“My husband is famous!” Maddie Thompson exclaimed, passing the thick packet over to Steven. He flipped though it and snorted, tossing it aside. Negotiate, The Steven Thompson Story, in bold print across the front page. Maddie excitedly picked the packet back up and thumbed through it again, she couldn’t stop looking at it. It was the biggest thing she’d ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
“I’m hardly famous; it’s called doing your job,” Steven replied, disgusted. He clearly didn’t share her enthusiasm. He’d been a police officer up until two years ago, when he was injured in the line of duty and forced into early retirement. He was working a rally outside a clinic when he noticed a young man going inside with a book bag. Something about it bothered him. Luckily, he followed his instinct and went inside as well. Once inside, he noticed about twenty people, patients and staff, were there. When the young man pulled a gun out and waved it around erratically, it had been Steven’s quick thinking that saved those lives that day.
He distracted the gunman while eleven people fled out the back exit. Once they were safely away from the clinic, they began flooding dispatch with frantic calls for help. The nine that were left in the building became hostages. For three hours, Steven had single handily negotiated with the gunman, who refused to talk to anyone else. He bonded with him over the recent death of his mother, something that Steven had been through as well. Earning his trust, he convinced him to let one hostage out every ten minutes. Things were going smoothly until the gunman, Eric, looked outside and saw the circus of police, FBI, and media that were waiting for him. Before Steven could calm him down again, he panicked and shot him in the hip and then put the gun in his mouth, taking his own life. It was later revealed that Steven had saved twenty-six lives that day, six of the women inside were pregnant and at the clinic for low cost prenatal care.
First had come the book deal, which Steven accepted and wrote with the help of an accomplished author. Then today, they received the completed screen play, which had left Maddie over the moon. She longed to work in that industry and rub elbows with celebrities. Since her teens, she’d wanted to be a set decorator and had even gone to college for decorating and design. Steven thought that marriage would change her mind, make her forget the dreams she’d once had. He was partially correct. It had for a bit, but with a movie in the works, Maddie had started her celebrity obsession once again. She talked nonstop about traveling to exotic places and becoming friends with celebrity couples. Steven didn’t want any part of it. He longed to disappear from the spotlight, returning to his once simple life. He would have no way of knowing, but the days of living an uncomplicated existence would soon be a thing of the past. Steven and Maddie were about to encounter the man that would be responsible for their downfall.
For the first few months after the book release, Steven enjoyed being a local hero, the pride of Virginia Beach. Soon however, the novelty wore off. He began turning down opportunities for speaking engagements and became annoyed whenever anyone approached him wanting to thank him for his heroism. When the “Miracle Six” were born, he refused to go to the hospital and visit any of the mothers or pose for pictures with the babies. Maddie went on without him. She’d never minded the attention. The first year she was often out alone, fulfilling duties that Steven didn’t want any involvement with. She spoke at schools about him and his call of duty to join the police department; something he’d felt when he was in his early teens. She also went to the baptisms or dedications for the “Miracle Six”. Soon, she began to feel like a first lady. People were happy to see her and spend time with her, but deep down they really hoped that the president had shown instead.
“Who do you want to play you?” She asked that night in bed, unable to sleep. She’d become amazed at how little sleep she could run off. She’d practically become an insomniac since this process had begun. Her mind always wandering how she would react if she met anyone she admired in the industry. She was aggravated that Steven didn’t feel the same way, didn’t share her obsession with celebrity or simply want more than what they had. When he didn’t answer, she nudged him and asked again. Maddie knew he probably couldn’t name anyone, but if he told her what he’d seen them in, she could tell him which actor he was talking about.
“I don’t know, anyways, I don’t think we get to choose. They have people that get paid a lot of money to make that decision,” he told her, eager to go to sleep. He’d already taken his sleeping pill and could feel it kicking in.
“I know, I’m just excited, this is huge. We’re going to be famous,” she told him. Steven cuddled up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He was rarely affectionate anymore so Maddie settled into him and tried to relax, even though she knew it would be impossible.
“Try not to think too much about it, we’re simple people, we aren’t a part of that world,” Steven said in a groggy voice. Maddie didn’t want to stop thinking about it, she longed to be a part of that world.
Over two thousand miles away in California, Grant Kovac was icing his fist, which he’d just put through a wall in the room he was staying in at the Beverly Wilshire.
“I’m an actor, Sophie, I don’t know what you expect from me. I get paid to do this and I was doing it way before you ever came along, probably before you were even born,” he told her, making her even madder. An hour ago, they’d been at a premiere for his new movie, Dust. Sophie had become angry and walked out in a huff over a sex scene. “Let me remind you again just how unsexy a sex scene is. There are tons of people watching and directing your every move. Put your left arm here, thrust your pelvis like this, there is nothing sensual about it. I don’t get turned on by it, the actress doesn’t get turned on. You’re wasting a lot of energy over nothing,” he told her, unwrapping the towel from his hand. The swelling wasn’t going down and his knuckles were turning a lovely shade of purple.
“Well, you got mad at me when I did that photo shoot with those male models. I said the same thing to you, I’m a model, I get paid to do this, but that didn’t stop you from being mental about it for a week,” she told him, changing out of her dress. That had been different though, she hadn’t bothered to let him know ahead of time that she would be topless and laying on bubble wrap with three different naked men. That was an advertisement for jeans, yet no one had been wearing jeans, or much of anything else. “I want you to put a clause in your contract about nudity. I don’t want you nude and I don’t want you doing sex scenes with any actress that is showing bare breasts,” she said as she pulled her jeans up.
That’s the precise moment Grant had put the hole in the wall of the hotel room. He was tired of having this same argument with her. Even though they’d spent four years together, two of those engaged, he was ready to be free of her. They had been fighting almost nonstop for months, mainly about Sophie’s attitude towards Grant’s fans and his work. She hated that he stopped to talk or pose for pictures on the street. When he’d been given the opportunity to fly to Zambia to help build a school, they’d had a major blow out that resulted in Grant turning down the charity work. He was angry that he’d let her make that decision for him and now he refused to turn down roles because she couldn’t handle seeing him with another woman on screen. He also despised ultimatums, which seemed to be Sophie’s specialty. That and making him feel like a trapped animal. He was about to break free from her, even if it meant chewing his own leg off.
“I’m done with you, I’m getting my stuff and going back to New York. Do what you wish with the ring,” he told her. She laughed, lighting her cigarette, she’d heard it all before. He’d just broken things off last month. They’d fought over an article in a tabloid, which had falsely reported that Grant was sleeping with a co-star. When Sophie had been caught in the bathroom of a prominent nightclub with a bouncer, Grant had moved out. A week later though, he was back in her bed. Sophie wasn’t concerned, he wasn’t going anywhere. When Grant stormed out of the room, she went down to the hotel bar and drank for the rest of the night, into the early hours of the morning. Imagine her surprise when a taxi dropped her off at the apartment they shared and Grant was gone, along with all his belongings.
Steven was with Maddie at the grocery store, one of the few places that they went together anymore, when his cell phone rang. He answered and walked to the end of the aisle, trying to hear better. Unfortunately, between the poor signal in the store and the screaming child in the cart next to him, he still couldn’t hear a thing. He walked down the aisle and found Maddie.
“I’m going to have to go outside,” he told her. She nodded and continued shopping, she was faster without him. By the time he returned, she was already checking out. “You aren’t going to believe this,” he told her, placing their bags in the cart. Maddie took the receipt and followed him out of the store. It didn’t take much to set Steven off, he’d always had a quick temper. Since the incident at the clinic, it had only gotten worse. He often became explosive and it scared her.
“What is it?” She asked, concerned; he sounded so angry. When they got to the Range Rover that he’d bought her, she unlocked the back and started putting groceries in. He didn’t bother to help, he was too busy looking through his phone, becoming more agitated by the second.
“They want this guy to play me,” he said, turning his phone to her. It was opened to the image search results for Grant Kovac. Maddie’s heart almost stopped, but she finished with the groceries first, before taking his phone. “Don’t drool on it, I don’t think that it’s waterproof,” he joked. She handed it back and shrugged, as if she was unfazed. Inside she felt like she could do a cartwheel. There was now a possibility that she was going to get to meet Grant Kovac. She couldn’t even think straight.
“I think he’s a great choice, I mean, he’s an Academy Award winner for Pete’s sake. What more could you ask for?” Steven wasn’t falling for it. Maddie had been a fan of Grant’s for years. She had him as the screen saver on her laptop, owned all his movies, she was wild about him. “You drive,” she said, holding out her shaking hand and shoving her keys at him. “I have to tell Sondra.”
Maddie spent the entire ride home texting and giggling like an adolescent. Steven was clearly annoyed by her behavior, but didn’t want to say anything. She couldn’t have Grant Kovac anymore than he could have any of the beautiful women in the magazines that he’d been forced to keep hidden in the garage. That was the double standard here. While Maddie could plaster Grant’s face wherever she chose, Steven had to keep his porn stashed out of sight. She’d gone ballistic when she found it months back. While he enjoyed looking at pornography, he rarely had the desire to be intimate with her anymore, that’s what had really set her off. Steven drove and kept his mouth shut. He had to learn to choose his battles. When they arrived home, Sondra was already there, leaning against her car in the driveway. Steven rolled his eyes when he walked past her.
“Don’t give me that look,” she told him. He shook his head and went in the house without bothering to carry in a single bag. Sondra met Maddie at the back of the SUV and grabbed an armful of bags before following her into the house. Maddie and Sondra had been friends since high school, where they’d met in a home economics class. Sondra was a waitress for years, but three years ago, after a lot of saving and attending business school part time, she’d been able to open her own restaurant. A beautiful Mexican eatery, Delicioso, that had been voted Best at the Beach for the past two years.
“I’m going to go upstairs and watch television, you two fan girls can have the downstairs all to yourselves,” Steven mumbled, kissing Maddie on the forehead before he left the kitchen. He was going to lay in bed and sulk, Maddie knew it, but didn’t care. She finally had something to be excited about and he wasn’t going to make her feel bad about it. He’d tried to steal her thunder over the movie for months now, she was growing tired of his attitude.
“What’s your problem, Steven? Was the store out of your favorite brand of tampons again?” Sondra joked, tossing her sunglasses in her purse.
“My problem is, they look at me, see pictures of me, it’s obvious that I’m handsome. Yet, they pick this guy with the nose to play me,” he said, shaking his head as he walked up the spiral staircase, shoulders slouched.
“Everyone has a nose, you clown,” Sondra called out. “You’d think he would be honored, Grant should be the one insulted,” she said to Maddie, sitting down on a bar stool. She took her phone out and began scrolling through it. “He’s not nearly as much fun as he was before all the meds,” she told Maddie, who agreed. Since the shooting, Steven suffered from depression and PTSD, and had been prescribed medication to help him deal with his everyday life. He was also given sleeping pills, which he took religiously. He could sleep through a plane crashing into the house. “You should really throw this out, someone’s going to get burnt,” Sondra said, passing Maddie a potholder that was worn paper thin. It had once belonged to Steven’s mother and he liked having it in the kitchen. He’d only been able to grab a handful of things from her home after she’d passed. His stepfather and step siblings had taken everything else, even though the will clearly stated otherwise. “How are things on the baby making front? Is that a bun in your oven or a food baby?” Sondra asked, passing Maddie a peach from her purse. Maddie bit into it and slumped down on a stool beside her.
“Well, they’re giving me Clomid, which has the loveliest side effects. Sondra, I swear I can actually feel my ovaries pulsating. Meanwhile, he won’t get his sperm checked. I’ve been poked and prodded, they even did that stupid dye test. Maybe it’s not me,” she said. True, she was 38, which was a little old for conceiving, but he was 42. Didn’t he understand that he may be the problem? Steven seemed to feel as if Maddie was the only one that could keep them from conceiving. He’d made more bad egg jokes in the past year than she cared to recall.
“Well, maybe Mr. Kovac will loan you some of his swimmers. Can you imagine how gorgeous that baby would be?” Sondra joked. “If you meet him, you’d better get me an autograph,” she looked down at her watch. “Sorry I can’t stay longer, but I have to go. The cook and I are trying out a few new menu items tonight, I want to be there so I can see how they go over,” she stood and grabbed her bag. “Also, let me know if you want that design job. I need the place revamped now that I can afford it; I want something eye catching. You do realize you had a job before you became a wife. You’re talented, don’t let go of your dream,” Sondra hugged Maddie and let herself out.
When she left, Maddie went into the room that she’d set up as her office and sat down. She was once in interior design. Now, she occasionally did side jobs, but never opened the business she wanted, never followed her dreams. She longed to work on a movie set, she had a knack for decorating. She’d once envisioned herself living somewhere fabulous, maybe New York and working on a set every day. Steven hadn’t wanted her to work at all after they’d got married, and then after the book, he tried to convince her to throw away everything she had from her design jobs, but she was unwilling. Just because he’d come into money, she was expected to forget about all the things she’d ever wanted for herself? Maddie didn’t agree and it had caused the mother of all arguments.
“I’m buying this house for us, you don’t need to lug all this junk with you!” He yelled, holding out a book of fabric swatches and shaking it in her face. They’d purchased a beautiful four-bedroom home in the new section of a development that had been around for twenty years. The front half of the neighborhood consisted of older colonial homes, while the second half had more modern houses. Maddie and Steven’s court currently had two houses in it, but builders had just started the foundations for three more homes right across from their own. Maddie loved her floor plan. It consisted of three spacious bedrooms upstairs. The downstairs boasted another bedroom, an office, dining room, and a large living room that shared a bar with the kitchen. The back wall of the living room was all glass, with a view of the backyard, hot tub, and pool. Maddie had white lights installed throughout the landscaping, she adored lights. She loved the house and the openness of the floor plan. She’d set up the office with her left-over design materials. Even though Steven hadn’t been happy about it, he’d finally stopped arguing with her over it.
She was working on a few ideas for Sondra when the phone rang. It was from a 212-area code. She knew that was New York and picked up the phone, excited.
“Maddie, I need to talk to you and Steven. We’ve hit quite the snag with the casting,” Deidre said quickly. She always spoke fast. It was almost as if she’d been interrupted a lot as a child and wanted to finish before anyone could speak over her. Maybe she came from a big family. Deidre was a producer on the movie. Of all the people Maddie had talked to since the they first discussed Steven’s story coming to the big screen, she was her favorite. She was kind, but feisty and as a native New Yorker, had a great accent. Maddie wanted to meet her, she felt they would get along very well.
“Oh no, what happened?” Maddie asked, holding her breath, hoping Grant Kovac hadn’t dropped out. True, she would still be happy about the movie, but it would also put a damper on things.
“We were able to secure Jennifer Champion to play you, but we have a slight issue with Grant. I hate even bringing this up, but his agent insists that it be this way,” Deidre paused. Maddie nervously began doodling on a pad of paper. “Have you ever heard of method acting?”
“I’ve read that Grant is a method actor, but I’m not sure what it means,” Maddie said, admiring her doodle, it reminded her of a wallpaper print she’d once wanted.
“It’s a technique that some actors use to completely identify with a character they’re playing. Some of the methods in which they use are extreme. Some lose, or gain a lot of weight, others completely isolate themselves from society, but it’s a part of their craft and makes them better at a role,” Deidre explained.
“Well that sounds reasonable, he’s an amazing actor so I guess that works for him,” Maddie told her. She could certainly see where Grant would have to gain a considerable amount of weight to play Steven as he looked now.
“I’m glad you feel that way because in order for Grant to, how did he put it, capture the essence of your husband, he wants to move in with you all for a few weeks,” Deidre said. She could have said more, but Maddie would have no idea seeing as she dropped the phone. She bent down under the desk to retrieve it.
“I’m so sorry, but did you say he wants to live in my house while we are living here as well?” She asked Deidre. Her colored pencils had dropped as well, and rolled every which way across the wood floor. She crawled around, retrieving them while Deidre went on to explain Grant’s request.
“Yes, that’s what he’s asking. Now before you say yes or no, allow me to explain because this won’t be as exciting as one might think. For instance, you can’t go and tell everyone you know; you can’t snap pictures or record him. He’s a pretty easing going guy, I’ve worked with him on a few occasions. I can pretty much assure you that he isn’t going to come in with a list of unreasonable demands or expectations. You must understand though, there may be paparazzi or overzealous fans. All of these things that Grant is used to, but of course, you aren’t. Don’t feel any pressure to change your schedule or do anything different. He wants to see you all in your day to day environment. I understand you live in a house that’s located in a gated community, that will help with some of the craziness that this could cause. Above all, don’t feel like you must say yes. I know how badly you want him to be a part of this, but we can find someone else that is just as capable. Why don’t you get back to me on Friday?” Deidre asked.
Maddie agreed to talk it over with Steven. She stood and placed her pencils on her desk and shoved her phone in her pocket. She went upstairs, slowly, giving herself time to think of how she should approach this. Steven was lying in bed watching a movie. Maddie lingered in the doorway, waiting for him to look up and acknowledge her. When he didn’t, she walked over to the bed.
“Deidre just called,” she told him, bouncing around nervously. He picked up the remote and switched the television off.
“Could you stop moving, you look like that tiger on Winnie the Pooh,” he told her. Maddie sat down on the bed, picking at her nail polish. “Which one is she?” Steven asked. She knew there had been many people, between agents, a director and someone from casting, that they’d spoken to. A few weeks ago, they even had a conference call with someone from California and New York at the same time. Maddie had loved that, since she’d longed to visit both places. She had spent most of the call asking questions about the weather and the nightlife. Steven had grown tired of her constant inquiries and left the room, leaving her to make an excuse for his absence.
“She’s the nice one, the one that offered to fly us out to Manhattan until you turned down the trip,” she reminded him. She was still sour about that. Steven nodded. “Well, Grant Kovac is on board, but he has a small request. He wants to move in with us for a bit,” she said, waiting for his head to explode, which it did.
“What do you mean he wants to move in with us? He has more money than we’ll ever see! Is this a joke?” He asked. Maddie shook her head and reached over to rub his arm. Steven had become so hostile, she often rubbed his arm, back, or placed a hand on his thigh to calm him down. It usually worked, but today it didn’t seem to help.
“Just let me explain before you get so mad. He’s a method actor, he wants to study you to see how we interact and get to know you and your daily routine, it helps him act.” She didn’t fully understand method acting, but hoped to convince Steven that Grant should stay with them. Maddie knew it would be a nerve wracking experience, but how many people can say that they’ve met someone famous, let alone, lived with one? She got chills just thinking about it.
“How’s that going to help him? I’m no longer a police officer, isn’t the bulk of the movie about what I went through while on the force? Anyways, I’m uneasy with the idea of someone studying me. I’m a simple guy, didn’t that come across in the book?” Maddie moved her hand to his thigh, giving it a little squeeze. He was simple. Jeans and a t-shirt or a flannel. Never a tie or suit. How the stunning Grant Kovac would be able to play Steven would probably require more than method acting, Maddie thought to herself.
“I think it does come across that you’re easy going and live a simple life, but that still doesn’t mean he can portray you the way that you’d like. Plus, you’re still friends with the guys from the force, you still go to the station and visit and do ride alongs. Maybe spending time with you while you do those things would be beneficial to him.” She hoped she sounded as convincing as she thought she did. Steven got off the bed and walked to the bathroom, switched on the light, but then turned and came back, sitting on the bed.
“I don’t know. This is really weird if you ask me. This could turn into a circus.” Maddie flopped back on her pillow, she wanted the circus if it meant they got to have Grant as well. Why was Steven so difficult? He stretched out beside her and continued his argument, which was pointless. He didn’t have a valid point. She found herself studying his plain pudgy face and shaggy brown hair as he ranted. “Plus, what if we try to have a baby, how will that work with him here? It would be creepy,” he told her. What if? Maddie thought they’d decided to try even though they were rarely intimate. Thinking about it made her mad, but she decided she could only argue about one thing at a time. At the moment, Grant Kovac seemed more important
“That has nothing to do with anything. We can have sex with him here!” She exclaimed.
By the end of the week, Steven had reluctantly agreed to let Grant stay with them. He stayed in bed sulking for two days afterwards, but Maddie didn’t care. She hid her excitement and went into her office to call Deidre.
“You don’t have a fax machine by any chance, do you?” Deidre asked. As a matter of fact, they did. She faxed over several pages of “rules” and a contract for them to sign and fax back to her. Maddie closed the door to the office, letting Steven think that she was on a long distance call with her mother. She carefully read over the papers, often laughing out-loud. There was a no touching section. She knew about recording and taking pictures. They weren’t to try and sell information to the tabloids while he was there or anytime, up to five years, after he left. There was a whole section about his food and water usage. They were to save receipts, bills, and log any of his expenses that they may cover so they could be reimbursed. Maddie’s personal favorite was “at no time shall the Thompson’s hold hostage or inflict any bodily harm upon Grant Kovac.” She took pictures of the parts that amused her the most and sent them to Sondra. Within seconds, her phone was ringing.
“So, I’m guessing that hog tying him is completely out of the question?” Sondra asked.
“Not to mention, punishable by law,” Maddie reminded her, laughing. Sondra sighed.
“Well it sounds like they’ve covered all of our ideas. Maybe this won’t be that much fun after all.” Maddie got off the phone and signed the contract. She was getting ready to walk out to the living room with a pen and the contract in hand to have Steven sign, but sat back down. She thought about another long, drawn out talk with him about Grant coming and the list of rules and decided to forge his signature. She hummed to herself as she faxed the contract back to Deidre. She was on cloud nine and nothing was going to change that.
Later, after Steven went to bed, Maddie did what she did most nights. She went downstairs and laid on the couch, watching TV. Steven had sleep apnea and refused to use his CPAP. He said it made him feel like he was suffocating and had boxed it up and put it in the garage. He’d rather have Maddie sleep elsewhere than use the machine. She couldn’t stand the snoring and usually ended up downstairs alone. So here she was, flipping through the channels. One of Grant’s movies was on. She covered up with her throw and watched him light up the screen. She couldn’t believe she would be meeting him soon. She’d built him up in her head, often hoping his personality was like some of his characters that she loved so much. She just prayed he wasn’t spoiled or entitled. Most looking back on Maddie’s story agree that she should have added psychotic to that list.