Title: "Aawkening" Chapter 1 – As Good as It Gets
Pairing: Lij/OC (NOT a Mary Sue) - HET *gasp!*
Summary: After an astounding triumph at the box office, a prodigal young actor feels lost and hopeless, wondering whether, at 20, this is the end. But an unexpected turn of events brings him new hope.
Elijah opened his eyes and quickly shut them. He was in the same place as before, his room. He glanced at the faded Star Wars posters on the wall. He had been watching Star Wars episode II before he went to sleep, and it just wasn’t as interesting as before. It was as if something had died within him.
The TV, magazines, CD’s and books littering the floor, his Discman, the trophy on the windowsill, his desk, his closet, the quiet suburban street lined with mansions outside his window, it was all the same, same as an hour ago, same as last year. It was evening, and the shadows of the cherry trees outside had lengthened and turned from dark maroon to blue. He heard a newspaper rustling as the wind chased it across the pavement. Otherwise, everything was just as he had left it.
He stretched out on his bed. Elijah did not want to see all this. What did he want? Now and in life in general? Where was he going, and how did he get here? He didn’t know. These were questions with no answers. He had managed to escape from reality for a few hours, take refuge in deep, dreamless slumber, where everything was so warm and so familiar. But the return was inevitable. Grey, hopeless reality and the company of the person he really didn’t want to be with right now, or ever: Elijah Wood.
He didn’t like himself. He thought back to the past year and a half and thought about who he was, who he had become. Who had he become? Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer? A pretty blue-eyed, curly-headed hobbit on a mission to Mordor? But Frodo isn’t real. He’s just a character that Tolkien made up, and I just lent him my looks and my voice, Elijah thought. But it’s over now. I am nothing. I am nothing, and I deserve nothing and nobody. And the fans. Sure, I have fans. But they like Frodo, not me. Nobody likes me.
Wait, he thought. Sean likes me, and Dom, and Billy, too. But thinking about his friends hurt. He and Sean had become close over the 18 months of filming, perhaps they had grown to care about one another like Sam and Frodo. Talk about getting into character. He smiled. But none of it was real. It had all ended, the spell was broken the day he boarded the plane for home. Just like the movie wasn’t real, perhaps even his friendship with Sean had all been a dream. He toyed with the idea of calling Sean in England. Almost picked up the phone, too.
No, Elijah thought, although it had been good, and it had meant so much. The movie was sort of his own quest, an adventure with his fellowship on its own right. He had the ring here to prove it, and his tattoo. The elvish character NINE. They promised to always remember it, to be the best of friends forever. But now it was all just nostalgia. Good to remember, but more sad. The rest of the fellowship had moved on. And he should, too. He began to cry, for he wanted to and did not want to at the same time, or perhaps he just did not have the strength.
He turned on the TV and watched The Fellowship of the Ring. It was odd, seeing it all from a distance. The scenes were the same, yet not the same as he remembered them when he did them. Everything was sweet, everything was bitter, then it began to disgust him. It wasn’t real. He turned off the TV.
But what if this is as good as it gets, he thought. He was still so young, and it was already all over. At 20, this was his big movie. It brought him fame, yet he knew it would not last... Elijah though back on the last few months. Everything had been happening so fast. Too fast for little Elijah. He didn’t want it to happen. He wanted to remain a child. Elijah covered his face with his hands. I don’t want to grow up, not yet. Please, I’m not ready.
But wait, I’m already a veteran movie star. I haven’t been a child in years. My childhood ended when I was five. So what’s the point? Here I am: no life, NO GOAL, and half insane. Nothing, just bitterness. He began to cry again, helpless, alone, and angry at someone, he didn’t even know who. He searched for someone to blame, but could find no one.
He knew, in the back of his mind, that the thing for him to do now was to travel the world, promoting his movie, and to give interviews, but he simply felt… drained. The publicity disgusted him. He didn’t want to see anyone, he didn’t want to think about anything Lord of the Rings-related or anything, for that matter... He did not want to do anything. Ardently, he wished he could be someone else, even for a moment, to rid himself of the shadow of the movie, the bitterness at it being over and unreal, the annoyance… There was simply something missing. His life. That, and he was alone.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Elijah? You awake?”
It was his mother. She opened the door, cautiously, and came in. At 47, the former hip-hop dancer had, perhaps, a few more wrinkles and a few gray hairs, for her life was not a bed of roses, but she was still a very beautiful woman.
Elijah didn’t look up.
“You need to eat. I made you some potato salad, just like you used to love.” She smiled and sat down at the foot of the bed, putting the bowl of delicious food on the bedside table.
“No thanks. I don’t want to eat.” Two months after his return from New Zealand, he still had his British accent. I still sound like Frodo, he thought, and sighed. Will I always be associated with Frodo?
“Elijah, are you OK?”
“Yeah, just tired. It was an intense 18 months.”
“I understand, Lij. But I’m really worried about you. Ever since you’ve come back, you haven’t been yourself... All you do is sit in your room. You never talk to anyone anymore. You hardly eat. You’re losing weight. You should be happy. You’re famous, now.” Translation: You’re not doing your job as a movie star. Being a movie star does not end when the director says “Aaand… cut,” you’ve got to maintain your image. People don’t like depressed celebrities.
“I just needed some time to think and stuff. All the publicity has really gotten to me. I need some time to myself, a break…” Translation: I don’t want to talk about it. Go away. What do you care about my feelings? You just steal my royalties. Elijah toyed with saying this, since he was looking for someone to blame for everything that was wrong in this life, but didn’t. She was his mother, after all, and she had been good to him. He could not talk to her like this.
“I wish I could help you,” Mrs. Wood said, and reached to hug her son.
“Look, mom, it’s OK... I’ll be fine…” He didn’t pull away, though she was making him feel very uncomfortable.
“Eat a little, won’t you, Elijah? It hurts to see you like this.”
“OK.” He poked the potatoes. He didn’t want to eat. Rocky, the black lab, started up from the floor and jumped on the bed. Somehow, he always knew when Elijah was feeling sad.
“Things have been happening so fast…” Elijah sighed as he scratched behind Rocky’s ear. He wanted to tell his mother what he was feeling, but the words just would not come out, or perhaps he simply lacked the words to express it all. Or feared she would not understand. When he had just gotten home, he would get out of conversations by saying that he was tired, that he wanted to sleep, but now he could no longer use jetlag as an excuse. He sighed.
“Your dad called again. You still don’t want to talk to him?”
“Why would I?” Elijah felt the anger blaze up again, “He abandoned you, and me, and Hannah. And he wouldn’t have come back, either, if he didn’t find out that he had such a famous son! He’s nothing but a bum, why would I want to know him?”
“He is not a bum. He feels guilty, and that means he might change. I think he deserves a second chance.”
“He does not. How can you be so naïve, mom? People don’t change.”
This was getting unpleasant. “Alright, fine. What’s his number? Tell me, and I’ll call him, but I need to be alone while I do it. Some things I wanna say are… well, personal.” In reality, Elijah just wanted his mom to leave. She was beginning to annoy him.
Mrs. Wood smiled and hugged him again. She reached for her address book in her pocket. Even after five years, she still loved her husband, desperately, and wished they could get back together, though knew it was just a pointless pipe dream. The divorce had been devastating for her; the fact that her husband had cheated on her was one trauma too many. For now, though, Elijah was glad that his mom was content, although he felt rotten about lying. She gave him the phone number, and got up. She paused one last time in the doorway, hopeful.
“Alright, go on, Lij.”
“OK, give me a moment.” She shut the door.
Elijah put aside the address book. He felt another pang of guilt, then the old hopelessness.
To get his mind off things, he turned on the radio, and spun the channel changer dial, letting it land on whatever station it would. Not that he really cared, but perhaps music would alleviate the sorrow, at least for a while…
And then he heard it.
A Voice, a woman’s voice, singing, beautiful and powerful beyond description, it called to him, and to him only in a language he did not understand. From across space and time, the pure, clear song streamed, and slowly, he felt his wounds heal and his strength return. The song, both warm like sunlight on a summer morning and refreshing like a mountain lake, so close, like a soft hand, seemed to touch the inner recesses of his soul… It was a ray of sunshine in the dark cavern of his lost, hopeless life. This voice was the fulfillment he had searched for, it was real, and at that moment, he knew that he wanted to live, to breathe, if only to follow this voice to the ends of the Earth, to love it, for the song to be his life. He pressed his tear-stained cheek to the imaginary bosom of the faraway singer, and the song enveloped him and dried his tears. The woman sang of distant stars in the heavens, of the river, strong, kind, and loving, flowing towards its goal, like life, always changing and yet the same. She sang of pain and heartbreak, death, life, and love...
Then it ended, and for a few moments, there was a silence. It seemed to last an eternity.
Then, the announcer’s gentle baritone with a soft German accent came on, “Truly, a charming young voice. A beautiful aria from the opera Aïda, “The Shores of the Nile.” We have just been listening to a live performance in Tokyo by Marie-Hélène Miró, the charming 17-year-old opera star, back by popular demand and currently in the middle of her second worldwide tour. She has made her debut last year, and was extremely successful. A tremendously talented young prodigy, so be sure to watch for her in the future. And now, by request, a chello solo…”
But Elijah was no longer listening. Marie-Hélène Miró. Marie-Hélène Miró. Spanish, or perhaps French? He didn’t know why, but he repeated the name to himself, a thousand different ways, puzzling over it, tasting it, loving it, never letting go. Each instant was eternity, and eternity was an instant. Marie-Hélène Miró. Elijah listened to it trickle off his tongue, like a clear, cold mountain spring in the morning. Marie-Hélène Miró. He shouted it, he whispered it, held it close to his heart, his lips shaped it in a million ways, fashioning the syllables like the jeweler fashions diamonds. He as if he could never, never stop saying it. He whispered it, like an incantation, a sacred spell… Marie-Hélène Miró. Goddess. The One, the Only. His precious. (don't laugh)
And then, he was overcome with a longing so deep and so powerful; he felt a weary traveler in the desert, dying of thirst, when suddenly, Marie-Hélène, the girl who was somewhere on a stage thousands of miles away, stood right there before him, still so young, so beautiful, so pure. He felt as if he could reach out and touch her, he longed to hold her, to… He didn’t dare complete the sentence… But was he worthy?
The burning inside him grew unbearable, but it was a sweet pain. He recalled the beauty of Marie-Hélène’s voice, a light that had come through the darkness, how it had soothed him, how it had taken away his pain. Elijah wept, but these were different tears… Everything he felt now was somehow different, newer, stronger, more painful, yet more satisfying. He looked out his window. Stars shone in the night sky. The Voice came to him again; it filled him to the depths of his being, and his soul was at peace. The sorrow was gone. He was no longer alone, the part of him that had died now lived again. Hope had returned.
When Mrs. Wood came to check on her son later that night, she saw him sleeping peacefully, curled up atop the covers on his little four-post bed. A smile hovered on his half-opened lips. Moonlight streamed through the window, and he looked like a marble statue of the Greek god Apollo, beautiful, but, unlike a statue, she knew he lived. It was a deep, healthy sleep. Her heart swelled with happiness, for she saw that Elijah was cured, and to whomever had helped her son recover, for she knew it had to be someone, somewhere, she would be forever grateful. She sat beside him all night, and she would be there when he waked up in the morning.