Authors: Ginger Voight
New York City
December 31, 2011
Snowflakes swirled around
my face freezing, windblown face, the only part of me visible since I was trussed up like an Eskimo to brave against the cold, December night in New York City. A crowd pressed toward the elevated stage where I stood, a screaming collection of fans waiting for Dreaming in Blue and their feature act, the contestants of
, to perform. It was New Year’s Eve, and excitement was an electric charge in the air.
It was the first New Year’s Eve
I could remember that I was excited about the possibilities of the coming year. My life had changed in so many ways I honestly couldn’t wait to see where this new journey would lead me.
It had been
three long months since the September finale of our show,
, but they had been a blur as they rushed by, propelling us to this moment. I had juggled countless press commitments, including a performance on Dixie’s wildly popular talk show. I was in and out of rehearsals, in meetings with prominent songwriters and I even got to perform in Washington D.C. over the Christmas holidays, where I met the President of the United States, along with the first family. I was shuffled from red carpet to red carpet in all the awards season releases of popular movies, approached by all kinds of producers and directors to participate on upcoming soundtracks.
There was even an offer for a musical or two, and more voiceover gigs than I could count.
As busy as I was, the actual winner of
, Jace Riga, was even busier. We hardly saw each other unless we were booked to appear together, which meant we had to keep our burgeoning love affair under wraps in front of the camera.
I was still married, after all, even though my husband – Eddie Nix – was perfectly content to hit the Los Angeles night club scene wit
hout me. He skated by on my star power, and his pseudo-fame as my devoted husband, without ever bothering to funnel any of that devotion to his actual wife.
It was fine by me. The less time I spent with him the better. I paid the bills and made the occasional appearance at our new house
in Venice to ward off the gossip-mongers, all to keep Eddie happy enough that he didn’t act on the blackmail he used to get me reluctantly down the aisle.
I had idolized Edward Anthony Nix for ten
years, from the ages 8 until 18, but all that ended when I figured out he was just using me for a convenient booty call. It was just the motivation I needed to skip out on my small Iowa hometown of Oswen and make tracks to L.A., to make my dream of being a singing superstar come true.
Thanks to a serendipitous ad and a new reality show that didn’t care about my plus-size figure, I managed to
do exactly that.
Little did I know that came with the added perk of attracting the boy who never wanted the world to know he was screwing me in the back seat of his car from junior year
Unfortunately for me, this wasn’t a fairy tale come true. He never let me forget that I wasn’t worth his devotion because I couldn’t fit into a size-6 wedding dress. He, along with my mother, proved to be
great big ugly blots on my journey to stardom.
If it weren’t for Jace, who knows how far I might have gone?
Jace Riga was a man unlike any other I had ever known. He was a war vet who lost his leg in Iraq, only to come home and find that he had mentally outgrown his own set of friends. He found music during the healing process, and proved to be my biggest competition in the battle to find out who was fiercest.
But something remarkable happened. Instead of this making us enemies, it united us as lovers. He was the first man I’d ever known who treated me like I was beautiful and desirable as I was, no assembly required. He knew what it was like to be judged on a superficial
level after his fiancé, and childhood sweetheart, dumped him when he lost his leg.
He wanted something real. He wanted someone true. And he found that, he said, in me.
Eddie managed to fuck that up too. He blackmailed me with clandestine pictures and videos from my relationship with Jace to keep me indebted to him, so I could rejuvenate his position as hometown hero for the folks back in Oswen. The shrewd bastard knew that the producers didn’t want to mar what they were trying to do with
with scandal, and he knew violating the morals clause with an explicit sex tape could risk everything Jace and I had worked so hard to accomplish thus far.
I could have handled it, but I would never jeopardize Jace after all his hard work. He deserved to be a star, and I wasn’t going to let anyone ruin that for him… especially Eddie Nix.
So I married Eddie in name only, but it was Jace’s ring I wore on my finger.
Jace’s love I carried in my heart.
Eddie was a minor complication that I would handle eventually
, preferably when it would cause the least amount of damage.
he crowd roared to life when the celebrity host took the stage, so I put on my game face. Worrying about said complication would have to wait just a little while longer. This performance for the traditional New Year’s celebration in the Big Apple would launch Jace and I into our cross-country tour opening for
judge Giovanni Carnevale and his wildly popular band, Dreaming in Blue. It was four months on the road, but the best part is I could finally ditch the ball and chain at home while I cruised the country with my truest love.
After being separated for the last
three months, I was practically coming apart at the seams to be reunited with him. Our times together had been few and far between thanks to our hectic schedules, and I hungered for him more than I had ever thought was possible. I missed his touch. I burned for his kiss. Every night I slept in a lonely single bed, my arms ached to hold him close to me.
He filled me and he made me whole. All I wanted was to be with him.
That had proven to be the best dream come true, something I didn’t even know I wanted until I had it.
A stage hand signaled to me that I would be up next, so I wriggled out of my heavy coat. Underneath I wore a black pantsuit studded with rhinestones around the cleavage. It showed off my changing figure, which
, thanks to Maggie Fowler, was much healthier than it had ever been. I had reached my first milestone, losing 10% of my body weight, by Thanksgiving. She still didn’t tell me the numbers on the scale, but I could add. I knew I had lost about thirty pounds. It gave me the energy I needed to keep up with my contractual obligations, but it also made me feel more confident in front of the camera. Jorge Navarro was still my style consultant, as were my endless parade of “gubbies” (or gay husbands.) They formed a powerful support network that made it easier for me to stay on track. Thanks to my very best friend, Corey McGrath, I had learned to ditch a lot of the junk food for a greener diet. I hadn’t gone vegan yet, as I didn’t know if I could part with cheese, but I was eating in better balance than I ever had, even when I had lived at home with my thin, judgmental mother.
Marianne Hemphill hadn’t done much to get in contact with me over the last few months, aside from a call on Christmas to find out when I would be coming home. I told her as long as my childhood abuser, Shane
Pearcy, lived with her, it’d be never.
She informed me that was a shame, as they were now engaged to be married.
With that little nugget of information, I felt no guilt as I called her less and less. There was nothing more she could, or would do for me. I couldn’t even get her to cooperate whenever I needed my official birth certificate so that I could get a passport.
Fortunately for me my new life gave me a new family, one that was endlessly supportive in my quest to become
better in every way. I even hired the hard as nails vocal coach from
, Imogene Costas, to help me. Since I could afford the best, the best is what I wanted.
It was a long way from cleaning fryers at the Oswen Burger Palace.
The crowd went wild when I hit the stage. I was still overwhelmed by their enthusiastic support. Eddie never let me forget that there were many folks who considered me a joke, being a heavy woman singing about love, sex and romance, but the detractors weren’t nearly as loud as I feared they might be. The paparazzi vultures at PING were still a thorn in my side, of course, but they were the kind of leeches that would take aim at anyone in the public eye to tear them down a peg or two.
Joining their ranks was celebrity gossip blogger Miles O’Rourke, whose catty commentary could be counted upon every time I was snapped going to and from events, or even to and from the gym or the supermarket. “What is
Diva doing buying ice cream?” he’d write. “Still pining that you came in second place, honey?”
further proved that the brighter one shines, the more some folks want to douse the light. Vanni would tell me that was their shortcoming and not mine, and just shake it off like so much dirt on my shoulder. He was also empathic that I didn’t read my own press. He’d learned through his own disastrous ups and downs as a mega-star that one could never hang their heart on public opinion, whether praise or criticism.
I glanced over to where he stood in a long trench coat, cuddling with his devoted wife Andy. It was like none of the rest of us existed when they were together. I had to smile. One day I hoped Jace and I would join their ranks
in the realm of Happily Ever After.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
I turned to face the owner of that sexy, familiar voice. It was my love, Jace Riga. My first impulse was to jump into his arms, but I unfortunately had to curb it. The crowd was eagerly watching our every move, and I already knew that PING was everywhere just waiting for us to screw up. That was how Eddie got all his leverage against me in the first place.
“I was thinking about how I can’t wait for Seattle,” I told him with an impish grin. That was our first stop on the tour, and I couldn’t wait to get him alone.
Jace gave me a big smile. “I’ve been thinking about that for months,” he said as he leaned closer to me. “I think I’ve used up all the cold water in Los Angeles.”
I had to laugh. He always made me feel
like the sexiest woman alive. He called me his goddess, which is what I became at the tips of his fingers and the end of his tongue. My body had been branded for him alone. Nothing else even came close to satisfying my hunger for him. “Me, too,” I said with a grin.
Jace scoped the crowd to find Eddie in the first row, leaning close to one of the other celebrity hosts – a former model who had become a television host for one of the entertainment shows. He was clearly flirting, his eyes inhaling her face as he stared at her lips hungrily
and unabashed. Though Eddie and I had not consummated our marriage, or even been intimate for some time before that, I knew he had a steady diet of one-night-stands as he partied with his A-list reality star cred as my husband. Jace’s mouth clenched into a firm line. He hated Eddie with a white-hot passion, and seeing him disrespect me, even when our marriage was not a real one, pissed him off even more.
Over the course of hundreds of
shared texts, phone calls and even video chats, Jace made it clear that Eddie’s man-whore ways were the very thing keeping me tabloid fodder. Worse, Miles O’Rourke led the charge defending him, using my unforgivable double-digit dress size as reason enough for a husband to stray. I didn’t care. The more he hooked up with all the bimbos in the Hollywood party set, the less time he had to pursue me and make me feel like shit.
It was a load off, frankly.
I had other things to think about, like the stage hand who was leading me up the steps to join the musicians on stage. I had three songs to sing, one of which a song that another
judge, Allison Ewing, had penned for me called, “I’m Here.” This was my signature song since the finale of our show, and it had topped the charts as my first #1 hit. I was quickly toppled when Jace released his hit, “Man of Honor,” which was an amazing song about a hero who had gone to war and never returned to his love. I came in second, again, to the wonderful man to my side, but I never begrudged his successes.
He was a hero in my eyes, and most definitely a man of honor.
He deserved every good thing that was happening to him, and then some.
The band fired up behind me as I approa
ched the microphone. The freezing air cut through to the bone, but I was warmed by the love from the crowd. “Happy New Year, everybody!” I said, stoking their excitement a little more. “Here’s to 2012! Let’s make it fierce!”
They were crazed as they screamed for me. I launched into my song. It was upbeat, but that no longer intimidated me. I threw myself into the performance
with all the attitude it demanded.
It helped that Eddie thoroughly hated the tune.