Friday, December 7, 2012
The summer of 1973 was going by swiftly. The popularity of The Merryweather was much more than Tracy and Holly anticipated. They were happy with their success, but while Holly was planning her wedding to Steve, Tracy was working harder than ever. It was time to hire an assistant to help with the day to day operation.
Donna Grant had been Assistant Cruise Director with Oceanside Cruise Line for 10 years. She enjoyed her job but was beginning to think she might like to be on land for awhile. Hers was a hectic schedule, she had little time to enjoy her studio apartment in New York City and no time at all for a social life. She loved cats and because she wasn't home often, adopting a kitten was out of the question. Once a month she treated herself to lunch in midtown Manhattan. On one of her lunch outings, while riding the subway, she noticed a newspaper that had been left behind. Camden Corners Chronicle, she said to herself. I remember Camden Corners. We went there on vacation when I was just a youngster. I remember a beautiful lake and hills all around. I haven't thought of that little town in years. She picked up the paper and glanced through it. She noticed a want ad for an assistant in a newly established resort hotel. She took the paper with her. That evening she carefully typed her rèsumè. She mailed it the very next morning. She was happy when she received a call from Tracy Robinson requesting she come to Camden Corners for an interview. Two weeks later Donna Grant began her new job and her new life in Camden Corners. After renting a small apartment, she adopted a kitten and never regretted her decision.
Melanie Fairchild's agent was frantic. “What in the Sam Hill is Melanie thinking staying in that provincial town back east. I have mailed her three scripts and she has turned down each and every one of them. If she doesn't get her behind back here soon, there won't be any scripts for her to reject. Get her on the phone for me, Myrtle and don't let her tell you she'll call back. She can't avoid me forever.”
“Melanie, Hap insists on talking to you. You know he will take it out on me if you don't accept his call,” Myrtle Jenkins said when Melanie answered the phone in her suite.
“I'm sorry Myrtle, I'm really not avoiding Hap, it's just that I'm at a point in my life where I need a break from the rat race. Go ahead and put him through.”
Charles Hazzard was nearing 60. He was one of the best talent agents in the business. He had an instinct about people and it didn't fail him. He didn't believe in pampering actors and they knew they needed to toe the line if they expected Hap to continue to represent them. When Charles was a teenager, his chums thought it would be clever to call him Hap Hazzard. The nickname stuck through the years although Hap Hazzard was anything but. Melanie Fairchild was unlike any other ingenue he'd ever represented. Her acting ability was superior. She could play any part given her. As good as she was, her audience liked her best as the girl next door. In the last few years those were the only parts she played. Hap worried she was becoming bored with acting. She had mentioned that she would like to try her hand at directing. He hated to discourage her but women directors were few and far between.
“Melanie, sweetheart, you are breaking my heart. Why are you still in that pitiful little town? Come back where you belong. I have scripts waiting with your name on them. I suppose you heard that Kevin married some young trollop he met there in Cramden Crossing.”
“Hap, it's Camden Corners and you know it. It is a charming town with some wonderful people. It might do you some good to get out of your make believe world and see how real folks live.”
“Please, darling, don't even suggest it. Now, when are you and that precious little girl coming back home where you belong. You know I have a perfect part for Samantha. I'm sure she would like to follow in her mother's footsteps.”
“Not on your life, Hap. Listen, I told you a month ago I was taking time off. If you want to drop me, I will understand. I won't hold you to our contract.”
“Mel, honey, this change in attitude isn't because Kevin married someone else, is it? I didn't think you were interested in him romantically although the two of you do look good on screen together.”
“Hap, don't be ridiculous. I'm happy for Kevin. I think he may be in love for the first time in his life. With someone other than himself, that is.
“I plan to be home after Labor Day and not a minute sooner. I'll contact you when I get back. Now please, don't call me again.”
Hap knew he had pushed Melanie far enough. She had set her mind to staying in Camden Corners and that is what she was going to do. Kevin had been begging him to audition his new wife for a part in his next film. Maybe he would give her a shot.
Kevin watched as his young wife slept. She was so beautiful, she didn't seem to mind that his skin wasn't as taut as it would be on a younger man or that he was having to cover much more than just a touch of gray in his hair. Kevin had hidden his age well for a long time but now his 55 year old body was beginning to show signs of aging. He knew Melanie Fairchild was never attracted to him although he had loved her since their first movie together. Melanie was still in love with her dead husband and that helped Kevin cope with her rejection. Rhonda, on the other hand, has madly in love with him. He smiled as he thought of how her eyes lit up when he placed that rock on her finger. He had whisked her off to Vegas before she could think about it and they were married that evening.
He didn't know what the story was with Melanie, but it seemed she was staying in Camden Corners for the summer. He had tried to convince Hap Hazzard to give Rhonda an audition. He had some old scripts they read together and she seemed to have a natural talent. Hap finally relented and promised to give Rhonda a chance. He hated to wake her but she had an appointment with Kevin's acting coach to gather some pointers before her meeting with Hap.
“Melanie, is something wrong? You look like you have just received bad news,” said Joe when they met for breakfast.
“Nothing is really wrong, Joe, I just have some serious thinking to do about my future. I feel so content here in Camden Corners. I'm beginning to question whether I want to continue my acting career. I never told you how I got into this business. I was studying to be a teacher when a classmate suggested we tryout for parts as extras in a movie they were filming near campus. There wasn't much to the tryout, they selected a few of us randomly. They were going over a scene for the twentieth time when the actress who was playing the lead stomped off the set. I had heard her lines so many times by then that I knew them by heart. The director told me to stand in for her because he wanted to get the right angle and I was about her size. Kevin was the lead actor. I guess there was some chemistry between us and when he said his lines, I repeated what I'd heard the actress say. Hap, who would soon be my agent was watching from the sidelines. Before I knew it, I had replaced the actress and was on my way to this unexpected career. I never did finish my studies. I'm not sorry because through the movie industry I met Doug and Samantha was born.
“That's quite a story. I've always thought actresses struggled for years to become famous. You do have a gift, I'm no expert but your talent does show through on the screen.”
“Most people do struggle. Maybe it was too easy for me and that's why I am questioning my future.”
“If I could make your decision for you, I'd want you to stay in Camden Corners. Melanie, you have to know how I feel about you. I realize we haven't known each other very long but I have fallen in love with you and Samantha. I would like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life with the two of you.”
“Joe, I never thought I would be able to open my heart to another man but then you came along. You are another reason I am questioning my future. I've told Hap I'm taking a break until September. I'm pretty sure I know what my decision will be long before then.”
Melanie smiled as Joe took her hand. “I won't pressure you. Let's just enjoy the time we have together.”
“Here come Samantha and Julianna. I thought Rick was going to be joining us too.”
“Hello you two. Where's Rick?” Melanie asked.
“He's doing something with that darned boat. I know he loves the thing but my swimming lessons are coming along slowly and I'm still afraid of falling overboard.”
“With that oversized life jacket you wear when you go near the water, you couldn't possibly go under.”
“I know. It's silly. Rick says he has a way to make me forget that horrible time when he saved me and he's going to show me. Here he comes now.”
After breakfast, Rick took Julianna's hand. “Okay Esther Williams. We are off on our boat ride. Do you really have to cover that gorgeous figure with a life jacket the size of a body suit?”
“Don't tease me Rick Marino, you know how I feel about water. If it weren't for your love of that silly boat, I'd be sitting in a nice comfortable lawn chair watching the waves from a distance.”
While Samantha played in the sand, Melanie and Joe watched as Rick paddled the boat to the end of the pier.
“Why is he tormenting her?” Melanie asked. “That's where she fell in the water that day.”
“He's trying to erase that memory and replace it with a more pleasant one.”
“You know what's going on, don't you?”
Joe just smiled and told her to keep watching.
Melanie could see Joe tying the boat to the dock. He then sat back down and took Julianna's hand in his. He was down on one knee slipping a ring on her finger. Julianna threw her arms around his neck. The boat started rocking back and forth. Rick steadied the boat before they kissed.
“Mama look, Julianna and Rick are kissing in the boat. I thought Julianna didn't like that old boat.”
“I don't think she likes the old boat but I do think she likes Rick,” said Melanie with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“I know it's quick notice, Holly, but Rick and I would like to be married in Camden Corners before we leave for California. I don't have family except for Melanie and Samantha and I would love to have all the Marinos and Rossis there for the wedding. Do you think we can arrange it before the end of August?”
“Of course we can. I'm so happy for the two of you. I wish you weren't leaving town. I know it's the best thing for Rick's career and you need to finish school but we will miss you terribly.”
“I'll miss you too. Rick and I have talked about it and we plan to come back as often as possible. This is his home and in just a short time I feel as though it's my home too.
The wedding was very simple. Melanie was Matron of Honor and Samantha the flower girl. Joe was Rick's best man. Most of Camden Corners was in attendance to toast the happy couple.
Melanie and Samantha would miss Julianna sharing their suite but they were happy she and Rick were together. The newlyweds left for California a few days later. Melanie, Samantha and Joe saw them off at the airport in Greensboro. The tears were flowing as the good friends said goodbye.