The Forgotten: Ch. 10 - Katelyn

Katelyn --

Katelyn didn’t know where to begin. It had been so long since she had told her story, or even allowed herself to really think about it. Taylor was the last person she’d told everything to, back in the early days of their relationship. She’d felt so safe with him. He was the first person in a long time she felt she could talk to about anything.

She could distinctly remember the day they first met. She was guest starring for a season in his latest popular show, and they hit it off immediately. He came to introduce himself before their first scene together, knowing it was her first time on the screen and wanting to make her feel comfortable. He was so funny and smart and charming and not at all like she’d been expecting him to be. Most actors she met fell into one of two categories: either they were overly confident and arrogant or so carefree and laid-back it was just as impossible to have a conversation with them. But Taylor was somehow the perfect balance of both.

Once, during her first scene, she’d gotten so nervous she couldn’t remember her lines, but then her eyes met Taylor and he mouthed the words for her, and she’d been able to finish the scene flawlessly.

“Thank you,” she’d told him after the shoot. “I totally would have tanked this without you.”

He smiled, and said, “You would have been fine. It happens to everyone. My first scene, we had to retake over a hundred times because every time I’d see the light from the camera and all these people staring at me, waiting for me to get it right, my mind would go—“ he wiped a hand over his head and made a whooshing sound —“totally blank.”

“Really? I thought you’d be a natural.”

“Nah. If this came naturally, it wouldn’t be a passion. We take for granted what comes easily. Do you ever notice that?”

Later, whenever anyone would ask her, she’d say that was the moment she fell in love with him. The way he’d been looking at her in that moment, the way he put her at ease, made her feel like she could talk to him forever about anything.

They told each other everything. Their relationship contained no secrets, which was a first for her. To anyone on the outside, it would have appeared to be a perfect union, and most of the time it was, though it certainly hadn’t been easy to maintain. Katelyn remembered the first year of their marriage when he’d “fallen in love” with his co-star. The image of their kiss on the beach in Hawaii where the movie was being filmed—his hands on the flesh left exposed by her white bikini bottoms, her fingers tangled in the hair at the back of his neck, lips pressed against his—burned in her mind, even now. The picture had made the cover of all the gossip magazines, and she’d had one in her hand, cheeks burning with tears when he came home a few weeks later. He’d taken the magazine from her hand, knelt down in front of her, and begged for her forgiveness.

“It didn’t meant anything,” he’d said. “You know I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. It’s just the job. I wasn’t myself. Please forgive me.”

The year after that, he’d come home sloppy drunk every night—if he came home at all. She’d been called out of the studio so many times to pick him up at the hospital where he was being treated for alcohol poisoning she feared she wouldn’t finish her album in time. 

“I highly recommend a treatment center,” the doctor had told her once. “There are plenty nearby that would offer discretion. I can give you some pamphlets.”

“I’ll consider them,” she had said.

She’d thought about leaving him multiple times, but then she realized she only thought like this when he was working. And if she truly loved him, she would have to learn how to love his career too. So she forgave him.

She always forgave him.

And then there was the night of his death when he’d found something she hadn’t meant for him to see. He’d knelt down in front of her, pressing his face into her stomach, and planting a kiss just below her belly button.

“I’m so sorry,” he’d said. “I love you so much. It won’t happen again. I’ll take a break. I won’t accept any new roles. We can still work this out.”

He’d surprised her by coming home that night. Filming wasn’t supposed to wrap up for another week. She didn’t think she’d see him before the start of her World Tour, and she remembered thinking that was probably for the best. She’d wanted time to figure things out. 

“We’ll talk about it later,” she’d said. “I can’t do this right now. I have to get ready.”

"Where are you going?” he’d asked. “I thought your flight wasn’t until six?”

“I’m meeting Delia to go over the plan.” 

It was the first time she’d lied to him—and the last. She’d give anything to take that back now.

She hadn’t known there wouldn’t be a later. If she had, she would have stayed. She would have called her tour manager, Delia, and told her the tour would have to wait. The shows could be rescheduled. Nothing would have been more important than being with her husband. 

Because as much as he put her through, it wasn’t nearly as terrible as the first time she’d fallen in love.

She was barely sixteen when her high school choir teacher decided to enter the students in the Highland Mall Winter Talent Show. If Katelyn had known William Friday was amongst the panel of “judges”, she might have been more nervous during her rendition of “Popular” from Wicked, the song she’d been assigned to perform. And if she’d been just a little more nervous, William might never have approached her after the show, handing her the winning trophy himself.

“Congratulations,” he had said, handing her the trophy. The skin around his dark brown eyes crinkled when he smiled, his full lips parting to reveal a row of shiny, white teeth. “I must say, you far exceeded the expectations of this competition. You have the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard.”

“Oh,” Katelyn had said, smiling bashfully, her cheeks flushing red, “thank you.”

He stuck out his hand and introduced himself. “My name is William Friday. I’m the executive producer at TGIF Records in Los Angeles.” His hand was warm as it enveloped hers, and she thought she could have stood there for hours just holding his hand. “Would you be interested in making a demo?”

“I…” Katelyn had been at a loss for words. “I’m only sixteen.”

He had winked at her. “I’m sure we can work something out.” He let go of her hand, and pulled out a business card. “Give me a call, if you’re interested. I’ll be in town for the next two weeks.”

Her mother had been reasonably skeptical when Katelyn had told her about the opportunity she’d been given. But whatever doubt she had was eliminated when William invited Katelyn and her family out to dinner to discuss Katelyn’s future in the music industry. 

“Your daughter has such a rare gift. Her raw talent is unlike anything I’ve heard before. She’s truly remarkable,” William had said, his eyes gleaming as he looked at Katelyn and then back at her mother. “It would be a shame not to pursue.”

Her mother had put down her glass of the expensive wine William had ordered, and dabbed at her lips with her napkin. “The thing is,” she had said, “our home is here. When my husband passed away five years ago, he didn’t leave us with much. His pension barely covers the mortgage on the house we have now. We couldn’t just pack up and move to California on a whim. I mean, say we did. Say we relocate our family just so Katelyn can work with you. Realistically, what are the chances she’ll even succeed with her music? I mean, she’s only sixteen. I’m sorry, but it’s just not a risk I’m willing to take.”

“I understand your concern, Ms. Harper. I truly do,” William had said, placing a hand over her mother’s. “But I also truly believe in your daughter’s talent, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I return to California without her. So perhaps we can come to an agreement…”

William’s charm was a superpower, impossible to resist. So an agreement was made. A check was written that night with the promise of more to follow once a month, and in the weeks following the dinner, a lease on an apartment in a building William owned a few blocks away from the TGIF studio was signed by Katelyn and her mother, paid in full for the year. Visits were scheduled as often as her mother’s busy work schedule and Carrie’s school schedule would allow, but those visits would be cancelled after the one that changed everything.

And perhaps if she hadn’t said what she did, everything would have turned out okay.

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