"Still didn't find her?"
"She's supposed to be right behind me! And she better be right behind me because, I swear, Flo, if I have to go back and track her down again, I swear I'm going to st-rangle that girl."
"I don't think all that'll be necessary," Cat said as she swung open the door and strolled in.
"Well, yippee-ki-yay. She made it."
Okay...okay, Bo might not strangle the girl, but the thought of being so up close and personal to get her glammed up for this role, this role that should have gone to Flo...no.
Bo didn't see the conflict of interest in asking Flo to actually take over the work, though. "Flo-Flo, please. Hair and makeup. Okay?"
"Uh huh. And you're gonna do...?"
Bo sighed. "I'll get her dressed."
"No. No. That is not for you."
"But what's it doin' here? Kinda pretty."
"And kinda pink," Bo said. "Still not for you. It's for another job."
Flo-Flo started to speak up, because they had been floating the idea that it would be a boon to hook the Valence girl, whoever she turned out to be,
for the Pretty and Pink line. And to do it before the buzz, and her asking price, shot through the roof, yet still be able to capitalise on it once her
face was famous. That had been Ms. Burb's thinking anyway, but Bo shook her head at Flo and shushed her before she said anything, so...okay.
"Come on. We need to do a fititng for Look 1. 2, too, I guess." Can't have it drooping off of her. Her wardrobe had been made to measure based on what they sent over, but
Bo wasn't in a trusting mood. The prototype may have fit, but if she she was gonna have to improvise or make alterations on the fly, she'd have to do it fast. "Come on."
"Is there anything else you need me to do, Remington?" Lewis asked him.
"Yeah, reset the flag on the mini. And make sure the kid doesn't have his hands too full."
That went double for Lew. He didn't have a whole lotta complaints about any of them on the technical side of the work; sure Lew was green and Gordo was lazy,
but they knew how to get it done. They weren't the daintiest of dudes, though. And with the shelf props, they didn't have any extras to replace stuff, so no butterfingers.
See, that's exactly what he meant—now why didn't Gord take the vase down before he started messing around with realigning the shelf? Broken glass was about the last thing
they needed on a set like this. C'mon! Even one leftover microscopic shard stuck in the wrong foot or butt would spell hella trouble! And most of it would come down on him!
"Hey, dumbass!" Rem started calling out as FM came up.
"Make sure you get my time right on that clock!"
"Huh? Are you talking to me?"
"No, I am. It's the whole Hart illusion, right, so I want his number on there, too."
"And don't forget my skyline, Rem."
"No, I didn't. I'm about to meter the lights right now and adjust for sunrise. For sunset, you know this time o' year magic hour's not til 8ish and I don't
know if you wanna keep Hart on the hook for so long. It'll look fantastic...But I've got a contingency rigged up to simulate it close enough either way."
"Um, excuse me Mr—I mean, FM. Should that be 9:30 or 6:45? Because the 9:30 lines up kind of better, but then, I don't know,
it's backwards, for the way you read it. But at 6:45 the hour hand's already moved most of the way towards 7 and—"
"Buh-buh-buh, no dice, buddy boy. He's not lucky # 7, that one."
"I know. That was Striker."
"Ricardo Striker, 'member him? He was still there the year Val Hart joined the Wings. Probably the best centerfielder since Willie Mays! They retired Senior Striker's number."
"That so? Anyway. 6-9. Got to be 6-9," FM said, and Johnny just had to find some way to make it happen, so better get to it.
"I had a clockface printed up, with the numbers reversed, see," he told Rem, "so for anybody who did notice, they'd know, and
they'd get it. But, eh, we can leave it subtle. As long as one hand is on the 6 and another on the 9, cuz Hart's number ain't 6:45."
"Psst," Lew half-whispered to Johnny, "move the little hand to quarter til. Now take the big hand off all the way, uh huh, and replace it facing down."
Tiffany decided that she had been sitting idle for quite long enough.
She'd teased Johnny that she was not above putting him on time-out but how she had let that uncouth brute sweep her off to the sidelines was beyond comprehension!
She was Tiffany Burb. She was not to be cowed by any man's manners, or lack thereof. She was going to get right up and...
...find something good to nosh at the crafty table because Valentine did not yet require her services. That is why she had been waiting, of course.
Nothing at all to do with that Mr. Mash-uga. How could she even suspect herself of such nonsense? Yet, it was good and well to stretch her legs all the same.
'Let's see, let's see...ooh, that looks yummy...' Tiffany dipped her pinky into the bowl of creamy looking soup. Hmm, still warm—Mmmm! She snatched up a spoon for a proper sample.
Sweet baby Christmas, was that delicious! Cheesy. Mmm. Cheesy, buttery goodness! She reached for a slice of bread to dip out another 'sample'...But her diet! Oh. Her diet. Working with all those
charmingly waifish girls all the time, so young, so petite, it had made her possibly a tad self-conscious, but mostly it had made her hungry. Always hungry! Almost as though she wanted to eat for them.
Hence the diet. Brad liked her with a little extra meat on her bones, but he ought never to have told her so!
Tiffany decided to be good, she had cheated once already today, so she grabbed a water and walked away, away from temptation.
Zis one was not like London. No, no, not like London at all, he was more like Detroit.
But no matter. Sylvia Marie signalled to get his attention. 'Come, come, come, Detroit. Come to me.'
"You are to be working for us on Wanmami Nights also, right so? Do not forget there is new contract still waiting for the Mr. King signature."
"Yo! Gordo! Oh. Meet me round back, this way, to hook up the drop soon as you're done."
"Ah. London's calliing. Zhes, go. Go, go, go! But sign first, on dotted line. Zhes. Now go!"
"There's a room back there?"
"We have many of the needful rooms with some not so for public viewing, King of Detroit. But go, you go to London." She sent him off.
Gordo went, all right, shaking his head and mumbling about not even being from Detroit, yo. He was from Brooklyn. Brooklyn, crazy lady.
Wit' the only detour by way o' Beantown when he hadda go stay them few years wit' Meemaw. But ain't no Motor City blood in King Gordo's veins!
Tiffany was actually amused.
Not by him so much—heavens, no!—but it was confirmation at least that she had not actually landed in some loopy La-La Land where
no one makes sense and everyone is magically okay with it. Or worse, that everyone, in fact, was fluent in Mashuga-speak but her!
He was an undesirable ally on all points, but it was still good to know that she wasn't alone.
"Ah, so, Poshy Pits junior #1, hello."
"Hi, yes, I wanted to double-check about the his-n-hers look; it's not the one we're starting with first."
"No, no, you are right. His and hers, as you say, will play for big city markets but to start we shoot for middle mainstream. Feh. Is sexy still, right so?"
Cat took a gander at herself and she was likin' what she saw—not that she didn't always, but the look helped her leap into her zone.
I'm. Too sexy for my shirt
Too sexy for my shirt
So se-xy it hu-urts
I'm a model! Ya know what I mean
And I do my l'il thing on the catwalk
On the catwalk...yeah
On the catwalk
I shake my l'il tush on the Cat-Walk
Cat giggled at herself. Hell yeah!
"Not bad in a rush, yeah?"
Flo had no clue if that was supposed to be a compliment or what. Seemed clear that, whatever she thought of Flo-Flo's mad skills, she was more impressed with her own canvas.
All that winking and puckering up...Wha-a-atever.
Just be sure not to smear the lipstick.
Welp. Flo was done here. She gathered up her trusty clipboard to head back out and make the rounds.
Cat tripped over on her tippy-toes and popped up in front of her before she left.
"My tootsies are almost dry," she said.
"Ha-ha! But that's not what I wanted to say, honey; I wanted to thank you for fixin' me up so fast and so good."
That's cool, but she didn't do it by herself, only mostly by herself.
Bo got boxed into pedi duty. Guess she hadn't thought that through, but she had to do something once she stuck Flo with makeup on top of hair and manicure.
In isolation, attending to Miss Sutter's feet rather than her face wasn't nearly as galling as...everything else about her!
Bo was not gonna tell her sister any time soon that FM had basically agreed that she would've been a way better pick than this chick.
And it sucked because it was true. So obviously true. Like, no contest.
Yeah, they still had a job to do, but Flo didn't have to be nice to her. She was a phony. At best she was being
fake-nice back, and that only pissed Bo off even more because Flo usually saw straight through that kinda crap.
"No, it's not permanent. I change it too much for that. Honestly, the cut was the biggest risk."
"It's real cute, though, with your face. The colour, too; for you it works, but I tried to pull off a purpley wig once, for a gig...Yeesh. Ever been blonde?"
That was also for a gig but Flo-Flo didn't feel like that was any of her business.
"See, that's the thing. I had frosted tips in high school, but, like, just barely, and I know I'd look plum loco as an all-over blonde. I mean, anything for a job, but...I don't know."
"Blondes have more fun, dontcha know," Bo baited her.
"Oh, honey. That is not possible. Don't nobody have more fun than me."
"Okay. Shoes. Flo, where'd I put the shoes for Look 1, did you move 'em?"
Rem explained that FM had some kinda remote-controlled mechanism for rolling out his backdrops in between the window panes, but it jammed, so him and the other
guys had to go un-jam it. Johnny couldn't help, since it wasn't exactly safe, like the way Rem was hanging over that ledge, but it was cool to watch him in action.
"It worked," Johnny said, when he came back in.
"Uh, yeah," Rem scanned the skyline. "It did. That's a load off."
"Looks kinda fake, though."
"Believe me, it looks faker stuck up from the outside or hung up in here. It's good we got the slide-through working."
"Yeah. But why trade a real city for a fake one at all?"
"For one thing, we can control the look. No telling what real people might be getting up to in a real city, even in the distance, and there's
less to worry about with continuity for the edits. And you'll see, when I've got it lit. And it's gonna look even better on camera."
"Wait." Rem had to run his tests anyway so he might as well show the kid. "Check this. Yo, Lew, back up for a minute.
And watch your eyes," Rem called out. "Sparking!" He popped out a handheld dial and showed off the magic of lighting.
While the lights dazzled on set, the star himself was getting ready to join them.
"Okay, that was pretty cool," Johnny said after Rem clicked them off again. He was impressed. There was
so much to this 'lights, camera, action' stuff that you don't think about at home sittin' in front of the tv!
Instead of sitting, which would have helped, Cat plopped down each shoe as Bo handed it to her and stepped straight into them where she stood.
Bo sighed, hard, as they clunked onto the floor and she had to scrunch herself over to get this chick buckled into them. She sighed again, even harder, when Cat bent over, too, to watch or
help do the other one herself or just to flash the neighbours in the building behind, and they bumped heads. Shit. Hers must've really been freakin' hollow since she didn't even seem to feel it!
"Co-ome on," Bo said, and Fluffer got a smack on the ankle for laughing as she finished securing the other strap.
"Thank ya kindly."
"Really pulls the look together, don't it? With m' tilt," Cat said, leaning over on her toes. "Feels good, anyhow. Can't wait to get to struttin'." She giggled and spun around.
"So, my good-time gals, how's my ass look?"
Flo nudged her sister but Bo wasn't giving up the grudge.
And it's not like it fazed Cat the least little bit.
Valentine was also well and truly exposed. Kept his shades on, of course. He was still Valentine Hart...he needed them.
But he'd decided to forego the robe and go for broke.
It was easier this way, instead of making a fuss when the moment came, disrobing in front of
everybody, and making it both more intimate and more public. Nah, this way he was still in control.
"Cool, Hart. You're good to go, eh? This is good, this is good."
"Zis is more than good, Frankl. Are you seeing 'vits your right eyes?"
Hell yeah, he was, Syl; he saw all the simoleon signs.
They were flashing neon around a stripped down Valentine, and this was good.
"We believed and now we know, right so? You look fit for devouring, Valentino!"
"Go easy, Syl," Frankie said. "Might wanna watch your back, Hart. She ain't kiddin'."
"It is true, but pay no heeding to der Frankfurter. It is a work day," she raised her voice for him to hear. "We work first, now, and...later we play."
"Whoopsie, looks like one of my nails got smudged."
Bo grabbed her hand, dropped it, and grabbed the other, inspecting each finger. "Which one?"
"This l'il one here," Cat said, waggling her flexed middle finger at her. "See it?"
"Yeah, I see it—No, it's okay, Fluffer, go ahead, I got it. It's a quick fix."
"Much obliged, dearie, much obliged."
"Um, okay," Flo said; the both of 'em were being...weird. "I'll go let them know we're ready in 5."
"Make it 10. Looks like I gotta fix this other one, too—would you stop touching them...!"
Flo hesitated about leaving those two alone together, but Bo was a pro.
She got snippy with the girls sometimes when they pissed her off, but she always got them ready to roll.
Might be better this time if she'd remember that Miss Sutter wasn't on their payroll, though...y'know.
"Lemme guess, you're the big sister. Y'all look the same age, but you're way too bossypants not ta be th' older one."
"I don't boss Flo-Flo around. Get outta here."
"Maybe cuz she don't take it. But you sure been actin' like you're the boss o' me!"
"Yeah? And?" Bo said. "Until you get out on that set, I am."
"Duh-yeah. And if you're flouncin' around all over the damn place while I'm supposed to be getting you ready, guess what, I'm the one who looks bad."
"If ya say so. I say you're pro'bly just used to gettin' your own way. My big sis is like that, too, so I get it. I'm used to it. At least it's cool the way y'all get along."
Yeah, most of the time.
"Almost forgot Johnny's card," Flo said, "I told him I would hold on to it for him." She didn't want him to miss his
moment, did she, just because it wasn't on hand. And she had to be for sure-for sure, that Bo was playing nice.
"I can't imagine what it'd be like workin' with mine, like everyday. I mean, I love her, but if me and Vicky spent that much time together,
in each other's faces all the livelong day...shoot, I'd end up strangling her with her own hair or something," Cat said, "I know I would."
"We live together, too," Flo-Flo volunteered, giving the back of Bo's bob a firm tug as she passed by.
"Wow." And then Cat giggled at the look on Bo's face—not realising most of it was for her because Bo still loathed a giggler...! "But that's what's even cooler,
though," she said, "Coupla months ago, Vicky kicked me outta hers—see what I mean—so I'm back to livin' up at the big house with my daddy, but it's fine."
Somehow, when she said 'daddy' Bo couldn't believe she was talking about an actual biological father,
instead immediately assuming that she meant some old letch geezer who she called 'Daddy'.
But..that didn't have to be true, Bo conceded the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she should be less judgemental...Maybe.
"Valentine, Valentine, you look divine!" Tiffany hailed as she approached him.
"I see that I was right about the fit—but that's exactly perfect. Exactly. I could not be better pleased." She didn't go into details about the contours or the breathable design,
but she did tell him what a treat it is to see a concept so well embodied. "It's like you stepped straight off the storyboard! I can tell you that Valence will be delighted as well."
"Well...they wanted Valentine Hart and they got him. Heh. All of him. So let's hope it's what they're lookin' for."
"Take my word for it, Valentne. There could have been no other choice!"
"Ah, I see you've still got your wedding band on. Well, I can keep that safe for you."
"Thanks, but it's been plenty safe where it is all these years," he told her. "I don't take my ring off."
"Nor do I," Tiffany said, "But I think my husband would understand if I made an exception to star in a tv ad!"
Good for her. But this wasn't about what his wife would or wouldn't like.*
"As you are clearly aware, we're not just selling underwear here. We're selling Valentine Hart wearing Valence underwear, with you, Valentine, representing a certain kind of lifestyle.
It's aspirational, pure and simple. And while most men, young and old, are easily caught up in the fantasy of being footloose and fancy-free, fortune and fame, fast cars and loose women quite literally
throwing themeselves in their way...and all the rest, they tend to be less enthusiastic about responsibility and commitment." Tiffany tapped a well-manicured nail against his ring. "A lot less enthusiastic."
"That may be so, but let's look at it this way. I am Valentine Hart. Fast cars and the family. And whatever fun and fantasy falls into my 'lifestyle', whatever I get up to, I do it wearin' this ring."
"Well!" Tiffany wasn't exactly taken aback but well, indeed! "That's one way to go, I suppose."
Corrupting the already degraded morals of the country and mocking the sanctity of marriage! His name wasn't actually set to appear anywhere in the tagline, they had
nixed that idea and were banking on pure face recognition—and an expectation that the similarity of names would associate automatically with the public—so the ad
could be interpreted as merely representing someone like Valentine Hart. A younger perhaps, single Valentine Hart. That was palatable. But if he insisted on flaunting his
wedding ring all the while cavorting around in this bedroom scene with a girl so obviously not his wife! Who certainly wouldn't be wearing a ring of her own...No, no, no!
"I must say that it's not exactly what we had in mind. And I hardly know how it will play, or not, with Monsieur le Director's vision."
"Yeah, well, you tell FM to come see me if it's a problem."
"Can I tell you somethin'? I mean, y'all can't be more than a couple years older'n me, but y'all seem to really know your way around a set."
What was that, irony? Sarcasm?
But Cat caught on to Bo's look and tried to clarify. "I know the house, sure, cuz I got the tour when I met the Mashugas."
"But you guys, y'all seem to know the biz. And I...okay, this is my first big job. Actually, I've only done print stuff before, and some runway.
If you can even still count it when it's out in West Bubblefuck," she said. "I'm not real nervous or nothin'. But if you got any pointers...?"
"Uh, sure. Hit your marks. Stay the hell outta his light. And when you're flipping the bird make sure your claws are flawless. Come on."
Tiffany knew better than to press Valentine any farther on the ring issue, but he was proving intractable on the subject of his hair as well! She hardly knew whether to charge
it to his fame, for always giving him his own way, or to finicky men in general. And she didn't see what was the big deal. He was obviously not averse to product altogether.
"Flo, yes. Please assure Mr. Hart that we love his hair—"
"—and a little mousse will only enhance and hold your locks in place."
"Trust me," Tiffany said. "And it won't be sticky at all. Not with the brand we use."
"I don't want a lotta goop in my hair."
"Oh, no," Tiffany said, unable to tell if he were relenting or restating his case against her.
Hair was Flo's thing. Before even considering that he probably didn't want her hands all up in his coif, she had reached out and finger-combed through it,
twisting his head sideways and tilting it down, with no deference whatsoever for his Valentine Hart-ness. "Wow, your hair is super thick," she said,
raking through the back. "I don't think we'll really need anything for hold. If he's rolling around on it, or whatever, it's nothing a quick comb won't fix."
Val never minded a woman's touch. Mostly never. But he had to laugh at how all-business and not-all-that-gentle she was with him.
Tiffany was taken aback, but since he did laugh, she let it be and, conceding to Flo's expertise, went to gather her other supplies.
"You're full of surprises, cutie pie."
Ah, and there went Johnny walking by with Remington. Flo waved them down and beckoned Johnny to come over.
Rem waved back at her and pointed to the kid. She nodded yes, so he nudged Kid Johnny to go on over and see what Flo-Flo wanted; they could
spare him for a few minutes. When she smiled his way, Rem gave her another quick acknowlegement wave before getting back to work.
"Heh. Looks like you've got a fan."
"Actually, Mr. Hart, you do."
Flo met Johnny a few steps away and handed him his card.
Better now than never. Once they started shooting, there was no guarantee they'd be able to catch Valentine later. Most likely he'd hightail it to his dressing room, not to be seen again, as soon
as they wrapped. Either exhausted or just needing to compose himself after being so exposed in that way you can't escape from on camera. She didn't want Johnny to wait and end up missing out.
"Mr. Hart, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine..."
"John Burb," Johnny cut in politely and stepped forward. "I'm such a huge fan of yours, Mr. Hart."
"Thanks, young blood. I appreciate that," Val said, standing up; and, seeing the baseball card, he reached for it.
"Oh, yeah. Do you mind? I—"
"Not at all. Not at all."
Well, now, look at this bad boy! With all these new companies flooding the market fast as they could, most of the cards nowadays—yep, even his—wouldn't
ever be worth much in the way of money. But this l'il baby, if he kept it mint, might net the kid a coupla Ks one day, maybe more with his scribble on it.
Flo was at the ready with a pen and a smile.
Val smirked at her and turned back to the kid. "You play?"
"Johnny's the star of his school team," Flo-Flo boasted.
"Oh, yeah? What position you play?"
"Pitcher. I'm a pitcher. I don't know about being the star, though, or anything. My friend Danny is the—Aw, thanks, Mr. Hart! This is
the coolest thing!" A personal autograph, not embossed! This was like the most valuable one in his collection now, easy. "Thank you!"
Cat marvelled at Lilly-Bo's handiwork. She was trying to make nice...even though she didn't wanna let her.
"How you fix that smudge on the little one like that, without havin' to take it all off? And it looks like it never was smudged, too! Think they're dry?"
"No. Don't touch. We don't have time to fix any of them again. I'm gonna grab the blowdryer. Our backup one's got a cool setting."
Speakin' of a cool wind waftin' in...Brr. Here came that other lady who was definitely not a fan. Yet. But at least
Lilly-Bo was fun to watch get all riled up. That icy stare from her boss was gonna be hella harder to thaw.
Cat hated to think that she might have lost out on a potential gig before she even knew the deal, though. She didn't expect to need it or anything...unless it
was for, like, right now. Future money was cool, but fast cash was cooler still. Cat was always strapped for ready money. Don't ask her where it went!
But she had no clue how she was even gettin' home—okay, she was gonna hit up the Mashugas, o'course, but if she didn't have to, she didn't wanna.
There was talk of trading the Wings' third baseman, but Johnny thought that was an outrage, and he found himself telling Mr. Hart so! But he was real nice about it. Didn't reveal
anything confidential, but once Flo needled him about the 3B bein' a whiny baby who wasn't ready for the majors, it was on! The two of them went back and forth about role models
and bad PR, but they also talked about the heart and soul of the game, and Johnny was ready with his 2cents to throw in! He was actually talking baseball and getting tips from Val Hart!
Johnny had slipped the card into his back pocket, but, remembering its value, he handed it back to Flo before bopping off to rejoin the crew. Darn right, he had
a spring in his step! With the day he was having—running smack into the woman of his wildest fantasies, in all her string bikini glory; crewing a production
for Frankie Freakin' Mashuga, on a Val Hart commercial; and getting that autograph, free, off the man himself!—how could this day even get any better?
"Thank you for doing that."
"No problem. Anything for a fan."
As he stepped back toward his seat, Val paused and chuckled at how true that must've been. "That's the first autograph I've ever given standin' around in my drawers."
"I find that very hard to believe, Mr. Hart."
Johnny was prepared to take some ribbing over the autograph session. Some. Because being a fan was one thing but he figured acting like one, on set, was
probably definitely "unprofessional". In this business, if everyone did that, how'd anything ever get done? At least, with him, that was one perk to being 'the kid'.
"Look at that. Done suckin' up to the talent already? Ready to get back to doin' some real work? Cuz the job's not hardly done. We start first and finish last, yo. No credit,
no fans—except for R.E.M. here—but even so, it don't happen without us puttin' all the pieces in place. We work so's they can play. But each guy gotta pull his weight."
"Can it, Gordo. I told him to go over."
"Yeah, but you didn't know he'd stay so long. I get that it's not no everyday kinda day for the kid. But c'mon!
Get your tits signed or whatever, and come on, yo. Don't stand around yakkin' like there's not still shit to be done."
Before she sauntered off to move on to the next item on that clipboard of hers, Val latched onto Flo's pinky and slid his shades into her hand.
"Hold onto these for me, will ya, cutie pie."
"Of course, Mr. Hart."
"Thanks, they're my favourites."
The heart shades were also his trademark; except for when he was playing, maybe, Flo couldn't recall ever seeing him anywhere without 'em.
She had to say..."It's nice to be able to see your eyes. Y'know, straight on. They're, um, they're very soulful...Mr. Hart." Flo took a step back. "I'll go and tuck these away someplace safe."
Frosty the SnowQueen barged on in between her and Lilly-Bo without barely a 'howdy, pardon'.
"Now that I've had the chance to see him up-close, and in the flesh, so to speak, I do believe that we did an excellent job colour-matching the base for his complexion. You know, Lilly,
it really shouldn't be such a gamble all the time with brown skintones. With all the variety there is there, you'd think that someone would have rushed to capitalise on that market,**
but the industry seems to think that 2 are sufficient. Sable or mahogany. And we use top of the line suppliers! I can't imagine what it's like with the bargain brands. They've probably
got one shade in the range of 'Medium Dark to Dark' and expect that to cover it. It really is outrageous. But we won't be falling into that trap where his on-camera face winds up an
entirely different colour from his body. Not us! Not today. Now, I've found the base...where is the alternate, for mixing, just in case?—I thought we had kept his toilette separate?"
"Some toilet water over there. Smells a lot better'n it sounds, I checked! I mean, I always check out the scents, not that I'm so backwoods I don't know from eau de toilet."
"Is that what you're lookin' for?" Cat kept on talking; she really was trying to be helpful...and charming, in that down home way that made oh-so-sophisticated ladies like her wanna pat her on the
head and take her in hand. "That jar right there that says almond butter creme? Shoot, it looks so good and sounds so good I almost swiped me a taste. Sounds about exactly right for Mr. Valentine."
"It's a touch too light. But he is rather a tasty treat, wouldn't you say—"
"Oh, yes ma'am! And so nice!" Cat gushed. "Almost sweet. But not too sweet, ya know."
"Exactly so. You see, Lilly, my naming system is right on the mark—well, almost, with the colour, but it's evocative. Now where did you say you saw it, child?"
Okay, so the hick schtick kinda pissed Bo off before, but the girl working over ol' Tiffer was funny to watch.
"There ya go." Cat pointed. "Right there. Can't touch, nails not dry yet."
That's right, blowdryer...Bo thought she saw a 3-prong outlet over here, or they'll have to use the other one...
Flo-Flo and the lady she worked for—what was her name? Barbara somethin'—both arrived back on set at practically
the same time, coming now from the opposite directions than the ones they'd walked off in. Musta criss-crossed.
"All right, Valentine, here we are, all set and ready. We've crafted a personalised profile, especially for you. And I'll be doing your makeup myself."
"Hm? Oh, you are."
"Well, now...Guess I am gettin' the all-around star treatment after all," he said, careful not to wink at Flo before he turned to smile at the boss lady.
Valentine didn't much care for the star treatment. Not this part of it. The last time he let 'em put him in makeup before headin' out to
do his post-game bit for the sports reporters, he felt and looked like a damn fool. Been stickin' with his ol' au naturel face ever since.
Rem had gathered up his motley crew and was taking in the long view of the set complete when FM came up and clapped him on the back.
He'd been doing the same from farther back and what he saw was not bad. Really not bad. That's why
Rem was his guy. He'd really pulled it off, getting the set together, on top of the lighting—his real expertise.
"All right, guys. Listen up," Rem called them to attention.
FM proceeded to rally them on a job well done, but he also had to reiterate about the closed set. The doors weren't
locked because they weren't, and there might be staff and others roaming, but they weren't allowed on set.
"Capisce? I need you guys to be on top of things."
Tiffany had finished with Valentine and he looked quite perfect, so she ambled over, beckoning for Franklin's attention.
She had no notion where that wacko wife of his had wandered off to again, anyhow. And he at least could speak sensibly when he chose.
FM waved at her to hold her horses for two shakes while he finished up with the crew.
"Well? What's the damage? I don't look like some prettied up 'Prince & The Revolution'*** video reject or nothin', do I?"
"Don't worry, you like exactly like you. It's just for the cameras. Y'know? And Ms. Burb definitely knows how to finesse the 'less is more'. Bo, my sister, now she probably
would've had a field day with you, giving you some super fantastic liner or something for the smoulder effect, and I would not have been able to resist plucking that..."
"Sorry. But that one was a stray." Flo tried not to laugh as he frowned up at her. Hey, beauty hurts.
She grabbed an eyebrow brush from Tiffany's stash and smoothed out what he'd just furrowed out of place. "There, that's better. Don't want you
looking like your buddy, Groucho. Here, see for yourself...hmm..." There was no little mirror in the box. "Sit tight. I'll go grab you a mirror, Mr. Hart."
"All right. But wait, now, hold up a minute, cutie pie. You're always runnin' off..."
"...but, first, think you could do me a solid, huh?" Val asked. "Ain't much, figured I had 'em down pat, but if you could lemme run these coupla lines by you, see what you think..."
"Oh! Absolutely, Mr. Hart." Flo lowered her clipboard, gave him her full attention along with the benefit of her experience, for whatever that was worth.
FM was true to his two shakes and, in short order, came over.
"What is it now, Tiff?"
"I have asked you not to call me that. My name is Tiffany. Tiffany! Tiff-a-ny."
Gordo grinned at the sight of 'Mrs.' plucking herself up for another round with FM.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, got it. Cool your jets and tell me what you want, already."
She didn't actually have any pressing quibbles at this juncture but she could certainly come up with some, if he insisted.
"Valentine is ready. Almost. We've done our part, but you may want to have a chat about his wedding ring. He's refusing to take it off."
"You mean all your powers of persuasion didn't do the trick? I'm shocked, Tiff. Shocked!"
"Didn't you flirt wit' him?"
"Then how'd you expect to get him to do what you want?"
"Listen, sweetheart, you can rule with an iron fist, in iron drawers, on your own turf—"
"—but this is a people-pleasing business, that's our job. Now how far you take your powers of pleasing is your own personal business—I'd assume gettin' a man to take a ring
off probably don't require all the trimmings like gettin' him to put one on does, but...to each her own—You'd be surpised how many well-heeled women still like to hop a ride at the
groupie rate—All I'm saying is a soft touch, a soft touch'll get you what you want a helluva lot faster than the rough stuff. If you're not Sylvia Marie. And you, honey, sure ain't."
Well, thank ye gods above and below for that escape!
"That is the most complimentary thing you've said to me all day!" Tiffany told him.
"And why'd you want to be complimented, eh? I'll tell you why, because you're 'people', just like the rest of us. And you wanna be pleased, too."
Gordo threw another look over his shoulder at the bossy broad and the Boss.
"Ha-ha, looky-looky-here. Those two need to take it to the streets, yo, or better yet take it sheets already and get it over with."
"What is your problem?" Johnny swung around to confront that bonehead, running his big, fat, disrespectful flapper.
But Gordo didn't pay that no mind. "Youse all see how she waited til S&M was outta the way, too, to come sniffin' him out—"
"That's my mother!"
"Then you might wanna keep on eye on her, sonny boy. Cuz Boss is the king mother-fucker, yo. She won't be fit to take home to daddy when he's t'rough wit' her."
Kid Johnny was not havin' that.
"Whoa...slow your roll, kid."
Rem didn't know if he was crazy enough to really try and take Gordo on but none of 'em were about to find out. 'Course, Gord thought the shit was hilarious.
"Ay, Gordo, knock it off before I deck you," he warned him, "that's not even called for." And Kid Johnny sure didn't see what was so funny; Rem had to put a little muscle into
holding him off. "C'mon, calm down, kid. It's not worth gettin' all amped up. Gordo's only clowin' you. Problem is, he's not funny," Rem said, shooting a glare at that dumbass.
Johnny knew darn well it wasn't funny! And he wasn't about to act like his mom was a joke, or let her be anybody's dirty-minded punchline!
In theory, he knew he couldn't take him, but that didn't matter. He hadn't been in a fight since 6th grade when Kennedy Cox**** tripped Marla Biggs down the stairs. It was bad enough when girls in her own grade
picked on her but that really got his goat! That guy was a nothing but a big bully, too, in his own way. And Johnny had been more afraid of Ken then than he was now of Gordo—he was ready to take his chances!
"You can't talk about people like that—what's the matter with you!"
"Me? Ha. Ain't nothin' wrong with me, twerp. You ain't lookin' too hunky-dory, though. Ha-ha. That short fuse must be a family trait," Gordo said, needlin' him on purpose. He kinda
wanted Rem to let the l'il punk go, just to see what the kid does. Not that he'd hurt him more'n in his pride or nothin', but he could learn him a thing or two, same way his cousins
trained him up since he had no brothers to do it. It was a whole different world out here out from under mommy's skirts, and every l'il twerp needed to learn that soon'or'later.
"You...! You know what all that talk really sounds like, don't you, it sounds like you're overcompensating—are you overcompensating for something, Gordon?"
In response, Gordo flexed his guns and gave 'em a little kiss.
But Rem was glad of that. Gordo bein' an idiot made it impossible for anyone to take him serious. Well, except for maybe when he
was actually swingin' on a dude, but he wouldn't; he was stupid, not insane. And stupid seemed to squash it for Kid Johnny, so cool.
Tiffany didn't like to do it, but the girl could borrow her ring if it came to that.
FM paused to ponder her and ponder her offer—Tiff was in earnest, eh?— but then he peeked around as
the Cat in question crept up behind her. "Nope, nope, no. No dice. But I'll have a word if it makes you feel better."
Whoo! Remington had to take a coupla steps back just to take in the view. Now, he was the most seasoned one there, Mr. Been-There-Done-That, especially when it came to actresses, but da-a-amn, Cat!
He'd seen total transformations before, like with makeup and FX, this wasn't that, it wasn't that big a difference—but it was a big freakin' difference! He couldn't put his finger on it, but hell yeah he wanted to.
"Guess we did a good job, huh, Fluffer? Metamorphosis complete."
Bo bit her tongue on what else she had to say. It wasn't easy either, men are so freakin' predictable—look at those guys, ogling, like she was suddenly the hottest thing going.
And why? All because the phony-baloney cowgirl had let down her hair and was showing some leg? Some more leg. Ugh. Anyway. "Tiffany was pretty pleased, too, so..." Bo shrugged.
Tiffany! Hearing that snapped Val out of his reverie. That's what her name was, not Barbara nothin', Tiffany. Tiffany...Burb, that's it. Whew! Val didn't like to
forget, and what's more, didn't want to end up in a position later on where she'd know he did. And he had already forgotten to ask Flo, so thanks for that, Bo.
"That's good, that she was pleased. Um...so do you think she'll reconsider for P&P? Bo?"
Ol' Tiffer could see right through that flakey fake, too. Anybody could. Anybody not blinded by testosterone. What the hell, you horndogs?!
It wasn't her, hello! It was only what she represented Any girl in the role would turn your heads in exactly the same way. Cuz that's what the role was.
Only Fluffer still would have been better. But whatever. So long as guys were so easy to lead around by the nose below, they should sell a lotta undies.
"There she is, there's my girl—and lookin' too, too good, too, kitty girl—so what's up, Cat?—love the claws, by the way; they're good, those girls—so yeah what's up?"
"Um, well, I don't mean to bug ya, FM, but I think the guys kinda...forgot about me," she said.
"Hey, who could forget about you, eh?"
"Next to Valentine Hart maybe....everybody? Anyway, it's not that big a deal but I do need—"
She twisted around toward where Val was sitting—ah, aha, Frankie followed her. "Yeah-yeah, you need somewhere to park your keister."
"Hey, Rem, c'mere for a sec."
"So...Bo—does everybody call you Bo, or just your sis?"
"Pretty much everybody."
"Okay, good, didn't wanna overstep my bounds," he said.
Like that was possible. Bo didn't know one of those ball sports from another, but he was famous, hello!
"And you call her 'Fluffer', huh?"
"Omigod, don't let her hear you say that. She would so totally Kill Me."
"Uh huh. So that one's off-limits."
"Well, yeah. You know what a fluffer is—I'm sure you know what a fluffer is—Not that Flo's ever been on...that side of the industry!
She's like the total opposite of that, that's why I call her that." Bo was getting flustered, feeling like she'd inadvertently made the hugest
gaffe and was giving Valentine the wrongest, worst impression. "I mean, it's, you know, it's only a silly nickname between sisters."
"Scuse me," Rem said, as he came through with a chair, forcing Bo to back out of fhe way.
"Thanks so, so much, London. Sure do hope it wasn't too much bother."
"Don't sweat it. I...uh..." Rem lost his train of thought when he looked up and locked eyes with Flo-Flo's sister there, silently calling him out before he even got started with the bull.
Val watched along as this l'il miss Cat played it coy...while managing to be still pokin' out that little butt behind her in that slip of nothing they'd got her in. Not that he'd fared any
better with the wardrobe department, but hey, this was the gig he'd gone and jotted his John Hancock on the line for. But it was funny. She was. Wouldn't even look his way. At first.
She couldn't resist one teeny-tiny shy-like glance, though, to make sure he was lookin'. Yeah, he was lookin', darlin'.
"I wanna thank ya 'gain for helpin' me out before..."
Bo got the hell outta there before she said something she shouldn't. One or both of them was gonna fall for that crap, especially now that she'd positioned herself in full-body profile for Valentine and was
batting those lashes at the crew guy. Bo didn't know if the bitch was really that greedy for ALL the attention or if she was only using him to reel in the big fish, but she wasn't sticking around to find out.
Tiffany was sititng right there so Bo couldn't say what she wanted to say, but it just, it really pissed her off watching that giggling, jiggling poser†
and seeing dudes go all gaga for her act. It was a bad act! Maybe intentionally bad, but what the hell difference did that make if they fell for it?
"So, are we ready to get this thing started or what? FM looks like he's about set; what's the hold up?"
"Relax, Bo. 2 minutes."
Frankie and Syl were finalising their game plan. Valentine looked comfortable and that was gonna be the main thing. If he was a little stiff on the first few takes, they could work
around it, but he really was gonna have to be loose and be natural. But instead of either one of them doing the pep talk, Frankie intercepted Syl and sent that dollface over to him.
"Okay. FM says we're ready to roll. Are you ready, Mr. Hart?"
"Ready as I'll ever be."
"You'll be great," she said, "The camera loves you. And so do your fans. It's win-win."
"Well, all right. Now, you go on and sit right here."
Valentine manoeuvred her around toward his chair. "And this thing. You won't be needing this anymore, will you?" He said, slipping the clipboard out of her hand.
"...I guess not," she said, as he plopped it onto the desk.
Way out of reach. Unless, of course, she sat back there...with Bo and Tiffany, that's where she should be.
But, since he insisted...
It was no matter, of course, no, and Valentino could do as he pleased...but that one of the junior Poshy Pits
impressed so well Valentino, and despite pussyCat nearby and so very fit to be seen...Zis was very interesting.
Sylvia Marie took her own seat and said to Tiffany, "You find the lovely young ladies for assistancing, with so much of versatility. It is true
talent to eye-spy true talent. But with mine, they never keep. You must tell me secrets! Later, later, Poshy Pits, we talk later and serious."
You needed a decoder ring for some of Yes'm's speeches, but that sounded to Bo like maybe the best news she'd heard all day!
She wondered if she'd been to her office yet? Maybe she could sneak away and check if they were still on Yes'm's desk...
"There is a chair for you over here, Lilly. Come sit, child."
"In a minute."
Flo-Flo had the best angle where she was, but Bo would much rather free range with the guys and pick up on all the chatter than cram into a corner next to her boss.
It was funny; any other time, Val woulda demanded a kiss for luck and all the onlookers be damned...but he didnt wanna put her on the spot, though that's exactly what he was about to be!
So he settled for givin' his cutie pie's knee a l'il squeeze and throwing his co-star a wink before he strutted off to do his thing.
So, this was happening.
Well, all right then. Time to show and prove.
"About the ring..."
"Nah, it's cool, V. I don't care about the ring."
Tiffany glared at Frankie's back, certain that she could make him feel her ire....the traitor. But what else could she expect!
"Okay, get comfy, relax, and let's hear you run your line. No, no, we're not rolling yet but give it to me performance mode."
Valentine wasn't sure exactly what FM meant by that since he was pretty well determined on not hamming it up, if he could help it, but he gave it his best shot.
"Cool, cool, we're good to go. We're gonna go for a take now, Hart, okay. Quiet on the set! Syl, where are you, are you forgetting something?"
"Ach, zhes, zhes, zhes, Frankfurter, forget I did." She jumped up. "And zis my favourite part!"
"Hey, Bo," Johnny whispered, "Did we start yet?"
But she shushed him and pointed for him to just watch.
"Right so," Sylvia Marie announced herself in position. "Valence Underwears. Frankie Mashuga directing
and also Frankie Mashuga on cameras. Day, interior. Solo Hunky Testimonial intro scene one. Take one."
"Yeah, thanks, Syl," FM said just before she dropped the clapper. Then: "Action!"
"We all know a little something about the power of attraction...."
Valentine started off strong. They did one good take and they were going for another, but this time while he was delivering his line, a little cutie pie caught his eye.
"Yeah, V, move your arm off the 'V', can't see it. Yep, perfect. Okay, and we're rolling."
"We all know a l'il somethin' about the power of attraction...."
Damn, girl! If she didn't stop lookin' at him like that! Now, Val had wanted his cutie pie sittin' pretty over there on purpose so that he might be able to glance over every now and again and get
one o' those grins, but that look she was givin' was makin' it hard for him...to concentrate. And he damn sure did have to concentrate because this was all the 'money shot' they were gettin'
on camera from him. No visible outline of nothin', no half-mast salute. And that was one promise to himself that he could keep a whole lot easier if she would just stop lookin' at him like that!
Might also help if he didn't keep stealing glances over there.
"That's good, Hart, that's good, but eyes this way. No, no, stay in position, stay exactly as you are, but look this way, not directly at the lens but here...yeah...Perfect. Now, just repeat that last part."
So far so pretty damned good. Hart was delivering. He didn't lose none of that easy master-of-my-domain thing
he had about him, and that was key. The women, and some of the men, were gonna go fucking wild for him.
"...so go on. Feel the power."
"And...Cut. All right. We're gonna print that one. That was good, V. That was real good. Cat, you're up."
"Wait, hold on, Cat, don't cross the shot. Do that again, Hart."
"What? This?" Valentine slipped his thumb back under the waistband he'd been absent-mindedly adjusting.
"Yeah, yeah, that, exactly."
Hey, whatever floats your boat. Val peeked down at himself and shrugged. At least all was quiet on the southern front.
"And don't forget to do that little slide thing on the finish and pop the band like you did. Now, let's pick up from 'Nothing feels'. Okay, rolling."
Since Cat wouldn't be needing it now, Lilly-Bo made a beeline to steal her seat.
And, of course, Tiffany had gotten up intent on giving her last looks, whether asked to or not, to make sure everything was exactly as it ought to be.
As Valentine was doing one more take, she could just as well begin with the girl. Good-ness, this nightdress was very short on her!
Tiffany tugged and tugged while smoothing out the fabric but it simply would not budge. So be it, then. She was hardly the prude that everyone took her for, she understood that the girl was here to
sex things up, so, well, let her! She wasn't her mother...but at that thought, Tiffany stole a look at her Johnny to see that he was taking all this in his stride, especially after the itsy-bitsy-bikini episode earlier.
Bo couldn't remember the last time she saw Flo so engrossed. By any guy. Even she had to admit, he was looking
kinda hot, kinda more than kinda...but the way Fluffer was staring! It just, it wasn't like her. So it was hilarious.
"See something you like, Little Sister?"
"Oh, you do."
"Would you shut up, Bo."
"Not a chance. Ha-ha, Fluffer's a closet Valentine Hart groupie. Who knew!"
"I am not."
"Yuh-huh. Those eyes don't lie, Little Sister. That's your gift and your curse," Bo said and had another little laugh at her.
Tiffany bustled over to see if Valentine needed any touching up before they moved on.
His face, of course, was still quite perfect.
"But, if you'll pardon me, Valentine, I need to adjust the band a bit. We must have the brand name always prominently displayed," she said, already reaching down and
shifting his drawers around. At the band, at the legs, smoothing out the lines...Well, damn. Now, Ms. Tiffany was real professional and all about it, but still...this was a trip!
Might as well make the most of it!
NOTES IN COMMENTS