Zac Efron was a star. One of the biggest stars on the planet, in fact.
And he knew it.
When he first signed to his management team he had been a modest teenager. All he’d wanted to do was make it as an actor. He’d never expected the kind of fame that would befall him after starring in High School Musical.
Now, though, that modesty had all but disappeared. Brands were begging him to wear their clothes and endorse their products left, right and centre. He had the privilege of being able to choose the designers he worked with, rather than having them dictated to him by his manager.
The previous week, however, the power had gone to his head. He’d been photographed smoking weed in $2,000 suit he’d been paid a massive sum of money to wear.
The designer had gone crazy, and Zac’s manager, too. He hadn’t spoken directly to Zac for the previous seven days, he was so angry. Today, though, as the premiere of Zac’s latest film, and they had to appear together.
“Zac,” Sean, his manager, said as they met inside the theatre, “good to see you.”
“Hey,” Zac replied. He was surprised that Sean was so upbeat, what with the suit incident.
“So you know how this goes,” Sean began, “the paps are all ready and waiting and the place is full of screaming fans. You just gotta go out there, smile for the cameras, sign some shit and then get your ass in the theatre.”
Zac nodded. He’d done this hundreds of times before.
“Your suits in the dressing room.” Sean nodded towards a door at the far side of the room, “you’ve got ten minutes to get it on and get out there.”
“Cool,” Zac replied, he headed towards the dressing room.
He was happy that last weeks incident hadn’t been mentioned. He’d been worrying about the consequences all week, but apart from a bit of negative press it didn’t seem like there were going to be any.
Once he had the shiny, black suit on he headed back into the side foyer and out into the side street where a limousine was waiting to take him round to the red carpet.
“All ready?” Sean asked as they got into the limo.
“Yep,” Zac nodded, fixing his red, silk tie as he did so.
“Perfect,” Sean answered, “Oh, and one thing. Take off your shoes.”
Sean starred at the brand new brogues on Zac’s feet.
“What? Zac laughed, “so you’re like one of those crazy foot fetish guys, right?”
Zac had joked many times about the foot fetish crazies on the internet who stalked pictures of his feet. There’d once been a time when he barely wore socks, and often went out in public wearing flip flops, but now it made him a bit uncomfortable.
“I’m being serious.” Sean answered, “take off your shoes, take off your socks and get in the limo.”
Zac couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Come on.” Sean insisted.
“But…” Zac stuttered, “but I gotta walk down the red carpet. The whole world’s gonna be watching.”
“I don’t care. You think you can make a fucking fool out of me and get away with it? Sean was beginning to shout now, “take your fucking shoes and socks off.”
Zac was stunned. He was going to be humiliated.
Zac jumped a little at the anger behind Sean’s words. He didn’t want to, but he knew he had to follow his managers instruction.
He bent down and untied the fresh, stiff laces of the brogues. Carefully, he pulled each one off, revealing the shiny, new, black socks below. He threw the brogues aside and edged, red-faced, towards the limo.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Sean asked, anger still clearly audible in his voice.
“Come on, man!” Zac said, not wanting to face any more shame.
“Take the fucking socks off,”
Zac couldn’t take any more of this. He was going to look like a complete tool. How could Sean make him do this?
He knew there was nothing more to do than to peel the socks off. He did it, and once he was done he threw them aside too.
He stood, barefoot, on the pavement next to the limo. He was almost frozen to the spot. He could feel the shame burning in his cheeks but he knew that it was nothing compared to what he would face once he stepped out of the limo.
“Good,” Sean smirked, “now get in the car. Once we arrive your gonna have reporters shoving their mics in your face. I want you to tell every single one of them that you’re going to be spending the next thirty days barefoot.”
“What?!” Zac gasped.
“You do as I fucking tell you,” Sean snapped.
“But I can’t spend thirty days barefoot…” Zac was getting desperate now, he wanted the joke to end.
“Oh no?” Sean asked, sarcastically, “then you can forget about the next three films I have you shortlisted for. You’ll never see another lead role again if you don’t do what I tell you.”
Zac knew it was true and that there was no point in arguing. He got into the limo, leaving his shoes and socks behind a bit his lip. Within minutes he would be walking down the red carpet barefoot.
He starred down at his toes. They were clean and his nails were well trimmed. Thank God for small mercies. He lifted up his left foot and sat it on his knee.
He observed his bare sole, it was wrinkly and crinkled because of the way his foot was leaning against his leg.
Fuck. He thought. These things are gonna be as black as fuck when this is over.
He put his foot down and wriggled his naked, white toes. He loved going barefoot in private, but he hated seeing articles on the internet containing pictures of his feet. How could he have let this happen? He had been so stupid.
The limo pulled up to the front of the theatre and Zac saw the flashing cameras of the paparazzi through the tinted glass.
This was it. Time for the walk of shame.
He heard the door click as it was opened for him.
He took a deep breath, placed one bare sole on the cold, concrete ground, and stepped out of the car.
To be continued.