Drowned by Deception

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Sue Harris

Gigi Goi, talented and tough-nosed teen, carries an identity she may die protecting.

Wish I could forget my lies. Tuck ‘em in a bottle, throw ‘em out to sea, and float ‘em in that salty cemetery of lies. Little lies. Big lies. Lies spin the world round.

I drag my hood over my brow, ignoring the slanted stares of Mariya, Pristy, and Belinde. Fake Fashionitaz. Think they’re the Gucciest group since Fifth Harmony. After what? Twelve weeks? Takes a lot more than cleavage and twerking to win. They sashay past Dani, the only remaining contestant other than me — the quote on quote emo girl in the lobby’s far corner.

I loiter on the glossy floor, biting into a Pink Lady apple. Sweet. Crunchy. Delicious with each bite. A simple luxury I’ve missed over the past two years. Luxury I value way more than my snooty surroundings; the golden columns. The velvet drapes. The nauseating fig scents imbedded in the silver chandeliers hung over the spacious bay windows, perfectly spot free and gleaming as light streams in. Washers must’ve spent hours waxing the panes yet none of these pretentious people — checking in, milling for the elevator or roaming around — notice the hard work done. They’re too busy flaunting their wealth inside the Plaza Hotel. Socialite capital of NYC. Yep, I researched it as I do practically everything. Dub me bookworm belle, rebel reader at local libraries. Who says you need an iPhone or any personal device for that matter?

“Selfie time!” Mariya squishes between Pristy and Belinde, aiming her phone at herself and her pop-tart posse. “Tinder’s gonna blow up with this one.”

“Blow up like a poopy diaper.” Dani whispers my way.

I bend over laughing, almost gagging on an apple chunk as the Fashionitaz start practicing. They croak out Ariana Grande’s newest single, Bed, blasting from Mariya’s phone.

Dani cups her ears. “Someone bring those dogs to the pound.”

“Amen to that!” I plunk my apple core in the trash beside the concierge’s desk. “Least get them to stay in tune for once.”

They shriek glass-cracking pitches, completely tarnishing the smooth piano classics thrumming through the lobby. Italian artist, Ludovico Einaudi, one of my favs. Mimics the sounds of waves crashing and lapping over my toes. Moments from a lifetime ago, knotted in my chest, I lug my tainted Georgian memories, a thousand empty boxes without a key. I wheeze several times then cinch my bag to my shoulder, protectin’ my one precious possession.

“Seriously, goin’ deaf here.” Dani fists her spiky brown hair the louder the Fashionitaz squawk. “Get ‘em muzzles. Or chastity belts. Smashin’ the host after hours. Gruesome foursome.”

“Explains how they got on.” I hi-five Dani.

Fashionitaz snub their noses in our direction.

Whatevs. Not here for them. Here for me. For a fresh start, if fate will let me. My lungs squeeze shut at that thought. I know. It’s my fault. Really. Shhhh. Anyone finds out, they’ll punish me same as I punish myself.

I dig my nails across the red scabs scoring my arm. Stings. Bleeds. Eases my pain until I can breathe again.

“Make-up checks in thirty minutes.” Stage manager, Sandi, peeks from behind the camera crew. “Finish your warm-ups.”

Nothin’ to finish. Warm-ups butcher my confidence.

Dani nibbles at the flesh round her thumb. “Better head over before we warp into pumpkins.”

Sounds about right. Given this is a fairytale created by maniacal puppeteers. A reminder that life is an illusion. Reality spits paupers into the jaws of kings. Or queens in the case of the Fashionitaz. Epitome of vain, check out their tattooed eyebrows, diamond studded corsets, Prada stilettos, and Chanel mini-skirts. Materialism at its worst. Money they burned to prove what? That their parents are loaded and dress ‘em like frikin’ Bratz Dolls?

Hate to disappoint. None of your GOAT outfits or posh magnolia perfumes will trail you to the grave. Everything dies eventually. I’m well aware of that.

“Clock’s tickin’,” Sandi says.

I trail behind her and Dani, along with the Fashionitaz, the entire camera crew and seven security guards, all of us like one oxymoronic procession; funeral-style, right out that revolving door.

Crisp cool air hits my cheeks, a reprieve from the stuffy hotel despite how headache inducing this crowd is. Behind metal gates, lining every street in sight, people wave banners and scream our names. Sheer insanity. What are we super-heroes? Let’s grab our capes and swoop at the nearest skyscraper. There’s definitely a ton of them around. Towering to our right and our left, they sparkle, lanterns beneath the setting sun. Others sit in the distance. Magnificent and powerful, crammed like sausage packs in a dirty factory. A cement city reeks of exhaust, chain smokers and horses shitting as their carriages roll into heavy traffic. Ironic that within this mayhem and pollution, exists nature. Central Park directly across the street. We parade toward it, my focus on the autumn canopy of trees ahead. Their twisty branches swing when wind blows.

Red, yellow, and orange leaves flutter from the mighty oaks, and litter the green grass and the paved paths we advance down. We zig-zag between braking taxis and the Central Park Zoo. Horns blare a dissonant symphony, madness matching the crowd. Look at them screeching at the top of their lungs, aiming their phones, jumping and rattling the gates. Join me in Hell where the entrance is free and the people are asleep. Asleep like this fan. He straddles a gate, flappin’ his arms drunkenly and suckin’ on a joint. Weed? Coke? Doesn’t matter. Person’s higher than the massive pavilion we near. Our stage for the evenin’ — elevated on a hill, surrounded by trees, edged by an arched terrace, and ransacked by that nutzo mob.

“Fashion! Fashion! Fashionitaz!” People click their devices as the Fashionitaz slide on their sunglasses and prance forward.

“They adore us.” Pristy presses her silicone boobs together.

Mariya flips her platinum hair extensions while smirking over at Dani and me. “Leave. We’ve clearly got this in the bag.”

“In the garbage bag,” Dani says.

I tap hips with her. “Nice clap-back.”

“Savages.” Mariya tsks her tongue. “Jealous much?”

“Annoyed’s more like it.” I say. “Grow some music skills.”

Mariya huffs, whipping forward.

Dani side-glances me. “Someone needs to bust her balloon.”

“Won’t have to.” I readjust my bag strap. “They’ll deflate on their own.”

“Deflate this,” Belinde says.

She, Mariya, and Pristy hold hands and dance in a chorus line. Super overdone. Super obnoxious.

I roll my eyes, nearly overlooking a guy. Snaking between gobs of people, he shuffles to the edge of a gate, his features mostly hidden beneath his baseball cap. Except for his long, fat nose that I scrutinize. Wait. That nose. I’ve seen it before. Is that… Oh crap. My pulse elevates, it can’t be. Nope. It’s not. My imagination must be whacked, proven when he vanishes. Where? Lord if I know.

I’m just glad for those gates, bordering the pavilion. Keeps ‘em contained so we can access this one secret entrance at the back. Only other open section exists about a yard in front of the stage where three security guards and some of the camera crew head. They stand alongside the Bethesda fountain, glorious with that angel propped atop. With white wings spread, she spouts water from her stone toes and cascades it into a lower basin where three kids, lurking outside the gate, fling handfuls of coins. A few plunk in the water. Most though, clatter to the cemented ground beside a security guard.

He charges for the kids. “Get lost.”

They giggle, hurrying off and blending into the crowd.

“No lagging behind.” Sandi ushers us to the rear of the tented pavilion where our stylists wait and the camera crew sets up.

They record us from every angle while our stylists motion us to our vanities. Five seats in a row. Dani on my left and Mariya and her posse on my right.

Robbie, my stylist, buzzes around the chair I take, spritzer in hand. I face my mirror, dabbing at the dark mascara rimming my green eyes.

“Expect me to work with these?” He lifts my red locks. “So dry.”

“Dry’s the new fab.” Be happy it’s not greasy and unwashed for weeks like in my former days. And for the record, my Cindi Lauper razor cut is completely me. Shaven on one side. Long on the other.

Robbie grumbles, spraying and brushing while I pat his towel over my bloodied arm.

“Hurt yourself?” Dani eyes my cut.

“Ah, this. Bumped a sharp edge. Clumsy I guess.”

She studies my expression as if she doesn’t believe. That makes two of us. I throw my attention to the canvas floor, ashamed of the tale I told her. Painted myself as a Russian immigrant who flew over the Baltic Sea and landed in New Orleans. How ‘bout that for truth.

Pristy seizes the eyeshadow container from her stylist, Fabian. She slabs that blue stuff over her lids.

“Smurf-it up.” Dani mumbles.

I laugh hard enough that Mariya’s incessant fussing fades into the background noise.

She swats Yurei away from her hair extensions. “Touch ‘em and your job’s toast. Apply my lipstick. That’s it.”

Yurei tugs his collar, “Yes, ma’am .”

She prods her corset down so her boobs bubble up. Anymore and those puppies’ll plop out like boiled catfish.

“Five minutes,” Sandi barks while the beginning theme track, Dreaming, by Small Pools, fills the air.

A squeaky male voice eeks after. “Live from Central Park! I’m Ronald McPhillips. This. Is. Show on the Road!”

The crowd screams.

Sandi gestures us and the film crew to the grass trail between the styling tent and the stage. I stand second after Mariya’s posse, crinkling my nose at ickster Ron.

His mustache twitches as he salivates on the microphone.

“Hate to be his microphone.” Dani mutters behind me.

I snicker into my palm, the speakers augmenting Ron’s lisp.

He sputters. “Traveling from coast to coast, a new city each week. We bring you the newest talent, singing for your votes. Please give it up for group of the year. Fashionitaz!”

Pristy and Belinde strut on stage. They twerk their skinny asses, warbling another horrific rendition of Ariana Grande’s, Bed while I cringe.

“BTW.” Dani leans my way. “My dad’s pissed at the producers.”

No surprise there. Being he’s on the board at Juilliard, he probably admits the best of the best. And Mariya’s posse’s the worst of the worst. Shrill pitches, Double D’s, and richie parents to fund their frightening side-act.

“Shame producers didn’t hire judges.” I say.

She examines me for a long moment as if she has something big to share. “Uh. Yeah. More authentic this way.”

“This ain’t authentic.”

Ron spews a few questions after the Fashionitaz end. “What are your goals? Miss your family? Who inspires you?”

Course they prattle off the stupidest answers.

“We just wanna make peeps happy. Our fam misses us so much. Our baes more.” And funniest? “Who needs inspiration when you got our Gucciness.”

Gucciness my bum.

Fashionitaz exit as the sun dips below the horizon. Rays, tinting the clouds orange, glow brighter than the dull gray of those plummeting umbrellas.

No, not umbrellas. Parachutes with a plane hovering above. Nice. Fun. Sorta strange too. Skydiving in Central Park. Who does that? A thrill seeker? A richie?

The crowd hushes. The parachuters descend and drop beside the fountain.

“Look who it is!” Dani jiggles my palm.

Two boys unsnap their harnesses. I recognize one of them from a newspaper article I read…somewhere. They sprint for the pavilion.

“What a pleasure!” Ron gathers them on stage, his saliva oozing on the microphone. “Folks, we have here with us tonight. British Sensation. Jude Summers!”

People squeal uncontrollably.

“Inform us who this friend of our yours is.”

Jude tilts to the mice, his blond waves dusting his shoulders as he pats the other boy’s back. “Ace of a bloke here. My manager.”

Jude’s Manager half-salutes.

“Bloody excitin’ to be in the NYC.” Jude seizes the mic from Ron. “Searchin’ for our next openin’ act. Might be one of yer lucky dames.”

Ron yanks the mic back. “Great news, contestants. You’re not only trying for the finals but also for being numero dos in a Jude Summers’ concert.”

The crowd goes crazalistic.

“Quite the secret you kept from us.” Mariya storms toward Sandi. “What? Don’t want me winnin’ or somethin’?”

Sandi ignores her, chattering into her headset. Betcha the producers are on the other side. Never met ‘em. But they certainly control those puppet strings.

“Um... Hello. Earth to Sandi.” Mariya squares her arms.

Sandi peers over the bridge of her pert nose. “You’ll get a second performance after Dani.”

Mariya plants her hand on her hip. “Stick my daddy on you if I don’t.”

Sandi sighs. I almost feel sad for her. Call it my conscience. Whatever you want.

“Lay off, Mariya.”

Sandi gapes at me like I grew two hideous fire-breathing snouts.

“Try me, freckle ass.” Mariya stares me down.

I tilt my chin up. “Not everything’s ‘bout you.”

“Is too!” She stamps off, tagged by her posse then yaps over her shoulder. “Cross me again and I destroy you.”

“Like she destroys a bathroom.” Dani fist pumps me. “Forget her.”

“Done.” Won’t waste my energy on that thin-mint troll.

Ron rattles on. “Fabulous upgrade, courtesy of, Mr. Summers.” Ron salutes Jude and his manager. They wave at the crowd then mosey in my direction.

Jude nods at me, a smile on his pierced lower lip. “Knock ‘em silent.”

“Fer sure.” I slide on my headset then unzip my bag; my one precious possession. My mother’s violin. I lift it, waiting for Ron.

“Welcome to the stage, youngest contestant, American success story, sixteen-year-old. Gigi Goi!”

“Gigi! Gigi! Gigi...”

The lights dim. I tread out, entranced by the sky. By the pale moon rising over the skyscrapers in the distance; over the autumn leaves scattered amongst the mob. An awestruck display she’s given to me in the form of that angel atop the fountain.

She’s here. I feel her all down my goose-bumped arms. My throat dries, my mind ablaze with her flaming red hair and that tiny crease in her brow whenever she fiddled. Whenever her deep alto voice led our favorite bed-time ritual, the Dixie Chicks, Lullaby. Blurs my vision, the tear I swipe away. Grief so agonizing, nearly collapses me. Only thing keepin’ me on my toes is this competition.

“Let’s do this.” I say.

A hush falls over the crowd when I plug my violin into the amp. The lights flare on. I bow hard, fast minor chords over the strings while I rock my knees up in Tchaikovsky’s Russian Trepak — Lord of the Dance style.

I twirl and belt out my techno-pop version of Pink’s, What about us,Billions of beautiful hearts…All the broken happy ever afters,” same as a younger, hipper Alanis Morissette. Jagged Little Pill, eat your heart out. May not have a manager. But I do have fans.

They mosh behind the gates. They hoist a boy and surf his body over the crazed crowd. I end with a crescendo and a flurry of staccato notes.

“Wow! Wow! Wow!” Ron fawns forward, flashing his veneers, way too white under the now glaring lights. I wink one eye shut.

“Encore.” The crowd blasts into a screaming frenzy while Ron stands speechless.

That’s a first.

Mariya bickers with Sandi in the background and I glance over. The camera crew aims their lenses closer to Mariya.

She waves at me, mouthing, “Come. Here.”

Frik that. Not gonna let some selfish, entitled witch-bitch steal my thunder. Fans ask for an encore? I deliver an encore.

This one’s for her. Always been for her. My original ballad, Fly, ‘bout him, the one who robbed me of everything. I wanna roar. Instead, I sing slowly. Sultrily. Soulfully.

“Drool if you must, with all your lust. A girl’s gonna pave her future with gold. Rise to the task while you stay cold. Cause I’m rootin’ for me. Rip my chains and set me free. I’ll fly. Fly. Fly. Beyond the sky.” I sway, fiddling a bluesy sonata I composed. The crowd waves their phones, lightening bugs brighter than the few stars above. An idyllic addition to my next verse. “Give up your claim. That you didn’t form my pain. A girl’s gotta make her own sweet dreams. Climb above the ashes, til she is seen. Cause I’m rootin’ for me. Rip my chains and set me free. I’ll fly. Fly. Fly. Beyond the sky.”

The crowd claps hysterically.

“Ladies and gents. Gigi Goi.”

Some fans whistle. Others yell, “We love you, Gigi.”

Ron leads me center stage. “So emo girl. We’re all dying to know ‘bout your dirty days. You got out so easily.” He curves the sides of his mouth as if he’s spat on a bowl of someone else’s caviar and is waiting for them to take a bite. Makes me uncomfortable as I don’t know where he’s heading with this. He props the microphone right under my chin. “Share with us, Gigi. What’s it like to be a trashy homeless person?”

I think my mouth must be half-way open. Someone close it for me. Someone hold me up. Tell me he’s jokin’. He might as well have asked a child what it’s like to live in poverty. Two friking years! I begged on the streets of New Orleans. Performed for a few measly bucks each day. Armed with my knife, scared of sickos in every shelter. Worried where my next meal would come from. Where I’d sleep. Where I’d numb my grief. Only reason I’m here is a miracle, a newspaper add. Won’t let Ron make me regret auditioning. Pompous Prick, with his shit-faced grin after the hell I suffered.

I ball my fists tight as Ron switches his focus from the camera to a suited man behind Sandi.

The crowd silences.

My body trembles. “Go ahead. Minimize my hardship. Fulfill your quota with me, the homeless orphan.

“That’s enough.”

“No. You don’t get to cut me off.” I draw my violin close to my heart while I point to Ron. “Take your glitzy gadgets and shove them down your greedy, ungrateful throat. I lived among the homeless, heard their stories, their despair, the injustices they endured. Judge me all frikin’ you want. I’m gonna be brave, listen to them, help them, offer a hug. They’re people too.”

The crowd busts into chanting hysteria. “They’re people too. They’re people too...”

The suited man shouts, “Get her off stage.”

“They’re people too. They’re people too...”

Two beastly men swarm toward me and snatch me by the shoulders. My violin slips.

Dani darts for it, saving it before it shatters on the floor.

“Let me go!” I kick the men’s shins as they hoist me in Mariya’s direction.

Sandi jabbers into her headset.

“Gigi! Gigi! Gigi….” Fans screech.

The suited man approaches. “My daughter has an issue.”

Daughter huh? So this her big bad daddy.

Mariya sneers the length of me. “Warned you not to mess with me.”

“Screw you.” I wrestle in the mens’ clutches.

Dani punches one of them. He stiffens his jaw.

I wrestle harder, arching my body toward Mariya. “Only issue is her.”

Jude staggers in, stinking of whiskey, a deer in headlights.

Jude’s manager jams himself between Dani and the men. “

The film crew ping-pongs their camera lenses from one person to another as Jude’s manager jams himself between Dani and men restraining me.

“Dodgy Prats.” He stands nose to nose with one of the men. “Take yer grubby paws off her.”

Fans scream. “Gigi! Gigi! Gigi...”

Mariya’s dad clicks his fingers at his men. They put me down.

“But daddy!” Mariya squares her arms.

“We’ll discuss this later.”

Three security guards surge in.

“Outta here!” One says to Mariya’s dad and the men.

They disappear into the dark, Ron’s voice sounding over the speakers.

“I’ve gotten word folks.” Ron bleats like a sheep in a crate. “Ms. Goi is doing well. All of us should be thankful for her community service.”

Someone boos, “Stop the Haters!”

“P-People, People.” Ron stammers. “Get excited for our last act.”

“Stop the haters.”

“Give us Gigi!”

“Get outta my face.” Mariya puts her hand up to the camera. The crew scoots rearward then swivels again in her direction.

She tilts toward Jude. “See what I have to put up with. No wonder I had my mini meltdown. Love to show you how sorry I am.” She bats her sparkly lashes, squishing her boobs together.

Typical Mariya. Skank in wolf’s threads.

Jude swaggers off with her, her hand squeezing his butt. She smirks back at me.

Whatevs. I massage my sore arms as Dani slides her hand over my shoulder. My skin warms.

“Here.” She holds out my violin.

“Thanks for rescuing it, means the world to me.” I clutch it, breezing my knuckles atop hers.

She stills, her gaze locked with mine, her breath cool on my cheek. I shiver.

“Break it up.” Sandi signals to Dani. “You’re next.”

“Cruella calls.”

“So does your fandom.” I brush my fingers over hers. “Do you, D.”

Her lips part, the color of wine, probably tasting of grapes or cherries or that sweet Pink Lady apple. She turns as I exhale wishing for her to return.

“Everyone. Dani Levine!”

The crowd screams.

I re-zip my violin into its bag, watching Dani on the stage. Her smooth tones swirl into my ears, a soft feather blanketing my wounds.

She swoons out, Mary Lambert’s, She keeps me warm. “Named both her eyes. Forever and please don’t go.”

I won’t go, Dani. Anyone wins, should be her.

Jude’s manager stalks in my direction.

Sheesh. Can’t a girl get a moment’s peace.

“You’re a tough dame, Gigi.” He touches my arms. I pull away. “‘Mazing really, yer story.” He folds his arms to his chest. “Not okay how they ruffed ya up. And Jude? Sloshed again, always thinkin’ with his wanker. Narks me right off.” He rotates to that snack table behind us and nabs a cup. “Let me get ya something. Water?”

“Fresh air. That’s it.” I lift my bag and crisscross it over my shoulders, frustration heavy in my gut. Don’t think I can do this anymore. I squeeze past Sandi. Past Belinde and Pristy flirting with the guards. Past the camera crew. Past our styling tent. I walk faster and faster until I’m running. Until my violin bag smacks my spine. Trees around me, moon at my back, I race deeper into the Central Park Ramble. My foot catches a jutted root. I stumble to the ground and spot Mariya four or five yards ahead, behind some bushes.

She straddles Clay. Their bodies bounce. Their hands grope. They grunt like those apes I once saw humping at the Savannah Zoo. Beyond ick. A chastity belt might be a great idea. Mariya and her no strings attached. No compassion either. Even celebrities she somehow bewitches. With her ability to manipulate, what’s the point of this fake it til ya make it competition.

I retrace my steps on the dirt path and roam into our styling tent. It’s empty. Stylists must’ve gone for the night. Better I’m alone anyway. I rub my temples, closing my eyes to the echoes of Dani’s low syrupy voice, evoking my desire and my anxiety souped up and jaded by this mess I created. I’m tired of pretending. Tired of hiding my true self. Beneath my chest, wails a loss big enough to last three life-times. It’s clawing to escape. To share with Dani every awful detail. To let her see the real me. The me she would never accept after my all lies, after what I did.

I close my eyes, inhaling stiffly and wishing for a miracle to fix my train-wreck of a life. Nothing’s changed when I open my eyes. My wishes are crashing and blazing as yellow as that manila envelope sitting below my vanity mirror. I step closer, my lungs tightening at the sight of big red magazine letters stamped to the envelope.


My birth name. What only one person in this world knows but he’s gone. Least I thought he was. I remove the knife from my bag, the knife I’ve carried since I became homeless. I search the entire styling tent inside and outside. Not a soul lurks anywhere. It’s as if this envelope appeared outta thin air.

I swallow hard when I pluck it up and a glossy picture slides out. A sticky-note, attached to it, reads, “The truth shall find you out. You shall suffer my wrath.”

My pulse thuds so fast I think my arteries might split wide open and spill blood over the picture of him — My step-fricker, Lester Hews. His piggish mug, with that bulging vein on his left cheek, stares back as if any second he could reach out and drag me with him to the depths of hell. I crumble to my knees, shame heavy in my gut.

Choices are one thing. Anger. Abuse. Assault. Those are quite another. Reason enough. Don’t ya agree? Course you don’t. How could you? Hurts so badly. All of it. How he tricked us. How he beat mama. How he molested me over and over in the dead of night.

For years, I tried to forget. And then one day I couldn’t forget anymore.

I scrape my scabs raw and carve a new cut in my arm that bites and burns my pain away. My blood flows out, thicker than Lester’s after I stabbed him seven times. He stole everything from me. My mama included.

I sob as I envision her and I together, waves on our toes. Finger to finger, we run down that pristine Savannah shore. Our smiles, our laughs, rip my wounds wide open. She took the blame for me. She died in prison because of me! So why am I letting Lester steal my future too?

Forget that. He doesn’t get to dominate my choices anymore. I lay down my knife.

Cold metal touches my skull.

I freeze, panic exploding in me at what I see in my vanity mirror. A baseball cap and a long, fat nose. The same nose I noticed in the crowd. Should’ve believed my gut. What? The courts release him on good behavior? That’s laughable. No good bone in his whole damn body.

He mashes his gun harder to my skull, his sneer reflecting in the mirror. “You must have some kinda retard in you, Georgia. Think you can kill my daddy and get away with it.”

“Get away with it?” I glare at Lester Junior aka LJ. “Some nerve you got. After raping that poor girl on the bayou.” I creep my fingers closer to my knife. One more inch. Gotta keep stalling him. “You come from the dirtiest seed in the ground. Come trying to murder me. For what? For ending my abusers life?”

“He was my daddy. You had no right.”

“Sure I did. And I paid dearly for my actions.” I grip my knife’s handle and elevate it. “Lost my mama, changed my identity, scavenged the streets, barely survived. If that’s not punishment, then what the hell is?”

Ron’s voice reverberates from the stage. “Remember to cast your votes. One-eight-hundred-waake-up. Folks, last time. Dani Levine!”

Fans cheer wildly.

A few shriek, “Stop the Haters. Help Gigi.”

Sandi’s voice follows. “Free to go, Dani.”

No. Don’t come in here. Dani!

The hairs on my neck prickle at the sound of her footsteps, coming closer and closer.

I blurt, “If you’re gonna do this, LJ. Better do it now.”

“Shut-up, dike. You need a man to reel you in.”

Something snaps behind us.

Lester pivots.

I swing up and shove my blade in his ribs. He topples to his side, his finger depressing the trigger.

A bullet vooms out and hits Mariya in the chest. She slumps in the entrance of our styling tent.

Oh God! I drag in ragged breaths, as she bleeds on the grass, as her face goes blank. This can’t be happening. Not again.

Jude hurries in followed by Pristy and Belinde who scamper toward Mariya. They fall before her, bawling and rubbing her flaccid fingers while Jude gapes down at her and I stare. Tears, welling in my eyes, blur Mariya’s corpse and LJ.

He crawls to his feet beside my vanity. Groaning and holding his punctured rib, he staggers in my direction. Dani rushes in.

“Dani! Run!”

Dani halts, gaping from Mariya to me to LJ.

He points his gun at Dani then seizes me by the shoulders. I thrash.

“I hate belligerent bitches.” He yanks my hair down, bashing his gun to my throat.

I choke, gasping for air.

“Stop,” Dani yells, the sound reverberating off the high tent ceiling.

Sandi, Ron and the guards bolt in trailed by the camera crew and three guards.

One waves a pistol at LJ, growling, “Put it down,”

“Not til she’s gone.” LJ reflects from my vanity mirror again, his hand tight on the gun.

I wait for the bullet. For death. He pulls the trigger.

Nothing happens. He clicks the gun again. Nothing.

The guard blasts LJ in the head. He flops, a cruel corpse I tread away from. Can’t tell why his gun jammed. All’s I figure is mama must have protected me.

My daughter. Her voice wafts into my ears, her heavenly essence thrumming through my veins while I near Mariya with Ron at my heels.

“No! No! You can’t die on me.” He hunches over her, his skin paling to her color. “Sianara to my career. Should’ve never listened to them.” He pounds his palm over the bridge of his nose.

Remorse flooding me, I crouch beside Pristy and Belinde still stroking Mariya’s fingers.

Didn’t matter how mean, fake or spiteful Mariya was. She didn’t deserve this. “I’m sorry I judged you,” I whisper to her as sirens née-ner in the distance and as Sandi and the guards chatter loudly.

Jude continues to stare.

Ron holds his head, pacing back and forth while the camera crew records us, not one of them frowning or flinching. It’s as if Mariya’s death is one big charade plotted by those puppeteer producers. Downright disgusting. They’ve got everyone dangling from their maniacal thumbs. Everyone except for me. I’m done with this shit-show! Done with every little thing beside Dani.

She kneels behind me. “Nothing we could’ve done.”

“Oh, but that’s not true. None of it’s true.” I cough out my words. Rotating, I weep on her shoulder. “So much I need to tell you.”

“No there isn’t.” She cups my chin in her hands. “Sandi told me everythin’.” Your fingerprints came in weeks ago. Producers hid it from you, from the press. Said they wanted to boost ratings. Forced me to sign some non-disclosure statement. Didn’t realize they were planning this. Swear it. I’m so sad for what you suffered.”

She skates her fingers over my tears, swiping them away. “You outta know, Georgia girl. My dad’s writing your admission letter to Juilliard. The world needs you. I need you. I’ll be brave with you, stand by you, help you in whatever way I can.”

She leans forward and sweeps her lips over mine, caressing the back of my neck. As shivers lace my spine, we share this delicious tongue-dance, slow and steamy. I savor her mouth, enjoying every bit it, regardless that everyone else is gawking at us. That the paramedics are busting in. I desire no one else but Dani. Dani and her perfect Pink Lady apple taste. Calm and comfort, our kiss is wrapped in a divine ribbon. A home where I can finally liberate my lies. Little lies. Big lies. My lies won’t define me or the strong woman I want to grow into. I’m worthy of love. Worthy of every sweet moment life has to offer.

Submitted: February 25, 2018

© Copyright 2022 Joy Shaw. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


Mike S.

Fine writing, Joy, takes talent to write believable dialog!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 3:43am


Thank you, Mike!

Mon, February 26th, 2018 7:45pm


This was really good and very descriptive. Keep up the good work!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 6:41pm


Thank you!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 10:42am


Wow, what an amazig story. I see you have a gift to bring your charaters to life.This read kept me engrossed from beginning to end. Continue to bring great stories to life.

Love and Hugs,

Tue, February 27th, 2018 8:49pm


Wow!!! Thank you for the raving review!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 12:53pm


Great characters, Joy. You captured the kind of bitchy competitiveness so common in these kind of things really well, and your dialogue came over as true.

Tue, February 27th, 2018 10:10pm


Thank you!!!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 2:13pm

Sean Terrence Best

Oh, Joy! You are educating me, deeply, profoundly. You have taken me by the hand and led me beyond a door of mystery into a world of passionate emotional cultural ritual - a world spinning on a thin edge of the supernatural, a realm which sends waves of alter-alertness sizzling along my nerve fibers because I am a stranger in this mystical place of haunting secrets which your lightning spirit knows so very well. I kneel in humble submission before the radiant glory of your flaming winged throne of rapturous ancient vision. I tremble in awe embraced with yearning craving for the tidal surge of your exponentially entrancing kaleidoscope of cosmic literary euphoria. The dialogue you script erupts from your ingeniously crafted plot born from the primeval forces that forge the human soul in the eternal blazing elemental fires of the brightly luminous galactic center of awakening conscious awareness. With hallowed tribute of the thousand silken robes of the oculus of adoration, I thank you for the Joy your writing gives me.

Tue, February 27th, 2018 10:31pm


Awww. Thank you!!!

Tue, February 27th, 2018 2:37pm

Sue Harris

This is an exceptionally well structured story, which grabbed me in immediately. Your characterisation and descriptive skills are phenomenal and I connected with the troubled main character straight away... her lies and self harming which gave clues of previous suffering and trauma in her life. You weave her past and present into the story with great timing and skill and the bitchiness between the contestants was spot on and so believable. On an emotional level, it tackled some very gritty issues... self harming, living rough, sex abuse, loss and manslaughter, which you executed brilliantly. On a personal level, and this is no doubt due to my age, in places I found the style slightly jerky, having said that, a YA audience would probably soak it up like a sponge. On this note, if you haven't already done so, I would suggest getting some feedback from your target audience. As I have said before, you have a very special talent and this is another shining example of your exceptional skill and prowess as a writer. Well done, Joy!

Thu, March 1st, 2018 10:15pm


Thank you, Sue!!!

Fri, March 2nd, 2018 4:56am


Excellent write. You are very talented and exceptionally great at believable dialogue, which is challenging to achieve. Well done.

Fri, March 2nd, 2018 3:22pm

Babul Nasar

Well written. I look forward to reading more from you.

Fri, March 9th, 2018 7:43am


Thank you!

Fri, March 9th, 2018 2:47am

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