Once upon a time, from a very long time, lived a princess ahead of her time. The king always knew of her unnatural ability to attract people around her as how her queen mother was. But he also knew that thanks to that, he lost his queen. With the fear of losing his princess as well, he decided to move her up north in a tower in the woods, thinking it would keep her safe. He showered her with all the love and promised to watch over her to the best of his abilities. On one winter night, the princess asked him when she's ever going back to the castle and the king could only promise her a vague future.
After such conversation, the king disappeared and the princess was left to survive in her tower all alone. Nobody heard what happened to the king or the princess, but story tells that the princess escaped her tower and continues to haunt the kingdom of the king.
Dave's sharp whisper shook me back to reality. My eyes flung open and found myself surrounded with adults who was busy listening to a man in a black blazer and a blue shirt explaining a PowerPoint presentation on set preparations.
"Was I asleep?" I whispered back at him.
"Not exactly. You were in a daze."
"Ah." I mumbled.
"Something on your mind?"
I shook my head. "Just remembering a tale I used to read when I was younger."
The room suddenly burst into a round of applause which I assume marked the end of the presentation, so Dave and I went along. I swear, if we were in class we'd probably be those students who never listened to a lecture and we'd end up flunking the pop quiz after.
I saw Mr. McKinley's secretary stood up and went for the podium laying down a sheet of paper as she fixed the microphone to her angle.
"To officially introduce our center pieces for the collaboration, I would like to call Cherry of Heiress and Hera of Queen to come up in front for a short interview and photo op."
Blindsighted by the event, I absentmindedly shot up my seat as soon as I heard my name. I saw Cherry from across the table stifling a laugh as she walked towards the podium.
As soon as we met in front, we stood smiling side by side basking in the applause and cheers of our guests. We exchanged friendly glances then waved to the crowd. The thing about professional artists as ourselves, private life should always be separate of our work life. Whatever happened earlier with us will have to be settled for another time. I think that also applies to thesis defense right? Hate your groupmates all you want but when you're faced to a panel, you're on the same side. Point is...water under the bridge until you cross that bridge again.
Belatedly, I noticed that a few media crew were allowed to come in as soon as the project presentation finished probably to keep things confidential. Judging from their behaved sophisticated demeanor, these were official reporters that the company approved of. Despite that, they were required to stay behind by a cordon of Mr. McKinley's men.
Subsequently, each of us were given a microphone and Mr. McKinley's men organized the reporters to a single file to our right, allowing them three questions each.
I was glad the questions did not involve anything from Cherry's walk-out from last time. I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face if Cherry gets agitated out of nowhere. So far she's handling the situation really well answering every question honest to goodness. Alright maybe she lied a little but that's what showbiz is. It was all going well until the final reporter raised a borderline inquiry that caused an uproar with the press and the staff.
"Ms. Cherry final question," said the reporter who I noticed was hesitant of whatever she was about to say, "Several unanswered allegations has been made during your debut three years ago and the public has been dying to know the real deal about it. As you've heard, it has been assumed that you've snaked your way to the top while diehard fans defend that it is pure talent. Is it true that you are in some way related to Heiress's CEO, Darius McKinley?"
I shuddered. My lips parted trying to make sense of the question. I glanced to Cherry thinking she'd be feeling confused as I was, but she was more than calm than her usual aftermath rage. Her eyes still at the reporter, unwavering in her heels. What was she going to say? That was a heavy question. Lie and you'll be flamed. Tell the truth and you'll be labeled as boring. I prayed she realizes it was a trick question. If I help her now, it'll look like a diversion. We can't do the same trick twice. Alas, Cherry broke silenced and her answer almost sent me flying across the room. No..it wasn't she who answered. Mr. McKinley who was seated in front, stood up and took her mic and said something so absurd my blood boiled.
"I'm terribly sorry for interrupting this question," Mr. McKinley said half laugh, "But hearing this issue has been going on for years and is not doing any good for the reputation of our model, allow me to set things straight."
Cherry's eyes flung open. She lunged towards the CEO giving me a mini heart attack thinking she was having one of her fits right now, but Darius McKinley held her shoulder and she shrank to her heels gritting her teeth. Before anybody could react, Mr. McKinley had broken silence.
"Cherry did not snake her way in to Heiress. In fact I handpicked her myself. It wasn't long that we decided for her to debut. About the allegation of her being related to somebody in Heiress as an edge of her fame, it is a yes and a no in that particular order."
The room erupted into murmurs. Judging from the staff's reaction, this was news to them. The reporter, however, squinted at Mr. McKinley's vague way of answering.
"May we ask for an elaboration, sir?"
I saw Cherry mouth "Don't" at him, but like earlier, she was dismissed with a grip on her shoulder.
Mr. McKinley gave the reporter a broad smile. "To put it simply: Cherry is oozing in talent. It is evident in her results. As for my last statement, she is related to someone, not biologically at least."
"Who?" A staff of Heiress from the table impatiently supplied.
Mr. McKinley pressed his palm over his chest and beamed, "Me, of course! I'm her adoptive father."
The world turned upside down. Next thing I knew, the reporters were all on their feet crowding towards the CEO with his men barricading against them. I turn to Dave hoping I had heard that wrong, but his face was white. I glanced over to see Cherry but she was hidden behind Mr. McKinley. I balled my fists. I could already see the headline of the news for tomorrow: Heiress CEO openly claims top model as daughter. And I knew from that very moment, it was a strategy of his that I know too well.
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