A very tall man with an official looking headset led me through a hallway and I felt myself begin to shake. He had a grip on my arm so he could feel me trembling. Turning back as we walked, he smiled comfortingly and said, “Hey there girl, you gonna do fine.”
"Thanks," I muttered. My mind was too busy running over the how and why I had gotten here, shaking like drenched cat in front of door that said ‘ELLEN STAGE’. Focus. Focus on what you’re supposed to say. Three years ago I was sitting in AP Calc dreaming of this moment and here I was, two complimentary muffins from barfing.
The nice headset man gave me instructions in a soothing voice and coached me out of hyperventilation. “Now, its not live, sweetie. Just relax. You know exactly what she’s gonna ask you. Just breathe. You ready?”
I nodded weakly. Once he had my go-ahead he pushed open the door and gently steered me through. I stumbled forward, walking like an infant gazelle across the shiny wood floor of the stage. I found my footing and began to stride as confidently as possible. The cheers and clapping from the studio audience were a daunting light at the end of my tunnel. I summoned a smile and waved out at them, somehow arriving at the right floor marks. Then, there was Ellen DeGeneres pulling me into a polite embrace. The cameras greeted me from every direction.
"Hey!" she smiled. "Keira Cafferty, everybody!"
We both took our seats and as the cheering crowd faded Ellen asked, “How are you?”
"I’m great, kinda nervous," I admitted.
Ellen looked out at the crowd. “Well, why don’t you guys cheer again?”
The audience cheered as instructed and I laughed, finding that this wasn’t as horribly nerve-wracking as I’d thought. Ellen had a soothingly amiable aura about her.
"So your story is pretty crazy, Keira. How does it feel to suddenly have national attention after writing this book?"
"Oh my God," I chuckled, "You wouldn’t believe how insane its been. I’m really lucky to have had this dream just come true and it’s all happening so fast."
"I heard you’ve recently moved to L.A. and you’ve had some interesting troubles with finding an apartment…"
We smoothly transitioned through the planned interview questions and finding out Kaley Cuoco reads my book series. Ellen made her hilarious comments and the crowd laughed along. There were no clothing malfunctions or embarrassing word vomit on my part.
"Now, getting to your novels, and for anyone who’s watching at home who doesn’t know.. Keira’s book series revolves around a town that’s been fascinatingly altered by radiation and something, truly close to my heart is the fact that her main character is bisexual. Which is really just groundbreaking for popular young adult fiction."
The crowd cheered again and I blushed, nodding along.
"Thanks.. And I just, I don’t understand why everyone makes a big deal about it," I said honestly. This was the most important part of the interview. I had planned this words and studied them over and over again just to get them right. "Writing is about sharing the human experience. Bisexuality isn’t a taboo. It shouldn’t be a taboo. It’s not a gimmick, it’s who the character is and it’s part of her identity and I wanted to share her human experience. That’s not what makes her character, either. She’s a heroine, she’s strong, and she’s a really layered character."
"That’s really inspiring," Ellen nodded. She turned to the audience. "Now, everyone’s getting a copy of Keira’s book Strange Waters before they leave here today and you can expect Silent Waters in December!”
I grinned as everyone clapped and yelled in excitement.
"Okay, now I have just one more question for you," Ellen continued, though she and Keira had not discussed this. "So… I heard you practiced your writing skills in a pretty unique way, wanna tell us about it?"
Keira felt herself blush. “Uh… yes?” she laughed. “Fanfiction?”
"Exactly, and here we have a little sampling of one of your works.. Do you wanna hear it?" Ellen grinned, pulled out a piece of paper.
"Ohhhh God," Keira squirmed, putting an embarrassed hand to her mouth.
“The heat between Peeta and Katniss was emanating through each of their bodies, a powerful unseen force of desire,” Ellen read aloud. The crowd rang with whistles, cheers, and laughter. I felt my insides turn and my cheeks heat up. I was probably turning into a giant strawberry head from the pure humiliation. She read a few more incredibly derivative, cheesy lines that clearly led up to an NC-17 love scene, but I was too busy trying to magically attain the ability to teleport the hell out of there.
Doubling over I shielded my face, but found myself unable to burst out laughing when Ellen quipped, “Now look out and wave, ‘Hey Mom I’m on tv!’”
"She’s so proud of you," sighed Ellen. "I’m not gonna read anymore because this is a daytime television show. Kids watch this."
I lifted my face finally, realizing it wasn’t all that bad. It was funny and I wasn’t dying or vomiting— so there were positives. I’d been warned there would be a minor surprise. Ellen continued to dole out her typical brand of humorous commentary while I rolled around and tried to return my skin to a normal shade.
"Look, look that was a long time ago," I whined. "Can we go back to the part about my best-selling book?"
"So you’re saying that if Peeta Mellark showed up and seduced you, you’d be totally over all that childish hormonal jibber jabber?"
"Yes," I said confidently. "After the rehab I’ve really grown as a person," I added sarcastically.
"Are you sure about that .. because—"
What Ellen was about to say was lost in the onslaught of hysterical shrieks from the audience. My first instinct was to put my hands to my ears, gritting my teeth as I watched girls in the crowd begin pointing and screaming. I whipped around, and that’s when it happened.
Now, I have a history of fainting. Apparently, I have low iron. It started in sixth grade when we had to watch the Miracle of Life. As soon as that woman started panting and the camera panned to her wide open legs, I started feeling queasy. And as the crown of that baby’s head started poking out, all pink and gross, amidst the laughter of my immature classmates, I fainted. I slid to the floor like sad jello on a hot summer day.
I fainted when my teammate broke her shin during a field hockey game. I fainted when we had a presentation for Fire Safety day that included gruesome images of burn victims. I fainted when Jimmy Fitz threw up on my desk in Algebra class.
And on February 24th, 2013, I fainted at the sight of Josh Hutcherson. I fainted on the spot.
When my eyes fluttered open, his hazel eyes were boring into me, brows furrowed in alarmingly handsome vexation.
Ellen shooed him away. “You trying to give her a heart attack? You made her faint in the first place!”
I could hear the awkward chuckling from the crowd, as they weren’t quite sure whether this was planned. I lifted myself slowly, with Ellen hovering. Two men from the crew sprinted out to help me up and hand me a giant water bottle, from which I took a generous swig. Oh God oh god oh god oh god, my mind was chanting.
"Do we need a medic?" someone said.
"No… no," I practically shouted. "This happens sometimes…"
"Oh, okay so this is a regular thing?" joked Ellen. "Good, phew thought I’d be dealing with a lawsuit. But seriously.. are you alright there?"
Out of the corner of my eye I could see him, nervously chewing the inside of his mouth. Josh Hutcherson, standing there, looking completely horrified. I ripped my eyes away as I felt the bout of heat to my cheeks and rush of blood to my head.
"Alright, alright, we should get her backstage. We can retape the last bit, what do you think?"
"Yeah, that would be best. Come on, Miss Cafferty, can you walk?"
The voices were swirling around me, but I was starting to feel normal again. I took a deep breath and sipped the water, allowing the crew members to lead me back through the door I had originally come. Behind me, Ellen was firing off some fainting jokes with Josh beside her with the audience, relieving the tension that had fallen over the crowd.
"Oh my God, I am so mortified," I muttered. No one seemed to hear it. I was sat down in the make-up chair and a few people began to buzz around me, fixing my hair and making sure that I was breathing normally and remembered what day it was. After about the sixth asshole came over to me holding up various numbers of fingers, I let out a sigh and said, "I am FINE. Just suffering from being a total crazy person."
"Wasn’t all that bad," the make-up artist shrugged. "You should have seen Kristen Bell with the sloth."
"Okay, yes I did and that was fucking adorable. I fainted at the sight of Josh Hutcherson. Like a bag of pathetic rocks." Pressing my fingers to my temples, I tried to wrap my peasant mind around what had just happened. I had daydreamed meeting him or other celebrities once I’d moved to L.A. In my head it tended to be at some Hollywood pool party where I’m strutting around in a sexy dress, tossing my hair around like a supermodel.
There was a light knock at the door that kept her from replying to my self-pity commentary.
"Come in," I called, chugging what was left of the water bottle.
In the mirror I watched him walk into the dressing room hesitantly. He surveyed the scene with a polite smile on his face. The crew members with the headsets exited and the make-up artist gave me a grin and a wink before high-tailing it after them. As I realized that I was alone in a room with him, I worried about the very real threat of hyperventilation.
"Hey, I’m really sorry about what happened out there… I really didn’t mean to—"
I whipped around and stood from my seat. Cutting him off I quickly said, “NO! No.. no. Wasn’t your fault at all. I’m jumpy… I have low iron. You know I’m like one of those fainting sheep. Open an umbrella at me and BAM— hit the floor,” I word-vomited, laughing nervously and hand-motioning along with the fainting sheep story for added emphasis to my psychosis.
His eyebrows raised as he listened and he laughed when I was finished babbling, nodding along like we were old friends.
"I’ve never heard of fainting goats," he said.
"Oh." I held my breath. He was alarmingly handsome in person, but also more human. He had a pimple on his chin. Somehow this was a comforting fact. This in no way detracted from the fact that his chin was so perfectly sculpted it could probably cut glass. "Well, here I’ll show you."
I grabbed my phone and he moved closer to me, watching over my shoulder as I flicked to the Youtube app and typed in “fainting goats”.
"I can’t believe you haven’t seen these… Do you live under a rock?" I continued to blabber.
"Nah, I’ve been a little busy being tortured by the Capitol and all," he said, deadpan, shrugging.
I glanced at him, frozen in hesitation for a moment before I gave a hearty
laugh. He grinned, proud that I had appreciated the cheesy joke. Was this an out of body experience? Was I still laying on the floor of Ellen’s stage, unconscious and dreaming this? I was having a casual conversation with a man I had written steamy fanfiction about. Had he read it? The thought made me queasy once again.
I clicked on a goat video. In silence we watched a crowd of goats chilling in a field. Out of the corner of the screen came a figure, opening an umbrella and causing the goats to stiffen their legs and fall like dominoes. Josh burst out laughing. He doubled over and clapped his hands together. I started to smile widely because he was just so cute and the goats were just so damn funny.
"Oh my God," he sighed as he got over the fit of laughter. "That is the best thing I’ve seen all week."
My little fangirl heart swelled with pride. Who knew the fainting goats would be my saviors after all? My deep connection to their kind was no longer simply based on our shared inability to control ourselves in pressure situations. Flashing in my mind’s eye was my Westerosi banner, bearing my beloved fainting goats as my sigil.
"Look, I’d really like to make it up to you for embarrassing you out there," he said earnestly.
"Uh… you don’t have to do that?" I squeaked. I was really hoping he would do that. Yes, Josh, you know what would really make up for my struggles? Taking your pants off.
"Come by my house tonight. I’m having a party since I’m back from Hawaii.. I’m sure you’ll know some people there and you know, now that you’re in LA maybe I could introduce you to some.. What do you think?"
Veering dangerously close to fainting again, my heart was beating rapidly. He pulled out a card and started scribbling his address onto it.
I sputtered out, “Thanks… I think I’m free tonight. That would be awesome.”
Of course I was free. Jesus Christ, I was exploding inside.
He handed me card with a boyish smile. “Thanks for showing me the goats. And hey, when we retape it… Try not to faint, alright?”
He smirked and gave me a quick, gentlemanly hug before leaving me alone in the room, shell-shocked and possibly in need of new pair of panties. I blinked down at the card. Underneath his address he had written:
Ten o’clock, No fainting allowed, bathing suit required. See you there, Josh.
I squeezed the empty water bottle in my hand. What exactly just happened?