Nothing, and no one, was going to stand in the way of this ruthlessly ambitious rising star…
Kelsey DeMarco was up for an award – and about time, too. After years of waiting, she had finally been nominated for Best Reality TV Star at the prestigious That’s TV Awards. As far as Kelsey was concerned, she absolutely deserved to go up onstage in front of millions of viewers to clutch that little statue to her chest and make a gushing speech.
Kelsey had been on a popular reality show about the lives and loves of a group of young people since it started years ago. She was the only cast member who had been in it from the very beginning, and to her mind, all these years later she was still its biggest star.
Over the years, Kelsey had carefully built up her profile. She had her own signature fashion range, her own podcast– Kel’s Totally Glam Life! – and there was a new ITVBe panel game on the way. It was her tangled love life that kept the show in the tabloids. There wasn’t a bigger reality star around, and Kelsey couldn’t understand why it had taken so long to be nominated for a gong.
But tonight was going to be her night. She could feel it, and she had practised her humble and gracious acceptance speech again and again. No one could fail to see how overcome with emotion and gratitude she was.
The audience at the award ceremony would stand and applaud; the peoplewatching at home would fall even more deeply in love with Kelsey, if that was even possible. It was going to be the greatest night of Kelsey’s life, and nothing was going to ruin it – nothing!
Which is why, when she had arrived for the ceremony, she had thrown a strop when one of the busybody stewards at the event tried to stop her posing for too long in front of the photographers on the red carpet.
“You see this face, babes?” she had told him. “It’s the face that launched a thousand mags, and the cameras love it! You go inside and do your little job, and let me do mine!”
Kelsey threw another tantrum when she discovered she had been placed at a table at the back of the auditorium, out of the sightlines of the cameras, and demanded she be moved. When she walked to the stage to accept the award, she wanted to make sure that her every step was broadcast.
Kelsey was a diva, sure, but she believed you had to throw your weight around if you wanted to stay famous –and Kelsey took her celebrity very seriously. She did everything she could to stay in the public eye.
Whenever she went on a date, she’d be sure to tip off the paparazzi so they would be there to photograph it, and she never left the house without six-inch heels. The tabloids loved her, and she loved the tabs.
“You – serving person!” Seated at a table nearer to the stage, Kelsey snapped her fingers. She’d already downed her first complimentary prosecco and thrust the empty glass at a waiter. “Bring me another one.”
The awards show hadn’t started yet, there was going to be a dinner for guests beforehand, which was already being served, and Kelsey was nervous.
The ceremony was going out live, and if she didn’t win this award, she’d be totally gutted. She didn’t like losing. Losing was for losers.
“Where you going, Kelsey?” asked one of the other celebrities on the table when she grabbed her clutch. “You’ll miss the grub.”
“Won’t be long, TJ,” she told him. “Off to freshen my lippy.”
The loos were empty when she went into a cubicle to take a few calming breaths, but when she came out, someone was there, standing at the sinks: a mousy-looking woman wearing a white uniform. Dressed like that, she obviously worked there.
When Kelsey powdered her nose at the mirror, the woman watched her, and it gave Kelsey the creeps.
“Shouldn’t you people have your own facilities?” Kelsey said. “Aren’t there staff toilets or something?”
The woman cleared her throat.
“I wanted… to speak to you.”
The penny dropped.
“Oh, bless your heart, you want an autograph, don’t you!”
“You don’t remember me,” the woman said tensely.
Kels narrowed her eyes, but not for too long, otherwise her false lashes would become entangled.
“We were at school together. Abbot Comprehensive. I’m Louise Robson.” When Kelsey stared, she said again, “You don’t remember me.”
“Sorry, love, it was a long time ago now.” Kelsey made a regretful face. Truth is, she had other things on her mind. She had to win that award, she just had to! “In the same year, were we?”
“The same class.”
Kelsey did a double take. The woman did look familiar. In fact, she had an uneasy feeling that she did remember Louise Robson. She had been a quiet little thing, one of those girls who was always in tears, or on the verge of crying.
Louise was a bit of a loser, if Kelsey remembered correctly – even at school Kelsey couldn’t bear cry-babies. And looking at her now, it didn’t seem as though much had changed.
“I’ll give you an autograph, babes,” Kelsey said with a tight smile. “But let’s make it quick, because I’ve got to get back to my VIP seat.”
“You’re just as glamorous as you are on telly,” Louise told her.
This was more like it! Preening, Kelsey pulled her slinky midnight-blue velvet dress straight over her brown thighs. She’d had a spray that morning, so that she looked tanned and healthy for the cameras. Kelsey worked hard at looking fab, because image was everything. It was expected that she always look like a proper celeb, not like one of the little people with their cheap clothes, bad hair and crooked teeth, and she spent a fortune on her appearance.
There were the weekly hair and eyebrow appointments, the facials, the Pilates classes. Kelsey had dragged herself up from literally nothing – she had gone to school with people who now worked in supermarkets and offices, if they worked at all – to make something of herself. And now look, she was up for an award!
“Thanks, babes.” Kelsey signed a piece of hand-towel and threw it down beside the sink, heading to the door. She wanted to get out of there. But the woman stepped in front of it.
“Was there something else?”
“I just… want to know why you did it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” lied Kelsey.
“I want you to tell me why you did it,” insisted Louise. “And, then, maybe I can get on with my life. Because I still have a lot of anxiety. I have trust and relationship issues. People scare me. Things haven’t gone so well since school. So I thought, if I could find out why you treated me like that, maybe I could move on in life.”
Kelsey was losing patience.
“The ceremony is about to start.”
“The bullying.” Louise’s voice was accusing. “I want to know why and your friends made my life a misery.”
“I think you’re mistaking me for someone else, babes,” Kelsey told her in a flat voice. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
“I’m working, I’m doing the cate-”
“You’re pestering guests, is what you’re doing,” Kelsey interrupted sharply. “A VIP like me! And I’m telling you…” She placed a thumb and forefinger together, her long, glossy, white acrylic nails almost touching. “I’m this close to making a complaint to your manager!”
The way Louise looked at her, as if she was the one who should be pitied, made her angry. But let’s face it, it was Kelsey who was wearing a designer dress that cost hundreds of pounds, and Louise who was wearing a shapeless white… she didn’t even know what that was she had on, some kind of smock! How dare this person look at her like that. Kelsey stuck her clutch under her armpit and yanked open the door.
“You seem like a nice girl, if a bit odd, so you’re lucky I’m in a good mood tonight, and I won’t demand that you get the sack for harassing me.”
“It might make you feel better if you admit it,” persisted Louise. “And maybe… apologise.”
“Feel better?” Kelsey had to laugh. “I don’t need to feel better, babes. I’m up for an award, Best Reality TV Star – hundreds of thousands of viewers have voted for me. I’m going to drink lots of free prosecco, tuck into a delicious meal, and hobnob with famous people. We’ll probably all end up clubbing together at the end of the night. What do I possibly have to feel better about?”
Kelsey was going to leave, but then she changed her mind and shoved the sharp toe of her Louboutin against the door so nobody could enter.
So what if she and her pals had given Louise a little slap or shove in the playground of a lunchtime? So what if they had poured milk into her backpack and sand into her gym shoes? What did it matter if they followed her all the way home after school calling her hateful names and saying horrible things? Sure, Kelsey wasn’t proud of it, but she was just a kid. It was a long time ago now, and Louise really had to get over it.
“OK, darling, I admit it, I was probably a bit of a bully, to you and some others. But in this world, there are winners like me, and there are losers, like…” She touched Louise in the chest. “In this world, you’re either the bully or you’re bullied. You of all people, dressed in that hideous white outfit, should understand that. Don’t you dare come near me again, or I’ll have you sacked.” She added in a chirpy singsong, “Comprende, babes?”
“You’re not a very nice person,” Louise told her.
Kelsey made a sad face.
“I don’t give a stuff what you think. I’m Kelsey DeMarco. The papers call me the Nation’s Sweetheart. I’m going to leave now, babes. You have a nice little life, yeah?”
“All I’m asking is for you to apologise to me, or…”
Kelsey was incredulous.
“Or what? What could a little person like you possibly do to a big star like me? I’m sick of you chancers.” She opened the door, determined to have the last word. “Parasites, people who crawl out of the woodwork, making demands and trying to bring down others who’ve made something of themselves!”
Fuming, Kelsey left the ladies’ and stormed back to her table. She clicked her fingers at the waiter as she sat and barked, “Prosecco!”
She had been in the toilet for so long, dealing with that ridiculous woman, that everyone had already eaten. When the waiter refilled her glass, she asked him, “Where’s my meal?”
“I’m sorry, madam,” he said. “You weren’t here so we presumed…”
She was conscious that the awards show was going to start soon, and didn’t want to go on stage to receive the reward with her stomach rumbling.
“Get me something to eat right now.”
Ten minutes later, and with the ceremony about to start, Kelsey’s food still hadn’t arrived. She called over the waiter to complain.
“Chef apologises that you missed the food, she feels responsible, and she’s promised to make something special for you,” the waiter explained.
In fact, a delicious meal with a fancy French name arrived soon after, and Kelsey scoffed it quickly, washing it down with plenty of prosecco, of course.
As she pushed the plate away, she had almost forgotten about her upsetting encounter. The awards show was going on-air. Kelsey was thrilled to glimpse herself in the audience on the big screen above the stage, alongside actors and movie stars – she couldn’t wait to mingle at the after-show party – but her nerves had really kicked in. In fact, by the time the winner of the Best Reality TV Star award was due to be announced, she felt downright awful.
Her stomach churned; she was burning up, feverish. The foundation on her face felt caked to her sweating face.
“Hey, Kelsey, you feeling all right?” asked TJ with genuine concern. “You don’t look too good.”
“I’m fine,” snapped Kelsey, dabbing at her running mascara. But the truth was, she didn’t feel at all well. Whatever it was she’d eaten, it didn’t agree with her. She really should get out of there, because she felt very sick. But there was no way on earth that she was going to leave now. She had to receive that award, she had to!
The room spinning, and her stomach cramping painfully, Kelsey took deep breaths. She just had to get through the next five minutes. When she looked up, she saw Louise watching her from the side of the room. It was then she realised with despair what outfit it was Louise was wearing – chef’s whites!
Kelsey lifted a napkin to wipe her hot forehead, and when she put it down, Louise was gone.
And then the award for Best Reality TV Star was being announced, and she felt the gaze of the cameras upon her. Despite how awful she felt, and how terrible she must look, Kelsey tried valiantly to smile.
“And the award goes to…” One of the hosts opened the envelope and grinned. “Kelsey DeMarco!”
She could barely believe it! She had waited so long for this moment. Kelsey launched out of her seat, but she could barely stand, let alone walk, and barged into tables and chairs as she lurched towards the stage. But she was going to accept that award, because she absolutely deserved it!
Stumbling up the stairs to the stadium, Kelsey grabbed the little statue out of the hands of the host, and held it aloft in triumph.
Forgetting the sweet and humble speech she had carefully rehearsed, she screamed, “I’m a winner!”
And then she was violently, catastrophically sick in front of all the assembled guests, the TV cameras, and the millions of viewers at home.
The following morning, sitting in the kitchen of her flat, Louise was tired but content. Catering for nearly four hundred people had been hard work but it had – mostly – been a satisfying night’s work. She was sipping coffee and looking at the news on her phone when her flatmate came into the room.
“Hey, how did it go last night?” she asked sympathetically. “Did you get to speak to that bully from school you said was going to be there?”
“Kind of.” Louise shrugged. “It didn’t go well, to be honest.”
Her flatmate squeezed her hand.
“But the main thing is, you tried. I’m so proud of you, Lou. You always put yourself down, but you should have more faith in yourself. You’re a winner.”
“Thank you,” Louise replied, and scrolled down her phone, reading the morning’s headlines:
KELSEY’S TV HUMILIATION
TV BABE’S AWARD SICKENER!
TELLY EXECS SET TO WIELD AXE ON EMBARRASSING KELSEY’S REALITY CAREER
“I feel as though I accomplished something, and I’m ready to move on,” Louise said reflectively.
“Good for you.”
Louise smiled. “But then again…maybe I’m not cut out to be a chef.”