Backstage before the fashion show, the neophyte model quaked with nerves. Gertie had never done runway before, and here she was amid the frothing chaos, a glamour-hive of activity. She felt vulnerable, naked. In fact she was naked; they had lost her dress, and she shivered behind a rack.
A frenzied stage manager shrieked into his headset, "Find the fuckin' frock!! You there!." He jabbed his finger at a frightened underling. "Drop everything and give me ten...books of matches, 4 cartons Camels, 3 cases Champagne. These girls are thirsty! Get to it!" And then, sotto voce, "Oh, and an eight-ball would be lovely, darling."
Cupping her breasts (which one editor had described, bafflingly, as "terrapin tits"), Gertie felt a deep sense of unbelonging. She knew her look was unusual; amid all these models, these gilded gazelles and gamine giraffes, she knew she was out of place in this zoo.
Laughter. A huddle of models- a muddle? - were looking at Gertie scornfully, bristling with snark. Every hive has a queen bee, and Gertie felt queasy when she recognized Perfidia, girl of the moment, as her tormentor. Perfidia had walked so many runways it was said her bunions were imprinted with the Chanel logo.
"..so ugly, she makes blind children cry!" was all Gertie could overhear.
Gertie had learned long ago how to deal with bullies: by running away and hiding in her room, crying. Her home life was an unhappy one; often her mother would remark that she could see the bullies' point. She was aware of the antique slur, "Your mother wears Army boots", but in her case it was true. Gertie only wished Ma would wear something else besides. Coming home from school was sometimes a shock.
"Found it, dahling!" A sudden swarm of hands, at least six, dressing her, zipping, tying, buckling, sewing, gluing. Though she couldn't see, an acrid smell from behind indicated some soldering of the metal bits.
"Scrum-shuss," cooed the stylist. "The look is Neo-tribal Edwardian glam-rock, with a bit of Babe Paley-in-Biarritz '60's. Are we adoring the will-o-the-wisp wasp waist, or what?
His smile and warmth made Gertie feel grateful. The mini bottle of Champagne with a straw he gave her made her feel a light buzz. By the third mini-bottle Gertie was fairly brimming with confidence. And fairly trashed.
Makeup was easy; the inspiration was an episode of ER. Hair was a bit complex; the Eva Braun braid-roll wouldn't hold.
The tent was filling, the audience abuzz with ungenerous gossip. Mavens of mode, stylish strivers, arrogant arrivistes, parading poodles in pink tams. A mysterious, aloof woman in stilettoes read loose pages, as editors marveled at the innovation of a purse that resembled a pail. Schadenfreude was in the air. It was the new fragrance from the show's sponsor, the lit-podcast billionaire Bat Segundo.
As the music began pounding, Gertie's energy soared. She'd show them all!
She would stride down that catwalk with poise. She would succeed. Gertie, her lazy eye, and her harelip were going all the way.
All the way!
Disqualifed for word count, dammit: 514