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Bettina sniggered as she observed her parents’ transfixed expression centred on the Broadway singer warbling on stage.
She might be real pretty, thought the pouting girl, arms folded tightly over her chest. But I could do it better, a lot better!
The musical came to an end. The star bathed in an encore and blew kisses to the audience with one hand and held a large bouquet of roses in the other. The lights eventually brightened and people made ready to leave.
“So Betti, what did you think?” her mother, Elsa, asked. “Wasn’t she fabulous?” Her husband nodded in agreement.
The ten-year-old did not crack so much as a smile. Instead, she buttoned up her coat, adjusted her matching beret and prepared to join the human stream into the theatre lobby.
“The day I’m up there,” she replied without hesitation, “I’ll have at least three encores.”
Betti did nothing tepidly. She lived by the motto ‘All or Nothing’ from the day she said took her first unassisted step and voiced her first word, “Betti.”
She grew up in a household of adults in Princeton, New Jersey; her parents, both university professors, spent much of their time either on campus or with their noses in their books. Dr Bulmers taught Literature and her mother, Italian History. Little Betti’s favourite playtime took place in a pastel-coloured playpen with no sibling in attendance. This suited her perfectly. Betti lived in an imaginary world full of promise without having to share a thing or compete for parental attention.
As master of her reveries, she ruled like a monarch—autocratic, respected and revered.
# # # #
“You have a big nose, you have a big nose,” taunted a third grader.
Betti struck a pose in profile, rested her chin on her interlaced fingers and retorted without missing a beat. “I have an important nose just like Cleopatra’s. And her face was on every single gold coin every made. Ever! You have an elf’s nose, and the only important elves I ever heard of are the Seven Dwarves, Dopey!”
In reality, she hated her nose, courtesy of her mother’s Italian genes. But over time, the precocious brunette grew a face whose exquisitely chiselled bones would play to its imperiousness like an Aphrodite bust from the antique.
The knack of deceit came fluently to Betti, and her imaginative stories left strangers believing her every word. Every gesture had intent, every glance, sigh and pregnant pause, a desired effect.
Betti found herself drawn to the stage at an early age. She fought tooth and nail to land the main leads regardless of other’s feelings - or fairness.
“Betti, this time I think it’s best you let someone else give it a shot,” her teacher said before the auditions began.
“Why?” she asked in earnest, “I’m the best Little Miss Muffet in the whole school. You know I am!”
If a teacher did not bend to her will, tantrums ensued. When tantrums backfired, Betty bribed her competition or took matters into her own hands in the most creative, if not unethical ways.
But Bettina Bulmers always landed in the spotlight.