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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.


By Frank Downey

"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."



As pre-arranged, Meredith came over to Josh's house that Sunday

"Hi," she said when Josh opened the door. She leaned in and gave him a

"Hi, yourself," Josh beamed.

"So, do you want me to ask them about this?"

"We both will. Don't forget, you've never even met them."

They walked into the living room, where Josh's parents, Maureen and
Eric, sat.

"Mom, Dad, this is Meredith. This is my Mom, Maureen, and my Dad,

"Oh, it's so nice to finally meet you," Maureen said. "Josh never shuts
up about you."

"Oh, thanks a lot, Mom."

"Isn't that what mothers do best? Embarrass their sons? Hi, I'm Eric
Wallingford." Meredith took the proffered hand and shook it. "Very nice to
meet you. I loved Princess of the Potomac, by the way."

Meredith smiled. "Thanks, Dr. Wallingford. That's the popular one."

"Hey, it's a funny film. And you were wonderful in it," Maureen added.

"Thank you, Mrs. Wallingford. And it's a very funny film, even on
paper. I remember when I first got the script, I almost bust a gut
laughing," Meredith told them.

Just then, there was a rumble down the stairs, and, suddenly, a
10-year-old girl blasted into the room.

"Hey, short stuff," Josh said. "Meredith, this is Hannah, my sister."

"Wow!" Hannah said, wide-eyed.

"Nice to meet you, Hannah," Meredith said with a grin.

"Wow!" Hannah repeated. "Josh really is going out with Meredith Fowler?
I thought it was just a great big story!"

"Yup, Josh really is going out with Meredith Fowler," Meredith laughed.

"A great big story, huh? Jeez, Hannah, do I ever tell you stories?"

"All the time." She sat on the couch next to Meredith, and then looked
at her. "So why on earth would a big star be going out with my dorky

"Hannah....," her father said in a warning tone.

Meredith just laughed. "Because he's sweet, kind, smart, funny, and
very cute." She dropped her voice into a stage whisper. "Oh, plus, I have
a soft spot in my heart for dorky big brothers."

"Oh, great," moaned Josh, as Hannah giggled.

"Hey, you were only supposed to hear the sweet, funny, cute part!"
Meredith said.

"Hey, I'm only going out with you for the freckles," Josh countered,
making everyone laugh.

"The freckles, huh? I thought it because I was so demure and humble."

"Uh-huh. A wallflower, all over, that's you." They beamed at each
other, resulting in amused chuckles from the parents and mock-gagging
noises from Hannah.

"So, Meredith," Maureen said, "Josh said you came over to do some

"A bit. We just wanted to spend time together, too."

"Arrgh. They're probably going to be kissing! Yuck!" Hannah

"Shaddap, kid," Josh told her.

"Yeah, shaddap, kid," Eric agreed.

"Well, the other reason I came over is Josh and I wanted to talk to you
about something."

"OK, shoot," Maureen said.

"I would like Josh to come with me to California. First week in
December. We'd leave probably on a Wednesday, and come back Sunday or

"What do your parents have to say about this?" Eric asked her.

"All for it. They will be there, too, by the way."

"It's her premiere. You know, first showing of her new movie?" Josh
told them.

"Yeah. It's that Saturday night. I have to go into town a few days
early to do some interviews, then they screen the film Saturday night, and
then there's a party. Then we come home."

"I don't know. I don't know if we can fit this into the budget," Eric
told them.

"Oh, that is all taken care of," Meredith said.

"Oh, we couldn't let you do that," Maureen started.

"I asked him to go with me. In fact, I begged him to go with me. I'm
not letting him-or you folks-carry the bag financially."

"And your parents have no problem with this?" Eric asked.

"It's my money. It's in trust until I'm 21, I have to go through my
parents to get it, but, no, they have no problem with me spending my money
on bringing my boyfriend to my premiere."

"Wait a minute. You can afford this?" Josh asked her.

"My next question exactly," Eric agreed.

"Oh boy," Meredith moaned. "Look, I don't talk about this. But do you
realize what actors get paid?"

"I guess not," Josh told her.

"Are we talking thousands?" Eric asked her.

"Try millions," Meredith admitted.

"You.....are a millionaire?" Josh gasped.

"A few times over. I don't spend a lot, and Dad has a stockbroker
friend-my trust is invested."

"Oh Jesus."

"Is this a problem?" Meredith asked him.

"No, not really. I just never thought about it before," Josh said.

"I know, it's just another way we're different," Meredith grumbled.

"Yeah, just that you beat me to it by a few years," Josh grinned at her.
She griinned back in surprise. "Y'see, I'm getting better. I just hope
there's no other suprises."

"Yes you are, and I don't remember any," Meredith told him.

"I must admit, I'm a little worried," Eric said. "You're dating our
son. We don't even know you. How does a seventeen-year-old handle being a

"Good parents," Meredith smiled. "I'm serious. My parents would agree
with you. Look, my dad's a lawyer, my mom used to be a nurse until my
career took off and she quit to be with me on jobs. I do not come from a
show-biz family. That's why we moved here, to put the brakes on a little.
My parents were cool enough to let me do this, and to support me, but they
also know when to get me to back off. I don't spend a cent of that money
without their say-so. I get an allowance every week but it's probably not
more than Josh gets. I used some of the money to by my car, but it's a
second-hand Toyota. The trust could have been open to me at eighteen, but
I agreed to twenty-one, because eighteen is too young. My parents agreed
on me paying for Josh to come with me, because a premiere is a big deal,
but they do not allow me to spend frivorously. That money is put away. It
has to pay for college, and it's a nest egg if my career ever ends."

:"Oh. So you're technically rich, but it's not money you can put your
hands on," Eric said.

"Right. Like I said, I get an allowance, but that's it. Basically, it
cuts my parents more slack than it benefits me, but that's OK," she
giggled. "I also use it for career-related expenses-attending a premiere is
just that."

Josh's parents agreed to let Josh go to the premiere, to jubilation all
around. Then they and Hannah went out for the afternoon, leaving Josh and
Meredith alone.

"You handled that wonderfully," Josh told her.

"I hope so. When I told you how much money I have, I could see the
panic in your eyes."

"That wasn't panic, that was dollar signs. I was trying to figure how
to hit you up for a loan," Josh joked.

"You really are all right with this?"

"I have a confession to make," Josh said. "One of my problems is that I
keep asking myself the same question Hannah asked you." He took a breath.
"I can't tell you how good your answer made me feel."

"It's the truth," she said simply. "Josh, you know, I could ask the
same question."

"What do you mean?"

"Why is a sweet guy like you going out with an overpaid over-adulated
prima donna like me?"

"Same answer. Look, you told me, when I first met you, that you wanted
to be accepted as more than Meredith-the-actress. I did, from the first,
you know. You're not a prima donna. You're more down to earth than I ever
would have guessed. You have a big heart, you know."

"Thanks," she said softly.

"Plus, there's those freckles."


"But you are overpaid!"

"I agree," she giggled. "Kiss me anyway!"

He did. It was a long, slow, kiss, that ended with them sprawled all
over each other on the couch.

"Look, I could enumerate all the reasons I'm crazy about you, but, it
comes down to this. Every time I questioned your feelings, or whether you
could be going out with a nobody like me, or anything, I kept coming back
to one thing-we fit," Josh told her.

"We fit?"

"We fit. It just feels right. Chemistry, or something. We fit

"Yeah, we do," Meredith agreed softly.

"I realized this. I've never felt this comfortable with a
person-especially a female-type person-in my life. Not even Kylie, and
she's like my sister. I think that's why I was able to ask you out. I
think that's why I'm not flinching or getting scared at how much I like
you. It just feels right."

"Do you know how sweet that was?" she smiled, and kissed him again.

"You know what else I realized today?" he said after they broke the
kiss. "I'm actually looking forward to this premiere."

"Oh, am I going to show you a good time!"


Thanksgiving had passed, and Christmas was approaching. Lamawakka had
seen it's first snowfall a week earlier, but Josh and Meredith, plus
Meredith's parents, had just landed far from the snow, in Los Angeles.

"Wow, look at this hotel!" Josh enthused.

"It's some place, isn't it?" Meredith agreed.

"Yup. So what's on the agenda?" Josh asked.

"Let's see. It's noon California time. I have an interview with People
magazine at three, so I need to get freshened up. Nothing else today,
though. Let's find our rooms."

They found their rooms. Meredith was in the middle, with her parents on
one side and Josh on the other. All of the rooms were huge two-room
suites. Josh and Meredith decided to take showers and meet in Meredith's
room in an hour.

When Josh got there, the room was already full. "Josh, this is Mike
Darling, my agent, and Beth Gobel, my publicist. This is Josh Wallingford,
my boyfriend."

"BOYFRIEND? I didn't know about any boyfriend," Mike said.

"You don't manage my love life, Mike, sweetie," Meredith giggled.

"Oh, but this would be great publicity, though!" Beth enthused.
"Meredith Fowler dating normal high school guy! That stuff always makes
good copy."

"Excuse me, I think I'll go hide under a rock, OK?" Josh said, bemused.

"Hey, you show up with her at the premiere, and you're going to be
paparazzi fodder, anyhow, kid," Mike told him.

"I know. I'm going to blacken three of my teeth and make sure to smile
real wide," Josh told him.

"Actually, we were planning for me to wear the tux and Josh to wear the
dress," Meredith joked.

"Yup," Josh agreed.

"Oy veh," Mike grumbled. "Listen, kid," he said to Josh, "don't cater
to her wise-ass side, OK? It doesn't need the help."

"Sorry, it's my favorite side," Josh grinned.

"I'm serious. You want to wreck her career?" Mike grumbled. "You need
to sit down with Beth there and learn what you can and cannot do, if you're
going to be seen with a star like Meredith."

"Oh, Jesus, Michael, lighten up!" Meredith spat at him.

"Look, Meredith, all eyes are going to be on you. You've practically
disappeared from sight. Everyone wants to know what's up."

"Fine. Then they're going to find out what's up. They're going to find
out that I have a real boyfriend, not a Hollywood mannequin. They're going
to find out that I've discovered that I myself am a real person, and not a
Hollywood mannequin. And if it costs me jobs, so fucking be it. "

"What has gotten into you?" Beth asked.

"Real life."

"Why would anyone trade Hollywood for real life?" Mike asked bemusedly.

Meredith smiled. "Look, guys, I'm not about to do anything to embarrass

"And, all joking aside, I wouldn't dream of embarassing her, either,"
Josh interjected.

"Right. But if I read one more interview where I am described as
'serious and sober', I'm going to barf. All the ones from before my hiatus
were like that. I'm happy. Really happy. And a little goofy, because of
it. Live with it, OK?"

"OK, I can see that," Mike said.

"So can I," Beth agreed.


The interviews on Wednesday and Thursday had gone fine, and they were
done early enough on Thursday for Meredith to take Josh to Disneyland, and
then out to eat at one of her favorite restaurants. They then went

Friday morning, however, went a little differently. Meredith was
appearing on The Lisa Kelley show, one of the more popular morning talk

They chatted about the film a bit, and then Lisa lowered the boom.
Meredith and Josh had been seen Thursday, and word had obviously gotten
back to Lisa.

"So, scuttlebutt has it that you've got a boyfriend," Lisa said.

"Yeah," Meredith admitted. "From back home, in New York."

"But he's here with you now?"

"Yeah, he came out for the premiere with me."

"He's not an actor?"

"No, no, no. He's a regular person," she giggled. "I met him at
school. He's sweet, and funny, and just an all around great person."

"He's here, in the studio?"

"Yeah, backstage somewhere, waiting for me."

"I think we should get him on. It could be interesting."

"Oh, I don't know," Meredith demurred. "He's not used to this sort of

"Ah, it will be fun," Lisa said. The studio audience shouted
encouragement. "Look, let's break for a commercial. We can go find him
and ask him. We'll be right back."

"Lisa, he's not going to like this," Meredith said as Lisa hustled her
off stage.

"Why, what's he got to hide?" Lisa sneered. They found Josh backstage.
He had seen the exchange.

"No. No way. I'm not a public figure," Josh said before they had a
chance to say a word.

"He's right. Lisa, this is an ambush," Beth said, as she ran into the
room, Mike by her side.

"Hey, she doesn't want him known, she shouldn't be carting him all over
town. People are curious. I got a pile of phone calls about this already.
She's been seen with him. People want to know."

"They're seventeen year old kids, for Chrissake!" Mike thundered.

"Yeah, and one of them is a Hollywood figure," Lisa countered.

"People can know," Meredith interjected. "I'll tell you anything you
want to know."

"Not the same. He's not a polished Hollywood figure. He hasn't had
people like her"-she pointed at Beth-"whispering in his ear for umpteen
years. Your fans want to know what your boyfriend is like."

"Yeah, so you can get him to say something stupid and embarrass them
both," Beth spat out angrily.

"If she's afraid of that happening, maybe she should choose her
boyfriends more carefully," Lisa said.

"How dare you?" Meredith thundered.

"Just the facts of life, honey. You want to parade him around, he's
going to get exposed. I'd rather have it happen on my show."

"I'll do it," Josh said quietly.

"Huh?" Meredith looked at him.

"Josh, you don't know what you're getting yourself into," Beth said

"Trust me," he said to Beth. "You got what you wanted," he scowled at
Lisa, "now, lead the way."

"Are you sure?" Meredith asked.

"Are you ashamed of me?"

"Of course not! Why would you think..."

"Good," Josh interupped. "And, no, I didn't think, but I wanted to make
sure." He grinned at her. "Let's go show 'em."

"You're amazing, you know that?"

They walked out into the studio together, and the audience, seeing Josh,
broke into applause. They settled into their seats, holding hands. Lisa
listened to the producer count them back in from the commercial.

"Well, we convinced him to come out and say hi. This is Josh
Wallingford, Meredith's boyfriend. Now, Josh, you go to high school with


"In New York, right? In....what is this town called?"

"Lamawakka. It's an Indian name of some sort," Josh told her.

"What's it mean?"

"I don't know what it really means, but the local joke around town is
that it means 'Stop snowing!'" The audience laughed at that one.

"OK. So you're in high school, there."


"And a big Hollywood star comes to go to school there."


"What did you think? Were you immediately trying to move in on the
resident celebrity?"

Josh refused the bait. "No, actually, at first, all the fuss was
annoying. I said to my best friend, 'Who is she, the Queen of England or
something?'" Even Meredith broke up at that one.

"Ah, so it took you a while to make your move."

"What move? I have no moves," Josh said bemusedly. "No, I actually
happened to be there when she was having a rough moment, so I talked her
through it. We became friends, at first."

"I was crying uncontrollably, actually," Meredith admitted. "I thought
I was hiding under the bleachers at the football stadium. Little did I
know that some guy was sitting on top of the same bleachers, writing

"Yeah, and I heard her, without actually knowing it was her. I just
heard a girl crying. I went down to see if she was alright."

"Yeah, and we became friends, and it gradually grew into more than
friends," Meredith said.

"You write poetry?" Lisa asked.

"Poetry, short stories, and I write for the school paper."

"Is that what you want to do?"

"Yeah, journalism first, and creative writing as a sideline."

"So you're not trying to break into movies or TV."

"Well, in ten years, if ESPN offers me a Sportscenter gig, I most likely
won't be turning it down, but that's it." The audience laughed again.

"And I certainly can't help him there. He'll probably have more of an
in with his best friend, the future NFL star, " Meredith joked.

"OK. So, here you are, a normal everyday high school kid, dating a big
star. What's that like?"

"Other than being dragged onto tv shows, it's no different," Josh said
with a knowing grin.

"Ah, but it must be. She's got a lot of money."

"You do?" Josh said, turning to Meredith in mock-surprise. "I don't
know anything about any money. Jeez, honey, you'd think if you had money,
you'd have a car that starts, and I wouldn't have to keep jumping yours!"

"My car's not used to New York." Meredith joked.

"Oh, come on, we all know what actresses get paid," Lisa persisted.

"Actresses under the age of twenty-one get paid into a trust, and my
parents keep a tight reign on mine," Meredith said tightly.

"I think my allowance is more than hers is," Josh joked. "At least, it
seems like I'm always the one that has money for the pizza."

Beth and Mike were watching this from backstage. What had begun as
supreme trepidation had eased somewhat. "You know what? He's doing OK."
Mike said.

"He's doing better than OK," Beth said.

"Now," Lisa was asking, "are you telling me you guys go out for pizza
and stuff, just like everyday high school couples?"

"Are you kidding? She's a pizza hound." Josh joked.

"He's the chinese food hound, so we alternate."

"But our favorite date thing is to go dancing, so we work off all those

"Dancing?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah, he's a terrific dancer. There's a teen dance club not too far
from us."

"And, now that winter's arrived, I plan to get her on skis. Lake
Placid's not too far."

"Yeah, I've agreed to that, but I haven't agreed to his grand plan of
getting me up to Lake Placid and making me go on the luge."

"Ah, it's fun," Josh countered. "Bobsled was scarier. Oh, and I'm
going to teach her to cross-country ski, as there's lots of trails around."

"Which means more calories burnt, which means more pizza!"

"Do you guys go to the movies?"

"Sometimes," Meredith smiled.

"Yeah, it's like a busman's holiday for her. We go to a movie, and she
tells me everybody in the cast that she's worked with." The audience
chuckled. "Me, I go home to my VCR and watch all her movies on an endless
loop, and moon a lot." The audience broke out laughing, as Meredith gave
him a playful swat.

"Now, are you guys serious?"

They looked at each other, and smiled. Then Josh said, "Look, she's my
first girlfriend. No matter what happens in the future, as far as I'm
concerned, 'first girlfriend' is serious by definition."

"Ditto," said Meredith. "Gossip columns to the contrary, he's my first
boyfriend, too."

"Oh, DAMN, that's a good answer!" Beth enthused backstage.

"I'll buy that, but how serious is this? Are you lovers?"

Meredith looked at Lisa with barely restrained fury, but Josh parried
it. "Ah, wouldn't you like to know?"

"I'm sure my audience is curious," Lisa persisted.

"Ah, but since one of the regular members of your audience is my Mother,
she can just stay curious!" The audience broke up at that.

"If you don't answer, though, everyone is going to assume you are."

"Why?" Josh asked reasonably.

"Because if you aren't, you'd say so."

"Maybe in the crazy world of Hollywood, but not in Lamawakka. Listen,
I've told you that she's my first girlfriend. So, if I say we are lovers,
than I'm telling you she was my first. If I say we aren't lovers, than I'm
telling you that there hasn't been a first. My virginity, or lack thereof,
is not fodder for public consumption. And Meredith's shouldn't be,
either." The audience broke into applause at that.

"Well, I see we're out of time," Lisa said with a strained grin on her
face. She quickly signed off the show. Meredith and Josh scooted back
stage as soon as they could.

"Oh, you were fantastic!" Meredith enthused, giving Josh a huge kiss.


"She's right. You were great. You charmed everyone, I can guarantee
you that," Beth told him.

"And that last answer was perfect. You completely disarmed her." Mike

"Yeah, I was the one that almost lost my cool," Meredith grumbled.

"I noticed," grinned Josh. "I would have, too, but I wasn't lying about
my mom watching this show regularly, God knows why. So, I've seen it, and
I know what she's like, so I was half-expecting something like that."

"So was I, but I still got upset."

"She's a barracuda," Josh said, and then turned to Beth. "Why on earth
do you schedule her for shows like this? I don't ask that to be nasty, but
what's the point?"

"Because she's got a huge audience. And, let me tell you a secret-the
audience knows she's a barracuda, and likes when someone gets the best of
her, especially when they're sweet and disarming about doing it, like you
were. Now, I know Meredith mostly holds her own with Lisa and hosts like
her, so I don't hesitate. I didn't know how you were going to do but, like
I said, you were terrific. Both of you were. So, Lisa's audience-who,
remember, knows she's a barracuda-just saw Meredith and her unschooled
un-Hollywoodized boyfriend slap Lisa around, and do it with wit and charm.
Do you know how many new fans you made for Meredith today? Do you know how
many Lisa fans are now going to go see this film because 'that sweet girl with the charming boyfriend' is in it? It's incalculable."

"She's absolutely right," Mike agreed.

"Wow. I never thought of it that way," Josh said.

"I didn't think of it either, but she's right," Meredith said
thoughtfully. "I wasn't thinking about how you going out there would
affect my career-I was thinking about how it would affect you."

"I'm fine. Not something I'd want to do everyday, mind you, but I
actually found it fun."

"You looked like you were having fun," Beth commented. "I'll be honest.
I expected you to be unpolished. You weren't. I was surprised."

"Hey, although I come from a small town, I can be the center of
attention in town. My Dad is not only a doctor, he's the only pediatrician
in Lamawakka, and my mother is the grammar-school principal. As an added
bonus, my grandfather is on the town council, and has been practically
forever. Everybody, and I mean everybody, in town knows who I am. It's
not the same, but I know how to behave myself, and I especially know how to
behave myself in a way that doesn't reflect badly on people who are
important to me that have vixible careers. You think facing Lisa Kelley is
hard? Try going through eight years of grammar school with your mother being the damn principal."

"I can imagine," Beth laughed. They all walked out of the studio
together, and headed to their separate cars. As Meredith and Josh were
walking away, Beth grabbed Meredith and whispered in her ear, "You picked a
winner, you know."

"I know," Meredith beamed.


Meredith had had a few more interviews, but ended for the day at about
three. She and Josh went back to the hotel. Josh had a call waiting from
his Mom, who had, in fact, seen the show, and was babbling when Josh
returned the call.

"How does she see the show if she's running the grammar school?"
Meredith asked him.

"Usually she tapes it, but she has a tv in her office that she keeps on
when she's alone in there. One of the perks of being the principal. Of
course, when she saw you, she stopped to watch., and then she saw me.
She's all a-twitter that I was on TV," Josh told Meredith and her parents after he returned to Meredith's room.

"I'll bet," Meredith's father said. "By the way, congratulations." He
shook Josh's hand. "You handled yourself perfectly."

"Thanks. So, what's up?"

"They're going out for the evening," Meredith told him. "Visiting some
old friends from when we used to live here. They asked us to go but, trust
me, you'd be bored. Heck, I like them, and I would be bored."

"Too many lawyers in the same room," her father joked.

"So, we're on our own," Meredith said.

"Cool. I'm sure we can occupy ourselves," Josh smiled.

"I'm sure you can," Meredith's father agreed. "We'll be late, most
likely-it's a two hour drive to get there."

"OK, we'll see you tomorrow," Meredith told him.

After they had left, Meredith and Josh went to Chinatown. They did some
shopping and grabbed some food, bringing it back to the hotel.

"This outer room or bedroom?" Meredith asked.

"TV's in the bedroom," Josh pointed out. They took the stuff in there
and spread it out on a table in the bedroom. They ate and talked and
watched TV, then ended up on the bed, laughing about their appearance on
the Lisa Kelley show.

"Oh, you should have heard my mom," Josh told Meredith. "She was
saying, 'You go, don't let that witch get the best of you!'"

"You were a champ today. Actually, you've been a champ all week. I'm
so glad you're here."

"So am I."

"You have an inner confidence that took me a while to see."

"Girls throw it. You threw it at first because of who you are."

"I understand about me, but why do girls in general throw your

"That's something that I've never been able to figure out." He smiled at
her. "Maybe I've just been waiting for the right one."

"You're too sweet to me," she smiled. "Anyhow, at least you're not all
tongue-tied around me anymore."

"Well, to a point. There are some things that are still difficult." He
took a deep breath, and turned to her. "But, difficult or not, I can't
keep this in anymore. I realized something this week. We've spent so much
time together, and it's been on your turf, which was, in my mind, the big

"Yeah, that's kind of how I thought about it, too."

"And so we're here, together, for three solid days now." Josh took a
deep breath. "And I know how I feel, and I know I want to say it.
Meredith, I love you."

Meredith lit up like a fireworks display. "You do?"


"Oh what a relief! I'm so glad you said it first!" Meredith enthused,
then her voice dropped. "I love you, too."

"Speaking of reliefs....."

"Uh-huh." She leaned over towards him on the bed, and practically
tackled him into a deep kiss. Then she suddenly backed off and lay down
next to him.

"OK, you took your big chance, now it's my turn." She took a deep
breath. "You know how I got all pissy at Lisa for asking the big question,


"You probably thought I was upset because it was an intrusion into our
private life."

"Yeah. Wait, that wasn't it?"

"That was part of it, that wasn't all of it. The other part of it was,
she asked us if we were lovers. And if I had given her the truth, it was
an answer I didn't like much."

"Huh? I'm confused."

"The truthful answer was no, we're not lovers." Josh nodded. Meredith's
voice got very soft, as she said, "That was the problem. I didn't want the
truthful answer to be no. I don't want the answer to be no anymore."

Light dawned on Josh. "You mean....." he gasped.

"Yeah," she smiled. "I want you. I want you to be my first. And I
want it tonight."

"Are you sure?"

"More sure than I've ever been about anything. Don't you want me,

"Of course I do. I had been hoping that it would happen, with you,
someday. But this took me by surprise. It's kind of quick. We've never
done anything past kissing and making out."

"That's enough," she smiled. "Every time you kiss me, I.....uh, feel
it. Right here." She pointed to her breast. "And right here." She pointed
down between her legs. "And I know you feel it, too, because I've felt
that more than once," she said as she pointed between his legs with a

"Number one problem with being a guy, it's hard to hide," Josh laughed.
"Look, you know I'm a virgin."

"As am I."

"As far as I've gotten with you is as far as I've gotten with anyone,
which means not very far."


"I barely know what to do. This will be the blind leading the blind.
It could be a disaster."

"It could. I'm betting it won't be. Josh, are you trying to talk me
out of this?"

"Hell NO!" he blurted out, causing her to laugh. "What I mean is, not
exactly, I'm just spelling out the facts of life, here." He sat up then.
"Oh, Jesus. Speaking of the facts of life-Meredith, I wasn't expecting
this, and I don't carry around condoms. We can't do this."

She reached up and pulled him down on top of her. "No worries. I'm on
the pill." She started nibbling on his ear. "I want you. I know you're a
virgin, but I also know guys talk about it. girls do, too. I am the only
17 year old virgin in Hollywood, so I've had a lot of girls to talk to. We
have a clue what we're doing. It'll be wonderful." Her kisses moved down
to his neck.

"I'm terrified," Josh admitted, with difficulty.

"And I'm not?" she laughed softly. "I'm terrified. But I also want
you. And I'm in love with you. It's right, Josh-it really is."

Josh made a decision. Yeah, like it was a tough decision, he thought to
himself. He grabbed her face and pulled it up to his, and kissed her, long
and deep. As he was kissing her, his hand moved up to her breast. He felt
her moan underneath his kiss, as she writhed in his grasp. He withdrew his
hand from her breast, ignoring her disappointed groan, and went to unbutton
her blouse.

"I take it that's a yes, then," Meredith said quietly.

Josh laughed. "Was there ever any doubt?"

She smiled, and, as he pulled her now unbuttoned blouse off of her
shoulders, she reached up to the front snaps on her bra and unhooked them.
She shook the bra off of her shoulders, now bare above the waist.

"Oh my God," Josh breathed.

"There's a reaction to be happy about," Meredith giggled. Josh just
smiled at her and kissed her again, pushing her back onto the bed. His
hand went back to her now bare breast. She gasped as his fingers made
contact with her swollen nipple. The writhing and squirming started again.

"Boy are you horny," Josh remarked with a chuckle.

"And you're not? I can feel it with my leg," Meredith gasped. "I'm
usually not this horny. This is all new."


"No, really." She pushed his hand away from her breast. "Stop for a
minute, I need to explain this to you." He stopped, looking at her. "I've
never thought of myself as horny. I don't get all that horny. Look, I've
played with myself, but I've never, ever felt like this. I've talked to
other girls, and they always described to me how certain guys made them
feel, and I never felt it. I had myself half convinced I was frigid." She
looked down. "I guess I was just waiting for the right guy."

"It's the same thing again. We just fit."


"And now that you're all worked up....."

She giggled. "Wait a minute." She reached for the hem of his shirt,
lifting it up over his head with his help. "Now we're equal." She lightly
rubbed her hand over his bare chest. "Peach fuzz."

"Thanks a lot. I never have been able to grow much hair there."

"Like I said, peach fuzz." She looked up at him, a gleam in her eye.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's kind of like freckles." He looked at her for
a second, then laughed out loud.

"C'mere, freckle-face," he said, pulling her towards him. Their mouths
met again, tongues entwined, as she ground her bare breasts into his chest.
He broke the kiss, and then started kissing her cheeks and across the
bridge of her nose-in other words, right where her freckles were-making her
giggle. She kept pushing her breasts into his chest.

"Mmmmm, I think my boobies like the peach fuzz," she whispered.

"That's fair, because all of me likes your boobies."

"Uh-huh." They kept kissing one another all over each other's face, as
Josh's hand slipped back down to a breast.

"You know something?" he said.


"I've had a lot of guys tell me their first time stories."

"Me too, from girls."

"I expected to be scared- but it's going away. I also expected it to be
more awkward than this. Why isn't this more awkward?."

"Well, it's like you said-we fit."


"Plus I'm horny-and your hand is making me more horny-but it's still a
slow burn so I'm not impatient."

"Ditto. My horniness tends to slow burn anyway."

"Unusual for a guy," she giggled. "And, lastly, our pants are still

He laughed, his hand still kneading her breast. "Oh, you think that
once the pants come off, we'll get all self-conscious?"

"Well, you haven't really seen the enormity of my hips and ass."

"What, this thing?" A hand went down to her ass. "Enormous? Who says?"

"Hollywood. I've lost parts because I'm too, er, curvy."

"Fuck Hollywood. I wouldn't sleep with Ally McBeal, that beanpole, if
my life depended on it."

She laughed, delighted. "I knew I loved you."

"Damn right. So, let's get it over with." His hand went to the snap of
her jeans. She helped him slip them off, and he quickly dispensed of her
panties. "Pink. Very cute," he said as he tossed them aside. Then he
looked at her, as she smiled at him, lying on her side propped up by an
elbow. "You naked is the most fantastic thing I've ever seen."

"Thanks. But, I was right, suddenly I feel awkward. I dunno."

"Don't. You're stunning."

"Well, I think it's partially because we're at a position of unequalness
again," she joked. She sat up, and reached for his belt buckle. He helped
her undo it, and quickly stripped off his pants and underwear. He was, no
big surprise, very erect.

"Oh WOW," Meredith gasped.

"I think I like that reaction, too," he laughed.

"Funny how something I've never seen before can instantly make my mouth

"You're an imp, you know that?"

"Yeah." Her hands wrapped around his member. She stroked it for a bit.
"Is this OK?"

"Better than OK."

"I can feel it throbbing in my hand," she giggled.

"Keep that up and you're going to feel a lot more than throbbing."

"A friend told me that if a guy has one know....he'll last

"I, uh, believe that's true.....oh jeez Meredith....."

"I'm doing it right, then?"

"Oh, more than right. Shitshitshitshit oh jeez Meredith I'm
cumming........" And so he did, all over Meredith's hand, as Meredith
looked on in disbelief.

"Wow, so much!" she said.


"Are you alive, sweetie?"

"I'm not sure."

Meredith broke out laughing. "Oh, darn, he's retreating," she said,
looking at Josh's rapidly shrinking cock.

"He just needs a wee bit of a rest."

"Oh. OK. Well, I need some kleenex or something!" Josh looked up and
saw her hand covered with his jism. Some had even squirted out onto her
tit. He reached onto the nighttable, found a box of kleenex, and put it on
the bed where she could reach it. "Thanks, sweetie." She cleaned off her
hand and boob, and then went down to his dick.

"Gentle," he said, "It's really sensitive after."

"Oh." She gently wiped the cum off his crotch, and then, impulsively,
leaned over and gave it a kiss.



"I'll say." She did it again. "You keep that up, and you'll wake him up
in a hurry."

"Hmm. That's good to know," she chuckled.

"Nope. It's my turn. Am I all cleaned up?" She nodded. "Good. Now
you lie back." She did so, grinning at him.

He bent back down to kiss her, as his hand caressed her breast. Then he
started kissing her cheeks, and then down her neck. He continued lower,
until his mouth made contact with a nipple.

"Oh, Josh, mmmmmmm...," she groaned. Suddenly she felt his hand between
her legs, gently stroking up and down her pussy lips. "Oh, wow," she
blurted. "Feels sooo good, sweetie."

Josh was inexperienced, but well-read, so he knew what he was looking
for, even if he had a less-than-precise idea where it was. He pulled his
fingers up her pussy, trying to be smooth and not grope. He got to the
top, and she whimpered a bit. Then he moved his finger up a bit, and hit a
little nub.

"AAAAAAH!" she screamed, as her legs jerked.

"Found it then," he murmured with a chuckle.

"UH-HUH!" she agreed, loudly. He ran his fingers up and down her pussy,
making sure to hit her clit with every upstroke. Her breathing
deteriorated into ragged wheezing. Suddenly, she realized that he wasn't
sucking on her tit anymore, and his head was moving lower. "Wh---what are
you doing?"

"Experimenting," he said simply.

Next thing she knew, his head was between her legs. She felt his finger
probe at her opening, and he slipped it in. "Ooooooooohhhhhh," she moaned.
And then she felt....his tounge? On her pussy? "Josh?" she said
questioningly-and then his tongue hit that spot, just as his finger slid
into her. "FUCK!" she screamed, as her hips rocketed off the bed. His
tongue bore down on her clit, and his finger was joined by a second as it
slipped in and out of her pussy. "OHGODDON"TSTOP!" she screamed as he
worked her over. Her hips bucked, bearing her pussy down on his fingers
and her clit up to his mouth. It didn't take long. "Josh, I'm....oh
my....I'm going to.....," she said in wonder, and then she shrieked, her
hips rising high off the bed, her whole body stiff and convulsing, as her
pussy clamped hard down on Josh's fingers.

He withdrew, and crawled up next to her. He held her hand and gently
stroked her hair as her breathing gradually returned to normal. Her eyes
fluttered open, and she saw him looking down at her, grinning, his face
still slick with her juices.

She chuckled. "Look at you. I think I have to clean you up again."

"Ah, that's not necessary," he laughed.

She got serious. "Let me." On a wild, crazy impulse, she pulled him
down and kissed him deeply, tasting herself on him. Then she kissed all
over his cheeks and chin, encountering herself with every touch. "You made
me crazy,' she murmured into his ear, still softly kissing him, as his
hands worked her breasts over. "I'm still crazy. I'm so turned on I can't
stand it. Every time I kiss you, I can taste myself. It's driving me
wild." She had maneuvered him so he was on his back. As she kissed him,
she crawled on top of him. "I want you. I love you." She straddled him,
and reached back for his fully-awakened member. She rose up on her knees,
and aimed it at her hole.

"You're full of surprises," he said.

"Oh, and you're not?" she laughed. "Like I was expecting that tongue

"I couldn't help myself," he chuckled. He looked at her, perched above
him. "Are you sure you want to do it this way the first time?"

"Yeah. Do you mind?"

"Not at all." He reached out to steady her hips, and helped her lower
herself onto him. She was tight, but very wet, and the head popped in
almost immediately.

"Oh God," she moaned, and slowly lowered herself onto him. Inch by inch
he disappeared into her, until their progress was slowed by an obstruction.

"Ready to take my cherry?" she asked with a gleam in her eye."

Josh laughed. "I must point out that you are in control of that, my

"Too true," she agreed. Closing her eyes and biting her lip, she
slammed down onto him, full force. His cock plowed through her hymen, and
he was all the way inside her in a flash.

"OWWWW!" she bellowed. "Oh shit that HURT!" Tears formed in her eyes as
the pain shot through her crotch.

"Come here," Josh said, and pulled her down on top of him, cradling her
in his arms as she wept a bit, still fully impaled on him. He stroked her
back and her hair as she shuddered. He kissed her tear-stained cheeks and
waited for her to calm down.

"I expected it to hurt," she finally said, "but not quite that much."

"How are you now? Do you want to get off for a minute?"

"Uh, no," she admitted. "It's starting to feel better." She grinned at
him. "How do you feel?"

"Just fine. Desperately trying to control myself, though," he laughed.
Alluding to their first meeting, he said, "Comforting a crying movie star
is a wee bit different when her pussy's wrapped around my dick."

Meredith looked at him, and exploded in laughter. "So, have you been
dreaming of this since that very day?" she asked coyly.

"Not really. Maybe. I can say I've been dreaming of this since that
day you kissed me in the bleachers."

"Yeah, me too," she giggled. "Ready?"

"You betcha."

She steadied herself on top of him. He pulled his knees up, to make a
little seat for her, and brought his hands back up to steady her hips. She
rose, experimentally, up off of him and slowly settled back down.
"Ummmmmm....." she moaned, and then repeated the motion. She started
slowly, getting her thigh muscles used to the motion and getting her pussy used to the penetration. Gradually, she picked up the pace.

"Pain gone?" Josh managed to get out.

"Hell yes," she gasped. "Oh God it feels so good....." Josh looked up
at her. Her breasts were flushed and heaving as they bounced above him.
Her thigh muscles and his hands on her hips worked in tandem, raising her
up almost off of him and slamming her back down. Josh rose his hips up to
meet hers. He could see his dick going in and out of her pussy. He also
saw her engorged clit.

Which gave him an idea. He let go of one of her hips and reached around
and put his finger on her clit.

Meredith howled. She increased her rhythm. The feeling of moving up
and down on Josh's dick while his finger massaged her clit was almost too
much for her. "JOSH!" she screamed, and went rigid, breathing in long
whines, as her pussy spasmed in orgasm around Josh's dick. That was about
all Josh needed. He grabbed her hips again and lifted her off and on him a
couple of times, until he poured his cum into her with a groan.

Completely spent, Meredith flopped forward onto Josh's chest, his
rapidly deflating prick slipping out of her. She purred contentedly as she
rubbed her tits into his chest.

She kissed him. "Thank you."

"Thank you," he replied. "That was.........I can't think of a word.
Some writer I am," he chuckled.

"You get a free pass, your brain is mangled." Meredith laughed. "At
least I hope so, mine is fried."

"Yes, very mangled," he agreed. "I think you short-circuited

"Well, I think you short-circuited everything. Anyhow, the word you
were looking for, is perfect."

"Yes. Perfect. I love you, Meri."

"I love you, too, Josh." Her voice dropped a bit. "Nobody calls me
Meri. I liked it from you."


Meredith was increasingly aware of Josh getting hard again, up against
her leg. "Now, what is that I feel down there?" she teased. "Is somebody
ready to go again?"

"He's got a mind of his own." He caught a glimpse of the blood that had
dripped onto the sheets. "But you must be sore."

"No, not really." His hand was idly stroking her breast. "And less and
less so, as long as you keep doing that." He increased the pressure. "Oh,
Josh, what you do to me."

"Only the same thing you do to me, sweetheart."

"Yeah. Josh, I want it again."

"Your wish is my command." He flipped them over so that he was on top.

"Oh, we going traditional this time?" she teased.

"Why not? Besides, you had your chance to control it."

"True." He slipped his cock into her sopping wet pussy. "YES!" she
howled as he entered her.

It was almost as good the second time. Finally, completely spent, they
fell asleep in each other's arms.


"It's after nine. Meredith has a big day today. I'd better make sure
she's up and about," Marie Fowler told her husband.

"Good plan."

Marie left the room and went to the next door and knocked. "Meredith,
honey, are you awake? Big day today." There was no answer. She must still
be asleep, Marie thought. Well, that's why she gave me the other key to
this room. She inserted the key into the slot, and walked into the suite.
"Meredith?" she called. Seeing nothing in the front room, she walked to
the door to the bedroom.

And stopped dead in her tracks.

There was her daughter, in bed-with her boyfriend curled up behind her.
The covers only came up to about their waists, and they were obviously
naked. Josh's hand was curled around Meredith's breast.

"Oh my God," Marie managed to get out.

Just then, Meredith's eyes fluttered open. She quickly realized where
she was, and sighed happily at the pressure Josh's hand was putting on her
boob. Then, her eyes focused-and she saw her mother, mouth agape, standing
at the doorway.

"Oh shit," she groaned.

"Um, it's OK, Meredith," Marie said, quickly backing away from the door.
"Um, I just wanted to tell you that it's getting late and see if you wanted
breakfast. Just come over when you're...uh, dressed and stuff." Marie
quickly fled the room.

Marie high-tailed it back to her room.

"Is she up?" Bill asked.

"Yeah, I woke her up. I told her to get over here when she got

"Did you tell her to see if Josh wanted to get up and go to breakfast?"

"Um, well, no, but she, uh, won't have to go far to wake him up."


"He was in there with her."

"Oh Jesus," Bill moaned into his coffee. "Did you, uh, walk in on

"Oh, nothing like that, but he obviously spent the night, they were
naked-at least from the waist up-and his hand was around her

"Well, I suppose this was inevitable."

"Yeah. I still had better talk to her, though."

"You want to handle this one solo?"

"I think I'd better."

Meanwhile, in the next room, Meredith was in a full-blown panic. "Josh.
Josh, honey, you've got to get up."

He opened his eyes. "Hello, beautiful."

"Hello, yourself, handsome."

"I love waking up next to you."

"Well, I would have loved it, but we've got a big problem. mom just
walked in on us."

"Oh shit."

"Yeah, that's what I said. I forgot I gave her the other key, just in
case I had trouble getting out of bed."

"What are we going to do?"

"Let me talk to her. She was so flustered, I don't know how she felt
about it." Meredith giggled. "She got a full view of your hand massaging
my boobie in your sleep."

"Oh man oh man oh man."

"Let me talk to her. My parents have always been very liberal about
sex. This might not be so bad."


"They like you, Josh. Don't worry. I'm going to take a shower."

"Damn. If we didn't have this little problem, I'd ask you if you wanted

"If we didn't have this little problem, I'd say yes." She giggled, and
walked away from the bed, seductively wiggling her bare ass. "So, hold
that thought, lover," she said over her shoulder and disappeared into the

"I'm going to go back to my room and take my own. Come get me after you
talk to your mom, OK?"

"OK," she called from the bathroom.

Meredith showered and dressed in record time, and went and knocked on
her parents' door. "Hi," she said shyly as her mom opened the door.

"Hi. I think we need to talk."

"Yeah, I figured as much."

"Is Josh still in your room?"

"No, he went back to his own."

"Let's go to yours, then. I told your father I'd talk to you."

Meredith opened the door to her room and let herself and her mother in.
"Um, does Daddy know?"

"Yeah, I told him." They sat on the couch in the front room of the
suite. Meredith poured them each a cup of coffee.

"First of all," Marie began, "did you forget you gave me the other key?"

"Yeah," Meredith said sheepishly.

"You know I'd never violate your privacy unless I had permission to do

"Yeah, Mom, I do know that. I completely forgot, and I don't blame you
for coming in at all."

"OK. Now, did I see what I thought I saw?"

"Um, I think so."

"In other words, you two didn't spend all night in the bed sleeping."

"No, we didn't," Meredith admitted.

"Was that your first time?"


"OK. I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. The most
important thing I want to know is, did he pressure you or coerce you at

Meredith looked at her mother. "Mom, I think you know Josh better than

"Well, I thought I did, I'm just making sure."

"No, he didn't pressure me." Meredith started laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"I don't think I can tell you," Meredith said, still laughing.

"Honey, you can tell me anything. You know that."

"OK. No, Josh didn't pressure me, in fact, if anything, it was the
other way around."


"No, I didn't pressure him, but it was my idea." Meredith's mother just
gaped at her with that one. "Sorry, but it's true. I told him I wanted

"Well, how do you feel now? The morning after is the true test, you

"Well, I'm a little sore."

Marie laughed. "That's not quite what I meant." Her eyes narrowed. "He
hurt you?"

"Well, I thought the first time always hurt."

"Yeah, but not usually that you feel it the next day, unless the guy is

:"No, he wasn't rough. He was gentle."

"So, you shouldn't be sore. I'm a little concerned about that."

"Um, well," Meredith murmured, "he was gentle, but he was gentle three

"Three times?" Marie couldn't help but laugh at that.

"Yeah. Twice one after the other, and then we kinda woke up at three in
the morning and did it again."

"Ah. That explains that. However, when I first asked you how you felt
now, I was thinking more about how you felt mentally."

"I'm not sure what you mean, Mom."

"Any regrets? Second thoughts? Letdowns? Are you OK with what

Meredith smiled. "I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

Meredith took a deep breath. "This is hard to talk to with my mother."

"I know, honey. Look, your father was right-this was inevitable. I
knew you and Josh were going to sleep together eventually. However, it was
kind of quick, and I just want to make sure there isn't any kind of
psychological damage-and that kind of damage starts with regrets."

"OK, then I'll tell you." Meredith took a deep breath. "No regrets. No
second thoughts. I'm up there somewhere," she pointed up in the air,
"floating, on a cloud. Mind-blowingly fantastic doesn't even cover it. It
was perfect. In fact, running through my mind right now is how I can get
you out of here, go down and inhale breakfast, and get Josh back in here
and jump his bones again before I have to get ready, soreness be damned."

Marie broke into laughter at that. "Well, I guess I don't have to worry
about your mental state."

"Nope," Meredith agreed, "not unless euphoric is a psychological

"I don't think it is," Marie chuckled, then sobered. "Meredith, do you
love him?"


"Does he love you? Has he ever said it?"

"Yes, and yes."

"Before or after?" Marie chuckled.

"Before. Before the subject even came up, in fact. And he said it

"Good for him." She touched her daughter's cheek. "You're still young.
I worry."

"Mom, when I first got into films, you knew what Hollywood was like
enough to put me on the pill when I was fourteen. And I'm seventeen, now.
Lots of girls would have just gone for it at fourteen, with the first
available boyhunk. Do you know how many other Hollywood kids my age are
virgins? Precious few. Do you know how many opportunities I've turned
down? A whole hell of a lot."

"I knew, or suspected, a lot of that. Meredith, I trust your judgement,
I do. It's a mom's prerogative to worry."

"I know."

"I'll try not to."

"Mom, I love you. Thanks for understanding."

"You want to know a secret?" Meredith nodded yes. "I was sixteen my
first time." Meredith broke out laughing. "Go get your paramour, and I'll
go get your father. I'm starving!"


Breakfast was fine, much to Meredith's and Josh's relief. They lingered
over it, chatting.

Meredith's parents decided to go shopping for the afternoon. Meredith
quickly led Josh back upstairs and into her room.

"We've got a little over two hours before my makeup artist and
hairdresser get here."

"Ooh la la. Makeup artist and hairdresser, on call for the Hollywood
star. Color me impressed."

"Oh, you!" She tackled him onto the bed. "Like I said, we've got a
little over two hours to kill. Any ideas?" she said with an impish grin on
her face.

"We could watch TV," Josh said with a straight face.

"Not exactly what I had in mind." She abruptly pulled her shirt over her
head. "I thought you could watch these, instead."

"Meri, you're insatiable."

"Seems that way," she agreed. "I've been thinking about this all
morning. You drive me crazy." She reached behind herself and unhooked her

"Oh, man, you drive me crazy, too."

"All of me, or just my boobs?" she joked.

"All of you. Every square inch of you." She reached out to him and
pulled his shirt over his head. "Everything about you drives me crazy."
She smiled at his words, as she reached for the snap on his jeans.

"Good." She pulled his jeans down, and quickly ripped off his underwear.
"Every square inch of you drives me crazy, too. But I must admit a certain
affection for this," she said as she grabbed his cock.

"Uh-huh." He reached over and undid her pants, and quickly she was as
naked as he was. They snuggled on the bed, kissing and fondling.
Suddenly, she started kissing her way down his neck and chest. She planted
one on his nipple.

"Hmmmmmm," he moaned happily.

"Oh, I love all this peach fuzz," she said, running her fingers through
it while she nibbled on his nipple. Then, she started lower, kissing all
the way down his chest and his stomach.

"Um, Meri, what are you doing?"

"Repaying the favor from last night," she replied with a twinkle in her
eye, and, the next thing Josh knew, her mouth was wrapped around his dick.

"MEREDITH!" he cried out, as her mouth engulfed him. She rapidly moved
up and down his shaft with her mouth, moaning softly and happily as she
watched Josh's arousal escalate from his first ever blowjob.

"Oh, God, Meri, you'd better stop."

"No way," she said, then went back to sucking his dick.

"Oh, shit......MERI?" he cried, as she felt his dick expand in her
mouth. The first pulse of jism hit her in the back of her throat. She
quickly swallowed, trying to keep up, but it came so fast that she had to
disengage and let the last ropes of cum smack her in the face.

"Uhhhhh," Josh moaned.

"Oh, I love how my boyfriend, the writer, gets all incoherent after he

"Be nice." Josh grumbled good-naturedly. He opened his eyes, and saw
her face above his, beaming at him. "Speaking of paybacks," he said, and
pulled her, surprising her, down to him, kissing her. This time, he could
taste himself all over her face.

She rolled over and pulled him down on top of her. "Josh, make love to
me. But be gentle, OK?"

"Are you sore?"

"A little."

"We don't have to do this. I have other methods," he grinned.

"I want to do this. Believe me. Just, be gentle."

He was. It was long and slow and glorious. After they were done, they
made up for the morning and took a shower together, lovingly washing one

Josh spent the rest of the afternoon reading a book, bemusedly watching
as Meredith's makeup person and hairdresser worked her over.

"Do me a favor," Meredith said to the makeup artist. "Don't cover up my
freckles." She looked at Josh and they beamed at each other.


Josh knocked on Meredith's door. She opened it, and he almost stopped

She was wearing a cranberry-colored dress. It had spaghetti straps, and
dipped low enough to show an impressive amount of cleavage. It was tight
around her body, and ended below the knee. It was sleek and sexy, and
looked fantastic on her. Her hair had been curled, and was pulled up on
her head. The makeup job was professional and thorough and made her look
even more delectable-but Josh could still see the freckles.

"I think I'm going to faint," Josh managed to get out.

"I'm glad you like it," Meredith giggled. "You don't look too bad
yourself," she said, appraising the way he filled out his tux. "Very

"I heard a joke once, I forget where, but I agree with it. Walking
around in a tux makes me want to go up to people and say, 'Bond.....James

Meredith exploded in laughter. "Ah, and would that make me Mister
Bond's femme fatale du jour?"

"Something like that."

"You're delicious," she giggled, wrapping him in a hug. "I'd kiss you
all over," she purred, "but I don't want to wreck my makeup."

"You just hold that thought."

"You got it. Er, my mom promised not to barge in tomorrow morning."
Josh looked at her and exploded in laughter.

"It's like I flipped a switch or something," Josh chuckled.

"Yup. Don't tell me your switch hasn't been flipped!"

"Well, uh, yeah."

"That's what I thought." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "Come on,
lover, let's go watch my movie." They walked out of the suite and headed
for the elevators.

"We're not getting your parents?" Josh asked.

"They're meeting us there. They figured they'd leave the Grand Entrance
to the two of us," Meredith giggled.

They walked through the lobby hand-in-hand.

"Hey, that's Meredith Fowler!" they heard a girl say as they passed her.

"Who's the guy with her?" another girl asked.

"I don't know," the first girl said, "but he's a hunk!"

Meredith looked up at Josh. "Sweetie, you're blushing!"

"I don't know if I'm ever going to get used to this."

"You don't have to. I like watching you blush." She grinned at him.
"C'mon, hunk, let's go catch our ride." They walked outside the hotel.
Meredith looked around until she found a limo driver that had a sign that
said "Meredith Fowler".

"There's our guy," she said. "Hi, I'm Meredith Fowler," she smiled at
the limo driver.

"Right this way," he said, leading them to his limo.

"A limo?" Josh asked.

"Of course. One must travel to these things in style," Meredith teased
him as they got in.

"I take it you've ridden in a lot of limos," Josh asked her as they
settled in.

"A few."

"Hmmmm. If limos are old hat to you, I'm going to have to think of
something new and exciting for the prom."

"The prom?" she asked.

"Yeah, I know it's a ways away, but it popped into my head when I saw
this limo."

"Now I'm looking forward to it." They laughed. "I may be making a movie then, though-the latest schedule I saw would mean I'd have to come out here
in May. I'll put it in my contract that I fly home for the prom, though,"
she said with a giggle.

"Look, Meri, I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I know this
is what you do. I'm proud of you."

"Thanks," she beamed. "But I hear a 'but' coming."

"Just that, after all we've shared, I can't help thinking that being
without you the whole summer is going to be a bitch."

"Believe me, I've thought the same thing. We'll figure something out. I
can fly you out here for a week if I have a slow shooting schedule, or

"I'd like that."

They pulled up in front of the theater. "Ready for the paparazzi?"
Meredith asked him.

"No!" Josh laughed.

"Too bad. Let's make our entrance." The limo driver helped them out,
and they started towards the theatre. Flash bulbs were popping, and there
were lots of people lining the entrance. People, including the
photographers, turned toward them as Meredith's name was called out. She
smiled and waved.

"Take a deep breath and smile, my love. It's OK," Meredith told Josh,
taking his hand in hers. They walked through all the commotion towards the
theatre. Meredith walked confidently, smiling and waving. Josh was tense
and uneasy, and Meredith sensed it. She squeezed his hand as reassurance.

"Hey, Meredith, nice dress!" someone shouted from the crowd.

"Thanks," she yelled back.

"Hey, Meredith, nice date!" someone else shouted.

Meredith let out a bark of laughter, and looked over at Josh, who was
blushing profusely. Meredith smiled at him, wrapped her arm around his,
snuggling up next to him. She looked over into the crowd, where the
original shout had come from, and playfully yelled "MINE!" She walked him
through the doors to the theatre, leaving the laughter of the crowd behind

"There," Meredith giggled at him in the foyer, "that wasn't so bad, was

"Yeah, right."

"I love it when you blush," Meredith whispered. They were quickly led
to their seats, and settled in.

They watched the movie, which was very good, and Meredith was gratified
by the enthusiastic applause from the premier-goers. She was even more
gratified when Josh leaned into her and whispered in her ear, "Damn, are
you good."

Josh was a bit more at ease with the paparazzi going out of the theatre,
and they quickly piled into the limo to go to the party.

"Where's this party, anyway?" Josh asked.

"Dan Aufberg's house. He's the producer."

"Yeah, I've heard of Dan Aufberg."

"Wait till you see his house."

"Am I about to be overwhelmed?"

"Most definitely," she giggled. "Don't feel bad, I am overwhelmed by
this palace. But Dan's a really nice guy, so he thinks it's funny."

The limo drove through Beverly Hills before pulling into-well, Josh
could only call it an estate. They went up the drive, and pulled up in
front of the biggest, most opulent house Josh had ever seen.

"Oh my," he said in wonder, "you could fit all of Lamawakka in this

"I know, isn't it grand?" Meredith giggled. "Come on." They walked into
the huge foyer. There was a doorman at the huge room where the party was
mostly being held, and Meredith handed him their invitation. She had
earlier taken it and crossed out "Guest" and written Josh's name.

"Meredith Fowler and Joshua Wallingford," the doorman intoned. Josh
looked at Meredith in surprise.

"Never been announced before?"

"Well, no."

"You've got a great name for it. 'Joshua Wallingford,'" she intoned in
a mock-bass. "It sounds like an old English noble's name. It should be
Sir Joshua Wallingford, that would be even better."

"You're a nut, you know that?"

"HEY BIG TALENT!!!" Someone bellowed from across the room. Josh looked
up, and saw a portly, fiftyish gentleman with a graying beard hurrying
towards them. "So glad you made it!" He kissed Meredith lightly. "You
made that movie, honey. You made it. It's all you."

"Dan, you're a sweetie. Dan, this is my boyfriend, Josh Wallingford.
Josh, Dan Aufberg."

"Hey, Josh, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Aufberg."

"Call me Dan. In my house, you call me Dan."

"He's a little overwhelmed by your house, I think," Meredith teased.

"Ah, it's just a house," Dan demurred.

"Just a house," Josh said. "Riiiight."

"Welcome to Hollywood, kid," Dan teased. "Hey, Meredith, show him a
good time. Drinks are over there, food's over there, we've got a dance
floor. Have a ball." He hurried off to greet someone else.

"Let's get something to drink," Meredith said, leading Josh over to the
bar. "I'm going to have wine. You want some?"


"This is a private Hollywood party, sweetheart, nobody checks ID's," she
whispered with a giggle. She ordered two wines. "Here. You need to
relax. I thought you were OK with what I do."

"In the abstract, yeah. Faced with it? I'm afraid I'm going to do
something stupid and embarrass you."

She put her wine down on a table and grabbed his face. "Look at me.
Nothing you can do would embarrass me. Understand that? I love you. Be

"I'm afraid I'm going to gush."

"So gush," she laughed. "You think I didn't, the first one of these I
ever went to?"

"You gushed? I figured if you were in the business, you wouldn't gush."

"Oh, the first one I ever went to, I had stars in my eyes."

"Happens to all of us," another voice said, and Josh saw a tall, slim
guy of about 19 stroll up behind Meredith.

"Christian!" Meredith said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Josh,
Christian Houle. Christian, Josh Wallingford, my boyfriend."

"Hey, nice to meet you," Christian said, taking Josh's hand. "So, you
finally found a guy to keep up with you, eh?" he joked to Meredith.


"Nice to meet you, too, Christian," Josh said. "I liked you in the

"Even if I did have a love scene with your girlfriend?" Christian
teased. Josh just blushed. "Hey, it was tasteful, right? Let me tell you,
Josh, your girlfriend here is a hell of an actress. That was a fun movie to do."

"Oh, you flatterer," Meredith teased him.

"Just telling it like it is, ma'am. Hey, come with me, we've got a
table." He led them over to a table with a petite blonde sitting at it.
"Hey, Lara!" Meredith greeted.

"Hi, Meredith!"

"Josh, this is Christian's girlfriend, Lara Dumont. Lara, this is my
boyfriend, Josh Wallingford."

"Nice to meet you," Lara said.

"Likewise. You were in that Shakespeare update, weren't you? You were
terrific in that."

"Thanks!" Lara beamed. "So, Meredith Fowler has a boyfriend. I'm
shocked. You do know, I hope, that the gossip was that the betting was
that you were gay."

"Yeah, I know," Meredith grinned.

"You too? You never told me that," Josh said. "My school friends used
to say the same thing about me."

"Didn't date, didn't show any interest, et cetera?" Lara asked.

"Yeah. I told them I was waiting for the right girl. They didn't
believe me until I found her."

"Ditto," agreed Meredith.

"Oh, that's so sweet," Lara cooed.

" You want to sit with them, honey?" Meredith asked.

"Sure," Josh said, "as long as you dance with me later."

"Of course," Meredith agreed. "However, for now, let's put our wine
down here for a minute and go find Tim Hicks. Save our seats?" she asked
Christian and Lara.

"Sure," Christian replied. "Tim's over there holding court in the
corner, by the way."

"Cool. Come on," Meredith pulled Josh across the room.

"Meredith!" Tim shouted out as he saw them approach. "Get over here!
You had me spellbound on that screen tonight." She hustled over and gave
him a kiss. "You were the emotional center of the whole thing. I'm
telling you, that's a career-defining performance. You're going to get an
Oscar nomination out of this."

"You're nuts," Meredith laughed. "Sweet, but utterly nuts."

"Mark my words. Oscar nomination."

"No way."

"Way," Tim said goofily, sticking out his tongue. "You will be reminded
of this conversation, and your lack of faith in me, when the nominations
come out." He looked over at Josh. "So, this is the gallant young man who
defended your honor so well on the Lisa The Witch Kelley show yesterday."

Meredith cracked up. "This is he. Tim, Josh Wallingford. Josh, Tim

"Good job, kid. Fending off that blood-sucker like that," Tim said,
shaking Josh's hand.

"Thank you. It's a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Hicks. I'm a big fan."

"Thanks, I like fans, but call me Tim. Mr. Hicks is my father, and I'm
not that old." Meredith broke out laughing. "As for you, young lady, you
ought to be ashamed of yourself," Tim continued. "Letting old battle-axe
Kelley get the best of you like that. Yes, I noticed."

"Damn, I thought I covered her," Josh said.

"You did," Tim agreed, "but I know Meredith quite well, and I could tell
just by the way she clenched her jaw that she was about to explode. To
someone that knows her, such a reaction is very rare, but very noticeable."

"I noticed only because I was holding her hand and she almost broke my
fingers," Josh chuckled.

"That'll do it," Tim agreed. "So, are you guys lovers?"

"We weren't then," Meredith smiled sweetly. "We are now." She led Josh
away. "See you later, Timmy." She walked away from him, hearing his
chuckle as she left.

"Uh-oh," Meredith said, looking up at Josh, who was, again, blushing.
"Sorry. I probably shouldn't have said that."

"It's OK. He's your friend."

"Look, I'll tell you the truth. I had to resist the urge to start
screaming 'this wonderful guy took my virginity last night!' as we were
walking into the theater."

Josh cracked up. "You too, huh? Look, I'm discreet, and I don't share
my private life too easily with too many people-but, I confess, I can't
wait to tell Tomasz and Kylie."

"I tell Tim everything. He's like the older brother I don't have. Much
older brother, but that's OK," she giggled.

"I really didn't mind. If only I could control this blush."

"I like it," she giggled. "Anyhow, I've worked with Lara before, and
she hung around most of the summer to be with Christian because she wasn't
doing a movie then, and we've become very close. If she gets me alone, the
subject's going to come up."

"That's fine."

They got back to the table. "So, how is the esteemed Mr. Hicks?"
Christian asked.

"He's fine. He's a nut. He's trying to convince me I'm going to get an
Oscar nomination out of this one," Meredith told him.

"I can see that," Lara agreed.

"I don't know nothing about the Oscars, but you'd get my vote," Josh

"Yes, and you're completely unbiased," Christian teased him. "Hey,
Meredith, I have to say, Tim's got a point. That was a powerful
performance. And, you have to admit, Tim knows a little bit about the
Oscars. How many of those things has he won?"

"A lot," Lara said.

"Five," Josh said. "Four as an actor, one as a director."

" I've found out that Josh is a bit of a film buff," Meredith laughed.

"Not as much as my best friend Tomasz, but close," Josh agreed.

"Oh, now we know why you're dating a big Hollywood star," Lara teased.

"Actually, he's not impressed by my celebrity," Meredith told them.

"I am impressed with her acting, but that's different. I'm impressed by
Richard Dreyfus's acting,, too, but I wouldn't date him," Josh joked.

"He likes good storytelling. He's an aspiring writer," Meredith said.

"Cool!" Christian enthused. "So, you like movies because you like a
good story."

"Right. Although, I must admit, I'm more into the classics," Josh told

"Really? Me too. What's your all-time favorite?" Lara asked him.

"Casablanca. Bogie was the man."

"That he was," Christian agreed, raising his glass in salute.

"Who's your favorite contemporary actor?" Lara asked Josh.

"Besides the one I'm dating?" Josh joked, earning a kiss on the cheek
from Meredith.

"Yeah, besides her," Lara laughed.

"I just met him. Well, him and Dreyfus."

"Tim's wonderful," Meredith agreed.

"And here he comes," Christian pointed out.

"Hey, kids," Tim greeted them. "Meredith, I forgot to ask you. Did you
get the script?"

"Yeah. It's marvelous."

"That shooting schedule work for you?"

"Yup. I've already told Mike to start negotiating. However, I will
need five or six days off in June. I'll get you the exact dates."

"Oh, really? And why is that?" Tim asked her.

"Why, my junior prom, of course," Meredith told him.

"You're going to disrupt my shooting schedule for the prom???" Tim asked
in mock-indignation.

"Damn right I am. I'm going to make sure it's in the contract,"
Meredith told him.

"Hey. You're stealing her away from me for the whole summer. I'm
putting my foot down about the prom," Josh said.

"OK, OK, I know when I've been beaten." Tim raised his hands in
surrender. "No, I'm just kidding. There are plenty of scenes in this film
that you're not in. Get me the dates, we'll work it out."

Tim left, and the foursome continued chatting. Josh and Christian
discovered a mutual love of baseball, and were animatedly discussing it.

"Sports," Lara snorted. "Hey, Meredith, come powder your nose and leave
those two to the sports talk."

"OK," she said, and got up. They headed to the powder room. "I can't
give Josh a hard time about sports, he wants to be a sportswriter."

"Oh, I thought he wrote fiction," Lara said.

"He does. Fiction, and poems, but he also does work for the school
paper and wants to go to school for journalism. He told me once he
wouldn't mind general reporting, but he really wants to report sports. He
plans on doing creative writing as a sideline."

They got into the powder room and leaned over the mirrors, touching up
their makeup.

"You really like this guy, don't you?" Lara asked.

"Well, it's gone way past 'like'," Meredith admitted.

"You're in love with him?"


"Him too?"


"Hmmm. Do I get any dope out of this?"


"Gossip. Dope. Revealing personal details. You know. Exactly how
much do you love him?" Lara asked with a smirk.

"Exactly that much," Meredith grinned at her.

"Are you telling me that Meredith Fowler surrendered the cherry?"

Meredith laughed. She loved Lara, but knew Lara could get crude when
she wanted to. "Yes, Meredith Fowler surrendered the cherry. Last night,
as a matter of fact."

"Ah. That explains why you're glowing. It also explains why you're
walking a little funny."

Meredith burst out laughing. "Am I?"

"A wee bit. So, how is he?"

"You're a pig, Lara."

"Hey, I've given you many intimate details about Christian and me."

"True. How is he? Oh. My. God. That's how he is."

"Good for you."

"I was surprised, to tell you the truth, considering he was surrendering
the cherry at the same moment I was."



"So, are you in that 'I can't get enough' stage, yet?" Lara teased her.

"Let me see. We had the grand deflowering last night, then we did it
right away again, and then we woke up a three in the morning and did it
again. And then we did it again this afternoon, and when we went into the
shower to clean up from doing it this afternoon, we did it again. Answer
your question?"

"My word, girl, no wonder you're walking funny!"

Meredith broke up, and they left the powder room.

"Oh goody. The band started up, and here comes my dance partner," Josh
said as the girls came back to the table.

"He's a terrific dancer. We go out dancing all the time," Meredith told

"Shall we?" Josh asked, taking her hand, and led her to the dance floor.

"So, what do you think?" Meredith asked as they danced.

"Hm, what do I think. Well, this house is unbelievable. Christian is
really cool, and Lara seems nice, too. Your movie rocked. And I met Tim
Hicks, and found out that he is pretty cool, too. All in all, a good

"Glad you're enjoying yourself."

"Did you tell Lara?"

"Yeah. She said now she knows why I'm walking funny." Josh just gaped
at her, and then exploded in laughter.

They spent the rest of a perfectly wonderful evening dancing and
talking. Then they went back to the hotel room and made love.

The next day, they were back in Lamawakka.


Josh joined Kylie and Tomasz for lunch. Meredith had a meeting with one
of her professors, leading her to joke with Josh that morning about having
to "spill all the details" by himself.

"So, how was the weekend?" Tomasz asked.

"Must have been eventful. mom told me all about your appearance on the
Lisa Kelley show," Kylie giggled.

"Yeah. Boy, she's a bitch. Anyhow, outside of that, it was fun. Even
Lisa Kelley was kinda fun, because I got to watch her squirm."

"Didja meet all kinds of stars?" Tomasz asked.

"A few. You guys will be happy to know that Tim Hicks is that nice of a
guy. I really liked him."

"Cool," said Tomasz.

"We sat, at the party, with Christian Houle and Lara Dumont, and they
are great, too. Christian knows as much about baseball as I do," Josh

"Now that is saying something," Kylie giggled.

"Did you get to do any exploring? Meredith show you around?" Tomasz

"Yeah, we went to Disneyland. She took me to a couple of her favorite
restaurants. Oh, and that party? It was at Dan Aufberg's house, you know,
the director and producer?" Tomasz nodded. "He produced her film. Anyhow,
guys, you should see this house!"

"A mansion, eh?" Kylie asked.

"Just calling it a mere mansion seems inadequate," Josh giggled. "I
liked Dan, too. He's larger than life, so the house suits him."

"Any bad spots?" Kylie asked, knowing his fears.

"Not too many. She got recognized a few times, but not too bad. The
worst was going into the premiere, with all the flashbulbs and the crowd,
but even that wasn't too bad." He grinned. "Someone yelled out 'nice dress
Meredith' as we were walking in, and then someone else yelled out 'nice
date, Meredith.'"

"Knowing you, you blushed bright red," Kylie said, laughing.


"What did Meredith do?" Tomasz asked.

"Grabbed my arm and yelled 'Mine!'"

Tomasz and Kylie collapsed in laughter. "Good for her!" Kylie said.
"So, you went to the Land of Oz and came back the same old Josh, intact.

"Well, not quite. Not completely intact. I did lose something on the

"What?" Kylie asked. "Your fear of Meredith's lifestyle?"

"No, that was already gone."

"So what did you lose?" Kylie asked.

"Um, my virginity," Josh said softly.

"What?" Kylie said, not quite believing what she thought she heard.

"Meredith and I made love this weekend." He grinned at them.
"Repeatedly, in fact."

"Wow," Tomasz said. "You've been going out, what, two months? I am

"It took you guys a month, tops," Josh pointed out.

"Well, that's us," Kylie said. "You are usually so slow and deliberate
about things like this."

"And wasn't Meredith a virgin, too?" Tomasz asked.

"Yeah, she was. It just felt right. She asked first, I was going to
say no?" Josh laughed.

" She started it?" Kylie said, amazed.

"Yeah. But I said Those Three Words first-and I said them before we had
sex-so it's even."

Kylie gasped. "You told her you loved her?"


"Oh my God, the world has stopped spinning on its axis," Kylie teased.
"You actually got those words to pass over your lips? To a girl?"

"I love her, guys. I really do. I told you all along that I wasn't
aloof, I wasn't gay, I wasn't a cold fish-I just hadn't met the right girl yet. Well, now I have."

"Good for you," Kylie said. "So, how was it?" she asked impishly.


"That's always the best kind," Tomasz laughed.


Kylie and Meredith were hanging out after school. They had gone to the
library, to do some studying, and decided to go to the local coffee shop on
the way home.

"So," Kylie began after they sat down with their coffee, "I hear you and
Josh did the nasty over the weekend."

"Yeah," Meredith laughed. "He told me he was going to tell you guys."

"How was it?"


"Close enough. He said mind-blowing." Meredith laughed at that. "He
also said he had a good time hobnobbing with your Hollywood pals."

"Yeah, he did. Look, you know Josh. He's been apprehensive about this
from the beginning. I was hoping that taking him out there would help put
him at ease."

"So, you intended to jump his bones?"

"NO!" Meredith laughed. "Well, maybe a little, but that's not what I
meant by putting him at ease. I meant seeing my life, meeting some of my

"I do think that helped." Kylie took a deep breath. "Look, Meredith,
I'm not going to lie. Josh is like my brother. I worry about him. I
worried forever that he never seemed to be able to find the right girl.
Now I worry that he found her-and it's not going to work out."

"Why wouldn't it work out?"

"You're from another world," Kylie pointed out. "We don't talk about it
much, but we all know it."

"Kylie, where am I?"

"What do you mean?"

"What world am I in right now?"

"His. But are you visiting, or staying?"

"I'm staying," Meredith said firmly. "Now, I plan to visit the other
world occasionally, but I'm going to live in this one."

"I hope so."

"I'm doing a movie this summer. Josh knows. He's not thrilled, but he
understands that is what I do. I'm just only going to do it occasionally.
The movie is done, and I come back here."

"What about after? What about college?" Kylie persisted.

"We've talked about that. All my college choices are in the Northeast.
All of his are, too. I think the furthest we'd be away is if he went to
Cornell and I went to Yale, and that's still not too far. Both of our
first choice is Columbia, as a matter of fact."

"That's good," Kylie said. "Look, I know I'm being a pest, but Josh
means the world to me." She took a deep breath. "He went to bed with you.
I don't know if you realize what that meant to him. He's not a normal guy
in that way. He wasn't about to give his virginity to just anyone."

"I know," Meredith said. "Um, look, what you have to understand is, it
meant as much to me. It was my virginity, too, and who I gave it too meant
just as much to me." Meredith dropped her voice. "Josh doesn't know this.
After we were done-well, we did it twice in a row, but after the second
time-he got up to go to the bathroom. While he was gone, I cried. And not
in pain, either."

"Wow," Kylie said.

"It wasn't just sex to me. I know it wasn't to Josh, either." She
smirked. "Not that the sex itself isn't fantastic, mind you!"

"But of course," Kylie laughed. "Josh told us that your hormones have
gone berserk since the first time."

"Yeah, I admit it," Meredith grinned. "I didn't even know I had
hormones. I think they were sleeping. Josh woke them up in a big way,"
she laughed.

"Yeah, you woke his up, too," Kylie giggled. "Meredith, I'm glad we had
this talk. You made me feel better about things."

"Josh is lucky to have such a good friend," Meredith said. "Good thing
you have Tomasz or I'd be jealous!"

"No need. Josh and I love each other, but we don't do a thing for each
other's hormones!"


The rest of December passed quickly. Josh, Kylie and Tomasz, the
Saturday before Christmas, took Meredith skiing for the first time. She
fell a lot, but had a ball. "We're definitely going to have to do this
again," she told them.

Before they knew it, it was Christmas Eve.

It was traditional for Josh's parents to host an open house on Christmas
Eve. They started at like four in the afternoon, and people traipsed in
until midnight. Most of the town made it. They had piles of food and
drink, and Christmas carols playing. It was always a great time.

Some of the food was catered, but some was made by Maureen Wallingford.
Meredith had been there all day, along with Josh and Hannah, helping out.

"Anything else, Mrs. Wallingford?" Meredith asked after finishing
making a pile of meatballs.

"Nope. You've done enough, dear. Any more and you'll be too tired to
enjoy the party. Josh, get her out of the kitchen so you two can relax for
a bit!'

"Your wish is my command, mother dear," he laughed. ""My room,
freckle-face. I got the refreshments." He grabbed a couple of cokes from
the fridge.

"Yes sir," Meredith mock-saluted.

"No kissing up there!" Hannah proclaimed.

"Yes, ma'am. No kissing." Meredith said. "We'll save that for under
the mistletoe. Right in the middle of the party. So you can watch."

"UGH!" Hannah proclaimed.

"Will you two get out of here?" Maureen laughed. "I still have cookies
to finish!"

They went, giggling, upstairs to his room. Josh closed the door behind
him, and put the sodas on a table. Meredith immediately wrapped herself
around him, and assaulted his lips with hers.

"Hey!" Josh said, breaking free. "You heard what Hannah said, no

"Oh, poo." Meredith mock-pouted. She sat on Josh's bed.

"She didn't say no groping, though," Josh leered, sitting next to her.
"Of course, she's ten years old, she probably doesn't know what groping

"Uh-uh. I don't get to kiss, you don't get to grope," Meredith teased.

"You're forgetting, sweetie, that you like when I grope."

"Details, details."

"Ah, screw it. Hannah's not here. C'mere, freckle-face." She laughed,
and wrapped her arms around him as they kissed. "Unfortunately," Josh said
after they broke, "this is not the time or place for serious groping."

"Sad, but true."

"I don't think Hannah would ever spy, and I know mom wouldn't, but I
wouldn't want to take the chance."

"I'm so glad I don't have a little sister," Meredith giggled.
"Actually, that's not true, I always wanted one-but when it comes to
kissing and groping, I'm glad I don't have one."

"Yeah, and mom wonders why I spend so much time at your house."

"Does she?"

"Yeah. I actually told her half the truth-no little sisters." Meredith
giggled at that. "I didn't tell her that your mom knows what we're doing
and gives us privacy."

"That's probably a good thing," Meredith chuckled. "Um, does your mom know that we're, uh...."

"I haven't told her, but I get the impression that she strongly
suspects. That's a hard thing for a guy to talk to his mother about."

"What about your Dad?"

"Same thing. I think he suspects. He's made some of those 'I hope you
guys are being careful' noises, but I haven't admitted anything."

"Are they not liberal about such things?"

"No, they are, but....I think if they asked me, point-blank, I'd
probably admit it, but I'm not going to bring it up. Would you have
volunteered it to your mom if we hadn't been caught?"

"I don't know. Probably not. Although, if I knew she'd react the way
she did, I might have. But I couldn't have predicted that."

"Yeah. Are they coming, by the way?"

"My parents, tonight? Oh, yeah. They're looking forward to it."


"So am I," Meredith said. "It's so......Christmasy."

"We do it every year."

"It's great. This will be the first real Christmas I've had in along
time. Last year, we had Christmas dinner in a hotel in Florida, because I
was filming a movie. It sucked."

"Well, this year, you get homemade food, no hotel, no movie, lots of
snow, and the town of Lamawakka parading through my living room."

"Yup," she agreed happily.

"And a real Christmas dinner at your Mom's tomorrow."

"Yup. And the most wonderful guy in the world to share it with."

"Yeah, that's the best part," Josh agreed. "Unlike you, this is a
typical Christmas for me. It's a hell of a lot better with you here."

"You're so sweet. I love you."

"Love you too."

They chatted for a while, then went down to help Maureen set things up.
It didn't take long before people began to arrive.

Tomasz and Kylie arrived early, as they usually did. They, Josh, and
Meredith commandeered a couch, and settled into it, greeting people when
they came in and chatting, generally having a good time.

By seven PM the party was in full swing. The door opened, and Josh
looked up.

"Oh my God," he said. "Meri, look. It's Christian and Lara."

"What?" she said. "I invited them, but as a joke, I didn't think they'd
actually show up!"

"Cool. I'm glad you did, and I'm glad they came," Josh said. They got
up to greet them.

"I can't believe you guys actually came!" Meredith said, greeting them.

"We wanted to," Lara said.

"It's on our way," Christian told them. "We spent the last few days in
Montreal, where Lara's family lives. We're headed to New Jersey, where my
parents live. So, this was on the way. And we love the town, from making
the film last summer, so we thought we'd meet some of the people here."

"Plus, we wanted to see you guys," Lara grinned.

"It's great. Glad you're here," Josh said. He took their coats, and
led them over to where they were sitting, introducing them to Tomasz and

Maureen walked over. "Hey, Josh, I got more stuffed mushrooms coming
out." She looked at the newcomers curiously. "Hello."

"Mom, this is Christian Houle and Lara Dumont. Guys, this is my Mom."

"I knew I recognized you!" Maureen said. "Nice to meet you both."

"I hope you don't mind party-crashers," Lara said.

"It's an open house, everybody's a party-crasher," Maureen joked. "I
take it you're friends of Meredith's."

"Yeah, but we met Josh at the premiere, too," Christian said.

Just then, Josh looked up and saw his sister, across the room, looking
at them with her eyes bugging out. "Mom, is something wrong with Hannah?"

Maureen looked. "Oh, I think I know what's wrong. Whose poster does
she have on her closet door?"

"Oh that's right," Josh laughed. " His," he pointed at Christian.

"That's my Christian, breaker of little girl's hearts everywhere," Lara

"Yup, I'm the darling of the 8 to 14 set," Christian joked. "Then they
grow up, discover the hunk in math class, and stop going to my movies."
Everyone laughed at that..

"That's about right, she's 10," Josh told him.

"Who is she?" Christian asked.

"Hannah, my sister," Josh informed him.

"Let me handle this," Meredith told them. She got up and went over to

"Hey, Hannah, you OK?" she asked.

"Um....that.....that's Christian Houle!"

"Yes, it is," Meredith laughed. "Come on over and meet him."

"Oh, I couldn't," Hannah said, looking down.

"Sure you can. Hannah, Christian's my friend. He and Lara are here
because I invited them, although I didn't expect them to come, I'm glad
they did. He's a really nice guy."

Hannah thought for a minute, and said, "OK". She let Meredith lead her
to where they were.

"Guys, this is Hannah, Josh's sister. Hannah, this is Christian Houle
and Lara Dumont."

"Hi," Hannah said shyly.

"Hi, Hannah, nice to meet you," Christian said happily. "Josh, here,
tells me you've seen some of my movies."

"Um, all of them, I think," Hannah managed to get out.

"Cool! What was your favorite?"

The conversation went on for a while, Christian drawing Hannah out and
getting her into a conversation about some of his movies. He told her
stories about making some of them. He had her spellbound.

After a while, Maureen yelled from the kitchen, "Hey, Hannah! Can I
have your help for a minute?"

"I have to go," Hannah said. "It was great to meet you."

"It was nice to meet you, too," Christian said, and leaned over and gave
her a kiss on the cheek. Hannah's eyes bugged out of her head, she
blushed, and she ran into the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear and
clutching her cheek.

Christian just laughed.

"Thanks, Christian," Josh said. "You made her night. Scratch that, you
made her year."

"She's a sweet kid," Christian said.

"Yeah, and maybe now she'll drop that whole 'kissing is gross' thing,"
Meredith teased, to laughter all around.


Christmas day was nice, and Tomasz threw a fine New Year's eve party.
The rest of January passed in a blur of school, skiing, and-for Josh and
Meredith-many quiet times together.

In a hurry, their first Valentine's Day as a couple arrived.

"So, what has Josh got planned for tonight?" Kylie asked Meredith as
they walked through the halls at school.

"He won't tell me. Says it's a surprise," Meredith giggled. "I'm glad
it's Friday, though. And my parents are going away for the weekend."

"Lucky dog."

"You know it." She felt her cel phone vibrate. "What is this? I have
an urgent message from Mike."


"My agent. Ah, well, this is my class. I'll get to my seat and see
what he wants, I still have a few minutes."

"See you later." Kylie continued down the hall, and Meredith walked into
her English class, sitting, as always, next to Josh halfway down the room.

"Hi, gorgeous," Josh greeted her.

"Hi, yourself. I've got an urgent message from Mike, so I have to call
him. This must be big, it's only 7 am in California." She hit a speed dial
on her phone. "Mike? Hi! What's so urgent?"

Josh watched her as her eyes got huge and her lip started trembling.
"You're kidding," she whispered. "You've got to be kidding. Oh my God."
She listened to the phone for a while, and then said, "Class is about to
start. I'll call you this afternoon. You're sure? Really? Oh my God."
She hung up the phone, stared into space for a while, and then SCREAMED.
Really, really, loud. The tears started immediately. The class turned to
look at her in shock.

"MISS FOWLER!" Mr. Donegal, their teacher, bellowed at her. She didn't
even hear him. Josh leaned over and said, "Honey, are you OK?" and she
barely heard him. She just sat in her seat, tears flowing, murmuring "I
don't believe it, I don't believe it, I don't believe it...," over and

"Miss Fowler," Mr. Donegal said, a bit softer this time, "is there a

This time she heard him. She looked over at Josh, who was watching her
with concern. She visibly tried to compose herself, but couldn't stop
crying. She flashed Josh a huge smile, and then blurted out, "I got

"Nominated?" Mr. Donegal asked.

"For an Oscar!" she bellowed. Josh looked at her in disbelief. She
managed to stop crying, and said, with a huge grin on her face, "My agent
just told me that it will be announced this afternoon that I have been
nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actress category."

This time, Josh screamed. Meredith bounced out of her seat and wrapped
her arms around him, crying again, as the class applauded. Even Mr.
Donegal had to say, "That is fantastic. If you have to disrupt my class,
at least it's with good news like that!"

The word spread across the school like wildfire. Meredith spent most of
the day accepting congratulations with a shit-eating grin on her face.

When they left school, they drove together right to Meredith's house.
Marie was in the living room, watching TV.

"Hi honey. Hi Josh. They're showing the Oscar nominations."

"What have they shown so far?" Meredith asked, hiding a grin.

"Just best picture and best actor. Neither your film nor Tim got a


They watched the best actress and best supporting actor nomination.

"Hey, look, they got your pal Christian to announce the best supporting
actress," Marie said to Meredith.

"And, the nominees are," Christian was saying on the TV, "Andrea Radach
for Twisting in the Wind."

"She was good in that," Meredith said.

"Ellen Briar for Sight Unseen."

"That was brilliant," commented Meredith. "She'll probably win."

Suddenly, Christian looked at the teleprompter and lit up with a smile.
"All right! Sorry, folks, but this is a pal and co-star. Meredith Fowler
for Garret's Gift!"

Marie looked at the screen in utter disbelief. And then she looked at
Meredith and Josh, grinning at her like Cheshire cats. "You knew!"

"Yeah," Meredith admitted. "Mike must have gotten a heads-up, because
he called me this morning."

"Oh, honey," Marie said, wrapping Meredith in a bear hug, "I am so proud
of you!"

"Thanks, Mom."

"This is just fantastic. We need to call your father," Marie said.

"No, Mom, I want to tell him in person."

"I can see that. You going to go tell him now?"

"In a minute. I'm parched. Josh, want a drink?"

"Sure." Meredith walked into the kitchen to fetch them.

"So, Josh, what do you think?" Marie asked him.

"It's fantastic, isn't it? You should have seen her. She called Mike
back right before English, and she sat in the classroom screaming and
crying. It took the poor teacher ten minutes to get order back."

"I can imagine," Marie grinned.

"Me, I think it's great." Meredith walked back in with the sodas.
"Thank you, sweetie. As I was saying, I love it. I watch the Oscars every
year, I love them, this year is going to be particularly special."

"Yeah, because you're going to be watching it from the first twenty
rows," Meredith grinned at him.

"I am?"

"What, you thought I wasn't going to take you? You, love, are my
permanent escort. If I'm nominated for an Oscar, you're damn right you're
going to be there. I need somebody's shoulder to cry on when Ellen Briar

"Do you think you have a chance?" Marie asked her.

"No way. I was flabbergasted to be nominated." Just then, her cell
phone rang. "Hello?"

Even Marie and Josh heard the bellowing coming out of the cel phone
speaker. "I TOLD YOU! Did I tell you? I told you! See what you get for
doubting your all-knowing mentor? I told you!"

Meredith broke out in laughter. "Hi, Tim."

"Congratulations," Tim Hicks said into the phone. "You deserved this.
I'm thrilled. You're carrying the ball, you know, it's the only nomination
the film got."

"Wow. So, Mister Prognosticator, am I going to win?"

"Nah. Either Ellen Briar or Christine Shane will. But enjoy it

Meredith laughed. "I plan to!"

They polished off their sodas and went to Meredith's father's office in
Albany. After sharing the happy news with him, they went to Josh's house.

"Hi kids," Maureen Wallingford greeted them. Eric, who ran his
pediatric practice out of an office attached to the house, was also there,
having seen his last patient for the day.

"Hi Mom, Dad. Hi squirt," he said as Hannah entered the room.

"We need to talk to you," Meredith said. "I want to kidnap your son for
another road trip," she laughed.

"Where to this time, and when?" Eric asked.

"LA again, end of March. The Academy Awards."

"Oh, wow!" Maureen said. "That's so cool! Of course Josh can go with
you to that. Can you get him in, though?"

"Well, yeah," Meredith told them. "People who are nominated can bring
anyone they want, within reason."

Eric and Maureen looked at each other. "Nominated?" Eric asked.

"For best supporting actress," Meredith beamed.

"WOW!" Hannah screamed, and there were more congratulatory hugs all
around. While Meredith happily recounted the events of the day, Josh went
around to a table and poked through the mail.

"Oh, yeah, there's something in there for you," Maureen told him. Josh
found it, and opened it, and read it. He looked up with a dazed smile on
his face.

"What's up, sweetie?" Meredith asked him.

"It's just a good day all around, it seems," Josh said, beaming. "I
sent some of my stuff to this publisher. They publish periodically a book
called The Anthology of young American Poetry. They accepted three of my
pieces to put in the next edition."

"That's fantastic!" Meredith enthused. Josh's parents agreed, and even
Hannah said, "Nice going, bro."

"Oh, now can I admit how bad I wanted this?" Josh laughed.

"Be my guest" Eric said.

"It's not quite an academy award nomination......," Josh began.

"Sweetie?" Meredith grabbed his face and looked in his eyes. "Yes it

"I love you," he said, making Hannah gag. "But you must admit they
didn't announce this on TV!"

"OK, you're right," Meredith conceded, "but you should be just as proud
of yourself."

"Yeah. I am."



They landed in LA on a Wednesday. The Academy Awards would be that
Sunday night. Since Meredith's parents knew all about their relationship,
they ditched the pretense and shared a hotel suite. "I need him with me,
to keep me sane," Meredith joked to her mother.

Meredith had the usual round of interviews, although Josh didn't get
dragged into any this time. Meredith, however, when asked about him, made
sure to mention the publication of his poetry proudly. Vanity Fair
magazine even asked to see some, and ended up printing a funny one Josh had
written for Meredith, entitled 'Freckle-Face', as an accompaniment to
Meredith's interview.

And the parties! Every night, it seemed there were pre-Oscar parties.
Josh tried very hard not to get overwhelmed, and mostly succeeded.
Meredith met one of her competitors, Ellen Briar, at one. Ellen Briar was
an actress that Meredith had always admired, but never met. She impressed
the older actress with her grace and class.

Finally, it was time for the ceremony.

Meredith got into a stunning black dress that again made Josh weak in
the knees, much to Meredith's delight. Another limo ride, and they entered
into paparazzi hell.

"I haven't been photographed this much in my life," Josh joked.

After enduring the photo-fest, they found their seats. Meredith's
parents were behind them. Tim Hicks, who had been nominated for Director
of the Year for a different film, sat next to them, with his wife. Dan
Aufberg, the producer of the film, was right in front.

"Do you have a speech ready?' Josh asked Meredith.

"Nah, what's the point? I have no chance. Even Tim says so," she

"You should always have a speech, though," Tim told her.

"Ah, if lightning strikes, I'll just wing it."

They sat through some of the other awards, and a few production numbers.
Best Supporting Actress was actually fairly early in the show, so they
didn't have to wait long.

Meredith grabbed Josh's hand, but was at ease and not expecting to win.
"If I thought I had a chance, I'd be more nervous," she said to Josh and
Tim with a laugh. "I hope Ellen Briar wins, actually. Unless, of course,
lightning does strike."

Lightning struck.

"And the Oscar goes to," intoned veteran actor Don Jones, "Meredith

Her jaw dropped to the floor. Her eyes got all wide. "I won? I won?"
she squeaked in a disbelieving tone. Josh, Tim, Dan, and her parents were
jumping around and yelling-and Meredith could scarcely believe it.

"Honey, you need to get up there," Josh whispered to her with a smile.

Recovering herself just a bit, she gave Josh's hand a squeeze and then
walked up to the stage, slightly dazed. She was presented with the Oscar,
and took a couple of seconds to visibly compose herself.

"Forgive me, I'm stunned," she said.

She took a deep breath.

"I don't have anything prepared, because I didn't think I had a chance,
but I know what I want to say," Meredith began.

"Everybody's got a laundry list. Thanks to the Academy, thanks to my
agent, thanks to Dan Aufberg, the producer and Bill Singleman, the
director. Thanks to the cast and crew, especially my buddy Christian Houle,
who was a delight to work with, and Tim Hicks, from whom I have learned
more about acting than I will ever repay.

"However, that's not the important part. I want to dedicate this award
to three people. First, my parents. They have supported me and loved me
throughout my whole career. They have walked the fine line between
guidance and freedom better than I thought it could be done. They have
supported my choices, and stepped in to make the hard choices themselves
when they thought I needed it. They've always been right. mom and Dad, I
love you."

"One of the hard choices they made was to move me out of Hollywood and
to Lamawakka, New York. They did this because they thought I was too
caught up in acting and had lost touch with Meredith the person. The
problem was, at that point, I wasn't sure who Meredith the person was. I
was lucky enough to meet a guy who kept digging and digging until he
revealed the real Meredith. And then he fell in love with her. Which is a
good thing, because she fell in love with him."

"We all get jaded after a while, being here. One of the neat things
about him is he's not jaded, and can come with me to an event like this
and, with his outsider's eyes, looks upon it all with wonder-and his
perspective grounds me. He's my rock, he's my anchor. And, because I have
him in my life, this award"-she held up the Oscar-"is less important, but
more special. It's less important because he made me realize that there is
more to me than being an actress, and I needed to find that. But, it's
more special, because I can see it through his eyes, and see what an
accomplishment it is, and see how proud he is of me. Which makes me proud
of myself.

"This wouldn't have meant nearly as much to me if he hadn't been sitting
there, holding my hand, when they called my name."

"I love you, Josh."

"Thank you."

She left the stage to thunderous applause.


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 famous 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 girls 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 girls 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.


Meredith's parents 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
it anyway."

"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
had left.

"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
pointed out.


"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 parents think about this?"

"They can't say a thing about it. I turn 18 in October. I can do what
I want."

"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.


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
over her."

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 guys 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 mother accompany her
to the film set for the duration, as she always did, and her father 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 young 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.


Bill Fowler landed in LA on June 1st. He immediately went to the hotel,
where his wife was waiting for him.

"Oh, am I glad to see you," Marie told him. "Meredith is out of

"How so?"

"Well, have you ever considered our daughter 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 wife 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
over dinner.

"Oscaritis," Tim maintained. "Worst case I've ever seen."

"I agree," Roger said, "but she's disrupting the set. You need to do


Saturday wasn't a shooting day. Meredith was in the hotel, in early
afternoon, when her parents 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 father 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 mother and I think. You don't care what your co-workers think. You're ready to
take any old 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."

" 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
similar conversation."

"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 movie 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.
Love, Josh."

Hands slightly trembling, she took the book and read:


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.


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 old 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


Meredith had stared at the phone for hours. Finally, she picked it up
and dialed.

"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 parents 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 parents 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
cried. Again."

"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."


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 cheek.


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 man sitting next to her looked over. "Aren't you Meredith

"Yes, I am," she said pleasantly.

"I thought it was you. I saw that movie 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."

"Thank you."

"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 man 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 man 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 man 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 married 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 man laughed. "Yeah, I know. And, yeah, I'm working on it. But, I
can't help shake the feeling that Bethany, the girl 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 man 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 movie a year-two, tops-lives far away from
Hollywood up in Northern California, and has a beautiful wife and three
wonderful children."

"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 parents 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.


"Yeah. Really."

"I've missed you, too." He looked at her pointedly. "But I started
missing you before you left. Because you left before you left."

"I know."

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 college 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. 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."

"What's that?"

"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 college 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
he stopped.

"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 hurt 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.


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.


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."
Tomasz kidded.

"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 red 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 parents and my
boyfriend. Well, my parents are still here, still the best parents a girl 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 man 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.



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