She marched into the hotel, pushing a cart. She was all primped and ready to enjoy her lavish, well-deserved vacation in the Bahamas with her friends before heading off with them to win a place at the modeling agency. As the doors slid open, Crystal Clear was a little surprised no one in the waiting room looked up in awe and wonder at a young woman with a wreath of fluffy mink fur, a pair of jewel outlined sunglasses and pencil-thin heels.
“Excuse me!” Crystal removed her sunglasses, her waxed eyebrows raised. “I’m ready for my room card. Please?” Her lower lip trembled, and she jerked her bouncy hair away from the receptionist down at the brochure, tapping a heel.
“Ma’am.” She sniffed. “Your hotel suite is going to be shared. With someone you don’t know. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Crystal huffed. “Well, I am specifically going to make it crystal clear that I wanted this hotel suite—” She grabbed the card “—room #444—to be all my own. That now had to be torn out of my hands to—”
“Your hotel suite will now be a two-person room. Sorry!”
Crystal whipped off her glasses and glared at the half-eyed receptionist. “I can’t believe it!”
“Well, believe it you shall. You’re either leaving this hotel, or you’re staying with her.” She picked up a photo ID and held it out to her. Crystal looked at it and then took it from her. The receptionist tapped her fingers on the marble and sighed.
“Okay—” Crystal slid the picture towards the receptionist and started trudging her two-wheeled suitcases, three purses and two clutch purses towards the elevators. Before she could go any further, the receptionist called out that she dropped one of her things. Grumbling, Crystal puffed an air of frustration and snatched it from the carpet just as someone, she saw out of her peripheral vision, was scurrying past her. She straightened and turned, but found something else—another vitally expensive purse—victim to the carpet as well. After swiping it up just as a woman was going to hurdle over her outstretched arm, Crystal shoved the cart forwards as she stormed into the elevator. She turned to the right but heard someone behind her exclaim she had left something behind. Crystal whipped around and scrambled to get towards the closing doors before it was too late. Alas, her fingers only touched grey metal. The earth outside the now rising elevator had claimed her diamond sequenced clutch purse, and, unless someone steals it, she’ll lose it forever.
“No, no!” Crystal wailed and stamped her foot. A sigh emitted from the same person, and it was all Crystal could do to not snap at her that she should have gotten it for her. Then she wouldn’t be swallowing hard and clutching her clammy hands to her sides, biting her lip. If she had a mirror, she’d be staring at her creased forehead and scrunched eyebrows.
“You alright, there?” An older man’s voice only heightened her stress.
She curled her lip, but Crystal just felt him turn away. She didn’t want to be boxed in by people who were seeing her as failing and losing. She was born into a rich family—she even made sure her lineage traveled all the way down Family Lane to her great-great-great-grandfather, a self-made man with all the family’s oil company money to prove her as the heiress to it all. That purse could go to her daughter or be shared between her daughters. So why was it now three floors below?
I shouldn’t be sharing my room with a stranger—I’ll look bad in front of my friends and then they’ll reject me because I’m friends with someone who doesn’t care about succeeding in the modeling world like us. I’ll look like a total fool with this woman. Crystal rolled her eyes up to the lit tiled ceiling and shaded her view in brown by replacing her sunglasses and then carrying and tugging her stuff to her room. I should be succeeding by raising a family to which I can prove with some of my inheritance. It’s not my fault I was born rich, live rich and will die rich. So will my descendants. So they can see that I’m part of a great story—a successful story with descendants to continue it—
Crystal struggled to get her cart into the room after opening it with her key card. Once the person finally started helping after taking a forever sip of coffee, Crystal grunted and carried both suitcases towards one of the pristinely white sheets and golden yellow pillows screaming for her to jump into, landing softly and comfortably into it. Crystal waited and then went to take her purse.
Then she froze with disbelief. Almost all of the sequins sprang in both directions, hitting the wall and just missing the bathroom tile. Slowly, as if in a dream, Crystal lifted the purse to her face, her mouth, she felt, gaping open wide and ugly. The reality of the now barely decorated purse sunk in, and Crystal strived to restrain her wrath when she was met by a body in a white T-shirt and holed jeans.
“Well, you can always buy a new one, right? They’re pretty cheap—” She unlocked the door, poked her head out and then extended her hand to retrieve something. Thanking the person, she waved goodbye and then pushed the door closed. “Hey! This looks cool. All beady and awesome!” She held it out for Crystal, but she just marched off with it, throwing both purses to the ground in front of the air conditioner and then chucked her suitcases beside a bed, collapsing onto one of them, sighing deeply.
“Oh… I’m so sorry!”
Crystal wanted to be alone. Now she had to suffer a future of two daughters fighting over one, or give it away—
“Hey, I can buy you a new one.”
“No, you can’t.” Crystal got up and opened a suitcase, starting to organize her makeup, hairbrushes, curlers, straighteners, jeweled and beaded clothes, five two-inch high heels and rolls of plastic displaying hanging earrings and hoop earrings glared up at the other woman.
“Oh, it’s okay! Besides, I’m Randy. You can call me Miranda. It’s okay.”
Crystal bit her lip, wondering how she was going to have to cope with this roommate for the next four weeks. Randy started mentioning that she had a lot of fashion items for the beach. “We’re just strolling down the beach.”
“I’m packing for another vacation—for a model runway event next month. It starts after this one.”
Crystal stopped her luggage extravaganza and looked over. Randy had dove right into her own little world of simple hoods and skinny jeans she said she would wear to the beach with Crystal. Crystal wondered aloud whether this plain, boring woman had ever partied on the beach with her friends as she carried her set of earrings to the sinks.
She went to see whether Randy had heard her when Randy sprinted up to her. “Why are you pulling all your stuff out?” She blurted.
“Because I need to ensure I have the right earrings for tonight. I’m supposed to be catching up with some friends who are here. We’re all going out to dinner tonight at a fancy restaurant.”
“Oh.” The tone sounded sad—maybe a little forlorn. Like Randy hadn’t done anything exciting like that. Then she smiled and said, “Well, have fun!”
Crystal mentally thanked her and returned to her suitcase. She warned Randy about the vitality of her earrings staying where they were. “We both own sides of the sink, okay?”
“Those earrings are expensive, and I need to have them for my next month’s model agency program. I’m going to see whether I’ll succeed at winning a place. I need to win. I need to succeed at this modeling show so I can have all the things I need to prove I’m the most successful woman in the world—I’ll be the happiest, too, when I’m generously giving what I have to my children and grandchildren. If I fail, I’ll lose at continuing the legacy, as I won’t give any of what I won from the agency to my family. My money goes to my descendants…and so did that purse. So if I lose anything else, I’ll fail my future family. And,” she shivered, shaking her head, “be a miserable failure forever.”
Crystal looked back—the freckled arms lost their bent shape and the hands let the frizzy brown hair collapse into a mess of a head of hair. “You’re…wow!”
“Yeah. Lots of people model.”
“Yeah. In fact, I used to want to be one. My friend’s going there. He’s really excited!”
“Your friend…?” Crystal got up and raised her eyebrows. “You mean Cameron?”
“Yes! You’re his friend, too?”
“Yes!” Crystal dug into a suitcase after unzipping it to retrieve her laptop and placed it on the desk next to the TV. After connecting to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, she logged onto Ancestory.com. Crystal told Randy to come see her lineage of her family.
After gawking at all the wealthy businessmen and women, Randy finally said, “Wow—you’re a famous—”
“No.” Crystal shook her head. “I’m just an heiress. That’s how I have such rich stuff—those suitcases. And the makeup, the bags and the shoes. And everything else I pulled into this place. Once I win a modeling gig, I’ll be successful. Plus, I buy accordingly. Therefore, when I have children, especially a daughter, I can pass down my fame to my child or children.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m…” Crystal suppressed a sigh. “I don’t want to just be a rich heiress. I want to go beyond monetary status—”
“Oooh! How are you going to do that?”
“Randy.” Crystal got out of the chair and placed her hands gently on the pursed-lip young woman. “I don’t know, but I’ll find a way. I just want the best for my future family, okay?” Randy bobbed her head, but Crystal just shook hers. “You really want to know this stuff, do you?”
“Oh—I didn’t even catch your name!” Randy slapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes bulging.
“Crystal.” Crystal walked away from her computer by proceeding to work on her other suitcase. Randy sang quietly to herself, but Crystal told her to be quiet. She succumbed. For a while.
“Can you…?” Crystal looked back and studied Randy’s free hands waving all about, her arms lifted up and going back and forth. Her eyes were closed and her lips were moving. She opened her eyes and invited Crystal to join. She agreed reluctantly, and then started teaching Randy to strut.
Crystal slowly crawled into bed that night, curling into a ball. She just sang and danced with this new person. She couldn’t risk another embarrassing moment. What if Randy showed up at the modeling agency and yelled out that she saw her? Or that she pulled Crystal towards Cameron and started babbling?
Crystal thought about the next four weeks. Maybe she could trade places with someone else. A quiet girl wouldn’t be so bad—
Crystal shot up in bed. The restaurant! She completely forgot to meet her friends—now Alex would be furious she didn’t care about the modeling work they would prepare beforehand because Crystal wasn’t there to talk about it hours ago. Ripping the covers right off, Crystal bolted into the bathroom after grabbing her cell phone. Dialing her best friend’s number, she waited and waited, but voicemail answered. She tried Cameron and Lucky, but they didn’t answer, either. Her mouth so dry she feared tilting her head back to choke on the sand she felt was mounting in her mouth. Maybe she could just—
Crystal clenched her hands from yanking the door right in Randy’s face and fumed at the sinks. This girl shouldn’t be seeing that she had just failed to remember a get-together with friends at a restaurant Alex and she planned!
Crystal couldn’t even ensure that her earrings were flushed down the sink as she just turned and blinked at the bubbles and water running down into the drain. She wouldn’t be caught dead crying in front of Randy, so she half-stomped back to bed and curled up tight under the covers. crystal retrieved her phone and then dialed Alex’s number because she knew she saved her from these kinds of things.
But another phone number stared back at her, she squinting from the bright light. She pressed the number and inhaled, mentally rehearsing her apology for missing the dinner. A big lump slid down her tight throat. Alex answered. Crystal spewed that she had made it crystal clear she was meeting everyone to catch up on her modeling agency when the bathroom door slammed closed. Apologizing profusely, Randy soon appeared and then just wrung her hands as she galloped off like a whipped puppy back to bed. Crystal asked Alex to repeat what she had said.
“It’s been reserved for tomorrow night. I didn’t think you were able to make it—”
Desperation took over—did they have dinner without her? Crystal fumbled for an answer. “I’m sorry. I didn’t remember. I got caught up.”
“Well, we’ll meet you tomorrow night.”
Crystal pounded the button and then hurled the phone onto the ground. Clutching her hair tight enough she’d worry she’d pull her own hair out, Crystal sat rigidly, her eyes squeezed shut, her jaw set so hard she felt she’d break it if she moved it. After relaxing slowly and snatching her phone, Crystal returned to the sinks and then bumped into a seemingly nocturnal Randy. What was she doing—playing on her phone?
“Don’t talk to me.”
Randy jerked her little head down and blinked, nodding. What a wimp!
Crystal returned to bed.
I don’t know what Cam’s talking about. Alex’s message read. We didn’t forget you. Come tomorrow and we’ll have fun.
Are you sure?
Only if you make it so.
“Why didn’t you tell Alex that?”
Crystal leaned over her delivered plate of dinner towards a relaxed, shrugging Cameron. Last night’s living nightmare came to mind. Suddenly, a familiar voice twisted Crystal around.
Randy must’ve followed. Crystal pressed her lips together. She was always suppressing the urge to humiliate people she didn’t like. Alex would then follow up by laughing at them.
Crystal’s eyes bore into Randy’s soft brown ones. Randy stepped back and went to join Cameron she said she saw after coming off the elevator. Crystal just rolled her eyes and looked across at Alex. She snickered and shook her head. Once Alex started moving her fingers, Crystal brought out her phone and texted, too, while she ate.
So…who’s this chick?
Don’t know why she made me forget this dinner meeting last night! It’s all her fault—she’s here to ruin the vacation I had planned in the first place.
Well, why don’t you and I take a walk tomorrow night and talk about it?
Crystal looked up and nodded. But she also looked up behind her. Randy was looking at her bleary-eyed. Crystal gaped at her. Was she reading her texts?
“Randy, this stuff is—”
“About me.” Randy shook her head and returned to Cameron. They continued their conversation, Randy’s flickering back and forth between Crystal and Cameron, his hand on her shoulder and his other hand moving as he assumedly explained why Crystal wasn’t being very nice. Crystal continued with Alex. What else does she want—you and me to wear jeans and T-shirt for the rest of our lives?
Let’s just talk about the modeling agency on the beach tomorrow night. She won’t be with us.
Crystal looked over at Randy. Something made her watch the way Randy composed herself. She wasn’t frolicking or mimicking any annoying cartoon characters. She was just talking to Cameron now, their bodies completely relaxed and normal. Conversational. No extras.
Crystal felt a little envious. She always wanted a close, warm relationship. But if she included Randy, Alex would quit their friendship. Crystal bit her lip until her best friend asked what was wrong.
I think I might study what it’s like to be low-key. By studying Randy for the next four weeks. See how it goes.
When she looked up, Alex was staring at Crystal like she had five heads. She came over and sat beside her. “What about the modeling agency?”
“Alex, I really need that kind of friendship. A warm, relaxed, comfortable one without any pressure. Maybe if I help her, she can teach me. Too.”
“I thought we were here to discuss how to become better fashionistas.”
Then she got up and, before Crystal could stop her, huffed away with her clutch purse. Watching her best friend storm away formed tears in Crystal’s eyes. Now she was leaving Crystal. Forever.
Crystal caught Alex just before she was boarding the elevator. She told her she was going to compete but also help Randy expand her wardrobe. Just then, Crystal felt eyes on her and spun around. A grin had split Randy’s face. But Crystal looked back at Alex.
But the elevator doors had already closed.
Crystal stared at the grey doors, cloaked in bewilderment and frustration. Alex was always ready to listen…
“I just want a true friend.” Crystal shook her head. “Not a fair-weather one. I’m tired of bargaining. With success. I even do it with relationships. I don’t want to compromise anymore. When I give freely, I should be getting freely.”
As Randy returned to the dinner, Crystal mentally decided on how she would help Alex see the truth.