Ch1 Living in a Material World

I, Tiara Briar-Madden, was facing a huge dilemma.

There was currently a woman garbed in atrocious reds and pinks happily yakking away beside me, all the while holding an annoying, yapping pooch in her arms that just made me wish to throttle the thing. I'd been humoring the lady for the past ten minutes, nine minutes too long in my opinion, yet I had no idea who said lady was.

Okay, so maybe she wasn't a complete stranger. After all, these boring, uncreative cocktail parties were frequented by the same boring, uncreative people anyway. Really, if it weren't for Aubrey's promise to ground me if I didn't show up, I'd have left the party eons ago.

Who was Aubrey Briar, occupation: A-list movie star? Well, she just happens to be my mother. And tonight was the pre-premiere party of yet another one of Aubrey's new projects, a big budget flick called The Georgetown Affair. Whoop-de-doo.

Some think it's cool to have a famous actress for a mom, but I have Aubrey and I'm not so sure about that. After all, Aubrey is self-centered, childish, and hardly acts her age. She's too busy prancing around pretending we're sisters instead of being a semblance of motherly, and it actually works. I cannot tell you how many times I've encountered stolen shots of her in bikinis online. Gross.

Anyway, tonight she'd forced this edict about good behavior on me. Nothing but smiles and positive words from me, no sirree!

Taking in consideration the foul mood I was in from being forced to another one of these stupid parties, I was going to have a fucking coronary tonight and die early, I could feel it.

"Aren't you Aubrey Briar's daughter? One of the twins?" A voice distracted me from my reverie. I turned around slowly, seeing an unfamiliar, dark-haired man in his twenties with a smarmy smile on his face. With his toothy salesman smile and slicked back hair, I disliked him immediately.

"Yeah. Do I know you…?" I only added that in to be polite, of course. He was probably from the press.

"I'm Winston Medina," he introduced himself, offering his hand and staring at me openly. "I'm a reporter. Can I ask a few… questions?" Bingo.

"Alright," I said reluctantly. Growing up with a mom who's permanently stalked by paparazzi has made me a tinge paranoid. How many times have they ruined an ordinary mother/daughter outing to the zoo (hey, I was eight!), snuck into our house and activated all burglar alarms, or entirely destroyed the mood of our rare family vacations?

Mr. Medina shuffled over a bunch of papers and invited me to say something about myself. I was a bit surprised. I knew the press didn't care about me; they just wanted something they could tie up with Aubrey's career, so I'd expected something about The Georgetown Affair. I was already making up a flimsy, cheesy summary of the film in my head.

"I'm Tiara," I finally said upon his prodding. "Or also known as Tee. I have a twin sister, Kaitlyn, and we're incoming juniors at the Mercer-"

"Do you want to hook up?"

"Excuse me?"

"Well of course I'm not interested to do an interview with you, hun. I already got one with your mother. But I am interested in exploring more of you. Care for some handcuffs?" Winston winked in a manner he probably thought was sexy, but was really more of repulsive and scary.

If there's something I really can't stand, it would be cheesy pick up lines and getting hit on by disgusting men. Combined, it was dynamite.

"In your dreams, Greasy," I said scathingly. "If that was supposed to turn me on, then you seriously need to work on your material. Find some whore to play with you 'cause you couldn't pay me to spend the night with you."

"Now, don't play hard to get, darling," Winston said arrogantly, laying a hand on my shoulder.

I gave him a withering glance. "Fucking touch me again and I'll kick you in the groin so hard it'll-"

Oh boy. Here goes that promise of good behavior, right out the window.

-

-

I stalked across the room, fuming and looking around for a sight of my sister, Kaitlyn. I was such in a shit mood I didn't even realize I'd passed by her until she called my name.

"Tiara!"

I whirled around. "Oh my god, Kait, you will not believe-" I was abruptly silenced by a loud booming voice on the microphone courtesy of tonight's host.

"And now, here is the stunning, the enigmatic, the talented Oscar-winning Aubrey Briar to give us words on The Georgetown Affair!" The lavishly-decorated grand ballroom of five-star Plaza Grand Hotel erupted into applause and clinking of French crystal wine glasses as Aubrey sashayed past them all on the red carpet, smiling and posing gamely for the cameras at every angle.

"Thank you all for coming tonight," Aubrey clasped her hands together to convey her sincerity. Cameras started flashing simultaneously, each photographer angling for the money shot. "I want to thank everybody who's made this possible. Paramount Pictures, the director, Marc Owens, who's a very good friend, the cast of The Georgetown Affair, and all the crew members who worked so hard. They are the true winners in this movie!" Here was the part Aubrey's dramatic blue eyes glittered with tears. "This means so much to me, to see all our hard work come together. I had such a great time and this movie will always have a place in my heart. It is with my greatest pleasure I present to you… The Georgetown Affair!"

Behind her, the huge silver screen burst into the painstakingly and fabulously edited snippets of the film's most compelling scenes, complete with the movie's signature song, a slow love ballad that was currently playing in all the hottest radio stations. The audience watched agog at it all.

"How did I do?" Aubrey whispered a few minutes later, flicking imaginary lint off her custom-made Vera Wang backless gold dress as she watched the silver screen along with us.

"Had them eating right out of your hand," I said dryly. I had to give props to her, Aubrey could be truly charismatic when she wanted to. I, on the other hand, was itching to leave. I hated being cast in the limelight of my mother. Something about having to be on your best behavior all the time made me feel uncomfortable. "Now can I leave?"

Aubrey's large blue eyes opened wide. "Can't you see this is my big night?" Aubrey said in a hurt, slightly whiny tone, but her attention shifted elsewhere before I could respond. "Oh, there's dear Gin Roscoe!" Aubrey said brightly, immediately forgetting everything I had said. "I must talk to her about that fabulous Harry Winston necklace!"

I sighed. Aubrey had the attention span of a five year old. "Tell me it's nearly time to leave," I begged of my sister.

"Sorry. Hours and hours to go," Kaitlyn said cheerfully, patting me comfortingly. Kaitlyn and I are fraternal twin sisters, with fraternal as the be-all and end-all of that statement. She's got ash blond hair, hazel eyes, and this optimistic attitude that makes it easy for her to be everyone's favorite. She rarely gets mad, it's really weird.

I, on the other hand, am the one "blessed" with Aubrey's good looks. Caramel-colored locks, large round blue eyes, and a dark fringe of long eyelashes. I am also not the golden child Kaitlyn is. I screw up, I get pissed off, I party and get home drunk, and I've also dated more guys than I can count in the last year. I'm not proud of it, but yeah, I've been told that "tiara madden is a heart-sucking cold bitch" is magic marker-ed in the boys' locker rooms. It sure does make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But despite our differences, Kaitlyn and I get along surprisingly well, and it remains that Kaitlyn is one of the only people I actually listen to- most of the time, that is.

"Hey, Tee, I think your cell is ringing," Kait observed, glancing at my vibrating Stella McCartney clutch carelessly splayed atop the bar table.

In response, I fished for my tiny silver cell phone and flipped it open. It was Summer Fontaine on caller ID.

"Hey, what's up?" I said to my long-time friend breezily.

"Ti-a-ra!" Summer squealed. "You have got to get your ass over here!" It was evident Summer was sloshed already, just from the trilling quality of her voice. "Bailey and Adrienne and everyone else are here!"

"Where are you?"

"I don't know! But you would so love it!" Summer giggled like it was the funniest thing ever. I rolled my eyes. That was Summer for you, a total spaz, albeit a well-meaning one.

"Put Bailey on the line," I instructed, and then relaxed as a coherent Bailey spoke into the phone. "Hey, Tee! Summer is drunk," she said cheerfully. "But you probably know that, right? I keep on reminding her how she has a low tolerance for vodka, but she won't believe me. Anyway, we're at the VIP lounge at some event down at Sunset Boulevard. We're missing you over here; it's not the same without you! Can't you get out of that premiere thingy?" Bailey begged.

My eyes brightened. "Hey, that's near the Plaza Grand Hotel. Meaning, I can finally ditch this party. Count me in," I decided impulsively, grinning. Beside me, Kaitlyn groaned, probably because this meant she'd have to save my ass if anybody responsible (obviously not Aubrey, but possibly my father) would find me. But then again, what are sisters for?

"I knew you'd never disappoint. You rock, Tee!" Bailey squealed happily. "You better come quick or you'll miss Summer make a fool of herself flirting with this outrageously hot guy."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," I grinned, and jabbed at the end call button.

"You're leaving?" Kait asked, observing me.

"Yup! Salvation comes in the image of my sloshed friends. Don't wait up!"

"Do I ever?" Kaitlyn said dryly.

"Hey, you would not believe what just happened to me," I remembered, ignoring her remark. "There was this smarmy reporter hassling me and he was SO incredibly rude. He propositioned a late night rendezvous at his hotel room, and he had the nerve to mention handcuffs. What a conceited pervert, right?"

"Oh my god!" Kaitlyn said, bursting out into laughter. "You always get into these types of situations, Tee! So what did you do?"

"I ended up throwing his card right back in his face and accidentally spilling champagne all over his greasy hair," I said with satisfaction, remembering his stupefied face.

"Suuure. I know you well enough to know nothing happens accidentally as long as you're concerned," Kaitlyn said, recovering her breath.

"Well," I responded tartly, "It's really not my fault either that I seem to carry this invisible sign that says 'assholes, come hither'."

"That's the downfall of being disgustingly beautiful, Tiara," Kaitlyn rolled her eyes. "Dare to complain, and I'll kill you. It's truly offensive to us ordinary beings."

"Yeah, whatever," I said tolerantly. I wouldn't make you gag by being pretentious and riding on the false modesty wagon. I did inherit Aubrey's good looks, and I have always been considered beautiful. It's just not something that I particularly care about.

"Wait, Tee, before you go, I have important news to tell you," Kaitlyn said, biting her lip.

"What?" I said suspiciously. The last time Kaitlyn bit her lip while saying something like that was when she'd accidentally ruined my favorite pumps, the ones Aubrey had bought in Madrid as a one-time thing. Not so good memories.

"So I talked to Dad a few days ago, and he wants us to come out for a dinner party…"

"So?" I said, furrowing my eyebrows. My father, Dave Madden, frequently made us go to such functions so that he could check up on how we were doing. Actually, I didn't mind. He was a decent enough father. He just couldn't handle Aubrey's flightiness and her diva tendencies, so he settled things quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, quietly, in divorce, back when Kaitlyn and I were tiny tots.

At a young age, I've learned that marriages never last long anyway. They get dissolved with a signature and abruptly disappear into the back of the closet like last year's ridiculous fad. Do you even need to wonder why I'm so cynical?

"It's in honor of Erik coming home," Kaitlyn told me, watching me.

"Eric?" I repeated. "As in Eric Jennings?" I clarified wonderingly, referring to this ostentatious gay hairdresser that Aubrey and half the Hollywood A-list adored.

"No!" Kaitlyn looked scandalized. "I'm talking about Erik, as in the heir to the DuGreys and the ex love of your life?"

"Oh." I pretended to study the pattern of my intricately beaded bag for a few silent moments, not knowing what to say. The mention of Erik brought to mind memories of an idyllic freshman year, a heart-wrenching summer and a reckless sophomore year. It seemed like ages ago, and I said so to Kaitlyn. The first time we'd met, it had been seventh grade! And he'd made a bad first impression.

-

(Flashback)

"Here goes," Twelve-year-old Tiara Madden muttered, her tongue sticking out in concentration as she focused on the ball. Lifting her leg, she kicked the soccer ball as hard as she could in the direction of the net. It swung into the bushes, a good five feet or so from the goal.

"STUPID STUBBORN BALL!" She yelled, kicking at the grass in vain.

Tiara swung around in surprise upon hearing laughter. Seated on the bleacher nearest to the soccer field was a good-looking boy around her age, with messy blond hair and blue eyes, wearing soccer cleats and grinning at her as if she were the funniest thing in the world.

"How long have you been here?" Tiara asked, feeling completely embarrassed.

"Long enough to see you kick soccer balls in the bushes, under the bench, over the bleachers, and flat on your bottom, once."

"Yeah, well, don't you know it's rude to spy?" Tiara said acidly, flushing. She didn't care that he was one of the cutest boys she'd ever seen, he was a nosy snoop and that was it! She didn't exactly appreciate being laughed at.

"You looked pretty funny," the boy smirked, and looked at her. "I'm Erik. What's your name?"

"I don't see why I need to tell you," Tiara said. She figured it was better he didn't know her name after she'd humiliated herself out on the soccer field. "But I'll be entering seventh grade in Mercer Prep next week."

"What a coincidence," Erik smiled broadly. "I'm entering middle school at the Mercer too."

"Too bad," Tiara muttered to herself. She thought he was a bit full of himself and wouldn't really care if she didn't see him again.

"What did you say?" Erik said, smiling. Why did Tiara get the idea he'd heard her, anyway?

"Nothing."

"Know what, you're pretty cute," Erik said laughingly. "You're not all giggly and whispery like all the other girls I know. Do you like gummy bears?"

"Yes," Tiara said, wondering at the random question.

"It's settled then. I like you already."

"Well, I don't," Tiara said bluntly.

"That's okay. I'll make you like me, you'll see," Erik said, flashing a confident smile. "My dad's here," he pointed to a shiny black Rolls-Royce. "See you at school, Tiara. Don't go practicing your soccer in public just yet."

Tiara's jaw dropped open. The nerve of him! Tiara fumed, scowling as she watched him go. She didn't care if she didn't ever see him again!

-

"Anyway, that was a long time ago, Kaitlyn," I reiterated my point, picking up my clutch and getting ready to leave.

"So you can honestly say you're not affected?" Kaitlyn asked keenly.

"Erik hasn't been a part of my life for a long time," I said, feigning utter boredom. "Get over it. I'm over it."

Kaitlyn looked disappointed. This wasn't the reaction she was hoping for, I can tell. She has the crazy notion that Erik DuGrey will bring back my faith in men and that suddenly I'll wake up as loving-life optimistic as she is. Because once upon a time, I had been that girl. Once, I'd been naïve, innocent, and had believed in love and happily ever after. But that's another story.

"So, why is he coming back home?" I inquired. "I get the impression boarding school is just one big giant party, which is so Erik's thing."

"He got kicked out of boarding school, or so I heard," Kaitlyn shrugged.

I raised an eyebrow. Even I couldn't pretend I wasn't intrigued. "Really? I wonder what he did," I mused. "Anyway, if Dad calls, just make something up!"

"Sure you don't wanna come?" I asked as an afterthought, even though I knew she would say no. True to my prediction, Kaitlyn merely made a face. She hardly approved of how I passed my time, partying with my friends and all that. But it was my world, and I was perfectly content to play as hard as everyone did.