Wrangling the Redhead - By Sherryl Woods
Winding River High School
Class of ’91
Welcome Home—Ten Years Later
Do You Remember the Way We Were?
Lauren Winters—The girl with all the answers, otherwise known as the one you’d most like to be seated next to during an exam. Elected most likely to succeed. Class valedictorian. Member of the Honor Society, County Fair Junior Rodeo Queen and star of the junior and senior class plays.
Emma Rogers—That girl can swing…a bat, that is. Elected most likely to be the first female on the New York Yankees. Member of the Debate Club, the Honor Society and president of the senior class.
Gina Petrillo—Tastiest girl in the class. Elected most popular because nobody in town bakes a better double chocolate brownie. Member of the Future Homemakers of America. Winner of three blue ribbons in the pie-baking contest and four in the cake-baking contest at the county fair.
Cassie Collins—Ringleader of the Calamity Janes. Elected most likely to land in jail. Best known for painting the town water tower a shocking pink and for making the entire faculty regret choosing teaching as a profession. Class record for detentions.
Karen (Phipps) Hanson—Better known as The Dreamer. Elected most likely to see the world. Member of the 4-H club, the Spanish and French clubs, and first-place winner at the county fair greased pig contest.
The plastic surgeon, a Hollywood celebrity in his own right, seemed particularly enamored by his computerized demonstration of exactly what he could achieve with a face-lift.
“A little nip right here,” he said, clicking a key and altering the world-famous face on the screen so that the already flawless skin around the eyes was an almost imperceptible smidgen tighter. “A tuck here.” The soft, rounded chin disappeared.
“It’ll take ten years off,” he promised enthusiastically. “And now’s the time to start, before the aging process really gets a grip on you.”
Lauren Winters listened to his spiel, stared at the image of her face on the screen and shuddered.
What was she thinking? She was only twenty-eight, and she was worrying about taking ten years off of her appearance. Was she suddenly expecting to be cast in some teen flick as an eighteen-year-old high-school senior? Hardly. She was doing just fine playing leading ladies her own age in blockbuster romantic comedies.
Making this appointment to discuss plastic surgery had obviously been a knee-jerk reaction to her latest divorce. That made two failed marriages—not bad by Hollywood standards, but a far cry from what she’d anticipated when she’d been growing up on a ranch in Winding River, Wyoming, where marriages—even bad ones like her parents’—tended to last forever.
Suddenly her life seemed incredibly shallow and pointless. Mentally she ticked off the accomplishments and their downside.
Her marriages had been career moves…for the men.
She had made more money than she’d ever dreamed of, but had no one to spend it on, since her parents refused to take a dime from her. They had only recently agreed to sell their failing ranch, put the money into savings and use the winter retreat Lauren had bought for them in Arizona. Her father grumbled about it every single time they spoke. He acted as if her gift were a banishment, rather than a generous gesture.
Her picture was on the cover of magazines…the kind no one in her family read.
She’d starred in five box office smashes in a row, though few people in Winding River ever made the trip to Laramie to see them, although some later rented the videos. Her old neighbors considered a night of dancing at the Heartbreak or dinner at Stella’s or Tony’s to be the height of entertainment. They were proud of her, but only in an abstract sort of way. Some actually seemed a little vague about what it was she did.
Even so, she was, by any standard, a successful, accomplished actress, but Lauren could honestly say she had no idea who she was anymore.
The invitation to her tenth high-school reunion had reminded her of that. A personal note from the class president had gushed on and on about Lauren’s Hollywood acclaim and said nothing at all about the teenage girl she’d been. Heck, back then, they’d barely spoken, which said volumes about how fame managed to turn former acquaintances into lifelong friends. Mimi Frances seemed to know Lauren Winters, superstar, better than Lauren knew herself.
Lauren had never felt comfortable in the role of actress, much less superstar. It seemed as fake to her as the fictional characters she played on-screen.