Like you would get in the elevator and there’s maybe Wilhelmina, and you’d feel all flushed because she was sooo hot, too hot to even talk to, but she’d smile and say hi and be all personable and you’d be like, oh, ok, how nice, ice bitch character but what a sweet actress. Whereas with Betty you’d get in the elevator and you’d already feel comfortable, you’d say something stupid like, TGIF, or, Crappy Weather We’re Having Huh? Of course you’d be a little intimidated the first time because she was making more money than anyone else in the building, but she was approachable, nothing to get all precious about. Like an ugly girl would be.
And she’d play the part, that was the thing. Even if she was in her street clothes, without the eyebrows and the bad hair and all the other things they had to do to her to make her less than gorgeous … she always played the part.
So, ok, it was a dare. Which is really shitty, when I think about it, but believe me I’ve had plenty of cause to regret my bad behavior. Yes ma’am, yes I have.
BUT I BLAME Franco, too. I guess he was sick of hearing me bullshit about how her breasts had brushed against me as I was putting the mic on her, how I was pretty sure she swung both ways, how I’d like to bag her, how the ugly ones were always so grateful, especially the virgins, etcetera. You know that kind of trash talk that’s only possible between a bulldagger sound tech and a flaming faggot personal-assistant-to-the-star during a smoke break in frigid friggin February on a Thursday afternoon, with another worse-than-nothing weekend looming.
“Pues what the fuck are you waiting for?” said Franco, making a dramatic flourish with his cigarette. “I dare you. I double-dare you. You better ask her out or shut your mout’ — hey! I made a rhyme, innit?” Although he grew up in Long Island, Franco liked to use random ethnicisms to accessorize his mestizo complexion, which he enhanced with regular visits to Son Rise Tanning Salon, where he occasionally busted the cherries of the altar boy types who worked there, since the salon was a revenue source for La Iglesia de JesuCristo Sangre Miel. Franco’s accent was even more fluid than his attention span, and for this job in particular, he made frequent reference to his “Hispanic heritage,” although the closest connection I’d been able to specifically get out of him was a Filipina great-greatmother who was apparently so very Spanish that her family disowned her for eloping with a Chinese diplomat. The newlyweds had been forced to live in a shabby apartment on the outskirts of Manila until the city was bombed to smithereens by the Americans who were trying to save it from the Japanese, causing the entire family to swallow their limpieza de sangre and beg the detested Chinaman to use his embassy connections to get them out. He agreed, and the whole clan had fled, gold stuffed in their Spanish lace undergarments, to the much less tropical island of Long.
I was ethnic too — Japanese American, five generations in the Imperial Valley — so when Franco had come upon me four months ago, huddled in the doorjamb on my first day on the job, trying to light up a clove cig despite the pouring rain, he had hugged me effusively and exclaimed about how fucking relieved he was to see another “person of color” in “Betty’s posse.” So of course I had to grin and say, “How ’bout you help me get into Betty’s pussy?” And a workplace-soulmate-friendship was born.
“I’m not gonna ask her out,” I said. “She’s a tv star, I gotta take it slow. I don’t wanna make her think I’m just a stalker fan or something.”
“To think that about you?” he cried dramatically. “For that she would have to know you exist, di ba?”
SO ON THE SET the next day, with my hands necessarily quite close to her cute little tits but in a strictly professional way, I turned her microphone on as always, and then I turned it off again. She looked up at me, surprised. I put my finger to my lips as if we were going to share a little secret, and I leaned in close and said, “I know you probably get this all the time so it’s kind of insane of me to even try, and plus we work together so I would totally understand, but would you by any chance consider going out with me sometime?”
Then I turned the mic back on because, with her being a nice person and all, I figured that would reduce my chances of utter humiliation and she wouldn’t say, Hell No Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are You Creepy Dyke, for everyone on the set to hear; she’d just smile that little fake-braces smile and shake her head quietly or something. And for good measure I leaned into her mic again, tapped it, and said, “Testing, testing,” so I could pretend it was all a joke if I needed to.
And she smiled obligingly, and the fake braces glittered under the set lights, and the director was coming toward us with his big bad “I’m gonna direct the shit out of this scene now” stride, and Betty looked at me and said, “OK.”
Then she picked up an Ikea pencil and pad from her fake Mode desk, and raised a Hold On A Sec finger to the director who paused midstride—I could almost see the fume coming out the top of his little gelled head—and she flipped the pages up so that the top of the pad would still look OCD neat for the shoot, and on one of the inside pages she wrote a note and tore it out, and I wasn’t really breathing by the time she tucked the note inside my front jeans pocket. And then she patted my jeans, a little closer to my crotch than the pocket actually was, and I blushed from head to toe, or rather from that spot outward. “OK then,” she said, her eyes laughing, and she stood and turned toward the director, who un-freeze-framed and raised his eyebrows at us but didn’t dare say anything.
When I could breathe and move again, I read the note:
“There’s a thing tomorrow. Get directions from Franco and pick me up at 7. Wear a tux.”
That tux—which Franco had had to pull out of his ass for me by calling in a favor, and thank god some short skinny actor had at some point needed formalwear, because since when does a lesbian sound technician own a tux?— was lying in shreds on the expensive wall-to-wall leopard-weave carpet of Betty’s Central Park West penthouse. I was going to be in so much trouble with Wardrobe.
But not more trouble than I was in with her.
“Betty,” I said, “please, I am so sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter what you are,” she said, smiling evilly, showing her smooth even teeth. She didn’t have the braces, of course. But she apparently kept a spare set of the Betty eyeglasses around, because she’d put them on. That was shortly after she’d tied me to the four posters of her red silk canopy bed, but shortly before she’d pulled out a cholo switchblade—staying in character, I suppose—to slash my clothes off me.
I could feel the cool steel where she’d set the knife down, resting just between my naked breasts, the sharp tip grazing my collarbone, moving dangerously up and down with every breath I took. Which happened to be a lot of short, very breathy breaths.
She wasn’t letting me use her real name, she was making me call her Betty “since that’s who you wanted to fuck anyway, isn’t it?” I looked up at her, full breasts encased in expensive pink lace bra, crouched over me like a cat about to pounce.
A SADISTIC, HISPANIC cat. In my drunken, aroused, terrified haze I managed to think, “Gotta remember to tell Franco about that rhyme.”
Because somehow, stupidly, in the limo back to her place after her friend’s niece’s quinceñera – that’s what “the thing” turned out to be, in the banquet room of a mod boutique hotel downtown, where I’d had way too much blue agave tequila and not enough taquitos—when she’d flirtatiously asked me why I’d finally decided to ask her out, I’d drunkenly blurted out, “Um, it was a dare actually.” And if I hadn’t been looking right at her I would have missed the stunned, hurt expression that flashed across her face at that moment, before the cool, cheerful, ok-with-anything mask came back on and she laughed, throwing her head back the way only beautiful New York women can do, and said, “Oh really? How amusing.”
It was my turn to be “amused” now.
She lowered the glasses, then slid them off her face like she was doing a striptease. Then she trailed them across my naked breasts. My nipples were already hard, and the cold plastic teasing made them jump. First the left, then the right … circle, circle … “Please Betty,” I had to beg, “Please.”
“Say Ugly Betty,” she said.
Smack! She slapped my cheek several more times before I got it together enough to blurt out, “Ugly! Ugly Betty!”
She grinned, but there was no smile behind it. “Yes, my pet, what were you saying?”
“Please Ugly Betty please don’t do this, please let me go…”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
“Please, I never thought you were ugly, never, please,” I tried again.
What I hadn’t realized was, neither did she. Of course the proof was everything they had to do to make it convincing, all the layers they had to pile on: the braces, and the thick glasses, and the bad haircut with heavy bangs, AND then the clothes that didn’t match or show her body.
HER BODY. It had been all I could think about when I fantasized about her. I had imagined unpeeling those layers of plaids and stripes and polka dots in clashing greens and pinks to show the sweet pinkish-brown of her skin, the glasses set down on the nightstand gently, the shy girl grateful for attention, awkward but eager for love, for the best fucking of her life… but of course it wasn’t like that at all. I was the one who was fucked.
“Shut up,” she said, and drew a harsh stripe down my belly with the tip of one limb of the eyeglass frame. Then she pushed it right into my cunt, making me groan. It was too thin to fill me, and it had bypassed my clit way too quickly, but my muscle grabbed onto it like a life preserver. She let go, so the glasses just perched there, part sticking in my cunt, part framing my pubic mound in two semi-ovals. She started scraping my right thigh with her short but surprisingly sharp fingernails as she contemplated her work.
“Did I tell you,” she said, “that I’m starting a new magazine?”
I started to answer, but she slapped the inside of my left thigh with her left hand, while gouging deeper into my right with her nails. The pain caused me to jerk, which made the eyeglasses move inside me, which made me moan, which earned me another series of short, hard slaps.
“It’s called Mode XXX,” Betty said. “And you’re the first centerfold.”
That’s when I noticed the cameras.