"Perfect" said Alice as she finished spraying my hair with what felt like five cans of hairspray, "Now, let's get you into that dress." Alice had been my official stylist since I became 'A-list'and my unofficial stylist / best friend since the summer before junior year in high school.
Her parents bought the house next door to my Mum and I in Beverly Hills that July. She had heard there was a girl her age next door and came right up and knocked on our door the minute she arrived. "Hi, I'm Alice," she said before I even finished opening the door, "You and I are going to be the best of friends!" On questioning her logic behind this statement she had claimed to 'just know these things', and just like that Alice became a permanent fixture in my life.
"You look amazing, Bell, you're gonna knock 'em dead tonight, girl!" Gazing at my reflection in the full length mirror in my closet, I couldn't help but agree with Alice, I did look 'amazing'. My hair fell in soft curls around my shoulders, with the some sections held back with tiny diamante pins. My make-up was all smoky eyes and nude lips and the dress was perfect. Floor length, metallic silver sheath with a black velvet belt. Thanks to Alice's styling I had never ended up on a worst-dressed list and I hoped I never would. "What can I say, Al? You've done it again," I said to her mirrored reflection, "I know," she replied grinning back at me.
"You're scheduled to arrive on the red carpet at seven, so the car will be here in…" Bree stopped as she took in my appearance. "Wow, Alice, you've really outdone yourself this time. Bella you look awesome!" My personal assistant was a dream; she knew my schedule down to the minute, each day. "Anyway, as I was saying, the car will be here in…" She consulted her watch, "eight minutes, now. Are you ready?" Alice answered for me as she stuffed 'essential' items into my clutch, "Just let me put in the lippy, and yes, we're done."
The driver rang the door bell exactly eight minutes later (God-bless you Bree) and I was on my way.
The critics were claiming my latest film 'Oscar-worthy' and praising my performance, most of all. This made me entirely uncomfortable; I hated the pressure that came from those reviews and the pseudo-praise/ compliment fishing it garnered from my co-stars. "Oh, Bella you'll get the Globe this year for sure, maybe even an Oscar… I probably won't even be nominated…" cue expected gushing praise in response.
It had taken the whole summer before I began drama school for Alice to teach me how to walk gracefully in heels. "You'll thank me when you're stepping out of a stretch Limo in front of a million photographers and not falling on your face" she had explained to me. The heels she had me in tonight were 4 inch stilettos held on only be a thin ribbon around my heel, but as I had been trained, I stepped out onto the red carpet with an elegance I barely knew I possessed. So as I always did in times like this, I did, indeed mentally thank Alice.
And there they were, the million photographers she had warned me about all those years ago, the paparazzi. Otherwise known as the bane of my existence.
Now, I was no stranger to film premiers and awards ceremonies and the like, so I knew the drill: Look this way, look that way, pose, cross one leg in front of the other and if I was feeling particularly generous, I would give the 'turn-your-back-and-look-over-the-shoulder'. I understood that taking pictures of celebrities was their job and I did not begrudge them of that fact. However, I knew from experience that the majority of these 'photographers' would stop at nothing to get the candid shots the gossip magazines paid big dollars for.
They were out in force tonight, at least five-paps-deep on both sides of the carpet, thankfully held back by a red-velvet rope and the presence of some very large security guards. It was business as usual, "Bella, this way", "Bella, look here", "Bella, are you excited about the Oscar-buzz?" I was doing my best 'I love being here, having my photo taken, smiling incessantly' routine, when a unique voice broke through the crowd.
"Hmmm, thought I know all the local paps," I thought to myself, "Must be a new guy in town."
"Bella, can I get a smile please, beautiful?" The voice assaulted my senses, it sounded like velvet and honey and sex. As I turned toward the voice in question, my jaw almost dropped to the red carpet below. Only my 'smile, smile, smile, no matter what's going on' training saved me from drooling at the sight in front of me.
Six-foot of Greek-God stood in behind the rope. A jaw you could grate cheese on, covered by a couple days of scruff, perfectly straight nose, bright emerald eyes that you could lose yourself in and then I got to the hair. Bronze coloured 'I just got out of bed after having the crazy monkey sex' hair.
At first I thought that he was on the wrong side of the rope, that someone so beautiful couldn't possibly be one of them .This thought was quickly thwarted when I saw the camera he was holding loosely in front of his chest. "Bellllllllaaaaaa," he sang to me in that honey-dripped voice, sexy smirk settling upon his face, "Come on, give me a good one." Before lifting his camera to his face, he winked at me. Winked!
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I turned around and gave him my best over the shoulder smoulder. "Nice," he mouthed back at me, this time no amount of resistance could have stopped the eye roll, but by then I had turned my head, so he didn't notice.
It was such a waste of gorgeousness. He really was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, and yet, he was paparazzi, a parasite, feeding off the celebrity of people like me. The old saying, 'don't judge a book by its cover' came to mind; he had a really nice cover, but underneath it all, he would be just like the rest, doing whatever it took to get the shot, no matter who it hurt.
As I entered the theatre I wondered how often I would see him hanging around outside my favourite restaurant or Alice's studio waiting to get his shot. "What's got you thinking so hard?" asked one of my co-stars, Jessica Stanley. "Nothing, nothing," I replied quickly, embarrassed about the turn my thoughts had taken "Let's go find some seats and champagne."
Jessica flagged down an approaching waiter and we began walking towards our seats. "You're phenomenal in this movie, Bella. You'll totally get nominated for some awards, this season," Jessica started and I knew exactly where this conversation was heading, "I wasn't anywhere near as good as you were…"
I didn't see or even think about the bronze-haired pap again until two weeks later.
When he rammed into the back of my car.