§ § § - August 6, 2006

Mills gave Stacey some aspirin on the way to the set, and she dry-swallowed them with some difficulty, wanting only to get rid of the pounding in her head. She should have had the sense of Sammy Hastings, who had left the party before things got really out of hand; or better yet, that of Tiffany Gale and the adults to stay away from it altogether.

She hadn't realized Mills was watching her till she happened to glance over at him and saw him. "Got a problem?" she asked.

"Thought you held your liquor better than that," he said, amused. "You said you did, at least."

Stacey didn't remember much of what had happened the previous evening after she'd downed about three drinks. "Well, I don't recall saying anything of the kind," she said haughtily.

Mills grinned. "I rest my case." Her disgusted look just made him snicker, and she turned away from him, wondering now what she had ever seen in him. If she'd known what he was really like back in the day…and now, of course, he had a rock band. Was he still the same hell-raising hard drinker she was learning about right now? If he was, she reflected sourly, it was a wonder he was still alive. She kept her face averted from him for the remainder of the ride.

When they arrived, there were reporters waiting, one from TV Guide, another from a local newspaper's television insert. Horrified, Stacey dug into her purse, hoping against hope that she'd stashed a nice big pair of sunglasses in there. Mills, for his part, said something fantastically rude under his breath and then blew out a resigned sigh. "They're here, might as well make the best of it. Put on your happy face, Stace, and they'll go away that much quicker—and that much happier too."

The only thing that saved him from a blistering look from her was the discovery of the sunglasses she was searching for. She shoved them onto her face and cleared her throat a couple of times, sorting through likely comments to toss at the reporters once they stepped out of the car. The vehicle glided to a stop and Mills promptly hopped out, looking none the worse for wear, which disgusted Stacey still more. He obviously did this often enough that he was an expert in disguising the effects. Stacey unexpectedly overturned a compact inside the purse and whipped it out, patting the small round makeup pad inside all over her face and hoping for the best.

"Good morning, Miss Buckner!" called out one of the reporters, and Stacey found herself trapped by an interviewer for the next ten minutes, long enough to get the director angry with her before he threatened to have the media representatives thrown off the set.

"I've got a hangover!" Stacey snarled at him as she stalked past him.

"Bully for you, honey," the director shot back without sympathy. "If you can't take it, then either practice on your own time, or stay away from Brentwood's parties. Now get your makeup on and be on set in five minutes."

The aspirin helped only partially, to Stacey's dismay; and all through the three-hour shoot, she kept missing cues, fluffing lines and getting herself into deeper and deeper trouble. Cast and crew alike were becoming increasingly exasperated and angry with her; even the ever-patient Christine Vandermeer, whose reputation seemed to actually be what it was made out to be in the magazines, saw fit to admonish Stacey at one point. "If drinking does that to you, you're better off not doing it," she scolded, with conviction but not much heat. "This was supposed to be a two-hour shoot and you're stretching it out unnecessarily."

"Were we even supposed to be here today?" Stacey asked wearily. For the first time, all she wanted to do was go home.

"Tolley said we'll be finishing up today," Christine replied pointedly. "Or we would, if you hadn't wasted your night soaking up Mills' rum. Pull yourself together, Stacey, and get through this, like the rest of us, like your contract calls for you to do. The sooner you get on the ball, the sooner we can all go home and you can nurse that well-deserved hangover of yours." She turned away and retreated to her mark for this scene, leaving Stacey feeling thoroughly chastened.

After that she doubled her efforts, and managed to finally produce a performance that more or less passed the director's muster. While the crew was setting up the final scene of this episode, Stacey wandered to her trailer in the hope of uncovering some more aspirin. As she passed Tiffany Gale's trailer, she heard a disgusted yell from inside, followed by a hard thud that shook the little vehicle.

Startled, she climbed the little portable metal stairstep to the door and tapped on it, then cautiously stuck her head inside. "Hey, Tiff, you okay?"

"It's gone," Tiffany wailed. "I can't find it anywhere and I'm so mad…"

"What's gone?" Stacey asked, ready to help search for a script or an item from wardrobe.

"My chocolate," Tiffany shouted, seizing a jar of makeup and hurling it across the room. "I'm supposed to have a Hershey bar—with almonds—every day. It's in my contract, I made 'em promise! They forgot to give it to me!" She stomped her foot hard on the floor, producing the thud Stacey had heard earlier.

"You're throwing a tantrum and ruining stuff because of a stupid candy bar?" Stacey demanded incredulously.

"It's in my contract!" Tiffany screamed at her. "If you're just gonna make fun of me, then get out!"

Stacey clasped her head between her hands and moaned. "Geez…you spoiled brat." Without another word she departed the trailer and took refuge in her own, searching halfheartedly for more aspirin. All the while she cursed Mills Brentwood, alcohol in general and rum in particular, directors who made people work on Sundays, spoiled-rotten child actors, and whatever idiotic urge had driven her to seek this fantasy in the first place.

She was on the verge of cursing Roarke when some sixth sense made her look around. Someone had opened the trailer door and was peering in at her; the blinding southern-California sun silhouetted her visitor and made her wince and look away. "Who's that?" she mumbled.

"Just me," said a voice. "Can I come in?"

She sorted through her aching head for identification, but her visitor entered without waiting for a response, closing the door and shutting out the searing light so that she could now recognize Sammy Hastings. "Oh, it's you."

"Nice to see you, too," he said genially, leaning against the door. "So you finally got suckered into going to one of Mills's famous parties."

"Not one of my more shining moments, I admit it," she said, returning her attention to going through every drawer and cabinet she could see. "You got some reason for dropping by? Like giving me some more grief for my sub-par performance today?"

"No," he said, surprising her into pausing to look suspiciously at him. "I figure everybody else ragged you enough. I mean, when even Christine saw fit to give you a piece of her mind, I decided that was the limit of what one person could take. Nah, just thought I'd see how you were doing."

"Crappy, that's how," Stacey said shortly, resuming her search.

"I figured that out on my own," Sammy remarked, his voice conversational. "I've had some experience with Mills's parties. Eighteen years old and gone completely wild. Not that he let being underage stop him—who does in this town? I just learned my lesson after the first one he invited me to. He mixes his drinks stronger than anybody else—that is, he did when I went to that party. For all I know, he doesn't bother with the mixers anymore. Does he?"

"Well, he did put Coke in my rum and Coke," Stacey said, "but now that I think about it, I could barely taste the Coke. I haven't had that kind of drink since college…" She stopped herself. "I mean…ever. I mean…I doubt I'm gonna drink like that once I do start college."

Sammy snickered. "You're right, Mills is mixing 'em stronger than ever, if they've got you confusing yourself like that." Stacey relaxed with relief. Let him think it was the result of her hangover. At this point she was counting down the minutes till this blasted fantasy finally ended. Sammy launched himself off the door and sauntered in her direction, digging in one pocket. "Just wanted to tell you that I remember being in your shoes once. As long as you took away a lesson from this, I figure there's no point in rubbing salt in the wound." He extracted a small aspirin bottle from his pocket and offered it to her.

Stacey smiled at him with such pathetic gratitude that he grinned broadly. "You know, you're a real friend, Sammy. Thanks."

"Anytime." He smiled and dropped a hand on her shoulder in friendly fashion, then winked and let himself out of the trailer. Stacey quickly knocked back two of the tablets, then settled slowly in the chair in front of the makeup mirror and stared at her reflection. Her own bloodshot eyes seemed to mock her.

"So, Stacey, was it worth it?" she could just hear her husband asking her. "Did you get to be on 70s TV and live the high life?"

"I don't know," she mumbled as though in response. "To tell you the truth, I probably would've been a lot better off with my fantasy the way Mr. Roarke first granted it."

"Oh?" asked a voice from behind her. Stacey caught a flash of white in the mirror and whipped around in the chair.

"Mr. Roarke," she said, blinking. "What are you doing here?"

"It's nearly five o'clock, Mrs. Kendall. Your fantasy is over."

"Oh, thank God!" she burst out, visibly surprising him. "How soon can I get back to Fantasy Island and veg out on the nearest beach?"

"As soon as you wish," Roarke said, amused, "but you surprise me. After all, you were extremely insistent on having your fantasy exactly the way it is now. Has something happened to change your mind?"

Stacey, deeply embarrassed, could barely meet his gaze. "Well…I suppose you could say that. It started out so great. My favorite actors, on my favorite TV show. I mean, what's not to like? But then I found out there's more to these people than they let on. Tiffany Gale's spoiled, Mills Brentwood has booze bashes, even Christine Vandermeer pops off if she gets pushed…and filming a TV show isn't what it seems. When you're not standing around waiting for set and prop people to get everything exactly right, you're being bawled out by a director who puts the blame of the whole world on your shoulders and getting dirty looks every time you miss a cue or forget a line. And I don't think it's the big happy family I used to read about in the magazines. They were all sniping at each other this morning. I had a hangover from last night, but nobody cared. And…well, geez, I just thought it was fun and games. It's not."

Roarke nodded and gestured toward the trailer door. "I see. Well, would you care to come back and refresh yourself, then?"

"Out there? But they're all standing out there probably waiting to light into me for all my goofs all day," she protested.

"As I said, your fantasy is over," Roarke reminded her, opening the door. Tendrils of mist swirled into the room and Stacey realized for the first time that the glaring sun had faded away. "If you'll just follow me…"

She trailed him into the mist, and after about twenty steps they emerged into soft, warm tropical sunshine on the other side. The main house stood a short jog away, and the fountain was merrily spraying rainbows into the air. Stacey sidled over to it and rinsed her hands in the falling droplets, smiling.

"You never did tell me whether you enjoyed your fantasy," Roarke remarked with a quizzical lilt to his voice.

Stacey regarded him, unsure as to her answer. After a moment she suggested, "Is it okay if I sleep on it and let you know?"

"By all means, Mrs. Kendall," he agreed. "Good night, then."

She waved at him and headed eagerly for the bungalow she had seen for no more than fifteen or twenty minutes yesterday morning. As she made for the path that led there, she thought she heard Roarke chuckling, but when she turned back to look, nobody was in the lane at all.

§ § § - August 7, 2006

"That's really what she said, huh?" Leslie asked, laughing, on the way to the plane dock Monday morning. "I can't wait to see what her answer'll be."

"I confess I'm looking forward to it myself," said Roarke, and they grinned at each other. Roarke signaled the plane-dock band into action as he and Leslie alighted from the car, and they took their usual places, watching the lei-draped native girls rush past them and line up on either side of the embarkation ramp. The charter plane was just settling in at the dock, where the attendants swiftly and expertly secured it in place.

Thirty seconds later, a jeep pulled up and discharged Stacey Buckner Kendall. She looked much better than she had the previous evening, Roarke reflected, as if she'd had a good night's sleep. Her skin was a little pink, but her eyes were clear, and she looked happy. "So, Mrs. Kendall, what was the final verdict?" he inquired, with a twinkle in his eye.

Stacey paused to take in the sight of him and of Leslie, then laughed. "I guess, in the end, it was a mixed bag," she admitted. "There was some good, some bad—in both sides of the fantasy. I suppose it just goes to show that nothing's ever what it looks like it is."

"Indeed," said Roarke with a nod. "It appears you have learned quite a few things from your fantasy—both aspects of it."

"Yeah." Stacey released a sigh. "When I got back to my bungalow, I climbed right into a bathing suit and went down to the beach, and cooled off in the ocean for a while before I decided to get some sun. I ended up falling asleep thinking, which is where I got the sunburn here. But at least it wasn't all a waste. I realized that I was centering my life around an illusion, and maybe it's time I moved on to other things."

"Does that mean you're no longer a fan of Trail to Oregon?" asked Leslie.

"Oh no, not at all. It'll still always be my favorite show, and I'll probably still wish sometimes that I could have been on it. But it won't be an all-consuming dream like it used to be. I'll just get my fun from writing stories based on it, and talking to my friends online about it, and that kind of thing. From now on, that'll be more than enough for me."

"Perhaps that's best," said Roarke smilingly. "I hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip home."

"Thanks, Mr. Roarke, thanks for everything," Stacey said and shook hands with both him and Leslie before heading toward the dock at a trot. They returned her wave before bidding the weekend's other guests farewell, then lingered long enough to see the plane taxi out of the lagoon before settling back into the car.

"You look thoughtful, Leslie," Roarke observed. "What's on your mind?"

"Something Rogan mentioned last evening when he dropped off those spices for Mariki," said Leslie. "He said his sister's coming for a visit. I thought he was an only child."

Roarke smiled. "No, he isn't…but I know very little about his sister. If she is planning to make a visit here, I'll find it very interesting to meet her."

Everybody will go through some soul-searching before this visit is over. Stay tuned for the next tale! And as always, thanks for reading and reviewing!