Reader alert: Mature Situations, NC-17 for adult situations and language
Hollywood - December 23, 1993
“Mia! Terry! Let’s go!! The limo’s here! Can you for once in your
life come through for me or am asking for too much and deluding myself you care
about my career more than whatever it is you are doing right now, which better
not be illegal! Not tonight! I won’t put up with any crap from you guys!” came
his mother’s voice from downstairs. He did not need to see her to know she was
deeply annoyed, as well as slightly angry, by the fact that they had failed to
be ready before the limousine sent by the studio pulled into the driveway. “And
please don’t bother to come down if you did not put on the clothes I picked out
for you,” she added, sounding more aggravated by the minute. Tonight was the
premiere of her latest movie for which she had a good chance to receive her
first Oscar nomination, a goal Eleanor Baker had been pursuing for years, and
she had been feeling extremely nervous and restless the whole day. Now that the
coveted award was finally within her reach, she wanted everything to be perfect,
including her children.
Terrence Grandchester smashed his half-smoked cigarette in the overflowing ashtray; looked with profound repulsion at the Gucci loafers his mother had bought for him, and grabbed his beat up black Converse sneakers. They should jazz up his look a bit. He was wearing an Armani smoking, complete with a bow tie, his long chestnut hair was in a neat ponytail, which he had tied using the black leather string he usually wore wrapped around his right wrist. He put his silver skull ring with incrusted sapphire stones on his left middle finger. After a last look into the mirror, he got out of his bedroom and quickly ran down the stairs, smiling at the idea of seeing his sister wearing the electric pink gown their mother thought was most appropriate for the evening.
He found his mother alone, pacing back and forth in the hallway, a cigarette in one hand, a glass of wine in the other. He stood in the doorway, amazed at how beautiful she looked. At 36, Eleanor Baker was an incredibly attractive woman, a Hollywood classic beauty in the vein of Grace Kelly, whom she was often compared to. She had an extremely fair skin with dainty features. Her long blonde hair was done in a stylish upswept do and she had some light make up on. She was wearing some huge chandelier earrings with matching necklace, and a simple but elegant long black dress, by Gucci without a doubt. Her deep blue eyes crossed Terry’s similar colored gaze.
“Where is your sister? Can you please go fetch her?” she snapped, leaving Terry disconcerted by the way her voice, raspy and authoritative, was clashing with her looks. “And please change your shoes,” she added, irritated with her children’s unwillingness to oblige her.
“If the two of you are not ready to leave in five minutes, I’m going without you” she threatened, which would be just fine with Terry since he had no desire whatsoever to go to her premiere. He briefly entertained the thought of telling his mother what he really thought about the prospect of spending his evening schmoozing with her peers and smiling for the photographers, pretending to be one happy family, but she was about to crack and he figured he better not provoke her. He mumbled “OK” and climbed up the stairs.
Eleanor shook her head. What was wrong with those kids of hers? It had been her publicist’s idea to bring them along. Eleanor had argued against it as much as she could. It was a bad idea. They were wild kids and bound to do something that would ultimately embarrass her but Janice had been adamant. It was an excellent PR move. Eleanor needed to remind the public and the Academy that she was not only an accomplished actress but also the mother of two beautiful teenagers. Janice had added sarcastically that the twins would look better by her side than her latest tattoo covered rock star boy toy. Eleanor had been left with no other choice but to admit Janice was right and had given in, not without repeating to whoever wanted to listen that it would most surely be a disaster and reduce her chances of getting a nomination to zero.
Eleanor Baker had been a twenty-year-old Broadway actress when she had met Richard Grandchester, a distinguished British aristocrat two years her senior. The two immediately hit it off and a passionate love affair followed. Three months later, Eleanor was pregnant and the young couple quickly sealed their union, much to the displeasure of the Grandchesters. Ever since his birth, it had been agreed that Richard would marry Lady Vivian Bartley, whose rank and upbringing was considered worthy of the Duchy of Grandchester. The very idea of him being wedded to an actress, American to top it all, was purely horrifying to them.
On January 28, 1977, Eleanor gave birth to twins, Terrence and Mia. The couple was ecstatic but unfortunately their happiness was short lived. The newly formed family moved to London where Eleanor quickly got tired of the idle life of a high society lady. She resumed acting on the London stage, much to her in-laws dismay. The passion she and Richard had based their relationship on had died off, leaving place to resentment on the part of Eleanor who felt she had to sacrifice her professional life for a love that had faded away as fast as it had blossomed. Richard was often absent, working long hours as the newly appointed chairman of the family’s corporation. When the twins were a few weeks shy of their first birthday, Eleanor was offered the lead role in a Hollywood movie. Seeing it as the opportunity she had been waiting for, she promptly accepted and filed for divorce. After countless arguments, it was agreed that Richard would have full custody of Terrence, the legal heir to the Grandchester title. Eleanor and Mia went back to the United States and settled in Los Angeles.
Hence started a different life for the twins.
Terrence was brought up in a very strict environment, attending prestigious private schools from a young age. When he was 3 years old, his father finally married Vivian Bartley, who instantly disliked the young child, begrudging the fact that no matter how many children she would bear, the son of the American actress would always be the first heir to the Grandchester’s title of nobility. Terrence grew up constantly hearing that he was a bastard unworthy of inheriting the Duchy. Vivian insisted on him calling her “Lady Vivian”. When she gave birth to her first son in 1984, the situation grew even tenser and she totally ignored Terry, who ended up feeling ashamed of his biological mother. He couldn't face some of his friends anymore, because he so desperately wanted to fit in and have a classic family. He started to isolate himself from others and was never able to develop a real friendship with any of his schoolmates.
At school, Terrence was an excellent student but took little interest in sports. At his father's insistence, he joined his grammar school polo team. While he was good at it, he despised it. He started systematically provoking teachers, fellow students, and most of all his step- mother. When he was 10 years old, he was sent to an austere boarding school, from which he would come out one week-end a month and for the holidays.
He would spend two months every summer, as well as the Christmas holidays, in Los Angeles with his mother and sister. He lived for these short periods of time. Despite the fact that they did not see much of each other, the twins were extremely close, spending hours on the phone. Theirs was a relationship based on survival. They needed to be in frequent contact with each other to tolerate their daily life and the pain of being separated, which for twins was excruciating. When they were apart, they always felt like something was missing. When they were together, they retreated into their own world, oblivious to anything and anyone around them. They went as far as getting a tattoo with each other name inside their wrist. When back in London, Terry would feel empty and lonely. The situation at home did not help the matters. He was in fact perfectly happy to be in a boarding school and rarely with his British family. His father was often gone and he was left alone with his step-mother and step-brother, with whom he had no relationship whatsoever. His relationship with his father was not much better. The Duke took little interest in his elder son who kept on defying him.
At age 13, Terry discovered the rave culture, which he fully embraced, not so much for the electronic music, but more for the atmosphere and underground aspect of it. Not to mention the easy access it gave him to drugs and alcohol. He was drinking beer on a regular basis and taking ecstasy, craving the lasting euphoria it would provide him with. He was often sneaking out of school to attend illegal parties. He also very much enjoyed the dancing and was quite good at popping. His good looks attracted many girls and he took full advantage of it. Those brief encounters were the closest thing to love he would receive when in England.
Mia led an even more disturbed life. She grew up on movie sets, with nannies to watch over her while her mother worked. She was an incredibly bright child, mature beyond her age from the exclusively adult environment she was brought up in. She was 2 years old when her mother married Jeff Baker, a famous film director known for his ultra liberal views, who legally adopted her two years later. Jeff adored the twins and was a huge influence on both of them. He was a talented painter and infused Mia with the love of painting. Terry acquired his taste for literature and philosophy from him.
When Mia started school at age 6, she had no idea how to interact with other children, and was badly teased for her lack of knowledge in kid’s culture. She begged her mother to pull her out of school and at Jeff’s suggestion, Mia was home-schooled from then on.
Growing up on the Hollywood scene, she started partying too much early on: she was smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol by the time she was 9, smoking marijuana she would steal from Jeff’s private reserve at 10, and snorting cocaine at 13. When she was 14, Jeff and Eleanor divorced. Mia was devastated and became severely depressed. Eleanor did not know what to do and send her to a psychotherapist who started working with her bi-weekly. He came to the conclusion that Mia would benefit from living with her brother, an idea quickly dismissed by Eleanor. She knew Richard would never take Mia in, and Eleanor was not up for another custody battle with her first husband. Despite the perfect image she was so desperately trying to project, her private life was highly questionable and she did not want it all to be brought up in front of a court during a ruthless custody battle.
Jeff was granted partial custody of Mia and decided to move back to his native Seattle. Mia became involved with the grunge movement there, connecting to its defiance of the norms. Jeff was good friend with Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley and Chris Cornell and Mia was given plenty of opportunity to talk with the Grunge legends, whom she idolized beyond belief. She attended every shows using a fake ID and was a well-known fixture on the grunge scene. In 1991, aged 14, she was asked by Kurt Cobain - who was dating on and off Eleanor whom he had met at Jeff’s on a rare occasion she had personally come to pick Mia up- to be one of the cheerleaders in the Smells Like Teen Spirit video. A year later, coming back late from a movie shoot, Eleanor had walked in her Hollywood home on Mia and Kurt going at it in the kitchen. She had been horrified and threatened to call the police and have Kurt jailed on the spot. Mia had begged her not to, and Eleanor had given in, only after Mia pointed out how badly such a scandal would affect her career.
Eleanor sighed deeply. She rubbed her forehead, in a futile attempt to ease the headache that was developing. She had given up on Mia a long time ago. She had loved Mia as an infant and toddler but lost all interest later on, raising a child was much more of a thankless job she had thought it would be, and focused all of her energy on her career. She considered Mia a nuisance, especially because of the nighttime terrors that emerged when Mia was 8 and that would invariably bring her in tears to her mother’s bedroom, complaining that she was too afraid to go back to sleep. Some other times, Mia would simply sneak in the middle of the night and sleep on the carpet, by her mother’s side, taking great pain in not waking anybody up for fear to be sent back to her room. To stop the nightly disturbances, Eleanor started to give her Valium to help her sleep, not wanting to waste precious sleep time cuddling her, reassuring her that everything was Ok and that she was here to keep her safe. Jeff tried to intervene but Eleanor would invariably remind him that Mia was not his biological daughter and to mind his own business. Only when Terry was around would the night terrors disappear. The twins would more often than not share the same bed and stay up all night, talking, watching movies, listening to music, or simply enjoying each other company. Eleanor felt bad for the two of them being separated and wished she had left both kids to Richard. Terry often begged her to take him in but she always refused, the time was never right to start a custody battle that would be widely publicized given her Hollywood star status.
arrived in front of his sister’s bedroom and knocked on the door.
“Mia! Get your skinny ass out of here. Mom is going to blow a fuse if you don’t show up in your pretty princess dress immediately!”
“Mia?” Terry cried, pushing the door open and poking his head through the opening. His sister’s bedroom was a mess, with clothes scattered all over the floor and covering most pieces of furniture, along with paintbrushes, tubes of oil paint and rags. Her current project was on an easel: a black and blue mess. The hideous pink gown was still on the bed. The stereo was playing softly and Kurt Cobain was begging to be raped. A half full bottle of Corona was standing on the nightstand, along with a mirror with a line of white powder left on it. The door to the bathroom was ajar and the light was on. Terry walked toward it, tiny drops of sweat forming on his brow.
“Mia? Are you decent?” Even though she was his sister and he had seen her naked countless times, he had been getting increasingly uncomfortable lately with the way her body was: tight, lean, long, shapely, she was a fully developed woman, and an incredibly beautiful one. He knew she was sexually active and even though he was too, it kind of bothered him that some guys –usually older guys and more often than not their mother’s boyfriends, like dear Kurt who was still pleading to be raped on the radio- would do things with her, things that would more often than not leave her hurt. Like Kurt marrying that skunk Courtney. Thinking about Kurt pissed him off. He walked to the radio and turned it off. But he was still there: on what she called her memory wall, on several pictures, including one on the day they filmed the Smells Like Teen Spirit video, Mia in her black cheerleader outfit, smiling broadly, Kurt holding her by the waist, his head resting on her shoulder, a mischievous smile on his lips. Next to it, there was a picture of himself, bare-chested, kneeling in the woods, as Jeremy in the Pearl Jam’s video, his one and only piece of acting that had triggered his father’s fury. He quickly looked over the others pictures, most of them showing Mia with some famous guys, a musician 99% of the time, leaving him to wonder which one she slept with, which one she only did drugs with, which one she did both. There were also lots of pictures with the two of them as kids, riding a horse, surfing. None was showing their parents.
He walked back to the bathroom and pushed the door.
“Ready or not, here I come”. Mia was in her underwear, lying on the ground, her head crooked sideways, with dried blood around her nose, her long hair in what Terry assumed to be a puddle of vomit. She was looking at him with eyes that did not seem to register his presence.
“Mia!” Terry kneeled next to his sister.
Mia’s eyes slowly lit up with recognition. She said in a small voice:
“Can’t breathe. Need air.”
Terry helped her up, wrapped his arms around her waist and supported her toward the bedroom window. They were halfway there when Mia collapsed on the floor and started having seizures, thrashing spasmodically, her head flopping from side to side, arms moving wildly.
“Mom!!!! Call 911!” screamed Terry at the top of his lungs, feeling a knot starting to form in his stomach.