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Elias(West Bend Saints #1)(2) by Sabrina Paige

2
 
I was flying, hurtling down the highway in the twilight of the early evening.  I could see the Vegas lights up ahead.  I didn’t know where the hell I was going when I left Hollywood, but somehow I'd ended up here.  I had been driving in a daze.  I was still in a daze, my head clouded and foggy.
 
I should feel something, I thought.  More than just blank.
 
Viper- yeah, that was definitely not not his real name; his real name was David- was my everything.  Was.
 
It was so hard to tell after a while, where he ended and I began.  There were so many other people involved: his agent, my agent, our managers, our families.
 
Our fans.
 
I had no idea what I was doing right now.  The one thing I knew was that I had to leave.
 
When I pulled up to the hotel, my hair was hidden, tucked up underneath my baseball cap.  I didn’t take off my sunglasses, even though I knew it made me look ridiculously pretentious.  I always hated that kind of thing, the stars who would wear their sunglasses inside just because they were too cool for school. 
 
I showed the clerk the fake ID, gave him my fake credit card, the stuff I used when I couldn’t risk being found by the paparazzi.  I was using them now for that reason.  Hotel staff were notorious for letting photographers know where you were - at least that had been my extensive experience.
 
By extensive, I meant since I was discovered.
 
It wasn’t always mansions and hot cars and partying with the “it” girls and boys.  Before all that, I was about as white trash as it got, living in a trailer with my mom and sister, barely getting by on food stamps.  Well, to be more precise, it was my mom, my sister, and my mom’s string of shitty boyfriends she paraded through the trailer, the ones that beat up on her, beat up on us.
 
A few of them did more than just beat up on us.
 
Not that she was any better.  If anything, she was worse than any of them, at least to me.  I was the scapegoat.
 
And she was still part of my life, out in Malibu, living in a place I paid for.
 
Fate is sometimes cruel, but not to the people it should be cruel toward.
 
Everything changed when I was discovered, sitting on a curb in my tattered sundress, with my skinned knees and bruised arms, my limbs browned from a mixture of sun and dirt.  I was barefoot not because it was summer, but because someone had stolen my shoes at school and we couldn’t afford another pair.  My sister and I had been looking for loose change on the sidewalk, scrounging around to see if we could get together enough for a soda after school, but really just buying time away from the trailer because mom was inside with one of her boyfriends and it wasn’t safe to go home.
 
~ ~ ~
 
He pulled up near the curb, in a shiny black car that looked like it belonged to a millionaire.  He stepped out, and when he paused as he walked by me, looking down at me over the edge of his sunglasses, I thought I was looking at a prince or a king or something.  This man was someone important, someone special.
 
And, as it turned out, he wasn't a prince or a king.  But he was someone special.
 
He looked at me for a long time, my face reddening under his gaze, then squatted down to look me in the eye.  “Is this your sister?” he asked me.
 
I nodded, too shy to speak.
 
“You’re going to have to say something,” he said.  “What’s your name?”
 
“River,” I said.
 
He smiled and nodded.  “It’s perfect,” he said, and stood up.  “You’re perfect.  Abso-fucking-lutely perfect.  Where are your parents?”
 
“My mom’s at home,” I said.  “Her boyfriend’s there.”
 
He just nodded, didn’t say a word for a minute, and I sat there on the curb, rolling a pebble around underneath my foot.
 
Then he cleared his throat.  “When’s the last time you kids ate?” he asked.
 
I shrugged.  I was used to being hungry.  Had I eaten breakfast?  I couldn’t remember.   “Last night?” I asked.
 
“Where do people eat around here?” he asked.
 
~ ~ ~
 
The rest was history.  The man was an major Hollywood producer and, cleaned up, I became the darling of one of his films.  The first of many films.  And my life became a carefully crafted Cinderella story, one that glossed over the more sordid details of my childhood, at least in the more reputable magazines.  Every so often, the tabloids tried to dredge up details of the past- to interview one of my mom’s old boyfriends or talk to someone from my hometown.  But mostly, they let me play the role of fairytale princess, the girl who was plucked from obscurity and swept up into Hollywood glamour.
 
It was supposed to be roses and sunshine, designer shoes and expensive champagne for the rest of my life.  That was the fantasy.  That was what people wanted when they looked at me- they wanted to believe in the power of fate, in the suggestion of possibility- that they too might be whisked away from their lives into the castle to live with a prince.
 
It was the reason that my wedding, the live broadcast to millions of viewers, was such a big deal.  I’d grown up in front of cameras- and now I’d be married in front of them too.
 
Inside the hotel room, I opened a box of hair dye, a dark brown color I selected at the drugstore where I’d made a pit stop to buy pajamas and toiletries, my fingers lingering on the box of fuchsia I’d briefly considered, my whole body longing for a change.  I wanted to be something else, someone other than the person I had become.
 
But in the end I chose sensible brown, something that wouldn’t call attention to me.
 
I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing, here in a hotel, dyeing my hair like I was some kind of fugitive.  I needed to turn around and face things.  I needed to go back home.  I just wasn’t sure where home was anymore.
 
After I finished the dye job, I raised the scissors to my hair, snipping at the long tresses, now brown instead of blonde, a huge part of my identity.
 
My image was polished, classic- the past few years, I’ve been compared to Grace Kelly.  The thing was, I'd always empathized more with Marilyn Monroe.  She was tragic, her demons so much a part of her that they eventually destroyed her.
 
That was something I could understand.
 
The pieces fell into the sink, curling at the ends, scattering on the flat surface of the countertop.  I chopped with the scissors until I resembled something I hoped was more pixie-punk than cut-by-a-lawnmower.
 
When I was finished, I surveyed my work in the mirror.  The girl looking back at me, all big eyes and suddenly prominent cheekbones, looked nothing like the “me” I knew.  At a glance, I was starkly different.  I thought I would be able to pass undetected in a public place.
 
I grabbed a mini-bottle of vodka from the refrigerator, hearing my mother’s scolding voice in my head.
 
Always choose vodka, she would say, making a clucking sound and shaking her head.  It’s the skinniest.
 
She would f**king know, skin and bones, her meals mostly diet pills and booze.
 
I slid the vodka back into the refrigerator and chose something else.  Rum.  My hand reached automatically for the diet cola and then I chose the regular one, the one with all of the calories.
 
It was only after I finally sat down on the bed that I allowed myself to cry.  I breathed in deeply, and began to sob, the sound loud in the stillness of the hotel room.
 
I was selfish, feeling sorry for myself.  I lived a charmed life.  I was marrying one of the hottest rock stars on the planet.  I made an incredible amount of money making films.
 
A little cheating came with the territory, right?  So what if Viper was sticking his dick down my sister’s throat?  He was a rock star and I was a starlet.  It was to be expected.
 
It’s not that I was ungrateful for my life.  Exactly the opposite.  I knew what it was like to be hungry.  I knew what it was like to be beaten within an inch of my life, and worse.  And now I knew what it was like to have everything I could ever want, and more.  I knew what it was to have the adoration of millions of fans.
 
And yet, I also knew what it was like to be so incredibly lonely that you ached for something - anything - that would make you feel like someone else.
 
Someone loved.
 
Someone known.