Home > Becoming Mila (The Mila Trilogy #1)

Becoming Mila (The Mila Trilogy #1)
Author: Estelle Maskame


1

 


So, I messed up.

   Like, really messed up.

   It’s all I can do to keep myself steady while I struggle under the weight of my regret and fight this throbbing headache. But after last night’s mistake, I deserve to suffer.

   The room is silent except for the sound of the AC purring, and my eyes fasten onto a smudge that’s blemishing the white marble of our dining table.

   “How are we going to spin this?” Ruben sighs, seething with frustration. He’s at the end of his tether with me. He couldn’t make it any clearer just how tired he is of these impromptu damage-control meetings.

   “It’s your job to spin this,” Mom snaps at him, her nails tapping frantically on a cell phone. “So, start thinking.”

   “Marnie, there’s only so many indiscretions we can sweep under the rug,” Ruben counters. “The showbiz press is fast latching onto the fact that your daughter is turning into a reliable revenue stream.”

   I suppress enough nausea to steal a peek up from the table. Ruben has his back to me, focused on a MacBook on the kitchen countertop. Mom is engrossed in her cell phones. She keeps switching between two devices: one for business, one for personal use. Even at this ungodly hour of the morning, she has somehow still had time to blow-dry her hair and apply full makeup in between dealing with the latest publicity crisis. There are two women here from the production company; executives of some sort, but I don’t know their names. All I know is that they look entirely furious.

   “Can’t we pass it off as an episode of vertigo?” one of them suggests. She catches my lingering gaze and I look away.

   “Oh yeah, sure, that’ll work,” Ruben drawls. He spins around, jaw clenched. Ruben has been in our lives for the past decade, but he still scares the hell out of me sometimes. He sets the laptop down on the table in front of me and tilts the screen back. “Look,” he says, but I’m too ashamed to read the headlines. “Mila, look,” he demands.

   With heat spreading across my face, I reluctantly glance at the screen. Several windows are open, all minimized into small boxes that cover the screen; a blur of words that squeezes my chest that little bit tighter in their clutch.

 

EVERETT HARDING’S DAUGHTER TURNS WILD CHILD?

 

MILA HARDING CREATES A SCENE AT THE “FLASH POINT: NO RETURN” PRESS CONFERENCE

 

does everett harding slack off when it comes to parental supervision?

   “I’m sorry,” I whisper, my voice hoarse from dehydration, making me sound weak and insincere.

   “Apologies aren’t going to shut down those hacks,” Ruben snaps, then strides off with the laptop again. He perches it back on the counter, then directs his aggravation toward the production executives. “And which liability of yours thought it was a great idea to give Everett’s sixteen-year-old daughter champagne at such an event in the first place?” he demands of them. “Someone who should no longer be working for you, that’s who.”

   “No one gave me the champagne,” I quietly cut in, mostly because I feel bad enough as it is without dragging someone else through the mud with me. Besides, no one else was actually at fault. It was all my own actions and decisions, which means it’s all my mistake. “The flutes were already poured. I just grabbed one whenever no one was looking.”

   Ruben casts a look of disgust over his shoulder at me. “Mila, you’re at an age where you know exactly how the tabloids spin the slightest trip-up. Their eyes light up with dollar signs. They’ve not a shred of sympathy for a kid who makes mistakes, especially when that kid is Everett Harding’s daughter.”

   Someone’s phone rings. One of the executives leaves the room, barking orders.

   “I’m sorry,” I say again. I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized since last night, but it doesn’t feel like enough. And, besides, what else can I say? I suck in my lower lip and cast my eyes down to the table, fighting back tears.

   “I know you are, honey,” Mom says. She places her two phones down next to me and angles in close, putting an arm around my shoulders. She smells like blossom, fresh flowers in the spring. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a rite of passage as a teenager to experiment, so I’m not angry at you. It’s just that . . .” She rests her chin on my shoulder and exhales, her breath tickling my neck. Her voice turns low. “Other kids can afford to mess up every now and then. You can’t. Not when we’re in the public eye, and right now of all times, the spotlight is shining just that bit brighter.”

   In her warm, scented embrace, I start to cry.

   The other times I messed up recently, they were mild in comparison. When I gave the paparazzi the middle finger from the passenger seat of our Range Rover because I forgot that the windshield isn’t tinted, Ruben nearly throttled me. And last month when I got into a spat with a Z-list model on Twitter, Ruben dealt me a blanket social media ban for two weeks. But now those stunts don’t seem like such a big deal, because last night’s antics were in a different league altogether.

   Imagine this: it’s the glitzy press conference for one of the biggest blockbuster releases of the summer, and the publicity run for the long-awaited third installment of the Flash Point series is in full swing. A luxurious Beverly Hills theater packed with journalists who have an abundance of questions lined up. The majority of the main cast is in attendance, but the lead, Everett Harding, and his glamorous co-star, Laurel Peyton, are the names on everyone’s lips. On stage, the cast laughs with the audience, answering their questions and sharing their passion for their latest movie. Meanwhile, backstage, the production company celebrates. The champagne flows a little too freely. Everett Harding’s chic wife floats elegantly around, engaging in animated discussions with executives and snapping behind-the-scenes candids for her husband to share later on social media.

   And then there’s me, their daughter, who makes the rookie teenage mistake of swiping champagne at a showbiz party that is already subject to so much scrutiny. I should know better than to try out something new, but I’m backstage, and I figure no one will notice.

   I figured wrong.

   The event wraps up to thundering applause. Mom pulls Dad into a giddy hug when he emerges backstage, and Ruben calls our driver to bring the car around because Dad is too exhausted from a full day of press to stay and mingle. Ruben hunts me down, steers me out the back door behind my parents to the dazzling flashes of the waiting paparazzi and their cameras. Like sparkles in the night sky, I used to think when I was younger. But now, it’s just blinding.

   The fresh air hits me too hard. I stumble over my own feet, knock into my mother, then crash against the barriers that are keeping the paparazzi at bay. Dad hears the commotion and turns to reach out for me, but Ruben shoves him into the waiting minivan. Mom disappears inside the vehicle behind him, and by the time Ruben comes back to marshal me, I am on my knees on the concrete, fighting to stabilize myself. A surge of nausea washes over me, and it’s too intense to suppress. I throw up just as I’m trying to recall exactly how many champagne flutes I tipped down my throat.

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