‘Five minutes, Bella.’
Bella turned back to the mirror and continued her nightly ritual of making herself ready to step on to that stage. It was at once both the easiest and the hardest thing to do; but do it she must. It was a Saturday night and the club would be full. It simply would not do for the headlining act to pull a no-show.
No, Bella would be on tonight.
Facing the large, brightly lit mirror, Bella looked into the eyes of someone who has seen it all and done it all. She smiled as a thousand memories flashed across her mind in an instant; all of them leading her here.
To this place.
To her place.
She loved the other dedicated boys and girls of the troupe, but facts were facts, and the majority of the seats that awaited her in the dimly lit main room would be filled with people who had paid good money to see her. Bella took great pride in this, but was also careful to show appreciation to the up and comers. She remembered what it was like to be on that climb: desperate to please, hungry for success. She had done what she had to do to showcase her talents, and she knew it was important to never remember where you came from.
Where she came from.
As Bella expertly applied her foundation, another wave of memories crashed over her. These were different memories. Bittersweet memories. She cast a wistful glance at one of the photographs that were taped to the edge of her mirror. Another wry smile crept across her face as she thought of the world she had come from. Comparing it to the world she now occupied, there never was a truer instance of chalk and cheese. She looked at the photograph from another life and wondered, not for the first time, what things would have been like if she’d have stayed where she was; if she had stayed who she was. There was no question in Bella’s mind if she had made the right decision – she knew she had – but still she wondered.
Finishing off her foundation, Bella inspected her handiwork. Flawless as always. Some of the younger talent sometimes came to her for makeup tips. Bless their hearts: they all seemed to start out the same way; looking like they’d been using bingo markers. As Bella reached for her eye shadow she recounted the universal truth that she had learned over the years: less is more. She suppressed a giggle at the thought of the monstrous visages she used to take the stage with when she was just starting out. That’s the way it goes though; you get into this game and think that you need to slap it on with a trowel.
Subtlety. That was the key.
Suggest it. Don’t ram it down their throats.
‘Two minutes, Bella.’
The handsome young stagehand spoke respectfully from a crack in the dressing room door. The little lamb had done this ever since his first night on the job when he had accidentally walked in on Bella as she was doing up her bra. She smiled as she recalled how crimson he had gone. In another setting she might try for him, but he was too young. Too shy. She’d eat him alive. Plus, it didn’t do to fraternise with the staff. What was it she’d heard? Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.
Some had tried to get at her, though. Some still tried. Bella looked at tonight’s array of flowers that had been sent backstage. Some were from regulars like Mister Epstein and good old Bobby. Others were first-timers hoping to get a mention during the show. Then there were the curious horny young boys who were looking for a bit of strange. It was flattering, but Bella would never go there. She was many things, but she hadn’t worked as hard as she had to be some college boy’s boastful tale. Allowing herself a momentary ego boost, she knew that she had the pick of pretty much any audience member on any given night, but she’d seen what happened to stars that went with the clientele. That’s how reputations change, and before you know it, your star is fallen and you’re no longer an artist. You’re a whore. Bella was not a whore, and as charming and handsome as the customers could sometimes be, she never went there.
Her eyes now finished and looking spectacular, Bella reached for her lipstick. She tried not to be a diva when it came to demands, but she simply had to have this particular shade and brand of red lipstick. She’d tried others but none compared. As she deftly applied a coat she quickly readjusted herself in the chest and made a mental note to have her seamstress take a fresh set of measurements, just to make sure everything was still flattering.
There, finished. Gorgeous, darling. Simply gorgeous.
Bella stood up, made sure she was tucked safely in all the right places, and made her way onstage.