‘Room service’, a voice rang out from the hall. The door was opened politely, and through the mirror she watched absentmindedly as a pristine copy of The New York Times was placed on a silver tray at the foot of her lavish four poster bed. She heard the door close quietly as she admired her reflection smoothing a pearl plated brush through her silky curls.
She stepped gracefully from her chair and disregarded the paper, it was part of a world she hadn’t been part of for a very long time. Her face used to be plastered over each page, hung in the city below and painted onto the faces of young girls just hoping to possess a small resemblance to her unparalleled beauty. No one wanted to know her anymore. The jingle of her agent’s phone had been backing music for her extraordinary everyday life, now it was the sound of the opening act which leads to a matinee of disappointment, rejection and a reminder of her decay. Friends? Merely an idea now, as her behaviour has changed so dramatically most felt like they had been pushed away. They were simply not exciting enough for her. They did not possess Grammies. They did not suit her new life. Her new crowd behind the glitz and glamour were and still are a very tragic performance of extrovert characters empty on the inside. The ghosts of people who once were just as she was now. To the outside world she was a faded disregarded memory. She didn’t exist anymore.
Joshua Lance had just completed his morning shift at the hotel as he searched through the depths of his dark jacket for his car keys. Having found them he made his way to his car whilst waving hello and goodbye to the acquaintances he had made over the years. He really flourished in his line of work although it wasn’t as prestigious as his family would have hoped. The guests positively adored him, showering him with praise and the young women with their intent gazes. Joshua was a happy and simple man exerting a free childlike aura which enclosed a worldly deepness and desire to fix whatever hurt he encountered. His mind had been riddled with guilt for months now over the young woman in room 109. Rumour had it she was in fact Rose Shallot. Joshua usually would brush aside any gossip he encountered, for months now the headlines had shamelessly broke this woman down; ‘Silver Screen Affairs Break Loose’, ‘Not Just Powdering Her Nose For The Movies’. But he himself had been there down and out, even whilst he attended his support groups everyone would look to him for his kind welcoming uplifting attitude. As one young woman had told him in the past he seemed to shine, he’d heard it numerous times since he broke out of his self destructive cycle. In a way Rose reminded him of the young woman in his past and she had seemed so tragically beautiful in those few shy glances he allowed himself at her reflection as he snuck up to her room with any favour he could fathom. She never spared him so much as a backward glance but he was so determined to help her.
Rose carelessly entered the phone with the numbers of her agent. ‘’Mark Watts here’’ he answered abruptly. ‘Mark it’s Rose I just wondered if you’d heard anything lately?’, she spoke quietly not wanting him to sense the need in her voice as she was like he said, the beginning of her own end. ‘Let’s see’, Mark knew there wasn’t a thing as he playfully rummaged through the stacks of paperwork with a smile plastered onto his smug round face. She’d cost him a lot of money and had tainted his name in the business with her fame hungry antics. Forever implementing the smallest piece of hope in her he knew would stop her moving on with her life and remaining in this deadbeat limbo he’d seen so many destroyed by. ‘No nothing as yet but I heard something last week about a new sitcom’, he finally announced gleefully. Rose’s mood lifted lightly as she asked cautiously about this sitcom but his answers were unclear and left her confused. She wished something would make sense for once in her life, for something just to be simple with no secrecy or empty promises. Something in her life that was not masked by hairspray and glitter.
‘’Mr Lance it is seven now’’, a warm Spanish voice announced followed by a short rap on the door. Joshua rolled out of bed, he sat and yawned rubbing the sleep from his eyes looking out onto the busy streets below knowing that she wouldn’t be there. He showered and dressed then stopped as usual for a smoke running through his voicemail knowing what to expect. The usual mocking concern from his parents. Why couldn’t they accept that he wasn’t like them? Yes he was 25 and single. Yes he had a basic job and a modest apartment. And yes he didn’t come home for holidays, but why would he want to? To sit on a table decked out with his ‘superiors’ looking down on him and smirking as he spoke about his life in New York whereas here he sat welcomed around a table with those like him sharing their thoughts and experiences. He had a lot of good friends in New York, a new family he liked to think. He did not hate his actual family, he just knew that he didn’t have to take their criticism anymore because he liked his life and knew that’s who he was now. To him he was a hero here, the one who friends turned to in their hour of need simply for comfort or to help fight their personal battles, maybe in a way it took his mind off his own. To counteract this thought he took one long last drag of his cigarette and swallowed the remains of his strong black coffee, smiled and walked swiftly out of the door.
Was she still dreaming? Why didn’t anything feel real anymore? Why was she so numb? The traffic in the street below built up so rapidly creating a symphony of impatience and frustration polluting the ears of the people in the streets. She had been part of this she thought as she attempted to tug a pillow over her ruffled locks trying to block out another day. Routinely there was a soft knock on the door at 8AM. Rose slid carefully onto her toes, stretching every limb as a delicate yawn escaped her lips. Tousling her hair Rose stepped timidly toward the door and opened it to be greeted by the warm infectious smile of the bell boy who seemed oddly familiar to her.
‘Do I know you? Hmm I mean, I just thought I recognized you. I’m not sure where...’ trailing off the apples of her cheeks grew rosy; Rose knew she hadn’t left the hotel in months, scared of the public recognising her and her fall from grace. Had she grown shy in this time? This feeling she was encountering was unfamiliar to her.
At first Joshua was taken aback, wondering as to why she didn’t know his face. She had always seemed distant he supposed, continually in her own little world of mirrors, only seeing herself and the worries which tore her from her sleep every night. He knew this because each late evening as he strolled to his car; he would stare intently up into her high rise room, the light blaring from the frosty windows, wanting to race back. At times it concerned him that he thought so much about this indescribable creature. He did not know where this fascination had arisen from. But he knew that it was there, to him this enough. He noticed her blushing and to him it was as if a whole new side of her was revealed to him. A vulnerable part of her. Not an encased heroine like in her movies but a lost child unsure of every step she was taking.
‘Me? Oh I’m just a lowly bell boy Miss Shallot’, he answered with a boyish smile along with the wicked gleam of his piercing eyes. At first she thought he was mocking her but as she looked closer she noticed a certain kindness about him that at this time in her life was so nostalgic to her. She felt her old smile reappear lighting up her beautiful visage. It was at the moment that he became entirely entranced by her. He hoped his desire wasn’t too apparent, she seemed timid to him, very much like a damsel in distress from a clichéd fairy tale.
He detected the tell tale signs which used to inhabit his own reflection and thought to himself that maybe for just one night he could take her away from her unfulfilled dependency, he could distract her from the trivial factors which clung to every aspect of her life with the sheen of the city lights.
‘You seem like you’d know a few nice places around the city Miss’, Joshua remarked never averting his gaze from her undecided expression.
‘Please call me Rose’, she replied quickly as her face softened towards him.
‘I know a few nice places too, I thought maybe if you weren’t too busy you’d like to see them sometime, Rose’, Joshua felt as if he was slowly gaining her trust and possibly her friendship.
Rose bit her lip and started to look away, but then something inside her told her to stop and because of this deep instinct she quickly looked up; not with a smile for the camera but with a smile without a shadowed purpose. She felt happiness.
‘Yes. Yes I think that would be lovely, erm sorry I don’t think you told me your name?
‘No sorry how improper of me’, Joshua retorted along with his boyish smile as if he was teasing her, but she liked his playful attitude. It was a change from all the serious talk she encountered from the support groups she had give up months ago, they were nothing but autograph sessions. A change from the undermining harsh words of her agent. A change from the silence that was her life.
‘The name is Joshua Lance milady’ he jibed with a playful bow she found amusing. Rose felt a laugh escape her bare lips and didn’t even think to stop it.
‘And what time would my lady like to grace the city with her ethereal presence?’
Trying to suppress her giggles Rose fixed her eyes on Joshua. He was her escape. Her knight in shining armour. It had been five minutes and she knew she wanted him. To the rest of the world she just wanted to be forgotten and didn’t want to be reminded of what she was. She wanted to be carefree as he was.
‘Seven if that’s ok?’, Rose replied trying to hide her feelings, even though deep down she could see he wanted her too she was scared to believe it.
‘Perfect’, Joshua beamed. ‘Seven it is’. Joshua gazed once more upon this new beautiful smile which he had discovered for the both of them then closed the door to her room and practically sprinted down the halls with excitement.
Rose couldn’t seem to stop smiling, she ran to the mirror to see if this was real. She had to see her happiness to believe it. And there it was. She fell back onto her bed giggling uncontrollably; things like this didn’t happen to her.
‘Thank you’, she whispered with tears in her bright eyes. It was if a curse had been lifted. She threw off her night clothes and stepped into the shower and even in the clinical light of the bathroom with her bed hair and last night’s mascara surrounding her eyes she truly felt beautiful. She didn’t even need to look in the mirror.
She spent the day in a whirlwind of positive emotion, flinging the things she liked to wear across her bed. He wanted Joshua to see the real her. The one that had been hidden away for too long. Once upon a time she had been a diamond in the rough. A striking little face covered in wavy blonde hair which was always twirled around her slender fingers or teased into various windswept styles.
‘No more rouge and platinum’, Rose announced to herself with a sigh of relief. Rose rooted all the way to the back of her wardrobe and found her old black shift dress. The ‘dowdy one’ according to Mark. Screw Mark. She was living for her now.
By half past six she was ready and for half an hour the nerves really started to set in. Had she just blown it all out of proportion? Was he really going to rescue her from her past frame of mind? When he arrived at seven with the tulips beaming, she started to believe that yes, it is real this time.
They walked hand in hand through the city, the street lights illuminating their smiling faces. Rose noticed people starting to stare. Joshua felt her hand grow tighter on his.
‘My god ‘, Joshua sighed dramatically, ‘I mean I know I’m ridiculously good looking but really’
Rose raised her eyebrows and laughed, ‘Come on, there’s a little bistro around this corner’.
They took their seats then Joshua moved the vase which lay between them.
‘You look different tonight’, Joshua remarked gently.
‘In what way?’ Rose replied seemingly hurt.
‘You look like I think you are on the inside, beautiful and free’, he announced softly tilting his head slightly to admire her.
‘That really means a lot to me, I feel like me on the inside too. I have wanted this for so long and it’s as if you inspired this great change in me’
‘I’m really happy to hear that Rose’, signalling to the waiter Joshua asked for their best champagne.
‘No Joshua, I know that’s probably what you think I’m accustomed too but I hate the stuff. A whiskey on the rocks please’, Rose smiled wickedly, this time with a gleam in her eye. She wanted to show him the real her and expected him to be shocked but it was as if he anticipated every reaction she had within her.
‘Right you are my lady’, Joshua rolled his eyes whilst laughing affectionately and made his way over to the bar.
Even with Joshua’s minute absence Rose began to feel not at all at ease. Did she look ok? Was he having a nice time? She was having an amazing time with him. Did she like him more? Why did he even ask her out in the first place, he barely knew her. Rose signalled to Joshua that she was going to the ladies room and as she entered the rose coloured room she noticed herself staring in the mirror ridden with her new found paranoia. Rose reassuringly reapplied her powder and lip balm and checked her hair. She had thought she looked wonderful when she had left… ‘No’ she told herself ‘You’re just being silly, Joshua’s a nice guy who likes your company’. Rose turned her back to the mirror and smiled to let go of all this negative ideas and went to hurry back to the table and Joshua.
It couldn’t be. There was a man by the table with a notepad. He was wearing a hat and looked quite official. Joshua was deep in conversation as if they knew each other more than quite well. ‘A reporter’, Rose cried to herself, instantly shattering inside. With that she ran out of the Bistro just letting the tears run down her porcelain face.
‘Rose!’ Joshua exclaimed turning to his flatmate with a look of dire confusion.
‘Listen Joshua maybe she just got a bit upset, I mean I know you said she was still not at her best’, Dale tried his best to console his friend but he was in a rush. It was essential that he was on time, food critic jobs certainly were not a dime a dozen and he had finally found his passion. He’d make it up to Joshua by bringing him something home and a movie maybe. That’s what would usually cheer him up. Joshua’s problem in his mind was that he got emotionally involved too quickly but that was part of his caring nature and charm. Dale sighed, he was sad for his friend.
‘Thanks Dale. But I have to go after her’ Joshua had so much determination and sprinted out of the Bistro after her. He saw her frantically trying to cross the road.
Rose was gasping trying to breathe as she sobbed so violently trying to wedge her way through the traffic in the road. How could he? He just used me. It was all an act. Everything single syllable was versed, part of his tactic to earn a bit of money. Is that all I’m worth? All I have amounted to? A cheap story? At that moment a coach halted besides her. Her eyes seemed to be stuck to the billboard plastered to the side of it. It was her face staring right back at her when she was young to this business and freshly airbrushed and groomed. When she was successful and happy. The headline read ‘Where did our starry girl go?’ Where did she go? From that moment she knew that she would always be reminded of her mistakes and pain. It was a curse she would never be able to escape. But that wouldn’t stop her trying to. Rose wiped away her tears and for once felt a strength she never had before. She turned around with a new meaning and substance to her life and saw Joshua behind the sea of moving cars. Without thinking she ran to him. He was the strength in her. Brakes screeched. A heel flew onto the sidewalk beside Joshua. She wasn’t cursed anymore. She was free.