Cowboy Bodyguard Prologue
Los Angeles, California — Four Years Ago.
“I’m tired of doing this, Mom,” I whisper to my mother, Helen, as she covers my overly made-up hair with more hair spray then should be legal.
“Tough. You almost won the last pageant. It’s time you start taking these titles home consistently instead of every other show. A lot is riding on these winnings, Marilyn.” I try to hide my sigh but fail. “Enough of that.” She tugs a loose curl, and I cringe as my head smarts. “What else are you going to do with your life? Huh? You’re not good at anything of value. At least, this will help you marry rich.”
My heart cramps at her hurtful words, but like always, I push the feelings to the back of my mind and stop speaking. It’s my sixteenth birthday. The last thing I want, today of all days, is to be so harshly criticized.
I should be giggling with my girlfriends.
Telling stories of my first love.
Opening presents and scarfing down cake.
Staring around the room, I look on at each of the other girls here and see nothing but competition and jealousy. I wouldn’t trust these girls with my makeup brushes, let alone my secrets. But it’s Mom's dream for me to become Miss America, Miss Universe, Miss…everything.
I’ve been painting my face with makeup and ratting out my hair for longer than I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever known. We travel the country, jumping from pageant to pageant, winning big prizes to get us to the next show and smaller accolades where I’m criticized with all my failings until it’s time to smile again.
I’m a real-life Barbie, and sometimes, I wish I was brave enough to run away.
“Alright, Marilyn Monroe Kingsley, you smile and express happiness in those eyes because if you lose tonight, so help me, I’ll work you until you drop.”
Ballet is my talent.
Prancing and spinning until my head spins.
Clean lines and soft drops are what gain me first place.
Sometimes, I screw up on purpose, other times, I’m too tired to be perfect.
From the look in Mom's eyes, perfection is the word of the evening.
I have to win.
I want to quit.