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Authors: Melody Carlson

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Chapter 19

I can’t believe how quickly the On the Runway
film editors went over what must’ve been hours and hours worth of film, magically reconstructing it into what turned out to be a cohesive and entertaining show. To my surprise, it looks as if some of my own camera footage actually made the cut. They also fit various excerpts from the
Malibu Beach
show into it, including some of the less-than-flattering Mia scenes. Finally, the show covered the fashion show, ending with the
put your best foot forward
line.

“Wonderful,” Helen exclaims as the house lights come back on. We’re in the studio’s viewing room, which is actually like a mini theater, along with the rest of our crew.

“The editing was brilliant,” Paige says. “Amazing.”

“And that music was awesome,” I add.

“Do you think we might actually have a hit on our hands?” Fran asks cautiously.

“We’ll know the answer to that in a few days.” Helen stands up. “Nice work, people. Now keep your fingers crossed.”

As we walk down the hallway, Helen puts her arm around Paige’s shoulders. “I have to say, I doubted that we’d get here.” She chuckles. “It’s certainly been a rollercoaster ride this last week—but you turned out to be a trooper. And if you keep it up…well, there’s no telling where you’ll end up.”

“Thanks for not giving up on us, Helen.” Paige smiles as she slips her arm around me, pulling me into their little love circle. “The truth is, I never would’ve made it without Erin.”

“Oh, I’m fully aware of that.” Helen winks at me. “Where would we be without our little Jiminy Cricket?”

“What?” Paige looks confused.

“Never mind,” I tell her. Then we part ways and Paige and I head for the exit.

“I wish Mom could’ve been here,” Paige says as we walk through the parking lot.

“She would’ve loved it. But she’ll see it on Friday night.”

“And then it’s the Golden Globes on Sunday.” Paige sighs as she unlocks her car. “Hopefully it will go as smoothly as the fashion show.”

“Are you worried about Mia?” I ask hesitantly once we’re in the car.

“Well, Benjamin said that their producer still expects them to go there together, but I can’t even imagine how that will happen.”

“Will you interview them on the red carpet?”

Paige kind of laughs. “Yeah, if I get the chance. Why not? I’m sure the viewers will get a kick out of it.”

“Especially considering that the
Malibu Beach
breakup show airs tomorrow night.”

“Can’t wait to see that one.” But her tone is sarcastic, and I can tell she’s still not over the hurt. And, although Benjamin
keeps calling and has even sent flowers, she’s keeping him at a safe distance. Who could blame her?

On Thursday, it’s just Mom, Paige, and me watching
Malibu Beach
together. I considered inviting Blake, but since Paige absolutely refused to invite Benjamin, and because I had no idea how the breakup show would turn out, it seemed wise to keep it private. As we sit and watch what turns out to be a very emotional show—so much so that all three of us end up in tears—I can see why their producer was so pleased.

“That was quite a show,” I say as I turn the TV off. “I’m glad we recorded it—I think I might need to watch it again.”

“Wow.” Mom’s blowing her nose. “I wouldn’t be surprised if
Malibu Beach
tries to steal you girls from
On the Runway.

“Like I’d do that.” Paige shakes her head.

“One thing’s for sure,” Mom says, “we need to get you an agent ASAP. Jon has mentioned this a few times, but I think I’m beginning to see his point. I’ll ask for some recommen-dations. Speaking of Jon, you girls should probably get your beauty sleep if you want to look good for your spot on his show tomorrow. Six a.m. will be here sooner than you expect.”

On Friday morning, on our way back from doing the morning show, which seemed to go okay, Paige decides that it’s okay for me to invite some friends over to watch the premiere of our first show tonight. Mom had suggested that I simply surprise Paige with a party, but since she is still dealing with the whole Benjamin-Mia thing, I didn’t think that would be fair.

Paige rattles off some names of friends she’d like to invite, and we make a list that includes Lionel, Addison, and Mollie,
and several others. Paige insists that Benjamin’s name not to be on the guest list…not that I had planned on calling him. Mom does a quick scramble to gather up party food on her way home from work, and at 8:25 we cram about twenty people in front of our big-screen TV. But as the show is about to begin, I’m seriously worried. What if it’s a flop and we just didn’t realize it? What if everyone here hates it, but they’re too embarrassed to say so? All this anxiety—or maybe it’s the spicy meatballs we had for dinner—is making me feel sick.

I go to the back of the room and watch nervously as the ads come on. Helen is proud of our sponsors and I guess she should be, since without them there would be no show. I just hope they’re not disappointed. I then realize that it’s interesting that I should care this much, as not too long ago I didn’t care whether the show made it or not. Now here I am shaking in my Uggs for fear that it will bomb. Go figure.

Our show does not bomb. Paige wows everyone in the room with her timing and wit and inexhaustible fashion knowledge. And I even get a few chuckles as Camera Girl when I trip over a lighting cord. Everyone here seems to genuinely like it, and when it ends, the room erupts in loud applause and cheers.

“That was great,” Blake tells me as he joins me in the back of the room. “I think it’s going to be a hit.” He gives me a high five. “Congrats!”

“You weren’t in it very much,” Mollie mentions. “Not nearly how you were in
Malibu Beach.

“And that’s as it should be,” I tell her. “It’s Paige’s show. I’m just the camera girl.”

“Don’t let her fool you,” Paige calls out from where she’s sitting with her friends and drinking in their praises. “I couldn’t
have done it without her. For those of you who watched that
Malibu Beach
episode yesterday, you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Suddenly that’s what everyone is talking about, and I am so uncomfortable that I go out to the terrace just to escape. I do not like being the center of attention. I don’t think I ever will. But as I watch my sister with our friends, I know that she thrives on it, and that’s okay. I am glad to see her happy again. It feels like it’s been more than a week since “the incident” with Benjamin and Mia. I wonder how long it will take her to fully recover, or how long it will take Benjamin to take a hint. Because, no matter how many roses and chocolates and cards he sends, I don’t think Paige will ever get back together with him. At least I hope not.

Chapter 20

“I’m sorry,” I tell Paige for about the tenth
time. “I am not going to wear a gown to the Golden Globes. And don’t keep begging me, okay?”

“Erin is right,” Fran tells my sister as she holds out another pair of shoes for Paige to scrutinize. “It would look weird to see a photographer dressed formally. Erin needs to be able to move around and maneuver and get shots. She’s not there to be in front of the camera, but behind it. But don’t worry, I have a perfect outfit set out for her. Stylish yet casual.”

Paige tosses a pout my way, then turns to check out her gown in the mirror. It’s a pale green Armani Privé that shimmers and shines like a piece of jewelry. “That is really beautiful,” I tell her, partly to distract her from her obsession of doing a sister act with me on the red carpet, and partly because it is really beautiful.

“Those Pradas will be perfect with the dress,” Fran declares as Paige slips a foot into a pearly looking high-heeled sandal. With these decisions made and the gown and shoes safely set aside, Paige is moved on to makeup and hair.

“You too,” Fran is now telling me.

“What?”

“Well, even though you’re not wearing a gown, you can’t go out there looking like that. Don’t forget you are part of the show.”

“That’s right,” Paige calls out from the makeup area, “and I don’t want to put you on my fashion
faux pas
list.”

“Like that would be something new.”

Before long, we’re dressed and ready and loaded into the limo with Fran. Paige is still studying her “cheat sheet”: a list of celeb names and which designer they are reportedly wearing. It was Fran’s idea, and at first Paige said she wouldn’t need it, but she seems to have reconsidered.

“The camera crew is already there,” Fran tells us. I wish I could’ve gone with them, but know better than to state this. Besides, strange as it seems, I think Paige needs me for this event too.

“This is so exciting,” Paige says as Fran removes very expensive-looking earrings from a locked case. “I’ve never worn real diamonds before.”

“Just make sure you don’t lose them or you might never wear real ones again,” Fran tells her.

Even though it’s still too early for any real celebrities to show up on the red carpet, fans are lined up everywhere, and when Paige gets out of the limo, they call out to her, whistling and hooting and finally asking who she is.

She turns and smiles and waves. “I’m Paige Forrester for
On the Runway.

“That’s the girl who was on
Malibu Beach
,” a female fan yells.

“And that’s her sister,” yells a guy. “The girl who told off Mia and Benjamin.”

Several people clap and cheer. “Way to go!” a teen girl calls out.

“We’re setting you girls up over here,” Fran says, nudging us along to where our camera guys are already waiting. Then she gives us some brief direction, telling us where we can and cannot go. “I’ll be over by the staging area, near where the celebs get out of the car, and I will attempt to direct the younger ones your way.” She crosses her fingers. “Hopefully they’ll have heard of our show by now and will be willing to cooperate. But don’t be surprised if we don’t get too many A-listers. Just make the most of whoever comes your way.”

“Absolutely.” Paige nods, taking this in. Although I doubt anyone else can tell, I know she’s nervous. This is a big day for her.

“And you stay close to Paige,” Fran reminds me. “I want you being shot as she’s interviewing. I want to hear you two girls chatting to each other too. Keep that behind-the-scenes commentary going, Paige.”

It seems like a long wait until the celebs begin to trickle in, but then it’s like the dam breaks open and suddenly they are everywhere. Paige appears to remain calm and in control as she interviews the ones who come our way. Unfortunately, Fran was right; they are not the most-known names, but these stars seem to enjoy chatting with Paige, and I can tell she’s feeling pretty comfortable.

“So, Miss Haley Bernard, what are you wearing tonight?” Paige asks a teenage girl who recently debuted in a movie that’s up for an award.

The girl seems like a nervous wreck, like she’s on totally foreign turf. “It’s, uh, it’s a retro gown by…” She frowns. “I can’t remember.”

Paige smiles as she studies Haley’s dress. “Let me guess…is it Chanel?”

“That’s it!” Haley’s posture relaxes a bit. “How did you know?”

“Fashion is my thing.” Paige gives the actress a look of approval. “And I must say that you look fabulous, Haley. And good luck tonight—you’re up against some stiff competition. But even if you don’t win, you’ll knock ‘em dead with that dress.”

“Really?” Haley still looks unsure.

“Trust me, you look totally hot.”

“Thanks.” Haley holds her head a little higher and Paige gives her a thumbs-up as she proceeds on down the red carpet.

“That really was a great dress,” Paige tells me as I move in closer. “And I suspect that Haley Bernard has a bright future ahead. It’s very cool that she went with vintage Chanel—very classic design, and yet it’s perfect for a younger woman because it shows her off more than the dress.” Paige laughs to herself. “In fact, you’d look great in a dress like that, Erin. Too bad I couldn’t talk you out of your camera-girl clothes tonight.” Then, since there’s a break in celebs, Paige begins to do a commentary on my outfit, which turns out to be pretty funny. Fortunately, I’m used to my sister’s fashion jabs, so I can take it, and I joke around with her for the cameras.

Then, to Paige’s delight, Heidi Klum comes our way. Rather than getting nervous and starstruck, Paige calmly yet enthusiastically compliments Heidi on her gown. “That has to be Armani,” Paige says with confidence.

“Wow, you are good,” Heidi tells her, then points to Paige. “You look stunning too. Is that Armani?”

Paige nods. Heidi soon moves next to Paige. “Get a shot of the two of us together—both in Armani!” I get down low
and take some shots. Heidi and Paige take a moment to chat about fashion, and at the end Heidi actually offers to make a guest appearance on our show.

“That would be fantastic,” Paige tells her. “You know, we’ll be at Fashion Week in New York in February.”

“I’ll be there,” Heidi says as prepares to move down the red carpet. “Give me a call.”

“Thanks, I will.” Paige looks like she wants to do the happy dance now. “Somebody pinch me,” she quietly squeals. “I just met Heidi Klum!”

Heidi’s appearance seems to be the beginning of a good run of celebrities. Paige interviews Jessica Alba in Valentino, Miley Cyrus in Versace, Jennifer Hudson in Dior…and the list keeps growing. I’m thinking this is actually a lot of fun, and Paige is winning people over left and right with her fashion knowledge and enthusiasm.

Suddenly, I see Paige’s expression change and her jawline tighten. I turn to see that Benjamin and Mia are now strolling our way, with arms linked together as if they’re a couple again. I want to throw something. Benjamin’s nose is still swollen, but with his sunglasses you almost wouldn’t notice it. Mia actually looks really good in a pale-pink gown, and she is holding on to Benjamin’s arm as if to say, “Look, I won the prize. He’s mine, all mine!”

By the time I look back at my sister, she is cool and collected, smiling at the happy couple as she begins to talk. “It’s Mia Renwick and Benjamin Kross—the stars of
Malibu Beach
, and old friends!” She winks for the cameras. “But I wonder…will any punches be thrown here tonight?”

“I don’t think so,” Benjamin says with a smile that oozes charm.

“Mia, Mia,” Paige says warmly. “You look gorgeous in that gown.” She places a finger on her chin as if thinking. “Let me guess…I think it’s one of my favorite designer duos. Is it Badgley Mischka?”

Mia gives my sister a curt nod. “How
did
you know?” she says in a sarcastic tone.

“Just a lucky guess.” Paige laughs. “But who would’ve guessed that one of America’s favorite couples would be back together so quickly after the big breakup episode last week.” She shakes her head. “Only in Hollywood, right?”

“Right,” Benjamin mutters.

“And you, Benjamin,” Paige continues. “What are you wearing?”

“You don’t want to guess?” I can hear the teasing note in his voice.

“I’m not as good at guy fashion, but I must admit you look fabulous.”

“Armani.”

“What a coincidence,” she says lightly. “I’m in Armani too. Armani Privé.”

He clears his throat, then glances at Mia. “We should probably get in there…it looks like it’s getting late.”

“Have fun!” Paige calls cheerfully. As they continue on their way, she continues to chatter at me. “Isn’t it amazing how celebrities break up and make up and show up at the Golden Globes? It’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it?”

“The next thing you know Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt will walk in together,” I say sarcastically.

Paige laughs. “Followed by Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.” We banter like this for a few minutes, but it seems clear that the red carpet is pretty much over, or at least for
us. “Should we pack it up?” Paige asks the camera crew.

“Wait until Fran gives us the green light,” JJ tells her.

We continue to stand around, and Paige manages to keep her spirits up and the chatter coming. I suspect it’s her way of distracting herself from the fact that Mia and Benjamin showed up here together. She rambles on about whose gown was the best and who looked the hottest, finally deciding that Jessica Alba in her Valentino should win the best-dressed award.

“How about worst dressed?” I ask.

She looks at me and frowns.

“Never mind,” I say. “I know the answer to that question.”

Fran finally comes over and tells us that it’s time to wrap it up. Paige puts on a big smile as she poses for the camera crew. “Well, there you have it,” she says cheerfully, “the Golden Globes red carpet. I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun. Now remember—always put your best foot forward.” She sticks out a delicate, pearly sandal and grins. “And tonight that would be Prada! See you all at the Oscars next time. This is Paige Forrester for
On the Runway.

“That’s a wrap,” Fran tells everyone.

Paige looks relieved and weary as she removes her mic. “Are you okay?” I ask quietly as I help her to extract the wiring from the back of her dress and hand it to the sound technician.

“Yeah.” She nods. “I’m fine.”

“Were you pretty shocked to see them together?”

“On some levels.”

“I guess Benjamin’s just showing his true colors.”

“I guess…” She’s still smiling, but her eyes are sad.

I wish there was something I could tell her, something to make her feel better. But I’m so mad at Benjamin right now, I would probably say something really mean. And why go there?

“Oh…no…” Paige’s eyes get wide as she hands Fran back a diamond earring.

“Did you lose one?” I ask in alarm, hoping they’re insured.

“No.” She’s looking behind me, and I turn to see Benjamin walking toward us. What is he planning to do—rub it in some more? What is this guy’s problem? Besides being selfish and two-faced.

“Can I talk to you, Paige?” he asks quietly.

She hands the second earring over to Fran, who is now looking on with curious interest. We’re all watching. It reminds me of seeing a wreck alongside the highway; you know you should look away, but you can’t take your eyes off of it.

“Shouldn’t you be inside for the awards show?” Paige asks.

“I’m not going.”

“Not going?”

He shakes his head. “No. I was forced to escort Mia here by our producer. But that’s the end of it. They can’t make me sit by her all evening. Not when I want to be with you.”

Paige looks surprised. I think we all do.

“You guys go on without me,” she says quickly. Then, just like that, she and Benjamin take off. I’m standing here wondering, what just happened?

“Young love,” Fran says as she picks up her oversized bag and drops the jewelry case inside. “You ready to go, Erin?”

I nod as I slip my camera into my backpack. “Sure.” But I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. Benjamin shows up with Mia while the press is here and cameras are rolling…then after everything quiets down, he sneaks out and leaves with Paige. What is wrong with that picture?

When we get back to the studio, I realize that Paige drove us here. I am carless. I try Mollie first, but it goes straight to
voicemail. So next I call Blake, who sounds pleased to hear my voice and gladly offers to come get me.

As soon as I’m in his car, I spill the whole story. “I just don’t get it,” I say. “Why would she go with him like that? After everything he’s done to her? Why would she give him the time of day?”

“Because she really likes him?”

“But why?”

“You’d have to ask her.” Blake stops for a light. “Think about it, Erin. He walked out of the Golden Globes just to be with her. That’s gotta be worth something, don’t you think?”

“Maybe.” Still, I’m not convinced. “I just don’t trust him,” I confess, “and I don’t think Paige should either.”

“Maybe she wants to give him a second chance.”

“He doesn’t deserve one.”

“So what’s really bugging you here, Erin?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why are you so angry about this?”

I think about that. “I’m not sure. I mean, I do feel protective of Paige, and I resent how Benjamin just strolled in and took her away.”

“Are you jealous?

“Not exactly.” I’m trying to be honest with myself now. “But maybe I felt a little pushed aside by my sister. We’ve been through a lot lately. And Benjamin has seriously hurt her. I’m not sure.”

“You can’t control your sister’s life, you know.”

I look down. “Yeah…I know.”

“And she’s got her eyes wide open this time. She knows who Benjamin is and what he’s capable of…both good and bad.”

“You’re right.” I lean back and sigh. “I need to let it go, don’t I?”

“Maybe so…but at least you can put it in God’s hands.” He brightens. “Okay, now tell me how it went tonight. How did Paige do? And who did you girls talk to?”

I begin recapping our interviews, and Blake is a good listener. By the time he drops me at home, I don’t feel quiet as grumpy as I did when he picked me up. “Thanks,” I tell him. “You are really a good friend.”

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