The commercial break airs, and I’m surprised my mother has the balls to stay here. She could cave in embarrassment at her daughters’ impropriety and bluntness and their boyfriends’ habit to tell it like it is. But she smiles and waves at her stereotypical WASP friends without carrying a morsel of shame. Either she’s a terrific actress or she’s grown to look past our unbecoming natures.
I’d love to think better of my mother, but people don’t change that quickly, especially not stubborn middle-aged women who’ve been rooted in their beliefs for so long.
But maybe this reality show could help her forgive and accept rather than hate.
By the time the show starts again, my head spins with a decent buzz. I grab another glass of champagne, and Connor stands behind me, his hands on my waist. He gathers my hair onto one shoulder, and the cold nips my bare neck.
We’re both suddenly distracted by the montage that plays—moments at the house when only Lily was home.
Lily squirms on the leather couch. She adjusts her feet underneath, her forehead wrinkled in distress. Her hand starts to descend towards her jeans. She retracts almost instantly, her cheeks heating. She looks around the room to see if anyone saw. And when her eyes hit the camera, looking directly at us, the viewers, she presses a pillow to her face in humiliation.
It doesn’t end there. Her internet privileges have been restored only because she’s taking online classes. And we’ve all trusted her to stay off dirty sites.
She lies on the couch, her laptop on her legs. She glances over her shoulder and then she immediately shuts her computer, fighting a dangerous compulsion. Her hand descends towards her jeans, but she stays above the fabric and touches the spot between her legs.
“How can they air this?” I ask angrily.
“The PTC will bitch tomorrow,” Connor says calmly. “Just let it play out.” The Parent’s Television Council—I’m sure they’ll wave pitchforks at the network and producers, but it’ll be all over entertainment news and blogs, just stoking the fire and causing more people to watch the footage.
Lily covers her eyes with her hands, and Lo has his lips to her ear, whispering to her rapidly while silent tears start to fall.
The clips keep coming in quick succession.
Lily rubs against a kitchen chair, unconsciously. When she catches herself, she reddens.
Lily rubs against the corner of the kitchen counter.
Lily’s hand descends—three different times. But she always stops before she gets too far.
I don’t get embarrassed about many things, but I sense the judgment, the weird stares pinning on Lily in the party room. I can practically feel my sister crumpling before I even look at her.
Lily turns into Lo’s chest and she grabs at his black crew-neck. She stuffs her head underneath, literally hiding inside his shirt while he’s still wearing it. “I’m not coming out,” she says. “Don’t make me come out, Lo.”
Loren touches her head. “Stay there as long as you want, love.” When he looks up, he sends shriveling glares to anyone who so much as glances at him. His glares aren’t necessarily like mine or like Ryke’s. They’re the kind that make you feel like he’s about to go get a chainsaw and murder your whole f**king family. It’s a sadistic, I have nothing to lose, type of look that his father taught him well.
And it’s enough to cause everyone to face the big screens again.
The footage has changed to a compilation of interviews with Daisy, Lily, and me. I remember the questions being focused on sex. No surprise. Lily’s addiction is what’s drawing the viewers to Princesses of Philly in the first place.
Since we shot everything separately, they cut to each of our answers.
“Who’s your celebrity crush?” Savannah asks.
Daisy smiles wide. “James Dean.”
My eyes pierce the camera. “Audrey Hepburn.”
Lily stares off in thought. “Uhhh…” She flushes. “Loren Hale.”
Lo laughs and stares down at Lily who’s still hidden in his shirt. “Right answer, love.”
She sniffs, and her arms wrap around his waist underneath his clothes.
“Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?”
“Yep,” Daisy says, “one handed.” She wags her eyebrows deviously.
I say, “Any patriarchal c*cks*cker who makes a woman ashamed to read it should be slapped across the face with his—”
Lily blushes. “Uhhh…”
“Top or bottom?”
“My mother’s going to kill me,” Daisy says. “Both. Sorry Mom!”
The people in the party room laugh, and my mother even cracks a smile. I think we all forget how young Daisy is because she looks older than Lily…and she’s incredibly endearing.
But every time we cut to my answer, I look like a royal bitch compared to her, cursing the entire audience to hell.
“I’m a virgin,” I say. “Why ask me that inane question?”
“Uhhh…” Lily’s eyes widen.
“Back door or front door?”
“No c*cks have been near my a**h*le, sorry.” Daisy shrugs after answering crudely.
Lo gives her a look. “You’re spending too much time with my brother.”
She just laughs.
I tilt my head to the side. “Really?”
“Uhhh…” Lily’s eyes grow bigger with each question.
“What do you wear to bed?”
“I sleep in the nude,” Daisy answers.
“A nightgown,” I retort, not elaborating whether it’s silk or ankle-length cotton.
“Uhhh…” Lily turns her head to look at the door. “Lo!”
“Whips or handcuffs?”
“Oooh,” Daisy grins. “I like the idea of whips. But you know, me dodging the whips. Make it into a game.” She laughs.
I swear the men in this room grunt in audible desire.
I must wear a look of pure disgust because Connor squeezes my hip and whispers, “We’re not all pigs, Rose.”
He’s right. I know I shouldn’t generalize the entire male species as vile, gross things that’ll get off to my sixteen-year-old sister’s image.
And just when I’m feeling apologetic, I spot a guy with a clear bulge in his suit pants. “What do you call that?” I whisper in detest.
I shake my head. “You’re such a…” I trail off and then smile. “Smartass.”
He touches his chest mockingly. “Ça fait mal.” That hurts.
“Je suis content.” I’m glad.
His grin only grows. “They could have chosen anything else to label me, you know. Genius would have been my number one pick.”
“Pretentious,” I argue.
“Conceited,” I continue.
He flashes another smile. “Handsome.”
My eyes flit from his white button-down that fits him perfectly to his deep blue eyes. “Maybe.”
He takes a sip of his wine and waves me to keep going. “I have you almost giving me a compliment, why stop now?”
Our banter sets a fire underneath my heart. I could kiss him. But I regretfully turn towards the big screen. I realize I missed my response to the whips or handcuffs question, which was evasive anyway. And Lily most likely gave her perfunctory uhhhh.
Now the guys are being asked a series of questions, cut together like our interviews.
Loren glares, waiting impatiently for Savannah to ask him something.
“Blondes or brunettes?”
Lo stares harshly. “Brunettes.”
“I don’t give a sh*t about hair color,” Ryke says, his forearms on his thighs as he sits on the leather chair.
Connor is seated with his ankle on his knee, leaning back like a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. He has his fingers to his jaw in mock contemplation. “What happened to redheads?”
Savannah clears her throat. She has red hair. “Or redheads.”
“What about gray hair?” His eyes flicker up a little. He’s staring at Scott, who stands off screen. “You’re forgetting black hair too. And purple, blue, orange—”
Lo is back, glaring.
“Wow,” Lo says, his hand on Lily’s head, still concealed in his shirt. “They cut off your little rant, Connor. How’d that feel?”
“Chapped,” Connor says easily.
“Come here, I’ll rub your ass for you.”
Connor smiles into his sip of wine. But it must be annoying that Scott has the power to shut him up with a simple edit. I can see his irritation in the tight muscles of his jaw.
“Who’s the messiest?”
“Have you ever been with a man before?”
Lo cocks his head to the side. And he flashes a bitter, dry smile, not giving anyone anything they want to hear.
“No,” Ryke says.
Connor wears an unreadable expression. “Many people want to be with me. I may give them all my attention, but I’ll only be with a handful, and of those, I’ll only really like a few.”
“Who has the best legs?”
“Lily,” Loren says. “But she won’t believe me if I say it.”
Ryke rubs his lips in thought.
Loren glares at him like “you better not have f**king said her name”—but I think we all hear Daisy in his head anyway.
“Rose,” Ryke grimaces.
I laugh into my sip of champagne.
“Rose,” Connor says. “And then me, of course.”
“Top or bottom?”
Lo glares. “Top.”
Ryke shakes his head in annoyance. “I don’t care.”
“Top.” Connor grins. “Always.”
“Do you think Daisy is as sexually active as Lily?”
Lo’s eyes flash cold. He stands up. “I’m done with this sh*t.”
“What the f**k kind of question is that?” Ryke asks. He rises and chucks a pillow.
“No, she’s not,” Connor says definitively. He stands and buttons his suit jacket. “That’s enough for the day.”
While we go to commercial break, Daisy picks herself off the ground, her cellphone in hand. She tries not to make eye contact with any of the guys. It’s clear that the media is trying to determine whether or not my little sister will turn out like Lily.
And this fact only causes Lily to stay buried in Lo’s shirt, not only doused with shame but now guilt.
My chest hurts for both my sisters, but there’s nothing in my power that can reverse what’s happened. Maybe my clothing line isn’t worth this attention.
I scroll on my phone. My sales…they’re up by ten percent so far. The little ads that cut to the commercials must be helping. They say, Purchase the clothes worn by the Calloway sisters right now! And they show the links to the CC website.
I wish my body didn’t soar by the small success. A part of me wishes this reality show was a failure so I could easily choose my sisters’ welfare over my dream. I should do it. Two years ago, I think I would have. But I wonder if Lily would ever forgive herself for driving my company to the ground. I think she needs to know that my company is okay too—that she didn’t destroy everything with her addiction.
Daisy’s phone slips between her fingers and clatters to the floor. She bends down to pick it up, forgetting that she’s in a black backless dress I designed, short on her thighs. The dress immediately rides up, showing half her ass since she wears cut-off boy-short underwear.
My little sister has sufficiently mooned the crowd.
Ryke is the closest to Daisy. “Fuck,” he curses, quickly standing behind her. He grabs the hem of her dress and tugs down.
The three guys look over their shoulders at the nearest camera.
“Did they see her…?” Lo trails off, not able to talk about Daisy’s ass without cringing.
“That one did.” Connor motions to a photographer with horned-rimmed glasses, gesturing for him to come over to us. As the photographer nods and approaches, Connor pulls out his phone and makes a quick call.
Daisy struggles to pick up her cell.
“Daisy, grab the f**king thing,” Ryke tells her, having to literally tug her dress down three more times as she moves.
She finally snatches the phone and spins towards him with a large smile. “Got it!”
Ryke stares at the hem of her dress, making sure it’s not riding up. I should be the one doing it, but I’m slightly tipsy, and I fear moving the wrong direction in my four-inch heels. I already sway a little. If it wasn’t for Connor’s hand protectively on my waist, I would have stumbled by now.
“Are you checking out my ass?” Daisy asks with the raise of her eyebrows
“Yeah, so did the rest of the f**king party.”
“So what’d you think? On a scale of one to ten.” She grins playfully.
“I’m not rating your ass.”