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Within a week of Tristan Jensen's death, over a thousand bouquets laid in front of her gate as a tribute of sorts.
The shocking story was in every paper. Tristan had gone missing after leaving a party at one of Nice’s most sought after nightclubs. Her husband called the police when she hadn’t returned to their hotel after 3 AM. The next morning, her body was found lifeless on the Mediterranean shore beneath the rocky cliffs. Her companions believed that she was tipsy from the cocktails she had been drinking and misjudged the distance. She had probably fallen, they decided.
Her husband was left to undertake the necessary arrangements. He travelled home to Los Angeles on his private jet with her body. Reports claimed he dissolved into tears the moment he landed. However, he organized a legendary service for his darling. The most expensive black orchids were imported from Brazil, the most notable luminaries of the entertainment industry were scheduled to eulogize, and the most expensive gold-plated rosewood coffin was commissioned as her final luxury.
Her funeral became notorious amongst tabloid-mongers for the mass of fans lining the cemetery gates. Twenty-seven police officers were called to keep the mourners at bay. It was said that around thirty people fainted from the compression of bodies, and those who clamored to reach the front of the crowd injured even more in their morbid attempt to watch her coffin interned in the cold, hard earth.
The entire world was obsessed with Tristan. Her movies played in continuous rotation at every cinema hall in the country. Her death was the subject of every major television newscast. Her face was on the cover of each magazine on every newsstand. On his way to Tristan’s home from her funeral, Tom Croft picked up a copy of the daily paper. Her life had been reduced to a series of unwelcome images, beginning with a young and carefree girl determined and ending with insecure and volatile shell of a woman. The older pictures rendered her glowing and coy, always laughing and flitting like a hummingbird amongst a circle of friends. Yet in her later pictures, she always hid her deteriorating figure behind a large pair of sunglasses and held a cigarette or a glass bottle in her shaking hand.
“She was very beautiful, wasn’t she?” someone asked.
“Yes,” he said and began the journey to her palatial home.
He had loved her once.
When Tristan was very young, Tom met her in a rather bittersweet turn of fate and thought her the most aggravating, beautiful creature he had ever seen. At that time, he photographed for various magazines as a freelancer and had been sketching in Central Park when she sauntered gracefully up to him and asked him if he didn’t want to share coffee with her.
"I'm quite bored," she had told him with a conspiratorial smile.
"I'm afraid I'm busy," he had answered, caught off guard. Tristan was very beautiful with pale blond hair and impossibly light skin and ice blue eyes and delicate features. She seemed to him the personification of candlelight, all a-sparkle with her lilting laughter and flickering gestures.
"It won't take long, I'm sure."
He thought for a moment. "Will you let me sketch you?"
She laughed without a trace of humor and ran a hand through her hair. "Why would you want to sketch me?"
She paused and gave a shy smile. "All right."
So he sat her down where the sunlight met the water and made it shine like diamonds. He thought he could have sat there for hours staring at her as his hand struggled to match his eyes. In the end, the vision in front of him was so far superior to what he had attempted to draw that he knew he could never encapsulate it exactly as he saw it. But he wanted to see it forever. He asked her if she wouldn’t mind returning the next day and she said “Why not?” So she sat down day after day seemingly without a care in the world.
He bought her a closet of clothes and jewels as she clapped like a child in glee and wonder. He made her a Victorian queen, a Greek goddess, the patron saint of luxury. A colleague stopped by Tom’s home, saw all the pictures of Tristan, and told him to show them around to some magazines. Of course, every single one wanted her. Tom asked her if she didn't want to be famous and she said "Why not?" So he sold her as the most beautiful girl in the world.
He wanted to capture her. He wanted to own the very thing about her that lit her up and drew everyone to her. He swore he could spend entire days gazing at her to find something even he couldn’t understand. But she started going to photo shoots and, suddenly, he began to see her face on billboards all over the city. He didn’t like it, not at all.
“I want you to stop,” he told her one day.
“I make money enough for the both of us now with the money from your pictures. You don’t have to keep doing other assignments.”
“I want to. I like having something to do.”
And that was the end of that. He would give her anything to keep her.
One day, he returned to their apartment to find her packing her things in a large, red suitcase.
“Where are you going?”
“I met someone,” she said with a small smile.
“I met a man.”
He stared at her for a few moments. “You’re leaving.”
A stab of pain shot through his heart. “Who is he?”
“Michael Jensen.” Jensen was the prodigal son of the Jensen acting empire. He was the cavalier, womanizing descendent to an illustrious line of stage legends, movie stars, directors, producers. “We’ve seen each other a lot lately. He’s asked me to marry him.” Michael Jensen was the last person anyone would have expected to get married.
“Marry him?” he choked.
“Yes,” she whispered.
He grabbed her arms and turned her to face him. “Why?”
“Because he doesn’t look at me through a camera lens,” she snapped and silenced him.
Tristan left and Tom let her go.
Marry Michael she did, in a surprisingly private ceremony with only his family attending. By all accounts, Michael adored her. He always called her his darling and, supposedly, the two couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.
The rumors turned darker after a year or two, as infidelities and betrayals were exposed to both sides. Michael and Tristan argued excessively which would inevitably result in one of them speeding down the highway in their newest car. These fights were always solved when Michael would present Tristan with a new piece of expensive jewelry and Tristan would gift Michael a new sports car or motorcycle. Then they would fight once again and perhaps Tristan would throw the pearls from a bracelet down one by one across the garden or Michael might crash the car at the racetrack. And the cycle would continue.
The public found these antics amusing. Even their friends and family thought the two were simply young and passionately in love and, as they matured, the storm would pass. Michael’s elderly film producers would laugh indulgently as parents would shake their heads at a pair of spoiled children.
No one laughed now. Towards the end of her career, Tristan starred exclusively in Michael’s directorial efforts, forgoing all her own work for him. She became his muse, acting in the lead in seven of his eight films. She said it was a singular experience being under her husband’s direction and scrutiny.
But all of that was in the past now, Tom supposed. He felt sorry for Michael, who had obviously loved her deeply. Tom guessed he would see him soon, now, as he saw the couple’s home appearing in the distance. Tristan had left him a gilded antique hand mirror upon her death and he thought it best to collect it earlier rather than later. Tom remembered the mirror only vaguely from their time together as she rarely used it and he wondered why she would want him of all people to have it. The message left to him had been equally strange. “I want you to see me as I saw myself,” she had written. It was an eerie feeling, to read a letter from the dead, he thought as he knocked on the door.
Tom explained his visit to the man who had answered and was ushered in to greet a disheveled Michael Jensen who seemed not to see him entirely, but directed him half-heartedly to Tristan’s bedroom. As he walked, Tom noted that there were no pictures of her in the house. One or two showed her burrowed in Michael’s embrace or looking back fleetingly through thick, black glasses, but nothing else, not even a publicity shot. Tom thought, perhaps, Michael had taken them down in his grief.
Tom opened the large mahogany door very slowly and peeked in. What he saw frightened him so much he could barely suppress a gasp of horror. The scene was alarming, to be sure. All the curtains had been torn down and the wooden bedposts were scraped and scratched. Porcelain and crystal lay smashed on the floor amongst scattered and broken jewels. Pictures had been torn beyond recognition and the pieces were thrown like confetti around the space.
But most shocking of all was the site of every mirror shattered and slashed with a splattering of blood and lipstick.