Real Make Believe

My grandfather came home early from work one afternoon which was unusual for him. He called me into his study still wearing his three piece suit from the office and he told me to have a seat. My grandfather was a well-known lawyer with his own successful firm and I was usually intimidated when he was in his business mode which he seemed to be in now as he sat behind his large oak desk looking all official.

"I have a job for you if you're interested," Grandpa let me know.

I was already bagging groceries at the Greenville Stop and Save as a sixteen year old but when my grandfather made an offer I was generally expected to seriously consider it.

"Job?" I asked.

"It's the kind of job you won't be able to talk about," Grandpa said as he sat with his hands folded on top of the desk blotter with a serious look on his face. "Whatever you see and hear you'll have to keep to yourself. You'll just do what is asked of you without comment or complaint."

"Sounds kind of mysterious, Grandpa," I said with a frown.

"I need somebody I can trust, Jared," Grandpa sighed. "It's a client...a unique client who requires special care and privacy," he explained. "You would be like a secret service agent, unable to speak of what you see, hear, or know."

"What would I be doing, exactly?" I asked.

"Sort of a handyman," he explained. "I need someone to mow the law. Rake the leaves. Shovel the snow. Take the trash out to the curb. Do general jobs around the house. Maybe run errands. Whatever is needed. Do you think you could handle that?"

"Sure, but..."

"I'll put you on retainer," Grandpa said. "You'll get the same pay check no matter how many hours you work I'm thinking two hundred bucks a week."

I was lucky if I pulled in a hundred bucks a week at the supermarket if I really humped my ass so it sounded like an offer I couldn't refuse.

"What's the big secret, Grandpa?" I asked.

"Will you do this for me or not?" Grandpa wanted to know.

"Sure, if you really want me," I said, actually feeling flattered that my grandfather trusted me enough to consider me for the clandestine job assignment.

"Come with me," Grandpa said.

I followed him out of the house and we got into his Cadillac. He drove us down Green Hill and around onto Elm Street that ran along the bottom of the hill, slowing down in front of the old carriage house that was actually on a piece of our property (woods separated our house atop Green Hill from this part of the land on the bottom of the hill). The carriage house always reminded me of a giant Gingerbread House in its appearance – brown frame with white concrete walls and paned windows with box window sills.

The house was sometimes used as a guest house for visiting family (ironic since the house on the hill had 14 rooms) but mostly it sat empty behind a six foot brick wall along the front of the street with a metal gate across the driveway entrance.

"Mary Smith lives here now," Grandpa explained. "That's our special client who requires special treatment."

I was pretty sure Mary Smith was not the woman's real name but I already knew about the gag order so I didn't ask any questions. My grandfather had many friends of influence, money and power and I was guessing this Mary Smith had some connection to that part of his world. Maybe she was a politician's wife or kid or some other person with VIP connections.

Grandpa handed me a cell phone. "This is to be used only for your job," he said. "When the phone rings, you answer and do whatever the person on the other end tells you."

"Is Mary Smith going to be the one who calls?" I asked.

"She might," Grandpa said. "But there are a few other people who will have this number and they speak on behalf of Mary so you do what they tell you to do too."

"Okay," I agreed.

"Any questions, problems or concerns, you can always call me," Grandpa informed me. "But remember, you're sworn to secrecy and you can't tell anybody what you're doing here. Don't let me down, okay Jared?"

"I won't," I promised.

"Not a word to your friends or even your mother," Grandpa warned. "Total radio silence."

"I understand, Grandpa," I said.

He handed me a remote to the gate. "Use this to get in," he said. Then he handed me a key. "Only go inside the house when you have permission," he advised.

"Okay, Grandpa," I said.

So that's how I got the job as Mary Smith's handyman. I showed up every Wednesday morning to bring the trash out to the curb. I mowed the lawn and did other yard work. I helped around the house when asked. I didn't even see Mary Smith for the first few weeks but I met Mrs. Greene who was the housekeeper/cook and Jeanette who as far as I could tell was the person in charge and she's the one who gave me most of my tasks.

Mrs. Greene was an older woman who didn't seem to get involved much beyond her own responsibilities although she was always offering me some sort of snack whenever I showed up. Jeanette looked to be in her early fifties with a boisterous voice and although she was pleasant and personable she was also definitely in control and she's the one who set the tone around the house. I considered her to be my boss.

I did a lot of work outside keeping the property well groomed and nice looking. The yard was a fair size with plenty of bushes and hedges to be trimmed and grass to be mowed, along with flowers in the some of the window boxes and on the grounds. The property was surrounded by woods on three sides so a lot of twigs, leaves, and branches fell in the yard after storms and in the autumn.

I scraped and painted the old garden shack behind the garage, I replaced cracked and broken windows in the garage and I pulled weeds from the driveway during the first few weeks on the job.

Occasionally, I was summoned inside the house – sometimes to move furniture or help with heavy cleaning. I had to clean out the cellar which took several days. The carriage house consisted of a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor and – from my previous visits to the house before all this started – I knew there was a master bedroom with two smaller rooms and a bathroom upstairs. The interior of the house was cozy, clean and well maintained thanks to Mrs. Greene's and my efforts.

The first time I saw Mary Smith was about a month after I started the job. Before then, nobody talked about her in front of me so I still had no idea what the story was or who she was. I was helping Mrs. Greene carry groceries into the house when I noticed a woman pacing back and forth between the kitchen and dining room. She appeared anxious and annoyed but I was struck by how pretty she looked. There was something familiar about her but I couldn't place her. She was in her mid-thirties with long brown hair part way down her back. She seemed to be naturally animated and energetic but in an unnatural way and I was taken aback by her noticeable presence.

Mary Smith put her hands on her hips and glared at us when Mrs. Greene and I entered.

"Who the fuck is that?" Mary demanded when she saw me in the kitchen.

"This is Jared, Wendy," Jeanette said, coming down the stairs. "I told you about him. He helps us out. He's part of our team."

"A kid?" Mary/Wendy grumbled, stopping her pacing and putting her hands on her hips.

She was wearing jeans and a tee shirt and she was barefooted. "We've got a fucking kid working with us?"

"He's Jack's grandson," Jeanette explained calmly. "We can trust him."

Mary/Wendy glared at me with disapproval before continuing her pacing. "Well, I don't like it," she complained. "I don't like it at all." She stopped pacing a second time and stared at me with her arms now folded across her chest. "A fucking kid," she said with disapproval. "Remember, fucking kid, if you say anything to anybody I'll rip your fucking balls off."

I tried to rack my brain for the name Wendy but nothing meaningful came up in my mind.

"Did you get my cashews, Mrs. Greene?" Wendy wanted to know, sounding overly cheerful all of a sudden.

"Yes, of course," Mrs. Greene said with a polite smile as she retrieved a can of Planter's from one of the bags and handed it to Wendy.

"Great," Wendy smiled, taking the can and heading upstairs.

"Don't take it personally, Jared," Jeanette told me. "She's just having one of those days."

Jeanette followed Wendy upstairs and I helped Mrs. Greene unload the groceries but neither of us spoke of what had just gone down.

The next time I saw Wendy, she was friendly and nice to me, not calling me a fucking kid or threatening to rip my fucking balls off.

"Jared!" Wendy smiled as she got out of the car with Jeannette. I was standing in the yard watering the flowers. "It's nice to see you. How you doin', kid?"

"Fine," I said cautiously.

"The flowers look great!" She smiled. "Good job! Keep up the good work!"

Wendy cheerfully went into the house with Jeanette and I couldn't help but scratch my head. Then I thought about how pretty she looked when she smiled as opposed to the scary look on her face the last time I saw her.

Nobody talked about Wendy to me after all this time so I was still clueless as to who she was or what she was doing staying at the carriage house like some witness protection plan stowaway.

A few days later, I was washing the bay window that overlooked the back yard from the kitchen when Wendy stepped outside, wearing a winter hat on her head even though it was July.

"I like to roam around this magical place," she said although I wasn't sure if she was talking to me or herself. "It's surrounded by beautiful flowers and pretty trees." She sucked in her breath and then added: "I bet there are fairies and gremlins and gnomes and pixies and imps and spirits in these here woods." She looked at me and smiled. "What do you think, Kid?"

"Anything's possible," I replied with uncertainty, not quite sure what she was talking about.

"Keep an eye out for them, Kid," Wendy advised. "They're out there."

She went back into the house and I was guessing that Wendy was the one who was really out there.

As weird as things felt around the Carriage House sometimes, I had to admit that I found myself thinking about Wendy a lot. There was something intriguing about her even if she was strange and moody. The thing that I noticed most about her was that she seemed to be in a different mood every time I saw her. Sometimes she was pacing through the house, quiet and morose, ignoring everybody. Other times she was chipper and funny, talkative and expressive. Sometimes her mood changed in the middle of a conversation. She could be having a perfectly congenial conversation with Jeanette and the next second she was flying in a rage about something totally irrelevant and stomping up the stairs.

One time when I was in the house alone I ventured upstairs to check out what it looked like up there. Wendy had the main master bedroom and it was decked out as if it was a fancy hotel penthouse with expensive linen on the queen sized bed, a quality make up table that took up half the room cluttered with all sorts of makeup and other products. She had a tall dresser, a small desk, a large entertainment center and even a small refrigerator in the room. One of the smaller rooms had been converted into an office – complete with a couple of desks, computers, telephones, fax machine, copy machine, a large first aid kit, and a noticeable medicine cabinet that had a dead bolt and pad lock on it. The second room had a small bed, a writing table and a television in it. I was rarely at the house at night so I wasn't sure if Jeanette slept there or it was a spare room for guests. I still didn't know what this was all about but I liked being part of the inner circle.

The months passed and I kept my promised vow to secrecy. I told my friends I worked for my grandfather and left it at that. There were a few times when the 'Wendy' phone (as I secretly called it) went off when I was hanging out with pals and I'd have to excuse myself to go take care of whatever was asked of me. Sometimes it was to go run an errand picking something up at the supermarket or drug store, other times it was to show up at the Carriage House to take care of some problem – a leaky faucet, a computer issue (I was pretty good with electronics), or figuring out the remote control for the television.

My widower mother and I lived with her widowed father in the same huge house on Green Hill she grew up in and I was growing up in the same house now. Mom was busy with her second career as the co-owner of a local bakery, leaving her job as a lawyer after my father died when I was ten. She was too distracted by her life to ask a lot of questions about my job working for Grandpa and that was fine with me.

It was obvious that Wendy had issues but I wasn't about to ask questions because that would go against the code I agreed to in the beginning. But the more I hung around the carriage house the more experienced I became in witnessing events and overhearing conversations. I would hear Jeanette negotiating with Wendy about taking her meds. One time (when I was fixing a loose window in the living room) Jeanette stood at the bottom of the stairs for fifteen minutes trying to get Wendy to come down for her meds. Wendy would make it half way down the stairs and then change her mind and go back upstairs and Jeanette would start all over again with her speech about how Wendy had to take her meds or "go back to the hospital".

Occasionally, Mrs. Greene would have me stay for a meal and sometimes Wendy would join us for a bite. On some occasions, Wendy was humorous with an interesting story to tell or perspective to offer but other times she would come out with strange if not bizarre comments, remarks, observations, or confessions that made little sense to me and often freaked me out.

"When are you going to have the kid take those fucking cameras out of my closet?" Wendy asked Jeanette one day.

"There are no cameras in your closet, Wendy," Jeanette replied calmly.

"The aliens are watching me," Wendy complained. "Everybody knows that. I'd appreciate it if you'd get those damn fucking cameras out of my closet."

I learned that Wendy didn't use the phone because she believed it was bugged by aliens – at least that's what she told me one day when she sent be back to the store for a bag of potato chips after I made a grocery store run.

"Why didn't you just call me when I was there?" I asked and that's when she told me about the phones being bugged.

Then three days later, Wendy called me and told me she needed ivory soap.

"I haven't showered in a week," she let me know. "I need fucking Ivory soap and not fucking Irish Spring. I can't fucking shower with Irish Spring."

I didn't ask her if the phone was no longer bugged by aliens.

Sometimes Wendy wouldn't come out of her room for days. Mrs. Greene usually gave me a status check when I came into the house as to what kind of mood Wendy happened to be in that day – a thumbs up meant she was upbeat and cheerful, talkative and 'normal', but a thumbs down meant that Wendy was barricaded in her room, or being a moody bitch, or giving Jeanette a hard time about her meds, or otherwise being "out there" (which became our code word around the house when Wendy wasn't doing well).

Wendy often talked about Joanie who I thought was one of her friends even though I had yet to see any visitors to the house other than my Grandfather and a couple of home care staff workers on occasion. Turns out Joanie was the voice inside of Wendy's head who told her what to do sometimes. Whenever Wendy did something strange or said something bizarre, she would claim that Joanie told her to say it or do it.

One day, the television in the living room was on and a breaking news story came on about an airplane crashing into a house in a neighborhood killing a family and Wendy started laughing hysterically. Mrs. Greene was very offended and she told Wendy she was being insensitive and inappropriate.

"It's fucking Joanie's fault," Wendy insisted. "She made me laugh."

So, even though I was just a teenager with few clues about mental illness I was able to deduce that Wendy had psychological issues and that was why she was on medications. I also came to believe that Jeanette was Wendy's social worker/therapist and not her aide, associate or house manager. Still, to be renting the Carriage House and to have a staff of at least three (me, Jeanette and Mrs. Greene) with my big deal lawyer grandfather overseeing the show had to mean that Wendy came from money or had money and I remained curious as to what that part of the story was although I knew not to ask anybody about it.

One afternoon, I got a call from Jeanette on the Wendy phone asking me to stop by the Blue County Mental Health Center.

"Tell them you're a courier for your grandfather and you're picking up the envelope for Mary Smith," Jeanette instructed. "Kathy at the front desk is expecting you."

"Okay," I replied.

I drove to the MHC and picked up the envelope as instructed but then, on my way home, I broke my vow of honor and privacy. The manila envelope wasn't sealed so I pulled my car over to the side of the road and I opened the envelope, sliding out the piece of paper inside.

Chas. Randolph Sandabar, Senior Psychiatrist

CASE ASSESSMENT REPORT

Wendy Newton

Background Information:

Wendy Newton is a 37 year old single Caucasian female who most recently lived with her parents in Springdale. Wendy's parents feel they are no longer capable of tending to Wendy's daily needs. Wendy carries a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type. Her medications are Risperdal Consta 50 mgs every two weeks and additional oral Risperdal as needed.

In brief, this is a woman who is one of two children born to a highly successful family. Wendy was well educated and highly talented, trained in acting and dance. She began having psychiatric difficulties when she was twenty years old and presented with psychotic symptoms at that time. In these past sixteen years, she has had multiple hospitalizations, usually for psychotic and delusional symptoms. She has a number of delusions about things having been done to her body, about being thrown off a bridge, and paranoid delusions about other people lying to her and trying to harm her. It seems that these delusions are not present when she is at her most well compensated state. When out of the hospital, she threatens to not take her antipsychotic medications which sometimes result with psychotic, and occasionally, catatonic nature, resulting in further hospitalization. Then in the hospital under the influence of antipsychotic medication, she becomes better compensated and better in control of her behavior even if she stills maintains some delusional thinking.

Her family had come to the conclusion that, after many incidents of psychosis that have created family crises and interventions, she is no longer able to live at home. The family hired a lawyer who arranged a new living situation in a private home with a professional staff to care for her needs. It is hoped that Wendy's independence from her immediate family will allow her to function better and enable the family to provide love and support without being enmeshed in Wendy's illness. Wendy often believes that the medication is harmful to her and she will alternately vehemently oppose it, be ambivalent about it, or be accepting of it. Her attitudes on this issue often change spontaneously and in rapid succession.

Wendy presents herself as being engaged and interested in her difficulties and her options for improved mental health. Even though she presented with a relatively calm demeanor, she described several incidents uncorroborated by any witnesses. She claims that anti-psychotic medications do not help her and keeps her brain "in a scrambled situation". Last year when it was snowing and freezing outside, she claims that she thought the house was afire. She took her clothes off and ran outside naked into the cold. She explained to me that her friend Joanie told her to take her clothes off. She is convinced that she has been victimized by many people especially those who took advantage of her during her brief but highly successful acting career. Her family is worried and over extended emotionally which has led them to make the decision not to have her live at home.

Wendy has the financial resources from previous employment to live independently and hire staff to help her. In our meeting, she claimed that she would be willing to take her medications if she was allowed to live outside of her family residence and avoid hospitalization. She has had several vehicle accidents and lost her license several years ago due to being a habitually dangerous driver.

Recommendations

It has become obvious that much as this client feels that anti-psychotic medications are damaging to her, and much as it may be true that there is a kernel of truth to that in that they might sedate her or slow down her mental functioning, it seems that taking anti-psychotic medication gives her only chance of maintaining her behavior under control. This is a terrible dilemma since it is so difficult to force her to take medications outside of the hospital.

Therefore, it is a very important ongoing balancing act to insist that she take her medications and too at the same time, acknowledge and validate that she is worried about these things. We need to demonstrate that she does do better when she is on an antipsychotic medicine. In addition, it could be made or stated as a condition for collecting her monthly income from her rep payee for her to be taking her medication.

Her Roger's Order stipulates that she be on antipsychotic medication, and even though it can be difficult to enforce a Roger's Order unless the person is symptomatic and decompensated, it still adds one more tool and a sense of clear and consistent recommendation to her, that she takes the medication.

I recommend that behavioral expectations be stipulated to her that are linked to maintaining her independent living situation. One of these should be she take her ongoing medications. Second is that when she is in distress that she contact her support team. Third, there should be an expectation that she maintains a proper relationship with her staff that should concretely help her with the maintenance of her home and of course other life skills and goals.

Given her repeated lapses into psychotic behavior and her involvement with the criminal justice system on several previous occasions, I recommend that when there is evidence that she is not taking her medication and showing some signs of increase psychosis that the decision to hospitalize her be made early in that trajectory rather than waiting until it gets to a more pronounced stage.

I recommend that the general stance toward her by her support group be one that emphasizes being calm, cool, receptive, flexible, and with a sense of humor when possible. She seems to become more decompensated when people become more anxious and rigid in response to early signs of trouble.

This is a talented and exceptional woman that should continue to be in psychotherapy as well as continue to see her psychiatrist. This should undoubtedly be a supportive and problem solving form of psychotherapy and provide her with steady influence as she continues to negotiate how to be successfully independent while she has a psychotic condition.

Thank you for asking me to consult on this challenging case.

Chas. Randolph Sandabar

Senior Psychiatrist

Blue County Mental Health Association

I sat in my seat dumbstruck, not realizing what Wendy had been through all this time. It was sad and depressing. I kept staring at her name on the top of the sheet. Wendy Newton. Hadn't I heard that name before somewhere? And the Shrink mentioned that she was an actress and dancer who had a brief but successful career so I had the feeling she had been someone famous, or at least well known.

I drove to the Carriage House and delivered the envelope to Jeanette and then went home to google Wendy Newton on the internet.

Wendy Newton is an American actress who made her Broadway debut as one of Annie's fellow orphans at the age of 14. She appeared in a handful of New York filmed commercials and had several small roles in various New York produced television shows, principally Law and Order SUV. She made her major motion picture debut at age eighteen playing the role of Diane Carlson in the comedy film Seniority Sisters. She followed up that role by playing the love interest Lori Sinclair in Running Fast and she was a co-star in Happy Anniversary, Mr. Wyman, playing the role of daughter Helen Wyman. Her final screen appearance came as Olive DeJones in the wildly successful youth comedy Give Me A Spring Break.

Newton abruptly left Hollywood soon thereafter and has avoided the public limelight since. Various rumors about her life have periodically surfaced over the years and it is generally assumed that she is living under an assumed name.

I sat in front of my computer screen with my mouth hanging open. I remember seeing those movies and of course I immediately saw the resemblance between the photos of the young actress accompanying the write up taken from her various movies and the older Wendy I knew from the Carriage House. I was incredibly bummed to discover the truth about what had become of Wendy Newton and I gave her family (and my grandfather) huge credit for keeping her story out of the public so she could live in private dignity as she struggled with her mental illness.

I netflicked her movies and found all four even though they were fifteen to seventeen years old. I remember seeing Seniority Sisters in Melissa Hampton's cellar a couple of years earlier with a group of people at a party. It was Wendy's debut film, a female teenage buddy movie. Diane Carlson was a naive, wide-eyed optimist and Wendy got a lot of laughs for being so tone-deaf to the sexual innuendos in the film. Her three co-stars are still active in the business which makes me feel sad knowing Wendy didn't make it.

I saw Running Fast with Michelle Simpson when she was on a babysitting job. We sort of kind of dated for a little while. Michelle is a runner so she liked that story line in the film even though the movie is really a love story between Wendy's Lori Sinclair and Bobby Houston, played by then teenage heartthrob Matthew Dalton Morgan.

Lori Sinclair is a confident, dedicated and committed runner and Wendy played her with just the right amount of toughness and sensitivity to make her believable and interesting. What I remember most about the movie was a locker room scene when Lori and her best friend Chug have a long heart to heart about sports, romance and personal best. Then they walk naked to the shower and we get to see both their bare asses in a long shot. It was sort of embarrassing seeing that with Michelle because I really didn't know Michelle that well to be watching naked asses with her. And now that I knew Wendy, seeing her teenage ass on film (again as I watched Running Fast on Netflick) was sort of weird yet intriguing.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Wyman was long time character actor Michael Walker's film in a rare starring role (he just died a couple of years ago) but Wendy did an admirable job playing his sweet and lovable daughter and the movie had a feel good Christmas theme to it.

Wendy's final film (Give Me a Spring Break) was an all-star cast of popular actors at the time. I really didn't like Wendy's character or performance - she played it way over the top and almost out of control and I couldn't help but wonder if her real life mental illness was starting to manifest itself in the film. She also did a couple of pointless gratuitous nude scenes for no real reason other than to show off her tits and ass.

It was three in the morning by the time I finished watching all four films and I found myself sort of kind of falling in love with the young Wendy Newton - or at least some of her characters and performances. I would have loved to have known Seniority Sister Diane Carlson or runner Lori Sinclair or even Mr. Wyman's daughter. What struck me the most was that Wendy appeared in four major motion pictures in just over two years, working with some of the most popular names in the business (then and now) but then something went terribly wrong in her life and she never acted again.

What kind of career would Wendy have had had she not gotten ill? Would she still be as popular now in her mid-thirties? Would she have a long list of credits to her name? I never once heard her talk about movies or television. In fact, now that I thought about it, the television at the Carriage House was usually tuned in to C-SPAN or the Weather Channel. Had she forgotten about her previous life? Was it too painful to think about? Was it real or make believe to her? Had she lost all sense of reality in her illness therefore denying her movie experiences which was really make believe?

In his write up I shouldn't have looked at, the psychiatrist mentioned that Wendy felt used by people. Was Wendy's Hollywood experience not quite the fantasy the rest of us imagine that kind of movie career being? Did she suffer some trauma that brought on her mental illness? Did people take advantage of her and her celebrity?

I went to bed feeling sad and even confused. I read somewhere that actors bring pieces of themselves to each role they played so I wondered what parts of the real Wendy were in each of her characters I had just watched. Part of me knew that whatever parts Wendy brought to those roles was long lost underneath years of mental illness struggles. I liked certain aspects of the Wendy I knew now - she could be spunky and funny in her moments of normalcy - but seeing the 'out there' parts of Wendy's present life was depressing and hard to come to terms with. I could only imagine what her family was going through.

Of course, I had to pretend that I still didn't know anything about Wendy's story. She was just some eccentric woman living in my grandfather's carriage house and I was part of her team. But the truth was I now felt proud to be a member of Wendy's team. I was glad I was able to help out in any way I could. Every time I saw her I thought about Diane Carlson's girl next door smile and Lori Sinclair's locker room ass and Mr. Wyman's sweet daughter wanting her Dad to have a Merry Christmas.

My secret goal was to make Wendy as happy and content as I could just by being her friend. I had no interest in taking advantage of her or using her. Even if I was kind of falling for her, I knew our age difference made any of my potential fantasies a mute point anyway.

The months passed. I continued my handyman responsibilities and any other assignments asked of me. I started spending more time at the Carriage House even when I wasn't really doing anything. Mrs. Greene was a good cook and I liked being around Wendy whenever I could. She wasn't always there and sometimes she isolated in her room for days at a time but I still liked being around just in case. One time Wendy told me she slept for three straight days. Another time we thought she took off only to find her hidden in her bedroom closet hours later. There was also the time she hid under her bed for nearly a day before we figured out where she was.

I noticed that I didn't have much of a social life all of a sudden but strangely I really didn't care. I wasn't interested in dating anybody at school because all my focus and thoughts were on Wendy. I didn't get involved in any extra-curricular activities because I wanted my time to be available at the Carriage House. Sometimes I did my homework over there just to be around the house.

Jeanette came to trust me and as time went on she relied on me more often, especially on the weekends when staffing was low. Mrs. Greene didn't work weekends and Jeanette was usually on call only. Rotating Home Care personnel and relief health professionals would come and go so I took it upon myself to spend more time at the Carriage House on the weekends. The relief staff wasn't always all that dedicated or committed. I overheard one woman call Wendy "a sick fuck" when she didn't think anybody was around which I found highly offensive.

Occasionally, Wendy went to her parents' house in Springdale for the weekend and one time she was gone for nearly three weeks to attend a family member's wedding in California although I didn't have privy to all the details. I wondered if she'd look up any of her old friends in LA while she was out there (although California was a big state and she didn't necessarily have to be in SOCAL).

Wendy still sparred with Jeanette over taking her meds and she still had 'out there' days when Joanie was the voice in Wendy's head telling her to say something weird or do something stranger. I figured out when Jeanette took Wendy from the house that she was usually taking her to the Blue County Mental Health Association to see her psychiatrist or therapist.

There was a multi-week period of time when Wendy refused to take her meds and she started acting more psychotic than usual. When she threw her television down the stairs Jeanette called the psychiatrist who had Wendy 'sectioned'. Cops and an ambulance showed up at the carriage house and a sobbing Wendy was taken from the house pleading for a reprieve.

"I don't want to go to the fucking hospital! I don't want to go to the fucking hospital! I don't want to go to the fucking hospital!" she kept saying over and over again and my heart broke for her.

Wendy was extremely mellow when she returned from the mental health unit a few weeks later but she refused to speak to Jeanette for several weeks and Mrs. Greene and I ended up being the middle men - delivering messages from each woman until Wendy finally decided she was ready to talk with Jeanette again.

Sometimes Wendy ignored me, acting as if I wasn't even there and other times she responded as if I was her best bud, talking my ear off on all sorts of topics even though she didn't always make perfect sense. Sometimes the woods around the carriage house were magical - full of fairies and other times she wouldn't leave the house because the woods were full of demons. I learned to go with the flow no matter what her mood was or what she was saying, even if it sounded crazy. Jeanette had a way of redirecting Wendy without sounding patronizing or insulting and I learned to do that too - basically ignoring the stuff that didn't make sense while continuing to have a conversation with Wendy.

My grandfather periodically called me into his study and asked me how things were going at the Carriage House. I figured out that he really wasn't interested in how I was doing but rather how Wendy was doing.

"Is she ever going to get better, Grandpa?" I asked one time.

"I'm afraid not," he replied in a rare moment of truthfulness. "We just want to maintain her at her baseline, make sure she takes her medication, and that she stays out of trouble."

"What happened to her?" I asked.

"She got sick, Jared, that's all," Grandpa replied. "Some people get cancer. Some people get Parkinson's Disease. Some people get ALS or MS. Wendy happened to get Schizophrenia. That's just the way it goes sometimes. It's not her fault."

I wanted to ask him a whole slew of questions but I knew we had an agreement not to discuss the case so I let it go.

A year passed since I first took the job as handyman. I mowed the lawn countless times. I raked lots of leaves. I fired up the snow blower many times. The flowers and yard looked good. My bank account was fairly hefty and sometimes I felt guilty about taking Wendy's money, thinking I should be doing this for free because my grandfather was right - Wendy didn't ask for this to happen to her.

I felt a bond with Mrs. Greene, Jeanette and some of the part timers I got to know over the previous year. I felt we were doing some important work and making a difference in Wendy's life. Even though I was just a seventeen year old teen about to start my senior year at St. Anne's Catholic School I felt much wiser, knowledgeable, experienced and mature than I might have had I stayed at the Stop and Save bagging groceries. Jeanette treated me like an equal even though she was the professional social worker and I was just a high school kid. Mrs. Greene had become like a second mom to me, constantly trying to feed me whenever I stepped into the house!

And of course there was Wendy, sometimes indifferent, sometimes interested, sometimes involved, sometimes isolating, sometimes talking to me, sometimes talking to herself - or to Joanie. And yet I was taken by her - intrigued by her past, saddened by her illness, and desperate to matter in her life.

I liked talking to Wendy and I was getting better at filtering out her psychotic gibberish (Thanks Joanie) from her rational thoughts. She told me about her old boyfriend who she accused of cheating on her - always wanting other women - waitresses, store workers, nurses - which I figured probably wasn't true. She insinuated that she had been molested by her father as a child but in another conversation she spoke warmly and lovingly of her Dad who stood by her during all her troubles. I doubted Jeanette and the psychiatrist would let Wendy visit her parents if there was any truth to the molestation talk.

I learned to be patient with some of Wendy's oddities. She drank her coffee black because she thought putting cream or sugar in it was poisoning the coffee. She only ate cookies when they were first opened from the package because she was convinced once the bag was opened the cookies became impure. She said she had a problem taking meds because they made her fat (she hadn't gained a pound since I met her) and they affected her sex life (I hadn't seen a guy around since I started the job).

One day, Wendy accused me of stealing money from her and she demanded that I be fired. Jeanette and my grandfather both declined her request but Wendy didn't speak to me for nearly three weeks and then suddenly she acted like nothing had happened between us.

Another time, I came out into the back yard to do some work and noticed Wendy up in a tree. She said demons chased her up there and it took Jeanette nearly two hours to talk her down. Wendy had to go to the hospital for a crisis evaluation after that incident but she was allowed to come home a few hours later.

I learned not to let these types of episodes freak me out or bum me out. If I survived the first time I met Wendy (when she dropped the F bomb on me about five times) I knew I could endure any of her challenges, confrontations or 'out there' moments because I knew if I waited long enough she would be back to the nice person she could be - the kind of person I saw on screen in her acting roles (which for me served as sort of a family movie point of reference to be able to remember that underneath some of her paranoia the real Wendy was still there).

I stopped by the carriage house on a Saturday afternoon in August when one of the relief staff was hanging around. Wendy asked if I'd take her for a ride and I realized that I had never been off the property with her before. I excused myself for a moment and called Jeanette on my cell phone Wendy line from the bathroom.

"Can I take Wendy for a ride?"

"I'm not sure if that's such a good idea, Jared," Jeanette told me.

"She seems to be pretty base line today."

There was a long pause. "Okay," Jeanette finally decided. "Don't go far. Avoid public places. Stay close to her. Don't leave her alone even for a minute. If she starts to escalate take her home or call me. You understand?"

"Sure," I said.

"Seriously, Jared," Jeanette warned. "This is important stuff. We can't risk any publicity. We don't want to blow her cover."

"Her cover?"

"Someone might recognize her," Jeanette said.

"You mean, from her movies?"

I heard Jeanette groan. "How long have you known?"

"A while," I admitted.

"You can't tell anybody, Jared," she told me urgently. "This can't get out. She has a safe haven here. We don't need her being forced out by stalkers and celebrity seekers. She doesn't want to deal with that part of her life. Don't under any circumstances mention anything about her Hollywood past. To her or anybody else. This is our most important duty."

"I won't," I promised.

"I trust you, Jared," Jeanette said. "Don't let me down."

"I won't."

"Have a nice ride," she said warmly. "Have her wear a hat." Then the line went dead.

Five minutes later, Wendy and I were driving through Blue County in the five year old Volvo my grandfather got me for my sixteenth birthday. Wendy was wearing a Boston Red Sox ball cap and I realized for the first time that her hair was a different shade (and cut differently) from her movie roles.

"It seems like the only time I get out of the house is to go to the mental health center or the hospital psych ward," she sighed.

"There's plenty to see around here," I informed her.

"Like what?" She asked.

"Have you been to Donovan's Department Store?" I asked. "It's a neat throw back department store from the old days. Wanna do a little shopping?"

"Sure," she agreed.

So we roamed through the three floors of merchandise walking along the squeaky old wooden floors with the low hanging lamps from the ceiling. Wendy seemed to enjoy the place but when we got back to the car she pulled out a small bottle of perfume from under her shirt.

"Five finger discount," she grinned.

"Jesus, Wendy, I would have bought it for you," I said, horrified at the thought of her being arrested for shoplifting. Jeanette would never forgive me.

"What fucking fun would that be?" She smirked.

I drove us to Hillsboro (in case somebody from Donovan's was calling the cops!). There was an afternoon ball game at Beano Field which I thought she might enjoy.

"I'm not good with crowds," Wendy said.

"It's usually not that crowded," I replied.

There were only about fifty people in the stands and we sat far from anybody but after a few innings of watching the amateur baseball game Wendy started to get anxious.

"The cheering and clapping bothers me," Wendy admitted.

"It's for the ballplayers," I explained.

"I know," she groaned. "But it reminds me of...other things."

"We can leave if you want," I said.

"Please," she requested.

I felt bad because I thought Wendy might like the atmosphere of an old time ball field but I could understand how the ball fans could remind her of an audience and her previous life. I took her to Red's Tastee Freeze for an ice cream. I had forgotten that my classmate Ally Brothers worked the window. She was surprised to see me with an 'older woman'. Wendy stepped to the side and wrapped her arms around her chest and hung her head, apparently feeling out of place and uncomfortable.

"Who's that, your aunt?" Ally asked and even though I liked her I was annoyed and embarrassed by her remark.

"Yeah, my aunt," I said through an insulted frown.

"I forget how fucking young you are sometimes," Wendy said when I handed her one of the ice creams.

"I'm not that young," I said defensively.

We ended up sitting on the hood of my car together eating our treats.

"This is nice," Wendy said with a smile. "You're a good friend, kid."

"I thought I was a good handyman," I joked.

"Anybody who hangs around as long as you have is a friend," Wendy said knowingly.

"Like Jeanette and Mrs. Greene?"

"Yeah, like those two," she said, rolling her eyes. "I appreciate everything you guys do for me. Sorry I can be such a fucking lunatic most of the time."

"You're not," I assured her. "Not all of the time," I deadpanned.

That made her laugh and I was relieved that she was doing okay. I liked it when she was able to maintain her moments of lucidity even thought I had to admit that I was constantly worried that her wire could trip at any moment.

"It's hard for me to remember when I was normal," Wendy sighed. "Sometimes when I going to sleep at night I try to transport myself back to a time when I was happy and carefree. Like when I was around twelve without a worry in the world and my future looked bright and hopeful. Now sometimes I wish I just didn't wake up in the morning."

"Don't say such things," I pleaded.

"Other people try to relive my life for me but my reality is nothing like they think it is," she said. "I may have my issues but at least I don't live in a dream world. They just don't like my fucking reality so they try to change it by giving me drugs and telling me everything's going to be okay but it's just a matter of time before a nuclear bomb goes off and we'll all be dead anyway. So I might as well ignore my disorder because I'm crazy anyway so what difference does it fucking make?"

"They just don't understand," I said.

"Sometimes I think my schizophrenia makes me a super hero," Wendy said. "I can function in several dimensions and I'll be okay. Maybe I'll go the hairdresser this week," she added. "They can take the electrons out of my scalp."

Some kids walked by laughing and joking around.

"They're always laughing at me," Wendy sighed.

"No they're not," I said. "They're not laughing at you. They didn't even hear what you said."

But Wendy had gone silent and she didn't respond when I made a few comments about the ice cream and Red's Tastee Freeze.

"Maybe I won't shower for a while," she decided, breaking her silence after a few minutes of frowning. "Then they won't laugh. I'll smell nasty and they'll leave me alone. If I don't take care of myself, people won't care."

"I'll care," I told her.

"Oh, don't mind me," Wendy said with a laugh, apparently blowing off what she had just said. "Sometimes I have delusions of persecution and paranoia. Sometimes I think that people know what I'm going to say or what I'm thinking like they can read my mind and I don't want them to know what the fuck I'm thinking so I try to think crazy thoughts to throw them off."

"There's no need to do that" I said.

"I don't have a lot of people to talk to about this stuff because either they don't believe me or they don't want to hear it," Wendy said.

"You have Jeanette and the people at the mental health center," I pointed out.

"But you see, they're the fucking crazy ones," Wendy groaned. "They think they're helping me with my deliriums but they don't have a fucking clue as to what I'm thinking or how I'm feeling. They just don't understand."

"It must be difficult for you," I said.

"Joanie is the only one who really understands," Wendy told me. "She knows that schizophrenia is a degenerative chronic disease that alters human senses and causes people to hear voices. Joanie told me that water tastes like battery acid so I haven't drank any for a while now."

"You really should," I advised.

"Ah-ha!" Wendy said, pointing her finger at me. "You don't think I have a clear perception of what is real and what's not either" she accused.

"I believe whatever you tell me," I said.

"Damn it," Wendy cursed. "I've lost everything because of this stupid schizophrenia. Sometimes I get so fucking frustrated and depressed. I think Joanie is right. I should just stay crazy instead of trying to fight to be normal."

"I think you should be who you want to be," I said.

"Thanks for taking me out, Kid," Wendy said, suddenly sounding cheerful and normal again. "There's so much stigma about this stuff. I'm not very social anymore. There's too much social rejection and negative reaction. It's very difficult being me."

"You're doing fine," I told her.

"I'm always hearing Joanie's voice," Wendy sighed. "I tried to run away so I wouldn't hear her but she follows me everywhere. I know people are laughing and gossiping about me. I even heard them on the television and radio."

"Don't listen to the television and radio then," I advised.

"If I didn't have money I'd be homeless or in the state hospital," she theorized. "I hope you find happiness because I never will and people who are around me will never be happy either."

"That's not true," I said.

"I think love is deeply human," Wendy said. "But people like me are lonely people. Because of the disease, I've become unfriendly and antisocial. I have Joanie and some people I can communicate telepathically with but most people just don't understand. But Joanie isn't that bad, really. It's like having the television on in the background sometimes and I just drown her voice out. I guess I see the world in a different way than most people. But all I can do is to try to function in both worlds - mine and everybody else's."

Sometimes having a conversation with Wendy was exhausting.

Our ice cream finished, I drove us back to the carriage house. Wendy seemed to enjoy the scenery and she didn't have much to say which sometimes was okay since she could come out with some bizarre comments. I was relieved that our first outing went relatively well and I felt good that we got along. Wendy thanked me for the nice time and then she went straight to her room (with the perfume she five fingered) and I called Jeanette to let her know that Wendy was home safe and sound without any incident.

"Well, that's good," Jeanette said with relief in her voice.

"She can be sort of out there sometimes though, can't she?" I sighed.

Jeanette laughed. "That's an understatement," she said. "But you're doing good, Jared. She likes you. She trusts you otherwise she wouldn't get in the car with you. I've been observing. You're good for her. You're patient, you're understanding, you don't ridicule or demean her and she's free to be whoever she wants to be in the moment with you. Those are all good things."

"I'm not trained in this area," I said with worry.

"Just be yourself, Jared," Jeanette advised. "Treat her like you are."

"It's very sad," I sighed.

"Mental Illness is hard sometimes," Jeanette told me.

"She used to be famous."

"Doesn't matter," Jeanette said. "Mental Illness is an equal opportunity disease. It does care how pretty you are – and Wendy is strikingly pretty – or how rich or famous or talented or successful you happen to be. It can happen to anybody and it happened to Wendy."

"I really admire the work you do," I said and I did – it was impressive the amount of patience Jeanette showed everyday dealing with Wendy who could be a handful.

"Thanks, Jared," Jeanette said.

I took Wendy out for more rides, usually on weekends when she wasn't staying with her parents. We went to Sun Rise Lake once but she didn't want to go in the water because "there could be demons in there too". Mostly I just drove her around the county without stopping much - I figured a change of scenery from the carriage house was better than nothing. Wendy liked the local oldies station so I'd put that on the radio when we drove around although one time she got all freaked out at a particular song and I had to take her home because she was all upset. Only later did I realize that the song was part of the soundtrack from Give Me A Spring Break.

I couldn't take Wendy to the movies because of the crowds and the reminder of her past. I couldn't take her sporting events because of all the people. We'd hang out at Donovan's Department Store sometimes (I had to get her to promise not to steal anything). We went to the Greenville Diner on occasion - it wasn't that crowded after the lunch crowd let up and she liked the atmosphere there. But she was very particular about what she ordered and she couldn't eat on green plates for some reason.

I found a place along the Blue River that was peaceful and tranquil and Wendy liked it there - no demons or other freak outs. We'd just sit and watch the river flow by. She'd almost become memorized by the river's appearance. I liked those moments because it was something special with just the two of us.

Senior year started and Ally Brothers started showing more interest in me. We went to the movies once but I found myself distracted by thoughts of my job and Wendy. I didn't call Ally back but she asked me to the Fall Formal and I went mostly because I was flattered to be asked. Ally was my first chance at real romance but for some reason I wasn't really invested in the pursuit because I couldn't shake the feelings I had developed for Wendy even though I really didn't have any idea what those feelings exactly were. I mean, she was a woman in her middle thirties suffering from a mental illness and I was a soon to be eighteen year old kid. Why not give Ally my attention instead of staying fixated on Wendy? Was it because of her past? The images I saw of her on screen? Did I feel sorry for her? Was my sadness clouding my own sense of reality? Was I under some delusional fantasy that there might be something between us? Wouldn't that make me the crazy one?

I had to do a major report for my Psychology Class so I chose schizophrenia as my topic. Something my grandfather said stuck in my head - it wasn't Wendy's fault that she became sick so I wanted to focus on the stereotypes and stigmas of mental illness almost as a homage to Wendy who may have been an academy award contending actress by now if she hadn't gotten ill.

People who suffered from mental illness were not crazy homeless people, psychopathic ax murderers, or freaky weirdos who should be locked up forever. My research revealed that most people were able to live fairly normal lives in their communities, enjoy healthy relationship, and have happy lives. Others were understandably unable to function without assistance and outreach and a sorrowful percentage would be forever institutionalized because of their sickness. I wasn't sure where Wendy fit on that spectrum - clearly her status and finances gave her opportunities others didn't have, but I was also guessing that her fall was much farther than many.

I interviewed Jeanette for my report and she got a few of the therapists at the Blue County Mental Health Association to chat with me too. I got a couple of case studies to augment my report and I included antidotes of my "friend" (who I called Mary in the paper), sharing some of my observations of her behavior through various episodes.

My research allowed me to learn some interesting facts. For instance, genetic predisposition (often combined with environmental exposures and stresses during pregnancy or childhood) trigger the disorder. The disease typically begins in early adulthood, generally age 15-25 for men while women are usually older (average is around 30). It was clear Wendy's disease began in her early twenties so she fell outside the norm. Schizophrenia ranks among the top ten causes of disability (about 1.1% of the general population). In the US, that's about 2.2 million people (MS is about 400,000 people, diabetes 350,000 people, and MD about 35,000 people). I was freaked out to learn that about 10% of schizophrenia suffers successfully commit suicide.

About 6% of schizophrenia patients are homeless or live in shelters, another 10% are in jail, 5% are hospitalized, 10% live in nursing homes, 25% live with family, 28% live independently, and 22% live in supervised housing or group homes. People with schizophrenia are far more likely to harm themselves than be violent against others. Most schizophrenics are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone.

My report was more than 30 pages long with all sorts of graphs and pie charts and statistics as well as the interviews and personal observations. I had a much better understanding of mental illness and what Wendy had to endure - going from a Hollywood actress to a person struggling with mental illness practically overnight. It seemed especially tragic to me even though there were plenty of stories from my interviews about high achievers being forced to drop out of college because of their illness, losing successful jobs and even having marriages end because of the difficulties that ensued.

One late afternoon, Wendy and I were sitting in the car at that favorite place along the Blue River when Wendy turned to me and smiled sadly.

"Kid?" She breathed and for some reason my heart skipped in my chest by the way she said it.

"Wendy?" I practically whispered, suddenly feeling weird and nervous because I knew there was something different going on this time.

"Joanie likes you," Wendy announced.

"Well, that's good," I said.

Wendy put a finger to my lips and smiled. "Do you like Joanie?" She wanted to know.

"I like you better" I admitted.

Wendy struck me as looking so beautiful at that moment and maybe even vulnerable.

"Joanie doesn't want you to get away from me," Wendy reported. "That's all. I don't want her to get upset so that's just the way it is."

"Well I'm not going anywhere," I let her know.

Wendy dropped her finger from my mouth. "So," she said. "There's no need to be scared."

"I'm not scared," I said.

"You don't think I'm weird?" Wendy tested.

"Not at all," I said. "Different, maybe," I smiled.

"Definitely fucking different," she laughed.

"You want to know the reason why I like you?" I boldly asked.

"I'm listening," she grinned.

"I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," I gushed. "I think there's something special about you and I'm honored to know you."

"Jesus, Kid," Wendy replied, clearly taken aback by what I said.

She closed her eyes for a moment and I saw a single tear escape from the corner of her eye. I instinctively reached out and brushed it off her cheek, causing her to open her eyes and stare at me with disbelief. She looked so small and vulnerable and even damaged that I couldn't help myself. I knew it was wrong before I did it but I leaned in and kissed her lips anyway. She accepted the kiss and her lips were so soft and wonderful. Wendy even returned the kiss for a moment but then she broke it and sat back in her seat.

"Joanie liked that but I say you shouldn't have done it, you fucktard," she said.

"You're probably right but I don't care," I replied.

"Kid," she whispered. "You mustn't get involved with me."

"Too late," I replied.

"You'd better take me back," Wendy said.

"You won't say anything will you?" I worried.

"Of course not," she said. "I may be crazy but I'm not fucking stupid."

I drove Wendy home and neither of us had much to say. I couldn't believe we had kissed and I wondered if we had crossed an unspeakable boundary that shouldn't have been crossed. She didn't say anything as she got out of the car and I wondered if I was going to get the silent treatment again for doing something I shouldn't have done.

I saw Wendy a couple of days later. I came into the carriage house and she was sitting at the kitchen table eating some of Mrs. Greene's pasta. Mrs. Greene practically forced me to have a seat and she put a bowl of the pasta in front of me. Wendy stared at me for a few seconds while she ate.

"Pasta noodles remind me of tree trunks," she said I was glad I wasn't going to get the silent treatment.

Then she sucked her spoon into her mouth that almost looked seductive before slowly pulling it out with a smirk on her face. She dipped her spoon back into the bowl and did it all over again.

Mrs. Greene had left the room for a moment so Wendy leaned over the table and grinned at me. "Joanie says tree trunks remind her of penises," she whispered.

My face turned red and Wendy laughed as she took another seductive slurp from her spoon. A noodle fell from the utensil and bounced off her chin before falling back into the bowl.

"Oops," she laughed, picking the noodle up with her hand and slurping it back into her mouth and this time there was no mistaking her meaning.

I was very uncomfortable with the awkward situation. Wendy had never been in the least bit sexual in front of me and while a part of me was sort of kind of turned on by her little act a huge part of me knew this was inappropriate and wrong (especially if Joanie was behind it).

"Maybe Joanie should keep her opinions to herself," I said.

Wendy put her spoon down in her bowl and picked up another noodle with her hand, sucking it in between her lips.

"Anybody want more?" Mrs. Greene asked as she walked into the room.

"I've had enough," I said, trying not to look too embarrassed.

Wendy laughed at me, winking before she left the table and it was all I could do not to choke on my own pasta. I had no idea if that was Wendy performing or Joanie – if it was craziness or legitimate sexiness.

A few days later, Wendy was jacked up for some reason. Mrs. Greene told me when I stopped by that Wendy had been marching up and down the upstairs hall like a drill sergeant, sometimes stopping and glancing into the rooms but mostly just pacing back and forth. For a while, she kept going in and out of the bathroom, sometimes removing items and then putting them back in. She also kept turning light switches on and off and flushing the toilet over and over again. Mrs. Greene and I both tried to 're-direct Wendy but she seemed to be in a zone.

Jeanette had been out of the house at a meeting and when she returned she spent more than an hour talking with Wendy who continued her antics and it was only when Jeanette threatened to call the psychiatrist and have Wendy sectioned again when Wendy finally stopped, dropping the F bomb about ten times before rushing into her room and slamming the door.

"It must have been Joanie," I sighed, upset to see Wendy in an 'out there' moment again. "Joanie's mean."

Several days later, a blizzard hit. It was a Sunday night and it had been snowing all day and I got a call from Jeanette.

"Listen," she said. "The relief person can't make it to the carriage house because of the storm," she told me. "The day shift relief person already left. I'm in Boston visiting friends. Any chance you can get to the carriage house and keep Wendy company?"

"Sure," I said. "I can even walk if I have too," I said.

"Great," Jeanette said with relief. "You don' have to do anything except be there. Maybe cook supper. You're just going to have to go with the flow, Jared. I doubt anybody is going to be able to help much if she's in one of her states. If she's really off the wall, call Crisis Services and get their advice. They can always call the Police if she's totally out of control. Hopefully, she'll be doing okay. She tends to like the snow. She calls it marshmallow fluff."

I laughed at that image. "I'm sure it will be okay," I said.

"Thanks a lot, Jared," Jeanette said. "Do your best and you'll be fine."

It really was a massive storm so I figured I'd trudge through the woods to the carriage house at the bottom of the hill instead of risking driving the Volvo off the road. It was still light out so I bundled up in my high boots, thick coat, gloves, hat, scarf, and hood – grabbed a flash light and began the trek as if I was some Pioneer in the mid 1800s.

I probably should have walked down the road instead (I thought it would be shorter through the woods). The storm was much worse than I realized and I had a hard time getting down the hill through the blowing wind and falling snow that was drifting up to my knees in some places. A ten minute walk turned in an hour-long ordeal and by the time I finally reached the Carriage House I looked like Big Foot, covered in snow and frozen to the bone.

Wendy was standing half way down the stairs with a tennis racket in her hand ready to beat me senseless when she heard somebody at the door until she realized it was me.

"Jesus Fucking Christ, Kid, what the fuck are you doing?" She asked.

"Dying for you," I replied, shaking and quivering from the snow and cold as I stepped inside the house.

"You look like a giant Pillsbury Dough boy!" She laughed. "Come on upstairs to the bathroom and get out of all that wet stuff."

I kicked my boots off at the door and followed her up the stairs and into the bathroom where I started stripping off all the soaking wet snow covered clothes.

"That sure is a lot of marshmallow fluff out there!" Wendy said as she watched me disrobe.

"Yep," I agreed.

I was down to my tee shirt and sweat pants but the wetness had soaked through them too and I realized that I had sweated through them.

"Take that stuff off too, Kid," Wendy said.

I blushed. "I probably shouldn't," I said nervously.

"Come on, Kid," Wendy laughed. "There are plenty of towels."

"Why don't you leave?" I requested.

"Because I don't fucking want to," she grinned.

I had never been in such a situation before and I didn't know what to do. Wendy realized my awkwardness so she stepped closer to me.

"It's okay, Kid," she soothed, reaching out and pulling my wet tee shirt off over my head. "You don't have to worry."

I could feel myself breathing hard and I was pressed back against the wall. Here I was worried about Wendy freaking out when it was me who was about to faint.

Then I had an image of a younger Wendy – the locker room scene and her other nude movie scenes and I decided to be one of the characters in those movies and suddenly I wasn't so frightened or nervous anymore.

"Joanie says you could use a blow job," Wendy announced and I was shocked to hear her say such a thing.

"Wendy, that's not something we should be thinking about," I insisted.

She ignored my warning and dropped to her knees, reaching up and pulling my sweats and underwear down to the floor, allowing my dick to almost hit her in the face. I was warped out of my mind and I stood frozen against the wall.

"Haven't you ever had one before?" Wendy asked with surprise, glancing up at my terror-struck face.

"I….er….um….." it was humiliating to admit that I wasn't very sexually experienced. No girl had even seen my penis before.

I shook my head no, mostly because I was too dumbstruck to speak.

"Don't worry," she said with a giggle. "I'm sure you'll like it."

Part of me was intrigued but most of me was shocked. Nothing like this had ever happened before. I probably should have yanked my underwear and sweat pants up and bolted from the room but where would I go? There was a blizzard outside for God sakes. Plus I didn't want to insult or upset Wendy who seemed to be surprisingly baseline – although I'm not sure if offering oral sex to an almost eighteen year old was the right thing for a woman her age to be doing.

Another paranoid thought flashed through my mind – what if Wendy had some sort of episode while I was in such a compromising position. What if she did something to my exposed vulnerable that wasn't natural or normal?

"Is this you, Wendy?" I asked nervously. "Are you lucid? Do you know what you're doing?"

"I know exactly what I'm fucking doing, okay?" She said forcefully. "Okay?" She asked again, apparently waiting for permission to proceed. "I may be crazy but I'm still a woman with wants, needs and desires, kid. Don't be a fucking loser."

I hesitated but my penis seemed to be dancing in front of her and Wendy took that as an okay so she took the virgin shaft in her hand and guided it into her mouth. The sensation of her lips around me made my knees buckle and I put my hands on the back of her head to steady myself.

Wendy was looking up at me with wide eyes and a smirk on her face as she began to suck and a large moan rumbled out of my throat as I felt my head start to get dizzy.

"I thought you might like it," Wendy cooed as she moved her head back and forth.

I still couldn't believe any of this was happening and I didn't know how I was supposed to feel but I couldn't stop watching her slide her mouth back and forth along my shaft. It was the most unique and unexpected sensation I'd ever experienced and I couldn't stop moaning. I really thought I was going to start to cry it felt so good. Wendy sucked harder, rubbing the bottom of my shaft with her hand while caressing the tip with her tongue inside her mouth. All I could do was whimper as Wendy moved her mouth in circles and rubbed my penis back and forth with her tongue.

Almost without realizing it, I was pushing my hips toward her and I could see that my pubic hair was rubbing against her face but Wendy didn't seem to care as she kept sucking and licking and in the back of my mind I couldn't help but think I was getting a blow job from a former Hollywood actress and that was about a far-fetched a fantasy idea then I could ever make up.

"Wendy….." I cried, weak kneed and light headed.

I heard all sorts of stories about this sort of stuff (I didn't believe half of what my friends claimed to have happened to them) and I didn't know how to react as she kept doing what she was doing. I was beyond all control and whatever guilt, shame and remorse I was feeling disappeared in a cloud of ecstasy when I felt my inner regions begin to throb and erupt and Wendy took the cue, rubbing and sucking harder and all of a sudden I felt myself explode inside her mouth and I thrust myself toward her as she swallowed everything that came out and she kept me inside of her mouth until I started to go soft.

"Joanie said we both liked that," Wendy smiled as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, standing and looking to my eyes.

"I…I….I….." I tried to talk but I was lost in a cloudy, dreamy world of amazement and shock.

"The medications I'm on saps my sex drive, Jared," Wendy told me. "I usually don't feel very sexual, erotic, carnal, or even interested but I have to admit you've kind of turned me on and that hasn't happened in a very long time, so thanks. I haven't performed oral sex on a guy in I can't remember how long."

"I…..I….."

"Joanie says you should come in my bedroom with me," Wendy said. "I haven't been naked with somebody in a very fucking long time."

I didn't know what to say or do. It was like being in a make believe world but I liked being a sexual being for the first time ever. I'd never gotten beyond second base with any girl I'd been with and as I stood there naked in Wendy's bathroom I felt like I had finally crossed a threshold into a whole new world. I was a man, a sexual person and if Wendy was interested in me in that way who was I to argue. I didn't care who she was. I didn't care about her illness. I didn't care about her age. I didn't care about my age. All I cared about was how I felt about her and it was at that moment when I realized I wanted to be with her.

She took me by the hand and she led me out of the bathroom. I didn't care that I was naked. She brought me into her bedroom and she closed the door behind us. She was wearing skin tight jeans and a red sweater and I swallowed when she began to undress. I had never seen a woman naked in real life and I knew I would be a fool to pass up the opportunity now no matter how wrong the situation might be.

Wendy seemed to enjoy stripping for me and I was trying to figure out if she was in one of her hallucinated states unaware of her actions or truly sexually involved. I figured since she did nude scenes in a couple of her movies baring it all for me was no big deal. When she was naked she walked by me and lay on her back on the bed and I saw what nobody had ever seen in her movies before. Wendy smiled and motioned for me to join her. Whatever state she was in, I trusted her. I believed in her and I was willing to let her show me the way. She was older than she had been when I saw her naked in her movies but she was actually much more sexy and appealing now in her middle thirties.

"You're a virgin?" She asked gently as I lay down beside her.

I blushed in response.

"It's okay," she assured me. "Everybody was a virgin at one point."

My teacher took my wrist, moving my arm between the hairy spot between her legs. I rubbed my finger along her slit and she gave out a small moan. I felt her vagina become wet and I knew enough to sit up, lean over and stick my face between her legs, rubbing her entrance with my tongue which brought a small murmur from Wendy. I looked up and watched as her breasts and stomach rose and fell with each of my tongue movements.

I slowly and nervously entered her with my finger while continuing to rub her vagina with my lips and tongue. I was going on instinct but I guess I was doing okay because Wendy was purring and even giggling as she arched her back. I continued to move my finger in and out while sucking on her entrance with my mouth and she began to rock on the bed, clearly thrown into a state of ecstasy but I saw tears in her eyes and that made me hesitate.

"Are you okay?" I worried.

"God yes, don't stop, Jesus Kid, are you fucking crazy?" She moaned.

I might have laughed at her comment given her history but I was too involved in the situation to be distracted and I continued to pleasure her as best I could given my lack of experience, knowledge, technique and skill. Wendy seemed to approve of my abilities because she was moaning and wiggling back and forth on the bed and suddenly she was screaming and I felt wetness on my face as a tang of sweetness engulfed my sinuses.

"Oh God," was all Wendy had to say when she finished fidgeting, lying prone on the bed with her arms spread flat out. "You can't know how long it's been since something like this has fucking happened to me," she said. "Please don't feel bad about any of this, Kid. It's all okay."

I rested my head against her as I lay by her side, reaching my hand out and playing with one of her nipples since I had never felt one before. I rolled onto my side and she closed her eyes as I leaned over her chest and began to lick and suck on her breasts, feeling her nipples harden in my mouth.

"Joanie says you should fuck me," Wendy whispered into my ear. "Because we've already come this far so what fucking difference does it make now? I'm crazy and criminal."

My heart started to race again and I felt myself become hard, stimulated by her words as much as anything. I must have looked panicked because Wendy smiled and rubbed her hand along the side of my face.

"It's okay," she said gently. "I want you to make love to me, Jared. It's been so long and it doesn't happen very often and I'm never interested anyway but you've made me want to so please don't say no." I saw tears of desperation in her eyes and I wanted to cry too.

I knew it was immoral. I knew it was unethical. I knew it was wrong but at the same time I knew it was right too. I rolled on top of her and I tried to get my organ to find its way into her opening. Wendy reached her hand down and helped me find my way and we slowly began to rock even though I really didn't know what to do. Wendy seemed to be just lying there and I began to get self-conscious so I stopped pumping myself inside her.

She opened her eyes and looked at me. ""Please don't stop! I'm fucking begging you!"

I hadn't realized that I had become teary eyed until she reached up and lightly brushed the drop off my cheek.

"You're doing fine,' she whispered. "Don't think. Don't worry. Just be. That's part of what being crazy is all about."

So I did what I was supposed to do in the best way I could and Wendy slowly started to become more animated as we proceeded, wrapping her legs around my back and squeezing. She started to moan and the sensation of her insides engulfing my shaft was something I couldn't describe if I tried. I slowly grated my thighs and I heard a slapping sound which I figured out was our bodies hitting together. I put my hands on her hips and started pushing into her, moving faster with each poke. Then suddenly and with force and strength, Wendy rolled me over onto my back and she mounted me, making sure my penis slipped back into her opening and she began to ride me almost violently as she groaned and crackled. I put my hands on her backside to keep her from popping off my shaft and it wasn't long before I felt pressure building inside of me again.

The look on Wendy's face was amazing. She was rubbing her breasts with her hands and her eyes were wide open as she stared down at me. All I could think of was some cowboy riding a buck at a rodeo and the moment was the most intense I had ever felt. Wendy's insides were vibrating now and I felt myself being squeezed from within. She began to bellow and jerk on top of me and I felt myself let go and release within her and she laughed and cried and rode me until we were both spent and then she collapsed on top of me with one last gasp. I lay still, stunned by everything that had happened. Wendy finally lifted her head and she looked at me with a satisfied smirk on her face.

"Joanie said you were fucking great," she smiled.

"Tell Joanie you're everything I imaged," I said.

She kissed me with contentment and she didn't move, lying on top of me and we both fell asleep listening to the blowing snow outside the window.

I awoke later and tried not to move as Wendy was still asleep on top of me. But I woke her up when I tried to adjust my position underneath her. She opened her eyes and looked at me.

"Oh, so it wasn't a dream," she said.

"Are you hungry?" I asked.

"Sure," she said. "Go get us something."

I grabbed a quilt that had fallen to the floor from the bed, wrapped it around me and I went downstairs to get us something to eat. I warmed up Mrs. Greene's spaghetti in the microwave and put it up in two bowls. I brought them and a couple of sodas back up to the bedroom where I found Wendy sprawled on top of the bed, still naked, lying on her stomach. I put the tray down on the bedside table and lay on top of her, kissing her neck. I heard her giggle before she turned her head and kissed me.

"I had forgotten what it can be like," she admitted. "Thanks, Kid."

We ate our food sitting in the bed and then we fell asleep again and if this wasn't paradise I didn't know what was. I was thankful that Wendy maintained her composure and behavior and that the sharing had gone so unbelievably well – as far as having sex was concerned anyway.

The sounds of the snow plow passing by the house woke me up. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 4:30 a.m. I wasn't sure if Mrs. Greene was going to make it in but I knew I couldn't be found in Wendy's bed. Then I realized that Wendy wasn't in the bed and I was startled when I saw her standing naked by the window.

"You must be freezing your beautiful ass off," I said, having another flash back to her locker room bare ass movie scene as I appreciated her wonderful backside.

"It's like a giant world of marshmallow fluff out there," Wendy observed. "So white, so pure. The look of innocence." She turned to me and sighed. "I'm sorry I took yours."

She never sounded more normal as she did at that moment.

"Don't be," I pleaded as I climbed from the bed and joined her at the window. "You gave me a gift."

I stood behind her and she pressed herself against me. I could feel her buns in my groin and I wrapped my arms around her waist and took her hands in mine.

"Joanie says I'm a fucking slutty whore child molester pedophile heathen demon scuzball fucking bitch."

"Joanie is wrong," I whispered, kissing her neck. "Don't listen to her."

Wendy laughed out loud. "If only it was that easy, kid," she sighed. "I wouldn't be crazy if only her voice would stop."

I kissed the back of Wendy's head but I didn't say anything.

"I wish I was eighteen again, happy, healthy and normal," Wendy said quietly. "I would have given up everything I was doing back then to be here, knowing you, having this place to live."

I wouldn't have been born yet, of course, but I got what she was saying and I was flattered that she was willing to give up her Hollywood career to be here with me.

It had stopped snowing and the roads were plowed so chances were Mrs. Greene would be showing up.

"I have to go," I whispered.

"I know," she sighed, squeezing my hand.

I walked into the bathroom and found my still damp and wet clothes sprawled on the floor where I left them. I put them back on and then Wendy was standing in the doorway, wearing a robe.

"I'll always be grateful, Kid," she said.

"I'll never forget this," I told her.

She smiled. "I know," she said with a wink.

I approached her and gave her a kiss. "You're amazing," I let her know.

I went downstairs in the darkened house and put my boots on. I went outside and fired up the snow blower, clearing out the driveway and parking area, as well as the sidewalks. I put the machine away and then walked up Green Hill to my house remembering my amazing experience with Wendy and how wonderful it all had felt.

The sun came out later in the day and soon the area got back to normal after the big storm although I knew I'd never be the same again. I had come of age. I wasn't needed at the carriage house for a few days but I couldn't stop thinking about Wendy. She had shown me so much and given me so much and I knew it would be foolish for me to fall in love with a thirty-six year old ex-actress schizophrenic but that's exactly how I felt. I know having sex for the first time makes young guys like me lose all sense of reality but all I knew was I wanted to be with Wendy all the time.

I stopped by the Carriage House after school on Wednesday and I panicked when I saw a moving truck backed into the driveway. Several cars were parked in front of the house and I saw a television news truck parked across the street.

The front door was wide open when I rushed into the house. A teary eyed Mrs. Greene was bagging up food in the kitchen and men I didn't know were carrying boxes down the stairs from the second floor.

"What's going on?" I yelled.

My first fear was that somebody found out Wendy and I had sex together but this hardly seemed like a rational response to something like that. I'm sure my Grandfather would have simply fired me and banned me from the carriage house.

My grandfather came down the stairs looking extremely annoyed and disgusted.

"The gig is up, I'm afraid, Jared," he told me.

I sucked in my breath, waiting for him to accuse me of sleeping with Wendy.

"Some son of a bitch at the Mental Health agency sold Wendy out to the National Enquirer," he said angrily. "The bastard violated every ethics and health privacy rule in the book, damn it."

"They blew her cover?" I asked, stunned by the news.

"For fifty grand," My grandfather revealed. "Some people will do anything for money."

"Well, where is she?" I asked with confusion.

"She and Jeanette are held up in a hotel room somewhere," Grandfather sighed. "We're looking for another house to stash her but it won't be around here so your services are no longer required."

"But I didn't get to say goodbye," I said, my head dizzy.

"I'm sorry, there wasn't any time," my grandfather replied.

I stumbled into the living room and collapsed onto the couch. "I need to see her," I announced when my grandfather followed me into the room.

"I'm sorry, but that's impossible," my grandfather let me know. "There's media whores everywhere and they'll be following all of us for a while. I had to turn the case over to a colleague in Hartford. We can't risk having Wendy found out again. Don't tell the bastards anything when they talk to you, Jared."

"Grandpa, I….."

"Jared, the best thing you can do for Wendy now is to pretend she was never here," my grandfather advised.

What was I supposed to do? Tell him I fell in love with her? That I had slept with her? As if that was going to change anything in his view? Wendy needed to be Mary Smith again somewhere far far away and if I really cared about her I would oblige that wish and let her stay anonymous.

My grandfather left the room and went back upstairs. Mrs. Greene entered from the kitchen and gave me a long look.

"What?" I asked, trying not to cry.

"Wendy was pretty psychotic when Jeanette took her away," Mrs. Greene told me. "Swearing and yelling and cussing."

"Who could blame her?" I sighed. "She just got outted."

"But she was lucid enough to ask me to tell you something," Mrs. Greene said, smiling bravely.

"What's that?"

"Marshmallow fluff," Mrs. Greene replied. "I have no idea what that means. I guess it was just one of her weird out there comments from Joanie or something."

I smiled. "Yeah, I guess that's what it was, Mrs. Greene," I said. "Thanks for telling me."

Mrs. Greene nodded. "I know this makes no sense at all, but I'm going to miss her terribly," she sighed before returning to the kitchen.

I sat dazed on the couch for a moment before finally pulling myself to my feet. I drifted upstairs and saw my grandfather standing in the office with a couple of the movers packing up files and other papers. I went to the master bedroom and peeked in – Wendy's personal belongings were already gone from the room and I sighed with regretted sadness knowing I'd never see her again – except when I obsessively watched her movies over and over again.

I stayed in a funk for a long time. I had fallen in love with her – or maybe it was confused lust and sexual want – who knows? I was a confused mess. It was weird not having a job at the carriage house and I missed Wendy and Jeanette and even Mrs. Greene but I eventually pulled myself out of the blues mostly because I didn't want my grandfather getting suspicious.

I got my old job back at Stop and Save. I asked Ally Brothers if she wanted to go to the prom with me. The administrative assistant who violated privacy laws was fired and taken to court – she served three months in jail for her crime. I was accepted at Green College and I planned to major in behavioral sciences, thinking I'd go on for my Masters in Social Work when I was done.

And yet I couldn't stop thinking about Wendy Newton, my crazy first love even though she's a secret I can't talk about. Sometimes all of it feels like it was real make believe – for both of us.

I wonder if Joanie is still telling Wendy things about me.