and she called Carlene's lawyer Eric to handle the legal end of it all.


The photo shoot wrapped around six in the evening and Alex packed her laptop away and stood waiting and ready for Carlene to come out of the dressing room. Alex took the subway to the shoot but Carlene always gave her a ride back to her house when they wrapped.

Carlene finished dressing and, checking that her wig was on right, she stepped out of the small dressing room and waved her goodbyes to Marco and his staff as they packed up the gear. Carlene walked right to Alex and smiled.

"Ready to go Alex?"

"Whenever you are."

Together they exited the building and got into Carlene's car. The drive to Alex's house was quiet at first until Alex remembered, "Oh, before I forget. I got a call from Robby Ray about the meeting on Sunday."

"He wasn't canceling was he?"

"No just confirming. Hannah will be there too. Have you decided on the song yet?"

"I narrowed it down to five and faxed Hannah the list. Hopefully she's had enough time to hear them and make a choice."

"Cool." Alex knew enough not to ask what songs they were, Carlene would tell her in due time.

Carlene pulled up to Alex's house, which had the sandwich shop on the first floor and her apartment above it.

"Take tomorrow off Alex, I am. See you Sunday at 9am to head over to the meeting ok?"

"You got it Carlene. See you Sunday."

Alex knew that once June and July began, days off would be rare so she didn't question having Saturday off.

Carlene made sure Alex got inside ok before she pulled away. Carlene would go into hiding tomorrow. It was one of her few spillover days. Jessie had a dentist's appointment so Carlene knew she'd have to go away for a bit so Jessie could do her thing.

Carlene walked into her apartment and dropped her keys on the table by the door before heading to the bathroom to begin the transformation into Jessie.

First, the contacts came off, then the wig and the make up. Freshly scrubbed and looking like herself, Jessie looked into the mirror and smiled. As much as she loved being Carlene, being Jessie was still her favorite thing.

Jessie went to her closet and changed back into her boxers and tank top. She made a light dinner and ate it while watching CSI on DVD. Jessie was a fan of the show and owned all the seasons on DVD. Jessie enjoyed quiet nights at home.

Her quiet night though, was interrupted by the ringing of her house phone. Jessie reached over and picked up the cordless handset as she pressed pause on the DVD remote so she wouldn't miss a minute of one of her favorite CSI episodes.


"Jessie? It's Eric."

Jessie relaxed. She sometimes never knew who would call her at home. "Hey Eric, what's up?"

"Listen I know this is your 'Carlene' time but the kids wanna see their Auntie Jessie tomorrow. Is it possible?"

Jessie smiled as she thought about how much Eric had matured and grown up. He was a father now with two kids; a girl named Sarah who was 8 and a boy named James who was 6.

"Well I have a dentist's appointment at 11 but after that I'm free. I'll stop by your place around noon is that ok?"

"Perfect, Tori should have lunch ready by then and be ready for a little relief from the rugrats. I'll be there too but you know how they cling to their mother."

"Yeah, that's cuz they know who the real boss of the house is, they wanna be in good with the warden." Jessie joked, knowing that the kids didn't cling to their mother as much as Eric made it sound.

"Very funny, but also true. I'll see you tomorrow then, kid."

"Yeah see ya!" Jessie hung up. Though she never liked being called kid she thought it was better than being called 'mama' or 'chick' or 'babe'. Jessie still had issues over those names. The few brief relationships she'd had over the years, she'd made it clear those names were off limits. They were reminders of her high school years and anything that reminded her of high school inevitably reminded her of Kelly...the one that got away before Jessie even knew she was in the boat so to speak.

Jessie's gaze landed on the invitation that was sitting on her kitchen table, waiting. Jessie needed someone to talk to about this whole reunion thing. Someone who knew the players but could also be objective. Eric was the only one she knew of who she felt comfortable enough talking to. Eric knew about her feelings for Kelly and also the underlying reasons why Jessie had allowed other things prevent her from attending the first two reunions.

Jessie resolved to find some time the next day to talk to Eric about it. Jessie noticed the lateness of the hour and turned off the TV before heading to bed.

Jessie slipped between the cool, light blue sheets and closed her eyes as the Sandman took her to dreamland.