Year One: Duquesa Bay

"The Anchor Girl"

Six months after the Bay Valley Medical Center explosion…

Across the street from KCON is the "Brews & News" coffee shop. Looking spectacular in her pomegranate jacket and matching lipstick, Kylee Shepperton clip-clops her way along the intersection. Two men fall over their espressos hoping to attract her attention as she hurries past the umbrella area of the sidewalk.

Brianna: Excuse me, Ms. Shepperton…

Kylee freezes and scans around half-empty tables for the voice. It belongs to an African-American teenager in the corner. She is in a wheelchair.

Brianna: Hi, I’m Brianna Watkins from East Chaparral High - we were supposed to meet at 11:30?

Kylee: Oh… oh, okay – great, let me get a mochaccino and I’ll join you in a minute, Sweetie!

Kylee flashes her signature shine smile and ducks inside the shop. As she stands in line, she furiously punches the pad on her cell.

Kylee: (Angered hushed tones into phone) Phil, PHIL – what in the hell are you doing to me? – you set up this ridiculous mentorship thing, the least you could have done is find a mini-me to work with - this girl is NOT a mini-me… I am so gonna get you for this, Phil

Moments later, Kylee emerges from inside with two extra large cups and takes a seat at Brianna’s table.

Kylee: Sorry for bein’ late – newsroom business and all

Brianna: If I were a source, would you have been late?

Kylee: Heh, here’s a mochaccino for you

Brianna: Sorry, I don’t drink coffee

Kylee: Oh, Honey, you will in this industry - might as well learn how to swallow now

Kylee gulps down half her cup.

Kylee: So… I’m sorry, what is your name again?

Brianna: Brianna Watkins

Kylee gently takes her hand in hers and pets it.

Kylee: Nice to meet you, Ms. Watkins – I’m Kylee Shepperton, KCON’s lead anchor

Brianna: Yes, I know

Kylee: I know, too, I just love sayin’ it out loud – did you know they rebuilt the entire NewsCenter8 set for me? – the new one features colors and woods that better accentuate my eyes and skin tones

Brianna: I did not know that

Kylee: And I love the name Brianna, it’s so sweet – it’s today’s name what ‘Jennifer’ was in my day and what ‘Brandy’ was in my momma’s time – y’know, I was almost a Brandy but my bitchy aunt took it for her youngin’ – thank the good lord because Brandy Shepperton sounds like a beverage and we just had an in-house memo not too long ago about losing female talent with too-cutesy names – now they want us all to be smart and professional sounding with a little bit of ethnic flavor thrown in… I mean, flava, yo

Brianna: How many cups of coffee did you have before this one?

Kylee: We get little love notes from management – "stripes are not your friend," "that hairdo makes you look fat," "lose the disco belt," "too much lip gloss looks like lube," "you’re slouching too much" – it’s like a daily dose of momma in a memo

Brianna: Should I be writing this down?

Kylee: (Shocked) Can you?

Brianna: My legs don’t work but everything else does, including my brain

Kylee: Do you need a diaper?

Brianna: No, and it’s called a catheter

Kylee: What about…

Kylee peers around and leans in closer to Brianna.

Kylee: What about your hooha?

Brianna: I think the AP Style Book refers to it as a vagina

Kylee: Can you have sex?

Brianna: It doesn’t just have to be between the legs – a simple touch anywhere in my upper body is stimulating

Kylee: Oh my, I hope when I shook your hand earlier, you didn’t mistake it for foreplay?

Brianna: Um, no

Kylee: I just don’t do black people, women, or the physically handicapped – emotionally handicapped is another story – anyway, all three of y’all at once would be a whole new world for me and I ain’t done with this one yet

Brianna: Back to the reason we’re here…

Kylee: That’s right, I’m your sponsor

Brianna: Mentor

Kylee: Right – you are gonna learn a lot from me, Missy

Brianna: What I’ve learned so far is kinda scary

Kylee takes out a pack of ultra lights.

Brianna: I actually find cigarettes offensive

Kylee: (Lighting up anyway) You’re already in a chair, what’s a little smoke?

Brianna: And this is a no-smoking area

Kylee takes a long drag and blows it out away from Brianna.

Kylee: Keep an eye on your really ugly man watch there and time how long it takes for someone to say something to me – I guarantee it won’t be from the male persuasion

Brianna: Uh-kay

Kylee: So, tell me about yourself, Bree?

Brianna: Brianna – I’m not a cheese

Kylee: Tell me something about yourself, Biotch?

Brianna: Only if you promise to stop being all down with the teen slang – it doesn’t work for your flat, white ass

Kylee mock smiles while extinguishing her lit butt in Brianna’s cup.

Brianna: FYI, I’m an editor at my high school newspaper and I also run a student rights blog

Kylee: A blog, how quaint

Brianna: It’s not quaint, it’s the future - you aren’t owned by a corporation and you can express yourself with total transparency, unlike today’s media

Kylee: Oh, Darlin’, please - everyone one, including you, always has something to promote and something to hide - there is no such thing as absolute transparency – except maybe in the case of plastic wrap… mmm, that reminds me of a time in D.C.

Brianna: (Interrupting) Just so you know, I’ll be writing an article on our meeting, you might want to keep your NC-17 stories on the down low

Kylee: Like I could ever compete with y’all – I saw the movie "Kids"

Brianna: We’re not all like that

Kylee: Riiight

Brianna: If you and the media in general stopped encouraging stupid stereotypes, maybe we’d be better off as a society?

Kylee: You know what you are to society, Rihanna?

Brianna: Brianna

Kylee: You’re a triple token

Brianna: A triple what?

Kylee: A triple token – you got the gender/non-Caucasian/disabled thing going for you – Honey, become Jewish and make it beyond impossible to be fired

Brianna: I can’t even believe what I’m hearing

Kylee: Do I need to speak up? – I thought you said your head was fine?

Brianna: My head is fine

Kylee: Actually not – we’re seriously gonna hafta do somethin’ about your hair, especially if you have broadcast aspirations

Brianna: I have serious journalism aspirations, not newsmodel ones

Kylee: Also, you might want to consider more vibrant colors for your complexion – and don’t they have sexy wheelchair accessories now? – you should match your nail polish to your spokes

Brianna: Wow, just wow

Kylee: Do that again!

Brianna: What?

Kylee: Open your mouth really really big

Brianna: Why?

Kylee: I wanna see how wide you can git it

Brianna: Whyyyyyyy?

Kylee: Listen, 90% of the female anchors and 75% of the male ones you see on network and cable are there mainly because of who they blew and/or are blowin’

Brianna: Speak for yourself

Kylee: I am, now you need to pay attention, Miss ADD – blowin’ doesn’t just have to be with the corporate owner suits, it can easily be with those with financial or political favors to a partner of the corporation

Brianna: What about the non-blowers, how did they get their jobs?

Kylee: They’re usually some mega-rich person’s daughter or nephew or godchild

Brianna: None of them got there because of their brains or reporting talent?

Kylee: Oh sure, there are a few of those – we call them "the exceptions" – McBride was a good example of that

Brianna: She was awesome, whatever happened to her?

Kylee: Don’t know, don’t care – back to me – what were we sayin’?

Brianna: Blowers and non-blowers?

Kylee: Ah yes - it’s all a commodity – of course, it’s always been that way for us gals in any business – a woman’s two main jobs have always been momma and whore way before the Bible

Brianna: Times have changed

Kylee: Not really, when you truly think about it… not really

Brianna: Funny, the news director at KCON’s rival station is a woman

Kylee: Have you not been paying attention to the blowin’ part of my presentation?

Brianna: She’s married with kids

Kylee: Sugarpie, that is the biggest front out there – you have so much to learn, so shut your yap and listen up!

Brianna: I thought you wanted my mouth open?

Kylee: You know, I have to laugh at those CEO ladies who think otherwise – they are just a-foolin’ themselves – see, I accepted this reality early on and I didn’t try to fight it or ignore it and look how far I’ve come

Brianna: That’s spelled c-u-m, correct?

Kylee: Are you gonna sit there and snark the entire time?

Brianna: I was hoping to ask some real questions but I find all of this totally fascinating in a very sick way – please go on

Kylee: I’ll give you this – they do occasionally trot out the nominal unattractive chick in broadcast to pretend like they believe in ladies with brains, print is full of ‘em but that’s a dying dinosaur – heh, we have one of them fugglies now at KCON, she’s over 40, over 200 lbs., beady eyes like a Rottweiler, and does a special report maybe once a week on shit no one gives a crap about but we have to be representative

Brianna: And didn’t she just win a Peabody Award?

Kylee: Now she has a round piece to add to her dildo collection

Brianna: Don’t be such a hater!

Kylee: You’re right, I am being a tad mean – I do have a couple of friends… well, I technically shouldn’t call them friends since they are rivals and openly despise me – anyway, one has a masters from Northwestern and is basically doing fluff pieces

Brianna: But that’s how most women in the business start out, right?

Kylee: She’s been doing it for 10 years

Brianna: Oh

Kylee: And the other friend is working on her communications PhD from Columbia and works behind the scenes at one of the major networks – they won’t even consider her for on-air until she gets a nose job and loses about 50 shades of black

Brianna: Way harsh

Kylee: No offense, Honey, you’re one of the pretty coloreds

Brianna: True that!

Kylee: Wanna know a not-so-secret secret? - the stations actively pimp out us gorgeous gals to the viewers so some sweaty loser with one hand on the remote and the other God knows where can watch and pretend he has a shot with us

Brianna: I’m kinda thinking he does from what I’ve heard so far

Kylee: I’ll tell you what - the next time you’re on that blog thang of yours, take a look at the ‘hottie anchor chick’ fan sites - we are encouraged to have stalkers, it means that the coveted male demographic is watchin’ and beatin’ off to our images, it doesn’t matter what comes out of our mouths as long as there is the fantasy and eventual reality of some guy putting his dick in it

Brianna: That sounds like a sweeps stunt in the making

Kylee: I know - it’s just like Hollywood - no one wants to watch ugly people, fat people, or cripple people fucking… although you have a cute face, you might be able to garner a fetish following

Brianna: So, basically I stand a better chance at success if I look like I was just unwrapped out of a plastic box from the Toys ‘R Us aisle?

Kylee: See, you’re learnin’

Brianna: That’s never gonna happen, so I’ll need to rely on being extra smart and persistent

Kylee: Don’t worry – stations hire these make-over artists now, they’ll help you with everything from primping to proper posture – I, of course, never needed that because of what I learned in my pageant days

Brianna: Do they help you with anorexia, too?

Kylee: (Taking out another cigarette) I am so sick of hearing about this eating disorder shit – this is an actual fact that you can put into that article of yours – the camera doesn’t add 10 lbs., it adds 15, especially on women – there is nothing wrong with being in shape, especially when you have to go before those cameras – enough already with the anorexia BS!

Brianna: What did you have to eat today?

Kylee: What?

Brianna: Besides endless cups of caffeine and cancer sticks?

Kylee: Don’t look at me like that, little girl – you of all people know sometimes… most of the time… we do what we need to do to in order to survive and not to make snap judgments based solely on appearance

Brianna: Like you did with me earlier?

Kylee: (Looking away) I did no such thing

Brianna: Garden tool, I suggest you check yourself out in the longest mirror possible and see what kind of appearance you be projectin’, a’ight?

Kylee: I can’t believe I am having this conversation with a high-schooler who has to pee in a tube!

Brianna: At least I don’t have tubes peeing in me!

For one brief second, Kylee grabs her beverage and considers throwing it at Brianna.

Brianna: (Taking out her camera phone) Go for it, you’ll be my ticket into the Massachusetts university of my choosing

Kylee: I hope your wheels slip on the ice and a bus finishes off the upper half of you!

Brianna: Why a bus? - why not a Mercedes? - or a truck or a snowplow? - because I’m black, you instantly thought of a bus?

Kylee: No, no, I instantly thought of your bloody carcass in the middle of the asphalt, chica

Brianna: Wrong raza, chickenhead

Kylee: What, are you gonna school me now? - am I gonna hafta be bused?

Brianna: That’s it, I’m putting in for a new mentor

Just behind them, four well-heeled elderly ladies enter the patio area. They are about to take a seat near Kylee and Brianna when they suddenly stop, turn their noses up at both of them, and strut over to the table at the far end.

Kylee: (Noticing) OH MY, I GUESS WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE A-SITTIN’ NEXT TO THE BONIVA PATROL

Brianna: Sistah, they’re not good enough to be sitting next to us!

There is a brief moment of silence followed by Kylee sighing and Brianna chuckling.

Kylee: (Extending her hand) Truce?

Brianna: (Taking it) Truce

Kylee: (Squeezing Brianna’s fingers) Did I just get to second base?

Brianna: You need to buy me real food, first – none of this coffee house junk

Kylee: I’m gonna run back inside and freshen up my beverage, do you want anything?

Brianna: When you come back, I’d like to ask more questions and, hopefully, get answers that I can actually print in my piece

Kylee: (Getting up) You can print what I’ve said so far

Brianna: Highly doubtful

Kylee: Can’t or won’t?

Brianna: Oh, I absolutely can but my faculty adviser would go ape-shit, threaten to pull the piece and suspend me from the staff - and, when she’d call you to confirm the quotes, you’d deny saying any of it

Kylee: (Wry smile) You’re smart as a whip, Cutie

Just before going back inside, Kylee turns around.

Kylee: But a real clever writer would find a way to get what I said out there without editorial repercussions

Moments later, Kylee returns with another cup of coffee and a slice of carrot cake.

Kylee: (Offering some to Brianna) Wanna bite?

Brianna: No thanks – I do want to ask you about the recent shake-up at KCON and the crazy happenings in our area over the last year?

Kylee: I know it’s been tough times lately but, in all honesty, I couldn’t be at a happier place in my life

Brianna: Specifics, please

Kylee: All of the tragic incidents over the past several months have, for better or worse, given the Santa Conchita Valley, specifically Duquesa Bay, a name besides ‘that city between Los Angeles and San Francisco’ – kinda like what happened to Simi Valley after the Rodney King trial

Brianna: I’m not sure notoriety is the best publicity

Kylee: I thought you said you were studying journalism?

Brianna: Tell me more about your own experiences at NewsCenter8?

Kylee: (Eating the icing off the cake) Mmm lessee, I’m finally the lead anchor thanks to the sudden death of Grand Empress Claudia Steel and the retirement of that old goat that sat next to her

Brianna: (Picking at the cake) Sounds like you’re still grief stricken

Kylee: Ooh, and the network is grooming me for the national morning show in a few years, I just bought myself a top-of-the-line Mercedes, my closest on-air rival is totally out of the business now, and her pain-in-the-ass producer has fled to an island – HOO RAY

Brianna: Do you have time for a personal life?

Kylee: More than you think but I don’t need one right now - my "boyfriend" hasn’t bothered with me in months - I don’t know if he’s gone back to his wife or found someone else

Brianna: I could look him up on MySpace for you?

Kylee: I don’t think he’s on there – and I really don’t care, no more need for the bruise-concealing foundation… ha ha, just kidding

Brianna: For your sake, Girlfriend, I hope you are

Kylee: When I first started in this business after becoming Miss Alabama, I thought I’d stay in it a few years until I married a rich husband - but now I’m actually expected to do real work and, you know what, I kinda like it… and I’m not ready to get stretch marks on my tummy yet

Brianna: (Flipping through her notebook) I did some checking on your internet stats – there were 194 comments made about your eyes, 53 references to your breasts, 107 involving your hair, 22 about your hands, 18 of which involved your fingernails, and daily posts about your wardrobe and jewelry selections

Kylee: (Horrified) Only 53 comments about my titties, are you sure you counted that right?

Brianna: I am the vice president of my school’s calculus club

Kylee: Huh, guess it’s time for a new bra then

Brianna: There was also one positive comment about you graduating with honors with a communications degree… and that’s because I posted it

Kylee: Aww, that’s so sweet, thank you – but, next time, could you post something positive about my titties, too?

Brianna can’t help but smile and Kylee does the same.

Brianna: On second thought, I’m going to keep you as my "mentor" – we have a lot to teach each other

Kylee: Sounds like a plan - I can’t believe I’m actually sayin’ this but you make me miss Takanachi

Brianna: Who?

Kylee: Someone who didn’t like me very much

Brianna squints at the side of Kylee’s mochaccino.

Brianna: Apparently, there’s more than one

Kylee: Hey, I thought we were getting along?

Brianna: (Pointing) I didn’t write that

The words "YOU ARE NEXT" beside Kylee’s name are scrawled in black ink on the paper cup.

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