The sequined ballgown lay discarded in a pile on the floor. Wrapped in a bed sheet, she sat alone in luxury, watching the dawn break over the hills.
Her head still buzzed with too much champagne and she knew that in a few hours the price for partying all night would begin to take its toll. But for now, she was content to let herself mellow in the afterglow of the her moment of glory.
The statuette sat atop the piano in the far corner of the room, reflecting the light of the sun as it crested over the tips of the hills. It was a sign of her hard work, her creative power and the network of brilliant people she’d painstakingly built over her years in this town. This should be the peak of her career. And yet.
Instead of savoring the evening's glamour and her triumphant return to Hollywood, her mind drifted back to the face she saw in the semi-darkness weeks earlier. The face of a child. Intelligent and wise. Dirty and poor.
These days her life was in a bubble. She went from one beautiful, manicured place to another, untouched by daily life in the city, chauffeured and waited upon. Her life was meticulously constructed to keep everything and everyone away from her unless she specifically wanted it there. No random calls. No one ever just dropped by. Her assistant made her appointments, and gave her an itinerary. Security kept fans and press away.
But on that early morning two weeks ago, she found herself staring into the face of a child, about seven or eight years old. A girl, whose matted hair and filthy clothes contrasted starkly with bright, knowing eyes.
“I’m hungry” the girl said bluntly. It was not a demand. It was a statement of fact.
Before she could respond, her security showed up, testily demanding to know why she’d wandered off from the crowd. She turned her eyes to him for a second, then back to the girl who had vanished.
“Your job is to keep up with me,” she said to him snottily, hiding her alarm while her eyes scanned the area. No sign of the girl. She was gone.
Those few seconds - the eyes that radiated intelligence, the voice that stated so plainly the fact of her hunger, and the sense of loss she felt immediately after losing sight of the child - had played over and over in her mind the following weeks. Just as they were this morning, in the light of dawn, in the aftermath of her greatest success.