“Ladies and gentlemen, we will begin momentarily.”
Rachel was grateful for the chance to sit without being the center of everyone’s attention, although she knew she would still be ogled and whispered about. She sighed. At least she could look straight ahead and pretend not to notice. She was less than eighteen months into her newfound fame and she was already wondering if she was cut out for celebrity status. She hadn’t even done anything significant with her life. It wasn’t like she had saved a life, invented something, or created soul-stirring art. She just looked good on a runway and in Los Angeles in the 21st century, where millions of young people yearn for stardom and never find it, others had the fortune, or misfortune, to become a household name simply because the tabloids decided to latch on to them and make them famous.
Her thoughts turned dark and jaded. Her photo from this fundraising event would be all over the Internet within hours and in the morning her face would grace the cover of everything from the L.A. Times to much less reputable “news” magazines and all the while she knew she was less significant than the lowliest child they were gathered to raise money for.
She wasn’t anything like Father Stan. He was an unsung hero. He should have been the one being honored on the platform tonight.
Stan always hated it when she thought that way and he hated it when she downplayed her celebrity or belittled herself. She remembered a recent conversation when he had looked at her tenderly and said, “Rachel, you were born to be famous. It’s part of the note in life that you were meant to play. There’s a reason you are where you are today. Your job is to find out why, gratefully enjoy the experience and use it to make a positive difference in the world.”
Stan always saw the best in her.
She quickly blinked back a flow of tears and wondered if he would still see the good if he ever found out about her and the mayor.
He was being introduced now. Rachel realized that her mind had completely wandered during the opening remarks of the banquet. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mayor Kevin Gunther!” Applause ripped through the assembly and a spontaneous standing ovation swept through the room and continued for nearly a minute after Kevin raised his hand in humbled protest.
At least he seemed humble and maybe he really was. Sometimes Rachel couldn’t be sure. In many ways, he was the most ambitious and the most dangerous man she had ever met. She was afraid of him even now, and yet in other respects she revered him. He was a born leader of men who could pull greatness out of people and rally them around a worthwhile cause. She believed in him and she was committed to following him and lending to his cause whatever influence her starlet celebrity possessed.
She stood and applauded with the rest of the guests.
His brilliant smile swept the room and he seemingly made eye contact with every gathered person. It was amazing how he could speak to a crowd of thousands while making each individual feel as if he were speaking directly to them. It was truly a gift.
“Thank you so much for the gift of your time, your presence…and your donations.” He added with a charming smirk. People laughed good-naturedly as he continued. “Shelly and I would never be where we are today if it weren’t for people like you who believe in the message and vision of our administration. We are not out to build a name for ourselves, we are not out to reclaim California’s, or even America’s, reputation as world leaders, we are out to help as many hurting people as we can while we still have breath left to breathe and strength left to give.”
It was his standard speech. Many of the guests had heard him give it a dozen times but it sounded fresh and genuine each time and the reason it sounded fresh and genuine is because it was fresh and genuine. Kevin Gunther was not a politician at heart. He was a humanitarian and a change agent with a burning passion to see the world around him shift for the good and if there were some who still had their doubts about his methods and motives, no one doubted his wife, Shelly.
Kevin was introducing her now as he always did and she waved and smiled with all the poise of a beauty queen combined with the innocence of a Midwestern farm girl. Everyone adored her.
However, very few could perceive the incredible effort it took for her to smile and wave and champion the many causes that bore her name. Rachel was one of the few who knew what Shelly had gone through and she was one of the few who could read the pain in the depths of her violet eyes. Rachel knew that Shelly was flat, empty and cold and no matter how she laughed and tossed her hair and smiled at Kevin’s wit and charm, Rachel could see that Shelly Gunther was dying inside and she wondered how long it would be before the rest of the world could see it too.
Her mood continued to darken throughout the rally, until, mercifully, the event ended and she asked her driver to get her home as quickly as possible. She said a brief goodnight to her date, claiming an upset stomach and left him to hail a cab at the event center. Despite what the tabloids would print in the morning, she was only with him because she needed to try to move on. She had to try to forget. She kept her dark glasses on in the backseat of her car to hide the tears that she couldn’t hold back any longer. When she was finally home, she pulled the blinds, buried her head under her covers like she used to do as a little girl and wished that morning would never come.
End of Chapter Ten. To purchase this book and continue reading in printed or electronic form click here.