Stacy Aldred nibbled on a fingernail already worn to the quick and tried to muster the courage to walk through the discreet glass door of 200 York Street. The smell of ammonia, peroxide, and several other noxious chemicals assaulted her nose as two perfectly groomed women nudged past her and strode inside.
She backed toward the street. Catching site of herself in the plate glass window, she gulped and wondered what insanity had taken hold of her. Short, stringy, dishwater blond hair framed a thin, pale, and utterly unremarkable face.
The cheap cotton skirt hung to her calves, dwarfing her petite frame, while the sweater twin set did nothing for her non-existent breasts. Stacy sighed and glanced again at the beautiful women laughing and primping in the salon. She had no business inhabiting that world.
She turned on her heel and started back across Wright Square, seeking consolation in her mother’s oft repeated maxims ‘beauty is only skin deep’ and ‘better to have brains than beauty’.
The trite sayings were cold comfort and no match for the hateful words rattling in her brain courtesy of her colleagues at the Telfair Museum. She sank onto a bench beside the giant granite headstone of Tomochichi and tried to obliterate the memory of yesterday’s verbal assault.
Normally, the spiteful invectives hurled by associate curators Brittany Howard and Madison Blake, rolled right off Stacy’s back. She knew Madison simply followed Brittany’s lead and that Brittany’s attacks stemmed from the fact that Stacy, and not Brittany, had been given the temporary position of Curator of Special Exhibits.
Usually, she passed it off as sour grapes and stayed out of their way, but this time, nervous at being the museum’s liaison to darling of the art world, Brad Cafferty and petrified at the prospect of the opening night gala, every barb had found its mark; and led her to the chic salon. Stacy shuddered as the previous day’s humiliating encounter replayed in her mind.
She’d been perusing a copy of some glitzy fashion magazine; wistfully wishing a fairy godmother would appear and transform her, when the banes of her existence strolled into the museum’s break room.
Metal scraped across linoleum as the women pulled chairs to Stacy’s end of the table. She stiffened and flipped another page.
“So Madison, did you get a dress for Saturday?”
Madison giggled. “Yep! The one we saw in Gaucho’s window—“
“Ooh, that is hot! I’m wearing a ‘to die for’ red sheath from Akris.”
Madison gasped. “Ooh, you didn’t! Girl that had to set you back.”
Brittany shrugged. “Want to catch a big fish you need to use quality bait!”
Madison laughed. “You go girl!”
Stacy rolled her eyes and lowered her gaze back to the magazine. Brittany’s comment left a bad taste in her mouth. Every since it had been announced that the Brad Cafferty exhibit would be highlighted with a special appearance by the man himself, Brittany and Madison, as well as every other woman at the Telfair Museum, had been drooling.
Stacy couldn’t blame them. Cafferty was the flavor of the moment in the art world. His sculpture, ground breaking in its portrayal of the human form using green and renewable resource materials was both innovative and breath taking and the fact that the man himself could have modeled for Adonis and was well on his way to competing with King Midas for World’s Richest Man status made him an irresistible lure for women; shallow women anyway.
Stacy jumped as Brittany leaned over and tapped the glossy magazine page with one long red fingernail. “Poor Stacy, still looking? Um …” Her voice assumed a concerned and helpful tone as fake as her fingernails “Don’t you think you’d have better luck if you looked in the Walmart flyer?”
A peal of laughter rang out from Madison.
Heat crept into Stacy’s face. She slumped in her seat and prayed for invisibility.
“Better be careful, Britt. Stacy’s aiming to steal Brad Cafferty’s heart!”
“Oooh, I’m terrified Madison! You know how men love second hand knock-offs!”
Madison snorted. “And don’t forget the orthopedic shoes!”
Both women convulsed with laughter.
Stacy would have bolted from the room, but something had snapped deep inside. Before she could think, the words popped from her mouth.
“I’ve ordered one similar to this,” she pointed to a short, strapless confection in peacock blue that hugged the model like a second skin.
Her declaration increased their taunting. Madison’s announcement that even a Sue Wong original couldn’t make a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’ and Brittany’s assurances that renowned artist and eligible bachelor Brad Cafferty wouldn’t give her a first look, much less a second, goaded Stacy into issuing the challenge that now loomed over her.
“Since I routinely talk with Brad, for my job, we’ve become friends. He thinks I understand his work better than anyone ever has. I bet he’ll fall all over me.” She looked down her nose at Brittany. “But don’t worry, I’ll introduce you.”
Brittany’s face turned red and a sneer marred her patrician features. “Is that so? Well, Miss Nobody, I’ll take your bet.”
Stacy gulped. “Ah, bet? What do you mean?”
Brittany smirked. “I mean, put up or shut up. I think Brad Cafferty will spare you no more than a polite hello before he attaches himself to my side. So, what are the stakes?”
Stacy shook her head, unable to find the words to dig herself out of the hole she’d thoughtlessly created.
Madison supplied them for her.
“How about this Britt?” An evil glint shone in her eyes as she grinned at Stacy. “Whoever loses takes herself out of the running for the Curator’s spot.”
Brittany, confidant that she’d win not only the artist’s attention but the coveted Curator’s position, screeched and high-fived Madison.
Seeing no other way out, Stacy gulped, nodded agreement, and scurried out the door.
The chiming bells of St. John’s Cathedral roused Stacy to action. There really was no choice. She’d sealed her fate by running her mouth; it was time to play with the big dogs.
Rising from the bench, she squared her shoulders and marched to the salon.
Stacy wiggled and tugged until her tight fitting Spanx underwear returned to their proper place then turned to flush the toilet. Smoothing the peacock blue silk dress down over her hips, she exited the stall.
A study of her reflection proved the salon had worked a miracle, and there was no doubt that it had paid off. From the roots of her hair extensions to the tips of her acrylic fingernails Brad Cafferty was enchanted with her.
Stacy smirked and dug in her purse for lip gloss. Following the instructions gleaned from the salon’s make-up artist, she dabbed the light peach color onto her lips and then stepped back to survey the results; perfectly kissable lips.
She grinned. Hopefully, Brad would find them irresistible when she rejoined him on the secluded terrace overlooking Telfair Square. With a final glance in the mirror, Stacy turned to leave and ran straight into her worst nightmare; times two.
“Bitch!” Brittany, joined by Madison, used their bodies to edge Stacy back into the restroom. “You think you won?” She sneered. “Cheating means you forfeit!”
Stacy frowned. “Cheat? Just how would I have done that?”
“Cut the innocent act. We know you told Brad a pack of lies; why else would he have ignored Brittany?” Madison laughed. “Or do you expect us to believe he actually finds you, even with your little makeover, more attractive than Brittany?”
Stacy looked down her nose at the two and smirked. “I don’t expect either of you to understand since there is so much plastic encasing your empty heads.” She pushed past the duo and opened the door before looking back at them. “Brad Cafferty appreciates what is on the inside. Really, did you even bother to look at his work? Every sculpture shows his commitment to eschewing man-made ideals as to the definition of beauty and the ridiculous pursuit of it. He is above the superficial and recognizes a kindred soul in me.”
With a wave of her hand, Stacy sailed out of the restroom and headed for the marble stairs. She waded through the throng of people, smiling and returning greetings absently, while she fought with her conscious.
The niggling worm of inner honesty had reared its head shortly after she delivered the coup de grace to Brittany and Madison, pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of her statement. The ever helpful voice also felt it necessary to replay the wise words of her mother concerning pride and the falls linked to an excess of it.
Stacy found herself weakening against the mental assault, until she opened the terrace door; all thoughts of confession fled in the wake of Brad’s smile. She walked into his arms, nestling breasts lovingly enhanced by the miracle of her gel filled push-up bra against the muscled heat of his chest, and prepared to savor the role of Cinderella that fate had seen fit to cast her way.
Brad nuzzled her neck. “Alone at last. Have I told you how happy I am to have met you?”
Stacy giggled and tilted her head to afford him greater access. “Yes, but do it again.”
He chuckled and ran his hands down her back to cup her firmed by Lycra ass. “I wish I could put into words … my art, my dream, it all coalesces in you. You are the epitome of what I stand for; beauty without artifice. A real woman.”
His words, spoken from the heart, pierced Stacy’s bubble of happiness. There was no silencing of her conscious now; she had to tell him the truth, before he discovered it himself.
The words were on the tip of her tongue, when he ran his hands through her hair and gasped. Stacy drew back and gulped as she saw pieces of her hair extensions clasped in his calloused hands.
Her lip trembled as she turned away from the confusion that filled his eyes. “I …, it’s not—“
Brad grasped her shoulders. “Have you been --what the hell?”
Stacy whirled around to see Brad staring in horror at his palms. She whimpered; her spray tan was sloughing off in the dratted Savannah humidity!
Brad’s gaze locked with hers. “Why?”
Bits of hair falling in her wake, Stacy ran toward the door. Her breath rushed from her lungs as she collided with a metal sculpture. Righting herself, she hurried on, ignoring both Brad’s pleas to stop and the sticky goo leaking from her punctured bra insert.
Two acrylic nail tips bounced off the concrete as she jerked the door open and tumbled into the darkened street; her headlong flight choreographed to the sound of the St. John’s Cathedral bells chiming midnight.
I hope you enjoyed Fall To Pieces. I'll be back with another twisted tale September 13th and, if you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume II as an ebook for only $.99!
Suspense … Southern Style!
Copyright © 2011 Rachel Lynne
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.