Charlotte Godowski was used to the horrified stares she received from strangers. She'd learned to accept her facial deformity, until one cruel incident compelled her to have the surgery that changed her life forever.
Charlotte Godfrey is beautiful beyond compare.
In Hollywood, where such beauty is power, her rise is meteoric. Suddenly she has everything she could want: acceptance, a future and a love she believes can see to the true beauty within.
Charlotte Godowski and Charlotte Godfrey are two sides of the same woman -- a woman who can trust no one with her secret. But when fate forces Charlotte to deal with the truth -- about her past, about the man she loves, about herself -- she discovers that only love has the power to transform a scarred soul.
Born with a horribly disfigured face, Charlotte Godowski spends her first 20 years shunned by her peers and controlled by her mother until a settlement from a sexual harassment suit permits her to change her life forever. A jaw transplant and reconstructive surgery transforms Charlotte into a ravishing beauty, which leads her to Hollywood and instant stardom. There, she trades her controlling mother for a controlling agent, but finds romance with a handsome Mexican landscape designer, Michael Mondragon. When Charlotte's body begins to reject the implants, she learns that she will die if they are not removed. But Charlotte prefers death to losing her looks, her career and the man she loves. A contrived ending involving Charlotte and her long-lost father adds an unsavory note to the climax of this rambling novel.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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June 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Girl in the Mirror by Mary Alice Monroe
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
-- Margaret Wolfe Hungerford April 1996
If all the world was a stage, it was time once again to play her part.
Charlotte sat in the green room of the television studio while outside, strains of the talk show's theme song intermingled with audience applause. She had promised Vicki Ray this interview, and there was no choice now but to endure the hour or suffer months of bad press. She'd had enough bad press lately. Now her plan was set. Freddy had seen to every detail in his usual compulsive manner. How had he put it? "Interview, marriage, surgery. Bim, Bam, Boom."
The only booming she felt right now was in her temples, a rhythmic, tympanic beat. How hot the room was! Bringing a fevered hand to her forehead, she noticed with alarm that it was trembling. And her lips, so parched. Oh, please, she prayed, holding her fingers tight, steadying them. Don't let the symptoms come back now. Maybe one more pill, she decided, quickly fumbling through her purse. Just in case.
Three brisk knocks sounded on the door.
"Charlotte?" Freddy Walen walked in without waiting for a response. Although not a big man, his dominating presence filled the room, causing Charlotte to shrink inside. His eyes, as hard as the diamond on his pinkie finger, assessed her with a proprietary air.
"Good...good," he said, stroking his neatly trimmed mustache, observing every detail. Her swanlike neck was unadorned, her golden hair spilled loosely around her shoulders, and her eyes, her large, luminous blue eyes, shone with an icy, mesmerizing luster. It was a look that Freddy referred to as "the brilliance of a star." He'd taught her that her public expected Charlotte Godfrey to be dressed in understated elegance, and she never disappointed them.
"What's that you're taking?" he demanded.
"A painkiller. I'll need it to get through the interview." She stared at the white pill in her hand, then raised her eyes, worry shining clearly. "Freddy, cancel the interview. I'm not well enough. The symptoms are returning, my hands are shaking, and taking another pill is not the answer."
"You'll be fine," he said in a gruff manner, patting her shoulder. "Buck up. We can't cancel now. Besides, we need this interview to settle a few rumors. Then the press will be off our backs so we can hustle to South America and get you well. Zip up this show and we'll be out of here. I promise. Now, take that pill."
Charlotte poured herself a tumbler of water. "I don't trust Vicki Ray. She's tough. Crafty. What if she suspects?"
"Forget it. Vicki doesn't have a clue. If she did, I'd know about it."
"Miss Godfrey?" From outside her door came the high, strained voice of an usher. "Are you ready yet? It's really time."
She understood his panic and took pity. Besides, she couldn't stall any longer. "Yes," she called, quickly swallowing the medicine. "Of course. Right away."
"Remember," Freddy said, grabbing hold of her shoulders. "It's just another part. Follow the script, babe, and you'll be great."
Charlotte shook off his hands. "Don't be a fool, Freddy. There's no script with Vicki Ray."
Opening the door, she met a panic-eyed young man who guided her down the hall with the speed of a police escort, past a series of attendants who smiled at her with starry eyes. She'd become immune to that rapt expression during the past few years, knowing better than to be flattered. They knew nothing about her, the woman behind the face. She walked quickly by with only a nod of acknowledgment.
They reached the stage just as Vicki Ray launched into her introduction. She mentioned several of Charlotte's film roles and the meteoric rise of her career. Charlotte listened keenly, compelling herself to become on camera the woman being described: a woman of legendary beauty. An on-screen phenomenon and an off-screen recluse. The new Garbo.
There was a minute's silence, one brief moment to raise a hand to her brow and collect her wits. Charlotte took a deep breath, willed her hands to appear relaxed at her sides, then dug deep to deliver the mysterious, sultry smile that was her trademark.
The Applause sign lit. With a jarring flash, the lights bore down on Charlotte as she stepped out on the stage. To her, they were like prison searchlights blocking any avenue of escape. She walked with studied grace across the shining floor, then settled herself in the isolation of a single white chair in the center of Vicki Ray's stage.
Under the glare of lights, she felt like a laboratory specimen being scrutinized. She looked out at the sea of faces and saw in the eyes of women the familiar flash of envy, and in the men's, desire. It was always this way, she thought, feeling again a twinge of loneliness.
Then, decisively discarding the last remnants of her identity, Charlotte Godowski transformed herself into the role she'd painstakingly created and played so well: Charlotte Godfrey. It was a useful device, yet she felt a little more of herself die each time she employed it. Still, it was necessary to create an armor that was impenetrable. She allowed no one to pierce it. Not even Freddy. Especially not Freddy. Only Michael... At the thought of him she felt a chink in the armor.
The interview began easily enough. During the first half of the show, Vicki screened a number of film clips. Charlotte peppered the clips with anecdotes, especially about her handsome co-stars. The audience lapped it up, never for a moment suspecting the struggle within the actress. She appeared relaxed, loosening her knotted fingers, uncrossing her legs, even venturing to laugh at the occasional silly question posed by the audience, usually about her well publicized love life.
"Water," she almost begged when the break came. With miraculous speed, the usher delivered Perrier and lime, which she sipped gratefully. Her lips felt cracked, and she sweltered in the glowing heat of her fever.
As the signal flashed that the show was continuing, Charlotte discreetly dabbed at her brow with a Swiss embroidered handkerchief and marshaled her wits. At the last second, she remembered to catch the eye of a cameraman and wink. He returned a crimson grin. Freddy had taught her tricks on how to get flattering camera angles.