Excerpt: 'Tis Herself: A Memoir'

As the sound of it covered me, I felt that fire burning in my belly. It grew in intensity and extended throughout my body. It lifted me, and I knew at that moment that I would never surrender to anyone's jeers. I wouldn't go up there to save my life. I wouldn't give that old biddy the satisfaction. I folded my arms across my chest and locked eyes with her, freezing them. Then I stuck my lower lip out at her defiantly and held it there.

I had never been openly defiant, not ever, and it caught her by surprise. The smile washed from her face. "No? You won't share with the class? I see. Then come with me." She moved toward the door and opened it. We moved down the hall, and Miss O'Meara opened the door that led into room 7, holding it for me to enter. Miss Cook looked up with surprise as Miss O'Meara and I joined her at the head of the class. They melded together again, transforming into the two-headed beast. O'Meara's head spoke first. "Miss Cook, I thought you would like to share the good news with your class. Our Maureen has made the newspapers for her acting." Cook's head joined in. "Yes, I heard that she had," she said coldly. "How wonderful for you." O'Meara's head continued. "I've been trying to coax Maureen to share what she did to win." Cook's head picked up fast on where this was going. "Yeeeees. Wouldn't that be fun? Please, Maureen, do perform for the class. We would all love to see what you did to win." I remained silent, unwilling to give an inch. As far as I was concerned, this was a battle between good and evil. "Just give us a little sample," Cook's head went on, "of that enormous talent you must have." O'Meara's head began to laugh and Cook's soon followed. Then the entire class joined in.

I stood there in front of the class with my arms folded, lower lip sticking out, looking at them all with defiant eyes. I was deeply, deeply hurt by their behavior but determined not to show it. Instead, I made a promise to myself. I swore that those two old biddies, that two-headed beast, would never beat me. I would win. I would stand up straight and take it all on the chin. I wouldn't let them or anyone else ever knock me down again.

Just you wait, I promised them in my head. I'm going to become the most famous actress in the world and one day you both are going to boast to everyone you know that I was in your class. Then I'm going to tell the entire world how deeply you hurt me.

That day, I swore I'd keep my promise. If need be, I'd lick the world. And what a big world it proved to be.

Excerpted from Tis Herself by Maureen O'Hara and John Nicoletti. Copyright 2004, Simon & Schuster .

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