Killing Monica - Candace Bushnell


IT WAS SUMMER, and Monica was everywhere again.

She was there, in the supermarket, on the rack of tabloids between displays of candy and sugarless gum at the checkout counter. And there, on the side of the bus kiosk. And there, on the cover of the fashion magazines in the salon. She was all over the morning shows, recommending what to wear, store, or toss from your summer wardrobe. She was with you in the backseat of the taxi, on the screen in front of your knees, telling you where to go, what to see, and what to buy. Selling, always selling. But mostly, what she was selling was happiness.

And she still looked great doing it. Her skin, soft and flawless, was radiant. Her cheeks resembled peaches. And her hair: masses and masses of it in pure twenty-four-karat color.

On June 1, like clockwork, Monica’s image began to go up on the billboard overlooking the designer boutiques in Soho. First a strip of her hair appeared, followed by the smooth, high forehead, and then the eyes: the irises an almost translucent light green encircled by a band of dark gold hazel. And then the mouth: perched on her face like a sweet strawberry surprise, lips open, smiling. Monica was happy. So very, very happy. You looked at her, and suddenly you wanted to be her.

Unless, of course, you were her. Or had once been a version of her—in the past. But now you are frazzled, beaten down, and your skin looks like crap. Your eyes are bloodshot. There is something sticky in your hair.

Pandy looked at the top of Monica’s head and thought, Just two more days. Three or four at the most. She could do this. She could win.

She reminded herself that she had won before. With Monica.

Silly, charming, madcap Monica; the beloved heroine of four Monica books and four Monica movies.

Pandy had conjured up Monica as a child, for the entertainment of herself and her younger sister, Hellenor. Monica had hair the color of yellow marigolds, and she had quickly turned into their favorite creation, becoming the star of a series of notebooks called Monica: A Girl’s Guide to Being a Girl.

When Pandy left home, moved to New York, and became a struggling writer, naturally she figured she was leaving Monica behind.

But she was wrong.

Because one night, when the third book she’d written had been rejected, when she’d had to borrow money to pay her rent, when the man she thought she was seeing turned out to be seeing someone else—she suddenly remembered Monica.

Monica. The goldenest of golden girls. On the outside, anyway. But what only Pandy knew was that when she’d created Monica, she’d been at the lowest point in her life.

Monica was the answer to her despair.

Pandy got up, walked to the window, and frowned. The billboard was two blocks away. The sun moved behind Monica’s head, and once again Pandy found herself standing in Monica’s shadow.

* * *

“Henry,” she’d said to her agent, leaning over his desk. “You and I both know I can’t write Monica forever. Not that I have anything against Monica. I love her. We all do. And I’m grateful to her. I know I’d be a fool to turn down money on a sure thing to take a chance on the unknown. But I’ve got a million stories in my head. I need uncharted territory. I need to be…” She’d paused. “Scared.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so glib.

“Uh-huh,” Henry said, and smiled patiently. Every year or so she went through this phase of not wanting to write about Monica; of wanting to go back to writing something “serious” and “meaningful.” She would write a hundred or so pages of this “different” book, and inevitably return to Monica.

Because, as Henry pointed out, she was Monica.

But this time was different. She didn’t give up after a hundred pages.

She couldn’t. She had to succeed.

Over both Monica and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Jonny Balaga.

* * *

The sun was now high behind Monica’s head. Pandy realized that her image was still not complete. They had yet to attach her leg.

Perhaps they were changing her shoe.

Pandy smiled, suddenly feeling sentimental about Monica. She remembered the first time she’d watched the billboard go up. She’d been so excited, she’d insisted that SondraBeth Schnowzer, the actress who played Monica in the film versions of the books, come over and watch with her as it progressed. The two of them had sat there for hours, as rapt as if the universe had conspired