Candace Meredith earned her Bachelor of Science degree in English Creative Writing from Frostburg State University in the spring of 2008. Her works of poetry, photography and fiction have appeared in literary journals Bittersweet, The Backbone Mountain Review, The Broadkill Review, In God’s Hands/ Writers of Grace, A Flash of Dark, Greensilk Journal, Saltfront, Mojave River Press and Review, Scryptic Magazine, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Sirens Call Magazine, The Great Void, Foreign Literary Magazine, Lion and Lilac Magazine, Snow Leopard Publishing, BAM Writes and various others. Candace currently resides in Virginia with her two sons and her daughter, her fiancé and their three dogs and six cats. She has earned her Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMC) from West Virginia University.
In the Limelight of a Superstar
Jenny went by the name of Kitty. She liked Japanese animation but she especially enjoyed the reaction of others when she said her name was Kitty Purrie – and her last name was Purrie. She liked her life best when she was surrounded by others. She was into gossip but loathed being at the brunt of a joke. She set herself up it would seem when she told others her name was Kitty Purrie. At the age of nineteen she changed her name completely to Kitty once-and-for-all. She didn’t make contact with her mother who was never sober and her father who she met only once when she was thirteen when mom went to court for updated child support that previously never got paid. He was in and out of court, jail or rehab in the event of another bar fight usually because someone told him his old lady was looking especially trashy. That excited some of the men who hung out at his kind of place. His name was Tyree and he was well known through town not as the town drunk, that was her mother’s role, but as a real sharp badass who hit the streets after his winnings at poker tournaments. Kitty knew that much about him despite his absence. Sometimes he gloated “yeah I got a kid” at some new honey he was trying to win over. Kitty, then Jenny, heard the stories because the town talk was considerably loud on the streets of Manhattan. They shouted really loud for everyone to hear. Kitty listened for the sound of his voice and got to know it well.
Kitty’s mom Danielle had a life once. Went to college. Had a tiara, was named Mrs. Brooklyn. She moved to Manhattan when she got the money from Tyree. Tyree felt Danielle followed him there just to take all he had. They were practically neighbors after that but other than the sound of his voice on the street Kitty didn’t see Tyree. Danielle went sober once when she hit her mid twenties then by thirty she partied again and got drunk – and that was the end of that. Kitty started modeling. She dreamed of a life in the limelight. She never had cash and she never had much fun. Entertainment eluded her. Her mother just lived for herself. Kitty found an ad in the local paper for a modeling gig. She was nearly six feet tall and her slender body could walk like a cat on a tightrope. She arched her back, straightened her shoulders and put one foot in front of the other with her toes pointed in her high-heeled shoes. She dazzled in diamonds and rubies for the catalog or magazine and was just as photogenic as a morning dove looking over the ocean. Kitty had glam the day she went in for the interview; she spent all she had to make herself look presentable.
She didn’t exactly know what she wanted to do after graduating from high school and the gig wouldn’t exactly pay all the bills unless she got real serious in modeling. She was in New York she thought – land of opportunity. She landed herself an agent at the next gig she did for a high end motor dealer. She liked hot cars and was like a firecracker behind the wheel as she modeled in the front seat – sure, she thought she could sell a car or two. Max Black was her agent and he signed her on with Ford and Wilhelmina and she brought in the cash. She soon got enough income to buy a pretty sweet loft apartment that was overlooking the city streets. She liked the landscape beneath a black sky that was lit by street lights. She liked the glitz, the glam, and the soon-to-be fame. Max Black got her a deal for an acting gig where a top model was needed for a small role in The City which would be starring a prominent male actor about a chummy corporate business owner who embezzled cash from his franchise in the city to build in Texas. He gets caught. But before that he’s a high roller who gambles at the casinos in Vegas and that’s where the acting gig took her – out to Nevada on a ticket to land a job she hadn’t even known to dream about. She landed in Vegas with a fresh perspective in life – maybe life isn’t so hard after all. As a teen she went to high school without lunch money and as a kid with the drunk parent she often went out alone. It’s all she knew – making it on her own while trying to stretch a dime to make a dollar. She was real smart though and she walked to work. She ran a deli at age sixteen. She was the wiser as she looked over her mother: Held her hair back when she puked and pulled the blankets over her malnourished body. Danielle was beautiful though and Kitty was just like her. She had her mother’s body but like her daddy she was a brainchild. Tyree was real smart. He was even smart enough to leave her mother when the parties and the booze got to be too much to handle. Then all that was over for Kitty who thought about them but openly she never shared a word with anyone.
In Vegas they put out a casting call. They wanted dancers, waitresses and staff and all the extras for the movie set. Kitty interviewed for a casino server who would wear a pink bunny suit but was asked if she’d like to audition for the part of Mr. Moxon’s wife instead. She knew nothing about acting.
“Sure can.” She said with a smile. Her up-kept blonde hair and ruby lipstick reminded them of fifties film actress Marilyn Monroe and Kitty felt the first surge of adrenaline while acting. “You’ve been a bad boy tonight Jimmy Moxon.” Was her line. She put her arms around her husband and they exited the casino with pockets fatter than a caged pig. The camera crew called cut and they were pleased. Kitty was a real treat. She had the looks and her toothpaste smile looked great in front of a camera. She got the part. She was scheduled to act as Daphne Moxon and had her first gig in showbiz.
The City was scheduled for the box office in a release just months after filming. Kitty was scheduled to return to Manhattan but a phone call interrupted her during a delay in the flight.
“Hello Max.” She said with a weary voice.
“What’s happening Kitten?” He was studious.
“No one calls me kitten Max.” She yawned.
“What’s wrong sweet cakes … you sound tired.”
“I am Max.” She wasn’t kidding.
“We’ll don’t get too smitten with me now …”
“What the hell are you talking about Max?”
“They want you back.”
“The film crew. I don’t know. The fucking cinematographer… they liked your act!”
“So what do they want?”
“They want to know if you’ll do a tv pilot for a little comedy show they’re doing.”
“What’s the show?”
“Something like Sex and the Moon. I’m not exactly sure yet.”
“Shouldn’t you know Max?”
“They’re not sure yet. Exactly. It’s in progress and they need a new actress and they want you to be it.”
Kitty hung up the phone. She was then offered 20k a series for a new show about a group of friends who live in the city. Kitty landed an acting deal that would take her back to Manhattan the following week. She first met with Vincent Valacrice who saw her performance for The City. Vincent told her she should audition for the part of Valerie Quaide who would be a quirky, tall and slender blonde who worked in a corporation in Manhattan – taking her right back to home she thought – how hard can that be? Being the quirky part challenged her though. She never thought about doing a comedy part for a tv series. She acted in front of the mirror for a scene in which she’d been handed a script. She faked falling in her high heels while speaking the line, “damn that wind.” The film crew laughed heartily as she pulled it off. She would be the humorous Valerie in the tv show Over the Moon in Love. The show was cast back home and she found film crews around the corner on the next block. She was provided with hair and makeup and would be dining at a café where she’d meet her best friend Rachel Callahan. Rachel was a waitress and a film student on set. Kitty worked for a large magazine distributor as a journalist. She wooed her production crew with her wit, her charm and her smile. By the following year and eleven months into acting she had ideas for upcoming shows.
That’s when she met Will Franklin. Will was a screenwriter and he found himself behind the camera as a producer.
“Hello there.” He said in a charming voice.
She was smitten. Finally. That time.
“Hi,” she took a seat beside him casually, “I’m Kitty.” She said.
“I know.” He was astute behind dark eyes.
“Oh. I guess you would know.” She was awkward even yet.
“You’re Kitty Purrie.”
“Yes. Formerly Jenny.” She confided.
“What happened to Jenny?”
“She left a highly intoxicated mother to get herself to rehab or else.”
“I couldn’t take care of her anymore.”
“I completely understand.”
“You do? “
“I don’t talk to my mother either.”
Kitty learned that Will’s mother was a socialite and confided she didn’t have motherly instincts. The role of mom eluded her. In that respect Will and Kitty were a pair.
“Will you be at the Emmy’s?” She asked. “Or the screenwriter’s awards?”
“I’ll never be at either.” He said smoothly.
“Well, why not?”
“I’m not into that kind of attention.”
“What kind of attention are you into?”
“Just the kind from a pretty girl.”
“Woman.” She blushed.“I’m nearing thirty-five.”
“I know.” He said again, not losing his cool.
Will took Kitty to a local café that was not used for set. Kitty had a year into acting by that point and she didn’t realize then she’d spend over a decade acting for the show. In the meantime they chatted over writing the script together. Kitty excelled in her writing courses in high school and the two years she put in at the community college. Playing Valerie was then natural to her. Her character made viewers laugh. Her natural self made Will laugh.
“I haven’t asked if you’re single.” She decided to ask.
“I am.” He was modest.
She liked his dark qualities.
“I am too.” She said that for the first time in the past year.
“Why?” He genuinely wanted to know.
“Work.” Is all she had to say.
She learned he was from Europe but relocated early with his father to the USA because his mother couldn’t parent. Then his father died and asked him to care for his younger brother. Will spoke of his brother Caleb who was autistic. He cared for him because he wouldn’t be able to handle the bills and stuff Will said.
“Does he read and write like you?” She was genuinely interested.
“He can read anything but can’t write his own name.”
“Oh, I see.” She said politely.
“What does he do while you’re on set? Working I mean?”
“Yeah. He can stay home alone. For a bit anyway.”
Kitty met Caleb next. She saw a charming young man with a head full of wit and charm behind his honey brown eyes. But Caleb was shy.
“He’s outgoing around me.” Will explained. “But only me.”
Kitty wondered if Caleb might get used to her someday.
For the moment Caleb left the room and went to his bedroom to build model cars.
“He can assemble anything.” Will doted on his brother.
Will had a nice townhome in the city: a two bedroom he shared with Caleb. He lived modestly, “so not to attract attention to myself.” He explained.
Will moved from sunny California where his father brought him over a decade ago to live and work in San Francisco. His father was an engineer. They prospered. Then his father died by age fifty from a failed heart. He was on ventilators in the hospital but couldn’t stay strong enough in the wake of waiting for a heart.
“The ventilation system was faulty.” He explained.
That meant that his initial open heart surgery was compromised by the dirty ventilation system and the company that conducted services on the air system suffered a hefty litigation suite and Will was given a million dollars at settlement.
“It was likely a new heart wouldn’t have made him survive anyway.” He looked broken.
Will moved Caleb to Manhattan to film and produce Over the Moon in Love.
“I’m happy to finally know you off set.” He told her.
They were dining at an Italian restaurant when they were approached by a customer, “oh my god,” the voice said, “you’re from that show … Valerie isn’t it?” A kind older woman said.”Can I get your autograph?” She handed her a simple piece of paper.
“Sure.” Kitty was kind.
She signed the piece of paper and handed it back to her.
They went back to eating and chatting over script ideas. The next year went by and their relationship grew on and off set. They went to Madison Park where Will proposed. Their one year relationship was strong despite the hefty work load. They found ways to be together and mostly had a quiet life. The show then had grown in popularity; their ratings more than doubled from the previous year and her salary went from 20k an episode to a six figure income. In the next five years her little tv show brings her a million dollars per episode.
“I didn’t know I could make this kind of money.” She told Will in the home they then shared together. He, then her husband, was also making a sizable income because his tv show became the most watched network of the year. On top of that he was writing for the cinema. His motion picture Three is too Many, a comedy about roommates grossed over 400 million. He stood by her as she took the lead role for her first film. He supported her but then the fame creeped into his soul and life started to look different.
“I need to take my brother out.” He told her in the bedroom while she groggily replied, “okay.” And dozed back to sleep. He took Caleb to Madison Square where he could appreciate the fresh air. Caleb walked ahead when Will was stopped by a cyclist.
“Hey, you’re that guy whose married to Kitty Purrie.”
The cyclist was mostly calm but it stirred up the onlookers.
“Kitty Purrie,” a woman close by said, “funny name. Good actress.”
The crowd swarmed them. Will stayed reserved, “Caleb,” he called out. But Caleb had nervous anxiety and the crowd was too much for him. Will was surrounded and then, of all things, across the street came the Paparazzi… he broke through the crowd and raced to his brother who was running. Caleb stopped at a nearby tree and yelled out of aggravation. His speech wasn’t audible. The cameras were clicking, the crowd was ascending and calling him by “Kitty’s husband Will.”
He put an arm around Caleb who ducked into the pit of his arm and they walked off flanked by pedestrians, encapsulated by fans, and engulfed by screaming. The scene became outrageous. He wasn’t ready for the outburst of all those people. He knew his wife grew in fame but he was always behind the spot light. He had never been approached before. Caleb only settled once they were out of the taxi and reached for the front door but they were followed by the Paparazzi.
He entered the front door and exclaimed “I can’t do this shit no more!” Kitty woke from her sleep. She entered the downstairs. He was tossing belongings into a duffel bag.
“The fucking Paparazzi!” He was fuming.
“Out the damn door!”
“Calm down. Don’t do this.”
She was in love. Her screenwriter turned confidant, and friend, was a ball of emotions and Caleb was back to screaming. He packed their belongings and was out the door with his brother flanked at his side.
“You don’t have to choose between us,” she pleaded, “you have us both!”
“They’re monsters!” He screamed in defense of Caleb who was anxious.
He faded out of sight out the back door, into the car, and out the parking garage.
Kitty didn’t know where he was going. She grabbed her purse and went out the front door and into the pit of the frenzy. She wasn’t thinking. The Paparazzi swarmed her and she felt the procession of clicks and flashing that came with being photographed.
The following day they were the front headline. Everything from Caleb, to a breakup, to the entire ordeal was annotated in ink for New York Today. She found her car in the street and tried to leave them but they followed her still. She didn’t know where he’d go but he was leaving her there alone in the mist of a frenzy leaving her to fend for herself, by herself, the way she had always known – forsaken by a family again.
She got on her cell phone when she was stopped by the traffic light.
“Where are you going?” Her voice shuddered.
“I can’t be in this like this.”
“In what like what?”
“I’m not an attention seeker, never was.”
“But you chose me …”
“I chose you… before… “
“Before the fame.”
“Well what did you think would happen?”
“Not all this. Not like this.”
He ended the call. She sobbed. Being left by a husband felt a lot like being left by daddy all those years ago – a voice that was so close. Yet so far away.
She sold their home. She didn’t want her belongings.
Kitty didn’t grow materialistic – she grew in love.
They grew more distant.
In the dead space that was her life she still had the Paparazzi who begrudgingly to her filled that void. She wanted Will and she knew Will wanted her too – but he had not an obligation but a promise to his brother that he would always care for Caleb. If he didn’t necessarily leave for himself he left for Caleb.
It was the reason Will left the rock band in his twenties. He did not want fame. But he loved to write. He loved the production behind cinema but he would never once claim an award at the Emmy’s. Then came the Oscars where Kitty was a nominee. She thought long and hard about attending something that would further rip a hole through her marriage – six months into the separation.
“You got what you wanted.” She told him behind the set.
“What is that exactly though?”
“Well I guess the Paparazzi aren’t following you.”
“I can take my brother to the park …”
“But he is that way around everyone … still… even me. Do you choose to be alone and not fight for what you want?”
“All I wanted was you…”
“You had me…” she stepped closer.
His head went down. He did not just sigh but bellowed a cry.”I don’t know how to take care of him and you…”
“But you don’t have to take care of me!” She maintained low key composure.
She stepped into the spotlight on the stage to receive her Oscar with their conversation fresh in her mind. She told them she had a marriage before she had an Oscar. She told them it would be her last year acting…
But that didn’t happen. She didn’t walk away from the spotlight because in front of her were thousands of fans; somehow amid the crowd were her father and her mother who stood for an applause and they were there with someone she used to know – a boy, now a man, known as Ricky.
Kitty stepped away from that stage with her high achievement – an award she never imagined she’d one day possess. She walked up to them – her mother sober and her father, gray, but sparkling in her eyes.
“We brought an old friend sweetie.” Her mother said and Ricky extended a hand.
“Hi Kitty …” even his voice was familiar despite the ages that passed.
“Hi Ricky.” She said solemnly.
Her divorce was days from being finalized and it came with a card that said I Love You.
She sobbed and she found herself with Ricky. Five more years into acting – still seeing her ex husband on set. Two kids later. She felt different. Older. Wiser.
What would life be like if they hadn’t brought Ricky? She thought to herself often. She and Ricky had a normal life even amid the Paparazzi – he didn’t just accept them but he expected them. Her role as a tv personality ended after the show aired for more than a decade. Her children turned ten and twelve. She had been long lost from her former marriage and she grew in acting as an actress in major motion pictures. Their home together was worth 50 million. The estate was nestled in California where they found themselves at the end of the show. Her past was healed almost entirely at age 49 as she continued to re-kindle a relationship with her father and her mother.
“Hello darling,” her mother would say from her hospital bed as she battled cancer. She was sixty-five and diagnosed with stage four cancer. She had tumors down her spine. Her entire body was inflamed with malignant invaders. Her father stood by his ex-wife and she passed after saying a final farewell and I’m sorry to her daughter. Kitty could finally say she had a mother. Tyree carried her casket at her mother’s funeral and her father gave a blessing she could never imagine happening. The Paparazzi found their way too .. and the past came to the forefront of her mind when she turned to Ricky, “I think we’ve outgrown each other.” She said respectfully in full knowledge of his extra-marital affairs.
He put his arm around her and they walked off the premise with her mother who would be at rest but her heart stirred and she saw an ad over the horizon of Ricky alongside who she knew was his mistress – he married money. She knew that too.
“So says the mistress,” her father said.
And she laughed but Ricky was having an affair with a younger model and actress when Kitty began to show some age.
“She’s ten years younger…” she said.
“So you’re ten years wiser.” Tyree was firm.
“I think sometimes if you hadn’t brought Ricky…”
“I know pumpkin,” he said, a name he used only once. “But that was a journey you needed to go on.”
“How do you know?”
“It was a fork in the road sugar. A split between having a family of your own or leaving your profession.”
“I chose family.”
“You chose family.”
“But wasn’t he my family?”
“I don’t think so Jen… Kitty…”
“What if I was Jenny again?”
“And leave Kitty Purrie the super star?”
“That’s up to you to decide for yourself now.” He kissed the top of her head and felt genuinely grateful of the past nine years he’d gotten to know his daughter. And he took her to the diner where it all started on the movie set more than ten years ago when she had her audition and there sat Will who was still, always, behind the scenes and never in the limelight of a super star.
“Maybe you should talk to him.” Tyree offered.
“Hello.” She said softly.
Will turned around at the sound of her voice.
“Hello to you too.” He smiled warmly.
Will had a daughter. She was grown. Fifteen total years had passed since their divorce was final. She told him about her divorce from Ricky. About their many years together with his infidelity. Will was divorced too. He had grown too. Wiser but so sorry he whispered.
“I’m sorry too.” She told him.
“You chose family.” He sounded like her father.
“So did you.” She told him.
And they grew into their independence to find themselves together in the end where it had all started in the small café of a small movie set and she would not be in the spotlight …
“Do you mind if I watch?” “Of course.” He jested for her to sit down. And she joked too that she had been writing and they shared their ideas, together, wondering if they were starting all over again.