Copyright 2001-2008, James J. Belcher.  All rights reserved.

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Copyright 2005 James J. Belcher.  All Rights Reserved. 

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Laughing Last

 

Chapter 20 

  

They would have enjoyed spending all day Sunday in bed, but duty demanded otherwise.  Fortunately, Angela was there to help and brekkie was ready, a good reason to get up.  Then there as a long workout in the gym, a shower and a change of clothes.  They would have liked taking their parents out to dinner, but they needed to lay low another couple of weeks.  Cammie was frustrated that John had freedom whilst she did not, but she understood that a musclebound 5’ 7” man in sunnies and a suit was relatively inconspicuous.  She realised how warped her brain must have been to think that an obese 190cm girl was invisible. 

John’s birthday was Tuesday and she had to leave for Tokyo again early Monday morning.  She gave John his birthday present, a card in an envelope.  He opened it up expectantly.  It was a round trip ticket to Hong Kong and a certificate from a tailor.  “I have a shoot on Monday the 7th and Tuesday the 8th, with the preceding Sunday and following Wednesday as my travel days.  I want you there with me, but for you to buy yourself a custom-tailored wardrobe.  That takes a week.  So you’ll leave this coming Tuesday afternoon, the 1st of November, and go to the tailor shop on Wednesday morning, the 2nd.  You’ll stay in the same hotel as I will, but you’ll be by yourself until I arrive on Sunday the 6th in the early evening.  In the meantime, there will be at least one fitting, more likely two.  Since the shops are open on Sunday, then there will be a final fitting of the suits and jackets on Monday or Tuesday.  Everything will be ready by Wednesday noon when our plane leaves to return to Melbourne.  That way, you’ll return with custom monogrammed shirts, custom-fitted trousers, jackets and suits.  Happy Birthday.” 

“Cammie, you do think of everything.  You shouldn’t have.  I love you and - - - - thank you.”  They kissed, and then celebrated with tinkling sand.  Angela pretended she didn’t hear. 

Counting Sunday, there were just twelve days to the final MC live shoot.  John reminded her their joint secondary school graduation would have been the week before their marriage, had things been different.  There was a tear in her eye when she heard him say it.  Marriage was a ways off, maybe not too long, but babies were a different matter altogether. 

They would have liked shopping for furniture; John would have to do it alone, and he only had Monday to do it, he’d be leaving for Hong Kong the next day.  She checked her laptop.  Already, there were bookings into 2006 and new ones were cropping up every day.  John would soon hire a secretary who’d take over his function as travel assistant for Cammie.  

She dawdled most of the day, wasting time, a luxury for a woman who often had a seven-day weekly business schedule.  The following week, Tony and she corresponded by E-mail frequently regarding the final MC shoot.  By the 8th, they finalised the wording of her speech.  She’d memorised it and practiced it in front of a mirror.  Secretly, the principal of Creighton Secondary had let Sims & Butterworth check acoustics and stage lighting.  He also let them photograph the auditorium where the graduation ceremony exercises would be held and loaned them layout drawings of the facility.  The ad firm’s creative department then made a small model of the auditorium, to assist everyone involved as to the who-what-when-where-how of the live production they would videotape. 

The S&B technicians knew intimately when, where and how they’d set up their videotapes, microphones and cameras; they knew how long it would take for each and every facet of Cammie’s short talk that would be the meat of the TV spot.  They had pre-booked ninety-second slots with Channel 7.  The ad would be run on Wednesday night, five days after the actual graduation.  That gave them plenty of time to prepare the final tape and get copies to the network.  They figured they anticipated every possible technical problem. 

In the meanwhile, Cammie was in Bali, filming an ad for Hilton; she was in Jakarta, a PSA for the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami Relief Project, which had been going forward nearly a year.  She flew into Hong Kong and met John in only his third overseas trip.  She reckoned she’d travelled more kilometres in ten weeks than most people do in their lives. 

John saw fashionable business clothes as a necessity in his new line of work; solicitors, bankers, accountants, council officials and others with whom he now dealt expected to see the walking display of wealth and power that properly outfitted gentlemen represented.  He was dealing in millions of dollars on a daily basis.  Cammie’s gift had unexpectedly come at a time when it could be utilised to full advantage.  However, it was a different story for casual wear.  John felt as if he were needlessly wasting money having shirts and shorts and jeans custom-made and fitted. 

Cammie explained it.  “I’m in fashion.  You’re my partner.  I’m an icon and you and I are a team.  Everywhere we will go together, we’ll be stared at – we should look like a team.  If I wear the latest fashion and it’s custom-made and custom-fitted, then everyone knows why – it’s my job and I’m supposed to be a living, breathing 24/7 advertisement for dressing in top-end style.  It’s up to you to keep up.”  He saluted.  She smiled, “Stand at ease, soldier- - -and kiss me.” 

Before they knew it, it was 11 November, 3:30pm, Creighton Secondary College Auditorium, the long-awaited graduation ceremony for 253 lucky students in the Class of 2005.  She had arranged tickets for Frank and Allan and they sat in the audience, much like parents and friends of the 253.  Tony and his crews were ready. Gerald Keeley, the principal, personally warned off the school security, maintenance and operating personnel from questioning or interfering with them. 

Mr. Keeley had been principal for six years, but he knew this was different and he sensed something very special was in the air.  The night before, he and his wife Kelly met Tony Macciati and Susan Stunner for drinks.  They never imagined she was a former student.  They talked briefly about careers, school graduation, teaching, and tight budgets.  “Thank you for the generous contribution to the Activity Fund.  We’ll use it for a special field trip for our neediest students.”  He was told and believed she’d give a short speech of “interest to the class”, but in truth, neither he nor his wife had any idea. 

It started!  Mr. Keeley was at the podium, speaking with the aid of a removable microphone attached to it.  The vice principal and two other important guests [the Superintendent of Schools and the Lord Mayor of Creighton, who was there to give the commencement address] sat in chairs onstage with him.  Mr. Keeley gave a short welcome and thanked everyone for attending.  He looked out at the assembly and noted the auditorium was nearly full.  The 253 specially commended were in their caps and gowns directly at his front.  At the appointed time, they would file up the stairs to the stage, in alphabetical order, to receive their diplomas and the obligatory handshake from Mr. Keeley.  

Mr. Keeley first called on Father Ray O’Donovan to give the invocation.  The aged Catholic priest slowly left his seat in the audience, walked up the stairs, shook hands with Mr. Keeley, took the microphone in his right hand and uttered “Our Heavenly Father, we come here today on this special occasion.”  The rest was lost to all but half a dozen until he said the word “Amen”, which was then repeated by a couple of older members of the audience. 

Mr. Keeley then again directed the proceedings.  “At this juncture, I’m going to ask someone very special, Ms. Susan Stunner, to come up and say a few words.  It’s not on your programmes, but that’s why we have the special lighting, sound and camera crews.  Ms. Stunner is a famous model and celebrity and she says she has a few words of special interest to say.  By the way, she’s donated $5,000 to our activity fund to help our students participate in special programmes this next school year.  Please welcome Susan Stunner.” 

The spotlights shifted off the stage down the centre aisle, to a point about twenty metres away.  They concentrated and shone down on a figure that suddenly appeared from almost total darkness.  It was an exceptionally tall woman, who wore a tiny, wispy, frilly yellow dress with a pattern of large impressionist orange flowers, four layers of the sheerest French miracle material.  A single layer was almost transparent, but four strategically on top of one another just magically afforded the opaqueness decorum required.  

The skirt was asymmetrical; one side exposed a gorgeous and unbelievably long leg almost to the waist, whilst the other had the skirt just above the knee of an equally gorgeous leg.  She wore yellow open-toed high heels, with yellow bows trimmed in orange, made of three layers of the same material as her dress.  

Her height, those legs and that dress were enough beauty for any one audience, but there was more.  From the waist up, the dress was essentially two shoulder straps, folded like inverted oriental fans.  They were barely wider than spaghetti straps on her beautifully tanned shoulders (the same colour as the rest of her body, without a trace of untanned skin), but they entirely covered and overlapped on her flat stomach.  Single and double layers of yellow and orange 8cm (3”) ruffles softened the severity of the neckline.  The dress was obviously designed for a woman with large breasts, but it had been altered.  Now it had to cope with huge breasts that made the ruffles seem like narrow edging, breasts that jutted into space without the slightest sag, yet breasts that didn’t tug on the shoulder straps.  All of this bosom engineering was Nature – she obviously wasn’t wearing a bra! 

For this occasion, her hair had burnt umber streaks and the dark brown was intermixed in such a way as to let you know that she was indeed a natural blond.  Instead of wavy flowing tresses, she now was the tigress, with curlier chopped layers that took a face from sweet to sultry. 

She wore her diamond and ruby engagement ring, a gold bracelet, a large topaz dinner ring, and a diamond and topaz necklace.  Allan had persuaded a major Melbourne jeweller to loan the last two pieces for the occasion.  The store required a security deposit of one-half million dollars. 

To complete the ensemble, her lipstick, fingernails and toenails were of the same yellow, a brighter version of her dress colour.  Against her very noticeable tan, the overall effect was a provocative look that screamed, “Top this!”  She could easily have been the unofficial fashion winner on Academy Awards night. 

She hesitated for a few moments, as heads turned around.  Then the eyes of much of the audience, but not the graduating class, adjusted and focussed on the woman in the spotlight walking towards the stage.  Susan strode with confidence, a vision of loveliness two metres in altitude (6’7”).   She’d never done runway, so this was a first, but she acted as if it were second nature.  

There was a collective gasp as the audience realised they were experiencing one of life’s exciting moments.  The gasp caused heads to turn among the 253, first some and then nearly all. 

Predictably, cameras intended for snapshots of family member graduates began to click and flash.  Those with videotape units would record the whole measure of her short journey.  The others started to clap, and then they all were clapping wildly. 

She walked to the stairs, up, onto the stage, thanked Mr. Keeley and took command of the podium.  The applause was still going, but it started to die down as her clear tones recited something memorised but presented in a way that didn’t seem rehearsed. 

“Principal Keeley, distinguished guests, members of the graduating class of 2005, ladies and gentlemen.”  She had to pause and start over twice, due to interruptions from those still applauding. 

[HOLD IT!  That's enough -- we're headed towards the climax and I don't want to ruin it for you, so go ahead and order the whole book, read all 19 previous chapters and then you'll know the whole story, and be prepared for the shocks to come.]