Bloody Fabulous: Stories of Fantasy and Fashion
The next night, Jeffrey feigned illness and went to bed early, switching off the lamp to lie in pitch dark. He pretended to be asleep when Ray came in, lying still while he changed into his pajamas and slipped into bed.
The second night, they dressed in single-breasted black wool tuxedos with handkerchiefs in the pockets. Jeffrey sighed over Ray, who continued to look disheveled no matter how many times Jeffrey straightened his jacket.
They rode to the theater in a limousine. Diana coalesced in the leather seats. Ray poured champagne. They clinked, twining their arms to sip from each other’s glasses.
At first Jeffrey looked anxious, but soon the bubbly began working. He laughed loudly and kept extending his empty glass.
“What the hell,” said Ray, opening a second bottle. “This is what we got a chauffeur for.”
Jeffrey was flushed when they arrived. Ray stopped to tip the driver while Jeffrey grinned at the crowd of smokers grabbing their last cigarettes before the performance. They went through gold-edged doors into the sweeping lobby where more theatergoers lingered, most dressed as if attending church, in floral-print dresses and polo shirts and slacks. Heads turned at tuxedos.
Ray took his arm and led Jeffrey, regally, down to the usher who took their ticket.
Inside the theater, Jeffrey squeezed Ray’s hand as his eyes darted between gold cornices. They made their way down a row of red velvet seats, Diana hiding in the shadows between arm rests. The theater thrummed with voices. Ray flipped through his program, glossy sheets rustling. Jeffrey sat on the edge of his seat, staring at the curtain.
The theater went dark. The audience fell silent as the overture began, brasses taking up a merry beat.
“Happy forty-nine,” Ray whispered in Jeffrey’s ear. Jeffrey batted him away, leaning toward the music.
Silently, Diana counted years. Yes, she’d have been forty-nine, too. Her ethereal form thrummed with jealousy.
The play began. Diana watched Jeffrey’s face instead of the show. His enraptured expression was more compelling than any performance Diana remembered. Still tipsy, he leaned in at the dramatic moments, laughing more loudly than he should when someone told a joke, and gasping when something went wrong. He tapped his hand silently against his armrest in time with the dancers’ heels clicking across the stage. He applauded with all his strength, almost propelling himself out of his seat.
When Diana’s curiosity grew overpowering, she flickered into the shadows cast by the actors to watch the show up close. It seemed ordinary—ersatz glitz on over-worked actors, bright paint on well-worn sets.
Afterward, as Jeffrey and Ray stood outside waiting for the limo to return, their tuxedo jackets draped over their arms, Jeffrey began to weep. Passersby turned to look, without interrupting their strides.
Ray took Jeffrey by the shoulders and turned him so they faced each other squarely. “What is it?” he asked. “Can you tell me?”
“I just wish I,” Jeffrey began. A sob caught in his throat. “I could have been, if I’d been someone else, I could have—” He stopped, sobs coming harder.
“The world just wasn’t made for you,” Ray said, wrapping his arms around his husband.
The world had made Diana think it was made for her once. Seven hundred and fifty million people watched her walk down the aisle in her puff ball meringue dress with its romantically ruffled neckline and twenty-five foot train. She’d been adorned by lace and sequins, hand-stitched embroidery and ten thousand pearls.
The night before, she’d been crying, too. Was the world made for anyone?
She followed them back into the shadows of their room. They switched on their bedside lamps and she swam under the bed to respect their privacy.
It sounded like love.
When the lamps were off again, Diana lifted back into the shadowed drapery of their quilt. Ray was asleep. Jeffrey stared at the ceiling, his eyes dry, his face sallow.
“I’m happy,” he whispered into the nothing.
You should be, Diana couldn’t say.
“I have a good life. A good house. Good health. A good husband. I’m lucky and loved.”
You are, Diana couldn’t say.
“I’m forty-nine years old.”
Diana could not say that she would never be forty-nine years old.
“I’m never going to be the duck that turns into the swan. My foot will never fit the slipper. It’s never going to be all lights and cameras. It’s never going to be all action. No one is ever going to care who I am. It’s never going to happen. Not for me.”
It had happened for her. The swan, the dress, the lights, and oh yes, the cameras. It wasn’t what she wanted. It wasn’t what anyone wanted, not really.
She wished she could trade him—a forty-ninth birthday and a husband who wasn’t Charles—it seemed appealing. But then would she want that either? A life of wanting to be wanted and never being seen? Of desiring glamour and receiving anonymity?
A little of each then. If only they could mingle, the way shadows bleed into one another, the way ghosts bleed into shadows.
But he is neither ghost nor shadow. Not yet.
He stares at the ceiling. His eyelids drift down. A blink, and then a second. He will fall asleep soon.
Diana swims away.
Maria V. Snyder
Evelyn’s brain cells had declared war inside her skull. The right side of her brain attacked the left with mortars and heavy artillery, while the left responded with bombs and gunfire. Why did she order that third Long Island Ice Tea? Because she had already drunk two and logic and reason had left her to photocopy their asses.
Memories of last night’s party pulsed. Had she really bragged to the publisher of Vackra magazine that she could transform anyone from ugly to beautiful? And then make a bet with the woman? God, she hoped not.
And who was the idiot who had scheduled a party on a Sunday night? She rested her forehead on her desk as more brain cells died. The doorbell to her studio dinged. Without checking the security camera, she buzzed the door open. Evelyn rolled her head to the side and watched Vincenza, her make-up artist, through a curtain of blond hair. The tall Italian woman sported the latest European fashions. Even her nickname—Vee was trendy.
Vee spotted her. “What happened?”
“Too much alcohol, not enough sense.”
“I knew I should have stayed last night.” She tsked. ‘‘Not to worry. I’ll make you a tonic.” Vincenza bustled off making way too much noise with her heels.
Another painful ding sounded and Evelyn’s assistant—a bundle of energy contained in human form—arrived. The girl was too young and too inexperienced, but she was whip smart.
‘‘What stinks?’’ Olivia asked.
‘‘Vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and triple sec fumes, courtesy of our boss lady,” Vee said.
‘‘Oh.” She crinkled her nose. ‘‘Do you want me to cancel your appointments?”
‘‘No. We’re doing the cover for Glam More.” It had taken Evelyn two months to find an open date with the model and the magazine’s deadline was looming.
Another time limit popped unbidden into her mind. Produce a beautiful photo for me in one week. If you can not, then you are mine. Camilla D. Quinton’s liquid voice sounded in her head. Maybe Camilla would forget all about the bet. She snorted. Not Camilla, otherwise known as the Demon Queen. She had not only earned that reputation, but embraced it.
The only reason Evelyn had gone to that party was to meet her. One of Camilla’s rare public appearances, and Evelyn had hoped to impress the woman and be offered a cover shoot for Vackra. But Camilla’s notorious resistance to using freelancers remained, preferring to do everything in house.
Evelyn raised her head, causing another brain cell salvo. “I’ll need my Nikon with the fifty millimeter lens, the white backdrop, and two strobes,” she said to Olivia.
As the girl hurried to set up the equipment, Vee pressed a hot mug of . . . “What the hell is this? It smells like rancid cottage cheese.”
‘‘Drink it, you’ll feel better.”
She cringed at the taste, but kept sipping until Vee appeared satisfied. The model for the photo shoot arrived in a fit of tears over her blotchy skin. Vee whisked the girl back to the dressing room. It didn’t matter how horrible the model’s skin tone, hair, or shape was, with Vee and Evelyn’s expertise, her photo would show a gorgeous young woman.
Evelyn admitted to a certain amount of confidence. After all, she had the best reputation in the business, and it hadn’t occurred overnight. She committed years, sacrificed her social life, and worked hard. Seven years later, she owned a studio and loft in the heart of Manhattan. Still, she shouldn’t have made that boast. Yet a part of her felt equal to the challenge.
Vee returned with a now radiant model. Feeling steadier, Evelyn picked up her camera. The familiar weight of the Nikon in her hand was like a caffeine fix. Dismissing her worries about the party, Evelyn concentrated on her work.
After her last Monday client left, Evelyn uploaded the day’s photos to her computer. Taking pictures was only the first half of the job. She scanned the shots and didn’t look up when Olivia chirped a good bye or when Vee admonished her not to work too late before leaving.