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TRANSCENDING THE ROLE Part Five By Frank Downey firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ENSUING WEEKS
They had gone to the exclusive Governor's Ball party after the awards.
Meredith, still stunned, bathed in all the accolades and paraded Josh
around the room, introducing him to all the big stars. A few, referencing
her speech, made references to "the Josh" which had poor Josh
walking around half the night with a spreading blush.
When they got back to the hotel room, Meredith was still wound up, so
she tackled Josh into the bed and they made love for hours. When they got
to the airport the next day, they were exhausted, but happy.
They slept Monday, but headed back to school on Tuesday.
Meredith found she could barely move. She was congratulated by
well-wishers at every turn. All the teachers in every class she was in
found it difficult to maintain order, as the first 15 minutes of every
class turned into questions about Meredith's exploits. Not that the
teachers minded much.
Meredith ate with Josh, Kylie, and Tomasz, as usual, and Meredith held
court, telling her best friends about the weekend.
Things got a bit back to normal with the foursome the next day, but
Meredith was still being stopped in the halls, and on the street.
She and Josh spent the whole weekend together. Josh was amazed when
they went to the restaurant and she was repeatedly accosted with autograph
requests and gushing fans. She seemed to handle it well, though.
When they got back to Meredith's house, Josh noticed a huge pile of
paper scattered around the living room.
"Scripts!" Meredith told him. "I'm getting script after script sent to
me," she giggled. "And Mike keeps calling."
"I thought you weren't going to do a film after the one this summer,"
Josh pointed out.
"Well, I'm going to keep my options open in case I get offered the role
of a lifetime," she said, "but most of this stuff is lightweight. Top
billing, and you wouldn't believe the money Mike says he can get me for
some of these, but nothing's jumped out at me."
They spent all weekend together, and spent most of Saturday in bed.
It was the next Monday that things started to change.
First of all, Meredith, in the lunchroom, was waylaid by Jackie Dumars
and the rest of the cool clique. She went and ate lunch with them that
day. And the following two days.
"What is going on with her?" Kylie asked Wednesday.
"Well, look," Tomasz said astutely, "they're fawning over her. We
didn't do that. We were proud of her and happy for her, sure, but after
the first day, we treated her like Meredith, our pal. They're treating her
like a Superduperstar."
"That's funny, because she told me she hated the fawning," Josh said.
"It was one of the reasons that she was crying under the bleachers, that
first day I met her."
"Maybe things have changed," Kylie pointed out.
"Or maybe she's just being nice," Josh countered.
"You'd better find out," Tomasz told him.
Josh tried to, the next day. He cornered her in English class. "Hey,
honey, we miss you at lunch."
"Oh, I'm sorry, honey, but Jackie and her friends just want to talk
about the Academy Awards. I'm just giving them a little thrill. Don't
worry about it."
"OK," he said, tempering his worry. "So, what are we doing tomorrow
"Oh, Josh, the want to take me out. To celebrate, you know. I'll
catch up with you later in the weekend."
"OK," Josh said, even though it wasn't.
When he relayed that conversation to Kylie and Tomasz at lunch, Tomasz
told him, "This don't look good. This don't look good at all."
Josh was forced to agree, especially when Meredith begged out of seeing
him on Saturday, claiming that she had to "get through some of these
The whole next week, Josh barely saw Meredith. She wouldn't eat lunch
with the guys. She let Jackie Dumars and her friends fawn all over her.
Josh even noticed she looked different. She was wearing far more makeup.
Josh got a glimpse in English class-and couldn't see her freckles.
He grabbed her that Friday. "So, am I going to see you this weekend?"
he said, faking calm.
"Well, I don't know. Jackie and the want to go out tonight.
Tomorrow's kind of up in the air."
"Meredith, what about us?"
"Oh, Josh, don't worry. It'll all work out."
"Meredith, you're different. You've changed."
"Well, we all change, don't we? Hey, you can't expect a person to win
an Academy Award and not change. I have demands, obligations."
"Here, in Lamawakka?" Josh asked.
"Well, yeah. Jackie and her friends are big fans of mine. They tell me
so, all the time."
"I thought I was your biggest fan," Josh said softly.
"Well, you are. But not about my acting," she giggled.
"I like your acting."
"Yeah, but they love my acting. Look, Josh, I'll talk to you later."
She hurried off.
"But I love the whole you," Josh said softly to the air.
THE NEXT MONDAY
Meredith's had sensed something was up with their daughter, but
she lowered the boom at supper that next Monday night.
"Mom? Dad? I want to talk to you about something."
"OK, honey, shoot," Bill said.
"I think I should stay in California after 'Lessons in Danger' is done
"What?" Marie blurted out. "What brought this on?"
"Mom, I'm hot. I can't keep up with all the scripts, and Mike says he
can get me huge money if I agree to do a couple of them after 'Lessons in
Danger'. I just won an Academy Award. An opportunity like this isn't
going to come around again."
"What about Josh?" Marie asked.
"I can't turn down these opportunities just for him."
Bill was really worried now. "I thought you hadn't seen too many meaty
roles in those scripts."
"Who cares? 'Lessons' is a meaty role, but it's not top billing. I'm
committed to do it, anyway, so I might as well cash in afterwards. These
people want to make me a star. Top billing, top money."
"That's not a good enough reason," Bill said. "I think it wouldn't be a
good idea at all for you to stay in Hollywood after this summer."
"Well, you don't get a say in it," Meredith spat out, stunning her
parents. "'Lessons' finishes shooting in mid-September. I turn 18 in
mid-October. Unless you want to stick to your guns and force me home for a
month, then I'm staying, because after I turn 18 you can't say a word about
"MEREDITH!" Bill hollered. "What has gotten into you?"
"I have a career I need to maintain," she said, standing up to place her
dish in the dishwasher.
"What about college?" Marie tried.
"Jeez, Mother, I'm an Oscar winning actress. Who needs college?" she
sneered, and left the room.
"Oh, Jesus, what are we going to do now?" Marie moaned after Meredith
"What can we do?" Bill asked. "She's right. She's going to be 18. We
don't have much of a say."
"I don't understand what's gotten into her."
"Unfortunately, I do," Bill said. "The Oscar is going straight to her
"You're right. And the one person who could bring her back to earth is
Josh, and I haven't seen him around for over two weeks," Marie pointed out.
"You think she's blowing him off?" Bill asked.
"If she's planning on going back to Hollywood, of course she is," Marie
THE NEXT WEDNESDAY.
"You're losing her." Tomasz told Josh at lunch. "I'm telling you, she's
slipping through your fingers."
"Don't I know it."
"What are you doing about it?" Kylie asked him.
"What can I do?"
"Confront her," Tomasz told him. "Make her lay her cards on the table.
She's leaving to do that film in a couple of weeks. It's now or never,
"He's right," Kylie said. "I mean, look at her. Jackie Dumars and her
clones are fawning all over her, and she's eating it up with a spoon. Is
that the Meredith you know and love?"
"No. No, it isn't," Josh agreed. "You're right, I need to confront
He waited for her to get out of school that afternoon, and then followed
her, making sure she was going home. She was. He quickly pulled up in
front of her house and knocked on the door.
"Josh! What are you doing here?" Meredith said, flustered, as she
answered the door.
"We need to talk."
"It's not a good time," Meredith said nervously.
"It never seems to be a good time, lately. Why are you avoiding me?"
"Um, well, all right. Come in. I'd might as well get this over with."
She led him into the living room, and sat down on the couch next to him.
"Josh," she began, "when I go out to Hollywood to do the film next
month, well, I'm not coming back."
"Not coming back?" Josh managed to get out.
"What do your think about this?"
"They can't say a thing about it. I turn 18 in October. I can do what
"What about us?" Josh asked.
"Well, there's no point in having an 'us' if we're going to be three
thousand miles apart."
"Meri, why are you doing this?"
"Oh, Josh, you should see the offers I'm getting!"
"Oh. Good roles?"
"Good roles? Who cares?" Meredith blurted out. "We're talking about
star billing! Big money! Oh, Josh, you have no idea what winning an Oscar
does to your career. Everybody wants me."
"I want you too, you know," Josh said sadly.
"Oh, Josh, I know this is hard, but it's for the best. I need to cash
in while I can."
"You never cared about that before."
"Well, things change."
"What about the prom?" Josh asked.
"Well, things being the way they are, you should probably find someone
else to take."
"So, this is it? It's over, just like that?" Josh said plaintively.
"I'm sorry, Josh, it has to be." She giggled. "Just think, though, now
you can tell everybody that you slept with an Academy Award winner."
Josh recoiled like he had been slapped. Furiously blinking back the
tears, he blurted out, "I can not believe you just said that," and ran out
of the house.
Meredith's conscience prodded her to go after him. She ignored it.
THE NEXT MONTH
Josh was living in hell.
He didn't know what was worse-watching her prance around the school,
ignoring him, in the two weeks before she left-or not watching her prance
around the school after she was gone.
Tomasz and Kylie tried to provide all the support they could, but they
couldn't do much.
Tomasz, worried, blurted out after a few weeks, "Man, you got to get
Josh just looked at him. "If Kylie walked out of your life, never to
return, would you be able to get over her just like that?"
"Uh, well, no. Good point. Forget I said anything."
"Josh," Kylie tried, "It's just that we're worried about you."
"I know you are, and I appreciate it," Josh said, "but I have to
work this out on my own."
Two weeks after Meredith had left, Josh got a package in the mail.
He eagerly opened it, knowing what it was-two copies of the Anthology of
Young American Poetry. He quickly opened up one copy, and found his poems.
That provided a needed bit of cheering up-seeing his work in print. He
called Tomasz and Kylie and shared the good news with them.
Afterwards, he looked at the other copy. He had ordered that for
Meredith. There was a poem in there, which she had never read. It was for
her. Giving it to her this way, printed in the book, was supposed to be a
surprise. He knew the books would arrive after she left for California, so
he had planned to give it to her on prom night.
I should just give it to Kylie, he thought. And then he decided, no.
He knew Meredith's original plans were to have her accompany her
to the film set for the duration, as she always did, and her was
going to fly out for a week in early June when he took his vacation from
the law firm. Josh wondered if those plans were still in force. Well,
there was one way to find out.
He took the copy of the poetry book, and took a sticky note and attached
it to the page containing the poem he had written for Meredith. He jotted
a little note on it, and then wrapped the book up in some wrapping paper.
Then he got in the car.
"Josh!" Bill Fowler said as he opened the door. "Come in. What can I
do for you?"
"Hi, Mr. Fowler. I was wondering if you were still planning on going
to see Meredith next week."
"Yeah, I am," he said with a sigh. "Evidently things on the film set
are not all hunky-dory. I don't know exactly what's up, but I am going out
"Oh," Josh said. "Well, would you mind giving this to her for me,
please?" He held out the package.
"I'd be glad to." Bill took a breath. "Josh, you're a fine man.
You were good for my daughter. She screwed up by you, as far as I'm
"Thank you for saying that, sir. However, the Meredith that got on that
plane wasn't the Meredith I knew."
"I agree," Bill said. "Is there something in this package that you're
hoping will bring back the Meredith you knew?"
"Well, it should make her remember, at least. I don't hope for anything
more than that. I think it's too late for anything else. She's back in
that world." He took a deep breath and headed for the door. "Thanks for
delivering it." With that, he left.
THE NEXT WEEK
Bill Fowler landed in LA on June 1st. He immediately went to the hotel,
where his was waiting for him.
"Oh, am I glad to see you," Marie told him. "Meredith is out of
"Well, have you ever considered our a prima donna? Somehow,
she's become one. Tim Hicks is wondering what happened to the delightful
girl he worked with just last summer, and Roger DiNardo wants to strangle
her. And she's oblivious."
Bill went to the film set the next couple of days to see what his was talking about. Unfortunately, it was all she had said, if not worse.
Meredith was petulant, demanding, and imperious. She berated crew
members and makeup artists. She refused to listen to Tim, and kept
insisting on different ways of doing things. At one point she shouted out,
like a spoiled child, "What does a damn Oscar winner have to do to get a
drink of soda around here?"
After a few days of this, Bill had seen all he needed to see. Meredith
went out to dinner on a Friday night with some of her Hollywood pals, and
Bill and Marie had a discussion. They decided that it was time to confront
At the same time, Tim Hicks and Roger DiNardo were discussing Meredith
"Oscaritis," Tim maintained. "Worst case I've ever seen."
"I agree," Roger said, "but she's disrupting the set. You need to do
THE NEXT DAY
Saturday wasn't a shooting day. Meredith was in the hotel, in early
afternoon, when her knocked on her door.
"We need to talk to you," Bill told her.
"Sure! Come on it."
"OK, Meredith, this is the deal," Marie started. "When your goes
home next week, I'm going with him."
"Huh?" Meredith spouted. "But why? You always stay with me until a
film is done!"
"Because I can't stand to watch your act anymore," Marie said bluntly.
"What are you talking about?"
"You're rude. You're condescending. You're making everyone around you
miserable," Marie told her. "Somehow you've become a spoiled brat. I
can't watch it anymore. You pointed out to us that you're almost 18, and
can do anything you want. Fine, do what you want. Just don't expect me to
watch the train wreck."
"Mom, you're exaggerating," Meredith contended. "These people just
aren't giving me the respect due an Oscar winner."
"Nobody really gives a flying fuck that you won an Oscar!" Bill shouted,
shocking Meredith-Bill almost never cursed. "How long are you going to
milk that? Yes, it was wonderful. Yes, it was quite an accomplishment.
Yes, you should be proud of it. But you've gone way beyond proud of it.
It's gone right to your head. When you bellowed about being an 'Oscar
winner' to that poor makeup girl, I wanted to smack you. If I had been the
makeup girl, I would have thrown the tray of makeup in your face."
"How can you say these things to me?"
"How can you do what you've been doing? You don't care what your and I think. You don't care what your co-workers think. You're ready to
take any role that offers you enough money and prestige so you can milk
this Oscar for all it's worth." Bill was on a roll now. "Meredith, this is
not like you. And I don't even want to know what you did to poor Josh. I
saw him last week and he looks like he got run over by a truck."
"You....you saw Josh?" Meredith asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. He asked me to deliver this to you." Bill had brought the
package over, and now handed it to Meredith.
"Josh sent me something?" Meredith said, pitifully, staring at it.
"Yeah, God knows why," Bill stamped out. "Just what did you do to that
"I....uh.....well...." Meredith's hesitating was interrupted by a knock
on the door. Bill opened it, and in stepped Tim Hicks.
"Hi, Tim," Bill greeted him. "This isn't a very good time. We're
having a discussion with our daughter."
"This won't take long and, if you've been seeing what I've been
seeing-and I know you have-I'm probably just going to join right in on the
discussion." He turned to Meredith. "Meredith, I want you to know that I
called the studio last night, trying to get them to replace you."
"WHAT?" Meredith said in shock.
"That's right," Tim said grimly. "However, they paid you too damn much
money and I can only fire you if I can prove you breached your contract.
Believe me, I will be combing that contract with a fine-tooth comb over the
next couple of days and I will be watching you like a hawk the next week.
One breach of contract I find, and you are gone."
"Tim? How can you do this to me? I thought we were friends!"
"Yeah, that's what I thought too, until you stormed on my set like a
little prima donna and fucked up my movie. DiNardo hates your guts. I
told this man, one of the greatest actors in Hollywood, that you were a
doll and a pleasure to work with. He now thinks I'm nuts and wants you
gone in a hurry."
"I don't believe this!" Meredith said petulantly. "Why are you all
turning against me?"
"Because we can't watch what you've been doing to yourself since you won
that Oscar," Bill told her. "Tim, you were right, you stepped in on a
"You just don't get it, do you, Meredith?" Tim asked. "Look, Oscars are
wonderful. But I've won five, you've got one, that one was a gift..."
"A GIFT?" Meredith bellowed.
"That's what I said, a gift. It was a weak category this year. Anyhow,
winning an Oscar does not give you license to treat everyone around you as
if they should bow down and genuflect. Like I said, I've got five, and
I've never pulled the stunts you've pulled on this set."
"I really don't see what I've done that's so bad," Meredith said.
Bill and Marie snorted in derision, but Tim jumped in. "I knew she'd
say something like that. So, I've got a little tape here. Call it
Meredith's Greatest Hits. This is some of the stuff you've pulled on this
Tim popped the tape in to the room's VCR, and hit play. What they all
saw was about twenty minutes of Meredith pouting, screaming, ordering,
dictating, and generally making a nuisance of herself. Furthermore, in
that twenty minutes, she mentioned the word "Oscar" more times than any one
of them can count.
"Oh my God," Meredith said, finally realizing.
"And that's just a small snippet," Tim said. "You've got Oscaritis. A
very bad case of it. And if you don't get over it, and in a damn hurry,
this will be the last you ever make, because word gets around." He
softened his voice. "Meredith, I love you. I've always loved you. You're
like my kid sister. But the Meredith I've seen on this set is not only
unlovable, she's unlikable. "
"You gave a speech, at the Oscars, that was one of the most eloquent and
heartfelt ever," Bill interjected. Tim nodded agreement. "Everyone said
that. And, in two months, you've made every word a lie."
"He's right," Tim agreed. "You think about it." He nodded to Meredith's
parents, and left the room.
"Oh shit," Meredith said, burying her face in her hands. "What have I
"You needed to realize, honey," Marie said. "We've been trying to tell
you this since before you left Lamawakka, but you just wouldn't listen."
"You have some fences to mend," Bill added.
"Oh, damn. Lamawakka." She gazed off into space. "I said something
pretty horrific to Josh before I left. I knew I had to break up with him,
but I didn't have to say what I did."
"Why did you have to break up with him?" Marie asked.
"Because I knew I wasn't going back."
"I still think that's not a wise idea. However, like you said, there's
not much I can do about it," Bill said. Meredith just stared into space.
"Honey, what did Josh have me deliver to you?"
Meredith glanced over to the package. She reached for it, and opened
"It's the poetry book," she said with a weak smile. "The one he got
published in. He's got a page bookmarked, must be one of his."
She grabbed the sticky note and read it: "Meri, this poem is for you.
You've never seen this one. I planned on this being a surprise.
Hopefully, you'll read it, and remember what we had fondly. I miss you.
Hands slightly trembling, she took the book and read:
WHY DO I LOVE YOU?
When you smile, the sun comes out. When you laugh, it's summer all the
time. When you cry, you let me in to help When you love, you love me
When I touch you, it opens your heart When you touch me, it makes my
heart sing When I kiss you, I feel the promise Of a thousand sunrises, all
at once When you kiss me, I come alive
You came to my world And let me draw you in You took me to yours And
pulled me in with you
You opened yourself to me And gave me your soul And took mine
When we made love For the first time Sharing what we had never shared
with anyone else I cried
You did, too.
This is why I love you This is why I always will.
"He knew, he knew I cried," Meredith said in a strangled whisper. "He
knew all along. Oh God what have I done? What have I done?" That's when
the floodgates opened. Meredith started crying and couldn't stop.
Her mother, worried, sat beside her and stroked her back. The wails
gradually became strangled sobs, and then just the sounds of Meredith
catching her breath. Marie felt her finally calm down.
"I think I need some time alone," she told her parents.
She spent the rest of the day in the hotel room, ordering room service
for supper, thinking. Crying a bit. She cancelled an outing with some
friends that had been planned for that night, and went to bed early.
THE NEXT DAY
Meredith awoke, bright and early, and went to find Tim Hicks at his room
in the hotel. She knocked on his door and he called "come on in!" She
entered and found Tim and Roger DiNardo sitting at the table, eating
"Hey, kid," Tim said, taking the pleasant approach, hoping for the best.
"You're up early. Eat yet? We've got too much food here."
"Actually, if you don't mind, I think I will. I forgot about
breakfast." She smiled wanly. "But first, there's something I have to say.
Roger, I'm glad you're here. I owe you an apology. When I found out that
I would be working with you, I was thrilled. I thought that working with
Roger DiNardo would be the opportunity of a lifetime. It probably should
have been, but I've fucked it up. I am sorry for what I have put you
through on the set, and I promise you, it ends. Starting right now."
"Apology accepted," DiNardo said. "But words are cheap."
"I know," Meredith replied. She turned to Tim.
"Meredith, you don't have to say it."
"Thanks," she smiled gratefully.
"I just want the Meredith Fowler back," Tim said. Meredith nodded
agreement. "Good. Now sit down and eat something."
"Thanks, don't mind if I do," Meredith said, piling eggs onto a plate.
"I have one other thing to ask you, Tim. Am I still scheduled off for
those days I was supposed to be going to my prom?"
"Yeah. But I was thinking of rearranging, because we're behind a bit,
and you told me you weren't going."
"Well, I'm still not sure if I'm going. I have to make a phone call.
But this isn't the only place where I have fences to mend."
"I see," Tim said. "Yeah, you can still go if you want."
"I want." She sighed. "After how I treated him, I hope that Josh still
TO BE CONTINUED