A/N: On a quick note, this chapter contains mentions of abuse so approach with caution. You’ve been warned.
Chapter-6: To do
After making sure that dad was going to allow Rosalie to stay at our place for a while since the men coming after her know her address, I go to my room and sit down to list down the things to do in my head. First up is to face the wrath of Leah. Instead of calling her up, I decide to go down at the office and face her head on.
Leaving Rosalie in my mom’s care, I head to the office, praying like hell that Leah would be on leave today.
Of course because I’ve the worst luck in history of bad lucks, my Editor, who happens to be an overly hormonal creature at the moment—thanks to the twins she’s carrying, is present and is out for blood … my blood, to be exact.
“BARONE!!” she screeches at the sight of my face, her eyes flashing dangerously. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kick your lazy ass to the curb.”
I hold up a finger to stop her and reply, “Um … because I’m a sweetheart?” When I see her open her mouth, I hastily add, “And because we’re friends?”
She huffs and then picks up a bunch of printouts and thrusts them to my face. “THIS! You see this, Barone? Every, and I mean EVERY, online tabloid published this story today. EVERYONE, except us, Inside Out. Why?” She waits for a heartbeat before holding her index finger up to me accusingly. “Because you, my star reporter, weren’t in position when Laurent Stalin was seen doing the walk of shame out of TANYA-FREAKING-DENALI’s house!”
I clench my eyes shut and hang my head, not making a protest because I know I deserve that.
Leah stops mid-sentence to look at me closely. “What’s wrong with you?” she asks.
She motions jerkily with her hands and asks, “Why haven’t you made a peep yet? Usually, you’d be sweet-talking me already. Did something happen?”
I start to shake my head before remembering my promise to Rosalie. “I’m sorry we lost the scoop,” I tell Leah sincerely. “But I might have something worth publishing in my hands.”
She narrows her eyes, takes my elbow in her hand and pulls me aside. “I’m listening.”
Hesitantly, I start, “I think I’ve found a news about a woman being abused, possibly tortured even. I have to verify it before submitting the final report, of course …”
She holds up a hand to stop me. “Don’t bother.” When she sees the question in my eyes, she says impatiently, “Bella, we’re an entertainment magazine. We scout news about celebrities and bring them to people. We don’t do abuse reports.”
“But it might be our chance to report something newsworthy for the first time!” I exclaim before lowering my voice. “Why can’t we publish real news too? The news that matters?”
She pulls a face and then reaches over to pick up a local newspaper from a desk. “Take this for example,” she says, holding the newspaper up to me. “When someone gets their hands on this, the first thing they’ll do is check out the headlines in the front page. What do you think they’ll do next?”
I shrug. “Turn the page over?”
“Exactly!” she responds, snapping her fingers. “They’ll turn the page over. But to where?” Before I can utter a word, she continues, “If it’s a guy, there’s 99% chance that he’ll go to the sports page and if it’s a girl, in 99% cases she’ll go for the entertainment pages.”
“And the remaining 1 percent?”
“Will check out the business page because they have businesses to run.” She grabs my shoulders and shakes me slightly. “So you see Bella, no one … no one will read the ‘real’ news.”
I start to open my mouth but she holds a finger up to shush me. “No means no, Bella. Now why don’t you prepare questions to ask Laurent when he steps out for the shooting of his new film tomorrow? I don’t want any mistakes this time.”
My shoulders drop like a puppy who just lost its treat. I’m sorry, Rosalie, I think as I head for my desk to find information on Laurent Stalin.
By the time I get home, I’m ready to crash into my bed, but the look in my mom’s eyes when she opens the door tells me that something is up.
She answers my unspoken question by pointing toward the den. “Rosalie,” she mouths. Intrigued, I follow her to the den.
There I find Rosalie with my dad, sitting across from each other while a sombre mood hangs around us all. It’s mom who breaks the silence. “Now that Bella is here, Rosalie, why don’t you tell us about yourself?”
Rosalie plucks at the shirt I let her borrow from my closet. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” dad says, probably trying to put her in ease. It works. Sitting up straighter, Rosalie starts her tale.
“I’m Rosalie Hale, as you already know. I’m not well known, but I’ve worked in some small budget films so far. My journey started when I went to L.A. as an aspiring actress. My face got me parts, but I had to sign up with an agent to help me get auditions. But soon, my agent, Royce King, started asking me to attend these “social parties” to form connections. I didn’t think much of it and went along with it until one night I woke up to find myself naked, intoxicated and in bed with a man I didn’t know.”
“Shit!” I swear under my breath.
Rosalie continues with her story, her face devoid of emotions. “I came running to Royce, hoping he’ll help me. He told me that he’s taking me away from those and brought me here, promising a job. But when we arrived in Seattle, he revealed his true plans. Turns out, the man I woke up in bed with is a very influential man, and he’s offered Royce a lot of money for me.”
“That horrible man!” Mom cries out, tears running down her cheeks.
Dad reaches out to place a hand on Mom’s knee to calm her down and then asks Rosalie, “Why didn’t you go to the police?”
Rosalie shakes her head as a sad smile comes over her face. “I can’t, because Royce threatened me. He has video records of that man and I. And if I go to the police, then he’d send those videos to my parents. My dad would die of shame and I couldn’t do that to him.”
“Is that why you were trying to take your own life today?” I can’t help but ask.
She nods. “It seemed the only way to end this.”
I reach over to place a hand on her shoulder and say, “It isn’t, not by a long shot. Even if you kill yourself, Royce will find another girl for him and then another. Killing yourself would not stop them.”
She looks at me with a desperation in her eyes. “Then what can I do?”
It’s dad who answers her. “Fight. You have to fight against them. If you want, I will represent your case as your lawyer and my Bella can write about the abuse you had to go through in her magazine.”
She stares at her hands and mumbles softly, “But I have no money to give you, Mr. Barone.”
“I’ll do it pro bono,” Dad tells her.
Rosalie loses the battle to control her tears then. Sobbing uncontrollably, she thanks us all for being there for her.
With everything that’s happened, I offer Rosalie a beer after my parents have gone to bed. And while she nurses her one beer, I down two … or maybe four, wishing I could unhear what poor Rosalie had to go through. By the time I’ve finished my sixth beer, I’ve declared Rosalie as my soul sister.
Sitting cross-legged on my bed, I ask her, “Who’s the asshole that thought it was okay to buy a person?”
“Jake Black,” she murmurs.
I feel my eyes widen. “J-J-Jacob Black? The Senator?”
She nods. “The same.”
“What a fucktard!” I start cursing him some more when I’m struck with a brilliant idea. “Eureka!” Without saying another word, I power up my laptop and pull up the our magazine’s website.
An hour later, I close my laptop lid and give Rosalie a satisfied grin. “And it’s published.”
Proudly, I say, “Your story. I just published it in our website.”
A/N: So … thoughts?
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Thanks for reading.
See you on Monday. Have a lovely weekend.
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