Chapter 1: The Lucky One
New to town with a made up name
In the angel city, chasing fortune and fame
And the camera flashes make it look like a dream.
The day started like every other day seemed to: alone. Rachel reflexively reached over to the other side of the bed to confirm her fear; it wasn't just a nightmare. She sighed and hit her alarm before sliding out of bed.
While waiting for the shower to heat up, she checked for messages on her phone. She smiled when she saw that there were none. The tabloids still hadn't found out about her breakup or her early filming break. No messages was good news.
The water was scalding hot by then—it didn't really take that long to heat up, but she was in the habit after years of shitty water systems in cold New York apartments—so she shed her clothes and stepped in, relishing in the heat as it burned her skin. She always hoped the pain would last long enough to distract her from her thoughts, but it never did. No matter how hot she got it, they would always come back.
It only lasted about a minute before her thoughts began to wander. She hoped that she wouldn't run into the paps at the airport, but knew these thoughts to be highly unlikely. Even if there weren't any following her, there were always paps at LAX. They would ask questions about why she wasn't on set and where her boyfriend was, and she just wasn't ready to deal with any of that. Then they would find out where she was going because they always found out, and she just wanted a bit of privacy for one weekend and and and…
She felt the tears well up in her eyes, but she willed them away. They couldn't see her with red eyes, that's for sure. Going to the airport with red eyes and a ticket to a far away destination just screamed trouble in paradise. Rachel needed to be able to talk about the breakup without bursting into tears before she publicly announced it. Her manager agreed. They would wait until after New Year's, which, by then, they hoped Rachel would be over it.
You had it figured out since you were in school
Everybody loves pretty, everybody loves cool.
After her shower, she carefully applied her makeup. Two years ago she wouldn't have bothered with it before a long flight, but two years ago she was a nobody who didn't need to worry about her face ending up on the cover of a grocery store tabloid. Nowadays she had to be perfect wherever she went, which meant a good half hour was spent on perfecting her face.
Clothes came next. She had decided on business casual, black slacks with a crisp button down white shirt paired with a black blazer. When picking it out the night before, she thought that she might blend in with the many businessmen and women, and slip past the paps unnoticed; her normal attire consisted of extravagant dresses, after all. Even if they did end up recognizing her, they would think she was off on important business and not just taking a vacation. It was an added plus that she'd be more comfortable on the plane.
Breakfast would be skipped, as usual. She had neither the time nor ability to cook, and so she would just have to settle with the Starbucks her driver always had waiting when she got in the car. She picked up a granola bar from her highly unused kitchen as she passed through there. It would compliment her coffee, she knew from experience, and should tide her over until they served lunch on the plane. She put it in her purse to eat on the drive to the airport.
Rachel made sure to grab her keys when she got to the foyer. She didn't want a repeat of last time. No, she mustn't think of last time, not when she was about to have to appear cool and collected.
Now it's big black cars and Riviera views
And your lover in the foyer doesn't even know you
And your secrets end up splashed on the news front page.
Her driver was waiting when she stepped outside. No one really needed a driver in Los Angeles, but he had convinced her that she was the greatest star in the world and didn't need to drive. After they broke up, Rachel realized she had grown much too attached to her driver. With the way he knew her coffee order and how he was always there earlier than the time she told him because he knew she was always ready early, it was almost like having a real friend. Plus she never had to deal with the horrendous rush hour traffic.
"Ms Berry, can I take your—" he started when she approached the car.
Rachel brushed him off. "No need, Bradley. I can do this if you'll just pop the trunk."
He sighed and hit a button on the keys. Then Rachel proceeded to load her suitcase in the back, which was easier said than done when it was about as heavy as her. Bradley let her struggle for a minute before helping her lift it up.
"You're looking mighty smart today, Ms Berry," he commented while shutting the trunk. "I've never seen you in glasses. I like them."
"Thank you," she replied brightly, moving to get in the passenger's seat.
"Do you think they'll hide you from the paps?" he questioned, handing her her coffee before starting the car.
She took a sip before answering. "I can only hope."
They fell into silence on the way to the airport. Rachel tried to find a radio station, but she had never been very successful with that. They ended up listening to Barbra Streisand's Christmas album, which had been on repeat since the beginning of December. This was the last time she'd hear it in the car with Bradley, after all. The next time would be after Christmas, and she would need to find a new cd or settle with silence.
"So I hear your birthday is Sunday," Bradley started when they pulled into the airport.
"It is," she replied, looking out the window for any sign of a camera. So far so good.
"And you're going off alone?" he asked.
She nodded. "I am." Rachel glanced over at him. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he held his tongue. That was another good thing about Bradley: he knew when to not overstep the line between friend and driver.
He put the car in park at the drop off section and quickly got out, obviously trying to get the suitcase before she could. Rachel smiled to herself at his kindness and went after him, letting him get the suitcase just this once.
"I could've gotten that, you know," she said when he appeared at her side, rolling suitcase in hand.
He grinned. "I know. Just thought I'd be nice. Now let's go get you checked in."
Rachel playfully rolled her eyes and followed along beside him.
The airport was moderately busy, which was to be expected on a weekday at LAX, especially so close to Christmas. She waited in line to check her bag with Bradley and everyone else. She didn't want to draw attention and skip to the front, because the paps would flock to it.
There was a small girl, probably around three or four, with what Rachel supposed was her mother, in front of them. The mother gripped the girl's hand tight, which probably meant the child was prone to exploring as Rachel used to when she was little. She remembered her dads, one or both, always keeping a good hold on her after the time she decided she wanted to see Santa one more time when they were in the mall. She couldn't remember this story, but they assured her it happened.
Rachel smiled as she watched the girl swing their arms, obviously wanting to play. Then, by chance, the girl looked behind her, directly at Rachel, almost as if she had sensed her watching. Her eyes widened and Rachel frowned slightly, knowing what was about to happen.
The girl whipped back around to her mother, blond hair flying. "Mommy mommy!" Rachel heard her whisper excitedly. "Princess Anna is behind us!"
The mother glanced back and met Rachel's eyes for a second. Her blue eyes echoed the tiredness that Rachel knew her own probably showed. No matter how good her show face, Rachel could never quite master the eyes. "So it is."
"Princess!" she shrieked, and Rachel knelt down to her level so as to hopefully avoid another outburst which would only lead to curious eyes and camera flashes.
"Hello," Rachel said. "What's your name?"
"Bella," she replied, her voice much quieter to Rachel's relief. "Why are you dressed like that, Princess? Where's your pretty dress?"
"I'm on a secret mission," Rachel answered, trying to get back into character from a movie three years ago. "So I have to dress like this and be very quiet."
"No singing?" Bella gasped.
Rachel nodded. "Especially no singing. Bella, can you help me by staying quiet?"
"Yes Princess! I'll do anything!" she whispered.
Rachel smiled at her before looking up at the mother. "Is there anything you want me to sign?"
She nodded and dug in Bella's backpack before pulling out a copy of the horrendous princess movie. "She was going to watch it on the plane for the millionth time."
Rachel immediately got out a sharpie from her purse. She made sure to sign in character, like she always did for this movie. Princess Anna's autograph was used almost as much as her own. "There you go."
"Thank you," Bella's mom said gratefully. "She'll be talking about this all week."
"Be a good girl for your mom, okay?" Rachel said, bending back down to Bella as the mother turned to check their luggage in.
"I will!" Then Bella was lunging for a hug, and Rachel hugged her back after a second of hesitation. It was her first hug in weeks.
The two left shortly after that. Rachel turned to Bradley as they stepped up. "I swear I get recognized for that princess movie ten times more than the one I won an Oscar for."
"And you're complaining about that?" he asked while setting her suitcase on the counter.
She shook her head. "Not at all. Just stating a fact."
"Well, this is where I leave you," Bradley said when they finished at the check-in desk.
"Have a good Christmas," she said, not really ready to say goodbye.
"You too, Ms Berry," he replied. "Let me know when your return flight is."
"I will," she promised, and then he was walking away and she had to go on. She sighed and forced her feet to move.
And they tell you that you're lucky
But you're so confused
Cause you don't feel pretty, you just feel used.
Bella and her mom really brought about feelings Rachel had been trying to ignore for quite some time. She wanted a family. Bella's mother looked about her age, and she already had a child; Rachel wasn't even close to that. She didn't have a boyfriend, much less a husband to have a family with. All she had was her job, which was becoming more of a chore every day.
She was so distracted by this that she didn't even notice the paparazzi until the first flash went off.
Rachel was sure the first one would have her "deer in the headlights" look. She quickly put on her best show face, and continued through security as she had been doing. Except now she had the attention of everyone in the vicinity.
The whispers started, and Rachel kept hearing "Oscar" and Emmy" being thrown around with her name. Soon enough, the security line turned into an autograph line, halting progress.
She really didn't want to hold up the line, but she also knew that if she refused even one autograph, the tabloids and gossip blogs would call her a heartless bitch. So Rachel tried her best to move along while still signing. With the cameras flashing, she felt more like a face character at Disneyland than a real person. Couldn't they just leave her alone?
Rachel made her escape after fully getting through security, citing that she was going to miss her flight if she didn't go right now. In reality, she had allotted plenty of time for something like this. She just had to go before they started asking questions.
When she reached her gate, she found that they weren't going to start boarding for ten minutes. To keep from having another autograph session, she found the nearest bathroom and waited her time in a stall. She could've just went to one of the airline clubs, but she needed this last little bit of privacy before having to spend the next twelve hours surrounded by people on a plane where they were more than likely playing one of her movies.
Being famous wasn't everything, and as Rachel stared at the stall door, she realized she should have thought a bit harder about her life choices on career day in high school.
Another name goes up in lights
You wonder if you'll make it out alive.