Read the beginning of "Jade Blossom's Brew," about the

diva fashion-model ace with an attitude and a smart mouth.

For Texas Hold'em:

A Wild Cards novel:

 

 

     When Jade Blossom heard Dr. Amelia Smith announce her name, she tossed back her long, glistening black hair, put on her pouty catwalk smile, and sashayed into the Robert Johnson Ballroom.

      Applause, cheers, and a few gasps welcomed her as she walked forward in her aqua, canary yellow, and teal gown by Aquilano Rimondi. Her tiny silver Coach handbag, on a slender strap hanging from her shoulder, swung at the side of her slender frame. The four-slit skirt of Italian silk fluttered around her legs with her stride in silver Jimmy Choo sandals with five-inch heels. She had no interest in high school kids, but here she was. 

     “Hi, everybody,” Jade Blossom called out, raising her right hand to give a pageant-style wave as the applause and cheers continued. At six feet tall plus the silver sandals, she was able to glance throughout the room. It was jammed with students, staff members, and chaperones, but she spotted a familiar face near a shiny, black grand piano near the center and worked her way toward it.

Ethan Bach, a slender, twenty-something guy in a black silk shirt, gave her a cheerful nod as he waited for her by the piano. He had come to represent Paramount Studios at the competition, which really meant reporting back on how she handled herself. With her personal assistant, Elaine, he constituted half of her minor entourage. Elaine was already in the crowd, ready to step up to Jade Blossom’s elbow to obey her slightest whim.

Jade Blossom’s duty at the event was to promote her upcoming film by making some introductory remarks and meeting a high school boy who would be her date for the evening. He would receive this honor by virtue of having written an award-winning essay that had been chosen by the staff members.

The kids parted before her like fish avoiding a shark until she arrived at the piano.

     “Look at her,” one girl shrieked with excitement. The giggles of high school girls and the cheers of boys followed.

     “Are we here to have some fun?” Jade Blossom called out, holding her slender arms up in a big V shape. She forced a cheerful laugh. With her back to the piano, she turned and looked around at everyone.

     “Have fun? Or accomplish something worthwhile?” Michelle, the Amazing Bubbles, stood nearby in the crowd, distinctive given that she was tall as Jade Blossom and had long, platinum hair. Her green eyes were locked on Jade Blossom’s gaze as if in judgment.

Jade Blossom gave her a playfully fake grin and spoke with equally fake sweetness. “Michelle, how absolutely delightful to see you again.”

     Bubbles imitated her phony smile and her tone. “And for me, too, of course.”

     Jade Blossom let her grin turn to a scowl. She had first met Bubbles on the TV show “American Hero” a decade or so earlier, when Jade Blossom had been on the Clubs team and Bubbles on the Diamonds. From almost the first moment, Jade Blossom had disliked her and felt her disapproval in return. Even so, Jade Blossom had worked with the ensemble well enough to reach the final six contestants. Since that time, she had become embittered about her career after a decade of work for Hollywood bottom-feeders. Now she had a reason to care about her public persona again—or at least pretend.

     “Jade Blossom!” Dr. Smith called out. “Maybe you would like to tell everyone a little more about your career.”

     “Of course.” Reluctantly breaking eye contact with Bubbles, Jade Blossom again forced a big smile for the crowd and raised her voice. “I’ve been a supermodel in international fashion all my adult life and I’m about to start filming my biggest movie role yet!” She expected applause.

     Instead, the teens just stared at her.

Jade Blossom glanced at Bubbles and found a slight smile of amusement on her face.

     “Bigger than your role in ‘Truck Stop Vampires 3’?” one boy demanded, laughing.

She turned her fake smile in his direction. “I’m not ashamed of any work I’ve done. I think that’s an important lesson in life.”

     “She was practically naked in that one,” a girl shouted.

     “She was totally naked in ‘Naughty Beach Nymphs 5’!” the first boy answered. “That’s my favorite!”

     Laughter rippled through the crowd.

     “Apparently you saw it,” Jade Blossom called out. “Does your mommy know?”

     The kids laughed again.

     “I think you should stay on topic, don’t you?” Bubbles kept the exaggerated sweetness in her tone. “That would be your career, not your nude body—no matter how wonderful you believe you look.”

     Jade Blossom turned away from her, addressing another part of the crowd. “Becoming a fashion model requires dedication. So does acting. And both require a thick skin.”

     “Is that why you show so much of it?” a girl behind her shouted, and widespread laughter followed.

     Anger burned through Jade Blossom’s blood but she pushed past it. “A lot of you will need the same traits in your lives after high school.”

     When she waited for a response, she received only a long silence, with an undertone of whispers and mutters.

     “I got one!” A boy off to one side held up his phone. “A nude shot of her! I’ll text it to my whole list!”

     The staff members and parents looked around in alarm and ultimately turned their attention to Dr. Smith.

     “You always find your way to the gutter, don’t you?” said Bubbles. “I don’t suppose you ever clean up your own sewer.”

     Cheers and laughs followed, with many of the kids watching Jade Blossom for a response. The rest were checking their phones to see if the picture had reached them.

     “I’ve been quite successful,” Jade Blossom declared, hoping to distract them. “Find a vision for your life, a willingness to work at it—in your own ways. You could follow my example.”

     “Eeeyew, slut,” a girl yelled behind her.

     Jade Blossom whirled, searching for her in the crowd.

     More and more of the kids were focused on their phones, laughing and joking with each other.

     Bubbles came closer and spoke quietly. “You’re like a tornado in search of a trailer park. If you can’t get this event under control, why don’t you go find one and blow?”

     Jade Blossom looked past her, calling out to the crowd. “You want to compare your lives to mine? My new movie is a remake of ‘Lord Jim’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio!”

     For the first time, some of the kids looked interested. Others busied themselves at the punch bowl.

     “Are there women in ‘Lord Jim’?” Dr. Smith muttered. “That doesn’t sound right.”

     “There’s one in it now,” said Ethan. “Look, Jade Blossom, this isn’t going so well.”

Instead of acknowledging him, Jade Blossom held out her arms and shouted to the crowd. “We’re here for jazz! Jazz is about rebellion! Have any of you ever rebelled?” 

     Most of the kids were glancing from their phones to Jade Blossom and back, talking and laughing louder than ever.

     “Look at your damn pictures later!” Jade Blossom yelled. “I’m here in the flesh! I came to this tank town from L.A. to see if any of you losers might have a future.”

     “I don’t think that’s the right tone, Ms. Blossom,” Dr. Smith said quietly.

     “Blossom’s not a surname!”

     “I suggest we move to the next stage of the program,” said Dr. Smith. “That would be meeting your date.”

     “I’m not finished,” Jade Blossom said in a harsh whisper.

     Bubbles stepped up in front of her. “Take Dr. Smith’s suggestion and see if you can keep your clothes on while you do it.”

     “Just because you can’t wear this ensemble?” Jade Blossom sneered.

     “Girl fight!” One of the boys in the crowd laughed. “Get her, why don’t ya?”

     Other kids laughed.

     “You got screwed by everybody who required a front zipper at ‘American Hero,’ didn’t you?” Bubbles said quietly. “Drummer Boy, Berman, Stuntman, how many others? The rumors were everywhere.”

     “And all the rumors are true! So what? Just because you’re not my type?” Jade Blossom had no problem with anyone else’s sexual preference, but she loved throwing another dig at Bubbles.

     “So what?” Bubbles looked disgusted rather than insulted. “This really isn’t your kind of event, is it? For high school kids?”

     “Not up to you!” Jade Blossom glared back at her. “My studio sent me!”

     “They don’t run this event.”

     “Excuse me, we have already provided substantial publicity for this wonderful event.” Ethan lowered his voice. “Uh, Jade Blossom, I’d like a private word with you. Regarding your studio contract.”

     Jade Blossom paid no attention to him. The room grew quiet as she and Bubbles faced off.

     “Jade Blossom?” Elaine, her personal assistant, slipped between some kids and spoke up meekly. “Can I help in some way?” A failed model, Elaine had chosen to stay in the business by working for Jade Blossom. Still fashion conscious, she wore a navy blue Prada suit and white blouse with a very short skirt and black pumps. Her eyes flicked back and forth between Jade Blossom and Bubbles.

Jade Blossom ignored Elaine.

     “Jade Blossom!” Ethan bellowed. “Come with me right now!” He took hold of her upper arm.

     She gave a quick, practiced elbow jab into his solar plexus. “Shut up, little boy.”

Wide-eyed and doubled over in pain, Ethan released her arm.

     Elaine gasped and pulled Ethan away.

     “Oh, my, I’m so clumsy,” said Jade Blossom, without taking her eyes off Bubbles.

     “Jade Blossom, nice to see you again. Easy, all right?” Rustbelt came forward, speaking in his distinctive Iron Range accent as his shovel-scoop jaw moved up and down. He angled his body toward Bubbles. “We can go forward with the program, don’t you think?”

     Jade Blossom glared at his back. During “American Hero,” her teammate Stuntman had said Rustbelt called him by a racial insult. She had not been present at the time, but she had always believed Stuntman. She and Rustbelt had a limited, awkwardly polite relationship during the show and she had not seen him again until now.

     Rubberband walked in his loose stride from the table full of soft drinks to stand in front of Jade Blossom. He wore a green and white checked sweater and had his hands in his pockets. “Nice to meet you, Jade Blossom. I’m Robin Ruttiger. I joined ‘American Hero’ the second season, after you left.” He offered his hand.

     “I’ve heard of you.” Jade Blossom ignored his hand and looked past him toward Bubbles.

     “Cripes,” Rustbelt said to Bubbles. “Come with?”

     “For the sake of the event,” said Bubbles. “More than Jade Blossom would ever do.”

     “I enjoyed watching you the first season of ‘American Hero,” Rubberband added to Jade Blossom.

     “When the show was good,” Jade Blossom said, though she kept her eyes on Bubbles’s long, platinum hair as her nemesis turned and walked away through the crowd with Rustbelt. Jade Blossom knew Rubberband was trying to break the tension and she resented it. “You weren’t good enough to make it the first year?”

     “I’m sure you were better for the show than I was,” Rubberband said with a little grin.

     Jade Blossom watched Bubbles and Rustbelt exit the far end of the Robert Johnson Ballroom, passing long tables with cheese, salami, baby carrots, and a bowl of red punch that she suspected was spiked by now. By walking away, Bubbles was sending a message: Jade Blossom had been put in her place and they both knew it.

     “Come back here, bitch!” Jade Blossom shouted, but she was just putting up a front.

     The kids laughed again.

     “You do so much,” Dr. Smith broke in, projecting her voice so the kids could hear. “I’m so impressed with your success. I’m a huge fan of yours. I can’t wait to try that new skin cream you’ve endorsed.”

     Annoyed by the interruption, Jade Blossom looked down at the older woman’s face. “Honey, you can’t afford to wait!”

     The crowd roared with laughter.   

Dr. Smith’s face tightened with anger. “We asked you here to be an inspiration –“

     “Where’s my date?” Jade Blossom demanded, putting her palm up in front of Dr. Smith’s face as she looked over the crowd. “Let’s get on with this charade.”

     “Yes, her date,” Elaine called from the crowd. “Good idea!”

“Cesar Chao,” said Dr. Smith, studying the crowd.

     Jade Blossom could feel the air moving from vents in the ballroom. Before she took advantage of it, she glanced through the crowd, searching for some hint of Cesar Chao. A joker girl stood out, with a human body the color of obsidian and four vestigial insect arms in addition to two human arms, plus iridescent wings. She had copper-colored dreads and antennae growing from her forehead. Wincing, Jade Blossom kept looking. She spotted someone with wheels instead of legs. Another girl stood out, being a slender, very pretty six-footer with dark hair and noticeably large hands. Another guy was covered in peach fuzz and had bubbles rising from the top of his head. Off to one side, a solemn girl in a green T-shirt with a faded logo and worn black jeans watched Jade Blossom without speaking or holding a cellphone.

She decided this was not getting her anywhere.  “Chao? Are you hiding, damn it?”

As the crowd buzzed with low-level chatter, she lightened her density to that of the finest French silk. Then she jumped into a current of air from the vents and, moving her arms and expertly using the three-quarter sleeves of her gown, she drifted upward. With just the right shifting of her body, which she had practiced throughout the years since her Wild Card had turned, she could stay aloft quite a while at this density as long as she found air currents. Now she floated over the crowd on the slight artificial breeze with the long, four-slit skirt of her gown fluttering about her long legs.

     All the kids and the adult staff and chaperones in the room were watching her, many with mouths open. She knew she was giving the boys a thrill; any teen boys who made the effort could see she was braless and wearing only a thong for panties—and what teen boys wouldn’t make the effort?

     “Cesar Chao!” Jade Blossom called out again. “Where are you? Ya too chickenshit to show yourself?”

     Finally a couple of boys, grinning like idiots, pointed to one guy in the middle of the crowd. Somebody shoved him forward and he stumbled into an open space.

     She drifted over to him and carefully increased her density to land lightly, as the others in the crowd backed off. “So you’re Cesar Chao, my date for the evening?”

     He grinned, embarrassed, and looked down. “Uh, yeah.”

     Jade Blossom put her hands on her bony hips and assessed his appearance. He was about five feet, nine inches tall, she gauged, making him eight inches shorter than she was while wearing the Jimmy Choo sandals. Free of typical teen skin problems, Cesar had black hair in an average haircut. He wore a blue golf shirt with khaki slacks and was a little soft—definitely no athlete.

     “Hmph. I guess you’ll do,” she said.

     Cesar shrugged and gave an awkward smile.

     ...

(End of excerpt.)

     For the complete story, check out the Wild Cards mosaic novel Texas Hold'em:

Jade Blossom’s Brew

by William F. Wu