The Princess and the Plague: Erika goes to Hollywood 1


Princess and the Plague:
Erika goes to Hollywood 1

by Anistasia Allread
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Chapter 21
Erika goes to Hollywood

Erika sat looking out the window of the Boeing Jet. The planet was somewhere thirty thousand feet below them, but all she could see was the white clouds.

She was only a little boy the last time she had ever flown. She barely remembered it. It was exhilarating as was the whole idea of this trip. She just wished that she hadn’t left everything at school in such a mess. Shannon was disappointed, Tricia suspended, and Taylor hurt and pissed. Samantha had been right, she should have spoken to her and Melinda first.

Erika had met up with Taylor after school and before Cheer/Rally practice.

“Did you speak with Melinda?” Taylor had asked.

Erika wanted to start crying all over again. She nodded.

“So, I’m back on the squad?”

Erika shook her head. “No. Melinda said that once you quit, you weren’t allowed to re-join.”

“What?” Taylor had exclaimed. “I only quit because of you.”

“I know, I know.” Erika had a hard time looking Taylor in the eye.

“Fuck you, you pervert! I went through all of that for you to quit a couple of weeks later?” Taylor was losing it. “Fuck you!”

Erika felt her bottom lip quiver. “I am so sorry, Taylor. I never wanted you to quit, I thought that if I quit, Melinda would let you back on. Honestly, I did.”

“My parents are pissed.” Taylor growled. “I was supposed to try and get a scholarship doing cheer. I walked away because of your sorry, fake, perverted ass! You fucking Bitch!”

“Taylor!” Melinda yelled stopping what ever was going to happen next.

Taylor and Erika turned to face the Cheer leader. Melinda walked right up and stood staring up at the pissed off young lady, “You made a choice to quit Rally. You made a choice to walk away from a possible scholarship. You made the choice to treat a member of the student body let alone a team mate with contempt. Your choice to use this kind of language and your choice to treat Erika in this manner is exactly why I don’t want you back on Rally.”

The two girls stood staring in a standoff. “You are a bigot, disguise it however you want, but you are, and there is no position available on the squad for a bigot.”

Taylor spun and stormed out of the building.
--o0o—

The pilot’s scratchy voice sounded over the P.A. announcing that they would start their decent into LAX.

Erika’s heart fluttered with anxiety. She was so excited she almost bounced in her seat.

Seventy-three degrees, the pilot had said. Oh, to wear short skirts without leggings, to wear sandals instead of boots. Who needs a jacket in seventy-three degrees?

The terminal was all indoors, the air conditioning was keeping the building cool. At the security gate, Erika spotted a man dressed in black and white holding a sign with her name on it.

“Hello.” Her mother greeted. “This is Erika Summers.”

“Hello Ms. Summers.” He greeted Erika. “Mr. Winters sent me to take you to your hotel. Do you have any bags checked?”

“No.” Erika shook her head. “Just these.” She referred to their small carry-ons.

“Please, let me take those.” He reached and both she and her mother gave over their bags.

Erika stepped outside for the first time and rejoiced in the warmth of Southern California. She took in a deep breath and smelled the warm air, the baking concrete, a slight hint of salt from the ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and almost giggled when she saw the palm trees.

They followed the driver out to a black limousine. Just as they were arriving, a beautiful woman stepped out the car and smiled.

“Mrs. Martin, Ms. Summers.” She greeted. “My name is Brook. I’m one of Mr. Winters’ assistants.” She took each of their hands in turn with a light squeeze. “Please take a seat.” She gestured into the limo.

The driver had already put their bags in the trunk and was standing behind the open door waiting for them.

“I’ve never been in a limo before.” Erika gasped as she slid across the back seat to make room for her mother.

Once her mother was in, Brook ducked in and sat across from them facing backwards.

“Won’t you get sick sitting that way?” Erika’s mother asked.

Brook smiled. “Not at all, I’m actually used to it by now, but thank you for asking.”

The driver eased out into traffic

“Mr. Winters is excited to meet with you.” She looked Erika and her mother in the eye. “First things first, is to get you to your hotel. Are you hungry? Have you eaten?”

“I’m fine at the moment.” Erika’s mom smiled.

“Erika?” Brook asked.

“I’m good.” Erika was staring out the window at the massive city with all of its concrete, stucco houses and palm trees.

“Your first trip to Los Angeles?” Brook probed.

Erika nodded.

“Unfortunately, you’re going to be a bit busy, so there won’t be much time for sightseeing.”

Erika pouted. She was hoping to at see the Pacific Ocean, and Hollywood’s walk of fame.

“Mr. Winters will meet with you to finalize your contract after you’ve settled into your hotel, then he would like you to join him for dinner tonight.” Brook explained. “Tomorrow, morning, he has lined up a photo shoot for you then you’ll have the afternoon off.” She paused. “You didn’t bring any formal wear, did you?” She asked.

“No.” Mrs. Martin shook her head. We figured we’d be here for the contract signing and then perhaps a few photo shoots. Why?”

Mr. Winters would like Erika to start getting her face known.” Brook smiled at Erika. “He has arranged for an invite to Tommy Kincaid’s charity ball tomorrow night.”

“Tommy Kincaid?” Erika almost shrieked. He was only one of the best leading men in films. And she was getting invited to his party?

“Since you are underage, your mother will be expected to attend with you.” Brook gave Mrs. Martin a knowing look. “It’ll be helpful for her career and image if everyone knows that you are an involved mother.” Brook tapped at her tablet for a moment then looked back up. “After your contract signing, I’ll take you shopping for some appropriate dresses.”

“I’m not sure we have that kind of money to drop on formal dresses, especially the kind that are expected at a ball.” Mrs. Martin bit her lower lip.

“Mr. Winters has connections.” Brook assured. “I believe he’ll give you and advance that will more than cover it.”

Erika kept looking out the windows at the strange environment. She had never seen so many cars on such wide freeways before. She’d heard that Los Angeles was big, but this was unfathomable. She made a mental note to pull up a map to study as soon as she had the time.

“You flew in at a good time.” Brook commented. “The traffic is light this time of day so we are making good time. I’ll see if you have time for a short nap before meeting with Mr. Winters.”

Nap? Erika thought. Who can nap when in Hollywood? She then stifled a yawn. It had been an early start, but still, there was so much to see and do and she was going to meet Tommy Kincaid. Samantha will be so envious.

It wasn’t long before the limo pulled up to the front of a hotel. One of the valet’s opened the door and allowed the women out. Erika took in the new scent of the city again, feeling the warmth radiating from all of the concrete and stucco seeped into her bones.
Up a few red carpeted stairs and they were in a huge decedent lounge of a hotel. Erika could feel her shoes sink into the thick plush carpets that ran the length of the marbled room.

“Key for room 2057, Martin.” Brook told the front desk.

“Here you are.” The tan, blonde woman smiled at Brook then to Erika and her mother.

Once they had taken the elevator up and walked down the hall, Brook popped the key card into the door lock and pushed open the door to a good sized main room.

“You’ll each have your own room.” Brook waved to a room on either side of the reception room.

Erika accepted her suit case from the bellhop and entered one of the nicely decorated rooms.

“Do we have time to freshen up?” She heard her mother ask Brooklyn.

“Yes, of course.”

Erika explored the connecting bathroom. Bigger than she had at home, but not luxury, it was going to be quite nice. She caught sight of her self in the mirror and cringed. She was supposed to be a model, and Brooklyn saw her looking like this? She quickly retrieved her makeup from her suit case and set to work, trying to freshen up a tired face.

“How are you doing in there, Erika?” Brook inquired from the main room.

She poked her head out of her room, “Um, what shall I wear to the meeting with Mr. Winters?”

Brook’s smile broadened. “You’re in luck.” She chuckled as she walked towards Erika. “One of my main jobs for Mr. Winters is helping his clients get ready for events. I’m kind of a personal shopper. Some of his clients even ask for my help after they become stars.”

“Really? Who?” Erika watched as Brook gracefully stepped over to her bed where her suitcase was opened.

“Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to say,” She sighed. “But you’d recognize the names.”

“I didn’t know what to pack.” Erika bit her lower lip.

“Well, lets see what you have.” Brook suggested.

A few minutes later, Erika stepped out of her room wearing a black, knee-length pencil skirt with a bright red top and black flats.

“Perfect.” Brook nodded.

“Wow, that looks nice.” Her mother joined them.

--o0o—

It was a short ride in the limo to the front of the building where Mr. Winter’s office was located.

After checking through security, Brook took them to the elevators. Getting off on the twentieth floor, she took them through large glass double doors.

“Have a seat here.” She instructed. “I’ll see if he is available yet.”

Erika looked around the posh reception area with its comfortable furnishings. Hundreds of framed pictures of celebrities lined one long wall opposite from the wall of windows looking down over Hollywood and its surroundings.

Too excited to sit, Erika got up and began perusing the pictures of celebrities. Not just celebrities, but musicians, models, and even athletes. “How did we get here?” She wondered aloud.

“I’m not sure.” Her mother sounded just as bewildered. “I think it started when you insisted on going to summer camp.”

Erika stared at her mother for a moment in shock before realizing that she was right. Samantha’s suggestion that she try wearing her shoes started this path in life.

“Here’s Tommy Kincaid and Michelle Gray.” Erika practically swooned. “They make such a great couple. And we might get to meet them tomorrow.”

“Erika? Mrs. Martin?” a deep voice greeted interrupting Erika’s excitement. “I’m Hal Winters, please come with me.”

Erika and her mother followed Mr. Winters into a glass conference room, the opposite wall was window from floor to ceiling.

“Please have a seat.” Mr. Winters indicated.

Erika smoothed her skirt under her as she sat. Why was her heart beating so hard in her chest?

“Welcome to Hollywood.” Mr. Winters took a seat opposite of them. “It’s good to meet face to face.” He smiled at Erika. “You’re even more pretty in person.” He stated. His eyes flicked to her mother and back. “I see you take after your mother.”

“Thank you, Mr. Winters.”

“Please, it’s Hal.” He leaned back in his chair, more relaxed.

Brook entered the room with a file of paperwork and ice-cold bottles of water.

“Water?” he offered. “I don’t know how it is in Constitution, but here, we don’t drink the tap water.

Erika filed that away. Don’t drink the tap water. She took the offered water and took as small sip.

Brook shot her a smile and exited the room.

Hal took a long draw on the water then recapping it, set it aside. He opened the file and took out a stack of papers. “Now down to business.” He scanned the front page and nodded sub-consciously before pushing towards her mother.” This is as your husband reviewed.” He stated.

Erika’s thought drifted to what parties with celebrities might be like as her mother and Hal went over the specifics of the contract.

“Okay, that sounds good.” Her mother nodded.

“Great.” Hal smiled taking out a pen. “I’ll need both of your signatures.”

Both she and her mother signed at the appropriate places.

“Fantastic.” Mr. Winters smiled. “Now, I am going to have Brook spend the rest of the afternoon and most of tomorrow with you. I’m sure she informed you that I have arranged for you to attend Tommy Kincaid’s ball tomorrow evening.”

Erika and her mother nodded.

“Brook will take you to get dresses for the occasion. Tomorrow you’ll have an early start, I have you scheduled for new head shots.” He stopped and looked directly at Erika. “How do you feel about acting?”

“Um, I’ve never really thought about it.” Erika looked to her mother and back to Mr. Winters.

“I have you tentatively scheduled for a call for a commercial. If your photo shoot goes well, I’ll have Brook take you so that you can meet with the director. It’s just a local commercial, not a big deal, but something to get your feet wet with. Just remember that most actors get rejected for quite a while, but it’s my job to work you in to getting a few shots.”

As if on que, Brook opened the room with a smile. Mr. Winters stood and offered his hand to Erika. “Its great to have you on board. I’m looking forward to working with you.” He then took Erika’s mother’s hand. “I’ll see you both for dinner tonight?”

“Yes.” Her mother smiled. “Thank you, Hal.”

“Follow me.” Brook instructed. She paused at the reception room. “Anyone need to use the ladies room?”

Erika paused. “I should probably.”

“Third door on the left.” Brook pointed down the hall.

Erika’s mother joined her in the bathroom. It was the first time she had used the ladies’ bathroom with her mother. It was awkwardly quiet. What does a transgender woman talk about with her mother while using the toilet?

Her mother in the stall next to hers broke the silence. “Wow. Mr. Winters has written you a pretty generous contract. I didn’t believe it when your father spoke to me about it, but it was all there as promised.” She paused. “Erika, you could possibly make enough money to pay for all of your college and a down payment on a house, if things still go as good as they see to be.”

Erika hadn’t even thought about college in…. well…. Since before summer. She had been focused so much on surviving school, a house fire, a brain tumor along with transitioning and for the first time, a social life. College seemed something so far away yet.

She finished up and was washing her hands when her mother joined her at the sink. She straightened a stray hair and smoothed down her skirt before checking her makeup.

“Sometimes I feel like Alice through the looking glass.” Her mother stated after a deep sigh. “Your changing, then modeling, now signing in Hollywood with an agent. It’s just so bizarre.”

Erika nodded in agreement. “Everything has been happening so fast.”

Once in the limo, Brook smiled at them. “Mr. Winters really likes you. He gave me the company charge card to get your dresses for tomorrow night.”

Erika was as shocked as her mother.

“It means that he has faith in your blossoming career. I have only seen him do this a handful of times.”

“Wow.” It came out breathless.

“That is very generous of him.” Her mother too was in shock.

Brook lowered the window between her and the driver. “Rodeo Drive.” She stated. Then put the partition back up.

“Seriously? Rodeo Drive?” Erika couldn’t believe what she had just heard.

“That’s too much.” Her mother stated. Dillard’s or Nordstrom’s will do.”

“This is Tommy Kincaid’s ball. Therefore Rodeo.” Brook affirmed. “Mr. Winters insisted.”

--o0o—

Once they had purchased their ball gowns, that was when Brook took them to the mall. It was like no mall she had ever been to. Palm trees inside the mall, Huge palm trees, lit with white Christmas lights and sun blaring down through sky lights. It was the middle of winter and girls were wearing shorts, tank tops and flip-flops.

So many different types of people, she’d never seen so many people from so many different races all in one place. Not only were there so many different people, but so many different styles and vibes. Asian girls with blonde hair, Africa-American guys with purple dreads, People with piercings in places she didn’t know could be pierced. It was like she was a little girl actually walking through a tropical fish aquarium. It was all so strange, so colorful and so incredibly wonderful.

Brook seemed not to even notice the unique jungle that she was living in. Could someone actually get tired, bored, of seeing so many individuals?

“That’s the dress.” Erika told her mother.

“Erika’s right.” Brook agreed.

“Are you sure it’s not a bit too daring?” She asked fingering cleavage that hadn’t seen the light of day since she had been dating Erika’s father.

“It’s stunning.” Erika smiled. “And dad will love it too.”

Her mother looked at her reflection in the mirror then at Erika and Brook then let out a long breath. “Okay.”

Brook uncrossed long elegant legs and rose as Erika gave a clap of excitement. She hoped that she could someday be as graceful as Brook. She wondered if she was born with that grace or if it was something that was practiced for hours in front of a mirror.

The women, arms full of various bags headed towards the limo.

“Can we try In-n-Out on the way back to the hotel?” Erika wasn’t too hopeful.

Brook paused mid stride and glanced at Erika. She looked at her watch and then back at Erika. “This is your first trip to Los Angeles, Right?”

Erika nodded.

“Have you ever been to In-n-Out?”

Erika shook her head. So many people at school who had heard about this trip told her that she couldn’t come home without hitting up In-n-Out first.

“If we go there now, you will not be able to eat dinner tonight, and believe me, you’ll want to eat dinner tonight.” Brook bit her lip in concentration. “Tell you what. I’ll make sure you get some tomorrow. We’ll make it the event that it deserves.”

Erika was a bit crestfallen. She didn’t know what it was all about, but so many people hyped it up, she really wanted to give it a try. “Okay.” She shrugged. What could she really do? She was at Brook’s mercy for the next day or two. Not that Brook wasn’t fun. It was just well, she kind of wished that Tricia and Samantha were with her on this trip. Where did that thought come from? She hadn’t really thought of them all day, well, not too much. Now her heart was longing for their company and friendly wit.

By the time they reached the limo, she was bushed. Perhaps a nap instead of In-n Out sounded better. It wouldn’t be much of a nap. She’d have to get ready for their dinner with Mr. Winters. She wanted to look the best she could. He was her manager and he knew a lot of people in Hollywood.

Brook helped them get all of their ‘goods’ up to their room. “I’m leaving you for the night.” She told Erika. “I’ll be here first thing in the morning. Make sure to get some sleep. You are going to have a very busy, full day tomorrow.”

“Thank you Brook.”

“It’s what I get paid for.” She smiled. “It’s a good thing I like my job.”

Erika slipped out of her skirt, heels and lay down on her bed. “God, this feels good.” She told the ceiling. She quickly set the alarm on her phone for one hour before updating her social media. She lay her phone down and closed her eyes.

Erika sat bolt upright wondering where she was, it was bright and smelled different than Constitution.

“Duh.” She told herself rubbing her eyes. “Hollywood.”

She got up and gathered all of her hair into a bun on top of her head before stripping and stepping into the shower. She looked down at her chest wishing the hormones would work faster. She shaved her under arms three times. She didn’t want to have any missed stubble. Tonight, had to be near perfect. Tomorrow night would have to be even more perfect. She decided to shave her legs tonight so that she wouldn’t have to early in the morning.

After drying off, she slipped into a fresh pair of panties and bra. She slid her forms into the bra and checked to make sure they were secure. Her dress wasn’t going to show off her cleavage tonight, so she didn’t have to worry about gluing them down.

She looked at her ball gown hanging at the front of the closet. She was going to kill in that. And those shoes. They were sparkling as if encrusted in diamonds, they were amazing. Samantha would kill to have sparkly shoes as beautiful as those. Erika couldn’t stand having them packed in the box. She pulled them out and set them on the table so that the fading sunlight piercing the blinds hit them and caused her to squint against the glare.

A giggle escaped her lips, startling her. She was giggling over pretty shoes. It was again surreal. Just a few months ago, she was into drawing comics on line and trying to not get pummeled in the halls of school. Tonight, she was giggling over pretty shoes and excited to go to Tommy Kincaid’s ball.

She shook her head and brought her thoughts back to getting ready.

“Okay, they are waiting for us down stairs.” Her mother called, “Are you ready?”

Erika stepped out in a deep purple dress with a long skirt that brushed seductively around her ankles. A shear fabric the same color as the purple covered her shoulders in cap sleeves. It was sexy without showing any skin. She had spent the last. . . . well it seemed like an hour, pinning her extensions up on the back of her head in some semblance of a romantic bun. A few tresses were artfully pulled loose.

Her mother looked up from her purse and gasped.

Erika’s heart stopped. “What’s wrong? Is it horrible?”

“Not at all.” She managed. “Erika.” She paused uncertain what to say. “You look quite stunning.” Her mother took her in from head to toe. A sparkle lit her eyes as she snickered. “Couldn’t resist wearing those shoes?”

Erika looked down. “They are just too pretty.” She bit her lip. “Are they too much?”

Mrs. Martin shook her head. “Not at all. They are indeed very pretty.”

“I figured I may as well start breaking them in for tomorrow night.” Erika added.

Her mother nodded. “I need to send a picture to your father. Hold it.”

Her mother took a few pics and looked at them on her phone. “Wow.” She whispered.

“Send them to me so that I can share with Tricia and Samantha.” Erika instructed.

Hal stood in the lobby of the hotel wearing a very nice light weight suit. Erika was suddenly glad she wasn’t ever expected to wear suit again. They were so uncomfortable.

Mr. Winters tucked his phone into his pocket and smiled at them. “Well, you two look lovely.”

Erika felt that he meant it and blushed. When she realized that his words had that effect she felt confused. Part of her was excited and held her head higher. She had a longing to please this man, but the other part of her was embarrassed that she felt that way.

Mr. Winters waited for them to get into the limo before he joined them. “Did you have a good time with Brook?” he asked.

“Yes, she is wonderful.” Erika smiled.

Mr. Winters nodded.

After a twenty-minute drive with small talk and Erika’s attention getting sucked out the window at the new to her scenery, they arrived at the restaurant. A valet helped her out of the car. She couldn’t help notice that he had given her more than a quick look before smiling and releasing her hand.

The salt air was a tang in her nose, a spice against the warmed concrete and other unfamiliar scents. Lit fountains near the door of the restaurant added an undertone of chlorine. It wasn’t unpleasant, but decidedly Los Angeles.

“You may see some celebs in here.” Mr. Winters told her. “You can smile at them, but they come here to eat in peace.”

Erika nodded. Celebs? Here at this restaurant? If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me. She thought.

She felt the large hand of Mr. Winters lightly on the small of her back guiding through the doors. Large windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean were set in the wall opposite of them. The orange sun was darkening the scattered clouds to a fiery red.

“Wow.” Escaped Erika’s lips.

“Hmm?” Mr. Winters questioned.

“I’ve never seen the sunset of the Pacific.” She couldn’t take her eyes off of the colorful view. “Are they always like this?”

“Most of the time.” Mr. Winters nodded. “I guess I’ve become accustomed to them. They are pretty.”

Erika felt her mother’s hand grasp hers. She gave a Erika a loving squeeze before giving her a light tug to signal that they needed to follow the hostess.

--o0o—

Erika slipped off her pretty shoes and carefully set them on the table. They sure were pretty. They did hurt after a couple of hours, but she felt the pain was worth it.

She hardly noticed anything at the restaurant until after the sun had fully set and the sky became dark. That was a magical sunset and all she wanted was Tricia beside her enjoying it with her.

She slipped out of her dress and hung it up. She had caught the eye of more than one guy and that of a woman or two as well. She wondered if it was the dress or her. Did it matter? She began taking the bobby pins out of her hair. Once down, she scratched at her scalp and ran her fingers through the long dark hair.

A yawn stopped her in her tracks. She needed to get to bed. Brook had warned her that it was going to be busy tomorrow. Was it tomorrow yet? She looked at her phone. With her body still in her old time zone it was.

She didn’t recognize any celebs while they ate, but her mom gushed about seeing a singer that she had crushed on and some soap star having dinner with her husband. It was kind of disappointing that she hadn’t recognized anyone, but she figured the roles would be reversed at the ball.

Erika made sure to set her alarm and lay down, quickly losing awareness of the world as darkness took her.



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