#7 - ALLISON REYNOLDS, DEFENSIVE DEALER
July 16, Cancer
It was through Renee that Dan eventually learned about the third girl Wymack recruited, Allison Reynolds. The Reynolds were apparently big news to anyone who followed celebrity gossip, both for their recent scandals and for their excessive wealth. Their fortune was founded in a chain of resorts that catered to people with the most money to throw away, and although they were not celebrities themselves in the traditional sense they rubbed elbows with powerful people in nearly every industry.
Allison was the Reynolds' only child, and therefore the heir to the family business and fortune. She was a modern day princess, destined for a life of globetrotting and luxury if only she would accept the crown and everything it entailed. Unfortunately for her parents, Allison wasn't sensible enough to accept her easy fate. At thirteen she discovered her estranged grandfather, a lonely man working as a high school janitor to stave off boredom, and spent a summer under his roof. It was inevitable she'd find out about Exy when she was following him everywhere he went, but only the tabloids were happy when she picked up a racquet.
"Her parents weren't quiet about it," Renee said as she pushed balls back toward the first-fourth line, "but when they tried to keep her from playing she started embarrassing them in public—starting arguments in front of the cameras, refusing to show up at charity events, and giving away family secrets. In the end it was easier and safer to just let her have her way, so Allison enrolled at a private high school and tried out for the team."
"Tried out," Dan echoed with a derisive snort. "Like anyone would tell someone like her 'No'."
"A less honest coach would have," Renee said. "Everyone knew her parents disapproved—who would side with an impetuous child over her influential parents? There could have been repercussions, or he could have asked for bribes for his negative assessment. But he signed her and put her on his line-up."
"Still sounds like a scam," Dan said. "She didn't know anything—she'd been playing Exy for what, a year? And she made the cut for a private team? Maybe he wasn't smart enough to take her parents' money, but he definitely had ulterior motives."
"If he wanted the publicity, it worked," Renee said. "Paparazzi hounded the school and her teammates. Ticket sales went up, but the stress and cameras took a toll on all of them. There was a lot of pressure on her—to succeed, to fail, to do something outrageous, anything."
"So?" Dan asked.
"She struggled." Renee leaned on her racquet and stared down the court. "She had potential, but it was obvious she couldn't keep up with her teammates. That's when people assumed what you did: that her parents had gotten her the position. Revenge, maybe, for everything she'd put them through. She was becoming a public failure, and everyone assumed she'd crawl back home to lick her wounds. Then she collapsed."
Renee glanced at Dan. "Allison's parents wanted a picture perfect daughter: a body to show off the latest fashions and a face to put on magazine covers. Apparently that was the compromise they made when they let Allison enroll, was that she would maintain her image. Allison couldn't do it, not with all the training and practices her coach put her through. She became bulimic in an attempt to stave off muscle growth."
"How are we to judge?" Renee asked.
"We don't know what it was like for her," Renee said. "We can't understand how much pressure her parents were putting on her to fit into their pristine mold. Her worth was measured in artificial standards and weighed against the court of public opinion. It must have been very difficult, trying to stand her ground in the face of such cold disapproval."
"Still," Dan said.
"It's a knee-jerk reaction to judge harshly those who were born with more than we have," Renee said, "but it isn't fair. Just because she hasn't experienced the same things we have doesn't mean her life was easy. We can't keep assuming that money automatically makes a person's life better."
"It'd make my life better," Dan said. "I'd've given Cathy a cut and gotten out of here a long time ago."
"But Allison couldn't leave, at least not without the tabloids and creeps following her. She was beautiful, young, rich, and rebellious—she was a sensation and the regular topic of gossip columns. There was nowhere for her to escape to."
Her words were close enough to Cathy's harsh rejection that Dan had to look away. Renee saw she'd hit a nerve and went quiet, waiting for Dan to sort things out on her own. Finally Dan said, "She did get out, though. There's always a way out."
"Hers was self-destruction," Renee said. "When she was hospitalized, news got out about what she was doing and why. The backlash was in her favor, and Allison had all the ammunition she needed to pick her side. She chose this," Renee said, gesturing at the court and smiling at the far goal. "She started eating right and taking better care of herself, and by the end of the season she'd earned her place on the line-up."
Renee slanted Dan a sideways look and small smile. "Rumor has it she cost herself her inheritance with such a stunt, but none of the Reynolds will confirm it."
"She threw away millions of dollars for a sport?" Dan asked.
"Net worth for the Reynolds is actually in the billions," Renee said with deceptive mildness.
Dan thought she was going to throw up. "She's insane."
"Or unbelievably spiteful," Renee suggested. "I can't wait to meet her. She must have quite a personality."