By: Rebecca Taylor
All Rights Reserved (the first 3 chapters had already been posted here but this time I’m offering you the first 5 and where you can read the rest of the story if you would like to)
Stacey McKellar’s nail bitten hands shook as she said. “You didn’t.” Outside the dressing room, she could hear the production crew preparing for another busy day of filming. She could smell the pungency of the strong coffee and knew that Graham had used it to get over his hangover. She swallowed to keep the tears that threatened to erupt at bay.
“I made a mistake,” admitted Graham Thomson, “I’ll never do it again.”
“That’s crap,” replied Stacey, “this isn’t elementary school, you can’t just say, oops.” She stomped the heel of her leather shoe, the sound radiating through the small dressing room. “Do you realize you could have killed someone?”
“You’ve got to believe me, Stace, I never meant to drive drunk.”
“How many times do you think someone says that in a day?” She sighed sadly, and wished she had stayed in bed that morning and that the conversation she was now having with her soon to be ex-boyfriend was just a nightmare.
“Too many,” replied Graham his grey eyes not meeting Stacey’s blue ones.
“You’re a star but that doesn’t mean you get to break the law. Just because you didn’t hurt yourself or someone else, doesn’t mean I’m going to forgive you. Does Instantly mean nothing to you?” said Stacey her hands moving rapidly as she spoke. “Just because you -.”
“Stacey, please,” said Graham cutting off her rant. “Just listen to me for a minute. Let me make this up to you.”
“How dare you interrupt me and expect me to listen to you after what you did. You can’t make this better. Even though Andrew and Kara Mathis are characters in my novel doesn’t mean that their story isn’t real. People lose their loved ones all the time to drunk drivers. You’re playing Andrew in the movie, are you feeling nothing?”
“I know I was stupid, but please, don’t give up on me. Things were going so well between us.” He reached out his hand to touch her shoulder but she took a step backwards. Anger mixed with sadness flashed behind her eyes.
“Were is the operative word here. We’ve got work to do and whatever we could have been is over. Do you have any idea how many times I wanted to bring Mr. & Mrs. Mathis back to life when I was working on the book?” Stacey turned towards the wall and Graham saw her lift her hand to her cheek. He heard her clear her throat before she turned back to face him, “But I couldn’t because there is no backspace key on life, once someone’s dead, you can’t fix it, no matter how hard you try.” Tears welling up in her eyes Stacey fled Graham’s dressing room. He looked after her stammering apologies.
“Five minutes to filming, Graham,” said a production assistant stopping by the dressing room.
Graham nodded and the production assistant left the room. Extreme emotion overwhelmed him as he took his hand and struck the table with it, spilling hot coffee all over it and himself. He cursed and grabbed a towel to clean up the mess before getting changed into clothing befitting of the character he played – a man devastated by the effects of another man’s drunk driving.
“Stacey, filming’s about to start,” said her sister coming into the bathroom.
“Okay, I just need a minute,” she said splashing water on her face.
“I don’t have time to talk about it right now.”
“Well you’re not leaving this room until you do.”
“Just because you’re my big sister doesn’t mean that you know what’s best for me.”
“I can tell when something’s wrong and it definitely is right now,” said Lori standing by the bathroom door blocking anyone else from entering.
“Please, Lori, just leave it.”
“No, I won’t leave it, because this morning at the hotel you were one of the happiest people in the world and now you’re not.”
“I told Graham it was over. Now, I’m going to put on some makeup and go out there and watch him be in the movie that I wrote.”
“You don’t have to do that, Stace, we could go back to the hotel and empty all the candy out of the vending machines and watch an incredibly sad movie.” Lori reached out her arms to give Stacey a hug but she pulled away from her sister’s embrace.
“Please don’t, I can’t talk about this right now.”
“You don’t have to be strong all the time.”
“Yes, I do because no one else is going to be strong for me and, I wrote a book that someone wanted to make into a movie. I’m not going to hide. Graham isn’t going to take away the fact that someone thought I’d written something that mattered…”
“No, just every time you watch your masterpiece, he’s going to be in.”
“Yes, he is, but he’s good at acting.”
“Is that you being sincere or a jab at something that happened between the two of you.”
“His onset talent is genuine. His choices in life are crap.”
“And there’s the Stacey McKellar rule book right?”
“Yes, there is. There are some things you just don’t do.”
“And which one of those things did he do?”
“He drove drunk last night. He doesn’t look it now thanks to a ton of coffee, but he did it.”
“And he told you about it?”
“No, I heard him talking to Dan about it. How he woke up with a mega hangover and realized what he had done.”
“Then he didn’t mean to?”
“Does anyone mean to drive drunk, seriously?” asked Stacey pressing down hard on the paper towel holder sending them cascading out of the machine. She furiously tore off a piece and dried her face.
“Hey, sis, don’t get mad at me. I’m here for you.”
“Drunk driving kills people. It’s splashed in everyone’s faces that if you are going to drink, plan ahead. He didn’t. He got drunk Lori, he didn’t just have one drink, he got hammered. It’s over and I have work to do,” said Stacey rummaging through her purse frantically until she found a half used package of tissues. “
“But the two of you seemed so right together.”
“I thought maybe we had a chance, but he messed that up. Case closed.”
How come her love life looks so easy? She breaks things off, cries, reapplies makeup and gets back to work. Maybe they should sell some of that with her book or the movie ticket.
Stacey watched her movie coming alive from the monitors behind the scenes. Graham knew she was there but he couldn’t see her looking over the script and occasionally giving suggestions to the production assistant. He only played Andrew to the camera, telling the story of a heartbroken young man who was forced to plan a funeral with his sister for their parents because a repeat drunk driver had finally run out of luck. He didn’t see her white knuckles as her pencil hit against her clipboard. She watched him say his lines so perfectly that it hurt her and it was only when her pencil snapped in two and her hand felt the sharpness of the splintered wood that she realized she had been holding it so tight.
“How come they kept letting him back out on the streets?” demanded Andrew as he spoke to a police officer, “where is the justice? You’re supposed to be protecting us.”
Does a line like that mean nothing to you, Graham? Thought Stacey as she watched him deliver it poignantly.
“Cut,” said the director interrupting Stacey’s thoughts a few minutes later, “good work everyone. That’s a wrap for today. See you all tomorrow.”
Graham returned to his hotel room after the filming. He looked at the mini fridge in his room. He could have used a beer but the thought of it turned his stomach. It was too many of those that had gotten him into this mess with Stacey. She’s a tough woman, and I don’t know if I can win her back. She said it’s over just like the film crew says cut and moves on. I love her, I haven’t told her that yet, but we were becoming something. We had something. I cannot believe that I don’t remember driving last night. He picked up his cell phone and dialed her number. It went straight to voicemail. He listened to her voice and felt anger, not at her but at what he’s done. “I’m sorry,” he said into the phone, “so sorry, I don’t know what else to say.” He hung up but thoughts of what had happened weighed heavy on his heart and mind. She’s right something could have happened but it didn’t so why can’t she just accept that. I was stupid, I was drunk and I made a mistake. I know my lines in the movie and I know what they’re about.
His co-worker Dan walked in while he was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling trying to think of some way to prove to Stacey that he deserved to be loved by her even though he had gone against something that she was passionate about.
“Hey, man, I heard Stacey dumped you. That sucks.”
“My love life is falling apart and all you can say is that sucks. Come on, Dan, help me here. You have a wife, what do you say to her when things are falling apart.”
“Honey, I’m sorry, is usually a good start.”
“Not with Stacey, it isn’t. I said I was sorry. I said I’d never do it again and she called me on it.” I am so stupid. I just wrecked a relationship with a woman I was coming to love.”
“Send her flowers or chocolates with a card, maybe a poem, chicks like that kind of stuff.”
Graham tossed a towel that was lying on the floor at Dan and replied, “Help me, here, you know Stacey. What would your wife think if she knew you called her a chick? Stacey’d have a fit. She’d say it undermined the female gender.”
“My wife would be fine with it. I’ve called her a chick before to her face. She’s cool like that.”
“Stacey’s not one of those girls. She’s strong and stubborn and so darn beautiful, that I don’t know what I’m going to do to keep her in my life.” She doesn’t believe much in second chances either. She told me early on that if I ever cheated on her, I’d be gone. To her I think this is the same thing.
“Have you thought about a time machine, man, because with that one, I think you’re going to need it.”
“Funny,” answered Graham.
“Well, we could always go out drinking and forget about her.”
“Not for me,” said Graham tossing a pillow at the wall. It knocked a picture off the wall with a thud, “that got me in this mess.”
“Just forget her; if she can’t forgive you, maybe she’s not worth the trouble. You keep throwing things and you’re going to have a bill from the hotel.”
“I don’t think I can forget her, that’s the problem.”
Back at the hotel Stacey kicked off her shoes and sat down on the bed to look over her manuscript for the next day’s filming.
“Want a drink?” asked Lori coming in.
“Do you get the irony in what you just asked me?” replied Stacey.
“We’re not driving anywhere until morning, and they do have taxis in this city.”
“No, I don’t want a drink; I still have work to do. When you said they have taxis you are absolutely right because they do which means Graham had absolutely no reason to get in his car last night and drive.”
“So you two are really over?”
“Yes, what other choice do I have?”
“Well there is one but I think it’s against everything you believe in. They call it forgiveness.”
“You have no idea what it feels like to become attached to your characters. The Mathis family is real to me. Having to write Mr. and Mrs. Mathis off as dead in order to create the drama in the story is not something I wanted to do. I wrote it, it became real. I could not erase it because once you’re dead, that’s the end of your life on earth.”
“I know that you are incredibly passionate about your writing, but what about your real life? When are you going to stop living through the pages and have your own life?”
“I have a life. Instantly has given me one. People are going to see the movie and read the book and know my name. Maybe they’ll become attached to the Mathis’ like I am and think before they drink and drive but maybe I’m wrong because it didn’t seem to have any effect on Graham.”
“When are you going to allow yourself to be a bit human and realize that people make mistakes?”
“I am human. I get hurt, I get angry but I do not let other people change the way I feel about what is important. You don’t drink and drive, you just don’t.”
“I want an honest answer, Stacey, I’ve only been on set with you for the last few days seeing your book be turned into a movie, but you’ve been working at this for six weeks. Did you or do you love Graham?”
“Yes, are you happy now?”
“No, because you’re not happy. You’re so strong, sister, the way you just get back up and go about your business but I’m wondering if you’re too strong. If you are too able to move on with your life and are going to miss out on the important things like love because of it.”
“I like being loved by someone, and having someone to love but when that compromises the things that are the most important in my life I don’t have a choice but to end it.” Why does everyone keep telling me I’m strong? They just think that. I have feelings just like everyone else, just because I don’t show them all the time. Crying about things doesn’t help but my tear ducts don’t seem to know that today.
“Maybe I’m destined for a lonely life as an old maid,” said Stacey.
“Graham’s not the only man in the world, but think about it, what if he just made a mistake one time?”
“One time too many and if it isn’t a onetime thing, I’m not going to be the woman who waits by the phone every night afraid to get a call from him or the police because he’s killed himself or someone else. I’m going to be fine, I have another week of filming and then I can go back home and work on my next book and do odd typing and design jobs to keep the bills paid.”
“But with this movie and your book you’re not going to have to work so hard.”
“Yes, I am because I don’t know how many copies of my book will sell or how well the movie will do, and either way it won’t create an income for the next seventy years.”
“Just think about what I said,” replied Lori, “sometimes things aren’t as simple as you’d like to make them.”
“I know,” answered Stacey, “And all those complications go into my books. In my life, I have my standards and I know what I will and won’t put up with.”
“There’s having standards and then there’s ruling with an iron clad fist.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Why don’t you tell me how everything is with you and Ethan?”
“Wonderful, I like being engaged,” said Lori. Stacey put down the manuscript and pulled a piece of licorice out of a bag on the bedside table and sat down to her sister’s marriage plans, all the while her heart beating wildly inside her chest.
The last week of filming went well despite the difficult time both Stacey and Graham were having with their shattered relationship. Stacey loved seeing the hours she poured into her novel come alive in front of her but watching Graham play Andrew was almost more than she could handle. She cried more than once during the week, she tried to do it where no one could see but if she got caught she said it was because she was happy at having the chance to have her book chosen out of the thousands being put into print each day to become a movie. Other than watching Graham on set, she avoided him and other than text messages and e-mails trying to get her to accept his numerous apologies, he let her have her space.
On the last day, she said goodbye to everyone that she had worked with and said she would see them at the film’s debut after the scenes had all been edited. She purposely left speaking to Graham until last.
“You were a good Andrew,” she said, “promise me that you’ll think about this movie, and not just all the girls who are going to have a crush on you.” She swallowed hard and continued, “think about what could have happened the other night and thank God that it didn’t. You got off scot-free, the Mathis family wasn’t that lucky.”
“I don’t know how to make this up to you, because you haven’t given me a chance to talk to you this week and you haven’t answered my text messages or e-mails with more than a No, or I Can’t. I am sorry that I drove drunk and I’m thankful that no one got physically hurt, but I don’t know how to tell you how bad I feel that this ended us.”
“Are you sorry you drove drunk or just that I found out about it?”
“That’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair. Do you want to know why I wrote Instantly, or why the feelings in it are so strong even though it has a bit of a love story aspect to it?”
“Yes, talk to me, please but don’t shut me out.”
“Not far from where I live, there’s a bar and one night a young woman was working as a designated driver with an organization at Christmas. While she was driving home someone who made the smart decision, a drunk driver hit the car she was driving. It killed her and her passenger. Two families lost people they loved and another one was destroyed by the actions of the drunk driver. You don’t get to tell me that you’re sorry or that it’s not fair that I chose to end things with you. I can’t be with someone I can’t trust to do the right thing.”
“Please, Stacey, I know that I messed things up, but give me another chance. I promise that you won’t regret it.”
“I can’t give you a second chance because that woman that was killed and her passenger and their families, they don’t get a second chance. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I hear you, I just wish there was something I could do about it?”
“Time machines don’t exist and neither do crystal balls, or else maybe I could have stopped you before you did this. So, stop looking at me like I’m the bad guy here, because you did this to us.”
Without saying another word, Stacey left Graham standing there; she couldn’t stand having him answer. She felt like she was back reading the article and seeing the story on the news about the accident. She had driven by the spot where it happened hundreds of times before and after and she knew that she had to take on the fight against drunk driving. She had decided to add a love story to her book for many reasons including showing how a wedding and children without parents there could hurt, but also to give Kara someone to console her, instead of her having the same conversation over and over with Andrew – why did the drunk driver not learn?
“He’s sorry,” said Danielle Ryan, the actress who played Kara (Andrew’s sister in the movie), coming out of the studio and racing to meet up with Stacey as she walked back to the hotel for one final time.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Stacey stopping to wait for Danielle to catch up. “We can’t be together anymore. For all his good points, he did something that I can’t forgive, and that is no way to have a relationship. Maybe he’ll be smarter with the next woman who loves him.”
“He wants to work it out, he said so, but he said you won’t listen.”
“He knows how I feel and why. I’m dealing with what he did and he has to too. I’ll see you at the premier. I need to go.”
If you would like to read the rest of this novella, it can be purchased through Smashwords.com: ($2.50 USD) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/409220