Fandom: Ugly Betty
Word count: 1,930
Notes: I have seriously seen a grand total of FOUR episodes of this show, and my memory of the canonical facts is probably disastrous, but nobody's going to care, right? Right? This is a piece of something - angsty fun? - for hobviously's birthday, because she was nice enough to wave her hand and tell me to indulge the random bunny. It's about Amanda! And Marc! And, well, basically I have a never-ending urge to fic fiercely on the behalf of the woman whose love is doomed to be unrequited.
my friday smile
When she tells her parents that she wants to be a model, her mother goes into the next room to wash the dishes – noisily – and her father tells her flatly that she can forget about that monthly allowance if she’s just going to be silly about her career, Amanda, your career. But she’s no good at maths and she’s not coordinated enough to dance and she’d kind of like to act, but she’s hot, goddammit, and she’s never quite grown out of the desire to dress up in pretty clothes for a living and have people tell her that she looks good. So she does everything right; good agent, good portfolio shots, good everything. And yet there don’t seem to be any work for her.
“Look,” her agent says finally, phone glued to his ear, arguing over a contract for someone who probably worships lettuce, “just show up to this Mode shoot, it’s downstairs in the same building as their offices, all right? They’ll be picking and choosing on location. Wear something elegant and for God’s sake don’t eat anything in front of anyone.”
Amanda turns up to the Mode offices wearing a tight skirt, six-inch heels and her most expensive blouse, close to bursting into tears because of the havoc the wind has been playing with her hair. She follows the directions that she’s been given, but there aren’t any helpful signs.
“Hey.” She hails someone with a clipboard who appears to know what they’re doing. The someone pushes up a pair of gold-rimmed glasses and looks at her.
“Are you here about the receptionist job?”
The disdainful negative gets caught behind Amanda’s Prim Plum lips as she takes stock of her surroundings. To her left: a row of women who are shorter and uglier than she is. To her right: a row of women who are taller and prettier than she is. Even her arithmetic skills can handle this one.
“Sure,” she says instead, and pastes a confident smile onto her face, and dismisses the last three years with a ruthless flick of her ponytail.
Amanda prepares for her first day at Mode by eating four chocolate bars for breakfast and polishing up her secret weapon: a pout that she stole from one of Madonna’s most obscure early interviews. It’s a great pout. It speaks volumes about fashion and fame and sex and other saleable assets, and it suits her mouth. She tucks it away in the muscle memory of her cheeks, slips a brand new stick of mascara into her purse, and click-clacks her way into the foyer of the building as though she’s strutting the catwalks of Milan.
Of course, there’s a brief embarrassing incident wherein she completely forgets which floor of the building she’s meant to be heading for, and just rides up and down in the elevator, pretending to be engrossed in powdering her nose, until the doors ping open and she recognises the interior design.
“Excuse me,” she says then, and flounces out in a small cloud of L’Oreal Pressed Satin.
“So you’re the new receptionist.” The speaker is leaning against the nearest wall, flicking at the speed of light through what looks like a folder of black-and-white photographs.
“That’s me.” She wanders over and doesn’t quite strike a pose, but comes close; right hip jutting out slightly, head tilted to let her hair fall at the most attractive angle. She hopes that the stance says I’m someone to watch rather than I have pulled a muscle in my back.
“I’m Wilhemina’s assistant,” he says, “Marc St James,” and she takes note of the etiquette – position is more important than name – and is about to pull out one of her carefully-prepared remarks about how doesn’t he think that studded belts are so on their way out, when he extends a manicured hand and gives her pout, the one she’s been treasuring, the one that was going to get her noticed.
“The Madonna pout!” she gasps out indignantly, before she can stop herself.
The look on his face turns to panic, and he looks right – left – before grabbing her arm (“Hands off the Prada!” she snaps) and marching her towards a brightly-coloured door that she really hopes is the bathroom and not some kind of torture chamber for fashion frauds. (It is the bathroom. The woman in there doesn’t lift a perfectly-plucked eyebrow at Marc’s presence; just snaps her lipstick case shut, purses her lips experimentally, and then leaves.)
“You can’t use that pout!” he hisses at her. “And you can’t tell anyone! Everyone here thinks I invented that!”
“Well what am I supposed to use?” she hisses back. “I’m new! It’s all I’ve got!”
He sighs deeply and turns to inspect the curls that bob over his forehead in the mirror. “I suppose,” he says reluctantly, primping, “ that I could let you have my Kylie sneer. I’ve been saving it.” He does the sneer, facing the mirror, and she has to admit that it’s very good. Tasteful, yet superior.
“Okay.” She breathes out. “Well, whatever. Thank you. I suppose.”
They practice, over adjacent basins, until she has it down.
“A receptionist job?” Her mother’s lips do the lip equivalent of the crash-Atkins diet.
“Well, yes, but it’s just a stepping stone,” she says brightly. “I’m going to do some networking, find a personal assistant’s position, you know, work my way up through the industry.”
“I’m glad you’ve found some sensible direction,” her father says, and gives her what she’s sure is meant to be an approving glance over the top of his glasses. “Just let us know if you’re stretched for cash, sweetheart.”
So really, it’s all working out fine.
The first time she sleeps with Daniel it’s the easiest thing in the world; he’s cute and she’s cute and all she has to do is lean over a little further than necessary while she calls Fey’s office and pretends that she can’t hear the breathlessness in her boss’s voice when she says Mr. Meade is in a meeting with her and not to be disturbed, no, not even by his son.
“Sorry,” Amanda murmurs, and bites the top of her pencil. “Guess they’ll be a while yet.”
“Well,” and he stretches his long legs out in front of him as he collapses in a chair. “It looks like we’re going to have to make our own fun, in the meantime.”
Daniel is a lot of fun, even if he calls her Annabella once and Amelia twice and is already gone when she wakes up the next morning.
“So mine,” she says, unhooking her legs from each other and smoothing out her skirt.
Marc looks over her shoulder, wiping his hands on a napkin and pretending he hasn’t just eaten half a thinger’s worth of peanuts from the bar. “Gay,” he proclaims.
She looks again. “Oh, he is not.”
He gives a smug smile. “Worth a try.”
Marc’s fun to go out with because they can rip the room to shreds with their tongues, and then help each other pick up once they’ve boosted their self esteem enough on the second-hand humiliation of others. Occasionally Marc employs his gift of outrageous, simpering flattery just for long enough to get a guy drunk and convince him to switch teams. His success rate is remarkably high.
Amanda picks up her drink and saunters across to her mark, pausing only for long enough to whisper something in a model’s ear and incline her head in Marc’s direction. It’ll only take one day for the guy to find out that Marc isn’t nearly as influential as she’s just said he is, but theirs is an industry defined by single days – single nights – and they are, most of them, contendedly and unabashedly shallow enough not to care.
Fey dies and Amanda sits in her apartment through the whole day off that all Mode employees were given, wondering if she’s meant to be mourning. The daylight fades and the city mumbles into nocturnal life and she watches a Sex and the City marathon until her phone rings.
“Hey, so.” By his voice, Daniel is slightly drunk. “Are you coming over?”
She looks over at her coat, slung carefully across the back of the nearest chair, and at last season’s pink stiletto heels, arranged near the door. When she moves, she can feel satin murmuring between her thighs.
“I guess I am,” she says.
She bitches to Marc for ten minutes straight about the fact that a ridiculously dressed, grinning scarecrow of a girl snatched her Personal Assistant to the Editor in Chief job right out from under her, and then for another fifteen minutes about how little Daniel appreciates her, and Marc nods like a bobble-head doll and rubs moisturiser into his hands under the edge of the cafeteria table.
“Well, sweetums,” he says when she finally pauses to take a massive gulp of her coffee. “It’s like high-waisted pants.”
“It is?” She hiccups.
“It is.” He hands her back her moisturiser and then gestures extravagantly, both hands palm up. “You’re either in or you’re out.”
She’s never had the courage to defy a trend; she wears them too well. She’s in, in, in, even if sometimes she tells herself that next time she will just let the phone ring itself out, and let the bastard know how it feels to go to bed alone.
With the money from her parents and the occasional gift of a stylist’s sample from work, she can just about afford to dress in the latest style. Some of her shoes and bags remain a season out of date, though, and sometimes she wakes up from nightmares in which someone notices and she is drummed out of the building. Usually in these dreams the shoes are enormous steel-toed boots or pink slippers, and she tries to explain that they’re not hers, but nobody listens.
It’s a Friday and Betty has been running herself ragged all day to hook Daniel up with some new redheaded thing from graphics (adequate legs, no style, in Amanda’s opinion) but it’s still touch-and-go as to whether the girl’ll say yes. Amanda’s there until six transferring poisonous messages from Wilhemina’s office to four different departments, and then she lets Marc drag her to the newest, hippest bar and they get beautifully tipsy on colourful mixers and yell embarrassing stories underneath the dreadful music.
“First time you fell in love?” she asks, not even sure why. Not even sure if love is hip; some issues it is, and the models gaze deeply into each other’s eyes with smiles like engagement diamonds, and some issues it isn’t and the columnists fill up the inches with scathing cynicism.
Marc rolls his eyes extravagantly and launches into an embellished but standard gay-coming-of-age saga about the hot jock he had a crush on in his junior year – oh, Amanda’s read this one, and she waits for the inevitable encounter in the locker room and the slipping towels and the romantic climax, but it doesn’t come. The story just trails away into frustration and awkwardness and Marc runs his fingernails down the stripes of his vest and shrugs.
“Yeah,” she says, and then, “yeah, but…”
Marc looks at her with the mixed, dubious expression that means he’s considering saying something deep but he thinks it might clash with his tie.
“Sometimes,” he says finally, “we just fall in love with the wrong people.”
Her cell phone rings at eleven o’clock, and she picks up on the fifth ring.