The trailer door slammed just as I pulled on my rubber gloves. I used my foot and spun the chair around, and the man slumping into the seat offered me a gruff, “Morning.”
An assistant followed, shoving a paper coffee cup in his hands while scanning the daily schedule. My assistant, Lea, hovered nearby with tools in her hands. To the untrained eye, they looked a little like torture devices.
“Good morning, RJ,” I said, looking down at the young actor. Despite the tired circles under his eyes, he was still strikingly handsome. “You’re looking chipper today.”
“These 5 a.m. wakeup calls are going to kill me.” His eyes flickered shut, like he was trying to block me and everyone else out.
“You’re twenty years old, lack of sleep won’t kill you. Partying all night at the Paper Plane may do it, though.”
He cracked an eye, giving me a peek of the brilliant blue that helped him land an agent in the first place. “How do you know I was at Paper Plane?”
I shook my head and prepped his face with toner. Paper Plane was a local bar--which RJ was too young to go to, but I supposed rules were bent for celebrities. “I learned a long time ago that it’s best to check your social media first thing in the morning to make sure no one is talking about you—or if they are, that it’s not going to destroy your life.”
He perked up a little and his assistant handed him one of the three phones he carried for various aspects of his job. His thumb quickly scrolled down the photos, pausing on one of him huddled in the corner with a faceless blonde. Our eyes met in the large mirror in front of us, in the narrow slot not piled high with makeup and supplies. “Shit.”
“Sorry,” I said, feeling a mixture of genuine empathy for him along with a heavy dose of the fact he should know better. I felt a million years older than this kid. Wiser. Yet he was the one making a hundred thousand dollars an episode, while I got paid to turn him into a monster every week.
RJ mumbled a few directions at his assistant—damage control—I got it. I’d been there, just on a much less-public level. I reached out to grab a tin of glue and a brush and started on my efforts to turn this handsome kid into a terrifying creature.
I’d slathered on the first coat when he eyed me and asked, “How could a woman with a name like Heaven know anything about social media scandal?”
I snorted. “Trust me, I know more than you’d think.”
“A high school prank gone wrong,” I tell him, glancing at my assistant, Lea. She knew the story. I told her everything one night over too many margaritas and a binge watch of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. “But that’s a really long story and it happened a really long time ago. Trust me, everything about that period of my life is in the past.” I caught my reflection in the mirror, looking for the girl I used to be. Other than faint scars on my arms and familiar blue eyes, I could barely find her.
“How long am I going to be in this chair?” RJ asked.
His assistant looked at the clock. “Two hours.”
His bright eyes met mine again in the mirror. “I’ve got time, Heaven Reeves, I want to hear that story.”
* * *
Two hours later, RJ no longer looked like a handsome TV star but like a creature from a demonic dimension. He was on a weekly TV show, Creature Feature, which was about a group of best friends that jumped from one alternate reality to the other, fighting demons and saving the world. Part X-Files, part Supernatural, it unsurprisingly became the breakout hit of the season. And by some crazy mixture of fate and luck, I’d secured the job of head makeup person.
I couldn’t see RJ’s actual expression under the gobs of liquid latex and paint, but his assistant stopped typing on her phone about fifteen minutes into my story. Lea, with her non-committal expression and purple-streaked hair, patiently handed me my supplies while I spilled the sordid details. Everything. Justin and the favor gone tragically, socially, wrong. Spencer and his harassment. The bullying. I left out the self-harm but I didn’t forget the Allendale Four. How could I?
“This sounds like a TV show,” RJ said. “Why haven’t they made this into a TV show? One girl, four guys, all in love with one another. There’s danger, social commentary, mental health issues, and an incredible romance.”
“It’s not a story anyone would ever want to put on TV,” I said, fussing with a scale on RJ’s forehead that wouldn’t stay down the way I wanted. I reached for my superglue.
“Why? Because of the polyandry lifestyle?” Lea asked. “It’s not so taboo anymore.”
“There’s that, although in my experience it’s hard for people to understand the complexity of that relationship, but also—” I was interrupted by a bang on the door, announcing that it was time for RJ to get on set. I whipped off the apron covering his clothes and pushed down the scale one more time.
“Also, what?” he said, facing me. He looked terrifying and I couldn’t help but smile.
“My story doesn’t have a happy ending, and who wants to watch a show like that?”