« Waylaid ... | Home | Chapter 10 ... in progress »

November 21, 2004

Chapter 9 ... in progress

Barbara put the last bag in the trunk and shut it firmly. She turned to look at the farmhouse. She still didn't feel as though her work here was done but she really had no choice. Her extra time was up and she had no more days off to give Katelyn. Besides, her supervisor needed her in Norfolk. There was a Gulf War veteran there that had been on the waiting list and that was her district.

Barbara walked around the car, hoping Katelyn would come out to say goodbye. They had unfinished business but Barbara didn't want to preach. Almost as if she had read her mind, Katelyn stepped out the front door. Barbara walked back, sitting on the front steps, and Katelyn joined her.

"So," Barbara started, not sure how she was going to tell Katelyn everything she needed to tell her. "what are you going to do now?"

"I'm not sure. I have to call Sydney."

"You haven't yet?" Barbara didn't want her to feel guilty but it had been almost two weeks since the last time Katelyn had talked to Sydney.

"No, I was waiting for ... well, I don't know what I was waiting for." Katelyn confessed. She had been avoiding calling Sydney, not sure whether or not she was ready to go back to work. She knew she needed to go back but she knew she would just be avoiding her problems, just like she always had.

"Katelyn," Barbara started slowly, not sure how Katelyn was going to take what she had to tell her. "I'm not sure going back to work right now is a good idea."

"Why not? I haven't had a panic attack for a couple of days. I can request that I work close to home until all of the legal stuff is cleared up. By then, I should be fine." Katelyn thought that maybe if she told herself this enough, she might finally begin to believe it. The truth was that she was scared to go back to work, scared to trust herself to even take care of the simplest things, but she couldn't tell anyone that, not even Barbara.

Barbara sighed. "I don't think you realize what is happening to you. Obviously, your body is trying to tell you something. Your panic attacks have a purpose; you just may not know what that purpose is yet."

"So tell me, Barbara. Since I don't know and you obviously do? What purpose could they possibly have?" She was trying not to get upset but this was frustrating, these riddles, this hinting around. She just wanted answers.

Barbara took a deep breath before explaining, this time in a simpler way. "Panic attacks come with all different symptoms. Yours almost paralyze you, right?"

"Yes, you know I can barely move. My arms, my feet. It's as if something is holding me in place, not letting me move." Katelyn shuddered. She hater that feeling, hated feeling out of control, especially of her own body.

"Think about it. What good would it be if you can barely move?" Barbara wasn't trying to be difficult, she just knew that Katelyn wouldn't hear it if it came from her. She needed to figure this out for herself.

"Well, it wouldn't be good in any case, unless ... unless I was about to hurt myself. " Barbara just looked at Katelyn as she said it, letting the words sink in. She really didn't think that Kate would hurt herself but the mind was an amazing thing.

Katelyn knew it made sense but she didn't want to hurt herself, at least not that she knew about. Then again, with her family history, she never knew. Maybe her mother had meant to kill herself. Maybe her father had gotten too drunk to kill himself. Maybe this was all just coming out now. Holy shit, I'm losing my mind.

Barbara saw the panic before Katelyn recognized it and wrapped her arm around Katelyn's stiff shoulders, talking to her softly, reminding her to breathe. Over the past two weeks, the attacks had lessened but they were still there, still out of her control, still sneaking up on her. The only day she hadn't had one was the day of the funeral and that was probably because she had so much valium in her that a bomb could have gone off next to her and she would have laughed.

Despite Katelyn being drugged, it had been a good funeral, a good turnout. Big Jack was obviously well respected in this tiny community.

His service was in a non-denominational church near their house since there were no catholic churches to be had in Enfield. Big Jack hadn't attended church often but, on holidays, that was the church he went to. Chaplain Daniels had been a good friend to the McKennas since he had served with the other McKenna boys in Europe. After the war, he had come to the farm to talk to the family, to tell them what he knew of their sons, to comfort them in their loss. Originally from Rocky Mount, he had been pleased to find other young men from his area half a world away. When the McKenna boys were killed, he lost his two best friends. After meeting the family and spending some times in Enfield, he decided that it would be the perfect place for a non-denominational church so he packed his bags and moved into an abandoned Baptist church. Over the years, he had been like a son to Maureen and a big brother to Katelyn's father. She even called him Uncle Ted when he came for Sunday dinner.

The chaplain talked about Big Jack's strength, his courage in taking over the farm at 14, his resolve to care for his mother, his great love for his wife and his daughter. He looked at Katelyn as he said this and noticed that she was looking at her hands as if she had just discovered they were at the ends of her arms. He hoped Katelyn was listening. He knew Big Jack had tried to do his best raising his girl on his own but he also know that the two of them had practically been estranged for the past 20 or so years. It wasn't that Big Jack didn't love Katelyn. Ted could see the pain in his eyes every time he talked about Katelyn. He just didn't know how to tell her how much he needed her. Asking for help never came easy to Big Jack.

After the service, Katelyn had remained in the front pew until most everyone was gone, her head bowed, her hair and large sunglasses covering the bruise on the side of her face. Barbara had tried to wait until just about everyone was gone to take her out, not wanting them to see how weak she was, but there were a few people that had traveled a long way to be there for Katelyn. One was her boyfriend, Michael. Barbara had gotten a bad feeling about him the moment he shook her hand. HE was fake, she could tell just from the way he smiled, a bit too broadly, a bit too long. He hugged Katelyn and seemed upset when she didn't hug him back, when she pulled away a bit to stand closer to Barbara. He was there for show and Katelyn embarrassed him by doing that. She saw his eyes flash a warning to Katelyn and he held her hands, telling her it was okay, that he understood how confused she was. After all, she had been through so much, he said, as if he understood.

A tall, thin woman in a dark pantsuit strode over to Katelyn at that moment, wedging herself between Michael and Katelyn, and rescued her from his condescension. She pulled Katelyn to her and introduced herself to Barbara as "Sydney, Sydney Powers". Barbara knew that name. She was the boss, the one Katelyn had been trying to explain why she had to spend all this time here to. Sydney had looked at Katelyn's face but hadn't asked about the bruise. Before she left, she told Barbara to take care of her and to have her call the office as soon as she knew when she could come back to work. Then she looped her arm in Michael's and dragged him away from Katelyn as Katelyn lowered herself back onto the pew, exhausted. Barbara liked Sydney.

All this time, Barbara had noticed a young man standing off to the side, watching Katelyn. He had a shaved head, a goatee and a very kind face. Barbara guessed that this was Bernie from the book store even before he came over to introduce himself. Katelyn visibly brightened when he sat down next to her and, despite the drugs, she seemed revitalized as they talked. He hooked his fingers through her fingers and let their hands dangle over the edge of the pew, their foreheads bent together as they talked. Barbara gave them some privacy, maintaining her distance but always watching. Katelyn was in love with Bernie and she didn't even know it yet. Maybe this was just what she needed.

The weeks after the funeral had been weeks of victories and backslides. Barbara tried to convince Katelyn that she needed to talk to someone, a counselor, anyone, but Katelyn refused. She insisted that this was just temporary and that she didn't need a shrink. Barbara looked over at Katelyn, whose eyes were filled with tears, and hoped that she would see that she did need some help.

"Katelyn, before I go, I think we should talk about something else."

"Geez, Barb, you make it sound like it's the end of the world. What is it?" Katelyn wasn't sure how much more she could take. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her cigarettes, offering one to Barbara. She felt that whatever was coming was going to be more than she wanted to hear, more than she was ready for, and she needed a cigarette to face it.

"Katelyn, I know you and your father had a hard time getting along." Barbara started.

"Oh, could you tell?" Katelyn smirked.

"Yeah just a little." Barbara smiled at her friend gently. "Listen. I know you think your father didn't love you, that he didn't understand you. I think you should know that we talked quite a bit when you weren't around. He told me some things about you, some things that may surprise you."

"Okay, now I'm nervous. What did he say? And why didn't he tell me?" Not only did he not talk to her but he talked about her to a stranger? He really was a piece of work.

Barbara saw how the thought of her father talking about her had upset her friend but she knew she had to help her see what she had seen. "Well, Katelyn, for one thing, he couldn't talk to you. It wasn't that you wouldn't listen, which you probably would have. It was that he didn't know how to talk to you anymore. Maybe he never did."

"Am I that hard to get along with?"

"Well, Katelyn, you have to admit that you don't always say what's on your mind. You tend to clam up, hold things in when things get tough. You're just used to handling things on your own and not asking for help. I get the feeling that comes from being home alone here quite a lot when you were growing up?"

"Yeah, well, I had to do quite a lot for myself, you know." Katelyn thought being independent was a good thing but Barbara had a point. She did have a hard time asking for help or admitting that she didn't know something.

"I know Katelyn, and independence is not a bad thing. Sometimes, though, you have to let people in."

"But my father never wanted in, Barb." Katelyn remembered many times sitting with her father over the past few months in total silence. It was as though he had nothing to say to her, nothing he wanted to say to her. She had never felt as alone as when she was sitting right next to her father and he wouldn't say a word.

"Yes he did, Kate. He had so much to tell you, so many things about your mother, so much about the farm. So much about himself, his parents, so much history he wanted to make sure that you knew about. He just didn't know how to start ... or if you even cared."

"Of course I cared." protested Katelyn. "I wouldn't have come back here if I didn't."

"And he knew that, Katelyn. But I think he felt you came back only because you had to, that you really didn't want to be here. He thought you wouldn't have ever come back if he hadn't been dying."

Katelyn thought about that. She was probably right. She had been going on with her life, hardly thinking about her father except for holidays. She lived as though she had no family, no history, traveling wherever her job took her, enjoying the fact that she didn't have to call anyone or explain her silence. As a matter of fact, until she met Michael, she hadn't even dated anyone. She had been far too busy trying to get her career going for that.

Katelyn leaned against Barbara. The two had become close friends over the past months and Katelyn hated to lose her. She figured this was juts a job to her, though, an as soon as she drove down that driveway, the two women would never talk again. Barbara had other plans, though.

"Katelyn, I want you to promise me something," she asked once she saw that Katelyn was back in control of herself again.

"Anything," said Katelyn, meaning it. She would do anything for her friend.

"Keep in touch. I know you think this was just a job for me but it wasn't." Barbara handed Katelyn a card with her work information of the front and her personal information written on the back. "Email works but, if you need me, call and I'll be there. Promise?"

"You bet. I don't know how to thank you, girl." Katelyn was trying hard not to cry but not doing a very good job of it.

"Just keep your promise ... and take care of you." Barbara stood up to go and Katelyn got up with her to walk her to the car. The two friends hugged for a long minute before Barbara finally pulled away and climbed in her car.

Katelyn sat on the porch swing, watching Barbara drive away, wanting to follow her. This must be what limbo feels like, she thought. I can't go home. I can't stay here. I have no place to go, really. This porch is no longer mine. His land, my land, our land, is almost gone. Oh, how he father must have hated her for not having stayed here, taken over, saved it all. How could she have? This place was killing her, suffocating in its isolation and now, just when she gets her wish to be able to leave it for good, she feels torn, suddenly realizing what this place meant, how important it had been to her family.

About this Entry

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

Waylaid ... was the previous entry in this blog.

Chapter 10 ... in progress is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.