Easy on the Eyes(5)

By: Jane Porter

Oh, hell.

Suddenly I’m exhausted. The twelve-hour flight has caught up with me. I should be home showering and getting ready for bed. I should be anywhere but here, getting ready to spar with Michael O’Sullivan on Larry King Live.

On the set, the sound technician runs the microphone cords up beneath our jackets and clips the head to our lapels. Larry had been going over some notes, but seeing us, he walks over to shake Michael’s hand and give me a kiss on the cheek.

“We just got word that Jenna’s not going to be on tonight,” he says. “Her lawyer advised her not to do it, so it’s going to be just the three of us and then we’ll open the phone lines.”

“Great.” I muster a smile. “We’ll still have a good show.”

Larry wags a finger at me. “Working too hard again? You’re looking tired.”

Ouch. Two hits tonight. I’m aging and I look tired. My God, these men are brutal.

“Too much fun in Paris,” I say, fighting for a cheeky smile, projecting as much youthful zest as I can. “Probably should have slept on the way home instead of working all through the flight.”

“Good trip, though?” Larry asks as we take our seats on the stools around the set table.

“It was great.” I catch Michael’s arched eyebrow and turn my head away. His picture should be next to the definition of “annoying” in the dictionary.

The technician steps over to adjust my mike. Someone else powders Larry’s nose and smoothes down a stray hair. Michael just sits there in his dark suit, cool as a cucumber. I bet the man doesn’t even sweat. He’s probably Botoxed his armpits to keep from perspiring.

A minute until we go live.

Larry chats with Michael about his wife and their plans for the holidays. He wants a white Christmas and cozy fire. She wants beaches and sun and time by the pool.

I can’t believe the holidays are already approaching again. Is Thanksgiving really just a week away?

Thirty seconds until we go live.

As a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. I don’t anymore. I hate being alone on Thanksgiving, but even worse is crashing Shey’s family celebration like an orphan. An orphan…

Fifteen seconds.

I take a deep breath, sit straighter, shoulders squared.

Ten seconds. Larry smiles at me. I smile back. Piece of cake.

Five seconds.

Michael leans toward me. “If you need any recommendations for a good plastic surgeon, just call me. I’ll get you squared away.”

And we’re live.


Chapter Two

I leave the building, shoulders slouched, absolutely exhausted.

That was a disaster, I think, unbuttoning the top button of my jacket and exhaling hard.

Michael made mincemeat of me. I don’t know how he did it, either. He’s never bested me before. Maybe I didn’t feel enough sympathy for Jenna Meadows. Maybe I was preoccupied with Glenn’s devastating news. But still, I’m a professional. I can’t lose focus, not on national TV.

I drive home without seeing anything, drive lost in my world of disbelief. First Glenn drops his bomb and then Michael pummels me. Ridiculous.

Hard to believe that only two days ago I returned from Paris and felt as if I were on top of the world. Now here it is Thursday night and I’m facing what? Unemployment?

Fighting panic, at the next red light I text Shey in New York to see if she’s still awake: “R u up?”

Shey is one of my closest friends, and we go way back, all the way to our high school days when we met in boarding school in Monterey County. Back then we were the Three Amigos. It was Shey, Marta, and me. And we were tight, really tight, and we still are, although due to the fact that we live in separate corners of the country, we don’t see as much of each other as we’d like.

My phone rings almost immediately. It’s Shey. Shey’s a former model and co-owns Expecting Models, an agency in Manhattan devoted to pregnant models and new-mom models. She still models from time to time, and she deals with image all the time. I think she’d relate to my conflicted feelings.

“Tell me I didn’t wake you,” I beg her, knowing that as I am the only unmarried left, we have very different schedules and demands.

“It’s not even ten here, sugar, and I’m a night owl,” Shey drawls into the phone, her Texas accent still present, although not nearly as strong as it was when she arrived at St. Pious as a willowy sixteen-year-old. “How are things?”

“Crazy busy.” I hesitate, dig my nails into my Jaguar’s leather steering wheel. “And just a word of warning, I’m pissed off, so you’re going to hear me rant.”

“Has Marta already been subjected to the rant?”

“No, I called you first. Marta won’t be sympathetic, not to this.”

“Ah, it’s about your love life then.”

“No, although that needs help, too.” I pause, searching for the right words. “It’s my face.”

She smothers a laugh. “What’s wrong with your face?”

“Exactly.” Hard to believe I’m even having this conversation and I clench the steering wheel tighter. “There’s nothing wrong with my face and I think it’s bullshit, absolute bullshit, that they’re even pulling this on me.”