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Rockstar Carly Callahan has already had her dream come true. She's on top of the charts and is dating another hot star. But when a stalking situation gets out of hand, and she's forced to go into hiding, she doesn't get along as well in the real world as she thought she would... and making new friends is hard. But deceiving everyone around her is even harder... especially those who have become close.
By Lori Finnegan
A pile of envelopes came down in front of Carly Callahan's nose and landed on her makeup desk, making her flinch, while her stylist, Linda, painted a line of dark lipstick across her cheek.
“Rita!” Linda scolded, quickly wiping the blotch away from Carly's face. “You know she has to go on stage in twenty minutes!”
“This is important, Linda!” Rita, Carly's personal assistant, said, spinning Carly's chair so that Carly was facing her. “Fifteen more letters, Carly. Fifteen!”
Carly put down the comb that she had been brushing her dark locks with and glanced down at the pile of envelopes that Rita had placed on the table. “Fifteen?” she repeated, glancing sadly back up at Rita.
Carly Callahan had been on the charts since she was sixteen, but just in the last year, she had broke through and became a star. It all happened six months ago when she sang a duet with the hottest male singer, Brandon Sloane. That song became the leading track on the soundtrack for the biggest summer blockbuster, and suddenly, her record was number one on the billboard charts. And then, when news broke that she and Brandon were the newest Hollywood couple, the star magazines and entertainment television hosts couldn't get enough of Brandon and Carly. Soon the whole world knew not only about their new relationship but about Carly's music, as well.
Ironically, that's when her trouble began, and she started to receive letters from a man named Eric Zale. At first, they were innocent, and she didn't take much notice. In fact, she didn't really notice them at all. Then, as her relationship with Brandon became more serious, the letters from Eric started arriving more and more frequently and were becoming more hostile in nature. And then suddenly, in the last month, they became a daily occurrence.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Carly asked Rita. “Have someone open them! I need to know what they say, and the concert is about to start.”
Rita looked so sad. “That's what I'm trying to tell you, Carly... we have read them. You can't go on stage tonight. There have been threats on your life.”
Carly didn't know what to say at first. When the letters had first started to get out of hand, she had never imagined that it would get to this point. “I... I can't just not sing,” she stammered. “I can't put my life on hold because of this guy.”
Rita put her hand over Carly's. “You can, and you will,” she insisted. “It's for your safety, Carly. Nothing is more important.”
“What about my fans out there?”
“They have no choice but to understand.”
Carly turned to look at Linda, but two security guards were standing in her place. This was for real.
“Jeff and Steve will be escorting you back to your hotel tonight,” Rita explained “And I'll be going with you. We just can't afford to take any chances.”
Jeff put his hand on her shoulder, and Carly shook it off. “I at least have to go out there and apologize. You have to let me do that,” she said.
Rita shook her head. “FiveStars are having a word with the crowd right now. I'm sorry, Carly, but it's not safe for you out in public now. You don't understand what it said in those letters. The threats that he made on your life...”
Carly stared at herself in the mirror and smoothed down her wavy black hair before putting her glasses back on her face. She saw that there was still lipstick smudged onto her face, so she wiped it away with a tissue. Her life had been going so well lately... it didn't seem fair that this was happening just when all of her dreams were coming true.
That night, Carly checked into a Chicago hotel room under an alias with Rita as her roommate. Even though she would would have preferred her own space, she didn't really mind Rita bunking with her. It was just something that couldn't be helped given the circumstances. But she didn't see how the situation would resolve anytime soon, and she wanted to get back to her normal life as soon as possible.
“In the morning we have an appointment with the FBI,” Rita was saying from the bathroom where she was ready for her shower.
Carly looked up from her cell phone. “The FBI?” she echoed. “Are you serious?”
“Well, this is hardly local,” Rita said through the bathroom door. “He's followed you all across the country on tour.”
“I guess you're right,” Carly muttered and pushed the keys on her phone, writing a message to Brandon about how she missed him and wished he were there with her. Before she could press send, the phone rang, and she jumped, nearly throwing her her phone across the bed. She grinned when she saw it was Brandon who was calling her.
“I was just about to send you a message,” she said into the phone. “I'm so glad you called!”
“Hey, baby,” he said. “I just heard about your concert... what's going on? Everything okay?”
“No,” she said. “It's the opposite of okay. I wish you were here... it's that psycho that's been sending me those crazy letters! He started sending threats. Security canceled my concert, and I have to meet with the FBI in the morning. Can you believe it?”
“That's very unfortunate,” Brandon replied. “All those fans... no concert.”
Carly wrinkled her nose. “They got to see an extended performance of the opening act.”
“Good for them,” he said. “Listen, Carly... my agent just got me a part in that new movie with Kristen Stewart, and it starts next week, so we'll have to postpone our little vacation. I hope that's okay with you.”
Carly sighed. She knew Brandon had started getting into acting recently, but she didn't realize it would be taking up so much of his time. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't disappointed. “Yeah, that's fine. I mean, that's what happens in this kind of business, right?” But what could she do about it?
“I knew you'd understand,” Brandon said, and she could hear him smiling through the phone. “Look, I gotta run... a bunch of the other guys on the cast are meeting for drinks in a few minutes here, but I really hope this whole thing works out for you. Call me tomorrow sometime, okay?”
Carly pulled the covers over her legs and leaned back into the pillows of the hotel bed. “Me, too. I wish you could be here with me for the meeting with the FBI... I'm really nervous.”
“Me, too, baby. Me, too.”
“I'll call you tomorrow,” she promised.
Just as Carly was saying her goodbyes and hung up the phone, there was a knock on the door, and her heart quickened. She decided not to say anything. All of this talk of Eric Zale and death threats had really put her on edge. The knocks continued for a few more moments and then a piece of folded paper slide underneath the door. After staring at it for awhile, Carly stood up and retrieved it from the floor. Carefully, she opened it up.
'We will come to pick you up at 8am.
-Jeff & Steve'
Carly let out a breath.
After her meeting with the FBI agent, Carly was anything but happy. Agent Carlson had told her that they had every reason to take Eric Zale's threats seriously, and if she valued her safety, she would do just that. In fact, he suggested that she go completely under the radar until they had Zale in custody and the matter was solved.
“Are you kidding me?” Carly said to Rita while a receptionist handed her another styrofoam cup of coffee. “I can't go under the radar! If you haven't noticed, there are least three people with cameras following me around at all times... what was that guy thinking?”
Rita sipped her own coffee in thought. “Maybe you need to stop being Carly Callahan for awhile,” she said softly. “Other stars have done it.”
“Not successfully,” Carly scoffed. She set the cup down on the table. The thought of drinking anymore black coffee made her stomach turn.
“Only the ones you know about,” Rita pointed out. “The ones you don't know about... well, you never heard about them.”
“I cannot just cancel my tour.”
“You don't have a choice,” Rita told her. “You can't go on stage till they catch they guy, so we better start thinking of other options. The least you could do is at least entertain the possibility...”
“Of what? Shaving my head and going all Britney Spears?”
Rita turned to look at her in shock. “Absolutely not!”
“Then what?” Carly wanted to know.
Rita gave her a small smile. “Well, you always said you wanted to go to school. After you graduated from high school, you talked about doing college, but then your career sort of took off...”
“So, I should just take this time to get a degree?” Carly couldn't help but laugh. “I sure hope they can catch him in four years!”
“No, I don't mean that, but it might be fun to take a few classes and be with some people your own age,” she explained. “You haven't done the normal thing for awhile. We could give you a whole make over! Dye your hair, new wardrobe, color contacts, the works! No one would know it was you!”
Carly stared at her. “I don't mean to be all big headed, but come on, Rita, I'm Carly Callahan. People are going to recognize me.”
“Who's going to believe that Carly Callahan will be going to some small town college? No one will expect you to be there, Carly. And even if someone does bring up that you look like like Carly Callahan, you can blow it off. We'll give you a back story... everything! It'll be totally believable!”
“Hmm,” Carly picked up her coffee and sipped at it, suddenly a little more thirsty. Everything that Rita said did make a little bit of sense. She didn't like the idea of missing her concerts, but either way, she wasn't going to be able to do the shows. She might as well have a little fun while she was away, right?
So, this was the plan...
Carly's heart began to race when she saw Linda raise the scissors to her her now blond locks and the pieces fell into her lap. She hadn't been planning on changing her style a day ago, but when Rita had suggested the college idea to her that morning, there had been something about it that had appealed to her… and she had to admit, it just might work.
“Quit shaking your legs so much,” Linda complained, pausing briefly with her scissors while Carly complied.
“Here you go,” another voice said behind them.
Carly could see Rita's reflection in the mirror and watched her set down several small boxes onto the counter top. “What are those?”
“The finest supply of green colored contacts that money could buy. Should be enough to last you a few months,” Rita replied with a smile, putting a hand on her hip and watching more of Carly's hair fall to the ground. “Your beautiful brown eyes will be no longer… for awhile, at least.”
Carly looked away from Rita and back to her own reflection. “I'm going to look so different,” she mused. “Are you sure this is the right decision?”
“The only way you're going to escape the paparazzi,” Rita assured her, and Linda nodded in assurance. “Besides, it's too late now. You're already blonde.”
Linda fluffed up her new, shorter hair a bit and stood back, admiring it. “Wonderful!” she said. “You look fantastic!”
“But not like me, at all,” Carly complained.
Rita smiled. “And that's just what we were going for. Next step, clothes. I've already had someone discreetly hired to buy you some new clothes to get you through the first few weeks. After that, you should be able to go out and get your own clothes.”
“It'll sure be different to shop on my own for a change,” Carly mumbled.
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