The cameras’ bright flashes bounced off her face as she walked down the street, steadily but slowly towards her home. A tight smile, which was as stony as a runway model’s, was carved across her face. He had told her to smile every encounter with the press; every moment was a chance for publicity according to him. As a result this metallic factory-made smile had become imprinted onto her normal facial expression, even if her eyes told a different story.
It had been a while since she had come back to her hometown; the clock tower still chimed systematically every hour and the pub opposite’s patrons still stumbled out at obscene hours of the night with eyes gleaming, the cloudy bliss of over-intoxication. The woman at the fruit stall still shouted manically at passers-by, almost antagonising them into buying her assorted collection of fruit; as if she was a playground bully and her customers her victims, bullied into giving their lunch money away for an apple or an orange. It was almost exactly the same since her last visit; she was the only thing that had changed.
He had told her to take her time during this walk.
‘The press will lap up your return to home’ he had said, sat in his chair in a room bedazzled with photos of the glitzy, glamorous and soulless faces that were contracted to him.
‘They always love seeing a winner’s first return home to their family after being in The House’.
There were about a dozen faceless paparazzi swarmed around her, like flies to a rotten orange, documenting the worldwide newsworthy trip that she took from her car to her house. The fans were out in their throngs too, shouting their admiration. The cameras shuttered and flashed continuously, capturing and in turn killing each moment. It was so loud, so overpoweringly bright.
She could tell by the paparazzi’s faces that people like her came along all the time, that she would have to do something extraordinary for her to outshine her reality show winner star power.
Her bodyguard’s hand was clasped over her back guiding her towards her home, through the pack of paparazzi closing in on their juicy prey. As a young fan failed in his attempt to get her autograph, tripping and falling, her bodyguard’s grip tightened, warning her not to stop. That seemed strange; usually he wanted her to spend as much time in the camera’s glare as possible. As she finally entered her house, she couldn’t help but look back at the little boy who had wanted her autograph as he was pushed aside by the insistent paparazzi.
In her living room, the same pictures stood on the mantelpiece. However they were of a girl who she didn’t recognise, one who seemed happy with her boyfriend’s arm over her shoulder.
She finally realised why she was here; it was a photo shoot, complete with photographers and stylists bustling about.
Her mum was there, fending off stylists as they picked at her skin and hair. When she saw her, she mouthed ‘I tried to stop them’. They seemed to give up on her and headed towards Britney. They sprayed all manner of artificial chemicals in her hair as they told her how naturally beautiful her dyed blonde hair was.
She got up suddenly, excusing herself to the bathroom. The girl she saw in the mirror was unrecognisable, alien. She was angry, sick of the superficiality. Did they really know who she was? Tears started streaking down her face as she opened the cupboard and grabbed a razor. Then, she cut.
Long, ‘beautiful’ strands of hair floated down into the basin of the sink. Controversial sells, right? It seemed to, as she walked out and the stylists gasped and the flashes were brighter and more unbearable than ever before.