And the nominees are. . .
Aletha leaned back and slowly rotated her head, feigning a stiff neck, at the same time sliding her eyes–heavily lashed for the occasion–discreetly about the huge auditorium. It was a controlled and practiced act of self-conscious discretion, as she did not want to appear so wide-eyed and childishly star struck, especially after all these years.
Famous and infamous faces were everywhere!
Elegantly and not-so-elegantly clad in other famous people’s haute couture, these show business folks were trying to mask their quite natural and inborn lust for public accolades with bogus airs of insouciance.
It’s all pretty political, you know . . . doesn’t mean a thing, most of them had said at one time or another . . . usually after having lost, Aletha thought, smirking to herself.
Aletha returned her gaze to the stage. She looked up at the podium with rapt attention, her large, black eyes swiftly frisking the two celebrities. One of them was about to announce her name, along with the others on the list of the very best of the season.
The long, dark, tall one–a veteran of the industry–with what looked like silver dust elegantly sprinkled around his temples, clad in a fabulous-looking Brioni tuxedo, used to star in her teenage erotic fantasies. Now there he was in person, about to acknowledge her–from those full, plum-colored, juicy lips, acknowledge her as one of the contenders.
The female co presenter, a dowager queen of a daytime soap opera, was wearing an inadequate little frock. It looked like something that Bill Blass might have sketched during his off-hours. The recent face-lift was a bit too obvious as well–girlfriend was looking a little Chinese tonight, Aletha mused, giggling.
“What are you laughing about, Aletha?” her escort asked, lightly touching the hand which had been resting on her lap.”
Shhh . . . Reggie,” she snapped, placing the index finger of one hand over her lips and slapping his hand away with the other.
Even though she was one of the famous ones too, she still found herself on those occasions pinching the tight flesh of her forearm from time to time in order to confirm the reality of her situation.”
The Veronica Stone Show, Bob Dennison and Kathy Myerson, producers”,
A large wad of mucous had knotted up in Aletha’s throat. She wanted to cough but had to seize control; only hours ago she had slithered into a too-tight Azzadine Alaia number, and she had no intention of bursting out of it for all of America to witness. The gossip columnists would have a field day . . . but then, they probably already were. They always managed to come up with something . . . even in a vacuum. She had to remind herself, though, that those same vultures were the very people who had helped make her who she was–rich, famous, powerful, and a more familiar presence in most homes than Lemon Fresh Joy.
“ . . . The Dabney Wilkin’;s Show . . . Maxine Tyler, producer.” Ms. Dowager Queen continued.
Reggie, her friend and lover for over five years, reached over and reassuringly held her hand. Aletha gently removed her hand from his, placed it on his cheek, and adoringly stroked the smooth, tan flesh.
He jerked his head away from her in response.
Aletha’ss brow furrowed for a moment, and she pursed her lips as she was about to register her displeasure with Reggie. She was hurt and annoyed that he had pulled his body away from her, but she had a much more important issue to think about at that moment.
“. . . and The Aletha Brown Show . . . Veronica McPherson, producer . . . “ Juicy Plum Lips added.
Aletha glanced quickly around the auditorium to see who was looking at her–with envy, she was sure–then her eyes locked with Geraldo’s.
She looked away from him, her chin raised to a point just below smug, and she relished the fact that he was not among the list of nominees for the first time in who knew how many years, and she was.
Of course, he had won the damned thing zillions of times and she had yet to get the award, despite being nominated five damned times in a row. She had no doubts that this year would be the year of The Aletha Brown Show.
She looked over at her producer, Veronica, sitting next to her escort, Derrick, whose arm was supportively draped around her shoulders.
Aletha grabbed Reggie’s arm, then awkwardly and comically ducked her head beneath it and placed it around her shoulders.
It was a far cry better than cheek rubbing.
Aletha slipped her stockinged feet back into her Charles Jordan pumps as she positioned herself to get up to accept her award–the acceptance speech was readying itself in her brain.
”The envelope, please.”
At that instant, something Aletha couldn’t see caused the Soap Star to stumble to the floor. The envelope then flew from her hand and landed across the stage. Juicy Plum Lips went over to help the actress up, and then he had to walk a mile and a half–or so it seemed to Aletha–to recover the envelope.
“Damn! What’s wrong with the old broad anyway? What’s she got? Some kind of joint disease in the old knees or something? Some people just don’t know when to step down! She should just retire. Look at her!”
“Aletha, calm down!” Reggie commanded.”
And the winner is . . .” Juicy Plum Lips began as Aletha leaned the heel of her hand into Reggie’s thigh as a support to get up, negotiating as elegantly as she could around her constricting gown.
“Ouch! Aletha, be careful! What are you doing?” Reggie whispered, grabbing her hand and trying to ease her back into her seat.
“. . . The Victoria Stone Show!!!”
Thunderous applause and Aletha’s own anger exploded in her head. That nitwit hussy Victoria Stone, with all those fist-fighting guests, had won the statue, Aletha raged to herself.
Tears threatened to leap from her eyes.
She glanced over at Reggie, who had a look of alarm on his face as he noticed that hers was now fixed in a contorted portrait of outraged disbelief.
“Are you okay, Aletha?” he whispered, taking her hand in his and raising it to his lips to kiss it. She snatched her hand away.
She couldn’t believe it! Her fifth loss in five years. She didn’t care how many people said that it was all purely political. It didn’t matter that she was as rich as milk chocolate, or that she had a gorgeous man who loved her–Althea Brown wanted that statue!
“The Victoria Brown Show my ass,!”; Aletha hissed, loud enough for her producer and a couple of others to hear.
“Who in the hell is she sleeping with?”
“Shhh! Aletha, look . . . you know you are fabulous. You’re still in prime time, baby!” Reggie soothed.
If he couldn’t massage her damaged ego by the end of the ceremony he knew he’d have one big, high-drama, angst-filled evening–perhaps week–even month–ahead of him.
“Look, your show has a lot more integrity than that Victoria Stone’s, honey,” Reggie lied, trying to pacify her.
“You’ve got that right, Reg.”
She looked around and caught Geraldo’s eye.
He winked, again.
She turned away, sucked her teeth, and crossed her legs. Her right foot hit the seat in front of her, breaking the heel of her expensive Charles Jordans.
“Damn! Look what you’ve made me do, Reggie!” she hissed, needing at that moment to blame the person closest to her for anything and everything.
Reggie knew it was going to be a long night.
His eyes fell on her beautiful breasts, which were swelling with indignation. At that instant he smiled to himself, thinking that just maybe when they got back to her place he’d tear that tantalizingly tight gown from her body and mollify her with some ardent and libidinous gymnastics.
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