Dixie Mae woke up at six in the morning on Sunday, same as every day, and made her way to the shower. Under the flowing water she exfoliated her skin, before conditioning and shampooing her lustrous mane of dark black hair.
Stubble on her arms and legs drew Dixie’s attention next. She reached for a razor then went to work. The hairs weren’t long, barely a prickle, but when you lived under a microscope you learned to appreciate attention to detail.
Dixie shut off the shower, and stepped out into the bathroom, wrapping a snow-white towel around her voluptuous form. Insurance covered her breasts for several million dollars and she took some time to admire their perfection of form; utterly natural, perky and plump. Now if only her stomach would stay flat without a million hours of cardio every week.
When possible, Dixie preferred privacy. After drying off with her towel, she walked to her bedroom as bare as the day of her birth. She cherished the feeling of being able to walk out of her bathroom naked without a care in the world. No prying eyes, no crowds of camera-touting men wearing shades of grey and no talent managers.
Selecting some grey leggings, Dixie stepped into the tight pants. She slid her sports bra up and over her chest before fixing her hair into a ponytail. Her reflection caught her attention in the mirror once more and she turned sideways, resting a hand against her exposed belly. Dixie’s body type gifted her enormous breasts, but the same body type meant she carried a bit of surplus chub. Her manager Eric told her that if her waist size expanded even a size, she would lose millions of dollars in concert revenue and album sales. Dixie sighed, walked out of her room, and sat upright on the sprawling couch as she waited for her personal trainer to arrive. Sometimes Dixie wished she’d been born with the body type of a Taylor Swift; long legs, pixie features and slim femininity. Her mother’s voice chided in her mind at the thought. Dixie once made the mistake of sharing her envy with her mother who responded ‘you wouldn’t be famous with Taylor’s tits dear.’ A knock at the door signalled the arrival of Cindy, her personal trainer, so Dixie went to the front of her house and opened up. She smiled wide, despite her mood, and greeted Cindy jovially. Acting happy when she wasn’t came naturally to Dixie after years of practice.
Cindy stepped inside holding a rolled-up exercise mat under one arm. Her personal trainer made Dixie feel insecure; the woman personified beauty and slender femininity.
“Ready to rock?” Cindy asked.
“Yeah, let’s do it,” Dixie said.
They made their way down a winding staircase to Dixie’s personal gym. One wall of the gym held floor to ceiling mirrors and the wall on the other side presented a series of big-screen TVs.
They started the exercise routine without much delay. First set squats, second set lunges, third set calf-raises, fourth set leg lifts and then a ten minute sprint on the treadmill. After the first circuit, Dixie sprawled out on an exercise mat panting with jagged breath.
“Hey you can sit, but engage your core or I’ll make you walk the treadmill on break,” Cindy said. The diminutive blond’s drill sergeant demeanour kept Dixie fit.
Groaning, Dixie sat up and tucked her feet under her thighs. She engaged her core by tightening her abs and focused on recovering her breath.
“Anyone interesting in your life recently?” Cindy asked.
“No one to speak of,” Dixie said.
“I met this new guy, Robb, he’s amazing,” Cindy shook her magnificent blond head. “He owns a chain of juiceries across LA and he’s really into exercise, eats vegan, but he’s so strong and bold. You know?”
Dixie nodded her head, though she did not know. Between exercise, practice, travel and planning, Dixie barely found time to floss her teeth, whiten and brush, let alone meet a nice man. Cindy’s watch beeped.
“All right, another circuit, let’s move your butt,” Cindy said.
Dixie got through the squats all right, then struggled through the lunges, rapidly losing strength. She felt dizzy and her vision twisted like a top. She slowed her pace and Cindy rounded on her.
“C’mon Dixie, you wanna lose that gut? Sex symbols don’t have guts girl, work it off,” Cindy shouted.
Dixie strained into another lunge, but then wobbled and collapsed on the floor. Her heart pounded, and she curled into a ball. Tears flowed unbidden from Dixie’s big blue eyes and mixed with sweat on the mat beneath her. Cindy stopped shouting and crouched down beside Dixie, soothing her with a hand.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Cindy said.
Dixie sobbed harder at Cindy’s question and squeezed armadillo-like into an even tighter ball. Cindy stood and walked out of the gym. She’d probably call Eric, Dixie’s manager, and have him come to the house. She wished he wouldn’t. Eric cared about her, no doubt, but only as far as he could push her for a pay-cheque. Dixie stood as tears continued to trickle down her cheeks. She walked to the row of TVs, each and every one of them flashing with a different channel of celebrity gossip, and grit her teeth. Dixie picked up a twenty-pound dumbbell and used the weight to smash the screens. A scream ripped free from her lips as she smashed the second, and she kept screaming all the way down the line of TVs until she smashed all fifteen. Cindy burst back in the room.
“Hey, it’s okay Dixie, Eric’s on his way. He said he’ll be about twenty minutes. I’ll see you again Wednesday, we’ll cut today short, okay?” Cindy stopped short at the sight of the smashed TVs. She rushed over to Dixie. “Oh my god, you cut your hand.”
Dixie looked down at her hand where a sliver of glass extruded from the skin of her palm. She dropped the dumbbell with a thump. Dixie then used two fingers to pull the piece of glass free. A bubbling brook of blood flowed from the incision.
“Come, sit over here,” Cindy said. Dixie let Cindy shepherd her towards a nearby bench where they both sat. Cindy retrieved some gauze from the fanny pack she wore at her waist, and wrapped the white cotton around Dixie’s hand.
“Thank you,” Dixie said. Calm came over her again.
“My pleasure Dixie. You know I care about you right?” Cindy said.
“Of course, it’s just — sometimes it’s really hard be-“ Dixie said but Cindy interrupted.
“I’d love to know but I’m not allowed to talk feelings with you. It’s in my contract. I’m sorry,” Cindy said.
Dixie nodded, staring numbly at her reflection in the mirrors across the gym. She looked pitiful as Cindy rubbed her back like an indulgent mother.
“I’m fine,” Dixie said, wiping her cheeks. No reason to cry. “You can go. Thank you and sorry again for wasting your time.”
“Hey don’t feel bad hon, I’m getting’ paid anyway,” Cindy said. “Feel better.”
Then Cindy left, leaving Dixie all alone in her enormous house.
Tara May sat on the couch in her three hundred square foot apartment eating ice cream from a four gallon tub and watching TMZ. After a hard day’s work at the local convenience store, Tara loved catching up on celebrity gossip. Mostly because all the beautiful, effortlessly awesome people provided ample escape fantasies for her.
“Bad news out of Dixie Mae’s camp. A poor pitchfork review proved an ominous precursor as critics and fans alike are panning her new album,” the narrator said.
Tara May shot up in her seat, eyes burning like living flames. Grabbing her laptop, she wrenched it open with tremendous speed and logged into tumblr.
‘Dixie hinted at her potential as a serious performer with her early work, but this new album confirms her as a place-holder with great boobs,’ wrote Boobman420.
Tap-dancing her fingers across the keyboard, Tara wrote a scathing rebuttal. In fact, Tara wrote over one-hundred scathing rebuttals in the next few hours. By the time she closed her computer again, a nasty aspect consumed her features. Dixie Mae was the most special person in the world. An angel given to humankind for worship and adoration. Plus, Dixie was Mae with an e and Tara was May with a y. Tara always felt a close connection with Dixie.
Tara opened up twitter next and sent a direct message to Dixie Mae’s twitter account.
‘Don’t let them get you down Dixie, they’re all assholes. You’re perfect. No darkness can hide your light. I love you so much, you’re like a sister to me, or a best friend I don’t see very much. You left for college, that’s it. Anyway, I love you so much, stay strong and I will defend your honour online,’ Tara wrote. She pressed send.
Then she sent a tweet to Dixie’s twitter account saying “pls check your DMs I am your biggest fan.”
Finished with her virtual crusade, Tara put her ice cream back in the freezer and went to her bedroom. She remembered the dentist’s suggestion to floss but decided against flossing because her teeth were too far gone anyway. Plus her gums always bled when she worked the string in between her teeth. Tara’s smile presented a twisted, mangled mess to the world. What was the point of flossing? No matter how much mouthwash she gurgled, Tara’d never have teeth like Dixie Mae.
Tara pulled off her baggy t-shirt and pyjamas, before examining herself in her tiny mirror. Her thick legs shared their texture with butterscotch pudding. Her face ran rampant with break-outs of angry red acne. Even if a cement-roller ran over her frizzy hair the strands would never hang straight.
Sighing, Tara crawled into her bed and closed her eyes. Before she went to sleep, she dreamed of a different life. Tara dreamed her hair long and black, thick and straight, hanging over an impressive chest. Her pencil thin waist tapered into wide, curvy hips. Her cobalt blue eyes looked back in the mirror as big as meteorites. Feeling beautiful and blessed, Tara drifted easily off to sleep.
“The record sucks,” Dixie said. Eric and her mother stood over her shoulder.
“It doesn’t suck, it’s misunderstood,” Eric said.
“I knew you should’ve kept that song Growl out,” Mother said.
Dixie’s shoulders slumped. The studio made most of the creative decisions for her last album. Growl had been her one insistence, a pet passion project, and a much-needed departure from the rest of the air-brushed bubble pop on the album.
“I like Growl,” Eric said.
“You’re alone on that mister,” Mother said.
“When can I get some time alone?” Dixie said.
Mother and Eric exchanged surprised glances. Dixie monitored their non-verbal exchange in the make-up mirror in front of her.
“You have six to six thirty every morning,” Eric said.
Mother said nothing, but crossed her arms and harrumphed to make her position clear as water.
“I just – I work so hard,” Dixie said. “I start at six every day and I don’t get to rest again until eleven at night. I’m constantly exhausted. I never get a good meal. I never get to go on any dates.”
“Poor pop star princess,” Mother said. “I used to work in a textile factory. You ever work in a factory Dixie?”
Dixie sighed, feeling defeated. Eric seemed totally puzzled by her discontent.
“Forget it,” she said.
“You can always take a vacation,” Eric said. “But the rest is your job Dixie. That’s what it takes to be a pop star. We both know you work hard, don’t we?” Eric turned to Dixie’s mother.
Mother harrumphed again and nodded curtly, a bare fractional degree of an incline.
“We can set up one of those celebrity relationships. Jon Meyer is always into that. How would you like to date him?” Eric asked.
“No, just, never mind,” Dixie said.
“We can always talk to the chef about spicing up your meal plan,” Eric said.
“Please – just forget about it. I’m okay,” Dixie said.
“Okay, well let me know if you want Kerick to substitute cottage cheese for yoghurt or anythin-“
“Forget it,” Dixie said.
“Okay,” Eric said. “But that five minute chat put us five minutes behind schedule. You better hurry with the make-up or you’re gonna be late for your Q and A.”
Dixie nodded and applied her make-up hurriedly.
A security team escorted Dixie, her mother and Eric to a waiting limousine. They got inside and rode in silence to the meet and greet. Mother stewed silently, seemingly chewing her tongue like a stick of gum, while Eric fiddled on an enormous tablet. Dixie sat with her knees pressed together and tried not to cry.
Tara shivered in bubbly anticipation, a smile as wide as the horizon on her face. She’d be meeting her hero at the Olympus theatre in just a few short hours, and she quite literally couldn’t wait. Tara checked the time in five-second intervals, hoping for some will-based manipulation of the fourth dimension.
She’d dyed her hair raven black to match Dixies and wore blue contacts to complete the imitation. Tara wore the same one-piece teal coloured bathing suit from Dixie’s newest album cover, and though the outfit fit Tara poorly, she felt sure Dixie would understand and appreciate the homage. She’d also booked the next two days off work; one day to meet Dixie, and another day to recover from the experience.
“I know you already,” Tara said. “You can’t hide anything from me.”
Tara remembered being five years old and braiding her older sister Dixie’s hair. They sat on a picnic blanket in Central Park. After braiding Dixie’s hair, the two of them danced across the grass like two striking eighty-eight butterflies. The girls’ carefree spirit drew a local crowd and the cameramen for the local news station happened to be walking by, and a recording of the whole thing ended up on prime time television.
Tara rushed to the computer and searched “two sisters butterflies flashdance” on youtube. She found nothing, and then slumped back in her chair, perturbed. Weird, youtube must have taken the video down. Dixie would never take it down, they were sisters and Dixie loved her.
Wanting to make sure she adequately prepared to meet the sun and moon, Tara made sure her nine millimetre was loaded. Fully licensed and registered, of course. If any haters tried to drag her sister through the mud, Tara would end them in a shower of lead.
The Olympus Theatre sported a full house as Dixie took the stage. The fans screamed adoration at her, cheering wildly. Her heart warmed at the showing of support, despite her floundering album which dropped down the charts like a piano demolition as she stood there smiling.
The format of the show would be a short talk, a Q and A, then finally an autograph session. Dixie took a deep breath and looked off stage where Eric and Mother stood. They’d prepared words for her and Eric held the microphone attached to Dixie’s earpiece.
“All right, wait for the applause to die down,” Eric said.
Dixie made a decision for herself and pulled out her ear piece.
“Hey everyone, how are you all doing today?”
The crowd exploded into cheers. Dixie shot a glance off stage and saw Eric striding towards her with an alarmed expression.
“I’m just fine Eric. Thanks. Maybe a water,” Dixie said.
The crowd fixated on Eric as he burst on stage. The fans fell silent, so he turned slowly and walked back off-stage. Dixie could’ve giggled, Eric looked quite uncomfortable under their scrutinizing stares. “So, you’re here to see Dixie Mae,” Dixie said.
The crowd went crazy again. A girl in the front row went ballistic. The poor thing was overweight, wrought with acne and she wore the same one-suit bathing suit from the cover of Dixie’s latest album. Dixie felt taken aback at the passion that must’ve inspired such a costume. Then she turned back to the crowd.
“I just want to say that every person who’s attained any measure of success is a product of other people’s hard work,” Dixie said.
The crowd went quiet.
“I am Dixie Mae, and I am the one up here singing, dancing and looking good, but behind me is a dedicated team. Without my team, there’s no way I’d manage any of this. I owe my manager Eric, my Mom, my trainer Cindy, my stylist Greg, my social media team and my chef. They help me keep all everything together,” Dixie said.
The crowd clapped.
“No, give it up for them, c’mon now,” Dixie said.
The crowd cheered raucously at Dixie’s urging.
The rest of the talk blurred into a wet mess for Tara. She burst her way out of the auditorium and into the bathroom, crying desperately. Dixie didn’t operate her social media? Tara heard about celebrities employing people to represent them on social media, but Dixie was supposed to be different. Dixie was supposed to better.
Did that mean the time Dixie liked Tara’s tweet, the like came from some college graduate intern? Dixie used a personal trainer? What in the actual fuck. Hell, Tara could look as good as Dixie with a personal trainer, a chef and the whole rest of the team on her side. Jesus. Tara grit her teeth as her sadness mutated quickly to anger. A stranger stood on that stage, not the Dixie Mae Tara knew and loved.
Tara knocked back the hammer on her pistol, tucked it back into her purse and walked out of the bathroom. Dixie Mae was the biggest fake in the entire world. Was Dixie Mae even her real name? Who the fuck knew. Lipstick on a pig defined Dixie Mae and the realization infuriated Tara.
Most of the people in the back seats played on phones or talked amongst themselves. A little girl in the front stood on her seat holding a microphone as she asked a question.
“How many times do you sing a year?” The girl asked. The audience cooed.
“Oh what a good question,” Dixie said. “What’s your name pretty girl?”
“I’m Taylor,” the girl said.
“What a lovely name,” Dixie said.
We’ll be finding all about names very soon, thought Tara as she took her seat in the front row. Being a major contributor to the Dixie Mae fan club provided some privileges, but the advantages offered fell short. Tara knew that without her support Dixie’s fan club would fold like a wet cardboard box, and the fake Dixie Mae would follow. A celebrity without fans possessed nothing short of artificial glam. A lonely faker.
“Well, I guess I sing about six hundred times I year. Most days I’ll sing after breakfast, and again at night, so that’s two most of the time. Sometimes I’ll take a day off. Letting yourself rest is important. Thanks for the question Taylor,” Dixie said.
A woman with a microphone patrolled, looking for people who wanted to ask Dixie a question. Tara grabbed the woman and pulled her close. “I have a question,” Tara said.
“Okay, what is it?” the woman asked.
“I’m going to ask Dixie Mae if that’s her real name,” Tara said.
“Oh, good question. Here you go. You’re after that guy,” the woman said. She pointed to a man in the middle rows who stood up.
“I’m just wondering how you aren’t married yet Dixie?” asked the man. Dixie’s face fell, she’d been noticeably upset by the question. Tara wondered if she was already married, hiding a secret celebrity husband somewhere.
“I haven’t met the right guy yet,” Dixie said. Her eyes lingered on the stage, just feet from Tara. If Dixie looked right at Tara, she might be forgiven, but the singer’s eyes passed over Tara as she looked up. “All right, next question.”
Tara looked at the woman who handed her the microphone and the woman nodded, smiling. Tara stood on shaking legs. Her left hand held cold steel in her purse.
“Is Dixie Mae your real name?”
Dixie Mae smiled brightly.
“Of course it is. What’s your name?”
“Tara May,” Tara said.
“Wow, we have the same last name.”
“I know Dixie. We could’ve been sisters.”
With that, Tara raised the pistol and pulled the trigger five times in succession. Bullets shredded Dixie’s middle and she collapsed in a pool of blood on the stage floor. An old woman came flying from off-stage and threw her arms around Dixie.
Tara never saw the man coming, but he held a glock of his own. The security agent pulled the trigger and Tara’s life flashed before her eyes.
Holding Dixie’s hand as they swung on the swings together. Pushing Dixie in the pool. Holding Dixie’s hair as she threw up from stolen sips of whiskey. Dixie’s voice during the high part in Growl. A birthday cake with twenty candles arraigned delicately around a picture of Dixie in frosting.