Growing up BeautifilChapter 2

JOANNE BROOKS STEERED HER BMW 320i into the circular driveway of her parent’s Malibu home. Entering the foyer, she faced a life-size portrait of herself. The painting had been commissioned for her sixteenth birthday five years earlier and every detail from the chignon holding her brunette hair up in a classic twist to the Valentino gown on loan from her mother's walk- in closet had been decided without her input.
         “Good afternoon, Miss Brooks,” The housekeeper greeted her.
         “Hello, Mrs. Higgins.”
         “Your mother and father decided to have lunch in the solarium. They're waiting for you.”
         Joanne joined her parents at a white wicker table set with china featuring a cheerful pattern of lemons set against a royal blue rim. Crystal glasses held water and white wine. Pleasantries were exchanged while her mother served spiced rice mixed with vegetables and exotic seafood.
         “The cook spent all day working on this paella.” Her mother took a sip of Chardonnay. “I saw the recipe in my Gourmet Magazine and thought you might like it.”
         Joanne tasted a spoonful. “It's good. Thank you." The response was expected and automatically granted. “Would it be possible to talk to both of you about my summer plans?”
         “We already know your plans,” her mother stated.
         “That's right, sweetheart. Now that your pre-law work at USC is
complete, you'll need to prepare for Harvard in the Fall.” Her father beamed. “I'm so proud of you. The happiest day of my life is going to be the day you join my law firm and become a member of the team.”        
        Joanne wondered if his team of attorneys had personalities similar to
the students she had met during her four years at USC. Her fellow Trojans had been either stressed out from trying to keep up scholarship grades, or arrogant from living off family money. No lasting friendships made. No romances blossomed. She held back a sigh.
        “I'm fully aware of my upcoming obligations, but...since it is summer and all...I'd like to take some time off to model.“

        Her mother frowned. Her father lost his smile. Any deviation from the life plan they had prepared for her, a life plan etched in stone as far as they were concerned, had to be a welcomed addition or it was shot down immediately. Once that happened, the subject was strictly off-limits.
        “Do you remember the agent who wanted to represent me?"
         “We've already discussed this. I don't want to open the Sunday paper and see my daughter's face on a coupon for tampons.”
         “Mother, not all modeling jobs are like that. If you had let me sign a contract with Wilhemina last month, my first job would have been for an album cover.”
         “That's even worse. That's even worse. Who knows what some pimply faced boy might have done while listening to those filthy lyrics and staring at my beautiful baby.”
         You know what we think about you wasting time on silly pursuits, Jo-Jo,” her father admonished.
         If I tell them about the ticket to Milan tucked inside my purse, they'll call the airline and cancel the reservation.
         “It's important for you to stay on track,” her father continued.
         The flight leaves at 8:45 tomorrow morning. If I don't get on that plane, I'll never have the courage to do anything on my own.
         “Your mother has already made plans to take you shopping for an appropriate East Coast wardrobe, and I've already blocked out three days on my July schedule to take you to Boston so we can look for a condo.”
          “I know, but why did you enroll me at that modeling school last year if you didn't want me to model?”
         “I thought it would help polish your presentation skills and I was right.”          Her mother took another sip of wine. “You hold yourself perfectly now, but I only want you to use this knowledge to impress people that matter. It would be vulgar to promote yourself for money.”
         “I don't see the difference.”
         “That's because you're still so young,” her father interjected.
         “I don't want to discuss this anymore." Her mother slid her chair back. “The conversation is giving me a migraine." The agitated tap-tap of her kitten heels sounded on the tile floor as she departed the solarium.        
         “You've always been such a smart girl." Her father's steady gaze bore into hers. “Don't mess it up now." He set his napkin on the table, stood, and walked away.
         Joanne leaned back in her chair and recalled the second interview she had last week with the poised and radiant ex-model, Wilhelmina; the one where she had successfully negotiated a revised contract that would allow her work in Italy for one month instead of the standard two. She had spent the last few days hoping her parents would support her first solo endeavor, but the encouraging hugs and words of praise she longed for had not happened. She lowered her head into her hands. Why don't they care about what I want? Why don't my needs matter?

<Prologue <Chapter 1 <Chapter 2 <Chapter 3

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