My apologies to Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen ;) and thank you guys for your patience!
I don't own SMASH
New York – June 2013
Theo was nine and half weeks old and the perfect baby, and Jesse in a permanent state of bliss. He adored being a father and spent every minute of his free time in the nursery or at the park with Theo, talking to him endlessly, and exchanging baby stories with other elated parents. Karen had chosen to be on night watch. She loved the idea of being alone with her son, lost in an ocean of silence. Just like her mother had told her repeatedly, against her better judgement, breastfeeding had been surprisingly easy and convenient. Not only it helped her relax but it forged a strong bond with the baby. She eventually found the inner peace she had lacked since Derek had left. When the baby was awake, he would lock his eyes on her everywhere she went. It was a comforting feeling to have in her life another pair of eyes so similar to the one she used to cherish. Unlike Derek's, they always filled with unconditional love.
Probably because of it, though it was the happiest days of her life, after feeding Theo, she often cried herself back to sleep, and felt generally depressed. These first months had gone by in an instant and it was time for her to get back to the real world. Rehearsals for her new musical were supposed to start the first week of July. Thanks to Theo ferocious appetite, her body was back to normal. It was even thinner than it had ever been. She felt determined to succeed and was happy to get back in the game. She really looked forward to working again, hoping it didn't make her a bad mother, especially with the whole hiding Theo from his father stunt she had pulled on Derek and her fake marriage with her best gay friend. Fortunately, her next show was nothing like 'My Fair Lady' or 'Kiss Me Kate'. Actually, it was a real challenge.
Jerry had chosen to revive "Holly Golightly", a musical universally known for being one of the biggest flop in Broadway history, eliciting violent protests amongst his investors and partners. He didn't care. He was willing to put all his energy in this new production of "Breakfast at Tiffany's", a production that would have made Truman Capote himself proud, -his words, not hers.
Eventually, that meant rewriting the script entirely, a lot of new songs and a brand new choreography. Steven Sondheim rejected Rand's offer. So did Tom Levitt. Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen weren't so picky. They rose to the challenge. They gave Mancini's and Mercer's "Moon River" a more modern touch and this time, after all it was the twenty first century, wasn't it, Holly would be the prostitute her creator intended her to be. Jerry had high expectations. He wanted Karen to be the next Shirley McLaine. His "Breakfast" would be something like "Irma la Douce" meets "Sweet Charity", without Edward Albee, Bob Fosse and Edith Head. If it worked, it would be a miracle but she was eager to give it a try anyway.
On her first day back, Karen found out that she missed Derek's guidance and snarky remarks much more than she was ready to admit. It was weird to be directed by someone as nice as Norman Goldberg. The man was a legend but seemed to never let his ego get in the way of his work. He was easy to work with, despite his strictness and precision. Though very demanding, he never pushed anyone any farther that necessary, and it was a relief. They put in insane hours into creating the play, and after the few first weeks, she thought she would collapse. It didn't happen. Just like Derek had known from the very start, she was stronger than she felt.
Unfortunately, things started to deteriorate on the home front. Jesse was unemployed and tired all the time, he would spend days without talking to her for no reason. And one day, she came back to an empty house. Divorce papers were on her night stand with a note. Irreconcilable differences. She signed them. She knew they were 'just friends'. She was hurt he couldn't talk to her about his decision face to face.
She drowned in her work, unable to cope with his brutal defection.
Theo remained a constant source of joy.
London – December 2018
Rehearsals were going strong. Karen realized that without second-thinking it, both Derek and she had made a perfect job of avoiding one another. Apart from professional outings and close encounters at the theatre, they had simply drifted apart, exchanging occasional pleasantries when they were stuck in unavoidable collective exchanges over their work together or when their paths accidentally crossed at his place.
At the beginning, it conveyed a strong sense of independence. The actress fit perfectly in her generic American icon of Broadway role, and quite enjoyed it. For all the wrong reasons, it made her feel safe in her new London environment. It was nice at first. After a few weeks, she became restless and insecure despite the praise and the certainty that she was at her best. Before she knew it, she fell back into her usual patterns. She questioned her past and current choices, guilt washed over her in tidal waves, far more potent than when she had made up her mind years ago to keep Theo estranged from his father.
Fortunately, money was not an issue. Theorizing that sharing Derek's mansion was the sinews of her problem, she asked Jenny to find them a new place but never seemed to find the right time to tell Derek. She was confident he wouldn't want to know anyway. After their conversation a month back, and weeks of awkward silence, to say he had made himself scarce was an understatement. Obviously, he'd be better off without her in his close vicinity. She even convinced herself it was a decision she needed to make for the sake of their work and to guarantee the success of the musical.
It was only when she found herself looking out the window of her lonely apartment that reality began to sink in. Was her poor judgement a by-product of her guilt? She had no one to talk to, not her Mom and Dad for sure. They had no idea that Theo was Derek's and she had no qualm at leaving it that way. Not Jenny, who was born like yesterday, and surely didn't need the burden of having a psycho boss going off the rails on top of managing her life in an alien country. She was lucid enough to understand that she was reliving her initial trauma and wasn't equipped to deal with the same loss again. She had acted once again out of anger because Derek's betrayal still hurt and because, despite her strong resolve and the fact she could put up a good front, she wasn't able to deny any longer she still wanted him in her life.
She was more confused than ever about her choices, questioning her instincts, as if she had the rug pulled, again. It was upsetting because she felt like a deer frozen in the headlights, again; she didn't want to let her son down, and yet, that's exactly what she was doing, again. She was thrown back a few years, when he left before she could tell him she was with child, and taking what today seemed to be all the wrong decisions. But was I wrong, she asked herself. Of course you were. If you want to think otherwise you're on for a rude awakening. Mistrust has a way of feeding on itself. Derek was the only one she trusted back then, and yet, she chose to hide her pregnancy when it was the most important thing which had happened to them and probably will, for all she knew. She hadn't been confident enough. Her trust issues had been directed at herself, she was too proud to admit it. If she remembered right, they shared the theatre but not much else. Maybe he would have wanted to get involved but she wouldn't let him. Maybe she craved for more intimacy than Derek was willing to share, -or was it the other way round, and he turned away eventually. Even now, she was unsure of her motives. She would probably never know.
She knew then she was vulnerable with him, and she was even more today. She couldn't let him in now, as much as she wanted to, because she was stuck in the lie she had engineered. She was in London, experiencing the consequences based on her own choices, and god, it hurt. She moved away from the window and revived her laptop. It was that time of day she could talk to her son and do everything she could to make it right. Well, try, at least. The familiar jingle echoed in the room and she sat down before the screen.
Theo was his usual exuberant self, ready for a new day and full of childish energy. She let him babble as much as he wanted about his teacher, friends and neighbours. Like always, he was cheerful and happy, and that made her feel a lot better. He was proof positive that she had done something right, hadn't she? She smiled back at his bouncing image when he finally jumped away from his chair.
"Hey, wait! Aren't you going to kiss me good day, sweet pea?"
"Mom, I'll miss the bus," he yelled, running out of sight. She waited for a couple of seconds to give her folks time to replace him in front of the computer, but nobody came and the screen froze. Cursing between her teeth, she checked the connexion but the problem was on their end. She sat back on the couch, her eyes lingering on the bare walls, unaware of the ruckus in the street below. She finally stood up, combed her hair with her fingers and glanced at her reflection in the window. Her head dropped on her chest. She had no idea what she was doing. Well, that is not a first, she smirked between her teeth.
Deciding against ordering in, she grabbed her purse and coat and headed outside in search of a place to eat. Derek was right, she was too thin really, she'd never make it through rehearsals and even less through regular performances on one apple and one energy drink a day. She opened the door and turned around at the last second to fetch her favourite Cashmere scarf when an unmistakable voice stopped her dead in her tracks.
"Hello Karen, when were you going to tell me?"