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Copyright 2002 Frank Downey. All rights reserved. Permission for any use
other than personal must be requested from the author. Do not repost.

This is adult material. If you're not one, begone.


"Lamawakka high school ain't seen nothing like this, eh?"

It was the first day of school, and junior Tomasz Kuzsincsalyi plopped
down at the lunch table next to his best friend Josh Wallingford. "Ah,
it's a madhouse," Josh replied. "You'd think the king of the world
enrolled, or something."

"Well, I think it's kinda cool," Kylie Kim said as she sat down. Kylie
was Tomasz's girlfriend and one of Josh's best friends. "Hey, who would
have ever thought a famous actress would move to Lamawakka and enroll in
school here?"

"True, but it's still ridiculous," Josh countered. "I mean, look at
them. The clique, I mean. Jacqueline Dumars and the rest of her acolytes
are practically falling over themselves."

"This much is indubitably true," Tomasz agreed. "But, then again, when
doesn't Jackie make an ass out of herself?" He took a bite of his
cheeseburger. "Anyhow, I was wondering how Miss Fowler managed to end up
in East Bumfuck, New York."

"Well, she did that film here this summer," Josh said.

"I know that. But to move here?"

"This is the way I heard the story," Kylie informed them. "Her parents were worried that living in Hollywood was bad for her. Basically, she was
taking acting way too seriously, was getting caught up in the whole
business, and was turning into an acting drone. Her parents wanted her to
be a real teenager for a while. When they came here to film the movie this
summer, her parents fell in love with the town, and bought a house. Her
dad's a lawyer, and found work at a firm in Albany without much of a
problem, so here they are."

"Why anyone would choose to live in this frozen wasteland is beyond me,"
Tomasz said. Lamawakka was in upstate New York, about thirty miles north
of Albany.

"It's a nice place to live, and you know it," Kylie countered.

" You, my dear, have an older brother to shovel all the damn snow."

"Whine, whine, whine. This from a guy who plays football."

Josh smiled at his friends' banter. "Are you two married already?

"I wonder if Meredith Fowler has ever shoveled snow," Tomasz snickered.

"She's live in Southern California all her life," Kylie informed him,
"I'd bet she's never even seen snow."

"Well she will," Josh giggled. "Soon enough, and lots of it!"

Three Weeks Later

Josh climbed the steps to the bleachers at Lamawakka High's football
stadium. He often went there after school, to think-and to write. Josh
wrote short stories and poetry, and found the football stadium a productive
place for it. He could find an isolated spot up in the bleachers, but it
wasn't complete quiet, as the football team was practicing on the field
below. Josh didn't like to work in complete quiet. And, if he was stumped
for an idea and needed to put his notebook down for a while, he could yell
insults at Tomasz while he practiced.

Josh was going to be seventeen in a few days, on September 30th. He was
six feet tall, with sandy brown hair and brown eyes. He was in good shape,
but nothing fantastic. He was considered good looking by the girls in
school, but didn't set off any stampedes He wasn't an athlete. He got
excellent grades, but didn't flaunt it, so he wasn't really known as a
brain. He wasn't in the popular crowd, nor the artsy crowd, nor the jock
crowd, nor the hard-core nerd crowd. He was just a normal high school guy.
The one thing that set him apart was his love for writing. He often
submitted pieces for the school's literary journal, and was a regular
reporter and columnist for the school newspaper. He hoped to go to college for journalism, and combine that with fiction and poetry writing.

He sat in the stands for a while, scribbling away, occasionally glancing
up at the football team working out. He shared a quick wave with Kylie,
who came to watch Tomasz practice. Every time he thought of them, Josh
felt proud of himself, as he had introduced them. He had met Tomasz early
freshman year, and had known Kylie, his next-door neighbor, since early
childhood. They had been dating for a year now. Most people thought that
their relationship was strange-a six foot four Hungarian football player
dating a five-foot nothing Korean artist. However, Josh had recognized
that they had a lot in common-a basic sensitivity and a wacky sense of
humor to start-and had hooked them up. So far, so good.

He had been there for about a half hour, working on a poem, and then he
heard it-someone sobbing. It was definitely female, and definitely close
by. He looked under the stands, and saw a girl sitting there, holding her
head in her hands, and crying. Josh, worried, climbed down the stands and
walked around to the back. As he found the girl under the stands and
approached her, she heard his footsteps and looked up.

Damn, he thought to himself. It's the actress. Meredith Fowler.

Josh had to admit, she was gorgeous. Dark blonde hair, almost perfect
features, and deep blue eyes. Even though the eyes were reddened and her
cheeks were blotchy from her crying, she was still stunning. Seeing that
it was her, he would have run the other direction-but she had seen him, and
Josh did try to be polite.

"Are you OK?" he asked.

"Well....." Meredith sniffled. "Um...yeah.....I'm fine." She attempted
to smile. It was feeble.

"You've been crying," Josh stated.

"Uh, well....." Meredith didn't know what to say to that. She just
looked up at him, still weepy. Josh made a decision, and sat down next to

"Jeez, I didn't think Lamawakka was that bad. And you haven't even
experience an upstate New York blizzard yet!" Meredith smiled a bit, which
was the desired outcome. "Joshua Wallingford. Josh for short." He held
out his hand.

She took it. "Meredith Fowler."

"I do believe I knew that," Josh grinned.

"Yup. Everybody knows who the resident freak show is," Meredith

"Freak show? I hadn't noticed. However, I think everyone around here
does know your name."

"Yeah. Where did you come from, anyway?"

Josh pointed upwards. "I was sitting in the stands. I heard you
crying. Far be it for me to let a damsel in distress weep alone, so......."

That made Meredith smile a bit. "What were you doing in the stands?"

"Thinking. It's a good place for it. Also for writing." He held up his
notebook. "I like it up there, nobody bothers me. Plus my best friend is
on the football team, so, if all else fails, I can rag on him for his

She smiled again, but then sobered up. "So, you heard the big Hollywood
actress weeping, and decided to get in on the dirt?"

Something was really bothering this girl, Josh realized, and it wasn't
him, although he was handy so she was baiting him. He refused to take the
bait. "Actually, I just heard the crying. When I looked down, all I could
see was the top of your head. I didn't realize it was you until I got down
here and you looked up at me."

"I'm sorry," Meredith said, instantly contrite. "It's been a very rough


"It's ironic, if you think about it. My parents wanted to live here so
I could be a normal teenager for a while. Ha. Normal teenagers are not
treated as circus acts by their classmates, are they?"

"Not usually, no."

"Right. So, I come here, to the middle of nowhere-no offense
intended-and I'm fawned over like I'm some sort of curiosity. Either that,
or people are intimidated by me, expecting me to be a snob or something.
God. I think normal teenagerhood is completely beyond me, at this point."

"May I tell you something?"


"Part of that is the company you've been keeping," Josh pointed out.
"Not all of us are fawning. I'm not fawning, am I?" Meredith giggled at
that. Josh went on, "But every time I see you, you're with the Status Is
Everything Clique-Jackie Dumars and them. Of course they're fawning over
you. You hang around with them, their status goes up, at least in their

"I see what you mean."

"Plus, if you are hanging with them, the rest of the student body is
going to be intimidated and assume you're a snob. Because they all are.
To be honest, I thought you were a snob and hanging around with them
because you fit in with their we're-so-damn-cool mindset. I wouldn't have
thought differently if I didn't see you down here crying about it."

"Yeah," Meredith sighed. "You got to understand, they sucked me in-not
that I'm blaming them because I let them get away with it. But they were
fawning all over me from day one. Look, I don't make friends easily. I'm
sort of wary. There's too many people who want to know me for what I do
rather than who I am."

"Yeah, but that group fits right into that category."

"I know, but they approached me, while I was having a hard time
approaching anyone. I know nobody in town, you know? And I was sitting in
the cafeteria first day of school, and here they all came. And I suppose
sometimes I'm too nice for my own good, because I kept letting them come
around instead of telling them to get lost."

"And now you can't approach anyone else, because they think you're part
of that group, and, thus, a snob and a bitch besides."

"Right. And I'm miserable, alone, and completely lost." She started
weeping again.

Josh reached out a hand to her, and she took it, grabbing on like it was
a lifeline. He let her weep a bit, and then asked her a question,
"Meredith, honestly, do you think you're something special because you're a
Big Hollywood Teen Star?"

She stopped weeping and giggled at his hyperbole. "No. What I am, is
an actress. I think I'm good at it, I'll admit. But all that makes me is
a good actress-nothing more."

"Do you want to be a normal high school junior?"

"Yeah. The reason my parents moved me here is because acting was taking
over my whole life. While I don't completely agree with taking such a
drastic step as moving clear across the country, I do see their point, and
taking a step back from acting is probably a good thing. And, yeah, I see
the kids in school acting like normal high school students, and I wish I
could do that."

"You can, you know," Josh told her. "First of all, it's only been three
weeks and the fuss will die down. Second of all, you just need to make
friends. Normal, non-fawning, non-intimidated friends. You seem like a
nice person. Let people see that and not Meredith Fowler The Actress, and
it will all come together. You just need to get away from The Pissy Clique
and make some normal friends."

Meredith smiled at him. A little corner of his brain registered that
her smile could light up all of Lamawakka. "You know what? I think I just

"Did what?"

"Made a normal friend." She grinned at him, and then stood up. "I have
to go. My parents will put out an APB soon. You're in my English class,
aren't you?"


"Good, I'll see you then." She took a step away, and then turned back to
him. "Oh, Josh? Thanks. A lot. It helped."

"You're welcome." She threw that dazzling smile on him again, and then
was gone.

Josh shook his head, scooped up his notebook, and made his own way out
from under the stands.


Josh plopped down at his regular table in the cafeteria. As usual, he
beat his friends there, as his last class before lunch was right across the
hall. He was getting settled when he saw someone approaching. It was
Meredith, with her lunch tray.

"Hi! Mind if I sit with you?"

"Not at all, if you don't mind hanging with my friends."

"Love to. You can save me from Jackie and the Hyenas."

"Ah, so you're just using me to save you from the brat pack, eh?"

"Of course," Meredith giggled. "Plus, judging by yesterday, you're much
better company."

"Sit. Oh, and be warned. My best friend, Tomasz-he won't fawn, but he
is a serious film buff, and may pepper you with questions."

"I can deal with that. Toe-MAHS, his name is?"

"Yeah, and that's not an affectation. He's Hungarian. His last name is
KOO-zhin-ch-eye, and don't ask how it's spelled."

Meredith giggled. "I'll take that under advisement."

"Here they come." Tomasz and Kylie sat down across from Josh and
Meredith, looked up, and then looked at each other in amazement. "Guys,
this is Meredith. Meredith, this is Tomasz Kuzsincsalyi and Kylie Kim."

"Hi!" Meredith said. "I hope you don't mind me invading your table."

"Not at all," Kylie said, wide-eyed.

"Better us than the brat pack," Tomasz joked. "Hi. It's nice to meet
you. I loved Princess of the Potomac."

"Thanks!" That had been a film Meredith had done a year ago. "That was
a fun one to do."

"So, you did one here this year?" Tomasz asked.

"Yeah. It's coming out right before Christmas. It's called Garrett's
Gift, and it's about a high school hockey coach that gets sick. I play his

"A tearjerker?" Tomasz asked.

"To a point," Meredith confirmed. "Not too bad. It's understated.
Definitely not a comedy, though."

"Change of pace after Princess of the Potomac?"


"Tim Hicks is the hockey coach?"

"Yeah. Second movie I've done with him. I had a small part in the
World War Two flick. He's an amazing actor. Great guy, too."

"He comes off as a great guy," Josh interjected, "but you never know how
much of that is just acting."

"Oh, with some of them, it definitely is," Meredith laughed. "Believe
me, Hollywood is full of assholes. However, with Timmy, it's genuine. And
not only is he the salt of the earth, I learned more about acting from him
than from anyone else I've ever worked with. He is that good."

"That's cool," Tomasz said, and then frowned. "I probably should shut
up now. Josh told us that you were kind of upset about being treated as
the resident diva."

Meredith giggled. "Ah, you're not treating me like a diva. You're
asking me questions about my job, I don't mind that. It's all the fawning
that was getting to me."

"Oh, Miss Fowler, may I apply the mustard on your hot dog for you?" Josh
breathed in a ridiculous falsetto. "Refill your coke? Wash your hands?
Please, acknowledge my existence, and my life will be complete!" Meredith
was laughing so hard she almost choked on her soda.

"Damn, Josh, that's good," Kylie laughed. "Very Jackie-esque. Keep it
up and you might qualify for membership in The Snots."

"Speaking of the Snots," Tomasz said, "They keep glancing over here in
consternation. They're obviously upset and dumbfounded that you chose to
eat lunch with us instead of Their Highnesses."

"Good!" proclaimed Meredith.


Meredith had eaten lunch with Josh and his friends every day for two
weeks. She had met some of their other friends when they had eaten at the
same table. It was the best decision she had made. Josh was a good kid,
his friends equally so, and they treated her like a normal person. The
weight she had felt for the first three weeks of school was starting to

When she arrived at the table the next day, the other three were already

"Yeah, it's going to be tough. They're historically the best team in
the conference," Tomasz was saying.

"Hi, guys," Meredith said as she plopped her tray down on the table.
"What are we talking about."

"Football," Josh told her.

"We have a big game Friday night. We're undefeated, they're undefeated,
and they usually beat us to a bloody pulp," Tomasz informed her.

"Cool. So The Mad Hungarian is planning on righting this terrible
wrong, yes?" Meredith teased.

"You betcha! Are you going to be there?"

"Um, I hadn't planned on it........"

Josh acted on an impulse. "Come on, go. With me. It'll be fun."

Meredith dropped her fork and stared at Josh. "Did you just ask me out
on a date?"

Oh, shit, thought Josh. What was I thinking? "Um....well......"

"Yes," Meredith interrupted. "I'd love to," she said happily.

"Really?" Josh stammered.

"Yes, really," Meredith said, treating Josh to another one of those
light-up-Lamawakka smiles. "You just took me by surprise, that's all. I'd
love to go to the game with you." She turned back to all three of them.
"You have to understand, I don't get asked out on dates. I have
'appearances' with 'escorts' arranged by publicists."

"What a drag," Tomasz opined.

"That it is," Meredith agreed.

"Wait a minute, though," Kylie said, "Last year you were supposedly
going out with Adam Chase."

"Kylie, Kylie, Kylie," Meredith said, smiling. "Don't you know never to
believe what you read in the Enquirer?" Kylie grinned sheepishly at her.
"No, Adam Chase and I had a few of those publicist-driven escort things,
and the tabloids ran with it. Publicity is publicity, after all. Adam
Chase, by the way, is a complete dick. If that asshole ever tried to ask
me out on a real date, I'd kick him in the nuts. It's bad enough that he
put his arm around me so the Enquirer could snap their little picture-I
think I got ptomaine poisoning from just touching that slimy reptile."

"Ouch. I think I'm glad you said yes," Josh joked.

"I know I'm glad I said yes!"


Meredith arrived home after school.

"Hi, Mom!"

"Hi, honey. Good day?"


"Hey, listen-I know you didn't want us to do anything for your birthday
this year, but I did get a cake and ice cream. I figured we'd have it
after supper tomorrow."

"Aw, Mom," Meredith smiled. "OK, that would be fine......oh, wait a
minute, that might not be fine. When were you planning on doing this?"

"After supper, whenever. Why, what's the problem?"

"I have a date," Meredith grinned.

"You do?"

"Uh-huh. I actually got asked out on a real date by a real guy. Do you
believe it?"

"Of course. I told you. I take it this guy isn't bedazzled by your
resume, or you wouldn't be going out with him."

"Not bedazzled in the least. We've been friends for a couple of weeks."

"Oh, is this one of the guys you eat lunch with, Josh or Tomasz?"

"Josh. Tomasz has a girlfriend-Kylie, the girl that eats with us.
Plus, Josh is taking me to the football game, and Tomasz is playing in the
football game, so I wouldn't be going with him."

Marie Fowler giggled at that. "Is a football game a date?"

"Sure. We're going to do something afterwards, too. Hey, I asked him
if it was a date, and he said yes, so....."

"I suppose I remember going on dates to football games in high school."


"So, what time does it start?"

"7:30. Josh was going to pick me up at seven."

"Have him make it 6:30, and he can help us eat cake."

"Sounds like a plan."


Josh arrived at Meredith's house at 6:30 the next evening. He met her
mother and her father Bill.

"Take your coat off and come in the dining room with me. I asked you
early for a reason," Meredith told him.

"OK, I'll bite, what?" Josh said, taking off his coat.

"You need to help me eat some cake. It's my birthday."

"Really? You should have told me. Happy birthday!"

"Thanks. We decided not to make this year a big deal, but mom can't let
a birthday pass without cake."

"Hey, that's the only time I give in to temptation and eat it," Marie
joked. Bill walked in with the cake, alight with candles, and led them
into a chorus of Happy Birthday To You.

As Marie cut the cake, Josh turned to Meredith and asked, "Are you not
into birthdays?"

"Oh, not after last year," she grinned, as Bill and Marie chuckled. "We
went overboard."

"And that means all of us," Bill said, "we were co-conspirators. Hey,
it was her sixteenth."

"My sixteenth, and we were in Hollywood, right?" Meredith went on. "It
was an Event. You want to talk about overkill? Nope, that was enough
birthday party to last me at least until my twenty-first."

Josh looked at her thoughtfully. "What?" she said.

"Do you miss it?"

"Miss what?"

"All that glitz and glamour. Big Hollywood parties. That life."

"No, not really. Look, I had 200 people at my birthday party last year,
and probably 150 of them I wouldn't give them the time of day in any normal
situation. I do not miss social obligations, not in the least-and
fulfilling those social obligations can take any pleasure out of the glitz
and glamour part. I have a few friends I miss, and I miss acting, but
that's it."

"She's trying to get us to agree to let her do a film this summer,"
Marie told him. "We're holding off judgement for the time being."

"Well, honestly, I'm only going to push the issue if Tim gets that film
of his on track."

"I can see why, but that is a role that will change your whole career,"
Bill said.

"I know. Hey, it might be my last role, at least for a while." She
turned to Josh. "I've decided I want to go to college so, after this
summer, the whole acting thing will probably be, at least, put on hold."

"What's this role?" Josh asked.

"I'd be playing a college student. Tim Hicks is not acting in this
one-he's actually going to direct it. It would be my first really adult
role. Part of the appeal is the part-it's really meaty. The student gets
caught up in a May/September relationship with an undercover cop who is
trying to delve into a drug ring at my character's school. And the best
thing is who has signed on to play the cop. Roger DiNardo."

"Oh, wow," Josh enthused. "You ever work with him?"

"No. And I really want to."

"We've told her we'll consider it, but not make a decision until after
we've seen the script and after Tim has set up a shooting schedule," Marie
told him.

"Which is fair, I must admit. This is going to be shot in L.A., so we
need to know when."

They finished their cake and said goodbye to Meredith's parents, and got
in Josh's car to drive to the football stadium. Josh kept throwing glances
Meredith's way.

"What?" she asked, bemused.

"I dunno. I was noticing this in your house. You look, I dunno,

"Yeah. I did my makeup differently."


"Yeah. I'm not wearing any." She giggled. "Well, not much. Just a
very subtle lipstick and a bit of eye shadow. Which to me is very

"Hmmm. I never noticed you caking it on."

"Ah, but you must remember, I learned the fine art of makeup from the
best makeup artists Hollywood has to offer. The trick is to wear a ton
without it looking like you're wearing a ton." She sighed. "I always do my
makeup every morning, then scrub it off right when I get home. Today, I
scrubbed it off, and then said 'Oh, shit, I'm going out tonight'. I
decided not to do the whole production all over again." Her voice got a
little softer. "Plus, I figured if you wanted to date the real Meredith
Fowler, you might as well see what she looks like."

They were pulling into the parking lot. Josh didn't say anything, but,
after he found a space, he threw on the overhead light. He looked at
Meredith. "I think I like the real Meredith Fowler."


He looked a little closer. "You've got freckles!"

"Yeah. That's the first thing they teach you to cover up."

Josh turned to open his door and get out of the car. As he did, he
said, under his breath, "Ought to be a damn crime to cover up freckles like
that." Meredith caught it. She was delighted. He came around to open her
door. As she got out, she looked at him and said, "I knew I liked you."

Josh grinned at her. "Ready to go, freckle-face?" She giggled as she
took his hand, and they headed for the stadium.

"I am not used to this weather!" Meredith exclaimed.

"Wait until January," Josh teased. "The joke around here is that
Lamawakka is a term in some Indian language meaning 'Make it stop snowing,

"Oh, great," she said with a giggle. They got their tickets and entered
the stadium. "Where to sit?" she asked him.

"Kylie should be here, with a couple of her friends you haven't met yet.
They are in a class during our lunchtime so they take Senior lunch.
They're good friends of ours, though, especially Kylie, and they usually
show up to the games."

"Sounds good."

They found Kylie and her friends. "Hey!" Josh greeted them. "Girls,
this is Meredith Fowler. Meredith, this is Chrissy Altman and Eileen

"Nice to meet you," Chrissy said. "Kylie's told us all about you. She
says you're a real person."

"I'll even take that as a compliment," Meredith laughed.

"Hey, you must got something going if you got Studley over there to ask
you out." Eileen said. "And we know him well enough to know it's not the
whole actress thing, so you must be special. I guess I lose the
Josh-is-gay bet."

"Eileen..." Josh grumbled. Meredith just looked at him.

"Hey, you look different," Kylie quickly interjected.

"Yeah, I toned down the makeup."

"She's got freckles," Josh grinned.

"So she does," Kylie agreed. She leaned into Meredith, and whispered,
"I think he's got a thing for your freckles."

"Yeah. I should have let them out earlier!" she whispered back.

After the game-which Lamawakka won in an upset-Josh and Meredith slipped
away from their friends and headed downtown to the local coffee shop. They
grabbed their coffee and pastry and went to a table over in the corner.

"OK, I have to ask you," Meredith said, "What was that all about?"


"What Eileen said, about being surprised you asked me out, and about
thinking that you're gay."

"Oh, that. Well, uh, I don't date. This was actually my first one.
Kylie's been throwing girls at me for years, including those two, and I
never have asked."

"Just not interested? Picky?"

"Well, that, too. Um....this is difficult, OK?"

"Forget it, Josh, if it's that hard. I was just curious. It's fine."

"Well, you probably should know." He looked down.
"Girls...ah...intimidate me. I've stared at telephones for hours and never
got the gumption up to make the call. Heck, Eileen blatantly hinted that
she'd like me to take her out, and I froze every time."

Meredith just stared at him. "So how in hell......I mean, me? I'm not
trying to be egotistical here, Josh, but, let's face it-I intimidate people
just by breathing. I didn't realize this was your first date. I didn't
know that you would have been scared to ask anyone out. And you asked me

Josh grinned sheepishly. "I just blurted it, kinda. I said it before I
even knew what I was saying. And then said to myself, oh shit, what did I
just do?"

"GOOD!" Meredith enthused.

Josh started laughing. "Of course, I've spent most of the last three
days scared out of my mind."

Meredith caught his eye. "No need for that, you know."


They had spent close to an hour that Friday night at the coffee shop,
chatting about everything and anything. They swapped phone numbers that
night, and spent a huge chunk of Saturday night on the phone, continuing
the conversation.

Now, it was Monday, and Meredith was looking for Josh. It was after
school, and she found him where she expected, up on the bleachers at the
football stadium. It was a fairly nice afternoon, for an October day in
New York, so she figured he'd be there.

"Hi!" she said as she climbed up to him.

"Hi yourself. What are you doing here."

"Looking for you. I figured you'd be here." She looked down at the
notebook in his hand. "Writing?"

"Yeah. This is my poetry notebook."

"Would you rather I left you alone?"

"No. Not at all."

She looked down at the notebook. "Can I see?"

"Ah. The Big Question. That's a tough one, you know. I don't show
this stuff to almost anyone."

"I figured. You can say no, I won't be offended."

"No, you can look. Just go easy on my fragile ego," Josh laughed.

"Riiigggghht." She took the notebook and began reading. "This is good,"
she said after a while. She flipped the page and read another. "Oh, this
is really good," she enthused. A few more. Josh tried to watch Tomasz on
the field instead of watching her read his innermost thoughts, but wasn't
all that successful.

"Dammit, Josh, you are good," she said, softly, after a while. She kept
reading. There was all kinds of different stuff in there--rhyming verse,
sonnets, free-form, even a few haikus. Plus a couple of bawdy limericks
that had her howling.

Towards the end, she came upon this one, one of his free-forms.


I'm in little league, right? Check the uniform, check the other kids,
I'm in little league, right. So what is Roger Clemens doing on the mound?
Damn, he's flinging fastballs and curveballs And changeups and I can't hit
this shit I'm in LITTLE LEAGUE and He is Roger Clemens and he's throwing A
Hundred Miles An Hour I can't hit this shit I'm in LITTLE LEAGUE!

But it's not Roger Clemens It's her. And she's flinging fastballs and
curveballs and the sun is catching On her freckles and I'm going blind and
I CAN'T Hit this.

Everybody is laughing, and she has no idea Of how fast she is Or how
sharp her curve is Or how her changeup would make me cry If I weren't so
busy watching the light off her hair And how her smile lights up the park
And ties me in knots Just like her fastball And I can't Get My Bat Off My

So I'm standing there Like an idiot Unable to tell the ball from the
reflection in her eyes Out of my league Waiting for strike three

Midway through, Josh glanced over, and saw the title. He reached for
the notebook. "Um, you weren't supposed to read that one."

"Too late," she said, engrossed, and pulled the notebook out of his
reach. She finished reading, and handed him the notebook without saying a
word. She sat and stared out at the field for a good five minutes.

He tried not to stare at her. He was mostly successful.

Suddenly, she said, "I have to go."


"Um, Josh?"


With that, she turned toward him, grabbed him around the neck, and
launched herself at him, landing in an earth-stopping kiss. Josh, after a
moment of complete shock, quickly caught up and responded to the kiss.
Meredith let out a little groan, and drove her lips deeper into his.
Slowly, she broke the kiss and backed away from him, beaming like a beacon.
Josh looked at her in amazement. She just smiled brighter, and blushed,
making the freckles even more prominent.

"See you later," she said in a near-whisper, and bounded down the
stairs. Josh watched her go, shocked out of his mind. When she got to the
bottom of the bleachers, she looked back up at him and smiled. She turned
away and he heard her giggle as she skipped off out of the stadium.

"Oh my God," he said to himself, grinning broadly.


He called her.

"Hi," she said softly.

"Hi. So, um, what was that all about?"

"What?" she said innocently.

"You know what."

She giggled. "Impulse."


"Right." She stopped giggling. "Well, somewhat. I also read that poem,
the one you didn't want me to read." She sighed. "I spent ten minutes
sitting there trying to find a way to tell you that you were wrong. I
couldn't find any words, not any that would be convincing. So I tried
something else."

"So you were trying to get me to realize that my thinking about you was


"By making me incoherent?"

She broke up laughing. "Well, not necessarily, but---well, did it

"I don't know." He took a breath. "Meredith, what it is, is this. I
like you. I mean, I really like you. And that scares me to death."

"I like you just as much. And I'm not exactly calm about it either."
Her voice dropped. "Look, Josh, that was my first, OK? And I felt it in
my knees."

"Um, yeah, I know the feeling. I don't know how you could stand up,
because I couldn't."

"Maximum effort. I almost fell out of the stands," she laughed. "Look,
Josh, I'm not out of your league. I'm not. Unless we're talking about
acting. I think it's probably safe to assume that I'm a hell of a lot
better actor than you are."

Josh laughed, "Since I can't act, I'll concede that one."

"Right. But that's it, OK? And, you know, you're a lot better writer
than I am. I couldn't write what you wrote if my life depended on it. Do
you want to write for a living?"

"Yeah. Only partially stories and poems, though-I want to go to college for journalism."

"Cool. Now, you need college for that."


"No newspaper is going to hire you to be a reporter when you're


"Acting is different. Look, I happen to be good at something that you
can do young. There are no college degree requirements to be an actress.
They hire teenagers to be actresses. It doesn't make me special. It
doesn't make me out of anybody's league. It just makes me good at
something that you can get away with doing when you're younger. Do you get
it now?"

"Yeah, I do, when you put it that way."

"Good." She took a deep breath. "I need you to understand this.
Because, Josh, I'm crazy about you."

"Yeah. I'm crazy about you, too."


There was a teen dance club in Schenectady. It was a juice bar, no
alcohol served, and catered to the high school crowd. The place was always
hopping, and the music was good. Josh and Meredith went with Tomasz and
Kylie. They had been dancing for some time, when they decided to get off
the dance floor for a while. Grabbing their drinks, they found a table in
the quieter room.

"Wow, Josh, you can dance!" Meredith enthused. "I'm impressed. Where
did you learn to dance so well?"

"Blame Twinkletoes over there," he said with a grin, pointing at Kylie.

Kylie laughed. "I took dance lessons for a long time. Josh and I have
been friends since we were two, so we used to end up at school dances
together before I started dating Tomasz. So, I taught him how to dance."

"Thank you, I appreciate it," Meredith said with a laugh.

"You're welcome. Now I'm trying to get it to rub off on The Big
Football Galoot, here."

"Ah, shaddap," Tomasz grumbled good-naturedly. "It would be easier if I
weren't sixteen inches taller than you."

"True," Kylie agreed. "I'm doing a wonderful job of teaching his
bellybutton how to dance."

They went back on the dance floor for a while, and then Josh and
Meredith came off it again.

"Wow. I am pooped," Meredith sighed. "And I'm hungry."

"Me, too," Josh agreed. "Want to go for a walk? There's some places to
eat down the block a bit."

"Love to!" They went and told Kylie and Tomasz what they were doing,
grabbed their coats, and headed out. They walked down the street holding

"What are you in the mood for?" Josh asked.

"A burger!"

"Good. There's a place right up here, has great burgers."

"You come here a lot?"

"Every so often. Tomasz and Kylie love coming here, and they drag me
with them, usually with the set-up of the week. This is much more fun,

"Aw, you're so sweet."

"Here's the place." They went in and the host showed them a seat. They
checked the menu and both decided to get burgers. After giving their
orders, they sat there at the table, chatting.

Suddenly, a girl of about their age came to the side of the table.

"Excuse me, are you Meredith Fowler?"

"Yes, I am," Meredith said with a smile.

"WOW! This is so cool! I love your movies!"


"Can I have your autograph?"

"Sure!" The girl produced a pen and paper, and Meredith signed it. She
ran off, delighted. Meredith just smiled, and turned back to Josh, "Now,
where were we?"

They started chatting again, but didn't get too far, because they were
interrupted again. And again, and another time.

After the last time, Meredith looked at Josh, who was looking uneasy.
"This is bugging you, isn't it?"

"Well, no, not really," Josh said, and then sighed. "Maybe a little."

"I'm so used to it, I don't think anything of it. But I can see where
you might get irritated at constantly being interrupted."

"No, it's not that." Josh took a breath. "It's just that-well-everyone
in Lamawakka is used to you by now, so I don't see this at home. And I had
almost become convinced, before tonight, that the only difference between
us is that you can act."


"But it isn't, not really."

"Yes, Josh, it is. Everything stems from that. Look, do you think I
wanted to act so I could get recognized by strangers when I'm out on a
date? It's part of the package, but that's not what it's all about."

"Yeah, but it happens."

"Yup. It does."

"How can anyone stay normal with all that.....I don't

"If I told you it were easy, I'd be lying. But I can, now, and it's
because I've decided to focus on what's important. This is nothing, you
know. It really doesn't matter, for bad or good, that I get recognized and
asked for autographs. I can let it give me a swelled head, or I can get
annoyed and let it ruin my day. I choose to do neither. I sign the
autographs, because I like to think that I'm basically a good person. But
all it means, if it means anything, is that I have a recognizable face and
that somebody likes my work."

"It's not an ego-boost?"

"Sure it is. But it's an ego-boost about my acting. I'm not going to
lie to you. I have an ego about that. It's not out of control, but I
think I'm good. People asking me for autographs-all it does is say that
other people agree with me about my being good."

"You are good, you know."

"Thanks," she said with a giggle. "Want my autograph?"

"You're evil, you know that?"

"Yup!" she laughed. Then, seriously, "Josh, I can't tell you that this
is never going to happen. It's going to happen. If we're going to have
any kind of relationship, you need to have to handle it."

"I think I can. I understand how you feel about it better now." He
stopped and looked at her. "So, any kind of relationship, huh?"

"Whoops. Me and my big mouth."

"Meredith, will you go out with me?"

She beamed at him. "Yes!"

"Good. I really am crazy about you, freckle-face."

"Even though I get badgered for autographs?"

"Even though."

"Good. I'm just as crazy about you." She looked at him thoughtfully.
"I've never had a boyfriend before, you know. You need to believe that."

"I do. And you know this is new for me, too."

"I know."

" All of it." Their burgers arrived just then, and they thanked the
server. They both dug in. "Yum," Josh continued.

"You're right. These are great."

"Best burgers around. Anyway, like I was saying, all of this is new to
me. Not just having a girlfriend, but the whole she's-a-star thing. I
can't promise I won't occasionally screw up."

"Just as long as you try to work it out."

"Hey, I didn't run screaming away from the parade of autograph seekers,
did I?"

"No, you didn't." Meredith thought for a minute. "You know what you
need? Full immersion, in my "other" life. You need to see the whole ball
of wax, at least briefly. It might help, it might not, but I think we need
to get it out of the way. Plus, I want you there."

"What are you talking about."

She put her burger down and grabbed his hand. "Come to my premiere with
me. They always have a big premiere for new movies. It's the first
weekend in December, in Los Angeles. We'll go out for a long weekend.
You'll go to my premiere, get your picture taken by the paparazzi, meet Tim
Hicks. It'll be fun."

"Fun? It sounds terrifying!"

"Nah, it's fun. You can get some of the glitz and glamour. And I think
you'll find out it's no big deal."

"Oh, Meredith, I don't know."

"Please," she said. "Listen, I have to have an escort. Going to one of
these things without an escort is just not done. I've never gone with
someone I wanted to be with. My publicist is already making noises about
me going with Christian Houle, who was in the movie with me, but, while I
like Christian, I'd rather go with you, and I know Christian would rather
take his girlfriend."

"Well, what happens at these things?"

"Well, we'll probably have to go out early, like on Wednesday. I have a
couple days of publicity, interviews, that sort of thing. I know it will
be boring for you, but you'll get to meet some people, and if you really
get bored I'll get my Dad to take you to Disneyland."

Josh laughed. "No way, I'll be bored. If I'm going to Disneyland, it
will be with you."

"You really are too sweet. Anyhow, the premiere is Saturday night. I
don't know which theater. You'll get to dress up and hobnob with the
stars. Afterwards, there's a party."

"It really does sound terrifying. Look, remember, I'm a small town hick
high school kid."

"So am I."

"Surrre you are."

"Oh well, I should have known I wouldn't get away with that one." They
both laughed. "OK, this is the best reason I can come up with-I really
want you to go."

"OK, then I'll go. Assuming my parents give permission."



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