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Fabulous Fifty Forever
Dense fog drifted over the City of Angels as ‘June Gloom’ crept in from Marina Del Rey. From time to time, the latest upstarts poked through: The Wilshire Grand, Two California Center, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. But LA was still LA and no amount of dressing it up with glittering skyscrapers would ever change its nature, like in the allegory of the scorpion and the frog.
In front of the newest high-rise condo—The TEN50 on South Grand—a stretch limo idled, its driver annoyed, losing money with every tick of the dashboard clock. Who did this dame think she was? Betty Fucking Davis? Your typical LA wannabe loser. He’d likely get no tip either, for hauling her boney ass all the way over to mid-Wilshire in the morning rush hour, which was more like three.
From her fifth-floor window, Wendy Adair looked down at the limo as she enjoyed her last cigarette for a while. The most famous supermodel of all time would not be rushed. She was the patient and paying the earth for the procedures and Dr. Sloan could wait for her for a change. Men had always waited for Wendy, panting, and slathering like dogs. Now Paul Sloan could join them along with that Latino limo driver down the street, flipping through the LA Times, and clearly pissed off by the wait. She exhaled the last delicious stream of smoke, then crushed out the cigarette in a heart-shaped ashtray that had once belonged to Marilyn Monroe, or so the e-Bay ad claimed. Then, in the bathroom, Wendy scrubbed her nails with the antibacterial soap the Doctor made her buy, then sniffed her fingers to make sure no trace of smoke lingered, though why the man had to make such a big deal about smoking was beyond her. All of the great models and
Hollywood stars smoked. They had to, to stay super skinny. And they all went under the surgeon's knife, sooner or later. Still, Dr. Sloan had a temper as famous as his surgical skill and today was not the day to test that temper.
She printed out the e-mail from Tiffany Jonas and Mr. Earl Krall, the head honcho of Fabulous Fifty Forever, then tucked the paper in the overnight bag she would take to the hospital. That e-mail with a fabulous job offer was Wendy's motivation and would work as a talisman to ward off pain and complications and gave Wendy the courage for what she was about to have done to her by Paul Sloan, the 'plastic surgeon to the stars.' She tied a knock-off Hermes scarf around her head and put on her oversized fake Prada sunglasses. Before leaving her condo, she looked at herself in the guilt-edged mirror that had once hung in the Hollywood apartment of Mae West. "Goodbye, sad old ugly face," she said. "It's been nice knowing you." Though it hadn't been. Not at all.
The limo turned down Hope Street, glided along Spring, then headed west, perhaps towards Eternal, but basically, Beverly Hills. As it pulled up to the discreet recessed doorway of the Sloan Surgical Center, a half hour later, Wendy felt in her bag for the printed-out e-mail from Tiffany Jonas, then tipped the sour limo driver far more than he deserved, only for good luck. "May the force be with you, Dr. Sloan. May you be at the top of your game, unleash the power of all the beauty in the universe, this day of all days," Wendy prayed as she pulled open the clinic door.
Inside Sloan's surgical suite, the mood was upbeat. Contemporary hits emanated from high-tech speakers in the acoustic ceiling tiles above where Wendy lay draped and intubated, her face painted with bright yellow antiseptic.
Gowned, gloved, and masked, with surgical loupes and a headlamp protruding from his forehead, Dr. Paul Sloan looked like a giant bug from some other planet. Only his eyes, dark and intense, were visible.
"She was a real somebody back in the day. A true supermodel," Bev, the OR Tech, said as she scrubbed in.
"Everybody in LA used to be somebody," Sloan said.
"You people heard of Fabulous Fifty Forever?" Wendy moaned.
"She's light, Bev. Step it up!" Sloan frowned. "I don't need this broad coming to and blathering on about how her modeling career will magically get kick-started." "Yes, Doctor."
"I'm a surgical genius but no freaking god." Sloan picked up a 12-blade scalpel from the open green cloth bag on a stainless steel table and cut deep into the side of Wendy’s face. "A cosmetic company in Beverly Hills offered Ms. Adair a job," Josie said. "Doing what?" Sloan snorted. “Scrubbing floors?”
"Being the fresh face of the company. For women over fifty."
"Unreasonable expectations,” Sloan sighed. “All I need. Well, comes with the territory in this job." Abruptly, he stopped work. "Looks like she had a prior lift. That wasn't in her chart." "I can go get her file," Josie offered.
"Too late. I'm losing money every minute."
"A prior lift has never been a problem for you, Dr. Sloan," Bev said. "You can fix any mess some ham-fisted surgeon made. You've done it so many times— work miracles."
“True. Alright, Ladies, we're off to the races. Let's see if I can beat my record for a primary. The first cut is the deepest... Man, I love that song. One of you get it on Pandora when there’s a break in the action.”
His mood greatly improved as he cut deep along one side of Wendy's face, preparing to create a flap of skin, fat, and muscle that he would then pull up and suture inside Wendy's hairline. Abruptly, he stopped. "What's going on? Is she diabetic? A smoker? What?"
Horrified, they stared at the edge of Wendy's face as her flesh darkened. "Her bloodwork was fine," Josie said. "And she wrote 'never smoked' on her intake form."
"Check her nail beds. We haven’t got all day.”
Josie pulled Wendy’s hand out from under the OR draping, then pressed on the patient’s fingernails. "You're right, Doctor. A smoker." She and Bev exchanged looks from above their OR masks.
Sloan glared at Wendy's face, at the elevated tissue, blackening at the edges, starved of oxygen, dying. "I'll have to lift this stupid broad sky-high." Arcs of sweat darkened the underarms of his powder blue scrubs. "As soon as this nightmare is over, one of you get my attorneys on the line. Stat."
Wendy regained consciousness hours later and opened her eyes to total darkness. The pain in her head was excruciating, and one eye felt like it had been stabbed with an ice pick. She reached up to touch her face, but her head was packed solid. "Nurse?" she called. "Nurse! Is anyone there? I need help!"
"We're right here, Hon," a woman’s voice answered. "What do you need?"
"My eye! It hurts so bad! Did something go wrong?"
"I'll get you more painkillers."
"Is this normal? Oh, God. I'm going to puke."
"There's a basin on the bed, right beside you. Try not to put your head down too low." Violently, Wendy vomited. Then again. "Why is this happening?" she moaned. "This can’t be right."
"Just the anesthetic wearing off. Nobody feels good after surgery. That's why I'm here to help you through recovery."
"How do I look? Can you tell? Dr. Sloan is the best in the business, right? I'm dying to see."
"You need to rest. Recovery takes time. So, don't be in a hurry to go dancing, okay, Doll? No matter how many handsome men ask."
Wendy tried to smile, but her face hurt too much. "You ever heard of Fabulous Fifty Forever?"
"Not sure, Hon. What is it?"
"Where I'm going to be modeling again. As the fresh but famous face of the company."
"I might even do one of those big reveal videos. You know, like you see on TV?"
"Try to sleep. I'll be back with that ointment for your eye."
Wendy heard squishy-soled shoes as the nurse left the room, then the murmur of voices in the corridor. That reassured her, taking her back to when she was a child, safe in bed in a Hollywood bungalow as her parents talked in the living room. The good old days, before all the drinking and fighting, the breaking up, the shoving little Wendy off to shuttle between relatives and sometimes friends.
She didn't feel like throwing up anymore. She seemed to float on a fluffy pink cloud of morphine. Nothing could hurt her. The worst was over. And she was on her way back to where she belonged, as a supermodel and the fresh new face of Fabulous Fifty Forever!
Giant Koi fish swam in the green granite pools that flanked the doors of the office tower on Wilshire Boulevard. Good-looking young men and women smoked and chatted on the stone side of the fountain. Soon, Wendy would be there among them. Here she was, almost seventy and jumping back into the business feet first, thanks to Doctor Sloan and her life’s savings. But it was worth it. She could see herself there with those young people, nibbling her low-cal lunch and regaling them with stories from her illustrious past.
If they only knew that Wendy, THE Wendy, in the oversized silk scarf and Prada shades, was passing them now. As she entered the building, she turned a few heads. Everyone likely wondered why such a famous person was there. She told the security man that her name was Wendy, and she was there to meet with the top dog, Mr. Krall, along with his assistant, Tiffany Jonas.
"Wendy what?" the man asked.
"Adair." What an idiot, Wendy thought. You could not live on planet Earth and not know the name Wendy as the most famous supermodel of all time.
"I'll see if they're in."
"Of course, they're in. We have an important meeting scheduled.”
The man checked her name on the list of vendors and visitors and, satisfied that Wendy did have an appointment, gave her a white security badge on a blue lanyard. "Go take a seat until somebody comes to get you. No one's allowed to roam the building."
"I had no intention of roaming the building."
"Rules are rules, Lady. I don't make ‘em, just enforce ‘em. Go on over there and take a seat."
Miffed by the shabby treatment, Wendy made a mental note to bring this Neanderthal’s behavior to the attention of Mr. Krall at the end of their meeting. She would demand an apology and she would get one, for sure.
She flipped through some out-of-date magazines on a rack, then sat down to flip through a Hollywood gossip rag as attractive young women clipped past in their high-heeled sandals and summer skirts. Some did double-takes when they saw Wendy, and others gaped without shame. "Yes, it's really me," Wendy wanted to say. But royalty did not bend down to commoners. They would all hear her stories once she'd become the new face of the company. She checked her phone. Twenty minutes and no sign of anyone coming to get her for the meeting. Wendy was unused to waiting for anybody. It should be the other way around.
After another ten minutes, a young woman strode off the elevator and headed towards her. She wore high-heeled sandals that showed off her green-painted toenails and a silky summer dress that floated around her slender ankles. "Wendy Adair?" she said, looking around as though Wendy were not right there in front of her. Was she blind? Or just dumb as a stick?
"Right here." Wendy stood up.
"Oh!" The woman seemed more shocked than thrilled. "I'm Chelsea, assistant to Tiffany Jonas." She grabbed Wendy's hand and shook it. "We're so glad you could make it today."
"Of course, I could make it. And right on time. I'm a professional." Unlike you, Wendy thought.
"My apologies. We had a problem in production this morning that pushed everything back. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Evian?"
"Just the meeting with Mr. Krall. That's why I’m here."
"Of course." She gave Wendy a gummy smile, then checked her cellphone. "You can see Tiffany in a couple of minutes. You'll love her."
Wendy was not there to love anyone; she was there to be loved. Loved and adored, like in the good old days. "I'm supposed to be meeting with Mr. Krall—the head honcho."
"Hmm. That's weird. My note just says Tiffany."
"Mr. Krall contacted me personally. I would not have bothered coming to meet with anybody else.”
"I'm pretty sure he's on extended leave right now." She bit her lower lip and frowned at her phone as if that might confirm the whereabouts of Mr. Krall. "Well, no worries. Tiffany will get everything sorted out. You can follow me please."
This silly person with green toenails did not know who Wendy she was or why was there. It was a waste of breath having further conversations with her, Wendy decided, as she followed Chelsea, in her floating skirts, through the lobby.
But Tiffany Jonas seemed to be an even bigger nitwit than her assistant. She observed Wendy from behind her desk, a startled look on her face. She didn’t even get up. "Wow," she said. "You look amazing."
Not the best time nor place for her big reveal, Wendy thought, but she pulled off her fake Prada shades and unwound her knock-off Hermes scarf. She smiled, which caused intense pain to stab her face—quick and deep as Dr. Sloan's scalpel.
"Oh, my God." Tiffany rocked back in her chair, her hand to her mouth.
Wendy grimaced. "I got a bit of work done, just for this job. Insider secret. You don't need to share that."
When Tiffany continued to gape and say nothing, Wendy felt a heaviness roll over her and settle into the pit of her stomach. "Look. Why don't I come back when Mr. Krall is here? I'm busy with bookings, promotional tours, and other things. The modeling world can't believe I'm back. They're all so jealous."
"Oh. I wouldn't want you to have to come over here again. I apologize for Mr. Krall not being here, but he rarely meets with new sales staff, so there was some kind of misunderstanding."
"Sales staff? I'm not here for a sales job."
"That's weird. Didn't anyone explain?"
"This is a sales position. Straight commission."
"I'm a supermodel, Tiffany. Not some floorwalker."
"There’s no floor walking. Everything is online these days." Tiffany seemed rattled. "The position is working the call center, taking online orders, sending them out for fulfillment. And promoting our products. As we all do, of course."
"No. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve got your e-mail right here." Wendy dug into her bag for the paper, pulled it out, and read. "The fresh face of Fabulous Fifty Forever,"
You wrote that yourself. Nothing about hawking products online. You don't even need a face to do that, or for telephone sales." She pushed the paper across Tiffany's desk.
"Oh gosh, Ms. Adair. I'm so sorry if there was some misunderstanding."
"Some misunderstanding? I got a full facelift that cost the earth and suffered weeks of recovery, only for this job. You made me come all the way over here to meet this Krall person, who's likely so hungover he couldn't get out of bed. I think you people are low-level hawkers of cheap lotions and creams that do nothing—typical LA slime. You want to snare desperate older women with your high-pressure sales tactics and BS to make them young again. Count me out of your pyramid scheme or whatever you call it. I'm Wendy. THE Wendy. And you should apologize for wasting my time." She snatched the paper from Tiffany's desk and tore it to pieces. Not seeing a waste basket anywhere, she stuffed the torn paper into her knock-off Prada bag.
"Ms. Adair, can I get you another Evian? Validate your parking ticket?"
"For your information, Tiffany, I took an Uber to get all the way over here from downtown. In rush hour."
"Oh! Then we have our answer,” Tiffany beamed. “We'll pick up the tab to make sure you get safely back home. How does that sound? And if anything comes up that might work better for you, I’ll be sure and give you a dingle.”
Sylvia Mulholland is a writer and intellectual property attorney with expertise in trademarks and branding—a great combination career for someone in love with words. Sylvia was born and raised in Canada and now lives in the United States. She also holds citizenship in the European Union. She is the author of two novels published by major publishers in the UK, Canada, and Germany: Woman’s Work and Lingerie Tea, now (sadly) out of print. A Nanny for Harry and Sisters in Law are Sylvia’s two indie novels, available in Kindle format and paperback on Amazon.
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