Before writing for Odyssey, I wrote for myself. I spent nights watching"Glee" and writing snippets of books that I had been writing since freshman year. I have written and re-written the scenes more times than I can count. At this point, the books have been beaten to a pulp, the scenes completely different from the first time I wrote them.
Writing for Odyssey has been great. I've learned a lot about myself (including that I hate writing competitively), and I think that it has made my writing voice stronger, which is much appreciated.
But I miss fiction writing. I miss escaping into my imaginary worlds. I miss creating characters that mirror myself. I miss telling the stories of characters that need to be told (and, if you're a writer, you'll understand the need to tell the stories of fictional characters).
So, without further ado, here is a short story I wrote a couple of months ago.
Twisting the sparkling diamond engagement ring around my third finger on my left hand, I sat in sweatpants and a strapless bra while my hair stylist poked bobby pins into my tender head. Bridesmaids and stylists zoomed around me in flashes of peach and baby blue. A cloud of hairspray and the suffocating smell of Chanel No. 5 wafted around the room. My publicist paced back and forth, tying up loose ends before the ceremony, barking orders into her oversized iPhone. There was a soft mention of a missing violinist, but when I glanced over at her, she painted a smile on her face and waved me off. I turned away from Mia, briefly wishing that the violinist wouldn’t show up, but I knew she had a backup nestled somewhere in her contacts. The whole atmosphere was hectic and scrambled as everyone rushed to get ready for the wedding that was taking place in three hours.
As Stacey, my makeup artist and good friend, ran a light pink blush across my cheekbones, my best friend sat next to me, lacing her fingers in with mine. Our eyes briefly met in the mirror just before Stacey ran a mascara wand through my eyelashes. Emily squeezed my hand, silently telling me that everything was going to be fine. Stacey stepped back to view her work of art. Allison spritzed the last bit of hairspray into my curls and joined Stacey in front me, striking up the same scrutinizing pose as her. Their eyes scanned over me, looking for any imperfections that the tabloids would surely pick apart tomorrow morning. After a few agonizing moments of silence, they finally shared an excited expression, clapping their hands together and moving to the side, allowing me to see their finished product. I stared back at my unrecognizable reflection, forcing my glossy lips to curve into a smile and tell Stacey and Allison how grateful I was to have them on my special day.
Emily pushed me towards the stunning tulle ball gown hanging loosely on one of the hangers. I pulled my sweatpants off and stepped into the dress, holding onto the sweetheart neckline as my stylist laced up the back. I gingerly placed my tanned hand over my flat stomach, smoothed over by the itchy and tight fabric of my one-of-a-kind Vera Wang dress. The bridesmaids flocked around me like seagulls to a forgotten french fry. Exclamations and squealing giggles filled the large room, making me wince from the sheer loudness of it all. Hazel mentioned something about how gorgeous I looked, Piper, the diva that she was, managed a fake agreement, Violet wrapped me up in an excited hug, and Emily sat beside me, keeping her mouth shut. I stared at a pearl necklace on the counter as the girls showered me with the obligatory comments. I bit my cheek to prevent the tears from falling and ruining my makeup.
Noticing this, Emily finally spoke up, “Ladies?” She started, “Can Anna and I have the room?”
The stylists and bridesmaids nodded, quickly flowing out into the hallway, their heels clicking loudly.
I walked around the room, breathing heavily and fanning my face to stop the tears coming and ruining my makeup, “I can’t do this, Em.” I whispered, placing my hands on my waist.
She sat down on the couch, rifling through her bag and pulling out two mini liquor bottles, “I swiped these from the minibar in my room.” She handed me a mini tequila, and I gratefully knocked it back, the warm liquid burning my throat but calming my nerves.
“No problem. You’re paying for it anyway.” She smiled, attempting to lighten the mood. It didn’t work.
I collapsed beside her, resting my head in my hands. There was a moment of silence, my breathing slowing down as Emily ran her hand along my back.
“You know, I always thought I would be in love when I got married.” I whispered.
“You are in love,” She offered. “You’re just in love with Sebastian, and Liam is the one that’s going to be standing at the altar.”
I let out a pitiful chuckle. This was the perfect wedding. We were getting married in Disneyland, Hazel Love and Piper Fox - two very famous actresses - were my bridesmaids, my soon-to-be husband, Liam Stone, was the guy that every girl in America wished she could be with. I was already being called the Meryl Streep of my generation. My wedding would be plastered throughout the tabloids tomorrow, likely exclaiming that it was "A Fairytale Wedding Between Hollywood’s King and Queen." When I was a little girl, this is exactly what I wanted my life to be. But I was miserable.
Liam and I were approached about the whole fake relationship thing about a year ago. He was my co-star in "Lost and Found," a story of a woman who suffered severe depression after she miscarries her first child. I had been dating Sebastian for a year and a half, but we had successfully avoided the rumor mill thanks to meticulous planning and secret getaways to my house in Minnesota. When our agents presented the idea to us, they marketed it as a publicity stunt - something that would skyrocket both our careers. We would unveil our new love at the Emmy Awards in September, it would last until the premiere of "Lost and Found" in November, Sebastian would get paid a few hundred thousand to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the fake relationship, and I would get free reign to come up with the story of our relationship. I had full control over what happened. If I didn’t like anything, I could call it off right then and there. Sebastian was surprisingly understanding at first. He had always wanted me to succeed, and he figured this was just another step to achieving my dreams. I’m sure the money helped cushion the blow, but he had always been a small-town Minnesota boy at heart. He wasn’t confrontational, and if it hurt him in anyway, he never told me about it.
As soon as Liam and I stepped onto the red carpet at the Emmy Awards, we were immediately bombarded with intrusive questions from the paparazzi. In less than 30 minutes, #Lianna was trending on Twitter, and we hadn’t even confirmed our relationship yet. When the premiere rolled around and I started distancing myself from him, a pregnancy rumor filled the tabloids, and our agents insisted that we stay together until the Academy Awards - a few months later. According to them, even though the rumor was fake, Liam would look like an asshole if he deserted the girlfriend that he got pregant.
Later that night, I sat Sebastian down and told him the news.
“It’s just for a few more months,” I whispered as we lay on the couch together, our warm bodies pressed up against one another.
“A few months is a long time, Annie.” He stared at the TV, clenching his jaw.
“I know. And I’m sorry. This wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but Greg and Rayna both agreed that they would pay you a few extra thousand to help out.”
He got up from the couch and started pacing around the room, “I don’t care about the money, Anna, I care about you!” He exclaimed, finally releasing the anger that had apparently been pent up for the past couple of months, “And what the hell is this?” He threw the magazine at me, the headline practically screaming: "A Little Prince or Princess on the Way for Hollywood’s Royals?"
“It’s just a rumor.” I whispered, “I’m not pregnant. I haven’t even had sex with Liam.”
I raised an eyebrow up at him, “Excuse me?”
“You haven’t had sex with him yet.”
My mouth dropped open, “That’s because I don’t want to.”
“Yeah because you’re dating me, remember?” He spat out.
“I know full well who I’m dating.” I shot back.
He laughed, but it wasn’t funny, “Do you, Anna? Because I look at these pictures,” He began to flip through the magazine in front of me, “And all I can see is the way that you look at him. The way your lips kiss his. The way that your f---ing fingers slightly tighten around his waist.” He collapsed onto the couch, holding his head in hands.
I slid closer to him, wrapping my arms around his back, “I’m so sorry, Sebastian . I never meant for this to happen. I’ll call Greg and call the whole thing off. They gave me full control over when I wanted this to be over with, and I can’t have Liam being the third person in our relationship. Not anymore.”
He sighed, leaning back into the couch, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” He mumbled, “Don’t call them. I’ll deal with everything on my own. I’m not going to be the one who stops you from pursuing your dreams.”
After the fight, we took more and more weekend getaways. We tried to get our relationship back to where it was before that night, but you can’t just put a bandaid over a bullet hole and expect the blood to stop flowing. On the night of the Academy Awards, Liam and I stepped out onto the red carpet for the last time. Dressed in a blush pink Zac Posen dress, Liam’s hand on my back guided me from interview to interview, my nerves for the night replaced by excitement to finally be free of my fake boyfriend.
Our last interview before we went inside was with Robin Roberts.
“Thank you, Lara,” Robin beamed into the camera before turning to us, “I’m here with Anna Lafferty, best actress nominee for her moving performance in "Lost and Found." I just want to tell you, I thought you were phenomenal. You portrayed your character, Dianna, in such a heartbreakingly beautiful way. As an audience member, I was able to feel everything that she was going through. Tell me, is there anything that you did to prepare for this role?” She moved the microphone to my mouth.
I smiled, the crowd behind me going wild as Leonardo DiCaprio, who had finally won his Oscar last year, stepped out onto the carpet, “Thank you, Robin. That means so much. As far as preparing for this role, I don’t really think I did anything differently. I knew that I wanted to be able to bring light to mental illness and get rid of the stigma surrounding it, and I’m very pleased that that translated onto the screen.”
Robin nodded, “It sure did. Did it help that this beautiful man behind you was your co-star? You guys have sparks both on and off the screen.”
Liam came from behind me, laughing, “It definitely made my job easier to be able to see her beautiful face every day.” He kissed my forehead, and I knew that the teenage girls at home would go crazy for that. Way to sell it, Liam.
“Now. You guys have been dating for, what, six months?” Robin asked as she started to dive into the nitty gritty questions that all the audience members wanted to hear.
I cocked my head to the side, “Has it been that long?” I asked, giggling a very rehearsed giggle.
He laughed, “I guess so! When you’re in love, you kind of lose track of time.”
Robin put a hand on my arm, grinning from ear to ear, “So are we going to hear wedding bells anytime soon?”
I nervously laughed, my nerves popping back up, “No. Not that I-”
“Actually,” Liam fumbled around in his pocket for a second, and I raised my eyebrows. As he bent down to the ground, one leg on the carpet, one leg propped up, my eyes grew to the size of golf balls.
“Liam. What are doing?” I whispered, tears beginning to spring from my eyes - but not for the reasons the viewers thought. The crowd hushed, noticing what was ensuing. I stood still, unable to move or say anything, as he went into his proposal.
“Anna Lafferty. The past six months have been a blur for me, but I wouldn’t want to change any second of it. Ever since you stepped onto the set of "Lost and Found," I knew that we would have a special connection. You have made me a better actor, a better person, a better man, and I will always be grateful for the time I have spent with you. Will you marry me?” He finished, a dorky grin on his face.
Before I could think, I heard the word “yes” pop out of my mouth. I quickly felt Liam’s arms around tighten around my waist, his warm lips against mine, as the crowd erupted into applause, their camera phones snapping picture after picture.
I had won that night for my performance in "Lost and Found." But I didn’t feel like I had won. When I got home that night, Sebastian’s things were gone, the drawers empty, the counters in the bathroom bare. I had a fake husband, an Oscar, and a boyfriend who I loved but I couldn’t marry.
“I just wish I could talk to Sebastian,” I murmured to Emily.
“Have you talked to him at all since the Oscars?” she asked, furiously texting on her phone.
I shook my head, “I’ve tried, but he hasn’t returned any of my calls. I can’t blame him, though. I was with another man. I’m marrying another man, Em.”
She nodded absently, her fingers flying on her phone.
“Who the hell are you texting?” I narrowed my eyebrows at her, anger starting to replace my sadness.
She shrugged, a mischievous smile on her face, “What kind of maid of honor would I be if I didn’t grant any last minute wishes?”
With the flick of her wrist, she opened the door. Standing in front of me was Sebastian, his brown hair and goofy smile as familiar as the back of my hand.
“Hi,” he whispered.
“Hey,” I whispered back.
“I’m going to leave you two alone. I’ll let the bridesmaids know that you’ll need a few minutes to catch up with a childhood friend.” Emily smiled before slipping out of the door, leaving a soft silence in the room.
“I miss you,” I exhaled softly.
“I’m sorry.” He breathed out.
I shook my head, the tears falling freely now. Stacey would kill me later, but right now I didn’t care. I just wanted to be held by him, to feel the familiar beat of his heart against my cheek. He rushed towards me, catching me as my knees buckled, the emotions I had locked up for the past nine months finally being set free. Wrapping one arm around my back and tangling the other in the hair hanging loosely around the nape of my neck, he placed a soft kiss against my forehead. I leaned into him, my eyes closed, my body melting into his touch. He felt familiar and safe and cozy. Like home.
“Shhh,” he cooed over and over again as the sobs racked through my body.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry,” I cried.
“Anna. We need to talk about this,” he gently held me arm’s length apart and stared into my eyes.
I bit my lip and shook my head, “I don’t want to talk about this. I just want to be with you.”
He managed a small smile, “I know. I want to be with you, too. But, you have to marry Liam.”
“What? No!” I exclaimed, pulling away from him.
“Anna. Listen to me.” He pleaded, “Think about what this fake relationship has gotten you.” He watched as I paced around the room, my heart racing, “You’re rich and famous. You have an Academy Award at 23, you’re one of the most popular actresses of the past three years, people are watching you like a hawk. You can’t just leave your wedding to be with a guy that the tabloids assume is your childhood friend.”
“But I don’t care. I may have everything that I wanted, but what I want now is you.”
He shrugged, “Then marry him and get a divorce in a couple of months. I’m sure you’re not the first famous actress to get married as a publicity stunt. Just look at Kim Kardashian. You told me a few years ago that Brad and Angelina’s marriage was a sham. This one will be, too.” He paused, waiting for me to jump in and speak. When I didn’t say anything, he continued, “I love you. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone, but I also love to see you happy. You look so ecstatic to be at the award shows. You’re practically jumping out of your skin every time you talk to a new famous person. I can’t take that away from you.”
“So, what do we do? I just marry Liam and hope for the best?” I asked, every part of my body telling me that this might not be the best idea.
“I’ve been thinking about ways to handle this, and I think that you and Liam should have an open marriage. On top of that, our relationship never leaves the walls of your new house with him, and any girl that he invites over has to sign a nondisclosure agreement. After five months, you guys can start showing up without each other at awards shows; you’ll start distancing yourself from one another. That’s when you’ll file for divorce.” He rushed through the plan quickly, as if he had to get it all out before he forgot it or got scared.
“And you really think that a divorce is better than leaving my fake fiance at the altar?”
“Absolutely. Think of all the famous celebrities who have gotten divorced. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears and her two husbands. You’ll be fine, I promise.” He stuck out his pinky for me, a long standing tradition that we had whenever we made a promise.
I don’t know if it was the tequila beginning to set in, or if my nerves were playing tricks on me, but this was beginning to sound like a good idea, “OK,” I agreed, interlocking my pinky with his.
He placed a gentle kiss on my lips, smiling at me when he pulled away, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I whispered as he left the room.
“You ready, Anna?” My dad asked excitedly as he linked his arm with mine.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and counted to 10, and then exhaled, “Yes.”
Stepping down the aisle, Liam beaming at me from the altar, my bridesmaids secretly wishing they were in my shoes, I held onto the arm of my dad to steady myself, “Daddy?” I whispered under my breath.
“What’s going on, Anna Banana?” He slowed down to give us more time to talk.
“Am I making the right decision?”
“Are you happy?”
“Are you happy?”
I shrugged. I had everything that I had always wanted. Even my relationship with Sebastian seemed like it would work out. After a moment, I nodded, “Yeah.”
“Then that’s all that matter, buttercup.” He smiled as we stepped near the altar, Liam taking my hand from my dad.
“Hi,” he laughed.
I playfully rolled my eyes at him, “Hey.” Despite this mess being mostly his fault, I knew that the wedding was our agent’s idea, not his. This was probably just as hard from him.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony...”
As the priest droned on, I took in my surroundings. Behind me was the landscape from my childhood: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This place was my second home. When my mother died, we went to Disneyland and poured her ashes into Snow White’s well. When my sister, Violet, broke up with her first boyfriend, we went to Disneyland in matching Mickey ears and got free pins from the cast members that took pity on her. Sebastian and I had our first date here, and he kissed me on the spinning teacups. It was only fitting that I was getting married here.
In front of me were 200 of our closest family and friends. Many of whom were former co-stars or people that had helped me and Liam break into the business.
Liam smiled down at me, and as a silence loomed over us, I realized that they were waiting for me, “What?”
“Your vows, babe.”
“Oh, right!” I exclaimed, the audience breaking out into light chuckles. I tugged the speech I had written out from the bodice of my dress and unrolled it, “Liam. When I was in high school, you would have been everything that I fell in love with. You were handsome, you had a beautiful body, and you had an aura around you that screamed douchebag.” The crowd erupted into laughter, and Liam narrowed his eyes at me. I could tell he was probably waiting for me to insult him further and then leave, “However, when I met you, you were everything that I hated. You were handsome, you had a beautiful body, and you had an aura around you that screamed douchebag.” I stuck my tongue out at him as he laughed, “I stepped onto set and immediately regretted my decision to sign on for the movie. As I got to know you, you became more than a pretty face with a beautiful body. You became compassionate. You made me laugh. You stuck up for me when I demanded we get paid the same amount. You became my prince. You became human. And as I stand here today, in front of our friends, families, and coworkers, I promise to love you until I go back to hating you.” I winked as the crowd clapped.
“Liam, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?” The priest asked.
Liam squeezed my hands and nodded, “I do.”
“Anna, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?” The priest asked me.
I bit my lip, looking around at the familiar faces that I would disappoint in a few short months. Was this really what I wanted? To live a lie for five months and then destroy the “marriage” in less than one day? Liam eyed me suspiciously, and my nerves came back, my hands beginning to shake.
Despite this, I found myself blurting out the words, “I do.”
No turning back now.