"We hope to see you again tomorrow on Kiddie Corral." The lively blonde said as she smiled into the camera.
"We are clear. Good job everyone. See you back here tomorrow." A voice said over the loud speaker filling the small sound stage.
Walking off the set thanking everyone was Jeanie Thompson, the creator and star of Kiddie Corral. It was a locally produced show, which aired on several stations across the country owned by "Big" Bob Mackey.
"Hey Jeanie, I need to speak with you for a moment," station manager Jim Peterson said as he dodged equipment to catch the small blonde.
"Sure Jim. You will have to walk with me though. I have a public appearance in a few hours and I want to go home first."
"Not a problem. I can do that." He said. He soon realized that walking and talking with her was a marathon event, as she seemed to speed up her pace. His out of shape body protested the exertion.
"Umm, the station owner has picked the new producer of the show."
"Did he go with my suggestion of Bill Band?" she asked.
"Umm, no. He wanted someone with a bit of an edge, so he picked Samantha Singleton."
She stopped abruptly. "He picked who?" Jeanie asked.
"Samantha Singleton?" He said as the worry showed through his voice. He knew this would get the small blonde worked up, but watching her internally combust was not in any of the scenarios he had envisioned.
"You have got to be kidding me! That pariah? Oh no, she is not touching my show! This is a kid's show, for God's sakes. Why in the world would he pick her?" she ranted.
"Now Jeanie, I know you don't think Samantha Singleton is right for the kid's market." Jim said trying to smooth things over.
"Not right for the kiddie market! She's barely right for an adult market! Did you see that last piece of drivel she called a show? I never knew there were so many people in this country married to their cousins!"
"Yeah, well that show was also number 1 in the daytime market. You know that "Big" Bob loves you and the show but "
"But what?" Jeanie asked.
"Our daytime ratings aren't that great and Singleton only agreed to leave KXPY if she could produce your show."
"My show! Why is she so interested in my show?" In the back of her mind a little voice insisted on chiming in "you know why she's interested." But she resolutely ignored it.
"I don't know Jeanie. All I know is that was the deal. Why don't you ask her why."
"Maybe I will." No you won't you coward "So when is she starting?"
"Next week. Bob wants you two to get together tomorrow."
"Aw Jim! Tomorrow? My day is booked solid tomorrow. The only free time I have is during dinner."
"Great! I'll set up a reservation for you two. What time and where?"
Resigned, Jeanie said, "6:30 at the Knoll. If Big Bob's going to pay for my supper I might as well make it worth it. I just hope I can keep my food in my stomach."
"Consider it done." Jim walked back towards the studio, while Jeanie continued on to her car. "I wonder why she is so against Samantha Singleton?" Jim had known Jeanie for almost two years now and had never seen her react so negatively towards anyone. Usually, she was the first person to look for, and find, the good in people.
Jeanie, meanwhile, had gotten into her car and headed home to change. Somehow she was able to make the drive safely even though she was still seething at the idea of Sam taking over her show. Not only was she seething, but she was still wondering why Sam was so interested after all these years. No matter how she tried to ignore the feeling, the curiosity was still there. It had been almost 5 years since they had seen each other, 5 years that Jeanie had spent rebuilding her life and moving on. At least she had always thought she was moving on. The thought of seeing Sam again made her doubt just how much of their past she had put behind her.
"Is anyone sitting here?" Jeanie looked up from her child psychology textbook, all the way up, to the startlingly blue eyes of the young woman holding a tray next to her table.
"No, go ahead." Jeanie replied and went back to her reading.
"I'm Sam." The blue- eyed beauty introduced herself. "Samantha Singleton."
"Jeanie Thompson." Jeanie responded absently, trying to finish her chapter before her next class.
"When do you have child psych?"
"In about 20 minutes, and I have to finish this chapter for the test."
"Do you have Ms. Lehman?"
"She isn't here today. I have her 8:30 class and she wasn't there. The TA said that she would be gone all day."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. So, since your afternoon is now free, would you like to get some coffee?"
"I don't drink coffee. Diet Dew is my caffeine of choice."
"Can I buy you one?"
Jeanie and Sam spent the next half an hour getting to know each other. Surprisingly, they were majoring in the same subject, but for different reasons. Jeanie wanted to be an elementary school teacher and Sam wanted to start a daycare center. After finishing their drinks they had decided to walk around campus. As luck would have it, they walked past the room where Jeanie's class was supposed to be held.
"Sam!" Jeanie stopped dead in her tracks and grabbed Sam's arm.
Sam looked through the window of the classroom and her face fell when she saw the students, heads bent, obviously taking the test that Sam had said wouldn't happen.
"Jeanie, I swear she wasn't here this morning! They told me she wouldn't be!"
"That's ok Sam. I'll talk to the professor after class and see if I can make up the test."
"Do you have a class in the morning? Maybe you can come to my class in the morning and take it then. I will wait and explain how this is all my fault!"
The memory of their first meeting hit Jeanie as she was getting into the shower. I should have known we were doomed from the start. Putting the thoughts of the past aside, Jeanie finished getting ready for her public appearance.
All too soon, Jeanie was standing outside the Knoll restaurant for her meeting with Sam Singleton. Throughout the day, she had been besieged by memories of their time together. The days spent getting to know each other better. Their friendship grew and soon developed into more.
Sam had waited until the class was over and explained the situation to the teacher just as she had promised she would. Luckily, Ms. Lehman was willing to let Jeanie take the test in the morning. Sam was still feeling bad about making Jeanie miss the test so she volunteered to help Jeanie study. They both aced the test and decided to continue their partnership. Late night study sessions soon developed into pizza parties and movie nights. By the end of their junior year the pair was inseparable. They had arranged their schedules so that they had as many classes together as they could get. More than one professor started watching them during tests, sure that they were cheating somehow. The truth was that they simply brought out the best in each other. Whatever weakness one had the other made up for and they were excellent partners because of it. Their friendship had turned into the best partnership and that partnership soon turned into love. The pair started making plans for after graduation. Since Sam wanted to start a daycare center they both agreed that Jeanie would find a teaching position first and then Sam could start her center in the same town. Everything was perfect until the last quarter of their senior year.
"Miss?" The valet who had parked her car interrupted her memories.
"Yes?" Jeanie noticed the valet and the ticket he was holding out to her. "Oh, Thank you." Shaking her head to clear away the memories, Jeanie resolutely walked into the restaurant and the woman she had thought she would never see again.
Jeanie gave her name to the hostess and was led back to a table looking out into the knoll of evergreen trees that gives the restaurant its name.
"The rest of your party hasnt arrived yet, can I get you anything while you wait?"
"Just a glass of water, please."
"Ms. Thompson can I have your autograph? My daughter just loves your show. We watch it every day and have all the tapes."
"Of course. Whats your daughters name?" Jeanie was used to this and long ago she had learned to be prepared. She always carried special cards that she had had printed up. The card had the logo of the show and a small picture on the left and an open space suitable for autographs on the right.
"Rebecca, but everyone calls her Becca. Shes going to be thrilled."
"How old is she?"
"She just turned seven. She has been watching you since she was four. I really dont know how you do it."
"How do you make a show that appeals to four year olds and doesnt bore seven and eight year olds?"
"Its really not that hard, most of the things that eight year olds are interested in can be presented in a way that the four year olds enjoy even if they dont understand it. And the things that four-year-olds need to learn can be presented to the older kids too. I just like to try to keep everyone involved."
"Well, you do a wonderful job. I dont know what Im going to do when Becca finally gets too old for your show. Its so hard to find good, safe, shows that children actually enjoy watching."
"Youre absolutely right." Jeanie said, the waitress words getting her thinking.
"Is anyone sitting here?" A new, yet all too familiar, voice said from behind the waitress.
Jeanie looked up, just as she had all those years ago, and into the same pair of startlingly blue eyes. "Hello Sam." She breathed, drawn to those eyes even as she tried to deny the way they still made her feel.
"Hey J." Samantha Singleton was an impressive woman, standing almost 6 feet tall with midnight black hair that made the blue eyes even more noticeable. Their friends in college had always said that they were the epitome of contrast, of light versus dark.
The waitress could feel the tension between the two women and hastened to make her exit. "Thanks again for the autograph Ms. Thompson. Becca will love it. Your server will be with you shortly, enjoy your meal."
"Youre welcome." She looked up at Sam still standing next to the table. "I suppose you might as well sit down so we can get this over with."
"Gee, thanks." Sam said, but pulled out the chair next to Jeanie and sat.
Jeanie wished that Sam had chosen the seat across the table rather than close enough for their legs and shoulders to touch, but decided not to make an issue of it. "You have to know that Im not looking forward to this meeting or working with you, why should I hide it?"
"Look J, I know that we have a history "
"Please dont call me that."
"Im sorry. Jeanie, cant we put our past behind us and work together?"
"I dont really have much of a say in the matter, do I. You are here to bring in ratings and for some reason you wanted to work on my show. Why?"
The waitress chose that moment to come to take their orders. When that was done Sam answered Jeanies last question.
"I have been watching your show for some time now and I think that there is room for improvement. The show is great, but your ratings have been slipping lately."
"This has happened before, not only to my show, but to a lot of kids shows." Jeanie explained. "Kids grow up and it takes time for new children to find the show."
"I understand that, and I know it isnt just your show. I just want to help you improve the ratings."
"That still doesnt tell me why. Why are you so interested in my show, that you made it a part of your deal with Big Bob."
"Youre the best in the business, and I only work with the best. That hostess was right; kids love you and grow up with you."
"I dont believe you."
"Its the truth."
"I think theres more to it than that. Why the kids market? Why not come over here and do what you did for your other station?"
"Cmon J, you know how much I love kids. Ive always wanted to work with kids."
"I know that, but why now? Why are you trying to change your image now? You are the best at what you do. Your shows have been among the highest rated in the area."
"Jeanie, you know that what I do is drivel. I want to make a difference. Dont let our past get in the way of our working together. You know what a great team we make."
"Dont, dont you dare bring that up. That was a lifetime ago."
"Im sorry Jeanie. I should have said that to you years ago and I should have said it to you a million times since then. I was an idiot, but that doesnt change the fact that we work very well together. I think that together we can improve television for young people."
"Huh?" Sam wasnt quite prepared for Jeanies sudden capitulation.
"I said ok. Ill work with you. On one condition."
"Our past is off limits. As far as Im concerned we never met before tonight."
"Good." That was easy, maybe too easy. Shes got something up her sleeve.
Their food arrived and the next few minutes were spent in silence as they ate.
"So, what ideas do you have for improving the ratings?" Jeanie was the first to break the silence.
"Well, I was thinking about what you said, the fact that your viewers keep growing up. What if we expanded the show, or even created a new half-hour that appealed to the older kids? That way the kids that grew up with you would keep watching and they would encourage their younger brothers and sisters to watch the other hour."
"That might work. I have some ideas about topics to present to an older crowd. I would love the opportunity to help kids deal with the tough issues they face everyday."
The rest of their meal was spent going over ideas for different segments to put into the older kids show and even some ideas for making the original show better. Jeanie was somewhat surprised to find that Sam actually has some wonderful ideas. Before they knew it, hours had passed and the restaurant staff was getting impatient. Finally, the hostess came over to the table.
"Excuse me Ms. Thompson. Were closing soon."
"Oh my! Im so sorry. We completely lost track of the time."
"Thats ok, Ms. Thompson, Im glad we could provide a place for you to work. I couldnt help but hear some of your ideas. Speaking as a parent, I think theyre great. I cant wait for Becca to have your new show to watch."
"Well, thanks for the input. I hope that she will have the show soon, but it isnt a done deal yet."
"If I have anything to say about it, it is." Sam said.
"Great." The hostess said as Jeanie and Sam gathered their things together.
They both stood in an awkward silence while they waited for their cars to be brought to them.
"So, I guess Ill be seeing you at the studio?" Jeanie asked.
"Yeah, Ill be there tomorrow. I cant wait to see you tape the show."
"Its not really that exciting."
"I beg to differ, but well see tomorrow."
Their cars arrived and they quickly said goodbye. As Sam drove home she thought about Jeanie, not that that was unusual. It seemed to Sam that she was always thinking about Jeanie, especially since she was back in the same city. When she got home and was ready for bed she allowed herself to think back on their past. Those days with Jeanie had been the best of her life. All these years later, she still couldnt believe they had ended the way they did.
Their relationship was going along great. Their plans for after graduation were set and things seemed perfect. The only problem they had was Sams family. They didnt know that Sam was gay and Sam knew that if they found out, they would pull her out of school and closer to home. They had gone to meet Jeanies parents a few months ago and that had gone unbelievably well. Jeanies parents loved Sam and thought she was great for their daughter. Everytime Sam went home, Jeanie had to stay behind. On the rare occasions when Jeanie had gone home with Sam, it had been as friends. They couldnt hold hands, sit too close together, or even stay in the same room. Unfortunately, Sams parents were rich and had plenty of room in their mansion. That meant separate rooms. Jeanie always said that having to keep their relationship a secret didn't bother her, but Sam could tell that it wore on her. On the other hand, there were a few unexpected perks to the secrecy.
Sam's lips curled into a smile as she remembered one particular night at her parent's house.
Everyone had gone to bed and Sam was lying in her bed, staring up at the ceiling, and wondering what Jeanie was doing in her room down the hall. Suddenly, she heard a noise in the hall outside of her room. Straining, she heard the floorboard outside her room squeak and then the sound of her doorknob turning. There was barely room enough for light from the landing to seep into the room when a small form slipped through.
"What do you think you're doing, young lady?" Sam said, deepening her voice.
The form stopped still.
"Umm?" Jeanie's mind was racing as she tried to come up with some kind of excuse as to why she was sneaking into what she had thought was Sam's room. 'Darn mansions, too many rooms for their own good!' "I was looking for the bathroom." She answered hesitantly.
"The one attached to your bedroom wasn't good enough?" Sam could barely keep a straight face as her eyes adjusted to the darkness again and she could see Jeanie in the trickle of moonlight filtering through the curtains. The deer in the headlights look made her look absolutely adorable in Sam's opinion--not that she was biased or anything mind you.
"Hmm. I guess I got turned around, I'm sorry to have disturbed you." Jeanie tried to edge back to the door, intent on slinking back to her own room before she could get herself into any more trouble.
"Do you need some help getting back?"
"Oh no, I'm sure I can find it. Thanks though."
Sam couldn't stand it anymore, the laughter that she had been desperately trying to hold in burst out. Sounding unreasonably loud in the quiet of the room. Jeanie whirled around and stared at the form shaking uncontrollably in the middle of the bed.
"You rat!" She hissed and ran to the bed. Jumping up and landing smack dab on top of Sam. "I oughta "
"What?" Sam said as the feel of Jeanie's body along the length of hers penetrated her laughter. "What are you going to do to me?"
"Oh, the possibilities are endless."
"God, I hope so." Sam whispered as their lips met.
Many breathless moments later they parted. "Are you ready to accept your punishment?" Jeanie asked.
"Over and over again." And she did.
'I was such an idiot' Sam railed as she remembered all over again just how much she had lost when she lost Jeanie.
Despite all the history between them, Sam was determined to follow the rule that Jeanie had laid down the night before. When she walked into the studio the next morning, she was prepared to treat Jeanie as any other star of a show she was producing. Then she saw her and her true motive for being there crept into her thoughts along with some old memories.
Sam had started a part-time job at the local television station. She hadn't needed the money, but it was something she found fascinating. As she watched and learned how television was made her thoughts about the future began to change. Suddenly, the idea of starting her own daycare facility didn't sound so appealing. She wanted to produce television shows. She wanted to be the one who called all the shots. The power that she found was intoxicating and it became all she wanted. Jeanie started taking a back seat to Sam's career, and their relationship suffered. Finally one night, it all came crashing down. Jeanie was offered a job teaching kindergarten. It was her dream job. She rushed home to tell Sam and all she found was an empty apartment. Thinking that Sam was just working late, which had been happening more and more often lately, Jeanie decided to plan a small celebration for the two of them. She turned on the stereo, lit some candles, and went to the kitchen to cook a special dinner. It was then that she found the note. A scrawled note stuck to the refrigerator with a cute cat magnet that Sam had bought for Jeanie at a craft show in the mall.
'J,' the note read, 'I know I'm a coward to do this this way, but I'm leaving. I was offered a job producing a daytime talk show in Hollywood. They told me that if I wanted the job then I had to be there in the morning. I know we haven't talked about this, but this is where my life is. I love you, talk to you soon, Sam.'
Jeanie sank to the floor of the kitchen, her mind whirling. 'She couldn't have just left. How could she give up on all of our dreams, our plans?' 'Easy' a voice whispered in the back of her mind, 'she didn't really want your dreams. You know her dreams have changed, you've seen it.' And she had. Jeanie had known for months now that Sam's heart wasn't with kids anymore, it was with television. Or more precisely, it was with the power television brought her.
That night, Jeanie packed up all her stuff. She took the job offer and moved out of the apartment to start teaching. She vowed that she would never allow anyone to ever get that close to her again and she never had.
Sam, meanwhile had gone on to be very successful in Hollywood. Her shows were among the highest rated in the country and every network wanted her. She was riding high and if there was something lacking in her life, she hadn't let it bother her. She had tried to get in contact with Jeanie once she was settled in California, only to be told that Jeanie was gone and that she hadn't left a forwarding address. Sam decided that Jeanie hadn't really loved her at all, otherwise she would have understood how much this chance meant to her. Sam knew that she hadn't left things well, but she had thought Jeanie would understand. When she didn't, Sam decided it was for the best. That lie worked for quite a while too. Then Sam turned on the tv one afternoon and saw 'Kiddie Corral.' She almost couldn't believe her eyes. After all these years, Jeanie was back and the hole in Sam's heart was filled again. She gave up her career in Hollywood and contacted 'Big' Bob Mackey. She told him that she was looking for a change and wanted the chance to work with a kid's show. 'Big' Bob jumped at the chance and agreed to anything to get her to come and work for his stations.
"I want her back." It was something she readily admitted to herself, it would have been hard for her to ignore. Ever since she had seen Jeanie's show for the first time 3 years ago, Sam knew that she had to try and get back into her life. It was ironic that Jeanie was now the star of her own show. Sam hoped that they could put their past behind them and make a new start. She hadn't anticipated the depth of Jeanie's rancor, but she hoped to overcome it and the only way to do that, was to play by Jeanie's rules. So, Sam drew in a deep breath, shoved her thoughts of how beautiful Jeanie looked back into the recesses of her mind, and went to work.
As the weeks went by, Sam's plan seemed to be working. Jeanie's show became a ratings giant again and they were able to get the new show launched as well. Sam also had to retool some of 'Big' Bob's other daytime shows, so she was extremely busy, but that worked to her advantage too. It was much easier to keep things strictly business between she and Jeanie when they didn't really see each other that often. All planning sessions for the shows were done at the studio--no more dinners out. Jeanie was starting to think that this situation might actually work. There was no doubt that Sam knew what she was doing. Even though her previous shows had been geared towards a completely different crowd, her college training in child behavior served her well.
After a month of playing things by the rules, Sam decided it was time to move on to the second phase of her campaign to win Jeanie back. She started wooing secretly. All of a sudden Jeanie found a single rose on her desk each morning. No note, just the rose, the curiosity was driving her crazy. She started coming into work early to try and catch whoever was leaving the roses, but no matter how early her secret admirer was always there first.
Jeanie started asking the crew, the secretaries, even the janitors! No one seemed to know who was leaving the roses. Or if they did they weren't telling.
After two weeks of roses, Sam stepped up again. Now along with the rose she would leave a piece of Jeanie's favorite candy. The kind she had loved since they were in school together. Still Jeanie couldn't figure it out.
Another week passed and Sam went for the final push. Now along with the rose and the candy, she would leave a short poem. Some of them were favorites from college, some were from their classes, and finally Sam left a very special poem.
I look into your eyes and my heart stops.
I feel your heart beating and my breath slows.
I feel your breath on my cheek and my heart races.
I look into your soul and find the other half of mine.
It was a silly poem she had written for Jeanie as a joke for one of their creative writing classes. Sam had never claimed to be a poet but Jeanie had loved it because it came from the heart.
Jeanie picked up the poem and knew instantly what it was. What she didn't know was what it meant. She turned to the door and found Sam standing there.
"You? You're my secret admirer?"
"I want you back. I never stopped loving you and I want you back in my life. You've never left my heart."
"I don't know what to say."
"Please, just say you'll give me another chance. I know I don't deserve one. I don't think I can live my life without you anymore. If you say no, I will try, but it won't really be living. Without you, I will only exist. You make me the person I want to be. Will you forgive me and give me another chance?"
"No." Jeanie replied flatly.
Defeated, Sam turned to leave. "Ok. I gave it my best shot."
"No, I will not forgive you now because I did it long ago."
"Well, maybe not long ago. When the roses started appearing I had to take a long hard look at my life. I had to decide whether I was able to let myself love again or not. I decided that I couldn't let some admirer into my heart with just a few roses."
"The reason I couldn't let some admirer into my heart was because you were still there. You were following my rule so closely and I started realizing that I didn't want you to anymore. When the candy started coming I thought maybe you were my secret admirer because it was candy we shared in college. No one else knew that I liked that kind."
"I hoped you would remember."
"I did. And then I had to really take a hard look at the past and what I wanted for the future."
"What did you see."
"Wow." Was all Sam could think of to say.
"Close that door and make me really want to forgive you."
"Yes ma'am." Sam did as she was told and then grabbed Jeanie into a fierce hug and kiss. Sounds of clapping and catcalls penetrated their ears after a few moments and they opened their eyes to see the entire crew cheering from the other side of the windows that Sam forgot to close. Jeanie blushed and hid her face in Sam's chest as Sam walked them over to the blinds and shut them. The grinning faces of 'Big' Bob Mackey and Jim Peterson were the last ones they saw.