Beri Pfister’s Real-Life Drama!

You know, a lot of people say you should accept yourself as you are, but I think that’s just silly. Humans are basically blank canvases, so, like, why accept being a big blank when you can be whatever you want, as long as you’re willing to work hard enough? 

Take me, for example. I have this little morning routine I do, but really, anybody could do it. First you put on primer, then you do your foundation, concealer, and tanner—don’t forget your neck and chest. I get dark circles under my eyes and have stretch marks from when I got boobs, so this part is super important. Then of course there’s contouring, because nose jobs are so eighties, but nobody wants the nose they have. Eyes next—shadow, liner, falsies, mascara, more mascara. Then lips—gloss is super in right now, but no matter what you do, you have to use lip liner first. Not a dark one, though, or you’ll look cheap. Meanwhile, you’re having your hair blown out, glossed and sealed and sprayed, and some assistant is massaging lotion into your hands and wrists. The whole process only takes about an hour, and I make sure to have it all done before I’m even in my pajamas for breakfast.

“Don’t go overboard on those pancakes, Beri-Bear,” Daddy says, shoving a huge forkful into his own mouth. “Nothin’ but carbs.”

“I’ll work it off at the gym today,” I promise.

He laughs. “Bruno isn’t a miracle worker, you know.”

I roll my eyes and blink at him, my freshly applied falsies doing half the work for me. “Don’t tell me what to do, Daddy,” I say, holding my gaze and pursing my lips for a long time to make sure the cameras get a juicy conflict shot. He lets me have my moment while I go through a few poses: setting my jaw, narrowing my eyes, raising an eyebrow as much as the Botox will allow.

“I’m still your father,” he says finally. “And I know what’s best for you. If your mother were here, she’d say the same thing. You don’t want to go back to the chubby days, do you?” He pats his own belly. “There’s only room for one in the family.”

“Just because you’re my father doesn’t mean you can run my life,” I say.

“That’s right, Tinkerbell!” He taps the tip of my nose. “That’s why I’m also your manager!” 

He spanks my butt on his way out of the kitchen. The sound of the slap echoes off the counter tile while the cameras hold on me.

They yell cut and Tracey, our producer, comes over to me. “How about a quick confessional?”

I pout. “Ugh, I don’t feel like it today.”

“Five minutes, tops, then we’ll get you going to the gym and the beach, and then you’re done for the day.”

So I sit down under the lights in the little room we’ve set up for confessionals. There’s a green screen behind me that they’ll just make plain white in post, to contrast my dark hair and tan. Tracey sits next to the camera and looks at me with those really friendly eyes she uses when she’s about to do something super mean.

“How about we talk about your mom?”

I slump forward and throw my head back, which makes my cleavage really prominent. “Tracey,” I whine.

“Beri,” she says in practically the same voice. “We need something deep.”

I sigh and reapply lip gloss, which gives me a few seconds. I blink and clear my throat, then look directly into the lens, which is black and shiny and knows almost everything about me. 

“My dad always says I have beauty in my blood,” I begin, “because my mom was Miss Wyoming, and first runner-up in the Miss America pageant, before she moved to L.A. and met him. I don’t remember much about her. She left when I was just a baby.” I can picture exactly how they’ll edit this, with old photos of my mom over my voice. She was super pretty, with big eighties hair and great makeup. She knew what she was doing, but she also had a perfect canvas. Her cheekbones were really high and her lips were super full, way before Restylane was even invented. My dad says I look just like her—“too much, sometimes!”—and when I see those old pictures I know it’s true. I got her looks and his ambition.

“Do you know where she is now?” Tracey says. 

“I dunno, back on the ranch?” 

“Answer with the question, hon.”

“I have no idea where she is now. Daddy always says she just wasn’t ready yet, to be a mother, and I get that.” I pause. “It’s kind of sad, though, I mean… you’d think she would have come out of the woodwork by now, right? But…” I look down, away from the camera, and I remember asking my dad when I was little where she’d gone, or why she left, but it always made him upset. For the rest of the day, he’d be all moody, and it’s honestly the only time he would ever drink, when I’d ask about her, so ever since I was a kid, I learned it’s better not to ask. And maybe it’s better not to know, either. Screw her, you know? It’s kind of crazy how you can love and also totally hate the same person all at the same the time. Then again, I feel the same way about my trainer. 

Sometimes I wish I could know where she is. Not, like, for her to come back and ask me for anything, like so many of my long-lost cousins have done; I just wanna know if she’s happier. Happy enough to make leaving her child worth it.

I look up. “I wasn’t the only one she left,” I say. “She left Daddy, too. And he’s really great. He takes care of everything, and he always has.” I picture the photos of us throughout my childhood—Daddy and me with birthday cakes, on the playground, blah blah blah—flashing across the screen. “He had to be both the mom and the dad to me. Anyway, I don’t really care where she is. And I know my dad and I fight sometimes, but I’m just really super grateful that he’s still in my life. He’s everything to me, and I know we’ll always have each other’s back. That’s real love, and that’s family. Don’t you think?” I blink sweetly at the camera.

It’s true, my dad and I are, like, super close. He is, without a doubt, the most important person in my life. He taught me all about being a woman—bought me my first push-up bra, told me everything about boys. He’s seen the highest and lowest moments of my life, and he always helps me make the best of them. He got me onto KidStarz when I was thirteen, which was technically too old for the show. He took me to casting calls and let me cut school to be an extra in all kinds of movies. I mean, he was the one who made me realize that the sex tape was a really good thing for me.

“Don’t you see?” he said, as I was totally bawling my eyes out over it. “Now that everyone’s seen all of you, you don’t have to hold anything back. You don’t have to hide anything, for the rest of your life. It’s all out there, and now you’re free.” 

I think most fathers would freak out to see their little girl getting gang-banged by a tour bus full of famous rappers, but Daddy saw the silver lining right away. “Those other girls in the video? They don’t have a chance. They’re the ones who should be humiliated. You’re the one everyone’s talking about.” And that was true. I guess there was something about me in the video that people really connected with—maybe it was the way I looked right into the camera and gave my signature sexy/sweet smile—because within a few days of it going viral, everybody knew who I was. TMZ started following me, and they haven’t stopped since. That was five years ago, and now look at me. I’m a freaking millionaire, I get paid to go to parties all over the world, I get free makeup and clothes, and tons of people tune in every week to watch me hang out in my sweatpants and get manicures. The other girls on the tape—Misha and Stephanie and Shasta—they’re still not even, like, Instagram models.

So without a doubt, I trust my dad, especially when it comes to my career. Like when he comes into the bedroom that night, after the crew has left, and he sits on the bed and he goes, “We need to punch up the drama on the show.”

I finish liking a bunch of things on Instagram and put down my phone. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ve been talking to the producers, and they—Tracey especially—feel they need a bit more to work with, story-wise. They’re worried about the ratings slipping and people having no stake in what happens to you.” He looks at me gently. “Maybe we could get you a boyfriend.”

I wrinkle my nose. “I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say.

Daddy’s quiet for a second and I can tell he’s, like, choosing his words carefully. “Everybody knows how sexy you are, Sweetie, but audiences need to see the softer side of you, the romantic.”

“Why?”

“Well, my guess is that a lot of our viewers are all alone, and it would help them feel better about themselves to identify with a beautiful young woman who’s also searching for love.”

I think about it. “What about my stalker?” I suggest. “He should be showing up again any day now.” My stalker, Michael Elmer, is this totally creepy weirdo who’s been proposing to me every three months since the sex tape came out. At first, he’d send letters, show up at my door with roses, the usual stalker stuff, but since I got the security team he’s resorted to crazier ways of getting my attention, like taking out ads in US Weekly and starting a vlog about how much he loves me. It’s a little annoying, but he does run the Beri Pfister Tumblr page, which has almost as many followers as my personal Tumblr, so I’m kind of just, like, whatever.

“You want to date your stalker?” Daddy says.

I laugh. “No, silly. Michael can be the drama we need on the show. Then I won’t have to date anybody.” I run my fingers through his hair and smooth it to the side.

“But isn’t he in jail?” 

I frown. “Oh yeah.” I forgot I had Michael arrested a few months ago when he tried to scale our fence. Poor guy got electrocuted and woke up in handcuffs.

I keep playing with Daddy’s hair and his face softens. “You know, there are a lot of young music stars these days who could use a boost, and would be very glad to be on the show. It’s just pretend. You don’t have to sleep with them or anything.”

I pout, then gasp. “I’ve got it! A safari!”

“Safari?”

“Yeah! I saw this thing in Travel & Leisure about how safaris are making a big comeback. We could make it like a special episode or something­—“Pfisters In The Wild.” It will be so beautiful—the crazy desert light, the lions, I’ll wear animal prints every day. It will be gorgeous. Oh please!” I beg, propping myself up onto my knees and clasping my hands together. “Please, please Daddy?” I bounce a little on the bed.

He smiles and takes my hands in his. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll talk to Tracey about it. Never can say no to that face.” And I know he for sure means it, because I’ve already taken off all my makeup for the day.

The hotel in Namibia is, well, not really a hotel. I mean, they have a guy to take my suitcases and everything, but there are no little shampoos and zero crowds. I guess I’ve gotten really used to having them around. Once when I stayed at the W in New York, I could see all of them from my room, gathered in the freezing cold outside, while I got ready to go on Jimmy Kimmel. I think it even snowed while I was getting the last of my makeup put on, and I felt really bad for them all bundled up and huddled against each other, like, for hours. But at the same time I was so moved by them all, the poor things, suffering for me, just to see a little glimpse. That’s all they ever get, you know? Just enough to see that I’m really petite. But it’s enough for them. I felt like a princesss in a tower waiting to greet her subjects or something! When I left, I rushed from the gold double doors to the limo, with my dad and Tracey and Bobo and Butch all around me, and it’s just a crazy blur of flashbulbs and screams. You have to be really careful where you step, because you can’t see a thing in those situations. I mean, I couldn’t even see the faces in the crowd—Michael was there, somewhere, he told me later in a letter—that’s how many people were there. It’s weird to think of your stalker being so close to you without you knowing it, but at the same time, he was suffering with the rest of them. It’s sort of sweet.

But this place isn’t the W. This is more like the shitty motel in Orlando that Daddy and I stayed in when I was on KidStarz. At least in this place, I can’t hear the neighborhood hookers working in the room next door. It’s a shack, really, with several compartments I guess you could call rooms, and Daddy’s and mine are right next to each other. The cameras trail me and Daddy as the manager leads us down the hall. Joey, he’s our lead camera, runs up to get in front of us and aims the lens at me. 

The place is so shitty it’s, like, almost funny. Or it would be funny if I didn’t have to actually sleep here. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s grime, and Tracey knows that. I have worked too hard in my life to ever have to lay my head in a place like this again. I’m not sure how she let this happen. Or did she make it happen? They’re always doing things like that to me to create—Ooh, drama, I think, and give a little pout.

“Are you serious?” I ask my dad, like he was the one who arranged everything, because that’s what the audience wants to think. 

“What’s the matter, Sweetie?” my dad says with a mean smile. “Not the Ritz, I know, but Namibia is a different place, a different culture, and we have to respect them as they respect us.”

I pick up his tone, which confirms: it’s time for the bratty child. “Respect?” I shriek. “This place is disgusting!” Once I realize they’d never make me stay here for real, I have some fun with it. I scan the room for everything nasty I can find, like a little game. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.” Joey goes around getting shots of the insects in the corner, the mold in the bathroom, and the wallpaper, which I tug at until a whole strip of it accidentally rips off. I have to laugh.

The camera swings to the manager, who is not laughing. The poor guy’s mean eyebrows and folded arms don’t hide his embarrassment, like, at all. I’ll send him some money to make up for it, although the publicity I’m giving him just by filming here should bring him more money than he knows what to do with.

The real hotel is much better. I have my own floor, with a balcony and a four-poster TempurPedic bed and everything—I didn’t even know they had foam mattresses in Africa. We spend the first couple days getting shots of Daddy and me doing the necessary things—first and foremost relaxing at some natural hot springs nearby, because it’s really stressful to be around people all the time like I am, and when your whole job is to be yourself, you, like, never get a vacation. We go on a safari and we see a lioness through some binoculars across the plain and she is so beautiful, so proud and strong, that I get really inspired. My Pinterest page is all lion stuff now. Then we have a traditional dinner in town and get a few shots of us dancing with select locals. When they cut it together it’ll look like we danced all night, even though I get food poisoning at nine o’clock and we all leave.

I get up really early the next morning to work out and think about maybe cutting a record, or designing a perfume. My friend Victory did that and she makes even more money from it than her show. I brainstorm other interesting things we could do on the show: maybe Daddy and I can fight more. Or Victory and I could have a big fight…we could do a crossover with her show. That way it’d also be in all the magazines. I really don’t want to get a boyfriend, because I’m just, like, way against portraying my romantic life on television—even if it’s fake. I mean, it’s one thing for people to see you having sex (and it’s not like I gave anyone approval to see that in the first place), but when I think of people seeing me in love, or, like, holding hands or cuddling with someone, I just get all squicky inside. I mean, if I let people see me with someone I’m really into, then, like, what will be left for me? 

I worry about it on the treadmill until I’m sure I’ve worked off last night’s rice, then do twenty more minutes, just in case. My thigh gap has been shrinking lately, and I don’t need Daddy to notice and point it out to me. He’s obsessed with my thighs. Before I know it, Tracey comes in and it’s time to go to the orphanage.

Not many people know this, but I was bullied as a kid. There was this little girl when I was in, like, fifth grade. Her name was Kimberly MacIntyre. She used to run around the playground saying how ugly I was and that none of the boys in the class liked me. And she was really pretty—she looked like a blonde, baby Angelina Jolie, so of course I believed her. Everyone did. I didn’t have many friends that year because she told people that if they were friends with me, they were ugly too. I don’t know what her problem was. She was probably just bored with her own life; most people who talk shit about me today, like on the gossip sites and stuff, are just bored and insecure. It’s sad.

But anyway, I didn’t know that about people at the time. I just hated her for making my life, like, miserable. So one day we were in the lunch line together and she said I was dirty and to stay away from her food. I moved kinda suddenly to reach for an apple and knocked over this glass container in the lunch line, and it shattered at my feet. Kimberly was laughing at me. I bent down to pick it up and got glass all in my fingers, and I was so mad at Kimberly that when she turned to her friends on the other side of the line, I just flicked the glass into her soup. It still had drops of my blood on it and I remember watching it sink down into her soup. I never wanted to, like, kill her or anything, I just wanted her to go home sick. 

She did get sick. Actually, way sicker than I meant for her to; she was out of school for a month, through holiday break, and I think she had stomach problems for a long time after that. It was worse than I meant it to be, but, like, at the same time…she was really a bitch to me.

That’s why I’m so active in the anti-bullying movement. It’s just, like, really important to me to be a light to little girls everywhere who are struggling, because I struggled too, you know? I always say, the most important thing in the world is to know that you’re beautiful. 

It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to this orphanage while we’re here in Namibia, to teach all the children that they are beautiful, even without parents. It was hard enough for me to learn that, and I was only missing one. Luckily, I’ve had my dad around, and he’s constantly telling me how pretty I am.

When we get to the orphanage, after about a zillion hour drive through the desert,  the headmistress or whatever gives us a tour. The cameras follow as we look at all the sad little beds they have to share, and their broken, cheap toys, and the holding area where the kids are supposed to have school but they just let them hang out and watch TV. A lot of these kids lost their parents to AIDS and war and stuff, and it’s so, so sad to see them all here together, but then again, they’re together, they have each other and at least they don’t have those weird big bellies you see in those slow-motion informercials that Alyssa Milano does. 

Then Malika—she’s the headmistress—takes us into the cafeteria and there are just kids everywhere. I mean, there must have been two hundred kids all running around in the cafeteria. The noise was crazy—screams and laughter and singing. So loud. They’re all looking at me like I’m some kind of queen, or a saint come to save them. 

“Hi, Hi,” they all say to me. “Hello,” in their funny little accents. My dad was so good with them, doing magic tricks like the quarter behind the ear. And the children are, like, climbing all over me, their hands touching my hair and feeling my jewelry. Not like they were gonna take it or anything, they were just interested in it; I’m sure they don’t even know who Cartier is, or Tiffany’s, for that matter. For the first time in my life, I actually felt nervous in front of the camera, like it being there was going to take something away from the whole experience. I felt, like, naked. But now I’m glad they were there, because it was all so overwhelming, and I will always be able to watch this moment any time I want.

So I’m talking to all these kids and asking them what they’re gonna be when they grow up, but of course they have no idea what I’m talking about because they don’t speak English, so I look each one of them in the eye and I say, “You are so beautiful! You’re gorgeous!” and blah blah blah, because, I figure, the message will come through. I also make a note in my phone to send the orphanage a check when I get home. 

Then there’s this one baby girl in a high chair next to me while I’m sitting in a circle with some other girls. She’s probably less than a year old, I guess, but stunning—I can tell she’s going to grow up to be really pretty. Big brown eyes and black, black skin, like so dark I can’t stop looking at it. I reach out and touch her cheek and it is so soft, the softest skin ever, like a rose petal, swear to God. She gives me this big smile, and she’s the only quiet one in the whole group, though you can tell she’s excited by all the excitement around her. But she just keeps looking at me, and I can see how smart she is, in her eyes. She’s wearing this little red romper that was probably donated to the orphanage. I just can’t stop staring at her. So she reaches to the tray on her high chair and grabs this ball that’s sitting there and holds it out to me and she goes, “Mmm-muh,” and, I mean, I know she can’t be saying “Mama” because she doesn’t even know English, but still. Right now I just, like, want to die. I literally fall in love with this child. I lean over and kiss her on her soft little cheek.

And Malika’s all, “Miss Pfister, I’d advise you not to make close contact with the children,” because some of them have diseases or whatever. 

But I’m like, “I don’t care,” and I lean over and totally bury my face in this girl’s neck. Her tiny hand is on my cheek and from that moment I am, like, so done. I feel my heart explode and a light bulb go off in my head at the exact same moment.

So I’m lying awake all night thinking about it, about her, and I can hardly sleep at all, so I wear a cucumber eye mask to make sure I’m not puffy in the morning. I try to ignore the sound of my dad snoring next to me. I get up way early and have my hair and makeup done and make sure the crew’s there when I come out for breakfast with Daddy. He kisses me on the cheek and adjusts my robe to make sure my boobs don’t pop out. I see Joe elbow Lenny, who looks over at us, and I wave Daddy’s hands away. We sit down and the cameras roll.

“Daddy,” I say calmly. I did not discuss this with him first, and the tone of my voice makes him look up from his coffee and iPad. 

“Yes, dear?”

I take a big deep breath. “I am going to adopt a child.”

Daddy laughs, then looks at Tracey, and quickly to the cameras, which have already zoomed in on him. Tracey stares at me with her mouth open. It’s hilarious. I bet she’s pissed that I didn’t tell her, but also really loving this.

My dad puts everything down and takes off his glasses. “What?”

I sit up very straight and say it again: “I’m going to adopt a child.”

“What in God’s name do you mean?” His voice is rising. That’s good.

This is just what we need, I tell him telepathically while Joe and Lenny capture our standoff. We sit quietly and make subtle faces at each other. Or I do, but my dad is really freaking out. His face is turning all red. It’ll be great for promos.

“That little girl I met yesterday at the orphanage, she was so cute,” I begin, putting on my best “please Daddy” voice.

“You can’t adopt a child because she’s cute,” he says in his Stern Daddy voice, but with a touch of something else—maybe fear? 

“Yes, I can.” I dig in. “I love her. I can’t explain it, Daddy, I just felt this connection with her, like we were the only two people in the room, and we need each other, and I just have this super strong feeling that I am meant to be her mother, you know?”

My dad’s face turns pale, which, if he was acting, would be impressive for someone who’s never even taken a class. He keeps looking between me and Tracey, who is texting like a maniac, probably to the network.

“Absolutely not,” Daddy says.

“Yes!” I shout, or shriek is more like it. “She is going to be my daughter, and that’s final!” I’m feeling like a parent already. I clap my hands. “I can’t wait!”

Maybe it’s a harder process in the States, but in Namibia, it’s not as hard as you’d think. A little tougher than buying a puppy, but not by much. We have to stay a few extra days to wait for the paperwork and stuff to go through, but before you know it, we’re all headed back to L.A. together, one big happy. 

On the private plane home, my dad comes over to me and Marilyn—that’s the baby, I named her after Marilyn Monroe—and I’m watching her sleep and she looks so peaceful. I wonder whether I have ever slept like that in my whole entire life and I think about what her life will be like, what she’ll be into, what her friends will be like, what will her dreams be, will she fall in love?

Daddy turns off his mic and gestures for me to do the same. I look back at the crew, who are all drinking beers in the back of the plane, and turn off my mic too.

“Are you fucking crazy?” my dad whispers at me.

“Shh!” I nod to Marilyn, who’s sucking her thumb.

“Don’t shush me.” My dad shakes his head. “Beri, can’t you see this will ruin everything?” He actually sounds genuinely worried. His eyes look desperate. I put my hand on his hand, then bring it to my knee, which he holds onto really hard.

“Daddy. It won’t ruin anything, I promise. It will be a good thing.” I kiss him on the cheek. “I will still love you just the same. But now we’ll have her, and I’ll love her too, just, you know… in a different way, obviously.” I give him a sneaky smile.

“You won’t love me the same, you can’t,” he insists. “You don’t understand. Things change. You won’t want me around anymore. You won’t want me at all.”

“Daddy.” I smile and slow his hand, which he’s been running nervously up and down my thigh. I hold it still and I kiss him again and then I look up into his eyes. “I promise, no matter what. I will always want you.”

Adopting Marilyn was literally the best decision I ever made. I feel bad for all those celebs who had to ruin their bodies to get this kind of attention. First of all, the press went nuts—first there was TMZ and OK! and all the gossip rags, and then US Weekly and People did profiles on us, and finally Vanity Fair, who before would never give me the time of day. They did a story about how I “rebranded” myself as a brave single mother after years of being known as just a reality star.

“I just felt that there was a lot of love in my heart to give, and too many children out there who need it,” I told them. 

The show got renewed for another three seasons and I got endorsement deals from Luv’s and Pantene, which I never even realized was marketed toward working moms. People want to know what I feed my kid when they never gave a crap before what I fed myself. Anyway, my agent loves me more than ever now.

The tabloids call us “Berilyn” and people have even set up fan sites just for my girl, which makes me already so proud of her. Everything I Instagram of her just blows up. And she’s great on camera; she has very expressive brows.

Daddy’s role on Pfister Family Rules is a little different, but like I promised him, he’s still totally important to the show. And obviously to me. I mean, I definitely need him for this, and I tell him so every night when we go to bed. I’m supposed to be some kind of hero celebrity mom, because I don’t have a nanny, but the truth is, I could never do this alone. They call me a single mother, but I’m not. I have Daddy.

It’s not like it’s been all roses and rainbows—the first couple months were brutal. Marilyn cried for weeks. I think she must have just been so scared to be in a new place with all new people. Poor thing would squeeze her eyes shut every time a bulb would flash in her eyes, so I got her these cute little aviators, which seemed to help. But I get it; when I first got famous, I couldn’t believe how many people were just always around. But at the same time, like, you can’t trust any of them. I mean, the only person in the whole world I feel safe with is Daddy. So I can understand Marilyn freaking out. But figuring out how to comfort her, and getting used to all sorts of things like diapers and feeding and keeping her entertained has just been, like, both the greatest challenge and the greatest joy of my life so far. I used to think the feeling I got when people would get starstruck over me was the best feeling I could possibly have—until I got Marilyn. She’s everything to me, my little girl. Us against the world. I’m so in love with her.

“Baby love, my baby love, I need you, oh how I need your love,” I sing, because at the moment I can’t think of a single lullabye and it’s the middle of the night and Marilyn’s screaming her head off. I think she has an ear infection. How do I know if she has an ear infection? We have a shoot with People early in the morning and, frankly, we both need our beauty sleep. I sway her back and forth in my arms, and my eyes are pulling closed. I’m like a freaking rocking zombie. 

Daddy comes up behind me and puts his hand on my lower back. “Please don’t do that right now,” I say, rocking away from him.

“Just trying to help.” 

“You can help by telling me how to get her to shut the fuck up,” I sing sweetly, glad there are no cameras around. This is not glamorous. “Will you take her?” I hold Marilyn out to him. She screams like crazy. “Come on, don’t you want to hold your little girl?”

Daddy gives me a real evil eye. “I sure do, but my little girl won’t let me, because she’s too busy holding someone else’s little girl.”

Wow. That’s way harsher than I know how to deal with right now. “Daddy…” I say, because I don’t know what else to say.

“You’re more like your damn mother every single day.” He sounds grossed out, which is unsettling, to say the least. Then he says in this obnoxious, needy voice, “You know, I thought we decided you weren’t going to have children.”

“Oh my God, at this hour, Daddy, really? And no, you decided that. Anyway, it probably would have come out with gills or something. This way, we can have a family with no risk. She’s a blessing, Daddy. Come on,” I say, holding her out to him again. “She’s your granddaughter. Or, like, another daughter. You have to love her.”

“No, I do not,” my dad says. He walks toward the door. “And don’t ever call her that again.” He slams the door, which makes Marilyn cry even harder, and makes me cry a little bit too. Talk about drama.

He doesn’t talk to me for like a week after that, except on camera, when he’s acting like everything’s normal. He acts like he adores Marilyn, then locks himself in the den as soon as the crew leaves. It’s totally weird, if he wanted more drama on the show, why is he holding it all back in front of the cameras?

So one night I’ve already put Marilyn down to bed and we’re eating dinner with the crew, and Joe’s showing me pictures of his two daughters in their Halloween costumes. I find I can relate to him a lot better now that Marilyn’s in our lives. I scroll through photo after photo of his two little princesses, a Belle and an Elsa, while my dad is getting all antsy next to me.

“Daddy, what’s the deal?” I finally say. “Why are you being so weird?” 

So then he doesn’t say anything, right, he just gets up and gets another beer, which is weird because, like I said, he doesn’t really drink, and this is his fourth tonight. 

I shake my head and hand Joe his phone. “So cute,” I say, then get up to check on Marilyn, because she’s been quieter than usual and I noticed the video baby monitor is not facing the crib. Maybe it fell over.

So I walk down the hall, and I get this really weird feeling, like something is seriously wrong. And all of a sudden I feel really alone, like just being in that hallway I’m really far from everyone else.

In Marilyn’s room, at first everything seems okay. But then I take a few steps toward her crib and I notice she’s not there. My heart starts pounding like so crazy and my thoughts are racing and I can’t breathe and I look up in the dark and next to the window is this tall figure, like a man. He’s bouncing a little bit, and then he steps into the moonlight.

“Michael?” I whisper, totally freaked out. He is holding Marilyn, and she looks okay, but, like, in the arms of my stalker, you know? So I start to cry, in this way that I never have before, big, ugly, messy tears running down my face. I can’t control it. It feels like he’s dug my heart out of my chest and is holding it across the room. Next to an open window. 

“Beri-Bear, I missed you so much,” Michael says.

“You’re supposed to be in jail,” I say.

“A good Samaritan posted bail for me, so I’m out until my trial.”

“A good Samaritan?” I can’t take my eyes off of Marilyn. “Give her back to me.” I take a step forward, but Michael backs up, closer to the window.

“Ah ah ah, be careful, don’t want to wake up our little sweetheart.”

“Our?”

Michael looks at me with this expression that’s like, we’ve had this discussion a zillion times before. “Beri, can’t you see, we’re all meant to be a family. Together.” He strokes her cheek and I could just die. “We’re all outcasts, me and you and Marilyn. We’ll be so happy together. Don’t you see?”

I shake my head. “I am not an outcast. I belong,” I say. I’m surprised by how strong my voice sounds. “And so does Marilyn.”

Michael kisses Marilyn on the forehead, and my throat gets this big lump in it but I work through it and finally manage to scream, really loud, “Daddy!” It sounds awful, not like my voice at all. It sounds like an animal.

Michael smiles. “Daddy’s not coming for you.”

I leap forward and scream, “Give her to me!”

Michael slips out of my grasp and slides out the window, and I scream and run over and look down, and I’m so so relieved to see that they landed safely in the hydrangea bush, and then I scream again, running through the house.

“He took her! He took her!” I scream to Joe and Lenny and Bobo and Butch, who leap up from the table. We run out to the yard, and I’m still screaming like a freaking maniac and I point to Michael, who’s basically just a shadow running across the lawn.

“No! No!” I keep screaming as we chase him.

Bobo runs the fastest and he’s almost got him, he’s so close and I scream “Be careful! My baby my baby!” and Bobo pulls Michael down in a really graceful tackle that almost looks like a hug. I catch up to them and grab Marilyn, and she’s crying and crying and I’m crying and crying, and I hug her like, Oh God, I’m just so glad to have her in my arms, I have never been so happy to hold anything or anybody in my whole life. How horrible it could have been. Oh my God. We cry and hold each other and I rock us back and forth. She accidentally rips out a fistful of my hair extensions and I’m like, I don’t even care. I would give every hair on my head for her to feel safe.

Butch is calling the police and Michael is crying about loving me while Bobo holds him down in, like, a half-Nelson or something. Joe calls Tracey and I look up at the bedroom window and see Daddy, his silhouette still and straight in the window. He’s so far away. He disappears and I close my eyes and bury my face into Marilyn’s fat little neck.

My silk shorts and my legs are both covered in mud from the wet lawn, and I feel my mascara caking dry on my cheeks and chin and neck. One of my falsies falls off and lands on my lip, and as I spit it away I feel something super dark and quiet watching me. I look over and Joe is aiming his iPhone at us. The sound and the lighting are terrible, but I know right away that they’ll use this as our season-ender. Can they fix my face in post? Will I have to loop in extra screams? Tracey’s going to make me talk about it all in a confessional. 

My voice makes this weird sob-grunt as I grab Joe’s phone, and one of my nails splits off as I hurl it across the lawn. I hug my daughter close to me. I literally can’t even, you know what I mean?

Jenna-Marie Warnecke

Jenna-Marie Warnecke’s fiction, poetry, and essays have been featured in publications including Kindred, Washington Square Review, Narratively, and The Hairpin. She lives in New York City.

Daniel Reneau

Daniel is a Denver-based illustrator skilled in digital and traditional mediums, and specializes in horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and comic-book illustration. He is the co-creator of the graphic novel Zombiraq, a winner of the 2013 L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Award, and a graduate of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Learn more at www.danielbdemented.carbonmade.com.


First Featured In: No. 12, winter 2018

The Taboo Issue

View/Purchase Magazine