“Ladies, get your asses up cos you are going to the Met gala tonight.” Trish announced from the doorway. She was smiling like a child who just got an early present from Santa Claus.
“Anna Wintour is throwing out invites?” Mani asked sarcastically.
“More like, she got a new intern who mistakenly sent invites to everyone but wait a minute even then I doubt she knows who we are so either way we are screwed.” Ehi added and everyone burst into laughter including Malik and Theodora who had no idea why the adults were laughing but chipped in anyway.
Walking over to children, Trish reached out and messed up their hair.
“How are my cuties today?” They gave her identical smiles and went back to destroying the new toy Christian gave them last week. Turning to the others she said “For real. I am dead serious about the gala tonight.”
“Even if you were, people spend months preparing what to wear. We can’t just walk into out closets and fetch anything out plus isn’t there a theme every year?” Mani asked.
“I have everything under control. All you need to do is dress up, look pretty and wow the cameras. I will walk the red carpet with both of you so no one can try to treat you guys funny and then I will step aside and you will each pose individually. And also y’all should ignore questions asked, especially you Ehi. If any one asks about that last show, don’t answer just pretend you didn’t hear. Just pose for pictures and then walk in. Okay?”
“Yeah, I got you.” She replied.
“Good.” Turning towards the door she said “Okay ladies you can come in now.” and four women walked in wheeling clothes and other accessories with them. To the ladies she said “I will be back in a couple of hours and my girls better be like Cinderella.” Turning towards them “This ladies will see to everything and don’t be shy to say your mind and tell them what you want. See you guys in a bit. Bye bye.” Blowing them kisses, Trish walked out.
“Okay ladies let’s get started.” One of the women said.
Several hours later they were in a car with Trish and Christian heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“I feel Unclad. I really don’t know how I will face the crowd wearing this.” Ehi complained pointing at her dress.
She was wearing a Plexiglas and metal gown paired with a Gucci embroidered metallic leather high heel sandals. For her hair she was putting on a platinum blond curly bob wig. The makeup artist had done a wonderful job and somehow had made the colourful smoky eye look beautiful instead of weird and instead of using a light lip gloss that most people would have gone for she used a plush, matte black lipstick. It wasn’t a look Ehi would have gone for on a regular day but it turned out good and she liked how edgy it was.
“I agree with you on the dress but you do look gorgeous. You think you are Unclad, just wait until you see the sheer dresses people will wear. Between the tan underwear is perfect. It looks just like your skin.” Christian said with a wink.
Wrinkling her face in mock annoyance she said “That’s not helping. I love the dress and all but I just feel somehow in it.”
Looking out the window she continued “Are we ever going to get there, it’s like we have been in this car all day.”
“Girl please, we have not been in the car for five minutes. You are just tensed like a baby. I’m sure even Dora and Liki won’t be scared.” Mani teased. Dora and Liki were the pet names she called the children. She was putting on a red silk knit bodysuit with embellished suede trousers that covered her shoes. She had her hair in a ponytail.
“I’m not scared. I’m just being very observant that’s all.” Ehi lied. She was so nervous it felt like she was about to throw up. She was also scared of embarrassing herself again.
“If you say so ma’am.” Christian chipped in.
“Yes I did, shouldn’t you be with your parents? Daddy’s boy.” She teased him. Christian always attended the Met Gala, they weren’t too certain if it was because of his job or his parents influence.
“Satan be gone. You should be happy that I’m blessing you with my company, a lot of people will kill to be in your shoes right now. Oh, we are finally here.” He exclaimed.
“Moment of truth ladies and gentleman. Just remember that you deserve to be on that red carpet like every other person out there. We already talked about other things at home so just have fun. Okay let’s hit the road.” Trish said and they stepped out of the car.
Ehi was feeding the twins their breakfast in the kitchen when Christian ran in like he was being pursued.
“You guys would not believe what I’m about to tell you.” He said happily.
“Brad Pitt has a crush on me?” Mani who was also taking her breakfast asked.
Giving her a how-crazy-are-you look he replied “Why do you always think like an insane person?”
“Wait, insane people think? I never knew.” She replied.
“You need Jesus because at this point I don’t even know what to say again. By the way, back to what I was saying before you know who interrupted me.” He coughed then continued “Both of you made the top ten best dresses at the Met Gala in many publications. Like the internet is buzzing about you guys. Ehi, Complex named you the best dressed of the evening. Everyone thinks you girls are next it thing in the modeling industry. It’s crazy like I have never been more proud.”
“Awwww, do you need a hug?” Mani asked.
Before he could reply there was a knock on the door, so he went to see who it was. He returned with Trish trailing behind. “Look who I found.” He took a seat by the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee.
Taking a seat herself, she said “Good morning everyone, I’m sure everyone has heard about our success last night.”
“Yeah, I was just briefing them about that before you arrived.”
“Oh that’s good. Well I have good news and bad news. I don’t know which one you guys want to hear first?”
“Bad news.” They said in unison.
“It’s for you Ehi, while we were able to show the world you both was a force to reckon with last night, erm, a lot of designers are still not comfortable with you walking for them. They still fear that you might have an accident again and take the spotlight from the clothes.” She said
“Okay.” Ehi responded, it was more to herself than addressing anyone in particular.
“This is plain bullshit. Why are they acting like she is the first person to fall? Lots of models have done that and will still continue to do it.” Mani said angrily.
“I agree with you but you need to understand that Ehi is practically a nobody in the fashion world so there is no room for mistakes for her. If someone like Naomi Campbell fell, she will be applauded for getting up and finishing her walk. It’s annoying but that’s just how it is. Enough of that let’s get to the good news. You ladies have a lot of work coming your way. I’m talking editorials, campaigns so many things. Mani you would be walking for a couple of shows in the next coming weeks. So Ehi I thought hard about how we could force your way into the runway and when I thought all hope was lost a goldmine dropped on my lap. Have you ever heard of a PR relationship?”
“Not really, is it something I should be bothered about?” She asked.
“Yeap, because you are about to be in one. I bet you all know Zeke Cree the popstar.”
“Yeah, we love his songs like we play his new album every day at home.” Mani said.
“Yeah that’s Zeke, he has the number one album in the country and five songs charting in the billboard hot hundred.” She replied
“Hold on, wasn’t he just involved in a scandal some days back. Some old videos of him surfaced with him using racial slurs.
Believe me when I say his PR people are going to put all hands on deck to salvage his image.” Christian said.
“That’s right Christian and that’s where Ehi comes in the picture. You see his people contacted me if it was possible for you guys to date—”
Cutting her short Ehi asked “If he wanted to date me why don’t he just ask me out himself?”
“Sorry to burst your bubble dear but he doesn’t want to date you. The thing is just as Christian rightly pointed out, the world sees him as a racist so having a girlfriend who is black will help send the message across that he is no longer that racist kid he once was.”
“Hell no I would not be dragged into someone’s mess. I refuse to be a part of that.”
“Sweetheart this is business. Push your feelings aside and look at the bright side. Dating Zeke is not just going to increase your popularity but it will have designers begging you to come model for them.”
“How?” Mani asked curiously
“Because since they are dating there is a big chance that he will come support her by attending the show. Him attending the show equals more publicity for the designer. So you see it’s a win-win situation. You pretend to date and help rebuild his image and he does the same for your career.”
“That sounds like pimping to me.” Christian said.
“Don’t act like this is the first time you are hearing about a situation like this.”
“Not at all. I even know people who have engaged in this act before but at the end of the day it’s still pimping. While I don’t like the act I will advise you Ehi to take it. It equals free publicity, you become a fixation in the media. But I should warn you before hands some fans are obsessed and would hate you for being with him. And if you accept then you always have to be in your A game. Like what you wear, the places you are seen at. I mean it’s serious work, the only good thing is the publicity. He added.
“You see even Christian agrees with this. Though I will want us to take it step by step. I will like to sign a three months contract first and if it’s beneficial to you then I will suggest we renew the contract.”
“Wait hold on, before I commit to anything, what exactly is expected of me?” Ehi asked.
“All you have to do is look pretty and be the devoted girlfriend anyone could ask for.”
“I guess I can handle that but you have to promise I wouldn’t do anything that isn’t me because then we are going to have a problem.”
Lifting her right hand up and placing the left one on her chest “I swear to make you the best deal ever and you wouldn’t sweat to get anything done. And you wouldn’t have to do anything you don’t want to. So tomorrow you and I will go see his manager and lawyer and go over the details and begin some work on the relationship and once you and Mani return from the Cannes Film Festival we would just put everything in full swing.”
“Okay, that’s fine by me.”
“I will call you then. See y’all later, I got money to make.”
“You have our permission girl.” Christian remarked.
Ehi and Mani have been in France for five days and they were currently on a luxurious yatch relaxing. The yatch belonged to some rich multimillionaire whose name she couldn’t remember. They were lots of famous people on deck but she and Mani were keeping it cool like they didn’t care meanwhile they were freaking out inside.
They talked about various topics and her faux relationship. Since signing the agreement she had been to a couple of his concerts where pictures of her were taken. To one of the show she brought Mani with her. Before travelling to France, they had staged paparazzi photo-ops that wouldn’t be released until next week when she returns to the States.
“You haven’t really spoken about your pop star boyfriend.”
“Eww, don’t spoil my mood. One word that boy is arrogant. Imagine the first time we met he was giving me rules and regulations to abide.”
“Huh, what did you do?”
“I ignored him and continued with what I was doing which was playing with my phone by the way. When he got the hint that I wasn’t paying him any attention he left and went to meet his groupies.”
“That fool just got served. But if u guys don’t see eye to eye. How will you guys work out your stuff in the public?”
“If anything, it’s to give that boy his credit in acting. Like once it was time to take the pictures, he turned loving, caring and adorable. If you see those pictures my dear, you will think we are in love.” She said with a wink.
“When exactly are guys going to come public?”
“It will be at the billboards awards at the end of the month but before then, they will tease the media with pictures of us and they will be lots of speculation whether we are dating or not. They will also release those pictures from the concerts so get prepared to be bombarded with questions. I bet some people will like to get the confirmation from you or Christian.”
“Hahahaha, too bad they ain’t getting nothing from me.” She laughed.
At that moment a reality star that Mani was friends with came over. “How will you both like to make some fast money?”
“How fast?” Ehi asked cautiously.
“Its nothing illegal okay? Just some quick dough.”
“Bish, you had me at fast money. When and where?” Mani asked.
“You say what? You didn’t even give us a heads up so we could prepare.”
“Forget about that. I got you all covered. So are you girls coming or not?” She asked.
Mani looked at Ehi who shrugged and got up and she followed suit.
The fast money it turned out to be a party with some very rich men. They were famous faces everywhere cozying up to men that were not their partners. Some of the celebrities here were married. Ehi stood at a corner wondering what on earth made her agree to come to this party.
“Excuse me pretty face.” She heard from behind her. She turned around to find a bald round man in his late seventies.
“Hello.” She replied.
“What’s a beautiful damsel like yourself doing at the back here alone?”
She blushed before replying him. “I just want to be on my own.”
“It’s a party. Come on! Go have fun!” He said.
“Sure, I will do that soon.”
“How about we make it more interesting.” He said casually.
“How?” She asked.
“Maybe you could come up with me to my room and be nice to me and I will reward you handsomely.” He said with emphasis on his hand.
“Thank you but I am okay here.” She said getting irritated by the man and his proposition.
“Stop playing hard to get and tell me your amount.” He looked her up and down as if sizing her up.
“A girl like you should be around seven to eight k but I am a nice man so I will make it fifteen.” He said in a patronizing manner.
“I am not for sale.” She said and walked out of the party.
Ehi woke up the next morning and found Mani lying on the floor. She kicked her “Aunty, get off the floor.”
“Get behind me Satan, it’s too early for you to tempt me.” She sat up, reached for her purse beside and brought out an envelope and handed it to her.
“This is for you but why did you leave the party early?”
Ehi opened the envelope and found hundred dollar bills. She counted them, ” Hold on, are you sure this is for me? This is ten grand right here. You sure it’s not a mistake right?”
“That’s your money for attending the party. It’s not a mistake. What would you say if I showed you mine.”
“How much do you have?”
“Get out, how come?”
“Let’s just say I was nice to a certain gentleman.”
“You mean you followed him to his room right?”
“Hey don’t judge me, a girl’s got to do what she’s got to do.”
Hearing what Mani said brought back memories of her mum and random men and she felt that pain and anger she always had as a child, “If you say so. I’m not your mum so I can’t tell you how to live your life.” She walked out.
Ehi just wrapped up a shoot and was heading to her car when the paparazzi rushed her and started taking pictures and asking numerous questions about her and Zeke. She used her hands to block her face as she moved towards her car. She was about to step in her car when someone asked “Are you and Stephanie still friends after you snatched her boyfriend?”
She was stunned by the question and turned around to see the person who spoke. She decided not to say anything and entered her car and drove off.
When she got home, she told Mani about her encounter and the strange question. She did not know any Stephanie and wondered why the man would ask a question like that. She went to bed that night wondering who Stephanie was and why someone would think they knew each other.
The next morning, Trish woke everyone up. She was on the phone shouting at the person at the other end of the line. After some minutes of shouting back and forth she hung up.
“This is messy, real messy.” She said angrily.
“What exactly is going on?” Mani asked.
“Apparently Ehi wasn’t the only person that was contacted to be Zeke’s girlfriend. Those fools already had an existing contract with Stephanie before approaching me. I don’t really know their reason for not going through with the deal because I don’t care. What I do care about is that they already took multiple pictures and videos of them together and now someone has leaked it to the press.”
“Wait I don’t understand, why are you angry then?” Mani asked.
Looking at her in disbelief, Trish replied “Can’t you read the handwritings on the wall? They are making it look like Ehi snatched Zeke from her and I bet since her people are mad about the deal not going through they will try to smear Ehi’s name.”
“Oh my goodness, so that was what that paparazzi meant when he asked me about snatching Stephanie’s boyfriend.” Ehi said.
“What was your response?” Trish asked in rushed words.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Good, that’s good. Just perfect.”
Christian walked in with a coffee in hand. He had not spent the night at home and no one had any idea where he went. He looked around smirking at them “Wow that was fast.”
“What was fast?” Mani asked.
“The meeting of course. I could swear those videos was just uploaded like five minutes ago.”
“There are two videos of Stephanie and Ehi hanging out and then there is this video where Ehi is asked about Stephanie and she stares dumbly into the camera.”
“Ehi, I thought you said you don’t know her,” Trish asked.
“I really don’t know her.”
“I think I’m to be blamed for that.” Christian said quietly
“How?” Everyone asked in unison.
“Well if you watch the video, you will discover it was taken at Coachella, I knew a couple of people so I hung with them in the tent and my guess is she had friends there too. It’s just coincidental that she and Ehi sat next to each other. The second video is from a party we attended. It’s all circumstantial but I doubt the media will see it that way.”
“Yeah you are right, so we will have to slow things down a bit. I wanted to push this relationship out there but I think we would have to slow down and let the heat rollover. I don’t think it will be good for you to confirm your relationship at the Billboards awards because it’s going to rub on people the wrong way.” Trish added.
“I think so too but I doubt Zeke and his people will just let such a juicy opportunity slip through their fingers like that.” Christian said.
“Explain.” Mani said.
“Well they are trying to clean his image as a racist. What better than having not one but two black girlfriends? It would make him look good. And I’m willing to bet my money that this was the plan all along. I also think Stephanie and her people will try to create a rivalry from this just so she could be in the news. But look on the bright side Ehi, you are currently in the news so your market value will definitely add up.”
“But at what cost? People think I am a backstabbing friend. How can I convince people otherwise?” Ehi slumped down onto the sofa.
“Don’t worry about that, I got you covered. Everyone knows you, Mani and Christian are besties so we will capitalise on that while I try to crack the timeline of Stephanie and Zeke’s relationship. I will discreetly send to media houses pictures of you and Zeke and try to make it sound like he was with you first and then moved to her and back to you. We can even make it look like that’s the reason you and Stephanie are no longer friends.”
“You are the devil. How do you even come up with your ideas? I love them.” Mani remarked.
“Thank you. So I should be going I have a media battle to win. By the way both of you shouldn’t forget your appointment with Doctor Sam. Have a good day.”