In Another Life
Megan ducked her head as she entered the office building. The security guard paid her no attention, the ground floor reception did not acknowledge her. It was easy for Megan to be invisible in this hive of fashion, a publisher for top name magazines loaded with glamor and glitz. A secretary for a copy writer. A fetcher of coffees and lunch bagels. The invisible person who made sure there were no clashes in Ms Farrel’s day planner and that her dry cleaning was on time. Megan’s mousy hair, thick spectacles and diminutive stature helped her disappear.
Inside, she yearned for something extraordinary to happen, something that would break the mundane cycle she found herself trapped in. Something that might make her mother sound proud of her the next time she called. Her phone buzzed. The message read ‘you have a choice.’ ’Well that made no sense,’ she thought, but she had no time to consider where it came from.
Melanie, the striking head of reception at ground level waved her over.
""Umm, yes." Megan stuttered, caught by surprise. This was the first time Melanie had spoken to her.
Melanie rolled her eyes. “A note for you.” She handed Megan a folded note and turned away, smiling graciously as Mr Travenor a senior editor entered. “Hello Mr Travenor, how are you today?”
Megan had ceased to exist. She placed her coffee on the counter and unfolded the note. It was from Ms Farrel. ‘Early meeting, one almond milk latte, one long black, one marsala chai and cappuccino with soy milk and cinnamon, four mini breakfast bagels, two must be vegan. Megan groaned. She looked at her barely touched cappuccino. No choice but to leave it.
Megan went back through the impressive glass sliding doors - and was blinded by flashing cameras.
“Ms Halo, what do you think of your latest cover?”
“Ms Halo, is it true that you are dating Danny Reef?”
“Ms Halo, how did you and Danny meet?”
Megan blinked. Halo. That was her last name. She looked around for the model who must share her name. She was the only one standing there, surrounded by cameras. Two burly men in black suits pushed through and escorted her to a waiting limousine. She wanted to scream; she was being kidnapped. The scream trapped in her throat at her reflection in the mirrored windows.
Her own green eyes stared back. That was where familiarity stopped. Her hair was lush, falling over her shoulders in dark waves. Make up made her eyes huge, her nose delicate, her chin small and pointed. No spectacles. She was beautiful. But it was still her. What was happening? She looked down at herself. She wore a tiny sequined skirt, ridiculous high heeled boots and a top that showed all her belly, along with a diamond stud in her belly button. She gasped, and wanted to cover herself, but no chance, she was being swept into the luxurious interior.
“Are you okay Ms Halo?” Asked one guard before he shut the door. The other was holding arms wide, blocking the eager press.
A woman already sat in the car. Megan blinked in shock. “Ms Farrel?”
“Yes Ms Halo what can I do for you?” She said obsequiously. Then nervously she added, “I am so sorry Ms Halo, I don’t know how it got out that you are seeing Danny.”
“I am sure Ms Farrel,” said Megan. A new self-assurance was taking over. A memory surfaced. Danny, yes. He was hot. He was the hit man in the new blockbuster, ‘Hot Hit.’ She met him at a preview, they had surreptitiously dated twice since. He had asked her out, a private dinner. Organised by Farrel, the only one who knew of this liaison. Megan glared at her. Farrel looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“What is happening to me? I am NOT this person. That is not me.” She looked at her reflection again.
“You look perfect, as usual,” gushed Farrel. “You are due at your hairdresser now, and I have arranged a manicure. You driver will collect you at 6pm, so you have loads of time to rest.”
Her phone rang. The phone she picked up was not her old, cracked screen, dated, Oppo. It was the latest model with a pearl and diamond phone jewel hanging of it. Nervously she answered it.
“Oh darling, that latest cover was fabulous! And is it true what they saying about you and the star of Hot Hit? What is his name? Denny?”
“I can’t talk now Ma,” Megan stuttered. A thought occurred to her. “How is Jerry? Her little brother, her rising superstar brother excelling in his first years in a legal practice, but recently diagnosed with a fatal tumour.
“He is good as always. For Jerry.”
Her heart raced. In this world Jerry was not sick? “What do you mean, ‘for Jerry’?
“Well, Jerry never was going to do much was he. He will be packing shelves at Walmart until he retires.”
Her mother sounded just like she did when she talked about her; the old her. The her of only minutes ago.
What was wrong? Her memory was like static on an old TV. What was she thinking? This morning she was in her penthouse giggling with Danny on the phone, He was sooo gorgeous. She pushed aside what her friends said about his temper. What did they know?
NO. This morning she had woken in her little apartment in the run-down district of Comoro. ‘Shabby chic,’ she smiled to herself. She loved it, it had a cute writing alcove with a window that showed a glimpse of the sea between the city towers. She got her coffee at Larry’s, out front of the publishing house, and was realising she would have to dump it to carry Ms Farrel’s order up to level 18. Then she went out the sliding doors. More static.
“MS Farrel? Hmmph. She had always just called her Farrel. And Farrel called her MS Halo.
NO! She pushed the static away. What was happening to her? She needed to wake up, a discreet pinch did nothing.
She felt like a fly trapped in a headdress on this glamour new ‘her’ while she had her hair streaked with gold high lights and her nails decorated with swirls and jewels. She had a full facial too, of course, She always did when she had her nails done. At every stop her two bodyguards ensured no press followed. ‘Giles and Mathew,’ she thought to herself, they had been with her since her first cover.
Her phone rang again.
“Jewel here honey, see you for fivsies? At the York?”
“Sure,” Megan bubbled.
“I can’t wait for your latest gossip,” purred Jewel.
Megan laughed lightly. “No gossip here darling."
Jewel was vivacious, funny, and dripping in wealth. Megan of that morning let this new Megan take over and was hardly aware of the time when her driver collected her.
“Hmm, who are we off to see?” Purred Jewel.
“Shhh,” said Megan, giggling and winking.
Jewel turned serious. “Take care.”
Her security handed her an old coat and some scuffs. She laughed. “Really?”
“So sorry Mam, but…”
“It is okay, I understand. She shrugged on the coat, placed her heels in her bag noting they were Santoni. They evaded the press at the gated entrance to Associated Commerce and drove down to the staff elevator from the basement. She left through the side door on the first floor, and through a private gate to the elite restaurant next door. She giggled at the subterfuge; this was fun. In the lobby she was quick to remove the oversized coat and replace the scuffs with her Santonis.
Her bodyguards escorted her to a private room, then withdrew. She entered, her heart racing. Danny was waiting. He sparkled. His deep brown eyes shone, his hair gleamed, his Louis Viton suit had a sheen. She was sure she saw sparks coming of his smile, like in a toothpaste ad. Her stomach knotted. She found herself split in two selves. Super-model-Megan began chatting and flirting with this super-hot super star. The other Megan was analysing him. The Megan of her little flat in Comoro was looking at him analytically thinking ‘he is all surface glamour.’ She recalled Jewel’s warning ‘be careful.’
Her phone rang again. She reached into her handbag, alongside the shiny new Oppo was her old cracked chipped battered relic. She killed the call on the new Oppo and wrapped her hand around her old one. It grounded her.
The food was exquisite. They were served seven courses of delicate mouthfuls from caviar through to a crème brulee. The Tattinger French champagne was divine, she had never had anything like it. Although she kept gripping her old Oppo, her fingers caressing its cracks and dents, the bubbles and the charm of Danny Reef were difficult to resist.
She was unaware until it was too late that he had taken her out the front, into the blinding flashes of a dozen cameras. Someone had tipped the press off. She realised it had not been Ms Farrel. Megan of that morning wanted to withdraw, but the ‘now’ Megan leaned into Danny’s shoulder and batted her eyelashes. They held hands going to the waiting limousine, he planted a kiss on the cheek as he handed her into the car. FLASH FLASH FLASH.
Her diamond bedazzled Oppo immediately began buzzing.
“I will meet you at your apartment XXX”
“No, please Danny, I need to sleep tonight, I am tired.”
“I won’t take no for an answer. I will see you there.”
She recalled her last evening with him. He had been all hands. He had muttered ‘next time,’ before he left. The Megan on this side of that sliding door was contemplating grabbing another bottle of champagne, anticipating a hot night with the Hot Hit star. A hot hit, she giggled to herself. He had, in his actions leaving the restaurant to waiting press declared their relationship to the public, so why not?
The Megan from the other side of that sliding door that morning was not close to being ready for a full romance with a movie star she did not know at all. Something about him warned her, a coldness lay behind his sparkle, a latent hostility. ‘Be careful.’ That Megan was much sharper than super-model-Megan.
What was she getting into? Was there a way out? What about Jerry? Jerry was alive and going to stay alive in this life. Life? Dream? Too real. Dimension? That was it. She must have walked into another her, another dimension. Which meant in this dimension, Jerry would live and be her mother’s disappointment, and she would be famous and glamourous and rich. Would she be happy? She was sure something dark lurked in this Megan's near future. Meanwhile in the other dimension, she would be mother’s disappointment, Jerry would die.
This was not her. She wanted out. She gripped her old Oppo. The only part of this world that linked to her old world. Was it only that morning? She recalled the obscure message on her cell that morning, ‘you can choose.’
She caressed every crack on its fractured screen. Call mum, she thought to herself.
The voice on the other end was the Mum she knew. “Oh, it’s you. Why are you calling this late?”
“Nothing Mum, I just called to say hello.”
Silence on the other end. Uncertainty. “Well, hello. Was there something special?”
“Not really Mum, just that, I think I will no longer be your disappointment.”
Silence again. “Darling, you are not… “
“Yes Mum, I have been, but something happened today, and you know what Mum, you have been right. I have been letting myself down. I am not going to be famous Mum, or big like Jerry. The difference is, I like who I am. I will chat tomorrow, love you.”
The limousine stopped at the bottom of Henrick Tower. Of course, the most upmarket apartment building in town, ''where else?'' She thought to herself. It had a beautiful big glass sliding door in front.
She gripped her old Oppo firmly in her hand, the shiny new diamond bedazzled one she left on the seat of the limousine. ‘I know who I am,’ she whispered, as she walked through the door, and up the dark staircase to her Comoro apartment.
The following morning Megan, for the first time since she recalled, thought about what she wore. She was appalled. Her wardrobe was blue and grey. No Santonis. She laughed, she did not want Santonis, or tiny sequined skirts and tops that showed her tummy. Had she really been in another dimension? Or had it been a dream? What she did know is that she was ready for change. Some colour for a start. She found the lipstick Ms Farrel once gave her, that she had discarded, and threw on some blue culottes pants and pale grey T-shirt. Not so bad. The white sneakers were the best her wardrobe offered in footwear.
She looked at her writing corner, at the pile of stories she had written and never shared. “They are good,” she said to herself, and stuffed them in her bag. On her way to the office, she picked up a cheap floral head scarf of a street shop and draped it over her shoulders. That felt better.
She grabbed her cappuccino at Larry’s.
The massive sliding glass doors loomed in front of her. Panic bubbled up. She took her old Oppo from her bag and gripped it. She was crazy, it had been a dream. She held her head up and felt the thickness of the file in her bag, her stories she was ready to present.
The doors opened; the security guard nodded hello. Melanie looked up and smiled.
“Good morning, Ms Halo.”