I checked my appearance in the mirror. Yep, handsome as ever. Those deep green eyes, the chiselled jaw and the short, cropped-back brown hair. The face that had won 'Hottest Face of the Year' in Metropolitan Magazine for the third year running. So long as I stayed beautiful, and let's face it, I would, it would be my gorgeous features that sent the girls off to sleep dreaming of me.
I pulled out my phone and smiled that dazzling smile of mine at the camera. Perfect white teeth flashed in the light of the hotel room as I hit the button. I loaded up Twitter and within seconds the picture was on there, like some kind of modern day Mona Lisa if you know what I mean. I don't wanna sound arrogant, but I think my beauty will be remembered for a long time. As expected, Twitter went into meltdown. 'He's so handsome' purred one of the posters. 'I'd do him' drooled another. But a third, probably some buck-toothed, spot-strewn nerd who spent all night masturbating, had written 'Poser.' 'Have fun with your hand tonight!' I tweeted back. 'Don't forget to change over when it gets sore.'
I glanced around the hotel room. Apparently this was a five-star hotel. I'd had a fight with Lewis when he'd first shown me in here. I don't ask for much, but after a hard day's work promoting a new CD, was it too much to expect some decent accommodation? I'd rung the concierge like three times before they brought me up the food I wanted. And I hadn't even ordered much. Just a few sticks of celery and some cheese crackers. A rubbish meal, but when you're as hot and healthy as I am, sacrifices have to be made. I think eating less keeps me honest. I'd tweeted a picture of my evening meal to my fans. 'If I can do it, then anyone can eat healthy.' I can't just be remembered for my looks, can I? I need to provide the fat ones with some inspiration, after all. I took one of them onstage the other night, had a little dance with them, but I'd never take them back to my hotel room. I mean, I'd hate to bring a goat back here in all honesty.
The phone rang. It was Cole.
"Are you up?" he asked, sounding tired.
"Of course I'm bloody up." I snapped. "I'm talking to you, aren't I?"
"Right, Mike, you need to be down here by 11:30. I want us out of here before the press get wind of the fact you're staying here."
"Right, right," I said, looking at myself in the mirror again. I couldn't decide if I looked better with my hair brushed back or with it falling over my face.
I went down to the lobby about an hour later. I smiled at the receptionist, who looked down with a grimace on her face. Frigid.
"Will you be paying your bill, Mr. Winderson? Or will Mr. Cole settle it for you?"
I winked at her. "Don't worry, miss. I settle my own bills." I pulled out my wallet. I'd tip her big, I decided. God knows, the ordinary folks needed it. Not everyone could be a nine-time Grammy winner. I rummaged around. There was no money in there. "Cole!" I barked down the phone. "Where's all the money?"
"I took it off you, so you don't buy a crocodile like the last time. That hotel is still asking us to replace the curtains."
I laughed. "Oh yeah, that was great. What happened to that croc?"
"It got put down." The phone went dead. "My manager will pay for my stay, doll." I said. She sighed. I wandered over to the entrance.
A number of cars had pulled up. Several people got out, waving cameras. Hotel security stuck out their arms, trying to bar their way in.
"There he is!" shouted one of the photographers. One of the cameras flashed, before I was ready. Damn, I ought to go out there and break that bastard's camera. Didn't he know what damage a bad shot of me could cause? Women and men the world over would weep into their cups if they saw a bad picture of me. I'd been told as much by this hot young thing I'd slept with last week. Well, not the bit about the cups, but I could tell she definitely thought as much. I fixed that gorgeous smile on my face again and waved to the paparazzi.
"Mike, get away from the door now!" It was Cole. He looked out of breath. "How did they find out you were here?"
"I may have tweeted a picture of my hotel room. It's no biggie, Cole. The hotel probably needs the publicity."
Cole stared at me. He looked strange. His lip was trembling and for a moment I thought he was going to cry. I prepared to put my arm around him, like I had that orphan in the bombed-out house, in one of those places that was always at war. God, what was it called, that country? Then I thought better of hugging him in front of the world's media. "So what do we do, man?" I asked him.
"Go out the back way," he said.
"Aww, come on man. This is great. A shot of me will be on the front cover of the local rag by lunch-time. All publicity is good publicity."
"Oh really, like that time you drove that bike you were promoting into that baby-shower and you ran over the crib?"
I thought for a moment. "Exactly," I said.
Cole shook his head and asked the receptionist about another exit. "What do you mean there isn't a back exit?" I heard him shout. "This is a five-star hotel!"
Five minutes later I was walking out the front-doors. The cameras went off all at once, the fingers curled around them snapping furiously, a picture for every second I was there. I flashed a V symbol at them, to get them all thinking about the issues that really matter. People say I'm all about looks, but I really do care. Just because I'm beautiful doesn't mean I don't know what's going on in the world. In Europe and the States, times have never been so good. I mean, people are better off than they've ever been. But in Africa and the Middle-East, there's lots of wars going on there, I'd found out. And not many people know. So I'd been tweeting pictures from the conflict. There's one I particularly like, where there's a dead body on a road and there's a kid who's crying. I superimposed myself onto the picture, up in the clouds, flashing the V symbol. I liked that picture because its beauty and tragedy side by side.
A couple of the journalists pushed microphones at me. "We won't be taking any questions," said Cole, but I ignored him. "I'm happy to answer a few."
"Have you spoken to your wife since the court settlement?" asked one.
"No I haven't. She's part of my past now. I'll always remember the love we shared. To find that love with one person is a beautiful thing. To find it with two people is lucky. To find it with three is a warning, and that's why I won't be marrying again."
"So is there any truth in the allegations that during the divorce you slept with another woman?"
"It is true. I'm a free man now."
"But the lady is currently trying to contact you about maintenance payments on the child, is she not?"
"That's enough --" "It's okay, Cole, I've got this. There's absolutely no proof that the child is mine. But if it turns out to be, I'll love it with all my heart."
A few of the journalists smiled. I grinned back, and I swear their hearts melted.
"But this is all on my latest album, Your Heart Breaks For The Both of Us. Check it out. I like to think of it as a love-letter to my wife. Everything I wanted to say," I gulped and squeezed out a tear, "but couldn't due to my aching heart."
"That's enough for now" said Cole. He grabbed me and more or less bundled me into the waiting car. He climbed in himself and shut the door loudly, drowning out the shouts of the paparazzi. I pulled down the little mirror as the car drove away. I tutted and brushed a lock of brown hair out of my eye. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"Back to that beach house you have on the coast."
"Oh I love that place. It's my third favourite. Did I ever tell you I took my second wife there and proposed to her? It was magic. She adored me. I hate how she took my love and ground it through the dirt. I shouldn't have married again, but the heart wants what the heart wants, you know? Who am I to deny another's heart? Oh, that's pretty good. I should write it down. I'm thinking of doing a sequel to Your Heart Breaks."
"You might want to think about this paternity case. That child almost certainly is yours. The public will expect you to make some contribution."
"The public love me."
"For now. But they won't if you get someone pregnant and then leave her."
"They might if I apologise for it and pretend I've discovered religion. The public love a redemption story."
"You'd need to go through several already," mumbled Cole, winding down the window and turning away from me.
Something was bothering me. While I had been talking to the journalists, I'd seen that man again, the one who was always there. He was always in the front-row at my stage shows, and I'd seen him at several press-conferences. He never spoke, just stared at me. I'd tried talking to him once but he hadn't replied. Perhaps he was too nervous to speak to such a handsome devil. I smiled to myself. I truly was blessed. Then I remembered that there were people starving in some parts of the world, and I reminded myself that I couldn't rest until they had food in their mouths. "I can't wait for this tour to be over," I muttered to Cole.
"Me neither," he replied.
We pulled up at the beach house about an hour later. It was a nice little place. The sand was golden and warm, like soft powder under your feet. I enjoyed bathing in the sea, feeling the hot waters trickling over my body, and when I went to sleep at night I could hear the waves crashing onto the beach before I drifted off. The house was big, with leather sofas and chairs in most of the rooms, a wine cellar and a four poster bed in my favourite bedroom. Best of all was the pool out the back. I would often sit and smoke, watching the sun go down.
So why didn't I feel happy here? It wasn't the memories of my ex-wife. I hated her, and she'd never meant all that much when I loved her. Maybe it was the quiet. There was no one here for miles. I didn't like Cole, or the driver, whatever his name was. I got so bored when I was on my own, and sometimes I'd wake up in the night sweating, an image of a silent man, his eyes boring into mine, unblinking, fading as I woke up. I sighed. Maybe I would tweet how I was feeling.
Cole went off to his own room. I went out to the pool. I sat down on the deck chair, but I didn't smoke for once. Hopefully we wouldn't be here long. I closed my eyes and thought about the woman with the baby. It was probably best for the kid that I wasn't there. I had shows to play, albums to sell. I couldn't be looking after a baby. Why should I have my life ruined because of some five-minute fling?
I tweeted how I was feeling and got a massive response. Lots of people sent me messages of support, but one said "Oh, poor you. It must be so hard being a pampered musician." I put the phone down and closed my eyes again. At least tomorrow I'd come first in that YouTube poll of the top 50 celebrity crushes.
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