She stole one last glance at the reflection in her rearview mirror. Her eyes had been dry for days and all things considered she had never looked better. She slid the designer sunglasses back over her eyes and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Satisfied…that would be the word used to describe the look on the face of the woman in the yellow dress. She scooped up her purse and placed in it the crook of her skinny arm. The hand belonging to that arm clutched a brown envelope protectively. She exited the Mercedes coupe—the car she now doubted she could afford—as if the street were a red carpet affair. Thankfully, she was not greeted with flashes of lights from waiting cameras.
She could see the navy blue mailbox just across the street. She took a deep breath and smoothed out the yellow skirt again; she was ready. This was the only way to save herself, to regain her sense of pride, her dignity, her worth. If she wasn’t Daphne Rhodes, than who was she? Her nude pumps caught the lip of the curb and she swiftly crammed the envelope into the slot before dashing back to her car; before she could give it another thought.
She was not Daphne Rhodes, not really. But Daphne had been a part of her life, a part of her for most of her adult life. Daphne was confident and passionate. She was strong and ambitious and downright ruthless when she needed to be. She was also the Emmy winning role played by an actress who had not had another job since she left the Quickie Mart she had worked at before moving to Los Angeles. Returning to a life of $1 scratch-off tickets and cheap cigarettes was not an option. If Elizabeth Young had learned anything from Daphne it was this: there was nothing that couldn’t be bargained for. Secrets were good for that sort of thing and no place on earth held more lies and betrayal than daytime television…
Three weeks earlier
Elizabeth could not remember a better rehearsal in all her days on Rhodes Lead Home. The wardrobe department had granted her request for finer jewelry, and her third cappuccino of the day had been brought to her just the way she liked it. Elizabeth was truly in her element under the scorching hot lights with a new script waiting to be memorized before taping. She was repeating Daphne’s words to herself, whispering different inflections and pauses when a production assistant tapped her on the shoulder.
“Miss Young? You’re wanted in the writer’s room” she said simply. The assistant was new, but had managed to annoy Elizabeth at every turn and today it had been much worse. She had fawned over the actress all day, complimenting her loungewear in the makeup room, asking her twelve times if her cappuccino was hot enough (indeed, this was the only time it had been). She offered to escort the star to the writer’s room but Elizabeth declined, she knew the studio like it was her second home.
Elizabeth sauntered down the small corridor in a state of utter frustration—why were there always so many rewrites these days?! She would be livid if the dim-witted writers cut yet another one of her scenes in tomorrow’s episode and she was prepared to tell them herself. When the door to the normally busy writer’s room swung open, though, the room was silent. There was no hurried scribbling, no frantic rustling of paper or keyboards being slammed by anxious fingers.
Every head in the room snapped up to see Elizabeth Young come through the door and then back down to their hands or the empty table space in front of them. Sitting at the head of the roll-away table was George Stack, the Executive Producer and April Conway, the show’s creator. The minute George asked her to “have a seat” across from him, she felt her world fall away and she knew they were all gathered there to take everything she loved from her…
“We’ve been so lucky to have you for so long,” one staff writer had said.
“Think of this as an opportunity to challenge yourself,” another offered. Try paying a mortgage with “a challenge,” she’d thought.
The words that sprang from the mouths of those seated in that meeting felt contrived, empty. They promised a proper send-off for Rhodes’ most fearsome socialite. No statement felt less genuine than that made by George Stack himself. “It’s time to let a new crop of talent carry on your amazing legacy, let ’em have their shot,” he’d said. Elizabeth had made Rhodes Lead Home her life and in the end, it all came down to numbers. Just numbers.
Ratings were at an all time low and the network could no longer afford the generous salary Elizabeth required after 15 years on the soap. Four new actors had been hired to rejuvenate the failing program and one character was being “written out” of the series. Elizabeth’s days with Daphne and Rhodes and the backlot that had become a constant for her over the years were also numbered. Elizabeth would utter her last line as Daphne Rhodes, heiress, business woman and the most powerful woman in a fictional town millions had come to love in just two weeks’ time…
Nine days later
Elizabeth held her final Rhodes Lead Home script in her hand, staring at the printed words in disbelief. This was the grand send off a two-time-outstanding-lead-actress-in-a-drama-series deserved? According to the script, a violent storm strikes Gardner, New Jersey, in the middle of the night. The rain floods the streets making roads impassable with most residents taking up shelter in the restaurant run by Daphne’s brother Joe. During a dinner made up of salted peanuts and nachos, Daphne discovers her long time boyfriend forgot to bring her cat to the make-shift shelter and calls him irresponsible saying she doubts they will ever get married. The fight escalates and Daphne leaves to brave the dangerous weather to save Princess, her elderly tabby.
Despite many warnings, Derek goes to find Daphne, with an engagement ring in the pocket of his leather jacket. Daphne is just a half mile from her Gardner mansion when she is struck in the head by a rogue stop sign. Daphne dies instantly on screen—no moaning, no dramatic fainting. Elizabeth’s final scene in Rhodes Lead Home would be spent face down, silent on the wet floor of studio B…
One month later
The headline was the first printed material to make Elizabeth smile in weeks. Sending off the brown envelope had been nerve-wracking but now she would have the recognition she deserved and it was all thanks to George Stack. George Stack and the good people at Celebrity magazine, that is. The sun was shining brightly against the Mercedes’ freshly washed windows.
Rhodes to Hell, reporting by Misty England
The drama and intrigue of daytime TV’s Summer sweeps has killed off yet another favorite Rhodes Lead Home character! Daphne Rhodes, granddaughter of Gardner mayor Lloyd Rhodes has been written out of the show after years of affairs, shady business deals and one cat fight after another. The official statement from Rhodes‘ executive cites rising salaries, falling ratings and a craving for new meat as the reason for dropping the star from the show. According to an anonymous source, however, show runner George Stack has had his eye on a different leading lady and has sought to make her the star of his show as well as his private movies—just don’t tell his wife. The 58-year-old executive has promoted Lydia Cumberland, a.k.a. “Monica Shelley,” to series regular after Elizabeth Young’s rather anti-climactic exit.
Don’t remember Ms. Cumberland? The actress plays Daphne Rhodes’ long-lost cousin who pops in on the Rhodes as she slowly regains her memory being held captive and brainwashed by a rival business owner. God only knows why Monica was kidnapped in the first place; Daphne didn’t know she existed before she showed up at Thanksgiving Dinner. Loyal Rhodes viewers have to wonder where the writers’ heads are these days! According to our unnamed source, the Rhodes team will do anything to please George Stack, including writing puffed up, ridiculous story lines befitting of Lydia Cumberland’s talents.
“They’ve sent her for private acting lessons three times,” says the source. “She hides her scripts all over set.” The source asserts Lydia Cumberland, 29, has been involved in a steamy affair with Stack for at least seven months when the two were spotted leaving the ABC Christmas party together. In addition to an ill-placed leading actress, a failing show and alleged infidelity, many actors and viewers are accusing George Stark of blatant discrimination against Elizabeth Young.
While Daphne Rhodes was being named president of her father’s company, Young was Stack’s favorite muse. One source described him as “obsessed” with the actress, encouraging her to stay late for extra rehearsals and collaborating with writers on juicy slabs of screen time. While Elizabeth Young rebuffed his advances, it seems current star Lydia Cumberland is all too happy to do whatever it takes to stay in the good graces of her warped Executive Producer. Likewise, Stack is willing to go down with his sinking soap opera. Maybe General Hospital is hiring, we hear divorce attorneys are expensive…
Elizabeth glanced in her rearview once again as she pulled into her new parking space at Studio B. Welcome home, Daphne.