Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 14: An Alternate Ending

I am now sitting on one of those cool chairs TV stars and film directors usually sit, waiting patiently as a girl does my hair and another does my makeup.

I don’t know why I’m here. Okay perhaps I know why I’m here but I don’t know if I even want to be here. I feel so out of place.

I watch silently as producers run back and forth on set, barking out orders to the backstage crew. I’m almost blinded by the huge stage lights flickering back and forth on stage and off. My eyes blink, and the girl who is doing my makeup curses.

“Sorry,” I mumble. My mascara is now smeared and she has to redo it. The other girl doing my hair casts me a sympathetic look as my makeup artist tilts my head up harshly and wipes the disaster that is my face away.

It’s been half an hour since Daniel had practically forced me to do this stupid interview. Don’t get me wrong; I did put up a good fight as to why I didn’t want to do it. I was never good in public speaking, and just the thought of some stranger asking me multiple questions I probably don’t have the answers to in front of multiple cameras scares the crap out of me. And since we had arrived at the studio late, there is no time for a run through either so our interview has to be done unscripted.

My heart pounds.

After my makeup and hair is done, my little helpers guide me to the standing mirror not far away from the dressing table. I gasp slightly. I don’t recognize the girl staring back at me. She looks just like me- the same cheekbones, lips, and eyes. The difference is that her pale cheeks are now pinched with colour, her eyes smouldering with the touch of eyeshadow, her lips brushed over with a hot red lipstick.

Damn.

The girl staring back at me is hot.

Her hair is pulled back into a slick ponytail, with loose strands of hair falling over the sides of her face. She wears a beautiful cocktail dress that brings out her curves, and tall glittery heels to compliment her outfit. The gold one-piece necklace above her chest creates the finishing touch of her look- like a bow on top of a present.

I can’t believe the girl is actually me. I squint my eyes for a while as if I can’t quite really process it.

I’m hot now.

Like Cara hot.

Suddenly skipping classes just to do this interview doesn’t seem so scandalous after all if it meant me looking like this for the rest of the day.

A small laugh escapes my lips.

“Ah there you are,” One of the backstage crew calls out of me. I think his name is Pascao. He flashes a smile at me as he saunters towards me, a earpiece slung over the side of his face to his lips and a clipboard at hand. “You are the soon to be Mrs. Kerrington, am I correct?”

I almost forgot people expect me to be marrying Daniel. My face falls slightly, but I quickly replace it with a forced smile. “Um yes.”

“You look beautiful,” He gushes. “Totally TV star worthy.”

“Um thanks?”

“You’re welcome, darling.” He glances at his clipboard and ushers me to another place. “Show’s about to air live in five minutes. You okay?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t have to be nervous. Charlize will make you feel very comfortable on set, so don’t worry.”

I gulp. My head nods.

“Great,” He says. Then, he turns around slowly and murmurs something in his earpiece. Facing me again, he continues. “So Mr. Kerrington will be entering first. Charlize will be asking him some questions. After a while, she will say “Let’s have a look at your new fiancé!” That’s where you come on. I’ll give you the signal and then you will enter to join your beau.” My beau. I almost snort.

“Ah. There he is.” Pascao gushes when Daniel materializes.

My jaw almost drops.

Daniel looks as if he’d just stepped out of every girl’s dream.

His blonde hair is slicked back, making him look very dashing and handsome. He wears a grey suit, fitted perfectly like it was made just for him. Silver cufflinks show underneath his sleeves. My gaze falls to his pants, then to his expensive looking Italian shoes.

I almost forget how to breathe.

His head lifts and his eyes find mine. He takes a moment to thoroughly scan me too. His gaze travels from my face to my chest, then lower body, then to my feet. His eyes harden, and I can’t tell if he actually likes how I look. I don’t even want to know. Or maybe I do.

Yes, I do. Just a little bit.

“You two are just the cutest,” Pascao grins. Then, he leans to me and whispers. “I believe from the way he’s looking at you, he is indeed a man in love.” Pascao has no idea how far he is from the actual truth.

Maybe a man in hate, if that even makes sense.

I tear my gaze away from Daniel’s and force myself to look somewhere else. I hear someone- maybe Pascao- say that it’s showtime so I look at the little screen in front of me instead.

The huge words ′The Charlize Matson Show’ shoots out on screen, then it cuts to the actual Charlize Matson sitting comfortably in her chair, her legs crossed, with a huge smile on her face. Her blonde hair cascades past her shoulders in waves, and there is a slight flush in her cheeks when she starts to speak.

“Welcome! Welcome!” She says, and the audience applauds. She waits for the clapping to settle down before her mouth opens again. “I’m Charlize, and this is the Charlize Matson Show!”

Apparently, the Charlize Matson Show is some local television talk show that has gone big this year. Some people say she’s the next Ellen or something. I don’t exactly know- I am never into that sort of thing.

“Alright! Let’s start, shall we?” Her smile is huge. “So today we have on set someone who is very special. He is the son of the wealthy entrepreneur Harry Kerrington from Kerrington and Co. And if that doesn’t already make him news worthy, he has also been catching the eye of many... many women from all over America.”

When she says the last sentence, the women in the audience scream and whistle.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on stage, Daniel Kerrington!” The audience goes crazy.

I see Daniel sauntering in, all the cameras pointing at him. He casts everyone a sexy grin and waves to the audience. Even I can hear the countless wolf whistles and ’marry me, Daniel!’s without the help of the speakers backstage.

Daniel finally places himself on the seat opposite from Charlize.

“Nice of you to drop by the studio, Mr. Kerrington.” Charlize addresses him.

“Please, call me Daniel.” He smiles. “Mr. Kerrington is my father.”

“Apologies,” She returns the smile, then pauses for a while. “Speaking of your father, how is he doing? I can still remember his last appearance on my show like it was just yesterday.”

“He’s... doing okay.” Daniel hesitates a little bit. I can tell he doesn’t like talking about his father much. “He’s really busy these days, I’m sad to say.”

“Well, he always said time is money.” She smirks. “Anyway, how are you? Still going after the ladies, huh? I’ve been told you have been with many different women. I don’t think I can even keep up!”

Daniel doesn’t even blush. He merely laughs. It’s an easy going one, a laugh that I had never heard before. “Ah, well. That is all in the past now.”

Charlize seems confused as to what he had just said. “I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow you. In the past? Are you saying something has happened?” “Actually, not something. Someone.” He corrects her.

His comment earns him some ′oooooh’s from the audience.

“I’m liking the sound of this,” Charlize leans back against her chair and crosses her arms. “So, you currently have a special someone in your life?”

“Yes. She’s.... amazing.”

I shake my head and laugh quietly. The audience has no idea he’s fooling them with his lies.

“I think we need to know much more than that!” Charlize chatters excitedly. “Tell us, who is she?”

She knows who I am. She saw me before I was getting my makeup done. She also knows Daniel and I are engaged. My guess is that she’s faking her reactions for the cameras.

“Well...′ Daniel’s voice trails off. “Her name is Alexandria. She’s a college freshman, just like me. She’s truly wonderful. I have never met anyone quite like her. She’s funny, smart... and absolutely stunning.” He stares away with dreamy eyes, as if he’s thinking about me.

Everyone watches him in awe.

I want to puke.

“My... my, she must truly be extraordinary if she had managed to grasp your attention for longer than a night.” Charlize smirks at Daniel.

“Charlize, Alex changed me for the better, ” He chuckles. “And I’m forever in her debt.”

Awwwwww, the audience gushes.

Charlize and Daniel exchange light conversation about me for the next few minutes. He tells her that he is in a committed relationship with me and he couldn’t be happier. She then jokes about how he should put a ring on my finger before it’s too late.

“Actually...” His voice trails off, hinting mischief. “I already have.” Gasp!

“Oh my god!” Even Charlize seems surprised. “Well then, I think everyone here really wants to see the her! I heard she is on set right now! I’ll tell my crew to bring her right up. Let’s take a look at your new fiancé!” Oh snap. That’s my cue.

Pascao yells for me to get in stage. I take a deep breath and walk to Charlize. The lights blind me as I walk on the platform that is the set. The excited screams from the audience almost bursts my eardrums, and I fight the urge to press my hands over my ears.

Every single camera is trained on me. I force a huge smile on my face as I walk over to Daniel. He invites me with open arms.

I fall into his embrace and the crowd goes berserk. I think someone is screaming for us to kiss, and when I gaze into Daniel’s eyes, I seriously think he’s going to do it.

He’s already staring at my lips, and my heart is about to leap out of my throat.

Oh hell no.

Thankfully, he doesn’t. Instead, he presses a light kiss unto my left cheek. Regardless, I blush like mad.

Daniel... just... kissed... me... on... the... cheek... what...?

I numbly take my place next to him. It takes a while for the audience to settle down. When it finally does, Charlize is facing me.

“So, this is the girl that has casted a spell over the infamous Daniel Kerrington.” She laughs. “I’m impressed.” She says as she takes a good look at me.

A nervous laugh bubbles from my throat.

“Alexandria, right?”

I nod when she says my name. “Call me Alex.”

“So, Alex,” she purses her lips, “what’s it like to be engaged to Daniel?” It’s been hell.

“It’s like a dream come true.” I gaze adoringly at him.

“I truly envy you.” Charlize says. “You two do look perfect together.”

It is Daniel who replies. “Thank you, Charlize.”

“Tell me, how did this...” She gestures to the two of us. “Happen?” “Sorry?” I manage to say.

“How did the two of you meet?” She smiles. The crowd cheers in unison. “I think everyone wants to know.”

My gaze flickers to Daniel in panic.

We have never gone through this at all. The story of how we met. Oh my god, how are we going to answer this?

“Alex is a good storyteller.” Daniel chimes in. “She would love to tell you the story.” He’s pushing the problem to me! Oh hell no. He’s not getting out of this.

My eyes narrow at him, silently shooting daggers at him. “No no, I think Daniel should tell the story.”

“Sweetheart, you’re better at this than me. You should tell it.”

“No you should.”

“No, you.”

This is going nowhere. Even Charlize seems irritated.

"Baby,” I take his hand out of instinct and kiss it. My lips sting, “You tell it. I always love it when you tell it.”

Charlize widens her eyes out of interest. “Yes, Daniel. Why don’t you us how you met Alex?”

The crowd cheers.

Daniel gulps nervously.

Hah. Gotcha.

“Well... um...” He shifts slightly. “It’s a long story.”

Charlize waves him off. “We have all the time in the world, Daniel. No pressure.” I have no idea how he’s going to get out of this one. I’m excited to see him try.

“Um...” He looks down. “So.. uh... we met at a restaurant.”

I lift my eyebrows. ”Yes. We did.” Where is he going with this?

“It was in Basil Kitchen, three months ago.” He adds on, “I love to visit the restaurant during the weekends. Little did I know she was working as a waitress there, in her little uniform with that red apron of hers.”

I feel as if all the air has been sucked out of my lungs.

Is he saying what I think he’s saying?

Is he telling our hate story?

“As you know, I love- loved women.” He leans forward and presses his hands on his lap. “I sometimes bring them over to the restaurant, you know, to... woo them and what not. I take them out for dinner, we chat, we drink wine... and the rest is history.”

The audience laughs.

I don’t.

“I noticed Alex the first time I entered with another woman in my arms.” He runs his fingers through his hair. “I still remember how she looked. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail, just like how it is now. Her eyes were soft and kind. She was so beautiful, like an angel in disguise. I was hooked then. Since that night, I watched in utter fascination- the way she walked, the way her corners of her lips would curve into a smile whenever she chatted to her customers. She was... good hearted. A good person. And I know I didn’t deserve her.”

What. The. Hell. This is a whole load of bullshit.

But somehow, I believed him. Could it be... true? What he’s saying right now?”

“I continued my flings with different women- trying to ignore the fact that Alex had crawled her way into my heart without herself even knowing it. She continued to take my orders and serve my food, and I knew she was irritated with the countless women I bring into the restaurant. I just didn’t know how irritated she was because of it.”

“So, without my knowledge, she had begun her one woman mission hell bent on ‘doing good.’ She secretly sabotaged all the dates that I bring into the restaurant.” That earned several shocked gasps from the audience, even from Charlize.

Daniel chuckles lowly. “You can say I was a bit confused as to why my dates were constantly kicking me in the balls and slapping me in the face.” Daniel chuckles slowly.

I almost choke.

“After some time, I eventually found out that she was behind all of that. The girl with a good heart and a pretty smile. The girl who was good. Turns out.. she wasn’t so good after all.” He glances at me. “I was furious. That got her furious. We battled it out in the restaurant like nobody’s business. It was the worst fight with a woman I’ve ever had and trust me, I’ve upset quite a few in my entire life.”

I open my mouth, but no words escape. I don’t even know what to say because I still don’t know where Daniel’s going with this.

I’m now afraid to find out.

“After that horrible night,” Daniel continues, “I... decided I was going to apologize to her the next week when I saw her again. I found her again and I begged her to forgive me. She was stubborn, of course. She told me not to bother. But I wouldn’t go away. I needed to set things right. After a while, I think she realized that I was truly sorry. Then, she apologized too. We talked for a long time, and... I finally had the balls to ask her out.” He smiles at me. “She said yes.”

I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. Daniel is a shit good liar. I can’t believe he just made that up.

An alternate ending.

To our horrible encounter.

“And here we are now.”

“Here we are now.” I croak out.

“That’s... beautiful.” Charlize is tearing up. Really? I almost snort at this. “Absolutely beautiful. You guys are truly... meant for each other.” The audience cheer loudly.

“I think you guys are my favourite couple ever!” She wriggles her nose. Then, she turns to the camera and her lip curls. “So, I guess that’s all for today, folks! It has been a pleasure meeting Daniel and Alex, and I think we’ll be hearing more about their engagement in the later months! I’m Charlize Matson, and I’ll see you next week. Bye!”

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