Vinnie Delpino zoomed in on his best friend (aside from Doogie Howser) Emily's face with his camera. "Em," he asked in his best filmmaker tone, "what are your feelings as you prepare to make your theatrical debut in the role of Eponine, the tragic unrequited lover of the revolutionary Marius in this community theatre production of the Tony-award winning musical Les Miserables?"
Emily laughed as she swatted Vinnie with her newsboy hat. "Do you have to make everything anybody does part of your various movies?"
Vinnie laughed and shrugged. "I guess so. Otherwise, I wouldn't be me." He put on his best pathetic puppy dog face and said, "And you love me, right?"
Emily bit her tongue and said, "Of course I do, you're my best friend." She had been actually secretly in love with Vinnie for the longest time. Eponine had always been her dream role because of this, and now she was finally getting a chance to play it. Just as Vinnie was about to ask her something (for the camera again, no doubt) Emily and Vinnie's other best friend, Doogie Howser M.D., came through the backstage door with a bouquet of red roses.
Emily smiled. "Hey, Doog!" She hugged him and took the flowers. "Oh, these are lovely. They'll go right in front of my mirror in my dressing room."
Doogie smiled and said, "You'll knock them dead tonight, Emily. Did you know that they made several changes from the nov-"
Vinnie cut in with, "Doog, I highly doubt Emily wants to hear about a dead French dude."
Doogie shook his head and said, "Right, sorry." He then kissed Emily gently and quickly on the cheek and said, "Break a leg, Em."
Emily shrugged. "I'll try, but I'm no Lea Salonga."
Vinnie looked back and forth between Doogie and Emily. "Seriously, sometimes I wonder why I'm still friends with you two, because between you," he pointed to Doogie, "talking all medical mumbo jumbo all the time, and you," gesturing to Emily, "talking about various Broadway facts that no one knows about, I feel like an idiot."
Emily looked at Vinnie with gentle blue eyes and mussed his hair. "If Doogie and I weren't friends with you, we wouldn't be normal kids, now, would we?"
Vinnie grinned and kissed Emily on the side of her head, unknowingly sending 100,000,000,000 volts of electricity to her heart. "You look beautiful, Emily. Doog and I have to go back to the seats." With that, Vinnie squeezed her hand and wished her good luck.
Emily waved to Doogie, Vinnie and Vinnie's camera as they disappeared down the hallway and sighed. She then felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Is that the boy you told me about, Em?"
Emily turned around to see Rachel, the woman who was playing Fantine, and whom Emily had developed a great friendship with. "Yup. That's him: Vinnie Delpino."
Rachel smiled. "He is kind of cute." She then hugged Emily and said, "The show's about to start. Break a leg, kid."
Emily hugged Rachel back and said, "You'll do wonderfully, Rache."
And as the opening notes of the orchestra filled he auditorium, and the prisoners in Digne, France in 1815 sang about life in the prison, Emily was more assured than ever: she would be just fine.
"VINNIE!" Doogie said, shaking Vinnie awake.
Vinnie sat up straight. "What happened? Did I miss Emily's entrance?"
Doogie shook his head, exasperated. "You can't afford to fall asleep at this show, Vin. A), this show is waaaaay too awesome to sleep through, and B) you'll miss important plot points if you turn your attention away for just a moment."
Vinnie nodded. "So, how much did I miss?"
"Well, Valjean has escaped from prison, changed his identity and become Mayor of a small town where this woman, Fantine, lives. She was just fired from the factory she works at and is right now about to become a prostitute."
Vinnie looked at the stage, confused. "These women are supposed to be prostitutes? Their outfits look like something you'd see on the street today."
Doogie couldn't help but laugh. "Keep in mind, Vinnie, this was the 1820s. Those outfits were scandalous for their time."
Vinnie shrugged. "So… Emily won't be showing up for a while?"
"How long a while are we talking about, Doog? I have to catch up on my beauty sleep so I can finish my movie about Emily in time for class."
Doogie looked pensive for a moment. "Well…" he then mumbled something about death, money and an inn and then said, "A long while."
Vinnie groaned, and then said, "The music from this is really pretty, though."
Doogie grinned. "Oh, wait until you hear Emily's big solo number. It's called "On My Own". The first time I heard it, I cried."
Vinnie sighed and turned his attention back to the stage. The woman who he presumed to be Fantine had fallen deathly ill, and had been carted off to a hospital. Valjean had had an epiphany and revealed his true identity to Javert, the police man who, in Vinnie's mind, was stalking him, and Valjean had run off to Fantine's bedside. Together, they sang a song about Fantine's daughter, Cosette, and how Valjean was going to adopt her and take her away from the evil Thenardiers. That was about as far as Vinnie got before he fell asleep again.
About an hour or so later, Vinnie was awakened. "EMILY'S ON!" He looked down at her with a smile that spread across his entire face. He had never been prouder of his best girl. He nudged Doogie with his elbow. "Look at our Emily. Listen to that voice," he sighed as he listened to the words she was singing:
"Every word that he says is a dagger in me. In my life, there's been no one like him anywhere, anywhere where he is. If he asked, I'd be his. In my life, there is someone who touches my life… Waiting here."
Doogie turned to Vinnie and explained. "You see, Emily is in love with this guy named Marius, but he only has eyes for Valjean's adopted daughter, Cosette. She basically only sings about her love for him for the entire time she's in the show."
Vinnie grinned. "Never knew our Emily to be a whiner," he laughed. As he watched Emily more in the play, however, Vinnie began to get this strange feeling that Emily had a secret that she was playing out in her role as Eponine. And after intermission, at the beginning of the second act, she sang her big solo, "On My Own."
"And now I'm all alone again
Nowhere to turn, no one to go to.
Without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to,
But now the night is near.
And I can make believe he's here.
Sometimes I walk alone at night when everybody else is sleeping.
I think of him and then I'm happy with the company I'm keeping.
The city goes to bed and I can live inside my head."
During the instrumental break that followed this first verse, Vinnie gripped the armrests of his chair. "Doog, if I start crying, smack me, will you?" he asked, voice cracking.
Doogie nodded and said, "Shhhhh, it's starting again."
Vinnie nodded and listened to Emily's smooth, silky voice:
"On my own, pretending he's beside me.
All alone, I walk with him 'til morning.
Without him, I feel his arms around me.
And when I lose my way, I close my eyes and he has found me.
In the rain, the pavement shines like silver.
All the lights are misty in the river.
In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight.
And all I see is him and me, forever and forever.
And I know it's only in my mind.
That I'm talking to myself and not to him.
And although I know that he is blind,
Still I say, there's a way for us.
I love him, but when the night is over,
He is gone.
The river's just a river.
Without him, the world around me changes.
The trees are bare and everywhere, the streets are full of strangers.
I love him, but every day I'm learning
All my life, I've only been pretending.
Without me, this world will go on turning.
A world that's full of happiness that I have never known…
I love him.
I love him.
I love him, but only
On my own…"
Emily finished her song to rounds of thunderous applause and screaming from the audience. Vinnie and Doogie were cheering the loudest of all. Once the audience sat back down, Doogie slapped Vinnie on the face. When Vinnie turned to him, Doogie shrugged. "You said hit you if you started crying."
Vinnie shook his head and swiped the tears off of his face. "It's not just that, Doog. I… I think Emily's talking about me. You know how she would always be the first one to alert me whenever a girl was cheating on me, or whether I should dump a girl or not? Well, now I realize that she wasn't just doing it as a friend looking out for her friend: it was a woman looking out for the best interests of the man who she harbored an unrequited passion for." Vinnie then started to sob. "DOOGIE, HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO BLIND?" he bawled as he buried his head in his hands.
Doogie patted Vinnie's back and said, "Vin, it's alright. It's not like she didn't hide it well. I mean, I only found out last month and she's been friends with us since we were five, so she got around me."
Vinnie raised his head and seemed to compose himself. "I'll tell her. After the show, I'm going to tell her I love her."
"You WHAT?" Doogie exclaimed, causing a kick in the seat from the people behind them. Doogie turned and said, "I apologize. My friend just had a life changing revelation." He then turned back to Vinnie. "What? You're in love with Emily? When did this happen?"
Vinnie realized: he hadn't even told Doogie about his love for Emily. "I've been meaning to tell you for a while, Howser. It was when I got together with Laura, she had her boyfriend Kurt, and we both got dumped on the same night, remember?"
Doogie nodded, a shocked expression on his face. "Yeah. Yeah, and you both went over to the loft to wallow in your own self-pity."
Vinnie paused for a moment, a bit offended, then continued: "Well, then, you remember how you were on call at the hospital that night. Emily and I were watching "Some Kind Of Wonderful", you know, with Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson? We had gotten to the part where Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson come out of the party, and Eric Stoltz sees Mary Stuart Masterson and he realizes he loves her. I looked over at Emily and I saw her face in the moonlight, with her hair in her face, and I just… fell."
Doogie looked at Vinnie and shook his head. "I never thought I'd live to see the day: Vincent Delpino, the greatest ladies' man of all time, finally going crazy over one girl. And the girl is one of his best friends."
Vinnie chuckled. "So, Doog, what's going on now?"
Doogie turned back to the show. "Oh, Emily's dying."
Vinnie yelled, "WHAT?" He looked down at the stage and saw Emily clutched in the arms of the man who was playing Marius and singing:
"Don't you fret, Monseuir Marius. I don't feel any pain. A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now. You're here: that's all I need to know. And you will keep me safe, and you will keep me close, and rain will make the flowers grow."
Vinnie turned to Doogie, but Doogie cut him off, saying, "I know. At the end of the song, I will smack you."
Vinnie nodded. "Thank you." He then turned back to Emily. "Oh, God, Em, you're killing me here," he murmured as Emily got closer and closer to death's door; and finally, he lost it at the end of the song:
"And you will keep me safe, and you will keep me close, and rain… will make the flowers…"
Vinnie burst into tears as Emily died. He turned to Doogie and Doogie socked him in the chin. "Thanks, Doog, I needed that," Vinnie sniffled.
Doogie nodded. "Any way I can help," he said as he wiped tears from his own cheeks. "So… Vinnie, before you tell Emily you love her, I want you to just weigh out the possibilities. I mean, she might be so mad at you for not seeing the light all these years that she might turn you down."
Vinnie nodded. "Once again, you have a point, Dr. Howser." Vinnie thought, long and hard. Then, he jumped up and snapped his fingers. "I know what I'm gonna do. Is Tower Records still open?"
Doogie checked his watch. "It's only 6:30. They should be open for another…" his sentence trail off as Vinnie dashed out of the auditorium. Doogie shook his head and laughed. "The things this show does to people," he laughed as he turned his attention back to the falling barricade.
EMILY'S POV, HALF AN HOUR LATER
Emily ran offstage and grabbed a towel and a water bottle. "THAT WAS AMAZING!" she heard Rachel shriek from behind her as she tackled Emily to the ground.
Emily got up and laughed. "Oh, Rache, it was so cool being up there. I know this sounds crazy, but… I kind of got the feeling that Vinnie understood what I was saying when I was singing "On My Own".
All of a sudden, Emily heard Vinnie's voice behind her. "I did."
Emily whirled around and gasped. Before she could say anything, Vinnie held up his hand and said, "You don't have to say a word; standing there on that stage singing that song made it all clear to me. And now…" he took out a small cassette tape and loaded it into a boom box he had with him. "Well… I think this'll explain it all. And keep in mind that, just because this song is sung by a woman, and it's obvious that the song is told in the point of view of a woman, this doesn't make me any less of a man." He pressed play and held the cassette player over his head John Cusack style as Alanis Morrisette's voice warbled and whined out of the player:
"You've already won me over
In spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall
Head over feet
And don't be surprised if I love you
For all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault."
Emily gulped. Why was she gulping? This was what she'd wanted all her life! VINNIE DELPINO LOVED HER!
Vinnie sighed and pressed the stop button on the boom box. "Well, now we're even, Em: you know how I feel about you, and I know how you feel about me." He cleared his throat, nodded to the two of them, and ran off with the boombox tucked under one arm.
Rachel turned to Emily. "Oh my God, Em, he's in love with you!"
Emily just stood, shocked, She didn't quite know what to do. And then she did. "It's time for the curtain calls!" she heard the stage manager yelling. Emily turned to Rachel. "I'll have to chase him down later," she said dejectedly.
Rachel nodded. "Well, here we go; it was a stellar performance."
Vinnie and Doogie searched through the sea of people, looking for Emily. "Can you see her, anywhere, Doog?" Vinnie asked worriedly.
"Don't worry, Vin, I'm sure she's here somewhere," Doogie reassured his friend. "Now, how did she react to your sweet, but totally non-original plan again?"
Vinnie sighed. "She was just kind of… expressionless. I don't know, I didn't stick around long enough to find out." He scanned the crowd and finally found her. "I see her! She's over there, signing the autograph book of that little blonde girl." Vinnie and Doogie made their way over near Emily, close enough so that they could hear what she was saying.
"Now, who am I making this out to?" Emily asked as she took out her purple pen.
"Carolina," the little girl responded excitedly.
"Carolina? Alrighty then," Emily smiled. She then scrawled a little message next to her signature as little Carolina endlessly praised her performance. Emily handed the book back to Carolina and said, "Thank you for coming. I hope you liked it!" She waved at her, and then noticed Vinnie and Doogie. She ran over and leapt into Doogie's arms. "Em, you were amazing!" Doogie said as he hugged her back. "When I heard you sing 'On My Own', I thought I was going to bawl." He then said, "I should probably um… leave you and Vinnie alone," and headed over to the display case of (of course) health science projects.
Vinnie turned to Emily. "So, um…"
Emily responded, "Yeah…" They stood in awkward silence for a moment, before Vinnie finally said, "You looked beautiful up there, Em."
That did it. Emily and Vinnie hugged each other so tightly, Emily thought her insides would burst. "Oh, Vinnie…" Emily sighed.
Vinnie kissed her shoulder and whispered, "I love you, Emily. I've always loved you."
Emily pulled away and smiled. "Forgive me for going totally Demi Moore on you, but… ditto."
Vinnie laughed. "So… I guess this means we're going together, huh?"
Emily looked like she was pondering it for a moment, then leaned in and kissed Vinnie on the lips. Vinnie felt like he was standing on a cloud. He felt his arms wrap around Emily's waist as he thought, This is even better than in the movies.
Emily sighed as she tangled her hands in Vinnie's hair. It was perfect. It felt like they were made to fit together. When they finally broke apart, she giggled, because Vinnie was as red as a New Jersey tomato.
"I take that as a yes," Vinnie said decidedly.
Emily laughed as she ran off with Vinnie to go grab Doogie. The three of them ran off to Doogie's car, where a surprise after show party was waiting for Emily. As the three drove off, Doogie noticed that Vinnie and Emily were sitting awfully close to each other. Doogie couldn't help but smile. This night was definitely one for the computer.
During the party, Doogie excused himself, and ran into his room. He switched on his computer, and began to write in his computer journal:
April 17th, 1991… Vinnie told me he loved Emily. Emily told me she loved Vinnie. Tonight, they finally told each other.
Doogie gave a pensive glance out his window. He could hear the party going on outside, and he heard Wanda (who had come west from Connecticut) talking with Emily. "I just can't believe that! You and Vinnie…" Wanda told Emily excitedly.
Emily laughed and said, "Yeah, I know."
Wanda said, "Well, I guess we all expected it at some point."
As the two girls moved away from his door, Doogie smiled. He now knew exactly how to wrap things up.
It amazes me how two people can take so long to tell each other what took them five minutes to tell their friends.