She poked her nose again, wincing a little at the pain. It didn’t hurt badly, and it wasn’t much of an alteration; more of a slight straightening and narrowing. But she was still amazed at how much it changed her face. Of course that could just be the swelling, but that would go down in a few more days. Nope, no matter what excuse she made her face had changed.
She bared her teeth, looking at them at different angles. The retainer was hardly visible and her front teeth did look a lot straighter. It hurt like a bitch, but then the dentist had warned her that speeding up the process by months, years even, wouldn’t be easy. “Not easy,” she snorted. More like having her head ripped apart. No amount of anaesthetic could have covered that, and then when what little help it had provided wore off… Thank god for ibuprofen.
The phone rang and she leaned over and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Stop poking your face.”
Kat laughed. “Do you have a camera in here or something, Leigh?”
“Nope, just know you too well. You’ve been doing that ever since the bandages came off. Now stop it and open the door. I brought you some groceries and they are damn heavy.”
Kat chuckled and walked into the living room of her small apartment. She threw the cordless phone down on the sofa before opening the door to Leighanne’s grinning face.
“Here.” She thrust a heavy grocery bag in Kat’s face. “And before you ask, yes there is Chunky Monkey ice cream in there.”
Leigh snorted, then started to unpack the groceries. “So, how you doing? Any more bad headaches?”
“They are starting to fade. Or I’m just getting used to them,” Kat mumbled as she spooned another clump of banana ice cream and walnuts into her mouth.
“Kat! Not with your teeth…”
“Leighanne! Not with that name!” Kat mimicked, then sighed and closed the ice cream container.
“Jeanne. Do not. I repeat, do not eat ice cream with your retainer in. And you shouldn’t be eating it anyway for another week. I don’t know how you talked me into…”
“Cos you love me,” Kat grinned.
Leigh snorted again.
It had taken all of Kat’s inner strength not to slap Nick when he had announced that she was going to be his new “girlfriend.” And even more when he refused to change his mind after all her protestations.
Little jerk had an answer for everything:
“I am not now, nor could I ever be your girlfriend.” Well, duh! You’re not my type. You just need to pretend to be for a while. Until Howie hits on you and I get to bust his chops.
“Howie’ll never believe it.” Howie’ll believe what he’s told if we tell it to him right.
“Can’t be me. They know me.” So we give them a new version of you.
“How will we do that?” Different name, change your hair or something. Plastic surgery. Who cares? We’ll figure it out and Leighanne will help.
“Plastic surgery! No fucking way!” Fine, it’s up to you. If you agree you call the shots on that. You just can’t look exactly like you do now.
“We can’t stand each other for very long. How we going to pretend to be in love?” Who says we have to be in love? Just get along well enough most of the time to pull it off.
“We’d have to spend hours on end together. We’d drive each other crazy.” Not an issue; after spending hours together NO ONE is able to get along perfectly. Just as long as we can pretend well enough in front of the others.
“I am NOT going to sleep with you!” Good. You don’t have to. Never said you did. We just have to pretend we’re sleeping together for a little while. Shouldn’t take too long. Besides, they’ll all assume we are anyway.
“What am I supposed to do if Howie tries anything? I’m NOT sleeping with him either!” Man, why are you so fixated on sex? Just tell me when something happens and I’ll take care of things from there.
“What if it takes too long? What if he doesn’t do anything right away? We’ll be stuck together for god knows how long!” Fine, so if it carries on after a couple of months we’ll just start fighting. A lot. I doubt we’ll have to act that one out.
“A couple of months? I can’t wait a couple of months to be rid of you.” Ditto.
“It is a ridiculous idea.” It’ll work.
It was Leighanne who convinced her. Leighanne who pleaded with her, begging her not to desert her, not to force her to leave Brian. While Nick had just had flip answers to all her concerns, Leighanne had lain out a credible plan, even though it had been made up on the spur of the moment. She’d talked about hiding out in Los Angeles, make-up artists and hair stylists. All the people she’d met over the years in the industry who could help re-make Kat into someone else. Nothing too major: just a little change here and there.
Then Nick had come in with the “I’ll pay for all of this” bit. He’d pay for her time, for any wigs or whatever she needed. He’d cover the whole thing. And no, it wasn’t a bribe: this was how much Brian and Leighanne’s happiness meant to him (which of course started Leighanne crying). This was how much stopping Howie discreetly was worth it to him.
Still she had said no. Well, actually what she had said was a little closer to a longshoreman’s version of no, but her exact words weren’t what mattered.
They’d left her alone for a little while. Still seething mad. Then Leighanne had come back and pulled out the pictures. Ones of her and Brian together. Telling Kat stories and anecdotes. Her love for him plain in her voice. And the desperation too.
Damn the both of them.
And just like before, the moment she weakened and said she’d think about it she was put on a flight, with Leighanne by her side, and set up with an apartment, car and everything she needed in Los Angeles. And a whopping bank account, provided by Nick, to cover anything she felt she needed to help make the fiction more believable. No questions asked. Hell, she could have bought a condo on the beach and a fancy sports car to go with it and it would have been approved. Nick had made it that clear; this was that important to him.
What the hell had she gotten herself into?
She had told herself that she was helping out a friend. True, but was it enough? She told herself she was making sure that some puffed up pop star would stop stalking unsuspecting girlfriends. True, but was her participation, other than what she’d done already, necessary? She told herself that she was actually DOING something rather than sitting in the sidelines. True, but she’d done an awful lot in her life – and there were things she couldn’t even talk about now - did she really want to add this to her life’s résumé?
She still hadn’t figured out those questions when the “new Kat” process began. If it hadn’t been for Leighanne being there and holding her hand through most of it she sure as hell wouldn’t still be there. The two had developed a deep bond. When the time came for them to pretend to be old friends who had just recently gotten re-acquainted, well, it wouldn’t be so far from the truth.
Kat really liked the beautiful blonde. Sure she’d been in the Hollywood stream for a while, and had probably done things she would like to forget, but at her heart she was a good Southern girl looking for her Prince Charming. Brian fit that bill to a T. There had been rumours about their relationship over the years; she was using him or she had been after one of the Boys and Brian wasn’t her first pick or that the age difference between them was larger than had been originally stated. Whether there was truth to them was strictly between Leighanne and Brian (and Kat wasn’t going to ask), but what was clearly true was the fact that they loved each other totally and wholeheartedly.
If Kat didn’t love them so much she’d be jealous as all hell.
After all, what little girl hadn’t grown up believing in Prince Charming? And hoping there was one out there for her? What was that saying: you had to kiss a lot of frogs before you met your prince? Kat could see an endless line of frogs before her… Leighanne had met her prince.
Of course she had to get through the horrible troll to get to him…
“No! That is not right. That is how this whole mess got started.”
“Hunh? What did you say?”
Leighanne’s comment made Kat realize she had said it aloud. “Sorry. Just thinking.”
Leigh put down the grocery bag she was folding and sat down. “’Bout what?”
“Frogs and princes,” Kat muttered as she poured them both a cup of coffee. She sat down and took a sip, wincing at the bitter taste.
“You didn’t have to do that, you know. Jeanne could be a tea drinker.”
Kat – Jeanne, it had to be Jeanne from now on or even SHE would forget – sighed. “I know, but any little similarity is suspect. There are already too many we haven’t even thought of.”
“So what about frogs?”
“Come on, Jeanne. Gotta know the thinking or I’ll never be able to help,” Leighanne wheedled.
“I just… I called Howie a troll in my head. And that is how it all got started, didn’t it? I mean he was called it so often by stupid little tweenies who were fixated on the dumb blond one, that he decided to be one.”
“Yeah, well he didn’t have to,” Leighanne grumbled.
“True, but its hard not to when you’ve been told something for so long.” Kat’s mind was drawn to a time in her past when - - No, she wasn’t going to go back there. Past is past. Future is…
“I mean, he really isn’t unattractive,” she continued. “He is actually gorgeous.”
“Yeah, the camera doesn’t seem to do him justice, you know?”
“Yeah, I noticed that too,” Kat replied. “I am always so surprised when I see a good picture of him and think ‘wow’ then see him and realize that as good as it is, he is so much better in real life.”
Leighanne nodded. “And he does have the most wonderful hair.”
Kat snorted. “And don’t he know it. But that isn’t all. He’s got a great smile. And those eyes.”
“They are brown, but that doesn’t begin to describe it.”
“I think they are more like a milk chocolate brown. Lighter brown, but still as deep.”
“Don’t laugh, but I’ve always wanted his eyelashes. They are so luscious.”
“Hell, so are his lips,” Kat laughed. “Big, full suckers you just want to plant one on.”
“And those abs,” Leighanne enthused. “Firm, tight….”
“Nice ass too.”
“Yeah, I saw you give it the Charmin’ test once.”
Kat blushed. “I did not!”
“Did too. Was it squeezably soft?’
“Hell, yeah! I mean… I wouldn’t know.” Kat looked at Leighanne across the table and they both burst into laughter.
“Let’s face it, he’s a great singer, and has a perfect body for someone his height,” Leighanne said as she wiped a tear of laughter from her cheek.
“Hot damn! He’s a hunk,” Kat chuckled. “Had many a sleepless night thinking about him.” She took another sip of coffee, grimacing less this time. “Tell me again, which one is it that I am supposed to be interested in?”
“The dumb blond one.”
“Oh yeah. This is so going to be soooo much fun,” Kat groaned.
(c) Kat Morgan