Monsters weren’t always easy to spot or discover. Many were hidden in the shadows, concealed by what people desire. Nothing is exactly what it seems. That had been her mother’s last words. The voicemail had become Lauren’s rule of life.
“Lauren Sincliar’s “Stuck in Time” is the new international sensation! Kids all over the world have fallen in love with the main five characters,” announced the reporter, in front of a school book fair. The TV showed a long line wrapping around this school building and all for Lauren Sinclair’s book. “Yes, the book is amazing. My own kid has begged me to purchase not only the book but a costume for Halloween,” the reporter added on, laughed. “Even though Halloween is over seven months away.” Lauren got up from her sofa and turned the TV off. Sighing, she plopped face-first onto her bed. Fame scared her. Fame was a monster in disguise. Everyone wanted fame, thinking it would bring them happiness but in reality it only brought stress, anxiety, and depression. Her mother didn’t have to tell her that. She was an example of it.
The phone rang. “Hello Mrs. Sinclair! This is the New Haven’s Magazine and we want to congratulate you on your new novel “Stuck In Time”. Many of our own employees have already purchased and are in love with the book. Would you want to be featured on the front page of our magazine? We can set up a shoot and interview at your time and convenience,” stated New Haven’s Magazine spokesperson over the phone.
Lauren pursed her lips. “Great, at the moment, I am scheduled but my team will get back to you later!” Fame brought in the media. The media had its way of twisting the words and actions of anyone in the spotlight and the worst part was the public was hypnotized by the media. They ate up everything the media presented without a second thought. Her mother had dealt with the consequences. Tears pricked Lauren’s eyes. Lauren needed to put an end to her fame. After all, it was her mother’s last wish.
Step 1: Disguise. It wasn’t hard to purchase a disguise. A few quick purchases had given Lauren the ability to maneuver the streets without having any obsessed kids pull on her coat, begging for a picture. A dark blue cap, black hoodie, black face mask, and black sunglasses. Sure, Lauren stood out in a crowd but only as an odd individual, not a famous one.
Step 2: Alibi. Lauren loved every member on her team yet she knew they wouldn’t allow her to just leave the spotlight. Their livelihoods were completely hinged on her remaining famous. Lauren had no option. Her mother was more important. Last night, Lauren had called all of her team members, informing them that she wanted to take one day for herself to digest her new fame. None of them supported the decision but Lauren was their manager. They wouldn’t question her. Ever. She was the ‘famous author loved by all’ and the media would only call them ‘the toxic unsupportive team of Lauren Sinclair’.
Step 3: Pack. Lauren nearly forgot this crucial step as it was merely logistics. Regardless, it had taken longer than an eternity. Her house was huge and filled with everything she loved. How could she fit everything within two suitcases? After careful deliberation, Lauren sectioned her belongings into necessities and ordinary belongings. The ordinary belongings could be purchased again from anywhere or if needed, she could get them later with a moving truck.
Step 4: Appearance. This had been a hard decision but it was the most necessary. She had to stay hidden forever and that would mean changing her appearance. An alias could only do so much. Lauren needed to make real changes. A new name.
Changing her name had proved to be relatively simple. It only took her a few hours to fill out the name-changing petition about the reason and the decree. She had kept her reason common and simple. A change of heart and style. The final step was to get the court to accept her petition. With her fame, Lauren had been able to schedule an appointment within thirty minutes. Fame, of course, had its perks.
The court was made of old red bricks with a tall gray dome. Small hexagon windows lined the sides of the building and long rectangular sections stuck out from the main dome. Lauren quickly ran up the white steps and pushed open the tall glass doors. Slowly, she took off her sunglasses, mask, and hat. A smile spread across her face from ear to ear. Looking up at the sky through the small window in the dome, she whispered, “I hope you’re proud.”
The sky was a hue of blues, purples, and pinks. The court had accepted her petition and agreed to keep it a secret. Many seemed concerned and confused. Some even had the media dial-ready. Lauren informed the judges would face legal consequences if they did so. She had chosen a new name of no particular significance because she couldn’t risk any obsessed fan tracing her to her new home. Lily Partridge. That was her new name. It felt like a new slate. Lily Partridge was a nobody with no strings attached.
Lauren returned to her apartment and bit her nail. Plastic surgery was a scary idea. She had spent the last hour reading about all the mistakes and tragedies that had happened. About 1 in 50,000 patients met their end. Maybe it wasn’t a necessary change yet. The whole world couldn’t have possibly read “Stuck in Time”. Jumping off the sofa, Lauren scrambled for her laptop. She pulled up google maps and scanned through all the countries. Maldives?
Step 4: New home. Technology came to the rescue. Within seconds, Google had booked Lauren a flight to Maldives at 6 am the next morning and an apartment miles away from the airport. Lauren drew in a shaky breath and stared at herself in the mirror. Was this the right decision? Giving up all this fame, wealth, and money to escape to a tropical island. Lauren gave herself a curt nod. This was necessary. She wouldn’t face the monster of fame or media attention. Her mother had lost that day, a day Lauren could never forget. The phone call, the whispered voices, and the concerned looks. The red streaks of blood combined with her saline tears as she struggled against the caution tapes and police. Lauren couldn’t allow herself to meet the same fate.
At 4:00 AM, Lauren got up from her bed and dragged both her suitcases downstairs. She opened her tall glass doors and walked outside. The sky was still dark and quiet. Everything was waiting for her. There was no going back now. Quickly, Lauren locked her door shut and ran towards the nearest bus stop. Psychologists had said to move onto the next task quickly. If you give your brain five extra seconds, you wouldn’t be able to go through with your decision.
The bus arrived a minute late. The run to the bus stop had been about one mile, leaving Lauren panting. But she couldn’t risk ordering an Uber or driving her own car to the airport. Any clues or traces would only warrant more media attention.
“Hello,” greeted the bus driver. He stared straight ahead onto the road and didn’t even look over at Lauren. She nodded in acknowledgement and hauled her suitcases onto the bus. Normally, Lauren would have said hi back but her voice was now recognizable. The bus was nearly empty. Only one other passenger occupied the seat at the very end of the bus. A young girl with blond hair and blue eyes. Her face glistened with tears and her hands were tightly wrapped around her red backpack. Probably running away from home. Lauren reached her hand out towards the girl but hesitated. Comforting or talking to the girl might blow her cover. Taking a deep breath in, Lauren took the seat in the second row. Quietly, she whispered to herself, “Take no chances, no chances at all.”
The airport was no different than the bus. Only a few people ran around, furiously pulling their suitcases behind them. Within minutes, Lauren had boarded the flight. First class of course. Her face and body had started to sweat under her disguise. The large coat, fask mask, hat, and sunglasses were not making it easy for her but she couldn’t risk any of the flight attendants recognizing her.
The flight was tiring and long. Ten hours might not seem that bad at first but with the disguise on it felt like an eternity.
“Thanks for flying with the British Airlines. We hope you enjoyed your stay. Within a few minutes, the lights on top of your head will turn green. That will be your cue to get up out of your seats and off the plane,” announced the flight attendant. Quickly, Lauren unbuckled her seatbelt and got into a ready position. As soon as the light turned green, it was go-time.
Everything happened in a flash. Lauren pulled out her suitcase and nearly knocked herself out. Who thought clothes could weigh so much? Then, in a rush of feet and wheels, she headed towards the front of the plane, adjusting her disguise. Nodding to the flight attendants, she ran out of the plane, into the airport, and into the parking lot. The weather in Maldives was humid and hot. The face mask had started to smell bad and her hair was plastered onto her forehead. She took a deep breath in, sucking the mask close to her face. Only a few more hours to go.
The airport bus arrived within five minutes. It was slightly crowded but nobody seemed to pay attention to her. It was as if she was invisible. Most likely, everyone assumed she was too eccentric and odd for their attention or curiosity. But none of it bothered Lauren. If anything, that is what she wanted.
The bus took her to a shopping center. Using the new cell phone she had purchased, she followed Google Maps directions to her apartment. The apartment wasn’t nearly as grand as her house but it was clean and new. Lauren had made sure to book the most expensive apartment in Maldives, knowing it was the only way to ensure it was not a scam.
“Hello! Lily Partridge, apartment 801,” Lauren stated at a higher pitch than normal. The help desk manager eyed her wearily but handed her the key. Just a few more minutes! Lauren half-ran to the elevator and rolled her suitcases inside. She pressed the number 8 and watched the screen. 1 ….. 2 …… 3. The elevator stopped and the doors opened. A tall broad-shouldered man entered but paid her no attention. Nevertheless, Lauren turned away from the man and tucked herself into the corner of the elevator. 4 …. 5 …. 6. The elevator stopped once again. This time, an old woman with a cane entered. She hobbled inside the elevator and pressed a button. 7 …. 8. The elevator stopped. A sense of relief washed over Lauren as she hurriedly yanked her suitcases out and onto the eighth floor.
Apartment 801 was just a few yards away from the elevator. Lauren fumbled with the key for a few seconds before finally opening the room. Quickly she dragged her suitcases inside and pulled off her disguise. The fresh air felt glorious. She inhaled the fresh air and plopped face-first onto her bed. About 37 hours ago, she had been laying on her bed, inside her house in London under the name Lauren Sinclair. So much had changed just within a day and a half. Lauren turned her face towards the window and took in the view. Maldives was a beautiful tropical island. A smile spread across her face and she closed her eyes. There was nothing to worry about anymore. She had silenced the monster.
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