CHAPTER 3: SHATTERED DREAMS BROKEN MIRRORS

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Submitted Date 10/20/2019
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Chapter 3

Wednesday

She ripped open the door of her dent-riddled, faded red Nissan hatchback and threw her portfolio into the passenger seat. The tears continued to pour freely, a deluge of salty rivers upon her painted cheeks. She shut the door with such force the car rocked, groaning in protest. Alison gripped the ratty steering wheel, overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions regarding her situation.

She'd planned so well by saving every dollar she'd made working at night after school to help jump-start her career. She'd spent only $500 on this reliable old beater so she'd be able to get around the city. Now her life-long dream of being a model had shattered like glass after she walked through the wrong door this morning and witnessed what really happened in those elaborate studios.

Growing up, she'd loved the beauty pageants and all the glitz and glamour of being on a stage in front of an audience. She'd delighted in dressing up in fancy clothes to prance and pose for the judges. She still reminisced about the day she'd received the honor of homecoming queen at her small-town high school. Her self-confidence had floated her to cloud nine. She never imagined it would come crashing down so suddenly like this.

When she'd opened the studio door, her ears perceived the sound of a woman screaming and moaning in distress. But what sights her eyes had witnessed made her wretch in disgust. Lying upon the kitchen's island, a long and slender woman covered in vegetable shavings, writhed and bucked in agonizing ecstasy. Another young, scantily clad woman, a bit heavier in build but well-toned, stood at one end of the island and used a cucumber to penetrate the woman on the countertop.

Frozen from the shock of the scene before her, Alison stood still, mouth agape, barely able to think or breathe. That's when someone noticed her.

"CUT," yelled a very agitated director. "Who the fuck added Snow White over there to my movie? God damn writers always changing shit at the last minute. How the fuck is anyone supposed to get a movie finished when shit keeps changing?"

Alison could feel the eyes of everyone in the room staring at her and suddenly her face burned hot from the blush of embarrassment. She turned to run out chased by the sound of laughter that echoed through the studio. She fumbled with the door, her vision blurred by the well of tears her eyes desperately held on to.

She ran down the long hallway towards the stairwell, dodging the puzzled look of another model, stepping off the elevator on her way to a studio down the hall. She lunged at the stairwell door handle and pushed with weakened strength, her arms still trembling from the burst of adrenaline. She tore down the stairs as fast as a gazelle leaping through the African grasslands being pursued by a ravenous cheetah.

She burst out into the short hallway that leads to the lobby and scurried out past the reception desk, nearly colliding with Kyle. She squeaked a meger apology as she continued her mad dash towards the parking lot.

As she sat in her car, hands trembling on the steering wheel, a realization struck her and her anxiety level spiked. She had about enough money to get by for a couple of months, maybe more -- and no job. Thank goodness she had her best friend Natalie to help her figure out what to do next.

She reached toward the ignition, key in hand when a knock on her window startled a shrill scream from her lips. She turned and saw it was the old man she'd seen here and there over the last few days. What could he possibly want, she wondered? She rolled down her window ready to tell him to bug-off when she noticed the genuine look of concern on his weathered face.

"Everything ok, miss?"

"Sorry, you startled me. I'm fine, thank you."

"You look as if you've had a rough morning. How about I buy you an early lunch, or a late breakfast if you prefer? You remind me a lot of my daughter. She was beautiful once -- before she worked here."

Alison heard the dip in his tone and had noticed he'd spoke of his daughter in the past tense. She could tell he had much more he wanted to say to her. She decided to take him up on his offer.

"Breakfast does sound good," she said. "I didn't get a chance to eat this morning and I don't think I can stomach the thought of lunch after what I saw in there."

She shuddered at the image of that woman covered in shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers. It's going to be a long time before she'll be able to even look at a salad without feeling the urge to throw up.

"Great! There's a diner around the corner next to the hardware store. They have the best bacon, nice and thick with a hint of sweet maple. And pancakes the size of your head! They were always ReeRee's favorite."

"ReeRee?"

"My daughter, Reeva. Let's go grab that breakfast and I'll tell you all about her."

Alison tried to hold back a gasp when she heard the name of his daughter and put it together with the memory of Ms.Garcia making the sign of the cross after saying the name Reeva yesterday.

"Everything's going to work out just fine for you, young lady. See you at the diner for the best beachside breakfast in all of Miami."

She started her car and watched as the old man collected a bicycle she hadn't noticed before, and peddled towards the diner. She pulled out of the parking lot and followed the simple directions he'd given her, wondering what dreadful story he would tell of his lovely ReeRee.

Alison loved the old-fashioned-diner the old man had suggested for breakfast. The aroma of fresh peppers and onions on a hot griddle wafted through the air of the cozy dining area. The hostess seated them right away as the morning crowd had already departed, rushing off to jobs they despised.

The stained and tattered paper menu offered the standard diner bill of fare with a few items new to Alison's eyes.

"What are locs and bagels?"

"It's a bagel schmeared with cream cheese and topped with salmon, sliced cucumber, onion, and tomato, with a sprinkle of capers."

Alison jumped, startled by the sound of the waitress's voice answering her question. She had materialized seemingly out of nowhere. But more than likely, Alison had been lost in thought, as she skimmed the menu.

"And by the look on your face, I can tell you're not a locs kind of girl. How you doing today, Salvi? You're here earlier than usual. Just couldn't wait to take out this pretty young lady, huh?"

Alison blushed when the waitress turned and gave her a sly wink.

"I…..umm…….I'm uh….."

Salvi interjected, "She got hired by that there agency 'round the corner. She looked like she needed a hot breakfast. So here we be."

A knowing look washed over the waitress's face.

"How 'bout I give y'all a sec to look things over and I'll be back with some coffee and waters?"

"I'll take a hot tea instead of coffee if you've got any that is."

"Sure do sweetie. I'll be right back with those drinks."

Alison watched as the waitress headed towards the kitchen to scare up some hot tea and fresh coffee. Then she turned her attention to the old man sitting across from her. He gave a nervous smile. She felt the rapid thump of her over-anxious heartbeat and tried to focus on her breathing the way she'd been taught.

She started reading over the menu and decided what she wanted just as the waitress reappeared with the mugs of hot beverages and two tall glasses of ice water. After setting down the drinks, the waitress took out her order pad and pen and looked to Alison first.

She ordered her usual favorites: buttermilk pancakes, eggs over-easy, thick smokey bacon, and crispy golden hash browns with those peppers and onions she smelled as they were being seated. Salvi ordered two hard-boiled eggs and dry wheat toast. He checked the caddy on the table for strawberry jam and alerted the waitress he'd like a couple more, please.

"Strawberry had been ReeRee's favorite too," he told Alison as tears welled up in his eyes.

While they waited for their food, she listened as Salvi regaled her with stories about growing up in the Dominican Republic. He told her about losing his best friend and nearly dying in the civil war of '65. Then he described the day a young nurse stole his heart as she healed him bringing him back from the clutches of death. An affectionate love-story told with such passion and clarity that Alison could tell it had been engraved deeply into his loving heart.

He started to talk about his daughter when their haggard waitress returned to the table with the hot plates of food, remembering to bring the extra jam for Salvi's plate of hearty wheat toast. The food smelled delicious and the sound of Alison's stomach growling drew a smile on both Salvi and the waitress's faces.

 

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Alison stared out the windshield as she sat at the red light. The graphic images Salvi had described of what had happened to his daughter were burned into her memory. She shuddered as she tried to imagine what it had been like for Salvi and his wife to learn the truth about what their sweet girl had been doing at the agency.

A loud blast of the horn from the truck behind her jolted her back to the present. The light had turned green and the impatient trucker had grown tired of waiting. She turned left at the next intersection, driving past The Chicken Hut. The smell of greasy food wafted in through her open windows. She'd come to hate that smell after working at KFC back in high school. She'd sworn then never to come home smelling of grease and gizzards again.

Listening to Salvi talk about the apartments at the agency had made her even more grateful for her best friend Natalie and the apartment she shared with her. It had explained why there were so many cars in the parking lot on Monday yet she hadn't seen but a handful of people, especially any other models. The thought of living in an apartment filled with cameras watching your every move had filled Alison with disgust.

She began to cry again as she pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex. She jumped out of her car and ran up the stairs of her building, leaving her portfolio in the car. She burst through the door of her apartment, tears streaming down her face, and threw herself onto the couch. It would be hours before Natalie got home from work and Alison had no idea what she planned to do about a job now that she knew the truth about Big City Modeling Agency.


 

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