Easy on the Eyes(4)

By: Jane Porter

“A friend?” Michael supplies, trying to keep a straight face. Why I amuse him is beyond me, but Michael thinks I’m hilarious, and he has ever since our very first meeting nearly four years ago at a Christmas party somewhere. I don’t remember the party, but I remember Michael. I thought he was gorgeous and funny, and then later someone told me he wasn’t Michael O’Sullivan but Dr. O’Sullivan, and my heart sank. I loathe plastic surgeons, particularly plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills. They’re slick doctors who like to position themselves as experts on aesthetics and the female form, using surgery to cut and sculpt an idealized look that’s more Barbie doll than authentic beauty.

“Yes,” I answer, “he is a friend.” I don’t even realize I’ve lifted my chin until I catch my reflection in the mirror. Warm brown hair, flushed cheeks, overly bright eyes. I look as excited as a gawky preteen talking to a cool boy.

I curse my transparency and head to the sink to wash my hands. “We must be on the same expert guest list,” I add crisply, soaping my hands and rinsing them beneath hot water.

“How fortunate.” His lips twist. “We always have such great chemistry.”

I’ve faced Dr. O’Sullivan twice before on Larry King Live, and what we have is tension and dissension, not chemistry, great or otherwise. But for some reason, the LKL producers love to square us off, pitch one against the other, and even if an army of guests and experts has been booked, the show’s fireworks always come down to Michael and me.

I reach for a paper towel. “At least we know each other’s positions.” My eyes meet his in the mirror. “You’ll talk about the pressure doctors feel to make miracles and I’ll talk about the pressure celebrities feel to be young and beautiful.”

“And then you’ll get personal,” Michael adds, his voice dropping. “You always do.”

The suddenly husky note in his voice makes my stomach do a little flip. I’m rattled despite myself, and my cheeks burn hotter. I hate how he throws me off balance. “Because you always defend the greedy doctors— ”

“That’s exactly what I mean. Why must doctors be greedy? Why can’t they be compassionate?”

My gut clenches even as my shoulders tighten. “Was Jenna Meadows’s surgeon compassionate? He performed the surgery out of greed, and he subsequently destroyed her body.”

Michael folds his arms across his broad chest. “He advised her not to increase the size again.”

My eyebrow lifts. “So it’s her fault that the implant displaced?”

He doesn’t take the bait. “Jenna knew the risks. She had complications with her first augmentation, experiencing early capsular contracture. There was additional surgery to remove scar tissue. She never was a good candidate for increasing to 650 mL.”

“Then the surgeon should have said no. He can say no, right? Or must the doctor dance every time a patient speaks?”

“We say no more often than you realize.”

“So why didn’t her doctor refuse?”

“Why did Jenna insist?” He looks down at me, dark lashes concealing his expression.

Impatiently, I crumple the paper towel and toss it away. I so wish I weren’t here. I so wish I were home in my sweats eating a bowl of cereal. “But still, you have to admit your industry thrives on insecure people.”

“And your industry glorifies celebrities to a point that ordinary men and women feel ugly in comparison.”

“Well, thanks to Jenna’s botched surgeries she’ll never work again. Her breasts are completely disfigured.”

“No surgery is one hundred percent safe.”

“Ahem, kids, be nice,” Allie, the segment producer, admonishes as she sticks her head into the green room. “Are you two at it already? You’re supposed to save it for the show, and it’s going to be a great show, too. Jenna’s on live feed from New York, and one of the guys will grab you in five to get you miked. See you soon.”

She disappears, and Michael and I look at each other for a long moment before I reapply my lipstick. My hand shakes as I run the color across my lips.

“Want some water?” he asks me. “It’ll help cool you down.”

I shoot him a sharp glance. “I’m not hot.”

“No need for false modesty, Tiana. You’re America’s Sweetheart. Queen of tabloid news.”

For a moment, I can think of absolutely nothing to say. Is he paying me a compliment? Even if in a roundabout way?

Then I see his expression. Michael’s making fun of me.

Embarrassed, I snap the cap on the tube of lipstick, toss it into my makeup bag, and zip it closed.

What a jerk. He’s such a jerk. Michael O’Sullivan personifies everything I despise.

One of the LKL production assistants retrieves us from the green room and escorts us to the studio’s soundstage. As we walk, I smooth my skirt and tug down the fitted knit jacket. Bronze is supposed to be a good color for me— brings out the gold in my eyes— but only now do I remember it’s not a great color for the LKL set.