The One Hundred Per Cent Unadulterated Truth

 

My alarm rang at exactly 7:15 a.m. I had set it for 8, but obviously Dave thought I needed to get up early and changed it. I was about to change it back when he yelled up the stairs.

"Don't even think about it, Randy!"

Man, he's good.

"Shep needs to go out, and I gotta go pick up Rachel's parents."

I swore. I had forgotten about them. Mr. and Mrs. Caruso were flying in to help out with the wedding.

The door slammed shut, and Shep started whining outside my door. He pushed it open and shoved his wet, furry, doggy-stinky nose in my face. That was it-I had to get up. Why Dave couldn't let the dog out when he left was beyond me.

I pulled on the last clean clothes I had, a billowing peasant skirt and ratty black concert tee. I have never been to a Metallica concert, and never plan on going to one. I picked up the shirt at the Goodwill.

Dave is my cousin, 7 or 8 years older than me. We live together in my grandmother's house. She moved into a smaller house that my uncle had once rented out. We take care of the old house so that people have a place to stay when they need it.

Now Dave's getting married, and all hell has broken loose. Well, all of my family will be arriving soon, and it's pretty much the same thing. When we all get together, strange things happen. Like the little cousins deciding that anyone lying down is part of the sofa and therefore a trampoline. Yeah, that leaves a mark.

Dave's brother Sam is coming in tomorrow, Craig arrives Thursday, and I could go on, but the family list is long and involved.

So I let Shep out into the yard, but didn't check the gate, so I spent half an hour chasing a Husky-hairy dog mix around the neighbourhood. When I got back inside, the phone was ringing off the hook.

"Hey, Randy!" It was Sam.

"Hey. What's up?" He's on his cell phone.

"Can you come pick me up?"

"Sure. I think we already discussed this. Dave's working tomorrow, so I get to come pick you up." Sam's not always the sharpest knife in the drawer.

"No, I mean now."

"What are you talking about? Your flight doesn't come in until tomorrow."

"I caught an earlier flight. And I brought a friend."

"Who? Sam, you didn't say anything about bringing a friend before. Where are we gonna put him?" It didn't occur to me to ask "Why?"

"We'll figure it out when we get there."

"Dave's out there." As I said that, he pulled up into the driveway. "Never mind. Yeah, I'll be there in a few minutes."

A steady pounding started in the back of my head, and I knew that the Jazz Monkeys from Mars were back, beating away on their bongos. A migraine was starting. I couldn't find the Excedrine or any other pain meds. It was just the beginning, so I figured that I had half an hour before it got really bad. I grabbed my purse, let Shep in and gave him a biscuit, said a short hello to Dave and the Carusos and hopped in my car.

Understandably, I was not in the best mood when I pulled up at the passenger pick-up area. Sam was there, decked out in all his punk glory, and someone else. A tall, skinny guy, wearing shades. I stopped the car and popped the trunk.

"Hey, Randy," Sam said, leaning into the open window.

"Just load your junk and get in." Great first impression, isn't it?

"'kay." He said something to his buddy, which I didn't hear, and stuck his head back in the window. "Randy, this is my friend Clyde Wexler."

"Right." Some dude with the same name as the actor. "Just tell him to get his butt in the car. I need to get to the CVS."

Sam slammed the trunk shut and got in the car. His buddy slid into the back seat and took off the shades. I looked in the rear-view mirror and stared. It was the Clyde Wexler, and he was sitting in my car. Even the Jazz Monkeys were stunned.

I somehow managed to keep a civil tongue in my head on the drive home, not even speaking as I pulled into the CVS and hopped out. By some miracle, I was able to find the Excedrin Migraine and not tell everyone in the store that Clyde Wexler was in my car. They wouldn't've believed me. I didn't totally believe it myself.

The house was nice and cool when we got there. I guess celebrity is as celebrity does, since I was relegated to baggage handler. I was ready to shove the Kenneth Cole garment bag up his... Sam pushed a glass of water into my hand and took the bag.

"I'll talk to him."

"Good. ‘cause if you don't, I'll talk to him with a steel-toed shoe."

He laughed, but I was serious. If that guy was staying with us for two plus weeks, he'd better lose the attitude. I don't care if he is a (damn good looking) movie star.

"Just let me dig a hole and hide for a while, ‘kay? I need some quiet time."

Shep was sniffing Sam and the new guy with great interest when I resurfaced an hour later. Dave had taken the Caruso's out to breakfast, and Sam and Clyde Wexler were watching TV in the family room.

"Feeling better, pumpkin?" Sam asked.

"A little. Care to introduce me to your buddy?" He knew that I knew who Clyde Wexler was, but Wexler didn't know me from Adam's cat.

"Clyde, this is my cousin, Miranda Straussberg. Clyde Wexler."

"Please, call me Randy. What's on?" I didn't look at him. I didn't trust myself.

"M*A*S*H reruns." Sam didn't even look up.

"Great. Did you guys eat?"

"Randy, we were awake at who-knows-when to catch the plane."

"It's not my fault you changed your plans. You want me to make something, knowing that I'm not the regular cook, chauffeur, or bellboy?" Yes, I aimed that right for Clyde Wexler. He didn't flinch.

I knew what their answer'd be. They're guys. I walked into the kitchen and went domestic. It really doesn't bother me, since I like to cook. I just hate being taken advantage of.

Clyde's a vegetarian, but I wasn't sure if he ate eggs or not. Before I had time to ask, he was in the kitchen with me.

"Do you need any help?" That was the closest to an apology I'd get from him.

I paused for a split second.

"No, thanks. Any special requests?"

Between the two of them, they ate seven eggs, four pieces of toast, six slices of bacon and two large glasses of orange juice each. I changed into my uniform and left for work. The boys were satisfied, as was Shep, since Sam gave him a piece of bacon.

"Dinner's at Terry's tonight. You'd better call and tell her that you're bringing a guest. And warn Clyde about the kids."


I work at the city golf course as a member of the wait staff. It would've been easier for me to go straight to my aunt's house after my shift ended, but I smelled of cigarette smoke and Windex.

When I finally got to Terry's, I saw Clyde spread out face down on the sofa. From the sunburn on his face, I could tell that he and Sam had been golfing. I didn't have the heart to wake him; Liam would take care of that for me.

Clyde groaned as a four-year-old bundle of muscle and bone landed on his back. I couldn't help the smile, but I did suppress the laugh.

"That's not nice, Randy."

"Aunt Terry, I've had Liam jump on me too many times. Clyde isn't the nicest guy, so I think it's only fitting."

"You only met the man today. He can't be all bad."

"He had me carry in his luggage, and he barely spoke to me."

"You take a bit of getting used to."

"I'm one of the most laid-back people in the world."

We didn't have time to discuss the matter further. Uncle Joe (Terry's husband) came into the kitchen and grabbed platters of chicken and hamburgers. Clyde was right behind him, trying to fend off Liam.

"Clyde, gimme a hand. Bring the hotdogs out to the grill, will you?"

Clyde pulled a face while Joe's back was turned. This time, I had to laugh. It's hard to be a vegetarian in my family. I've tried. It doesn't work. We're a carnivorous bunch.

He took the bowl wordlessly, a grimace still plastered on his face. Liam was right on his tail, a three foot tall shadow of the six foot actor. I felt a twinge of jealousy. Liam usually follows me around.

I grabbed a carrot stick and sat down to sulk. That didn't last long. Dave and Rachel arrived, with her parents, and attention focused on them for about 5 minutes.

Later after dinner, Sam, Dave, and Clyde disappeared into the basement. The sun had almost set and it was growing steadily darker. The boys were being awfully quiet...

"Liam! Come here, quick!" Aunt Dana called from the top of the basement stairs. "It's the Box monster!"

The two little boys came running, as did I. This Box monster was something new.

"Ahh!" One of the boys, Dave by the state of his jeans, ran past the bottom of the steps, an old Sam's Club size orange-juice box on his head. I recognised Sam's tuxedo pants and sneakers as he ran by, a bucket from Scoop-Away cat litter resting on his shoulders.

"It's the Bucket monster!"

Clyde had to be next. I'd love to see that stuck-up jerk make a fool of himself.

The Box monster ran by again, making the boys scream. I was getting antsy, waiting for Clyde to show himself.

"The Pepsi monster's coming for you!" Dana yelled.

It was Clyde, an empty 24 pack perched on his shaggy head. Instead of just running past the stairs, he climbed up, taking two stairs at a time. The boys hid behind me, which in hindsight might not have been the best idea. Clyde picked me up and slung me over my shoulder.

Needless to say, I was surprised, and when I'm surprised like that (which is rare) I shriek like a banshee. That only made the kids scream the louder, as he carried me down the stairs.

"What the hell are you doing!?" I could hear Liam and Andrew gathering shoes upstairs. A few other kids were gathering upstairs too.

"We thought it would be funny."

Dave shoved Sam into the square of light. He was pelted with little shoes.

"Funny as a rubber crutch. What do you have to say about this, Wexler?" I hissed.

"You could stand to lose a few pounds."

Even I didn't have an answer for that. I was too mad. Sam put himself between us before I could throttle him.

I turned to go upstairs, but Dave grabbed me round the middle and hauled me back onto the dark recesses of the basement. The boys were terrified, and the girls had their turn at screaming and throwing shoes, wooden spoons, and Gladware containers.

Sam and Clyde had taken off their make-shift masks and were arguing. I eavesdropped.

"She's not the most sophisticated woman I've met."

"So what? She still deserves common courtesy. Would you tell Julia Roberts that she needs to lose a few pounds?"

"Julia's won an Academy Award."

Sam snorted.

"Be nice to her, or you can find your own place to stay."

To create a diversion, Dave and I staged our own little scene for the benefit of the kidlets. I tried to escape, and he pulled me back. Eventually, all three boys came and lifted me onto their shoulders and carried me back and forth. Dana encouraged the kids, but attention spans are short. Rachel asked Andrew to show her what new video games he'd gotten for his birthday, and the whole troupe of children stomped up to the second story.

I avoided Clyde for the rest of the night. Everything I had heard and read about him made him out to be a nice guy, but this was not reinforcing that image. If anything, it was slowly deconstructing.


My work schedule and Sam's social calendar made it easy for Clyde and me to stay out of each other's hair for the next few days. Unfortunately, the peace couldn't last.

It was Saturday. Dinner would be a home. Everyone would be there. And I was in charge.

The boys were golfing. The girls were shopping. I was cooking. Had been cooking for about 3 days straight. Okay, I admit it. I'm a perfectionist.

Three cases of beer (Heineken, Coors, and MGD) were in the coolers, with three more ready to go in. Five bottles of wine were in the fridge (Merlot, Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer) and there were several more in the basement. There were two pitchers of lemonade for the kids and oodles of mix. A six pack of Smirnov Ice for me.

And that was just the drinks.

Need I say again that my family list is long and involved? We like our beer. Actually, they do. I'm not a beer or wine fan. I prefer cocktails.

I was nice, even, while making out the shopping list. I bought a box of veggie-burgers for Clyde. If he didn't appreciate the gesture, I'd have to write him off as a lost cause. I consider myself a nice person, but this guy really fries my buttons.

Then the unthinkable happened. Clyde Wexler walked into the kitchen.

"How can I help?" He was sincere! I almost dropped the knife I was holding.

"Start the grill?"

He nodded, I think, since he didn't say anything and I didn't look at him. I was trying to not cut a finger off as I cut up vegetables for munchies. Anyway, he went outside.

"When's dinner?" he asked when he came back.

"I said 6, but that means people will show up at 6 and expect food at 7. We run on Straussberg time."

"Why are we starting the grill at 5?"

"Because I'm hungry and want meat."

"You're starting a grill to cook one burger."

"There will be some people coming soon." He still looked skeptical. "Tell ya what, we'll make it a "cook your own food" night, and they can all thank you, Clyde Wexler."

He laughed, so I guess he's not a total loser.


It was three a.m. before I got to bed that night, even with Ella (Dave's sister) and Rachel helping me clean up. I tried to pick up over the course of the night, but my family's full of stories, and it's easy to get caught up.

I sometimes feel the instinctive need to protect people from my family. To try and buffer the fact that we're all crazy.

Take that night. Mom and Terry were talking about the camping trip that half the family went on last year. I wasn't able to go because I had to work. Damn college loans. One night, after a particularly nutritious dinner (complete with beer), it turns out that they felt the need to separate the sleeping quarters for the night. One room got the Belchers, and the other had the Farters.

In a way, I'm rather glad I didn't go on that trip.

Clyde looked like he'd been hit in the face by a side of beef. I had time to go get a camera and take a picture, he was so stunned. I guess people don't talk about that sort of thing in his family.


I was zoning out in front of the TV, watching some stupid show, which I think was Friends, after a long day at the restaurant, after getting up at 5 to babysit. Craig and Clyde came in, took the remote from my limp hand and changed the channel.

"I was watching that!"

"You were sleeping." Clyde sat in one of the comfy recliners.

"My eyes are open, doofus!"

"Why don't you go to bed? It's almost midnight-" Craig started.

"In Europe," I said. "I'm staying up to watch Jeopardy."

"Jeopardy's been over for a while, Randy," Craig said. I looked at the clock on the CD player. 9:52 p.m.

"Damn."

"You need to sleep." Clyde was adamant. That was new. "You work too hard."

"I don't want to go to sleep." Dave was heading out for dinner with Rachel and waved as he walked by.

Before I knew what was happening, Craig, Dave, and Clyde picked me up and hauled me upstairs. They dumped me on my bed, the metal frame creaking in protest.

"It's too early to sleep!" I shouted, after they left and shut the door behind them. At any rate, I needed a shower.

Half an hour later, I was downstairs, sitting cross legged on the sofa. My hair was just long enough to touch my shoulders, and it dripped, making the top of my shirt wet. On top of that, Craig had turned the air conditioning up, so I was shivering.

"What's on?" I asked, willing my teeth to not chatter.

"Inside the Actor's Studio," Clyde answered. "On Bravo."

"Who's there?"

"Kevin Spacey."

We watched in relative silence up until the very end, when James Lipton gave the little quiz. Clyde clicked off the TV.

"What's your favourite word?" he asked.

"Extemporaneous. You?"

"Stupid. What turns you on, creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?" He was asking all the same questions as James Lipton. He must watch the show a lot too. Maybe he's practicing for when he's on.

"I'd have to say playing. Not being serious. What about you?"

"Driving. It lets me clear my thoughts. What turns you off?"

"Intolerance, hands down."

"People being self-centered. Egotism. Favourite curse word?"

"Damn. Mild enough to be used often, yet still packs a punch."

Clyde chuckled. My eyelids started to lower involuntarily.

"I'm a fan of shitake mushrooms. It's a great cover." He forced a yawn, I knew it. "I'm heading to bed. You should too."

It was too late. I had fallen asleep on the sofa. As far as I could tell, Clyde let me fall over before putting a blanket at my feet.

Maybe he's not so bad.


We got along for a few more days. Clyde actually helped out a bit. hard to believe that he earned 5 million on his last film. Take away to the super-star status, and he's a regular guy.

Between him and Dave, I'm losing my fans. The boys adore them, and the girls are star struck. All I hear from the moms are "Dave this, Clyde that." It's enough to make me vomit.

I finally had a day off from cooking. Liz had ordered from the local Mediterranean restaurant. She got enough food to feed an army, but maybe not enough for all of us.

Even though I didn't have to cook or clean up (the kids were being chauffeured around town, going to Greenfield Village and the zoo), I was put to work. My little sister was at an uncle's house, making decorations for the church and reception. I had to go there and drop off three spools of pastel curling ribbon and a bolt of white tulle and go on a beer run since we had depleted our supply.

I was not happy, and I think Clyde could tell. He was waiting for me next to my car, a freshly burned CD in hand.

"Angry music. Good for what ails ya."

"Thanks," I grunted, deactivating the car alarm. "Coming?"

"Why not?"

"Get in the car."

The drive was short, and soon the little spaniel Princess was yapping at us in welcome.

"Who's there?" Ooh, Ariel was mad.

"It's me, peabrain! Mom told you I was coming."

"Peabrain?" Clyde asked as my sister fumed. I shrugged and walked into the kitchen. He stayed in the mud room, keeping Princess occupied.

"Who's with you?"

"One of Sam's friends. We're just dropping off that stuff you wanted. You know if Rob has any beer?"

"No!"

There was half a six-pack in the fridge. I grabbed it and yelled a goodbye to Ariel. Clyde was on his cell phone with some loud-mouthed woman.

"Come pick me up, teddy bear!" the woman wheedled. "I'm stuck at the airport, and there are people staring at me!"

"I'm busy, Jenna."

"But baby!" Clyde looked pathetic. This Jenna was a pain in his ass. I decided to be impulsive, and took the phone from him.

"This is the Straussberg Family Receptionist; how can I help you?" I asked in the most obnoxious, nasal, twangy voice I could manage.

"I need a ride," the witch answered.

"I'm sorry, we do not offer a shuttle service. Please consult a phone book for the nearest taxi company. They will be able to take you to your hotel."

"I had planned to stay with Clyde, thank you!" She really believed that I was the secretary. How dumb is this woman?

"Again, I'm sorry, but we at the Straussberg House do not allow young unmarrieds to sleep in the same room, and there are no vacancies."

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Honey, I'm a receptionist, not a travel agent. Find a phone book. There are plenty of hotels around."

I was losing my patience, but Clyde was amused.

"I want to talk to Clyde," she demanded. I handed the phone back to him and his smile faded.

"I'm sorry, Jenna." He was apologizing to the woman! She had him whipped and he knew it. "You heard the receptionist. You can't share a room with me. No, they don't care that you're a celebrity. There's a Hyatt Regency here, call them. Good-bye, Jenna."

She was still spluttering as his clicked off the phone. Princess leaned against him, offering a little comfort. Clyde stared at the carpet for what seemed like ages.

"Can I drive?" he asked finally. I handed him the car keys.

It was a good thing I had just filled the gas tank. Clyde found the expressway and we were gone. I didn't have to look at the speedometer to know that we were way over the speed limit; the other cars looked like they were standing still.

"Who was that?" I was curious. It's a bad habit.

"Jenna Marx. We have a casual relationship."

"Ah. And she doesn't think so?"

"No."

Although I was itching with questions, I didn't ask further. He didn't want to talk about it.

"Where are we?" he asked a few minutes later. We were off the expressway and in a town...

"I don't know. Pull over."

As it turned out, we were lost in Ann Arbor and had to call someone to lead us out of that labyrinth. I won't let Clyde drive any more.

We got back a few hours later and were filled in with the latest news: Uncle Ken had made a boo-boo. He had been sent to do the grocery shopping and came back with eggs. Three dozen regular eggs. Not large, not extra large or jumbo, but regular eggs. Baby eggs. Ken obviously doesn't do the shopping at home.

"Eggs are eggs!" he said.

And then Sam came in, not in the best of moods.

"Clyde, man, that woman is a witch!"

He didn't get a chance to ask who. Following closely on Sam's heels was a stunning blonde who was also rather upset. This was Jenna Marx.

"Get my bags, will you?" she asked no one in particular. Everyone stared. A real, bona-fide celebrity female. Clyde had stopped acting like a celebrity a few hours after arriving. Jenna wouldn't be like that.

"No!" I said. She turned and looked at me.

"What?" Ooh, a DIVA!

"Get your own bags." This woman was dense. Too much hair dye and not enough conditioner had addled her brains. "Like I said, there isn't room. All the beds are taken."

"I've never talked to you," she said. Maybe she doesn't dye her hair.

I pinched my nose and replied, "Hello, Straussberg Family Receptionist. Did you actually think we had a receptionist?"

Before she could fire back something witty, Clyde stepped in.

"Calm down, Jen. She didn't mean anything by it."

They continued to quibble quietly while I hunted for places to put the beer. A few relatives looked on with wide eyes and closed mouths. I couldn't quite understand it. He griped about her clingy behaviour and then jumped to smooth ruffled feathers.

Ken offered to take Jenna to the Hyatt after Clyde calmed her down enough to see reason. I was glad to see her go. Who wouldn't? Ken led her out to the car, with Clyde following like an obedient puppy. My respect for him lowered another three notches.

Clyde finally skulked back hours later and locked himself into Sam's room. He was totally absorbed in Grand Theft Auto, and didn't eat until sometime the next morning.


The little cousins Anna and Trina were skittering around, looking for ways to make money. Clyde offered to let them wash my car for two dollars in rolled pennies each. Needless to say, the pennies were mine as well.

"Watch them, will you?" I asked. "I have been summoned to the dark confines of the basement to serve the evil, tyrannous washing machine."

An hour and a half later, I emerged from the basement with a basket full of mismatched socks. The girls were still outside and had been joined by Liam, who was fully soaked with sudsy water. Clyde was lounging in a lawn chair, soaking up the sun, wearing only a pair of sunglasses and cut-off jean shorts. Frankly, I was surprised that the girls weren't staring at him.

Strangely unable to allow him his moment of relative quiet, I grabbed the hose from Anna and let him have it. I've never seen a guy jump so high from a reclining position.

"I'm willing to pay whoever wants to match socks for me."

"How much?" Anna asked.

"Ten cents a pair."

"I'll do it for five," Clyde said, towel in hand. The kids glared at him.

"D'you have a better offer?" They didn't speak. "Okay, then. Thanks, girls, for washing my car."


Clyde sat cross-legged on the floor in the back room, socks spread out all around him. He was watching something on TV, but I didn't stay to find out. I was due in the dining room to help make little pouches of birdseed to throw on the happy couple in two days' time.

Rachel and the bridal party chirped away about all the details of the wedding and the reception, not to mention the honeymoon. Rachel's just a couple of years older than me. We'd been roommates in college, and I introduced her to Dave. The reason I wasn't maid of honour, or even a bridesmaid, was because she had three sisters and half a dozen female cousins. I'm content to be invited.

"So, Randy, I see you've been spending a lot of time with Clyde Wexler." Rachel's eyes were twinkling. I went warm.

"Yeah, so?"

I was ready for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.

"Nothing, just making an observation."

"Did you know that he and Jenna are having problems?" one of the bridesmaids said knowingly.

"Did you know that he's sitting 20 feet away?" Clyde shouted from the back room. The girls stopped chattering for about half a second. I had to grin.

"Still, I think it's sweet that you and Clyde are hanging out together."

"Better not tell Jenna that," the aforementioned male said, strolling into the room. "Hello, ladies."

Every female in the room, save Rachel and myself, swooned. Clyde turned his killer smile on me.

"Nope, sorry, impervious to the Wexler charm since yesterday. You still owe me gas money."

Rachel chuckled. "Clyde, when are you going to dump Jenna Marx and ask my little cousin out?"

Clyde went pink and I spontaneously combusted. At least I should have. He recovered quickly.

"Heh. I'll tell you what. You deal with Jenna for me, and I'll fly Randy out to Vegas and marry her."

"I wish I could help you out, but I have my own wedding to plan. You're on your own."

I was saved by my Uncle Will. He came by to drop off another little cousin, Beth, who wasn't feeling well. I took her upstairs to watch a movie and hopefully get her to sleep.

Somehow all of the kids had ended up in my room, and I didn't even know they had arrived. The girls were playing a game on my ancient Super Nintendo, the boys were colouring in my last sketchbook, and Liam was alternately jumping on the bed and running into various walls and pieces of furniture.

Over the course of the next six hours, parents picked up kids and the ones that stayed were engrossed in the latest Disney travesty. Beth was curled up in my lap, sucking her thumb and sound asleep.

Unfortunately, that wasn't to last. From the other end of the house I heard her, the uber-witch, arguing with Clyde over some stupid thing. I carefully stood up and put Beth into the bed before silently storming downstairs to do some major ass kicking.

"Excuse me, Jenna, but-"

"That's Miss Marx to you," she snapped.

"Fine, Miss Marx," I snarled-didn't bother to speak, too angry to check my tone. If I remember correctly, Clyde stepped back. "But there is a child upstairs trying to sleep. Keep it down."

She ignored me, but tossed an incredibly ugly sun dress to me.

"This needs to be hemmed. Six inches. And get me a bottle of water."

"Evian or Perrier?" I asked.

"Evian, if you have it."

"Well, we don't. Hem your own damn dress."

I dropped the dress and almost as if on cue, Shep entered the room, sniffed the dress and carried it off in his slobbery mouth. As I left, I heard Clyde apologise and Jenna make an unforgivable comment.

"I don't know how you can put up with these people, Clyde. They're so ...  common. And that one's a complete cow."

Clyde had the door closed and locked before I got there. He mouthed an apology and left.


I heard a gentle knock on my door, almost silent. It opened a crack and Clyde poked his head inside.

"May I come in?" he asked.

"Sure."

I was slightly embarrassed for him to see my room. It was just a small hole in the wall, but I liked it. Interview with the Vampire was playing on my little TV, and my sketches were strewn about. He picked up a few, glanced at them, and set them on top of a sketchbook before sitting down.

"What's up?

He didn't answer right away. Instead, he perused my personal video collection. Aside from the martial arts and action films I had downstairs, my own private films were a bit different. While You Were Sleeping, Moonstruck, Little Women, Sense and Sensibility, Where the Heart Is, Down With Love. Chick flicks.

"Nothing."

Clyde sat down and watched the movie without seeing it. I watched Clyde. The film ended and still he stared. He was starting to scare me a little, not moving while I changed DVDs. The second movie was almost halfway through when he leaned back and spoke.

"I'm sorry about Jenna," he said, voice flat and tired. "Hard to believe she's from Ohio."

"Why do you put up with her?"

"I don't know. It's hard to get a word in edgewise around her."

"I noticed. Why is she here?"

"Presumably she misses me. I think, though, that she's afraid I'll meet someone that I'll like more and leave her."

"Have you?"

"I don't know." He finally looked away from the movie. "Have I?"

I don't know why I didn't notice it before, but Clyde seemed well on his way to being drunk. That was not a reassuring thought.

"I suppose it would be very inappropriate if I kissed you now," he said quietly.

"Yeah," I said, equally quiet. "Dave'd kill you."

"Probably. I still want to, though."

"Clyde, you're drunk."

"No, I'm not," he nearly snapped. "I'm depressed. There's a difference."

I had to ask. I'm nosy. So sue me.

"Why are you depressed?"

He looked at me and I felt like such an idiot.

"Any number of reasons. I have the Queen Witch trailing me around, making my life and the lives of my friends hell and I don't have the guts to do anything about it. I've finally met someone that I'm interested in getting to know, and I'm dead certain that she'd kill me if I tried anything with Jenna around."

"Are you talking about me?"

"Yes."

I didn't have an answer. It was just too strange. Clyde Wexler, wanting to date me, the girl most guys passed over. The whole idea just didn't compute.

"Are you serious?"

"What kind of question is that?" Oops ... He was definitely offended. "Here I am, telling you that I would like to start a relationship with you, and you ask if I'm serious! Randy, what is going on in your head?"

"Okay, hold on. Who is the celebrity and who is the normal person?"

"There is nothing normal about you."

"Fine. Who is the plebe and who makes millions of dollars and has women falling all over him? How am I supposed to know that this isn't just a fling? For all I know, you'll fly back out to California in a week and laugh because you seduced the little hick from Michigan."

"First of all, you're my friend's cousin, and I'm not about to wreck a friendship by "seducing" you. Besides, that's not the best way of establishing a meaningful relationship, and that's what I want. Secondly, I'm not interested in a fling. Again, not the best way to start a relationship. And as for the original accusation, yeah, I'm a celebrity, and yeah, women throw themselves at me. If you've noticed, however, I haven't been acting like an jerk-off."

"You did when you first got here, though."

"Can I explain? The day before we arrived, Jenna was giving me hell. She wants a commitment and I don't want to give it to her, and you can see why. Sam knew about it, gave me an hour to pack and we were on the plane. I was in a deep funk and very stressed, and I can be very inconsiderate when I'm like that."

"And now you're just depressed?"

"Yes."

"And you're here, whining to me about how you don't want to be with Jenna Marx. Well, Dr. Randy says you need to grow a backbone and dump Jenna before she ropes you into something you can't get out of. You'll be happier, and your friends, not to mention Dr. Randy, will be proud of you."

"Really?"

"Yup."

"Where did Dr. Randy earn her degree?"

"From the Straussberg School of Learning. It's an elite academy, only family is admitted." It's fun to adopt a superior tone when making up complete manure.

"Ah. So, assuming I actually do what Dr. Randy prescribes, what do I get in return?"

"Aside from self respect and freedom?" He nodded. "I don't know. Do it, and we'll go from there."


I didn't sleep that night. I watched the Home Shopping Channel until 4 a.m. and almost bought three diamonique necklaces, a barbeque set and a designer dress. The only reason I didn't was that I remembered that I had no money to speak of. By 6 I had given up on sleep and was up cooking. That was Rehearsal Day; the actual rehearsal was at 3, dinner at 5, and parties afterward. It was going to be a long day.

"You look terrible," Dave said, entering the kitchen. I grinned weakly.

"Yeah, thanks. What are you doing up?"

"Tee time at 7:30."

"Why am I not surprised? Food?"

"Sure."

"Who else is going?"

"Dad, Sam, Rachel's dad and older brother. Clyde's supposed to go too, but I think he's going to stay here."

"Why's that?"

"You two were up late last night. I figure he'll want to sleep." My face went warm. Dave smirked.

"Nothing happened."

"I was afraid of that. Randy, he digs you, and I know you like him. What's holding you back?"

"Jenna Marx. I told him that he had to make sure Jenna was out of the picture before I agreed to anything."

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh."

The phone rang before anything else could be said. I answered it and heard Rachel's frantic voice, wondering if her little sis was over here.

"No, I haven't seen her. Why?"

"She's not at the hotel. Where could she be? If anything's happened to her, I swear-" Rachel was really worked up. I handed the phone to Dave. He managed to calm her down, reasoning that Missy probably went out for breakfast or something, and was a big girl and could take care of herself.

While he was talking to Rachel on the home phone, his cell went off. It was his dad, Rob. It seemed that Craig had disappeared too, but that was what Craig did.

It wasn't until much later, when they hadn't shown up for the rehearsal, that people started to worry. I mean, even I didn't put two and two together. As it turned out, Craig and Missy had really hit it off some time ago, at least a year before, and when they met up again, the chemistry was there. With all the wedding preparations going on, they got the bug and eloped.

I realised that that left Rachel and Dave short one bridesmaid and groomsman, respectively. Everyone else was cooing over the news, which had arrived via Rob's and Rachel's mom's cell phone. Well, I did and so did my Aunt Liz, as well as Rachel's mom. The two "adults" conferred and pulled Rachel and Dave away from the group and told them about the shortage.

"We'll have to make due with two and two," Rachel's mom said. "The tux is returnable, thank God. It'll be a waste of a dress, however, but that's something we'll have to live with."

"No, mom! I want three and three. Randy can stand in. I mean, the only reason she wasn't in the original is because of Missy and Tessa. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't be here today. She and Missy are about the same size."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. And I know who can take Craig's place."

"Who?"

"Clyde Wexler. I mean, he's here, and he's coming anyway. Dave and I can say that the Clyde Wexler was in our wedding."

"You have to ask him first, and Randy. What if they don't want to do it?"

Of course I accepted, and Clyde wasn't going to say no. In fact, he was flattered immensely. The only person who wasn't pleased was the now infamous Jenna Marx.

We had returned home before going to dinner, and Jenna was waiting, mad as a wet hen.

"Why didn't you tell me you were at the rehearsal?" she snapped. "I've been stuck here for the last two hours!"

Before I could say anything, Clyde spoke up.

"That's your own fault, Jenna. You could have gone back to your hotel room."

"I shouldn't have to! I'm your girlfriend, you're supposed to do things with me, and that includes wedding rehearsals!"

"Just stop it, Jenna. You aren't Queen Bee here." I snickered. Queen Bee was just Queen Witch with a little difference. "These people don't give a toss that you're an actress! All you're doing is driving them away, like you drove me away. If you took as much time to get to know these people as you do bossing them around, you might actually find that they're smart, funny, and caring.

"These people are not worth our notice, Clyde. They will never have what we have."

"You're right. They'll never have cameras in their faces all the time. They'll never have to worry about having their faces plastered on tabloids or having their reputations ruined because of one misstep. I sometimes wish that I was more like them."

"This is all Sam's fault. I told you he was a bad influence."

"Don't start criticizing my choice in friends. Just because he doesn't fit your standards doesn't make him a bad influence. Your problem, Jenna, is that you're trying to make me fit your ideals, and it's not working. I don't want to be your Ken doll, to dress up how you like."

"Without me you'd be nothing!"

"Without you I'd be happy! You've managed, in one week, to make my life hell. Why do you think I left LA?"

"I can't believe this. What are you saying?"

Up until now, I had kept my tongue. It was too good! Clyde was showing the backbone I knew he had, and I didn't want to interfere, even when she insulted my family. If I spoke, he might stop and everything would be lost.

"I'm saying it's over, not that we had anything to begin with. I want you to leave me the hell alone! Go home."

"Are you breaking up with me?" she asked, her lower lip trembling. How could this woman claim to be an actress? She couldn't convince me her hair was blonde.

"Is that what I'm doing? Gee!"

What? Clyde being sarcastic? The world must be ending.

"There must be someone else. Why else would you leave me?"

Clyde didn't answer right away. Jenna and I both watched him, waiting. Poor guy. He looked at me for help, and Jenna pounced.

"You're leaving me for the cow?" she shrieked.

"Hey!"

Okay, I couldn't stay silent with that verbal attack. She had obviously been calling me that ignominious name for a while, since it seemed to roll off of her tongue with much-practiced ease. Clyde jumped in between us, heading off a catfight to end all catfights.

"My choices," he said, absorbing blows from both of us, "Are none of your business, Jen. If I want to be with Randy, I will. Ow."

Jenna stepped back, smoothing her hair, while Clyde rubbed at new bruises.

"If that's what you want, Clyde, I'll just have to accept it."

"How gracious of you," he sneered.

"I think you're making a mistake."

"So be it! Leave all ready!"

And she did. Clyde escorted her to the door and slammed it behind her.

"So, are you proud of me?" he asked, grinning.

"Very."


The next day dawned clear and bright, but I didn't get to see it. Rachel had her bridesmaids up and running, literally, at 5 a.m. Let me state this now: I am not and never have been a runner. I was ready to kill Rachel when we were done. Then to the gym for a workout, followed by an intensive spa retreat, where I got my first manicure and had my hair done up in a dozen loops and curls. I looked like some kind of freak.

The wedding went off without a hitch, even with Liam as ring bearer. For our lack of practice, Clyde and I didn't make any mistakes on the way up the aisle. Then there were photos. How I hate photos. It seemed like hours until we all piled into the limos (yes, plural) and I was able to take off those damned high heels.

I may hate photos, but I love wedding receptions. It's the best place to see people make utter fools of themselves, then write it off as a celebration, and my family was no exception. The most remarkable thing that I saw, or heard, rather, was Sam yelling, completely smashed, "Shut the hell up!" across the ballroom. At least I think he was drunk. To see all the different expressions on the various people's faces was very amusing.

And learning that Clyde can't dance was another. He tried, poor thing, but was only rescued when they played slow dances, and he had no shortage of partners then. Me, I started to wander around once my mental storage facilities were loaded with memories, and I spent a lot of time looking at the decorations in the foyer and nibbling on cocktail weenies in the buffet line. Then, on to the lavishly decorated bathrooms.

"Hey, Randy," Clyde whispered from a secluded alcove. "Come here, I need some sanity."

He held out a Smirnov Ice Triple Black and I sat down next to him. We toasted the happy couple, bottles clinking.

"Having problems with the fangirls?"

"The only fangirl I'm worried about is you."

"How many drinks have you had?" Alcohol consumption was always something I worried about.

"Not enough, I think, for me to mope all alone in a corner."

"I thought that's what you were doing."

"No, I'm hiding."

"You picked a good spot. Nobody'd ever think to look by the bathrooms."

"You're such a dork."

"Why, thank you."

"What am I going to do with you?" he asked, turning slightly and leaning in.

"I don't know. What are your options?"

"I could just go home and try to forget about you, but that won't work. You've left an indelible scar on my psyche. I could take you back with me, but I don't think you'd like that too much. I could stay here, but my agent wouldn't like that, even though a lot of actors are based out of the Midwest."

"You're assuming that things will work out between us."

"Yes, I am. I guess I'm something of an optimist."

"You bet your sweet bippy. You haven't technically asked me out yet-hell, you haven't even asked me to dance. Planning a house in the suburbs and 2.5 kids is pushing it a bit, I think."

He didn't answer me. Instead, he kissed me. Not a little peck, but a full out game of tonsil hockey. A flashbulb went off, and a childish giggle--two childish giggles, actually, from two children--was heard. Trina and Anna had taken a picture, preserving that kiss for all time. I could have died. Clyde laughed and the girls ran away, no doubt to tell Rachel what they saw us doing. I'd never hear the end of it.


Rachel and Dave returned a couple of weeks later to find Clyde moved into a spare room. I'm still waitressing at the golf club, and he's gotten into a show at the local theatre. We're working on our relationship. It's not easy, dating a celebrity, and we fight a lot, but it's got its perks. Making up is fun. And really, he's a regular guy who happens to be an actor. I just have to remember that.

 

 

© 2004 Copyright held by the author.

 

Back to Novel Idea