Rae took deep gulping breaths trying to stifle the panic attack that threatened
to render her speechless. Attending the Kennedy Fitzgerald show hadn't been
on the agenda today. But who could resist free tickets?
Earlier, the women had walked by TSW Studios and been persuaded to take a brief survey. At the conclusion they'd been invited to the show, wooed by an opportunity to win one hundred thousand dollars.
Jamie, the oldest, and boldest of the friends had happily pocketed the tickets.
"Awesome," she'd announced, chortling. "Let's go support the sistah. Today's topic is compulsive disorders. It sounds tailor made for this dysfunctional group."
"Who are you calling dysfunctional?" Lydia had come back with, grabbing Rae by the sleeve. "I say we find some place to have a Cosmopolitan."
"Later," Michelle who was attempting to pacify her said, at the same time twirling a shoulder-length braid. "We can have lunch and a couple of Cosmopolitans."
With that they'd headed into the studio.
Rae heard Kael's introduction through the buzzing noise in her ears. She dug her nail-bitten fingers into sweaty palms and willed herself to calm down.
"I'm Kael Whittingham, a Global Fund Manager," Sex On Two feet announced, flashing that devastating Colgate smile at the audience. "I consult for several Fortune One Hundred companies. I don't think I have a problem, but my coworkers obviously think I do. These are tough times and it makes perfect sense to be careful with money. Anyone who isn't is foolish in my book. Your turn," he said,
flashing those too-perfect teeth Rae's way.
Rae's mind went blank. What could she say? What excuse could she make up for being broke?
"I'm not very good at public speaking," she muttered. "I'd rather be anywhere but here. My friends think I have a serious problem shopping. It's not like I pay full price for what I buy."
Excuses and feeble ones at that.
"What do you buy?" Kennedy asked. "Speak directly into the microphone."
"Everything: Clothes, cosmetics, knickknacks. Anything that strikes my fancy."
God was she ever pathetic. She sounded like a woman out of control - a total nut job. Somehow Rae managed to stumble through the next five minutes of questions, none of which she remembered answering. When the inquisition was finally over, Kennedy waved them in the direction of an over-sized white couch. Kael's hand at the small of her back, Rae reluctantly made her way over.
* * *
Through the glaring overhead lights, Kennedy Fitzgerald noted almost every seat in the house was filled. She still couldn't believe these people were here to see her, brought out by the possibility of a few minutes of fame, and the opportunity to win one hundred thousand bucks.
Kennedy made a mental note to thank the Public Relations department for doing an outstanding job of marketing her. She'd been guest host for the station's better known television personalities, and she'd been well received. But it was really Tanner Washington, television mogul extraordinaire whom she had to thank for this show. He'd seen something in her, and it had been his way of showing his appreciation.
An outburst of applause, screams, and cat calls from the audience signified that so far she was being well received. These people had all come out to wish her well.
The audience's enthusiasm drove home that expectations were high. And despite a heart pounding so hard it threatened to lodge in her throat, a rush of adrenaline sent Kennedy out of her comfortable armchair and into the audience.
That deviation from the script made the television crew crazy. She could tell by all the arm waving and frantically mouthed instructions, the director was not at all happy. Oh well. Being in the audience surrounded by people felt right, and she liked the interaction and the back and forth.
Hands reached out, plucking at her. Kennedy stopped to pump and chat. She accepted the offerings thrust at her, filling both arms with an assortment of flowers, cookies, and stuffed toys. The gifts made her feel loved and appreciated. She handed them over to an assistant producer, and carried on.
"Tell us your name again?" Kennedy asked, thrusting the microphone into the face of an elegant woman she'd earlier selected.
An enigmatic smile, reminiscent of Angelina Jolie was directed her way. "Asha."
"Lovely name. Remind us. What's your addiction again?"
"Sex. I can't get enough of it. That's all I think about all day."
"You and most of America," Kennedy quipped back as the audience hooted and hollered.
"We love you, Kennedy," a heavyset woman off to the side called, waving her tattooed arms to get Kennedy's attention.
Kennedy was pumped. The quiver in her stomach had subsided. This was a make it or break it chapter in her life. She was being filmed live, and every tremor would be captured on camera, and every blunder recorded. Hopefully she could get the ratings she needed, and the wobbly Jell-O like feeling would not return. She was a life coach not an actress.