Holly winced a little as she woke up. Her head wasn’t throbbing but it had an uncomfortable ache. She rolled out of bed and made her way to the bathroom where she took a shower and got dressed, before walking to the kitchen and putting on some coffee.
It had been a fairly enjoyable evening. Despite the initial tension with Cynthia being there, a few drinks had seemed to put everyone in a good humor and Holly had even thought at one point she and Cynthia might someday be able to get along alright. It felt as if Cynthia was making some effort to be nice to her, and Holly suspected it might have been out of sympathy over what had happened with Alan.
She had probably drunk one drink too many, Holly admitted to herself, but she hadn’t driven, it was the weekend, and no harm had been done.
The doorbell rang. Holly switched off the coffee pot, poured herself a cup and went to answer it. Evelyn was at the door. She greeted Holly as she entered the house and then dived right into business.
“Have you seen the tabloids?”
“What? No. I just woke up. It’s not even ten yet. I’m surprised you’re awake,” said Holly, feeling a little grumpy at the mention of tabloids and her head still bothering her a little. “Besides, I’ve been making it a point not to look at them.”
“There’s a photo of you last night,” said Evelyn. “Looking slightly the worse for wear.”
Holly frowned. “What do you mean?”
Evelyn sighed and opened her purse, pulling out a printed article and handing it to Holly.
It did indeed look bad. The photo had clearly been taken at an unfortunate moment. Her eyelids were half closed and she held an empty glass in her hand, while slouching back against the couch. She had not ever been that drunk last night, tipsy perhaps but not out and out drunk, but the photo seemed to claim otherwise. Holly only caught a few words of the text, ‘losing control’, ‘wild party’, ‘new friends’ popping out at her, but she didn’t bother to read it.
“Holly,” Evelyn was saying, not unkindly, “I understand you are going through a very difficult time. And I know that the lure of irresponsibility can feel temporarily freeing. After all, I came to Hollywood in the 70’s. I understand partying. But this sort of thing does not help you deal in the long run.”
“Evelyn I didn’t do anything wrong. This picture was just taken at a bad moment. I went to a club and drank last night. Maybe I had one more then was strictly necessary and I was a little tipsy but I wasn’t out of control or anything like it and I’m twenty-one. No laws were broken. The photo gives an entirely inaccurate impression.”
“You can ask anyone else there and they’ll all tell you the same thing.”
Evelyn sighed happily and smiled. “That’s a relief. Not that I don’t feel a little guilty now for assuming but I admit I’ve seen so many people go off the deep end, and I’ve been so worried about you these past months, that I suppose I just panicked over nothing. I am sorry.”
“It’s alright. Though now I think you’re going to have to tell me all about that partying in the 70’s just to make up for it.” Holly grinned. “But the photo does look bad. I…” Holly fell silent as she looked at the picture again and a troubling thought slowly began to take form.
“Is something wrong?” asked Evelyn.
“The photo,” she said.
“Yes. I know having it appear won’t do you a world of good. But we’ll call Eleanor. I’m sure she’s already on top of things.”
“No,” said Holly shaking her head. “That’s not it. The photo was taken from inside the club, not outside. There were no paparazzi inside. And from the angle of this picture it looks like it was taken by someone close by and…about the same level as me. Someone else sitting on one of the couches.”
Evelyn slowly nodded. “I see what you mean. Someone who was there with you took the picture and leaked it.”
“I don’t understand,” said Holly. “Why…why would anyone do that? I mean Nikki’s boyfriend was there and he’s a reporter but he’s not tabloid reporter and I don’t think I ever saw him with his phone out.”
“Someone could have sold the photo for some quick cash,” said Evelyn, “or a deal.”
“What do you mean? What kind of a deal?”
“They pass along a few photos of someone else to a photographer, that photographer conveniently doesn’t sell pictures of them. A mutually beneficial relationship with a member of the paparazzi is not unheard of.”
“Maybe not,” said Holly, “But every single person there was friend of mine. Except Tobin and I don’t think he would do this. Of course there was…oh.”
“Cynthia,” said Holly, crumpling the paper and tossing it angrily across the room. “Cynthia Tomes. She happened to be there and Nikki and Frank invited her to join us. She’s disliked me from day one. It must have been her. There’s no other possibility.”
“I’m sorry Holly.”
“I just can’t understand what kind of person would do something like that,” said Holly, beginning to pace. “Even if you don’t like someone, to take a picture like that and one that purposefully gives the wrong impression, it’s just low.”
“I can’t believe her.”
Evelyn shrugged. “There will always be people like that and it’s best not to dwell on them.”
Holly nodded, but couldn’t shake the feeling of resentment building up inside of her. The fact that Cynthia had sat across from her all evening and then gone home and sent or sold a photo of her felt like a betrayal whether they were friends or not, an invasion of privacy that went beyond the normal nuisance of the photographers.
Evelyn tried to distract her by taking her out to brunch but even when she arrived back home later that day, Holly had not completely gotten it off her mind.