“We’re here at Seventh on Sixth, the seasonal industry fashion show. As you can see—” The reporter turned slightly to her left to let the cameraman get a better angle. “—the giant white tents are pitched high in Bryant Park where the actual shows are taking place. Inside, strutting the catwalk, is Seventh Avenue’s latest sensation, Madison Reynolds. Though only sixteen, Madison has more poise than models twice her age,” the entertainment reporter spoke into the camera.
There seemed to be a small village of reporters from around the globe staked out in front of Bryant Park, as well as an army of photographers inside. New York Fashion Week was a huge deal and they were there to report not only on the latest designers, but also on the fashion world’s next ingénue.
The reporter continued, “Despite her mile-long legs, flawless skin, flowing red hair and emerald-green eyes, Madison would be just another wannabe model if it weren’t for her grandmother, Renée Reynolds. A top model back in the days of Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson, Renée still has a foothold in the industry and has used her connections to get Madison through a few tightly closed doors.”
The reporter was trying to fill up the time until Madison came
out of the show, so she gave a little background information on Madison’s ever-present grandmother. After nearly an hour, the opening of the entrance tent parted and out pranced the models.
“Madison! Madison, over here!” shouted the reporter, as she exited the tent.
“Quick! Snap her picture! Snap her picture!” the reporter instructed her photographer.
Madison stopped on the red carpet and struck a haughty pose, but before she could flash her signature smile, another photog called her name. She swiveled around on her (mucho mature) Manolos and turned, with smile in place, while the photographer clicked away.
“So, Madison, when’s your next gig?” asked the inquiring reporter.
“I’ll be doing the spring shows in Paris,” Madison answered with a smile.
“Which houses are you modeling for this year?”
“I’ll be doing the rounds as usual.” Though she was a teen, Madison was a regular on the European circuit.
“What about school? Are you taking a semester off, or are you going to get a tutor?”
Before she could answer, her ever-present grandmother chimed in. “Come on, honey,” she said, tugging on Madison’s arm, “that’s enough press for one evening.”
“Renée, will you be accompanying your granddaughter to Europe?” the reporter asked, trying to prolong her time with the Reynolds women.
Renée arched her back and cleared her throat. “Of course. Let’s not forget that not too long ago, I worked those same shows,” she said with an air of indignation.
“How could anyone ever forget the Renée Reynolds strut? You had a walk like no other,” the reporter said, stroking the older woman’s obviously fragile ego. The reporter thought that if she could get next to Madison’s bulldog of a grandmother, then maybe she’d get an exclusive interview with the young model. But before she could ask another question, another group of models came pouring onto the red carpet.
“Madison, are you going to meet us at the Gansevoort?” asked Danielle, a fellow model.
Madison wanted to go and hang out with the other girls, but she knew that was out of the question. There was no way her grandmother was going to let her go to the Meatpacking District and party at the trendy boutique hotel. Madison didn’t want to sound like the underaged teen that she was, so she simply said, “No, I’ve got an early day tomorrow.”
“Oh, do you have an early morning shoot?” Danielle asked.
“Nah.” In model lingo, an early day usually meant a nine o’clock shoot, but for Madison it meant that she had to get up early and go to school—high school, not college.
Madison attended Walburton Academy, one of Manhattan’s premier private schools on the Upper West Side. While the schools on the East Side educated mostly blue-blooded, old-money brats, the West Side institutions were filled with a cornucopia of first-and second-generation wealth. Being a top teen model, Madison reigned supreme over her crew of four. There was her best friend and partner in shopping, Reagan. Reagan’s biggest fan and admirer, former child star Peyton Granger, better known as PG, and Ian, Madison’s boyfriend. Though it could be grueling at times, Madison loved her school. It was one of the few places where she could let loose and have some fun without the prying eyes of the paparazzi or her grandmother.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go? ’Cuz we gonna party like rock stars.” Danielle laughed and slapped her friend a high-five, ready to get the night started.
Madison quickly looked at her grandmother, who had a scowl plastered across her face. Obviously she wasn’t happy with this verbal exchange.
“Yeah, I’m sure. You guys have fun. I’ll hang out with you at the next gig,” Madison said, trying to sound like an adult instead of a curfew-reddened teenager.
“Alright. See ya when I see ya,” Danielle said, then waved her hand and got into a waiting limo with her entourage.
Madison threw her hand up and said good-bye as she followed her grandmother to their car. She couldn’t wait until she was old enough to party without a chaperone. The way her grandmother watched her so closely, Madison felt like a specimen underneath a microscope.
“We’re going to take my granddaughter home first,” Renée instructed her driver once they were settled in the back of her sleek black-on-black Jaguar XJ8.
The driver nodded without saying a word, and took off up Sixth Avenue. Madison lived with her parents and little brother on Sixty-eighth and Central Park West, in a renovated, pre-war, three-bedroom coop. Her mother—who didn’t inherit the leggy model body—was a housewife, and her father was an investment banker for Morgan Stanley. Her parents rarely attended the fashion shows, since her dad was at client dinners most nights and her mother was devoted to Madison’s baby brother, Henry. So the job of overseer naturally went to her grandmother.
“You did a good job tonight, honey,” Renée said.
Oh here it comes, Madison thought. Her grandmother’s compliments were usually followed by detailed criticism.
“…when you turn at the end of the runway, pause a little longer so that the photographer can get a chance to snap your picture. Tonight, you turned too fast, and even if he did take a shot, I’m sure he only got the back of your head.”
“Okay,” was all that Madison said. She was used to the instruction, and let it go in one ear and out the other. She knew that her grandmother had good intentions, but at times she really wasn’t in the mood for the critique.
Luckily for Madison, her Sidekick vibrated inside her Dooney bag before the rhetoric continued. She dug into the oversized duffel and fished out her metallic silver connection to the world. She flipped open the screen and saw that she had a text from Reagan. She punched a few keys and read the message:
i got sme grt nws!
Madison quickly typed a short reply on the mini keyboard:
cant tlk. wcyl
She pressed send, closed the phone, and put it back in her bag. From the corner of her eye, Madison could see her grandmother looking over at her. The last thing she needed was for her grandmother to try and decode one of her texts. If her grandmother had seen the message, she’d be full of questions like the freaking Gestapo. First off, she’d want to know who the message was from, and second she’d want to know what “wcyl” stood for. Madison smiled slightly when she realized that even if her grandmother had seen the message, she’d never guess that “wcyl” meant “will call you later.” Now that she thought about it, texting was a totally safe mode of communication in front of mostly any adult, since they were oblivious to the encrypted language of texting.
“Who was that calling you so late?”
Here comes the interrogation, Madison thought. “It wasn’t a call, Nancy.” Renée had insisted that her grandchildren call her Nancy, a derivate of Nana. In her mind, she was too young to be called Grandma, and Nana was more befitting of a booty-knitting, cookie-baking grandmother, which she certainly was not. And when Madison called her Nancy at industry functions, she felt like a hip, older aunt, instead of a relic.
“You know what I mean.” She pinned Madison with one of her “don’t be a smarty pants” looks.
“That was Reagan reminding me that we have a field trip tomorrow,” she lied. It wasn’t exactly a lie since their class was scheduled to attend a Broadway matinee.
“Oh,” Renée said, satisfied with the answer. She knew that she was being overprotective at times, but didn’t want her granddaughter to grow up too fast. Modeling was a cutthroat business, a business where young girls were used and abused on a regular basis. And it was her responsibility to make sure that Madison didn’t get involved with alcohol, drugs or grown men looking for a ripe young virgin.
Before the interrogation could continue, the car was pulling up in front of Madison’s building. She was glad to escape the prying eyes of her grandmother, and couldn’t wait to be alone in her room, so that she could answer Reagan’s text freely.
“Good night, Nancy.” Madison pecked her grandmother on the cheek. “Thanks for dropping me off.”
“Anytime, my darling.” She gave Madison a tight hug. “Now get some rest, and I’ll talk to you soon.”
“I will, and thanks for coming with me tonight.” Even though Madison resented her grandmother’s presence at times, a part of her was actually glad that she was there to run interference with the groupies that she didn’t want to be bothered with.
“Hey, Sam,” Madison greeted the doorman once she was inside the building.
“Good evening, Miss. Another late night, I see.”
“Yeah, I was modeling in a fashion show tonight.”
“I don’t know where you get the energy, between school and your modeling career. It’s a wonder you don’t have dark circles under your eyes.”
“Trust me, Sam, I make up on my sleep time on the weekends. Besides, I’m young and can handle the pressure.” She chuckled. “Good night.”
“Good night, Miss.”
Madison rode the elevator up to her family’s apartment. She quietly opened the door. The apartment was dim, with only one lamp on in the living room. Madison didn’t hear her noisy little brother bouncing around, which could only mean that he was asleep, which meant that her mother was also alseep, since she mirrored her son’s sleep pattern. Madison was grateful for the peace and quiet, because the only person she wanted to talk to was Reagan. She made a beeline for her bedroom and immediately called her best friend.
“It’s about time,” Reagan whispered into the phone. “I’ve been on pins and needles waiting for your call.”
“You know I couldn’t talk with Nancy listening to my every word. What’s up?”
“You know that stupid field trip we’re going on tomorrow?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well…” Reagan paused for effect. “We’re not going!” she shrieked softly.
Madison kicked off her heels, sat on the bed and rubbed her aching toes. The high heels were cute, but not the most comfortable shoes. “Why? Was it cancelled?”
“You could say that,” Reagan said mysteriously.
“Come on, Rea, stop teasing, and tell me what the heck you’re talking about.”
“PG called earlier this evening and told me that Ian’s parents are going to their house in the Hamptons in the morning, so that they can attend some film festival. And Ian will have the penthouse all to himself for the next few days. So instead of going to some stupid play, me, you and PG are spending the afternoon at Ian’s!” she whispered excitedly.
“That’s awesome! I could use some down time after working and being spied on all evening. I love my grandmother to death, but I swear sometimes she drives me crazy; acting like my private bodyguard.”
“Ms. Thang, you don’t have to worry about prying eyes tomorrow, because the only people at the penthouse will be us. Ian’s going to send the maid out for the day, so we can really cut up!”
“Now that’s the kind of field trip I’m talkin’ about! No teachers, no parents or grandparents, and no nosey housekeepers! Party over here, ooh, ooh,” Madison sang out in a soft tone, so that she wouldn’t wake her mother.
“Okay! Girl, I can’t wait. Tomorrow can’t come fast enough.”
“I love Ian’s absentee parents. They care more about socializing than staying at home looking after their kid, unlike my mom, who’s always at the house with me and my brother,” Madison said.
“I saw Ian’s parents in the society section of The Times last week, photographed at some party with the mayor.”
“Ian’s left alone so much, it’s like he’s an orphan.”
“An orphan with a fabu penthouse, don’t forget!” Reagan laughed.
“This is true.”
“Wait a minute.” Reagan paused for a second. “I think I hear my mom walking down the hall. Unlike Ian’s mom, mine is on constant patrol. Let me go before she comes storming in here, snatches the phone out of my hand, and demands I go to bed.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Madison hung up. With visions of a stress-free afternoon lying ahead, Madison danced around her room in her bare feet, anticipating a day of unsupervised fun with her friends.