Birds sang. A sweet, intoxicating warble. The sun was just rising over the Santa Monica Mountains, casting a golden glow. A new day. Awakening life.

And me, covered in blood.

Rey would fix it. I would call Rey.

Or maybe not. He might kill me, too.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It all started the night I was supposed to go to this wrap party for the film Moon Wars. My husband, Terri Manson, was Jimmy Chu’s manager. You know Chu, the most famous movie star ever.

Besides being Chu’s manager, Terri was Lance Rey’s, uh, what should I call it? Best friend? No. Confidant? Advisor?

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I met Terri at UCLA, my first day of school. I was sitting on the steps, confused, lost, and vulnerable. Just 18. He came along, breezy and self-confident, eight years my senior. He stopped dead in front of me, bowed low and graciously, as if he’d just arrived in a time machine from the 18th century, and asked if I needed help.

That was it. He took me under his wing and I never looked at another guy.

I was protected growing up. And I liked it that way. I’m from a wealthy, conservative Korean-American family. Terri grew up blue-collar. I was afraid my parents would disapprove, but Terri was a hard worker and never asked them for a penny. He graduated top of his class at UCLA Law School. I got a BA in History. Terri was anything but handsome. I didn’t care. He had a funny sense of humor and could always lighten my mood. He never got angry; he seemed to worship the ground I walked on. I was nervous and insecure and he felt comfortable and safe. I needed someone to take care of me and I knew he would.

It didn’t take long for Terri to become a successful entertainment lawyer. Then he met Lance Rey. And it was like entering a whole other level of success. An elite club so exclusive, only the chosen few even knew it existed.

I’d hoped for children, but they didn’t arrive. Terri could have cared less. He worked nonstop and I joined a gym. I trained with a boxing instructor whose body was the talk of the women’s locker room. In fact, I think every woman in that gym had been with that body. Every woman except me.

Above all else, I was a snob. I looked at all the other unhappy trophy wives and refused to think I was one of them.

Or maybe it’s that I feared the wrath of my husband if he ever found out. Because there was something about Terri that had begun to scare me. I knew he did things. Over the years, his sense of humor drained form him. His eyes turned cold and dead. The rare nights he was at home, he spent all his time in his office. We never touched each other, hardly even spoke. Which was fine by me. I had come to loathe the man. What had I ever seen in him?

I was trapped in my marriage. Deep in a frightening place I didn’t want to go, I knew I would never get out. I would live like this until my last breath.

Which just goes to show you never can be sure of anything.

Because Terri was the one no longer breathing. Memories haunted me of him lying in front of me. Head bashed in from a hammer.

And all because of the day I tried to get to that stupid Moon Wars wrap party.

My dress was a tight, short Oscar de la Renta number, patterned with pale pink roses, low cut and showing off a nice amount of cleavage. Yes, I’d had my boobs done, by the most expensive plastic surgeon in Santa Barbara, and they were perfect. I put my hair up in a French twist—I love French twists, they’re so elegant—and applied frosted pink lipstick and black eyeliner. It might have been the eighties, but I looked like a sexy kitten from the sixties. I love the sixties. Lastly, but not least, I slid into a pair of Jimmy Choo’s stilettos and grabbed my fake mink stole, although, honestly I’d rather wear the real thing. Except do I want to get lynched?

Yes, I have real furs. There are parties where I wear them, filled with people who claim to care about seals and who don’t, really. Those parties are never on the pages of the tabloids.

I rarely ventured into Hollywood on my own. We lived way up in the Santa Monica Mountains, near Malibu Lake. That’s how Terri was. Careful. Out in public for his work and then home to a hidden mansion, away from prying eyes. It was a long trek into the city. I usually had a driver, but he’d had some emergency with his family, can you believe it, so he couldn’t take me. Anyway, it wasn’t like I was helpless or anything. So, I drove the Mercedes out through our security gate, down the small, winding roads and onto the Ventura Freeway. I congratulated myself that traffic wasn’t too bad, at least not until I got to Hollywood. I was supposed to get off at Highland, but the exit was backed up; I decided to get off at the next off ramp.

Well, that one was closed, so I had no choice but to keep driving until the next one, which I was relieved to find open. I now had no idea where I was, but I wasn’t too concerned. All I had to do was turn right and surely it would lead me back to Hollywood Blvd. If only. At first, this street wasn’t too crowded, but I was quickly brought to a standstill as an accident must have occurred and the street was now blocked. I had no choice but to turn left, sending me in entirely the wrong direction. And don’t ask me if it was north or south, east or west, because that’s beyond what I should be expected to know.

I now found myself on a narrow, potholed street. I stopped at a stop sign and bam! I was rear-ended. My car shot forward like a missile and crashed into a telephone pole. The airbag inflated and smashed into my face.

Five seconds. That’s all it took for my life to change forever. That’s how vulnerable we are. Only we don’t think about it, especially not those of us who are protected by money and power. If we did, we’d be immobilized by terror and never leave the house.

Never. Leave. The house! Just don’t.

The noise of the crash was intense. And then, suddenly, everything went quiet, as if time stopped for maybe five seconds and those five seconds were an eternity. I felt warm liquid oozing from my nose. I couldn’t breathe properly. I was stunned, perhaps in shock. I didn’t feel any pain. That would come later.

Then, it was as if the glitch in time ended and the noise and motion of life returned full force. My door was yanked open and I was pulled from the car by someone yelling obscenities.

I feel like I need to explain right here, so there’s no misunderstanding, that I am not a prejudiced person. In fact, I’m on the board of a wonderful little nonprofit that does a writing program for incarcerated youth. I mean, I give money to causes, okay?

So imagine my horror to find myself facing three black guys more impressively bound than my boxing trainer. Two of them looked to be teenagers. They stood behind the man who was yelling at me. He looked to be maybe in his late twenties.

My head hurt. I was disoriented. Blood ran down the side of my face and from my nose and down the back of my throat. I gagged and spit out blood onto the ground. Now, that was something I’d never done before. I was alone on this little backstreet. Not another soul in sight except these gangbangers. The street was lined on either side by rundown apartment buildings and I felt like each window had a hundred eyes staring at me. I was going to die right here on the streets of L.A. I’d be on the evening news, one more gang-related casualty.

I mean, how was that fair? After all the charity work I’d done?

“Hey! Hey!” I heard a shrill voice yelling.

“Mother fuckah!” one of the younger thugs swore, stamping his foot at the same time.

I looked up the street and saw an older woman stampeding towards us, dress billowing behind her like Lawrence of Arabia in the desert.

“What’s goin’ on here?” she bellowed at the young men. “Don’t you got nothin’ better to


I cringed. Why did she have to be so confrontational? Surely now they’d pull out an assortment of weapons and kill me in various creative ways. My husband would be lucky if he could identify my body at the morgue. The funeral would have to be a closed coffin.

Miraculously, instead of renewed hostility, the gangster pose on the two younger guys disappeared and they stood muttering under their breath, shuffling side to side, looking sheepish. The older guy remained arrogant.

“Jackson, Barclay.” To my horror, the woman actually slapped both young men across their cheeks, one after the other, their only response being to say, “Hey!”

“I’m gonna tell your mama and I hope she beats you with a stick, cuz if she don’t, I will.”

The woman, a sheer force of nature if I ever saw one, turned her glare on the man in front of me.

“You got a name?”

He was not going to be intimidated by an overweight, elderly grandma, and so he flipped her off and motioned the others to get in the car, which they did.

“Cunt,” he said, spitting in her direction. As they peeled away, he shouted, “See you in church!”

“Oh God!” I cried, knees buckling, my body beginning to shake uncontrollably. “What kind of a place is this?”

“Hell, on some days. You all right?”

I shook my head. How could I be all right?

“You’ll live,” she said. “Did you get the license plate number?”

I shook my head again and when I stopped, it felt like my head kept going, like one of those bobble dolls on the dashboard.

She shrugged. “Probably stolen car anyway. Barclay and Jackson are a couple of fools.”

I looked at my own car, overcome by a new wave of horror. The whole right front and side was smashed. Terri was going to kill me.

“I’m calling the police. Where’s the nearest gas station,” I said, shakily reaching into the front seat to get my purse. It wasn’t there. “My purse,” I wailed.

The woman barked a laugh. “Never see that again.”

I groaned. They’d stolen it. When, I had no idea. I’d been so distraught.

I scanned the street. “Where are the police?”

“If you’re expecting protection, forget it.” She took my arm, firmly propelling me forward. “Up that street’s a gas station and a phone.”

As we commenced our walk and were about to cross the street, a car careened around the corner, pumping loud music and sending up a shower of muddy gutter water before skidding away and disappearing. It came and went so fast, I’d have doubted its existence except for the mud splats that now covered my dress and legs.

The woman looked from me to her own ruined dress and back again. “You got a curse on you? ‘Cuz I’ve had bad days, but not like this.”

I took my shoe off and displayed a broken heel. “$700! I won’t even tell you how much for the dress. Purse, money, credit cards, gone. Thank God I was only wearing my gold wedding band and just these little diamond earrings.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Well, excuse me! You drive down here in your great big car, lookin’ so fine. Why don’t you just wear a sign says ‘rob me?’”

I really didn’t think that was a fair comment. “Nobody should steal, there’s no justification for that.”

She came to a full stop. “Honey? We gonna have this conversation here? Now?”

I buckled. “No. Sorry.”

We carried on. I stumbled and she reached out an arm to steady me. “Before you insulted my neighborhood, I was feelin’ sorry for you. No more.”

I wrenched my arm away. “Then why don’t you just leave me alone. I can take care of myself.”

She burst into a loud guffaw, stopped abruptly, and glared at me. “Uh huh,” she said and grabbed my arm again.

We turned another corner and came to a busier street.

“Uh oh,” the woman said. We were almost to the gas station and had to pass about five parked police cars, their lights flashing.

My heart leapt with hope. “Police, I’m going to talk to them.”

The woman backed away. “Yeah, you just do that. Bye now.” And before I could respond she had taken off, back in the direction we had come. And that was the end of my…angel? To this day, I’m not sure what to call her.

Next thing I knew, the door of a derelict apartment building directly to my right burst open and out poured a group of scantily-dressed women, herded by a few police officers. I let out

a desperate cry and ran forward. Thanks to my stupid broken shoe, I stumbled once again and one of the women bumped into me so hard I fell flat onto the sidewalk, sprawled like a fish out of water.

“What you doin’!” the woman cried and kicked me. Yes, actually kicked me, in my side.

I cried out in pain. Someone yanked me upwards as if I was a rag doll. I was beginning to wonder if I was one.

I heard the voice of a police officer saying, “Resisting arrest, inciting a riot, you’re a piece of work.”

In a dazed stupor, I realized he was talking about me. Proof being that he was in the process of handcuffing me.

“No, no!” I launched into an explanation of what had happened, but even I could tell I sounded hysterical and wasn’t making much sense. The officer cut me off fast.

“Stay quiet if you please, ma’am, and listen to your rights.”

Surreally, I heard something about the “right to remain silent.”

When he was finished, I tried again, hoping I sounded more reasonable this time. “No, you don’t understand. I’m lost, I don’t belong here. I got mugged. My car—“

“Stupid bitch, shut up,” one of the women snapped and the other women sniggered.

The police officer paid absolutely no attention to me, just ordered me to stay put or he’d charge me with resisting arrest.

As we were herded into the police van, I couldn’t help shouting, “You’re going to be sorry when my husband finds out about this!”

The bulldog who’d cuffed me said, “Are you threatening a police officer?”

Before I could respond, one of the women said, “Hey now, can’t you see she’s been hurt? She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”

“She’s a fucking cunt-ass bitch is what she is,” said one of the other women.

The van door closed and off we went. I looked around to find the woman who had defended me, sort of, was staring at me with large brown eyes. She was wearing a skimpy purple polka dot spandex thing, big hoop earrings, tasteless platform shoes, and fishnet stockings. She had a lot of big hair on her head.

I looked at the other women. They were all wearing similar clothing. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were…prostitutes?

No, no, no, no! This could NOT be happening to me.

I looked down at myself. My torn and mud-splattered dress, my broken shoe. I could feel that my hair was hanging in tangles, I had blood on my face and probably a developing shiner.

After that, I stayed silent.


For all installments from Luminaria, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: Come to Me — Lana
  2. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 1
  3. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 2
  4. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 1
  5. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 2