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Baby Girl 7: Take a Bow
2000

I must have stared at that blank screen forever. I was so lost in though that when the phone rang, I jumped. I almost didn't answer it, fearing it was Brian. I decided I couldn't let the answering machine get it, so I picked it up. It was my friend Jen.

"Hey, girl," she said.

"Hey."

"Did you see the premiere of the new video?"

"Yeah, what'd you think of it?"

"I can't believe you got to do that with Brian," she told me.

"Yeah, well."

"Hey, have you checked your mail yet?"

"No, why?"

"Because Kentucky sent out their acceptance letters." I ran my hands over the mail that had piled up on my kitchen table. There was an envelope with the University of Kentucky seal on it. The envelope itself was really thin, like it was made out of rice paper.

"Well, I got something from them, but it's really thin, Jen. You know what a thin envelope means."

"So open it," she begged me.

I leaned the phone on my shoulder and tore into the envelope. I read over the words completely forgetting my friend on the phone.

"What's it say?" she prompted.

I read the letter one more time before opening my mouth. "Dear Ms. Carlson. We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the University of Kentucky." I didn't finish reading the rest of the letter; instead I screamed. "Oh my God, Jen. I got in! They let me in!" I was jumping up and down with the phone in my hand.

"I knew you would. So when are you moving?"

"I don't know! This is so cool. I need to find a place to live. Oh my God. What am I gonna do? This is so huge! Jen I gotta make some calls, okay? Can I talk to you later?"

"Sure, just let me know when you are leaving."

"Sure thing. Thanks for telling me to check my mail. I'll talk to you later, bye."

"Bye," Jen said and I hung up the phone. I called a travel agency and then the university. The university was setting me up with housing. After I took care of everything, I went out to a beauty salon. I was getting a chance to start all over and I was going to take it. I got my hair dyed a really nice auburn color and also got it cut. I then went off and got violet contact lenses. I was going to be completely and one hundred percent different.

I moved a few weeks later and left all my clothes in California. When I got to Kentucky, I bought all new clothes. They were totally not like my normal of "comfortable." They were stylish in the fact that I was on top of the fashion world for once. I even picked up the Southern accent that was floating there in Lexington. I knew I had a small chance of running into Brian there in Lexington, but he spent most of his time in Orlando, so it was a very small chance.

Every week, I got a letter from Brian. I had a forward on my address so I got them all. He would always start with his apology in that he was sorry for not telling me. He would then go into how horrible his life was without me. His format was always the same. After ten letters I finally sent him one back. I knew I was giving away my address, but I didn't care at that point.

Dear Brian:

I know you mean well, but here, read this song. Listen to it. It's by Madonna. If you need to, I'll send you the CD.

Take a Bow
By: Madonna

Take a bow
The night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Lights are low
The curtain's are down
There's no one here
(There's no one here in the crowd)
Say your lines
But do you feel them
Do you mean what you say
When there's no one around
Watching you, watching me
One lonely star
(One lonely star you don't know who you are)

Chorus:
I've always been in love with you
I guess you've always known it's true
You took my love for granted why oh why
The show is over say good-bye
Say good-bye, say good-bye

Make them laugh
It comes so easy
When you get to the part
Where you're breaking my heart
Hide behind your smile
All the world loves a clown
(Just make 'em smile the whole world loves a clown)
Wish you well
I cannot stay
You deserve an award
For the role that you played
No more masquerade
You're one lonely star
(One lonely star and you don't know who you are)

Chorus

All the world is a stage
And everyone has their part
How was I to know
Which way the story'd go
How was I to know you'd break
You'd break, you'd break, you'd break
You'd break my heart

Chorus

Brian, I know you mean well, but please, we're over. I love you. I'll always love you, but please, stop.

Baby Girl

Within two weeks of sending the letter, I got an invitation to a dinner. It was for the Healthy Hearts Club for Kids. It wasn't Brian's doing; I was one of their big donors. When I had moved, I donated a thousand dollars to the Club. I felt I had to. I knew what this dinner was; it was a fundraiser. They would feed us good food and then say, "Hey, whip out those checkbooks and write us another one."

I went to the dinner and like I expected, they asked us for money. Brian was actually there and mingled with all the guests. When he got to me, he raised an eyebrow but didn't recognize me. I tuned into the Southern charm I had picked up and really threw him for a loop. I knew if AJ was there he would have seen right through me, but thankfully, he wasn't.

It hurt to see Brian trying to put on a brave face when his life had been torn apart. I just wanted to hug him and tell him everything was going to be all right. I wanted to, but I didn't. At one point, I thought my cover was blown. He looked at me, tilted his head and said, "Do I know you?"

"Ah don't think so," I said in my best Southern accent.

"Are you sure? You look familiar."

"Positive. I'm new around here."

"Oh. Well, thank you so much for helping us out. It's not very often that we get newcomers donating."

I smiled and he walked away. "I had to, Brian," I whispered to myself. "I had to."

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