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TRANSCENDING THE ROLE Part Six By Frank Downey firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith had stared at the phone for hours. Finally, she picked it up
"Hello?" Maureen Wallingford answered.
"Hello, Mrs. Wallingford, is Josh there?"
"Meredith, is that you?"
"Um, well, I'm not sure he wants to talk to you."
"I'm not surprised," Meredith sighed. "I really need to talk to him,
though. Can you, I don't know, convince him?"
"I'm not sure I should."
"I don't blame you, but please. Please. I have to talk to him."
Maureen sighed. "I'll see what I can do." She went and found her son in
the living room. "Josh? You have a phone call."
"Cool. Kylie or Tomasz?" he laughed.
"Neither," Maureen said. "It's Meredith."
"Meredith? What does she want?"
"She didn't say, but she practically begged me to convince you to talk
to her." Maureen took a breath. "Josh, she sounds really upset."
Josh sighed. "All right. I'll take it upstairs."
He tromped up the stairs and picked up the phone. "Hello, Meredith."
"Hi, Josh. How are you?"
"Just ducky. And you?"
"Not so good," she admitted.
"Meredith, why are you calling?" Josh said impatiently.
"I'm calling because-oh, damn, I told myself I wouldn't cry." She
sniffled. "I'm calling because I've made a mess of things, and I'm trying
to clean up my messes. What I said to you, the last time I saw you, was
horrific and unforgivable. All I can say is that I'm so sorry."
"Apology accepted. Was that all?"
Oh, Jesus, she thought, he's not going to make this easy. "No, that's
not all. Josh, I was wondering if you had made other plans for the prom."
"Why do you care?"
"Just tell me."
"No," Josh admitted. "I hadn't planned on going."
"Can you still? Get tickets and a tux? Is there time?"
"Yeah. Meredith, don't tell me that you want to come home and go to the
prom with me."
"Yeah, I do. Why not?"
"Because I couldn't take that!" Josh blurt out, exasperated. "You're
going to come home for a weekend, go to the damn prom, and then disappear
again! How much do you think I can take? Do you realize how badly it
hurts just hearing your voice again?"
"Too bad I don't agree with you, because hearing your voice again is
like a breath of fresh air." Josh started to interrupt, but Meredith cut
him off. "Josh, I can't promise you anything. My future plans are up in
the air. Look, I had a whole pile of awful truths thrown in my face
yesterday, by a lot of people that care about me. It was a wake-up call. I
need time to decide things long-term. I need time to decide what I'm going
to do. However, right now I'm working on the short-term. I have a whole
bunch of people on this set who hate me because I've been such an asshole.
My are disappointed in me." She took a breath. "And the person I
love more than anyone else in the world can't stand to hear my voice." The
tears started again. "Dammmit, Josh, I need to fix this! I can't stand
this! I can't stand what I did, to you, to everyone, but especially you.
Please, please let me try to fix it."
"I don't know how easy this is going to be to fix, but I'll take a
step," Josh said. "I'll make the arrangements. We'll go to the prom."
"Thank you," Meredith said.
"I'm going to try to convince you to stay here, you know."
"That's fine," Meredith said with a watery smile.
"You're not going to be able to hide from me this time."
"I don't want to. I come in on a week from Wednesday. The prom is not
until Saturday. In fact, I think my are going to stay here until
Saturday. I'll be all yours."
"Thanks, Josh." She took a breath. "I got the book. I read the poem. I
"Is that why you called?"
"That's part of it. I'll see you in a week, OK?"
"OK. Bye, Meri."
Meredith smiled at hearing her pet nickname. "Bye, Josh."
THE NEXT WEEK
Meredith showed up on the set with a new attitude. She greeted the cast
and crew warmly on Monday morning, provoking puzzled glances from a lot of
people. She did everything Tim told her to do. She didn't pull any power
At one point, sweating in the Los Angeles heat, she muttered out loud,
"I need a coke." A production assistant, still fearing her wrath, appeared
out of nowhere. "Don't bother, Lisa, I can get it myself," she laughed.
When the makeup person timidly approached her to fix her makeup,
Meredith laughed and joked with her.
After shooting on Wednesday, Tim sidled up to her and said, "Now that is
the Meredith Fowler I know and love. Thank you. Roger's much happier, and
I'm getting better work out of him."
"Tim, thank you," Meredith told him. "That kick in the ass from you-and
my parents, and, in a roundabout way, Josh-was just what I needed. I
didn't realize how tense I was."
"You and everybody else on this set."
"I know, I know," she sighed.
"What happened?" Tim asked. "I always thought you were level-headed."
"I did, too. I really don't know what happened to me. I can't explain
it. It really did just go to my head-and I really didn't see how bad I was
being until you all confronted me. I was oblivious."
"If you're going to work in this business, you have to be on guard for
that kind of thing," Tim pointed out.
"Yeah," Meredith agreed. "It's funny, when I was miserable, and making
every one else miserable, I was so gung-ho to keep working. Now, I've
calmed down, I'm more at ease-and I don't know if I want to do this
"Look, you need to understand something," Tim said. "I read some of
those scripts you gave me." Meredith had gone back to Tim's room on
Saturday and asked him to look over some of the projects she had been
offered. "None of them are you. You have to understand this-you didn't
win an Oscar because you're a diva. You won an Oscar because you are a
gifted character actress. Gifted character actresses never go out of
style. Yeah, if you want to cash in-and I mean that in the most mercenary
of ways-now's the time to do it. However, if you want to be good, those
roles will always be available, even if you take a break to go to school.
Those parts you showed me-those are blatant cashing in. They're peepee
Meredith laughed. "Yeah, I know."
"They're diva roles. Now, do you have the talent to be a leading lady?
Yes, you do, although I don't think that's your strength or ever will
be-but you can do it. However, you'll never be a dive. And, you'll never
be eye candy."
"Well, thanks a lot, Tim," Meredith smirked.
"You know what I mean. Hollywood eye candy. And you're getting the eye
candy roles offered to you. You are only getting them because you won an
Oscar, and you're young. You know what happens if you start to take them?"
"What?" Meredith asked, curious to where he was going with this.
"The Oscar will wear off. You'll be typecast into the eye candy diva
role. But, since you don't really fit Hollywood's standards for eye candy,
the offers you get will demand that you lose fifteen or twenty pounds.
Three years away from an Oscar, for those roles, you'll suddenly become
'fat'. And one of two things will happen-you'll obsess about it, and
become a damn anorexic, or your career will dry up. And the character
actress parts-what you're good at, what got you that Oscar-will never be
available to you again."
Meredith thought about that. "Damn, you're right."
"Look, Meredith, I like your agent-but he's an agent, OK? He sees these
big dollar numbers being thrown about, and he's salivating about his ten
percent. Don't get pushed into any of these roles."
"Thanks, Tim. You're my guardian angel-again," she said, kissing him on
THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY
Meredith enjoyed plane rides. She found it a good opportunity to think,
or to read.
She had just pulled out a paperback she was working on, when the
middle-aged sitting next to her looked over. "Aren't you Meredith
"Yes, I am," she said pleasantly.
"I thought it was you. I saw that you were in, Garret's Gift.
The one you won the Oscar for. You were wonderful in it, and I thought you
deserved to win."
"What are you doing on a plane to Albany?"
Meredith laughed. "I live outside of Albany. I'm actually filming a
movie right now in California, but I'm going home for my junior prom."
"Junior prom? Is that stuff still important to an Oscar winner?"
"Yeah," Meredith smiled. "You know, I forgot for a while just how
"I remember you mentioning a boyfriend in your Oscar speech."
"Yeah. I forgot how important he is, too."
"Putting the career above everything, right?"
"Yeah, lately," Meredith admitted.
"The Oscar went to your head, huh?"
Meredith laughed. "Took a direct route. How did you figure that out?"
"It happens to everyone," the said. "Look, I'm not famous, and I've
never won an Oscar, but I'm an attorney. I'm very good. I've won a lot of
cases, gotten a lot of accolades, got very used to having people pat me on
the back. I work eighty hours a week; I have a pile of money, a big huge
house in the Hollywood Hills. I'm on top of the world." The sighed.
"I'm also forty-five years old, never married, no kids, no life whatsoever
outside of my work. I'm lonely. I'm flying to Albany to see my
parents-because I haven't seen them in twenty years. I finally realized
that they were older, and weren't going to be around much longer. And,
since I've thrown myself into my work, they're all I've got." He looked at
her. "You're young, I know, but do you love this guy?"
"Yeah," Meredith said.
"Really love him? I mean, this could be forever love?"
"Like you said, I'm young, but-yeah, I think so."
"Then, my advice is this-don't let that get away, especially not for a
career." The sighed again. "I was in love in college. Then I went to
law school, and then joined a firm. She kept waiting and waiting, and I
kept promising that I'd bring her out to LA as soon as I got settled in my
career. She got tired of waiting, and somebody else. I just kept
working those eighty-hour weeks. I could have had both. I might not have
been quite as rich, or quite as successful, but I could have had both.
Back then, the damn career was more important. So now I only have that,
and it's not enough."
Meredith looked at him. "Forty-five's not dead, you know. It's not
even that old."
The laughed. "Yeah, I know. And, yeah, I'm working on it. But, I
can't help shake the feeling that Bethany, the in college, was 'the
one that got away'. You might not want to take that chance yourself," he
said, smiling at Meredith kindly. "Heck, you won the Academy Award, so
it's all downhill from there anyhow, right?"
Meredith laughed. "Not when I keep working with Tim Hicks, and he keeps
throwing his five in my face!"
The smiled. "I know Tim Hicks. I've done some legal work for him.
And, you're right, Tim is the most successful-and probably best-actor
working today. But Tim does one a year-two, tops-lives far away from
Hollywood up in Northern California, and has a beautiful and three
"Yeah, I know," Meredith said.
"What I'm trying to tell you is-Tim Hicks got both. Understand me?"
"Yeah, I do," Meredith smiled. "I understand perfectly."
When the plane landed, Meredith was planning to take a cab to her
house-her car was still there. Her had decided to stay in
California and have a mini-vacation until Saturday. So, Meredith was
alone, and was planning to grab a cab.
She didn't have to. She got off the plane, walked into the terminal,
and saw Josh standing there waiting for her.
"Hi. This is a surprise," she said, smiling shyly.
"Hi yourself." He leaned over and gently kissed her on the cheek. Not
quite the welcome she was hoping for, but at least he was here. "Your
parents called, and told me when the flight was coming in. I'm glad they
did. You got luggage?"
"Yeah." They went and fetched it, and walked to Josh's car. They got
in, and started driving.
"Thank you," Meredith said softly.
"For what?" Josh asked.
"For letting me come home and go to the prom with you."
"I just couldn't say no," Josh admitted. They drove in silence the rest
of the way.
When they hit Lamawakka, Meredith said, "Let's stop. I'm starving."
"Pizza or Chinese?" Josh asked with a laugh.
"Chinese. We can pick it up and take it to my house."
"Yeah, OK." They stopped, got the food, and went to Meredith's. They
took the food into her dining room and set it up. He chose the seat across
from her, much to her dismay-but, she knew, they had to talk.
They ate in silence for a few minutes. Meredith found it unbearable.
"I've missed you," she finally said, softly.
"I've missed you, too." He looked at her pointedly. "But I started
missing you before you left. Because you left before you left."
Josh sighed. "It was partially my fault, I know that."
"Your fault? No, Josh, you didn't do anything wrong."
"Yes, I did. I didn't fight." She looked up at him, astonished. "I
didn't argue, I didn't fight, I didn't do much of anything. I saw you
slipping through my fingers, and I just let you go." He took a breath.
"Because I almost expected it. I knew what we had was too good to be true.
You've been too good for me all along. It was an illusion. That poem I
wrote-that one I showed you all those months ago--it was true."
Meredith started sobbing. "Don't you do this, Josh Wallingford, don't
you dare do this! Too good for you? I was an asshole! A spoiled, prima
donna brat asshole. You want to call Tim Hicks and tell him I'm too good
for you? Or maybe my parents? That'd be rich!" She sniffled. "Don't you
dare fucking put me on a pedestal, Josh! That's how I got in this mess in
the first place."
"Okay," Josh said, taken aback. "But, it's done. And if I hadn't put
you on a pedestal, I might have fought for you." He took a breath. "I
never admitted to you that your winning an Oscar blew me away."
"You weren't the only one it blew away," Meredith admitted. "And that's
the problem. It blew both of us away. You panicked, and my ego went
haywire. But the fact remains-the only poem you wrote about me that was
true was the last one."
Josh looked up, startled. Then he smiled. "Yeah, it was true."
"For me, too. If I could write, I would have said the same things."
Then she sobbed again. "Oh, I can't stand this! You're a million miles
away! You should be here next to me, trying to cop a feel as you reach for
the chicken wings! Josh, I'm sorry. I ruined everything. And here we are
having stilted conversation about how we fucked up. I just hate this."
He looked at her for a moment. Then he stood up. "Wait right there,"
he said, and dashed out of the room. She watched him go, dumbfounded, and
then she heard him-in her room. "What the hell is he doing?" she said to
herself, still sobbing, and then he emerged. He took a chair, and dragged
it right over to her. And then he plopped something down on the table. It
was her makeup remover wipes.
"What?" she asked.
"All that crying has made your mascara run," Josh said. He took a cloth
and started wiping around her eyes. "Plus, you've got too much of this
shit on." He started wiping around her cheeks. "I can't see the freckles."
She giggled, and sighed.
Josh had his other hand on her arm. "You're trembling," he said.
"You're touching me."
"We still need to talk."
He was still gently wiping her face with the remover wipes. "I can't
seem to get past the fact that this might be the last time I see you."
"It won't," she said definitely.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I have to keep my options open, if I get offered the role of a
lifetime. But, as it stands now, I'm coming back in September. And, even
if I do get the ultimate role, I'm coming back afterwards." She giggled as
he wiped the makeup off her chin. "And I'd have to be blown away to take
another role right now. But, I'm coming back. I just can't promise for
sure when. And is definitely going to happen." She took a deep
breath. "I'm an actress. I like doing it. But there's no need to do it
every minute. I plan to pick and choose." She smiled at him. "I want
both.C I still want to act, but I want you, too."
"Good. I don't mind sharing. I just don't want to lose you altogether.
And I thought I did." He leaned back and looked at her. "No more makeup.
No more runny mascara. Lots more freckles," he grinned.
She laughed. "Josh, I love you. I never stopped. I just.....
"I love you, too. I didn't forget. But I didn't do much to help you
"OK, fair enough," she said. "I promise not to forget. If you see me
slipping, you have to promise to help me remember."
"I promise. You have to promise one other thing," he told her.
"Actually, we both have to promise the same thing."
"We need to promise to work hard so that your career doesn't become an
obstacle to our relationship," he said. "I'll stop thinking of myself as
unworthy. But you have to realize that I understand that you're not
definitely going to be here twelve months a year. I can wait. You need to
understand that." He sighed. "When you told me you were going to stay in
California, you just assumed that was the end. It wouldn't have had to
"Why, what would you have done?" she asked.
"Put UCLA and USC on my list, that's what. Both have journalism
She gasped. "You would have done that? For me?"
"For us, yeah, I would have."
"Oh, Jesus, I really have been an idiot." She sighed. "But, it's not
necessary. I want to go to college. I made noises that I didn't, but I
do. I've realized that. And I'm applying to colleges here, on the East
Coast. The same ones I said I was applying to six months ago."
"Good. But, understand, if you take a semester off to do a movie, then
you take a semester off to do a movie. I can live with that."
"Probably better than I can. This is hard for me, too," she admitted.
"Maybe I subconsciously realized that, and that's why I broke it off, when
I thought I wasn't going to come back. As it is, the fact that I'm only
here for five days is killing me."
"Well, there's one thing. We're not going a month without talking to
each other again, I guarantee you that. I guess that summer job of mine at
the ice cream parlor is going to pay the phone bills that I plan to run
Meredith laughed. "Call my cel. It's a local number but I have a
national plan, it works fine in LA."
"Good." He leaned over and kissed her.
"Finally!" she said, when he broke the kiss. "Want me to feed you
chicken wings while you fondle me?" she joked.
"I've had enough chicken wings. I want Meri now."
"You've got her!"
Their lips met and it was like she had never left.
The kiss deepened, and she felt his eager hands caressing her breast.
"Ever since I called you, and I knew I'd be coming home today, every
time I thought about you, I got horny," Meredith giggled.
"Yeah, I know the feeling," Josh agreed. He started unbuttoning her
blouse. When he got it off, he started to reach for her breasts, and then
"Y'know, this just won't do," he said. She looked at him questioningly.
He just winked at her, leaned over-and lifted her up out of the chair. She
let out a surprised laugh and then hung on as he carried her from the
dining room into the living room. He set her on the couch, and immediately
dove in at her boobs.
"Good idea," she laughed, "but we could have gone to my bedroom."
"Too far," he said, and she cracked up. She reached for his belt buckle
and unhooked it. He took the hint and pulled his pants down, then went to
work on hers.
"We've got all weekend for foreplay," she told him. "I'm too horny. I
want you in me."
"Happy to oblige," he said. She sat on the couch and he kneeled in
front of her. She spread her legs and he entered her.
"OH YES!" she howled as he filled her. She wrapped her legs around his
waist and her arms around his neck, and pulled him down to her, kissing him
as he moved slowly but steadily in and out of her.
"Oh, man," she moaned as she broke the kiss, "and I thought I could live
without you. What a fool."
"What, you can't get laid in LA?" he teased.
"Not with you," she looked into his eyes, gasping in between words.
"And if it's not with you, it's just sex. With you, it was never just
"I agree completely." With that, he picked up the pace, sending them
both over the edge in no time at all.
She sat back on the couch, spent. He crawled up beside her and wrapped
his arms around her. He kissed her cheek. She was crying.
"I'm glad you're not trying to hide it from me this time," he said
She smiled through her tears. "I never knew you knew, not until that
"I came out of the bathroom and heard you. I let you calm down before I
let you know I was there."
"I was embarrassed. I also thought you might think I was crying because
you had me, being my first time and all."
"I knew you weren't."
"I know that now." She swiped at her tears. "I still feel like an
emotional basket case. I mean, crying after sex?"
"You're not a basket case; you're just emotional. And you lock a lot of
it up. That I can bring it out like this-well, it's a compliment," he
smiled at her.
She smiled back. "Good. You should." She stood up, shakily. "Now,
help me to my bedroom. Being too horny to make it there was exciting, but
once was enough."
"You got it," Josh laughed.
THE FOLLOWING DAYS
They went to the prom that Saturday night, and Josh-true to his
word-found something better than a Limo. Meredith almost fainted from
delight when she saw Josh pull up in front of her house sitting in the back
of the horse-drawn carriage.
When she went back to California, they talked on the phone almost every
night. He flew out for a week at the end of August and visited her on the
set. He even got to hang out with some of the actors-"I can't wait to tell
Tomasz and Kylie that Roger DiNardo and Tim Hicks kicked my ass at poker,"
he joked to Meredith.
In mid-September, she came home.
They both were accepted to Columbia in January.
EPILOGUE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
They were headed to Los Angeles, but they flew to San Francisco, first.
"So, you're back in Lamawakka?" Tomasz asked him.
"Yup. Built a huge house just outside of town. I can't wait for you to
see the place."
"Hmmm. Getting two novels on the best-seller list pays off, I guess."
"Yeah, that and having an overpaid actress around," Josh joked.
"Hey, nobody's more overpaid than football players," Kylie joked,
holding the third-and youngest-Kuzsincsalyi baby in her arms.
"True, true," Tomasz agreed. "The Forty-Niners do pay me well for
destroying opposing quarterbacks."
"Hey, you've led the league in sacks, what, five years out of seven now?
Of course they pay you well," Josh told him.
"Better than they pay the sportswriters. That's why you write books
now," Tomasz teased.
"Well, it was fun, being a sportswriter, but after four years of
following the Sox around the country, it was time to stop, with the
books doing so well. And, we loved Boston, but we wanted to settle in
After a few days of visiting with Tomasz and Kylie and the three, as
Tomasz called them, "Hungarian-Korean terrors," they flew on to LA.
In the same theatre that they had sat in many a time over the years,
they heard a sound very familiar to one they had heard fifteen years
"And the best supporting actress Oscar goes to Meredith Fowler
Meredith, just as delighted and surprised as the last time it had
happened, wrapped her husband in a kiss and waltzed up to the stage.
"Wow, I didn't see this one coming, either!"
She thanked the people that she had worked with, and then said:
"Fifteen years ago, I stood on this stage after I won my first Oscar. I
was 17. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. It's great, but
there are greater."
"Fifteen years ago, I dedicated that award to my and my
boyfriend. Well, my are still here, still the best a could ask for, still supporting me, and I love them very much."
"And my boyfriend is now my husband, Josh Wallingford. You might have
heard of him, he's written a couple books that a lot of people seemed to
like. He's working on his third, I've read what he's done, it's wonderful,
and I keep reminding him that he needs a Pulitzer to go with my Oscar. I
guess now he needs two Pulitzers," she giggled. Nobody laughed harder than
"This is special to me because of him, just like it was fifteen years
ago. But, it's special to me for another reason. I've tried to balance my
work and the rest of my life. I think I've done pretty well. But my life
is about to change, and, because of that, the balance is going to be out of
whack. This will be the last film I'll do for a while. I'll be back. Tim
Hicks told me many years ago that good character actresses never go out of
style, so I'll be back. But not for a while."
"Y'see, in about five months, I've got a new project, more important
than movies." She looked down and patted her slightly swollen belly. "My
husband, beautiful that he is, understands when I disappear for four
months to make a movie. But the new person coming into my life won't."
"So, this is not goodbye, but it is until we meet again. I'll see you
all again sometime. Thank you."
She walked down the aisle to join her husband.