Spring Break

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Chapter 9

She went inside to avoid the beach. In the lobby of The Palace, she saw Sienna, the black producer, dragging her suitcases behind her.

“Hello, Elise Apple,” Sienna said to her. “Before you start your glamorous new life in Los Angeles, I figured I’d introduce myself. I’m Sienna, former producer for Right Now.” She reached out to shake her hand.

“Sienna, I know what happened,” Elise said. “I saw it. I’ll tell the other producers what happened, and help you get your job back if I can. It’s Chandler who should be fired.”

“I know,” Sienna replied, “But I’m quitting. Let me give you my contact information and a piece of advice.” She handed Elise a business card.

“Run,” Sienna said to her. “Just run away. Go home to Michigan and forget about Right Now before they ruin your life for ratings. They can and they will.”

Then she dashed out to an airport taxi, refusing to look behind her as she went.

A mob was forming around The Luxe as police cars rolled up to the entrance.

“Ooh, someone’s busted!” someone said, wielding an iPhone to record the unfolding scene.

“I heard they found Connor Kardeza’s drug stash,” said another. “Like, a crazy amount of weed and coke.”

People elbowed each other out of the way, fighting for the best cell phone camera angle.

“Everyone off the beach!” a police officer bellowed through a bullhorn. “The beach is closed until further notice.”

The crowd grew angry, heckling the police and refusing to budge. “They can’t close the beach during spring break!” someone yelled. “This is bullshit. I want a refund!”

“We paid a lot of money for this!”

Elise watched emergency workers rushing around, trying to control the mob. “This is unbelievable,” an EMT said. “We’re trying to land an emergency helicopter on the beach, and instead these kids say they have a right to drink beer and work on their tans.”

“We’ll arrest them,” a police officer told him. “We’ll deal with Mommy and Daddy filing lawsuits later. Right now, we have a medical emergency.”

As police swooped down on the crowd, people jeered and hurling beer bottles. “Fuck cops!”

Elise heard Sienna’s voice in her head: Run away.


So she did, hoping she could still find the cottage on the winding path near the beach.

The wind was picking up when Elise knocked on the back door of Paul’s rental cottage.

An eerie silence greeted her. “That’s strange,” she said. She stood on her toes and could see the glow from a lamp behind the faded curtains.

She went around to the front of the house and saw his car on the dirt driveway.

“Elise? What are you doing?”

Paul opened the screen door and stepped onto the driveway.

“You won’t believe what the Kardezas did now,” she said.

“What’s it to me? I’m leaving tomorrow,” he said.

Elise felt stunned by how brusque he was, as if he was a different person than the man she had seen here yesterday. “What? Why?”

“I found out who was calling me,” he said. “And it wasn’t a sick joke. I have to go home.”

“Now?” Elise replied. “You can’t wait til the end of the week?”

“No,” he said.

“It can’t be more than a few hours, right?” she asked. “I’ll go with you.”

He turned to her with a confused look. “What?”

“Doesn’t your family live in Florida?” Elise asked.

Paul had beads of sweat forming around his hairline. He struggled to look her in the eye.

“No,” he said. “Look, Elise, I can’t do this anymore. You don’t know me. And now I’m afraid you don’t want to know me.”

Elise’s heart dropped into a black pit somewhere in her stomach.

“What does that mean?” she asked him. “What can’t you do anymore?”

Paul refused to answer and hung his head, avoiding her eyes.

“You can’t come with me,” he said, looking up at her at last. “You should be having fun. Getting drunk. Running up and down the beach in your bikini. You’re a college girl on your last spring break.”

“Fuck spring break!” Elise shouted, shocking both of them with her outburst. “I want to go with you.”

“What about the show?”

“You mean Skinterns?” Elise asked. “I’ve been making up every excuse I can think of for not signing the contract yet.”

“Yet?” Paul repeated. “So you’re thinking about it. I don’t understand how you could pass that up for me.”

Elise felt an angry defensiveness rising in her chest. “How could I pass it up?” she shot back. “Why are you pushing this? Two days ago, you told me not to do it.” She yelled now, trying not to cry. “You held my hand and you told me not to do it.”

Paul’s phone rang.

“Not now,” he said to the person on the other line.

“Where are you?” a male voice on the other end demanded, sounding urgent. “Get down here right now and bring your camera.”

Paul looked back at Elise. “One minute,” he whispered to her as he stepped out onto the porch, where she couldn’t hear the phone call.

“No,” she said, following him. “I’m not going away.”

She saw his camera sitting on the coffee table. As he huddled in the corner with his cell phone, she grabbed it and scrolled through the pictures.

The third image was a topless Madison Banks, the socialite.

“What are you doing?” he yelled.

“You rarely hook up with random girls, huh?” she asked. “You’re a fucking liar.”

She threw the camera at him. “Don’t ever talk to me again,” she said, and left him standing there, ignoring his pleas to come back.

Later that night

Some families had family meetings. The Kardezas had cast meetings.

“If Connor knocks, tell him we’re not here,” Kandi said to the bodyguard.

“I think he got the message that he’s not wanted here,” Karmen said. “What about Kiki? She’s still at the hospital with Leroy?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Kandi said, tromping over to the boardroom table in her chunky heels.

“Cast, we had a close call tonight,” Kandi said, looking around at the whole clan. “We need to reevaluate who we can trust.”

Everyone held their breath for a second or two.

“Carson Vana is solid Kardeza material,” Kandi said. “But that Apple girl raised red flags calling 911. We cannot have that.”

“I agree,” Kadence said, twirling her hair. “We can’t trust her. She could have ruined everything for us.”

Kandi nodded. “We need to salvage this trip,” she said. “I have a plan. Let’s do something that will soar to the top of Twitter and Facebook topics. In fact, we might get round-the-clock cable coverage.”

The clan looked both nervous and intrigued. “What is it?” Kadence asked.

Kandi grinned. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I know exactly how to divert America’s attention away from Leroy’s little overdose.”


Carson awoke Elise the next morning holding her cell phone.

“Kiki Kardeza’s boyfriend is in a coma,” Carson said.

“You mean the one who collapsed while we were in the next room?” she asked. “At least the fact that I tried to call for help makes me feel a little less guilty.”

“What do we have to feel guilty about?” Carson asked.

“We overheard Kandi Kardeza telling the assistants to get rid of the drugs,” Elise said. “And call the paparazzi instead of 911,

“There you go again,” Carson replied. “Go sell cheese in Frankenmuth, okay? I’m off to shop with Kadence.”

“There’s a black-and-white party tonight,” Carson said on her way out. “Find something to wear, because this is your last chance with the network. And remember what I said about white dresses.”

After Carson left, Grace poked her head into the room.

“I couldn’t help but overhear,” Grace said. “Do you believe Connor now? Those people are evil.”

“I know,” Elise said with a somber, resigned shrug. “But what can we do? They have too much power. It seems like this whole country worships them, to the point they can get away with murder. Literally.”

“Connor is well on his way to being banned from Right Now events,” Grace said. “If I have to, I’ll be banned with him.”

Grace fingered her cross necklace. “I guess I didn’t want to believe it. All my life, I’ve wanted to be a musician. But now…”

“Everything is different now,” Elise finished for her.

“I want to go home,” Grace said with a deep sigh. “I should’ve known I’d never make it in this industry.”

“Do you want to go to the pool?” Grace asked. “I need a drink.”

“You drink?” Elise asked.

“I do now.”

Elise smiled, feeling the same defiant spirit that had overtaken Grace. “We shouldn’t let Carson ruin our day,” she said. “Let’s go to the resort pool and get mixed drinks.”

“Good idea,” Grace replied. “I’ve earned my right to have fun for a change.”

Around the pool, the music was booming. Legions of girls crowded around it, grinding in their swimsuits.

“Hey, ladies,” said a over-groomed guy with spiky gelled hair and white teeth. “Want to get up front? You’ll be right near the cameras.”

“Sure,” they said in unison.

Elise found something liberating about dancing almost naked. She held onto her bikini top to keep it from falling down. As exposed as she was, she felt freer than she had in that skintight black dress, or the lingerie and heels. Someone came around offering drinks, and she and Grace downed them without blinking.

“Yikes! That was a strong one,” Elise said as a shot burned her throat. “I hate to say it, but I’m having more fun without Carson.”

She felt someone grab her around the waist.

“I’ve been looking for you.”

It was Chase.

“Mind if I join?” he asked as he positioned himself behind her. As the next song played, he ground his hips against her back.

“Let’s take a detour to my room,” Chase said.

“Right now?” Elise said. “I don’t want to leave my friend here.”

“Don’t worry,” Chase said. “I only need ten minutes.”

She waivered for a minute before relenting. “Alright.”

He pushed her onto his bed in his room. “Here,” he said, yanking out his penis.

Without another word, he yanked down her bikini bottoms.

“I’m not sure I want to do this,” Elise said. “Can we wait?”

He climbed on top of her, pinning her arm beneath his elbow. “Less talking,” he ordered. Elise bit her lip to keep from screaming.

Then he paused. “Shit. I have whiskey dick,” he said. He fumbled around for the TV remote and flipped on graphic porn. Elise wanted to gag as she caught a glimpse of the sickening scene on the screen.

“Give me five minutes,” he said, shooing her.

Elise wandered back to the pool, too drunk to care.

When Elise made her way back to the pool, she could hear a ruckus emanating from where she’d been dancing with Grace.

“Come on baby, just a little lower,” said the same smarmy-looking guy with the spiky hair. Grace was drunk and inching her bikini bottoms past her hip bones. She looked like she wanted to run, despite the photographer’s commands to smile.

“No more,” Grace said, pulling up her bottoms.

“Grace,” Elise said, running to her, “What are you doing?”

“Showing some titties,” Grace said with a sarcastic hip wiggle, mocking the hoots and hollers of the men. “Isn’t that what you have to do to get a recording contract around here? It’s too bad I don’t have chocolate sauce on hand.”

The cameraman grabbed the triangle of her bikini and yanked it aside, exposing Grace’s pale nipples. Grace screamed.

“I said no more…hey!”

“Hey guys, how about this instead?” Elise asked, feeling woozy. She grabbed her bikini top and snapped it off.

The entire pool gasped, then a cacophony of male voices shrieked in delight.

“Nice!” the cameraman said, snapping a picture.

Elise grabbed her top. She had meant to distract them from Grace, not to pose.

“Hey!” a familiar voice barked as he came running toward them. Paul grabbed the cameraman’s arm and tried to wrestle the camera from his hand.

“Give it to me,” Paul demanded.

The cameraman pushed him away. The crowd chanted, “One more time!”

Elise locked eyes with Paul.

“How do you like this?” she asked the cameraman, and grabbed her own breasts.

“Get rid of that picture or give me the camera,” Paul demanded. He towered over the photographer. He looked like a college football player smacking around an eighty-pound peewee leaguer.

“Fuck off,” the cameraman said. “She asked for it.”

Paul twisted his arms behind his back and dragged him away.

“That’s it,” he said. “Leave the pool and leave these girls alone. No one wants you here.”

A crowd was surrounding the scene now. Jackie Hunt stepped forward, eyes transfixed on the photographer. She gave him an icy glare.

“I didn’t know you were here,” she said.

“Oh hey, Jackie,” he replied. “You should thank me for making you famous.”

Instead, she barreled forward and kneed him in the crotch.

“Give me that,” Jackie said to Paul, gesturing for the camera. “There’s one picture I’d like to take for him.”

With Paul holding him in a headlock, Jackie yanked off the photographer’s swim trunks. Then she snapped a picture.

“That’s going online,” she said triumphantly. “Instead of circulating pictures of topless drunk girls, the gossip blogs can circulate pictures of his tiny package.”

The crowd gasped and laughed—except, unlike at the lingerie party, they weren’t laughing at Jackie.

Two security guards appeared and hauled the photographer away. Grace slumped against a deck chair and cried. Connor Kardeza came rushing over and put his arm around her.

Paul turned to Elise and grabbed her by the shoulders. “What was that?”

Chase appeared, coming at Elise looking angry.

“Hey, where did you go?” he said to her. Then he looked at Paul. “Hey, don’t touch her, you piece of shit.”

Paul looked at Elise. “Did you sleep with him?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I’d take him over you any day.”

Elise went back to her room, eager to get in the shower and rinse off the scent of chlorine and Chase’s awful cologne. She heard strange noises coming from Carson’s room. It took her a few moments to realize it was the sound of her having sex. Her moans were loud and fake.

Elise wrinkled her nose in disgust and turned on Grace’s playlist. The song didn’t matter. She only hoped to drown out the sounds coming from the bedroom.

“That was great,” Carson said when they finished. “I’m gonna go ahead and pass out now. God, I am so drunk.”

A few minutes later, Elise heard the man get up and tiptoe out of Carson’s room. Then there was a knock on the door.

Elise opened it to find Brent standing there, still a bit sweaty from his romp with Carson.

“I’m thinking of heading back to my hotel room,” he said, eyeing her up and down and standing a little too close. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re disgusting,” Elise said, and slammed the door in his face.

She crawled into her bed feeling liberated.

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