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November 21, 2004

Chapter 10 ... in progress

The call had come just as Katelyn was sitting down to dinner. She knew the lawyers would be calling her, she just didn't know how long after the body was in the ground that the vultures would be swooping in. This particular vulture identified himself as William Davis of the Davis, Davis and Clayton legal firm. Katelyn recognized his name as one of the jocks from her graduating class, remembering that his father had been a lawyer. Like father like son, she thought wryly, but she really wasn't in the mood to spend any time on familiarities. It was apparent this was a business call.

"I have your father's will here ready to read, Miss McKenna, along with some other paperwork that we need to discuss. Could you come down to my office tomorrow?"

Katelyn felt a wave of nausea wash over here. She hated this, all of this. She just wanted it over. "Sure, what time do you want me there?"

"How about just after lunch, about 1?"

"That will work. I'll see you then."

Katelyn didn't know what to expect from this meeting. She knew her father had drawn up a will a long time ago and that everything was supposed to be hers, but then what? She had very little experience with legal matters, preferring to leave any legal matters to the team that worked for the Post. Then again, the only legal things she had ever had to worry about was protecting her photographs with her copyright and making sure she had the proper releases from subjects before she publish photographs. For the most part, that was all taken care of without Katelyn having to think twice about it so, needless to say, this meeting with a lawyer, made her more than slightly nervous.

After dinner, Katelyn sat in the porch swing until the sun was almost set, watching the colors shift on the undersides of the thin scraps of clouds that skittered across the sky. She had to drive tomorrow, something she hadn't done for 2 weeks. The prospect both excited and scared her. What if she had a panic attack while she was driving? It wasn't outrageous ... she was already feeling tension in her shoulders just from thinking about it.

She jammed her hands in her pockets to keep them from tensing up and felt her phone. Bernie. She should call him, see how he is. He had called a few times since the funeral but Katelyn hadn't had a chance to see him for weeks and now, right now, she needed to hear his voice. She dialed, holding her breath, until he answered.

Bernie had just gotten in from work and, as usual, he headed straight for his desk so that he could check his email. He was hoping Katelyn would try to get in touch with him. He was about at the end of his rope, figuring that she had come to her senses and given up on him. Now that her father was dead, she was going back home, back to her glamorous life, It was clear she wouldn't have time for a small time, geeky bookstore owner that spent far too much free time at his computer, supplementing the social life he didn't have on message boards and in chat rooms. When the phone rang, he jumped, then laughed at himself. Probably just Steve, trying to call in sick. When he picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID, he couldn't answer it fast enough.

"Hey!" he said breathlessly.

"Hey, yourself. Guess who?" Katelyn hoped he knew who it was.

"Hmm ..." he drawled, glad for the chance to tease her, hoping to make her smile. "Let's see, who could it be ... I do have women calling me all the time, after all ... "

"Ha ha." She said sarcastically, realizing he was teasing. Yes, this was just what she needed.

"How are you, Kate?"

"I'm okay, Bernie. You?"

"Well, I've been buried under holiday merchandise, I haven't seen the light of day for the past week, and I've missed talking to you, but, other than that, I'm good."

Katelyn's breath caught. He did miss her. She wasn't sure what to do with that right now but, for the moment, it felt good to just hold onto it for herself. She didn't feel quite so alone.

"Barbara left today."

"You okay with that?"

"Yeah, well, I don't have much choice, really. It was time for her to go. She has a job to get to. "

"And what about you, Kate?"

Katelyn sighed. Her immediate reaction was to tell him not to worry about her, she would be fine, but she wasn't sure that was the truth. Above all, she had always told Bernie the truth and didn't want to shut him out now. "I ... I don't know, Bernie. Seriously, the past few weeks I've been living day to day and now ... I really don't know what to do. I do have a meeting with my father's lawyer tomorrow, though, so I do know I'm doing that. Afterwards ... well I guess what he tells me will have a big influence on what I'll do."

Bernie hadn't realized he was holding his breath until Katelyn finished talking. His breath came out as a big sigh and, truly, Bernie felt like someone was letting the air out of him. He didn't know how to say it but suddenly he realized that he wished he had an influence on her. He wanted to tell her not to leave.

"Where is the lawyer's office?" he asked, getting back to a safe topic.

"Actually, the office is in downtown Enfield, but I was thinking of taking a drive out there tomorrow to see you, if that's okay."

Bernie could hardly keep the excitement out of his voice. "If that's okay?? Kate, what do you think?"

"I was hoping that would be your answer. I may wait to come by after the lawyer. If I come in the morning, I may never want to leave."

Bernie smiled. That was a good sign. "I'll have coffee on. Cecil will be happy."

Katelyn laughed. "Good, I've missed him. See you tomorrow, then."

She felt infinitely better after talking to him. Almost strong enough to face the other calls she had to make. She needed to talk to Sydney. It had been a week since she had checked in and she had no idea if she even had a job anymore. Hiding her head in the sand wasn't going to get her anywhere, though. It was time for her to get back to her life and decide what she was going to do.

Katelyn looked at her phone for the time. It was only 6:30, chances were pretty good that Sydney would still be in the office. No time like the present, let's get this over with, she thought as she lit a cigarette. After she punched in the number, the after hours phone system picked up and Katelyn circumvented it by using Sydney's extension.

In her office, Sydney had the Holiday Guide mockup spread from one end of her desk to the other. She held her red marker, the 'pen of death' as the copy editor liked to joke, like a dagger in her right hand and a cup of coffee in her left hand. This was the final edit and Sydney didn't trust anyone else to do it, not with the amount of advertising money that was riding on it. She ignored the phone ringing, figured her secretary would pick it up. It wasn't until the third ring that she realized that her secretary had told her that she was gone for the night about an hour ago and she was the only one left in the office. Agitated, she put her coffee mug on the ad that she was working on to save her place and punched the button for speaker phone with the back end of the pen.

"This is Sydney Powers."

"Oh hi, Sydney, this is Katelyn. I'm glad I caught you in the office!"

Sydney stood up straight, putting the cover on the pen and picked up the phone. This was not a conversation she should have on speaker phone. "Katelyn, hi, sorry I was just editing the Holiday Guide. I'm glad you called, actually. We need to talk."

"I know we do, Syd. I'm sorry I didn't call you earlier but the past couple of weeks have been very rough. I took a chance tonight, knowing that the guide keeps you there late most nights at this time of year."

She was making small talk now, stalling, and Sydney just didn't have the time for that. She decided to do what she did best and just go in head first.

"Talk to me, Katelyn. Where are you and what are you doing?" It wasn't like Katelyn to not return phone calls and, as her friend, Sydney was genuinely worried about her state of mind. AS her boss, though, she was more than a little pissed to have been jeft hanging.

Katelyn took a deep drag of her cigarette. "Well, Syd, honestly, the past few weeks are a bit hazy for me. When I saw you at the funeral, I was pretty doped up."

"You know, I thought something was wrong. You seemed too relaxed for someone that had just gone through what you went through. And that black eye, I never did get to ask you about that."

"Oh that. Well, it seems right after I left you that message about my dad dying, I had a bit of a breakdown. I don't remember too much of it but I ended up with a concussion after the nurse had to take me down."

"Oh, Kate ... I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"No, I know, Syd. Don't worry, I didn't tell anyone. The last thing I need is for people at work to think I'm a loose cannon. Seriously, it was a temporary thing. A few dozen panic attacks, a couple of weeks in bed, and I'm feeling much better. My nurse left this morning, giving me a clean bill of health. She said I'm ready to get back to work as soon as you'll have me." That last part was a lie, but Katelyn wasn't about to tell her that the only reason Barbara left was that her job had reassigned her.

"About that, Kate.", said Sydney slowly. She hated this part of her job more than anything else, even these damn Holiday Guides. "I'm sorry, girl, but I had to make a decision. It has nothing to do with your work, you know I think you are the best photographer on the east coast and no one can ever take your place. This is a business, though. The news doesn't wait ... and neither could we."

"So ..." Katelyn said, feeling the numbness creeping through her chest, her Irish temper rising. "Who got my job?"

"You know Brooks was next in line, Kate."

"Yeah, I also know that Brooks is an alcoholic asshole that is undependable but hey, if that's who you want for your senior photographer, good luck." Katelyn was hurt but, more than that, she was angry. Angry at Brooks for taking her place, angry at Sydney for not waiting for her, angry at her father for screwing up her life. Sydney was supposed to be her friend and now, on the heels of losing her father and losing Michael, she had just lost her job. This was not going well.

"Kate, I know you're upset. I hope this won't affect our friendship. This was not an easy decision for me."

Katelyn took a deep breath, tried to slow her pacing, her heartbeat. "I know, Syd. I'm sorry. I just ... I don't know what I'm going to do if I'm not working for the Post. It's been my life for the past 12 years." She tried to hold the tears back but she wasn't doing a very good job of it.

"Katelyn, listen. You have nothing to worry about, girl. You've done enough freelance and won enough awards to be a valuable commodity out there. Use me as a reference; I'll do everything I can to help. We can even say you resigned, that doesn't matter. You gave the paper its heart. It won't be the same without you." Oh great, now I'm crying too. Damn you, Kate.

"Syd, I'm gonna go. We can't just sit here crying. You've got work to do and I have decisions to make." Katelyn realized she sounded harsh and added "I don't blame you, Syd. You're just doing your job. It's just a lot to deal with at once."

"Kate, if there is anything I can do for you, anything at all, just call."

"I will, Syd. Promise." Katelyn hung up and dropped her cigarette on the ground, grinding it out in the grass. Okay, that sucked. What else can happen?

Katelyn jumped as her phone rang. She thought it might be Syd calling back, telling her it was all a bad joke, until she looked at the phone number. It was Michael, calling from the house. Great, exactly what I don't need. Here come the sharks in for the kill.

"Hello?" she barked into the phone.

"Kate, hi, don't hang up!" Michael blurted, trying to get her to listen to him just one more time.

"Michael, whatever would give you the idea that I would hang up on you?" Katelyn asked in mock innocence. This was one of their games, too. Sarcasm. A slick way to say what you are really feeling without really saying it. Passive aggression at its best.

"Hey, I know what you're like when you're mad, Katie." The familiarity in his voice, the girlish nickname, made her skin crawl. He wanted something, Katelyn could feel it. "So, how are you doing?"

"What do you want Michael? And why are you at the house?" Her suspicions had immediately gone up when she noticed the phone number but, even worse, on some level she had felt hopeful, like they might have a chance. Katelyn tried to steel herself for whatever he was going to throw at her while guarding her feelings.

"Katie, I came by to pick up the last of my stuff and ... well ... I just needed to call you. I miss you. Is that a crime?"

Oh, this was going to be good. He didn't act petulant and hurt unless he was about to really spin a big one. Well, two can play at that game. "No, Michael, it's not a crime, not at all. As a matter of fact, I've been thinking about you quite a lot lately too." Technically, this was not a lie. She had been thinking about him. She just didn't tell him WHAT she was thinking about him.

"Really?" He sounded surprised, his interest peaked. "How are things going there? Any idea when you are coming back?" Maybe there was still a chance he could get what he wanted out of this.

"Well, I've got a meeting with dad's lawyer tomorrow to read the will and do some paperwork. Then, I suppose, I'll be coming home to take care of things from there, calling real estate agents and such." Katelyn had a hunch that the reason he was fishing was about money. He knew she was the sole heir to McKenna Farm and he had often mentioned how lucky he would be to marry rich. It had been a long running joke but Katelyn knew there was some truth to it.

"Now, don't you let those lawyers talk you into signing anything without your own lawyers looking it over. You know how you get when it comes to that stuff. You might want me to look at it, too. Do you want me to come down?"

There it was, the reason he was calling. He wanted to know how much she was getting. He was slick, too, putting her down and insinuating that she couldn't do this by herself. Subtle manipulation, his specialty. She didn't know why she hadn't seen it before, how slick he had been all these years, making her rely on him when. Really, he was the one that relied on her. He would be nothing with Katelyn. Wasn't she the one that got him his job? Wasn't she the one that talked to Sydney whenever he screwed up? Wasn't she the one that supported both of them while he had been taking advantage of her good nature and need to please? Maybe she had used him, too, but only to convince herself that she wasn't worth better.

"Michael, I think I can handle it. You take care of things there, let me take care of things here, and I'll be home soon. We'll talk face to face then, settle all this." I want to see your face when I tell you to go fuck yourself.

"Alright, Katie, if you think that's the best thing. Call me after your appointment tomorrow, let me know how it went. Then we'll make plans for your homecoming. I miss you."

Katelyn felt like gagging. "Me too. I'll call tomorrow." Just a few more days and I'll be able to kick his ass to the curb.

She wondered if he knew about her losing her job. Something like that had to have traveled around the office, especially with Brooks the Braggart. Maybe he was too self-absorbed to notice or maybe everyone had assumed he knew. In any case, she hadn't told him. She didn't want him to bolt before she got home and had a chance to throw him out for herself.

After hanging up, Katelyn had more nervous energy that she knew what to do with. She had to get her resume together, get her stuff in order here, get ready to go home. She went into the hollow house and went upstairs, planning to pack her things.

On her way up, she avoided looking at her pictures that lined the halls. Life without the Post. She had always dreamed of working for her favorite big time newspaper, since she had her first picture published in the school newspaper. She was good. Real good. She didn't deserve to lose her job, not to a hack like Brooks. Whenever he was assigned to cover a story, he always had an excuse why something was out of focus, overexposed, out of frame. He was just like Michael, only he wasn't making this stuff up. He really did screw things up.

Brooks had been trying to move out of human interest for years but he would have had to prove himself first ... or someone would have had to leave. He was an alcoholic and often showed up to work late, bragging about how late he had been out the night before, how little sleep he had gotten, how many bitches he had picked up. That was what he called women. Such an ignorant pig. The only thing that kept him there was the fact that his father was on the board of directors of Cox Communications, the parent company of the Washington Post, and he had a lot of strings he could pull. It must have killed Sydney to have given him the job but she really had no choice. The whole paper will suffer for his screw ups now, not just the human interest page.

Katelyn was getting far too upset now to be able to get much done so she decided she needed to relax rather than work. She went back downstairs to pour herself a tumbler of Bushmills, made sure all the doors were locked and carried it and herself back upstairs. In her room, she turned on her stereo, turning her CD player onto shuffle and turning the volume up. She undressed in the bedroom and walked naked to the bathroom, carrying her drink with her, singing along to Garbage as she pulled out towels. This was what she needed, to just let it out, let some steam off so she could focus better.

"I used to adore you
I couldn't control you
There was nothing that I wouldn't do
To keep myself around and close to you"

She looked into the medicine cabinet and saw the valium Barbara had given her so that she could relax and sleep those days after her father's death. It had gotten her through the funeral, maybe it would get her through this. I'll take one and, by the time I get out of the shower, I should be just about ready to settle in, maybe get some work done. She washed it down with a swig of whiskey, finally feeling like a McKenna. Here's to you, Dad.

Katelyn stepped into the shower, making sure it wasn't too hot first. The last thing she needed was to burn herself again. She sat her drink on the edge of the tub, outside the curtain, and began washing the defeat away. She could already feel the Bushmills working in her chest, warming her, and she had the sensation that it was all that stood between her and a panic attack. After she finished soaping herself, she reached for her glass to take another sip. It slipped out of her hand and shattered in the tub, shards bouncing off the cast iron tub, pinpricks on her legs that immediately started to bleed. Fuck, I've done it again.

Katelyn couldn't avoid stepping on the glass that covered the bottom of the tub. There was no way for her to see it against the white cast iron. She was starting to feel a little fuzzy around the edges, a combination of the whiskey and the valium, as she slowly slid her foot across the bottom of the tub, hoping to push aside any glass without lodging it in her skin. She teetered a bit and tried to balance herself, bringing her right foot down heavily, driving a large piece into her heel. She felt something like pain and sat down heavily on the edge of the tub. Pitying herself, Katelyn started to cry, watching the blood from her foot stream and swirl down the drain. I can't even take a shower by myself anymore. Who was I kidding, thinking I could go back to work?

She reached for a small hand towel from the ring next to the tub and dropped it on the floor. Carefully, she swung her feet over the edge of the tub so that the towel caught and cushioned her foot, absorbing the blood. She could feel the glass in her foot catch of the loops of the terrycloth towel and realized the glass was still in her foot. Using the sink for balance, she pulled herself up so that she could stand on her left foot and lean against the sink. She opened the medicine cabinet over the sink and took out a pair of tweezers and some gauze. Gripping the edge of the sink again, she lowered herself until she was sitting on the closed seat of the toilet. She brought her right foot up into her lap, heel up, and found a piece of glass approximately 2 inches long and half an inch across poking out of her heel. The sight made her nauseous but she knew she would have to pull it out. She gripped it between her fingers and, noticing the way it had gone in, she pulled it out in the opposite direction. Her food bled more so she wrapped it in the towel she had already ruined and waited for a few minutes, leaning her head against the tile wall. The room was tilting; whether it was the sight of her own blood, the pain or the combination of valium and whiskey, Katelyn couldn't tell.

Once Katelyn had steadied herself, she took the towel off her foot, taping gauze to her heel. She stood, damp and shivering, in the cooling bathroom and began dressing, leaning against the wall for balance. Whatever effect the valium was having had been tempered by having to concentrate enough to take the glass out of her foot but Katelyn was still pretty fuzzy. When she had finished dressing, she limped down the hall to her room. She would clean out the tub tomorrow. With her luck, she would fall in and split her head open.

Katelyn turned down her music just a bit and sat to check her email. Not much new, just a couple of pieces of junk, a chain letter about Saint Theresa from someone at work who apparently didn't know she had been fired, and a note from Bernie. She clicked on the subject to read it.

Dear Katelyn,
Cecil has a favor to ask you. He wants to know if you would be interested in joining me for dinner after work tomorrow. Apparently, he thinks I have too much time on my hands. He would be indebted to you forever if you would relieve him of his misery (that would be me).

Katelyn smiled. She wanted to call Bernie but she was pretty sure she would end up saying something she might regret, something about her feelings for him, so she left her phone where it was and decided to wait until morning to answer his email.

Sleeping with ghosts / It's such a lonely experience
The stars are out tonight / Only they can hear you breathing

By the time Katelyn woke up the next morning, the sun was already streaming in her room. She looked across the room at the clock. 10:45? What the hell had happened? She never slept this late. She must be getting lazy here. Good thing I'm unemployed, she thought wryly, or else I would lose my job.

She swung her legs out of bed and cried out as her right foot touched the floor. She had totally forgotten the glass. She didn't have time for this. She had to get ready to go ser the lawyer and then Bernie. Wait, dinner. He had asked her out to dinner, too. Maybe she would have time to come back here to change? She would rather invite him back here for dinner but goodness knows what she would make. First thing she had to do, though, was answer his email.

She booted up her computer and opened her email client. She clicked on his email and hit reply, rereading what he had written. It's too early to be clever but she would try.

Dear Bernie,
Please let Cecil know that I consider it my civic duty to have dinner with you. As a matter of fact, don't tell him I told you this, but I was going to ask you to have dinner with me tonight. Let's decide where when we see each other. Much will depend on my meeting. Doesn't everything?

That would have to do, she thought as she clicked send. She shut down her computer again and got up to get herself ready.

Half an hour later she was dressed in a conservative outfit and had pulled her face together. Normally a dusting of powder, mascara and lip gloss was all she needed but today, she added blush. She looked pale, for some reason. She carefully walked downstairs, realizing she would have to put on sneakers to be able to walk. Oh well, no one cared about her feet.

She had to leave by 12:30 to make it on time to the lawyer's office but Katelyn needed to get out of this house, to make sure she could drive safely. As soon as she had put on her coat and locked up, she went outside to sit on the porch, pulling her cigarettes out of her pocket and lighting one. She looked out over the ruined fields, wondering what she was going to do with this place. It hadn't occurred to her before that she might want to live here once her father was dead but something had changed for her over the past few weeks. She felt more at home here, more welcome. Maybe that was because her father was dead. But Barbara had said that he did want her here. She'll never know the truth of him, though, even if she tried to figure him out for the rest of her life. She would never be able to tell whether or not he had missed her all these years, if he cried when she didn't call him on any day other than his birthday or Father's Day.

She stubbed out her cigarette as she opened her car door and climbed in. She felt like an alien here, sitting behind the wheel, not recognizing the buttons and knobs. It had been so long since she had been allowed to drive that it made her nervous but she kept telling herself that it would be okay once she got the car going, once she turned on the ignition. Just turn the key, Katelyn, she told herself. Don't let it win.

She pushed the key into the ignition slot and turned it. There, that wasn't so bad. She let the car warm up while she looked for good driving music. She wanted something relaxing, something that wouldn't' get her crying. Counting Crows. That might do it. She made sure, twice, that she was buckled in and that all the gauges were reading correctly before she started to drive.

Once she got going, she began to relax into the drive, noticing how the countryside looked very different from the last time she had driven. The deciduous trees were absolutely bare now, set off against the cedars and the pines that grew in the swampy areas along the road to the highway. The kudzu had been killed by a hard frost and the vines they left behind hung from the trees along the roadside like enormous clumps of Spanish Moss. Katelyn found she was relaxing, breathing easier as she drove; she was coming back into herself. I had forgotten how much I like to drive. It was silly for me to be scared. She turned up the volume on her CD player. She had a good feeling about today.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on November 21, 2004 8:56 AM.

Chapter 9 ... in progress was the previous entry in this blog.

Chapter 11 ... in progress is the next entry in this blog.

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