Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 41: Katie and Anne Reunite!

Welcome to the second Guest-Written Chapter! This one was written by my sister, Keri! I am so happy that Keri was the one to write the sister reunion scene....(who can guess what she mined from her real life?? HINT: it's not homelessness, alcholism, or dog walking....)

“Hi,” said Katie, smiling. Katie's heart pounded in her chest. It really was Anne. The dogs wrapped themselves around Anne's feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog Katie was holding barked happily at the others, like long-lost friends. Katie looked at her sister, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.

“I have to go,” Anne said, stumbling over the dog leashes; she was trying to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”

“Anne,” Katie called. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”

Katie looked anxiously at Anne, who had turned her back and seemed to be talking to the dogs while untangling the leashes.  Katie tried again. "Anne,  I really need to talk to you!"

Slowly, Anne turned around. “Katie?"

Katie reached out towards Anne. Maybe if I touch her, the distance will melt away.  Instead, Anne backed up, almost falling over the dogs, not looking Katie in the eyes, just sort of skimming the ground. Katie noticed that Anne's hair actually seemed brushed and her clothes, while not the fashion-forward choices her sister used to make, looked clean, even if a little worn.
Katie tried again. "I can’t believe you're walking dogs. You always hated them, ever since Odie ate your favourite Chuck Taylors."

Anne smiled a smile of recognition and Katie’s heart leapt a little bit -- maybe thoughts of their uncle’s dog might be neutral enough to start a conversation?

Her heart pounding, Katie asked “Anne, um, do you want to talk? I mean go inside," she said, pointing to the gallery. "We can sit down for a bit."

Anne shook her head and Katie almost cried out in frustration. But then Anne, almost in a whisper, said, "Can I take the dogs back first?"

Katie, not sure if she heard correctly, decided that nodding might be the right way to go here. She quietly asked, "Do you want me to come with you?"

 Anne looked at her, for the first time meeting her gaze, and said:  "No. I will come back."

No way, Katie thought. She didn't want to lose Anne again.  Instead she heard herself saying “Sure, I will go in and make us some tea.”

Anne nodded and then turned, murmuring something to the dogs as they disappeared around a corner. 
Katie let out a deep breath, wondering if she had been breathing at all. She felt her heart racing, and turned to Charlie, Mr Ambrose's dog.  "What did I do?" she wailed.  "I just let her go like that?  Do you think she’ll come back?” 

Charlie woofed, and Katie decided that maybe Anne had developed dog-whisperer powers during her months on streets,  and the dog was telling her not to worry. Sure, that's it, Katie, your sister talks to animals now, ha!  And so do you...
Katie went inside the gallery and plugged in the kettle, thankful that Eoin's gallery-owner friend had trusted her with his space. Immediately she pulled out her cellphone, and turned to Charlie. "Should I call my mum or should I call Eoin?"

But Charlie just sat there silently this time, so Katie poked at her contact list, wavering between her options. Worrying her mum would be mad that she let Anne go, she called Eoin. 

Eoin picked up on the second ring and Katie, barely letting him say hello, launched straight in.  "Oh my god, Eoin. I found Anne!  She was walking dogs and now I let her go and drop them off.  I'm making a pot of tea and waiting for the kettle to boil and for Anne to come back.  I'm so nervous she'll disappear again, but she seemed like she would come back, she really did, I just trusted my instincts...”

Eoin, grabbing the a moment, said, “Of course she will, Katie. She's your sister," and Katie realized she was glad she picked Eoin to call. Her mother really would have panicked. 

“I'd better go, Eoin. I need to think about what I'm going to say before Anne gets back."

But  Katie couldn’t really think, all she could do was pace back and forth, making patterns in the drywall dust on the floor.  It really is like a watched pot, she laughed to herself, as she waited for the kettle to boil, as she waited for her sister's return.

After what seemed like forever,  Anne peered in the window.  Katie’s heart started beating furiously. She went to open the door. 

Anne looked around and sat on one of the chairs pushed up against the wall.   Katie’s lips were dry and her mouth felt like sandpaper. Suddenly sudden she didn’t know what to do or say.  She just burst into tears. “ I missed you. I love you. I need you, Anne." 

Anne swallowed,  and to Katie it looked like she might cry too.  Instead Anne said, "It isn’t that easy, Katie.  I can’t just come back. There is so much more here than just me walking dogs and not living at home anymore." 

Katie sat down on the floor next to her sister and took her hand.  "Anne, you are sitting here with me and I don't care what else has happened. It doesn't matter, none of it matters."

Anne slid off the chair onto the floor and slowly leaned against Katie.  "What have I done?"  Anne pleaded, almost plaintively.  "I have been walking all over this city, looking at you, and that cute boy who wears weird clothes,  I see Jason and some floozy in the park with Jonah, and my heart breaks,  I even saw mum knitting on the sofa talking to herself. Katie, I have been watching this whole time.  I got clean about 3 months ago with an idea that I would make it back into your lives.  I left you that note, remember - like we used to play in that spy game, leaving messages for each other?  I wasn't sure I was ready but I wanted to do something.  Last year when you and Bobby split up,  I didn't know what to say. Everyone always thought I was perfect, with the perfect job and perfect life, but I was screaming inside, I felt so boring, so lifeless.  I thought having Jonah would make me care about something more, but it didn't, it just made it harder to be perfect.  Then I saw you giving up on your dreams too, so I thought that even though I had ruined my life, maybe you could get yours back-- you were going to be fantastic, Katie, you were- remember, we planned it.  You were going to be an artist and I was going to be a famous lawyer fighting for justice.  Instead I got stuck in the corporate game and lost any idea about who I was and now I lost everything, my son, my house, my sister, my mum…." Tears started rolling down Anne's cheeks and Katie put her arms around her sister, noting that Anne had left Jason off that list.

Maybe this could be fixed, thought Katie. Maybe I can get Anne back the pieces that mean something to her.

"It worked Anne -- your note reminded me of what I used to be and so I made that art project for you. All those paintings.... You were the one that believed in me so I did it for you, no one else.  In the meantime, though, other people saw it all too, and now, I guess I get to say when people ask what I do, I get to say I am an artist, for real- well almost," she said, thinking with pride of her new project at work. "I couldn't have done it without you, Anne. Neither Melissa or Mum believed in me the way you always did." 

Anne smiled, and wiped away the tears. "I'm glad Katie. You deserve to be a superstar."  She slowly got up to leave, brushing the drywall dust from her jeans and tucking her hair behind he ears.  "I better go. Joe will be waiting to share my takings for the day. "

"Wait Anne, you can't go -- I need to take you home. We can start again, with mum and with Jonah- they need you too."

Anne laughed a sad laugh. "Katie, Jason just wants to be free, I don't want to deal with the pain and the anguish or risk upsetting Jonah any more than he already is. It's been enough time already- it's better that they forget about me."

Katie stood tall and grabbed Anne's hand. "Anne, no! I won't have my nephew raised by that loser and his floosy- let's not give up. I'm calling mum and Aunt Angela and getting them to pick us up-- please don't go Anne!"

Charlie, who Katie had forgotten about in the corner, came over and rubbed up against Anne's leg. She bent down to stroke his nose and he gave a little whimper.  "Ok," sighed Anne. "Ok, I'll give it a try-- just one conversation though, and it has to be at my place. "

You decide!

1. Katie's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up and brings Jason
2. Katies's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up with Jonah

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chapter 40: In Which We See Things From Anneʼs Point f View, (Such As It Is)

Because of my crazy-time-consuming project with Fiction Express, I haven't been able to write much about Katie. Luckily, a number of you have volunteered to be pinch-hitters!

First up is Annabelle from Shopping Detox. As Annabelle is no longer filling her days with ill-advised shopping sprees in her effort to live a Frugal Life, she is now able to fill her days with writing. Hooray!

Annabelle has tackled chapter 40 -- she is writing in Katie's sister's voice and I love it I love it I love it! It was such a cool concept and Annabelle did such a great job on it.


My son is Jonah. My husband is Jason. My name is Anne.

You carry a picture around with you, folded so many times that you couldnʼt recognize the faces if you didnʼt know them, if you hadnʼt memorized them. But you have. My husband, Jason. My son, Jonah. You run your thumb over their faces, your hand on the picture in your pocket as you wait in line for breakfast. A ladle full of oatmeal, served unenthusiastically by some bored-looking guy paying off his parking ticket. You donʼt care, itʼs warm and filling. Sticks to your ribs.

You wish for coffee, but there hasnʼt been coffee here in a decade. (Not that you was here a decade ago, but thatʼs what OId Joe told you, back when he was still around.) But there are carafes of tea, strong and hot, warm in your hands in a styrofoam cup.

You get here early, just when they open at 6 a.m. because you have to get to work at 7 and you like to watch the morning show on the wide-screen TV.

Nobody talks to you here. You catch the eye of someone you know - smile and nod. No time for small talk at 6 a.m., not here, where everybody comes but everybody pretends theyʼre not here.

* * *

Chunks of time have been slipping away for so long that youʼre used to it. Keeps things interesting, Dianna said. It does - a few times a day, you forget where you are, why youʼre there, why everyone is yelling at you, why youʼre throwing up.

Throwing up. You threw up every day of your pregnancy with Jonah. They said it was just the first trimester, then the second. By the third, you were still losing weight - Katie rolled her eyes, jealous, like she thought you wanted to be putting your baby at risk, as though you were that vain.

Katie. She looks so different now, grown-up, responsible. She used to be different. You used to be fairies, little girls hiding from the Blitz, building a Barbie city in the basement you wouldnʼt let your parents tidy up.

You were going to be fantastic.

The message - the fairy - is showing up everywhere. A message? Or a mirage?

People are yelling at you again. You run.

* * *

Why am I walking dogs? Itʼs your job. But I hate dogs. You donʼt have to like them to pick up their excrement and let them exercise their legs.

Youʼve always hated dogs. So has your sister, and your mother. Genetic? Nature or nurture? When Otis offered you the job, you laughed at him. Me? Most dogs weigh more than me, theyʼd drag me down the street.

Otis was a friend of Diannaʼs. Dianna had a lot of friends. The house you shared was transient, roommates coming and going so often nobody bothered to claim a room - xcept for you. You craved cleanliness. One of your favourite writers had said every woman should have a room of her own, and you did yours up as nicely as you could. You couldnʼt decorate (what would you use?) but you kept your space tidy, and the others respected it. They should have.

You came home one day to find a stranger lying on your bed - sleeping? Passed out? It was a young man, dark hair, and you thought, Jason? Did you bring Jonah? Whereʼs Jonah?

Of course it wasnʼt him. It was a stranger, reeking of cigarette smoke and body odour, passed out with a can of Pine-Sol next to him. In my bed?

Dianna tried to calm you down, but you were livid. My room! My bed! My things! You havenʼt been back there since. There was a shelter across town where you stay now. They have a curfew, which you despise, but at least you get to sleep in the same bed every night.

Thinking later, youʼre grateful it wasnʼt Jason. You donʼt want to see him here. Why not? Youʼre more yourself than you ever were with him, playing happy wife and mother. Itʼs not because youʼre embarrassed of yourself. You just prefer to keep the two parts of your life separate - before and after. And itʼs hard to keep that division firm when people from before show up in after.

* * *

7 bridesmaids in yellow dresses you know is unflattering but itʼs your day, so they can suck it up. 175 guests at the wedding, mostly work friends, nobody you really know. A make-your-own sundae bar, but youʼre too anxious to eat, later you find out youʼre already pregnant. Honeymoon in Spain, swimming in the ocean, food poisoning, Jason hates spicy food, why did you go there?

* * *

Drinking too much coffee, uncomfortable shoes, painting on lipstick between meetings, skipping meals, Jason mad you went back to work too soon after the baby, not knowing what to do with the baby.
* * *

Otis is your boss now, and your friend. At first, when you met him in the house, he seemed like another one of those do-gooders, missionary types who want to get a taste of “life on the streets,” spend a day or a week there, and never come back again.

“I run a business,” he told you, and your guard is up immediately. Is he a pimp? Youʼve seen enough to know that people would pay money for a body as long as itʼs breathing, no matter if itʼs a middle-aged, grey-haired body with cigarette-stained teeth.

“Dog walking,” he says, and this is when you laugh at him. But heʼs being sincere. He needs more people in the downtown area, “Guaranteed youʼll make more walking dogs in a day than you would panhandling for a week.” You say youʼll try it - show him how wrong he is to put his faith in you.

Every day, you think you wonʼt show up for your assignment, but the force of habit is too strong, drummed into you from a lifetime of never cutting class, being the first to arrive and last to leave at work, and you realize you need this, youʼve missed having a schedule, a routine. On weekends, you canʼt wait for Monday again, for walking, for a reason to get out of bed.

You were going to be fantastic.

There it is again.

You trace your fingers on the words. A coincidence? Or a sign?

* * *

Of course thereʼs the drinking. Things have gotten a lot easier once you stopped struggling, accepted that you needed this, drove into the skid. Most things are easy to put on one side or the other of Before and After - Jason and Jonah are before; Old Joe and Dianna are after. But the drinking has always been there. You partied like everyone else in high school and university and still managed to graduate at the top of your law school class. You got a job with a prestigious firm - Faber-Collinge on Bay Street. You only took three months mat leave when Jonah was born - nothing against babies, but you were still working your way up to partner.

* * *

Jonah, with his chubby cheeks and curly hair.

Jason, the look on his face when you decided to hire a nanny. “If itʼs so important to you, why donʼt  ou leave your job?” you asked him. He didnʼt have an answer even though he was the one who wanted to keep the baby in the first place.

You barely breastfed - you werenʼt producing enough milk. Definitive proof that you werenʼt meant to be a mother. Anyway, it let you get back to drinking sooner - the only way to sleep through the night with a screaming baby in the next room.

* * *

Hereʼs how it works: Otis has given you a territory (like the drug dealers on “The Wire” you thought at the time) - a certain part of downtown Toronto, and the twelve dogs who live there. You smile to yourself as you make your way down King Street West - you used to live here, in a loft. Perfect life, perfect family. Did you ever notice a dogwalker riding the elevator? Probably not. You never noticed anything. And nobody noticed you - at least nothing you didnʼt want them to notice.

* * *

You have apartment keys, like when you were 12 and had a paper route. You know the dogs youʼre supposed to pick up well, you recognize the housekeepers and nannies who let you in and give you the dogs.

Why do people this busy own dogs in the first place? Do they ever see them?

The dogs are often frantic when you come by in the morning, eager for a pee and a run in the park. Today, there is a new dog to pick up at a downtown address. You already have three dogs running along, their leashes braiding together as you make your way down the street. This isnʼt a residential area, must be one of those new developments - where they build apartments in old warehouses or churches.

Art Gallery.

You look at the piece of paper in your right hand (the leashes are in your left), double-checking the address. This is it - does the dog belong to the art gallery owner? You imagine a paint-splattered dog, sleeping in a room filled with art installations. It makes you think of Katie. You were going to be fantastic.

At first you think itʼs your imagination, the woman stepping out of the art gallery with a golden retriever looks like Katie. Of course itʼs not Katie. Sheʼs always hated dogs as much as you do and, even if she had a dog, sheʼd never pay someone else to walk it.

“Hi,” the woman says, smiling. Your heart pounds in your chest. It is Katie. The dogs wrap themselves around your feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog your sister is holding barks happily at the others, like long-lost friends. You sister looks at you, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.

“I have to go,” you say, stumbling over the dog leashes as you try to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”

“Anne,” your sister calls after you. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”

You decide!

1) Katie tells Anne that sheʼs the one who has been painting You were going to be
all over the city.

2) Katie tells Anne that she has a new boyfriend who is super-cute.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chapter 39: In Which Katie Learns Something Unsettling About Her Brother-in-Law

"So you'll let us know if you hear from Anne again?" Katie's mother asked as Katie and Eoin were on their way out the door, a Tupperware full of leftover pasta under his arm. 

"As long as you tell Jason what's going on, and tell him to hold off on the divorce and custody and everything." 

Her mother frowned, and started to say something, but Angela nodded. "We'll talk to him. But we can't guarantee anything."

"As long as you try." Katie hugged her aunt, and her mother. "That's all we can do. We have to keep trying." 

Her mother nodded, and promised to talk to Jason. But as they made their way back to the subway, hands clasped tight, Katie and Eoin couldn't help but worry that once the tearful reunion was over, her mother wouldn't just turn right around and lose faith all over again. 

"Err. Katie. There's someone here to see you." Natasha The Intern's voice was very hesitant over the phone. 

Anne! Katie's heart leaped. "It's your brother in law?" Natasha said. "Jason? He'd like to see you?"

"Right." What did he want? "I'll be right out." 

Katie closed her sketchbook, where she'd been working on some artwork for Rebecca's ad campaign, and went to find Jason.

"Jason!" Katie made her voice bright, cheerful. She was going to pretend this was a social call until he made her think otherwise. "What a nice surprise. Do you want to go get a coffee? There's a little cafe next door." He was sitting in the middle of the lobby's giant sofa, his hands clasped over his khaki-ed knees.

"No, I don't want a coffee." He glanced at Natasha, and stood up.  "Can we go to your office? I'd like to talk with you privately." 

"Oh, I don't have an office. It's an open-concept workspace." 

Jason frowned. "Your mother told me you were some big deal hot-shot now. I would have thought you'd've gotten a door with your promotion, at least."

Katie never could figure out what Anne saw in this guy. She stayed quiet, waiting it out. 

"Fine. We can go downstairs,"  Jason relented; Katie knew she'd be paying for the lattes.

They rode down in the elevator in silence. Katie contemplated asking him about Jonah, her nephew, who she hadn't seen in weeks. She thought he and Eoin might get along quite well, in that they had a shared love of Cheezies and breaking the rules. 

Ten minutes later, Katie and Jason were sitting across from one another with a couple of lattes neither one of them particularly wanted. 

"Okay. So what's going on?" Please please please let it be something good, thought Katie.

"I talked to your mother, Katie. She called me and asked me -- no, told me -- to suspend the divorce proceedings."

"She did?" Katie had asked her mother to contact Jason, to let him know how close they were to finding Anne, but she hadn't really thought she'd do it so soon. (Or at all.)

"She did. She told me that you've looking for Anne. She told me that you think you're 'close to finding her'." Jason did these annoying air quotes. "She told me that I needed to back off on the divorce and the full-custody stuff because Anne is a dog walker." 

Wow. Her mother was totally on board. It was a miracle!

"She told you about Anne's job?"

"It's hardly a job," Jason snorted. "It's what teenaged girls do so they can buy cigarettes and concert tickets." 

"Jason, I don't know why you're so upset about all of this. This is good news."

"No, it isn't. I had your parents on my side, Katie. They were going to write letters of support to the court, testifying that they believed their own daughter was unfit to raise Jonah. And now you're meddling in my business, and you've convinced  your parents to back off!" 

"What? That is not at all what happened." 

"Then you tell me what did happen. How did your parents go from being one hundred percent behind me to totally pulling their support?"

"They are supporting you! They're supporting your marriage to their daughter! They're supporting your wife! They've finally seen sense, they want me to find her, they want her to --" Suddenly Katie stopped, stared at Jason, stared at his stupid navy blue pullover and his stupid gelled hair. "You don't want Anne to come back. You don't want us to find her." Katie felt herself shaking. "You're seeing someone else." 

"What? That's crazy." Jason was turning red. 

"You are. You've got a girlfriend, or something, and you want to marry her, you want to move her in to become Jonah's new mother, and you need Anne out of the picture." Katie, still shaking, stood up, held onto the table for support. "Tell me it's not true." 

But Jason couldn't. He shook his head, he was speaking, but he wasn't denying it, not one bit. Instead he said things like, "It's not like that, the marriage would be over anyway, Anne and I haven't been right for a long time." And, "Sonya has her own kids, it's not like I'm replacing Anne, and she and Jonah really get along great," and "Please don't tell your parents, I don't want them to know, not yet," but Katie wasn't listening, instead she was walking out of the coffee shop and thinking about what she could do to get to Anne fast. No more of this waiting around -- it was time. Clearly Anne wasn't coming to Katie -- Katie had to go to her.

You Decide!

1. Katie heads back to the squatter's house, where she moves in and waits for Anne while living with the homeless.

2. Katie borrows a dog from Mr. Ambrose so that she can arrange for Anne to walk it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chapter 38: In which Katie's Feelings About Her Blossoming Career Very Closely Mirror The Author's, and A Family Supper Is Attended

"Katie is telling you, Rebecca, that she's our Bansky. Katie Christensen is the artist you're looking for." 

Rebecca narrowed her eyes at them. "Really? Do you have any proof?"

Katie pulled out her portfolio, and pushed it across to Rebecca, who spent ten minutes going through it. At the end she took the twisted beret from Katie's hands, and put it firmly on Katie's head. 

"Bien sur," she said. "You are definitely une artiste!" And then she smiled, and Katie laughed, an honest, relieved laugh. 

"So you're cool with this? With me?"

"Absolutely!" Rebecca was emphatic. "In fact, I was thinking this would take weeks to get off the ground. But now we can get right down to work. It's perfect!"

Four hours later Katie emerged from the meeting with an anxious tummy, a headache, and a feeling that life was finally starting. She was equal parts energized and nauseous, which Eoin assured her was the way she should be feeling. 

"This is your first commission, Katie." Eoin squeezed her hand. She loved how he called what was essentially a work project a commission. "You should totally be freaked out." 

"Well, I am that." Katie squeezed back, then slid into him as the subway took a sharp turn. They were on their way to her aunt's place to have supper with her and her mother. (Her father had taken Jonah, Anne's son, to a Blue Jay game.) She'd gotten a text as she was leaving work: 

Having sup w yr aunt. u 2? bring Owen?

She could have bailed. She could have made up a lie, or she could have kept Eoin out of this. But she was finally feeling like she was getting her life together. "Plus, you get to show me off," Eoin had said, when she'd called to ask if he wanted to go with her. "It's about time." 

She'd met him on the Bathurst subway platform; he was wearing a lime green hoodie with yellow jeans and paint-stained canvas sneakers. Yes, it was definitely time to show off this man who dressed like a stop light. 

Her aunt was house-sitting a new place now, this one in North York. It was a condo, actually, and came with two geriatric dogs. "Welcome!" Angela flung open the door to the condo, and Katie and Eoin made their way inside. Angela hugged them both. From the sofa, Katie's mother gave a little wave, then stood up. 

"Eoin. It's lovely to meet you. I've heard so much about you." As they shook hands, Katie racked her brain, trying to remember when she'd ever talked with her mother about Eoin. "From Katie's aunt." Her mother amended, jerking a thumb in Angela's direction. "My daughter tells me nothing." 

"Right!" Katie clapped her hands together. "Anyone up for a drink?" She hefted a bottle of Irish whiskey. (Seriously, dating an Irishman meant you had your hostess gifts totally covered. No more hemming and hawing over what wine to pick up. As long as you brought Guiness or whiskey, you could do no wrong). 

"Well, she's got lots to tell you tonight." Eoin guided Katie's mother back to the sofa, as Katie and Angela went to the kitchen to pour everyone a whiskey and soda. 

"Well, isn't he just the most charming man?" Angela hip-checked her neice playfully. 

"I know. He's kind of too perfect. I know he msut have flaws, but I can't really see them. Not yet." 

"Then honey, you must be blind," said Angela, and they watched as Eoin unzipped his limegreen hoodie to reveal a shocking pink tshirt. "Because I don't know if I could last more than one date with someone who dressed like a bag of higlighters." 

"I just wear sunglasses," Katie smiled, and hugged her aunt. "Honestly, Angela, I'm feeling really happy. Florescent boyfriend and all." And she was. For once. For finally. 

* * * 

"I've had some pretty good news about work," Katie started in during the fig and goat cheese tarts. "I've been given the opportunity to use some of my original artwork for a major client's ad campaign." 

"But isn't that what your job is? To design ad campaigns? You often make the drawings." Though Katie hated to admit it, her mother asked a valid question. 

"Yeah, kind of. But this is different. This is me making art I want to, instead of me making the art they ask of me. I have total creative control." Katie felt herself swell with pride, and Eoin clutched her hand under the table. "This is going to be just me, doing my thing."

"That's amazing, Katie. Well done," Aunt Angela clapped her hands together. 

"Hmm." Her mother's voice was less enthusiastic. "And this is fine with your boss? This won't detract from your other responsibilities?"

"It's all fine." Katie assured her. "I swear it." 

"So how did this come about?" Her mother sounded anxious. "You didn't go over anyone's head to get this ... opportunity ... did you?" 

Katie quashed a feeling of irritation and smiled hard. "No, I didn't do anything remotely wrong." (Except for spray paint bridges. That nearly got me arrested. But only nearly!

"So tell us about it. Tell us how it all came about," her mother pressed, and Katie took a deep breath. 

"Okay. The thing is..." And Katie told them. About Anne. About her hunt for her sister, about the art she put up. She glossed over the spray-painting-on-bridges story but emphasized her widespread tackling of the city using art to get to Anne. "Eoin helped. But it was mostly me. And I think we might be closer to finding her. I think we might get her back soon." She told them about finding the house where Anne had been staying, about meeting her friend. "She says Anne's in AA. She says Anne is walking dogs for money." 

At this the geriatric canines looked up from the carpet. It was the only action they'd had all night.

"Dogs!" Katie's mother scoffed. "Surely this isn't our Annie. She hates dogs." The geriatric dogs hung their heads.

"She hated dogs. Past tense. But now she's doing what she needs to do to come back. She's going to be fine." 

"Oh, that's great news. What a good-news night we're having!" said Aunt Angela, but Katie's mother's frown only deepened. 

"But you haven't actually seen her, or talked to her. You don't actually know if any of this is true. For all you know these other homeless people could be crazy, or on drugs. They could be talking about someone else." 

Katie didn't have a response for her mother. She only sat and stared at her; next to her, she could tell Angela was gearing up for a response of her own.

It was Eoin (of course) who stepped in and stopped the fight that he knew was brewing inside her, inside all of them.  

"I don't know Anne," he said, slowly. "I don't know any of you, really, except for Katie, and I'll admit I don't even know her that well. But I do know love. Sorry if this sounds corny, or whatever, but I do know what a family that loves one another looks like and that's you lot right here. You definitely love Anne, I know that. And Katie is only trying to bring you good news. So why would you reject it?"

He put a hand, a large, warm, art-callused hand over Katie's mother's. "I know it's scary. What if this isn't true? What if it isn't for keeps? What if this will all just fade away?"

Yes. Exactly. Katie felt this way about everything.

"It might. This might not be the answer. We might never find her --" Eoin paused as Katie's mother choked on a sob. "--We might never find her. But we will keep looking. We will do it together." Katie's mother started to cry, and Katie slid off her chair and went to her, holding her tight. 

"I'm doing what I can, mum. And you have to believe me, I'm doing this for all of us. I can't just accept that she's gone." 

"It would be easier if she were," her mother said. 

"Maybe for you," Katie said, her anger rising again. "But not for me." 

"It's not that I want her to be gone. I just think we'd get some peace if we could just...." She looked up at Katie. "Oh, Katie. I'm so ashamed. I'm a terrible mother." 

"I wouldn't say terrible," Katie hugged her mother, hard. "Just a bit mixed up." 

* * * 

By the time they'd finished dessert, (and crying), all the details had been shared, including the story about the police station. "If I'm going to be honest, I have to be totally honest," Katie said. 

"No more illegal activity," Katie's mother said. 

"Of course," Katie said, at the same time Eoin shook his head and said, "We can't promise that." 

"So you'll let us know if you hear from her again?" Katie's mother asked as Katie and Eoin were on their way out the door, a tupperware full of leftover pasta under his arm. 

"As long as you tell Jason what's going on, and tell him to hold off on the divorce and custody and everything." 

Her mother frowned, and started to say something, but Angela nodded. "We'll talk to him. But we can't guarantee anything."

"As long as you try." Katie hugged her aunt, and her mother. "That's all we can do. We have to keep trying." 

Her mother nodded, and promised to talk to Jason. But as they made their way back to the subway, hands clasped tight, Katie and Eoin couldn't help but worry that once the tearful reunion was over, her mother wouldn't just turn right around and lose faith all over again. 

You Decide!
1. Katie and Melissa have a meeting with their boss, Mr. Ambrose, about her project, and he's not so keen on their ideas.
2. Jason turns up at Katie's workplace, upset that she's meddling in his affairs by trying to track down Anne and stop the divorce. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Article!

Hey guys,

Here is a fun little article I wrote about the whole "interactive Ebook" thing we've got going on over here at You Were Going To Be Fantastic...

Pioneers of Cyberspace: Collaborative Novel Writing

Coincidentally, it was published the same day as my new YA interactive novel, Falling Backwards, started publishing over at Fiction Express!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapter 37: In Which Someone Finally Tells The Truth

"I don't know if you've noticed, but there's some pretty creative graffiti around town lately. Some interesting posters, too, and the other day my assistant came across a set of postcards left in a phone booth. I think it's all the same artist -- there's always the word fantastic mixed in. It's really inspired." 

Katie grabbed Eoin's hand and squeezed hard. "You hearing this, Eoin?" 

"I sure am." He squeezed back. 

"I want that artist, whoever it is. I want that artist to design my campaign." Rebecca pointed a finger in Katie's face. "Find me that fantastic person or I walk." 

And then she staggered away. 

"Oh my God, Katie." Eoin grabbed her by the shoulders (having first put his drink down, of course). "This is it! This is your big moment!" 

His eyes were all lit up and sparkly -- if she hadn't overheard him tell Bobby that he loved her, she'd've known it now, anyway. "Isn't this just amazing?"

"Yeah, it's..." Katie felt a little surge of panic. "It's terrible, Eoin!" 

"But why?" He had to shout to be heard over the loud dance music pumping through the Rococo Room's speakers. 

"It's just...Can we go outside?" She shouted into Eoin's ear.

"Sure!" He nodded, then pointed over his shoulder. "I'm just nipping to the washroom! Meet me out there?"

Katie nodded, and headed outside, pleased to be alone with her thoughts for a moment. 

Only when she got outside, she wasn't alone. Melissa was there, sneaking a cigarette with Nora. 

"Melissa!" Katie scolded. "I thought you quit." 

Melissa looked guilty, and shrugged. "I did. I have. This is just..."

"Oh would you lay off, Katie?" Nora took a long drag on her cigarette. Leaning up against the wall in her cool brown leather jacket, one high-heeled foot propped up against the bricks, she looked like a serious femme fatale. "This is her birthday. Shouldn't a girl be allowed to smoke on her birthday?"

"I guess, if she wants to limit the number of birthdays in her future," Katie muttered. Melissa heard her, and she laughed. She took one last drag on the smoke and then crushed it out. 

"So where's that funny-looking Irishman you're hanging out with?" Nora asked.

Katie gave her a long, cold look. "He's inside," she said, evenly, not rising to the bait. 

"Well, that's it for me," Nora said. Melissa went to follow her into the club but Katie pulled on her sleeve, holding her back. 

"What's up?" Melissa asked, quietly; Katie waited until Nora was inside before she talked. 

"So the thing is I've been putting up art all over the city, as a way to reach out to my sister. Like, guerrilla-style. And now Rebecca -- your client -- has asked me if I can find the artist who's been making the graffiti and posters and stuff and hire them to work for her campaign."

"So that's awesome," said Melissa.

"Is it? Because I'm. the. artist." Katie said it slowly, carefully, as though Melissa hadn't heard. 


"And I'm not sure....what happens when she finds out it's me?"

"She hires you and you finally get recognition for your work?" Melissa prompted. At this point Eoin had appeared. 

"Are you saying you don't know if you can handle it?" He asked, pointedly. 

"Maybe? I mean....Rebecca's looking for an artist, and I'm just a girl looking for her sister. I'm not...I never had that show. And we tried to put it on twice. And it was a mess both times. And I took some classes but..." Katie was feeling panicky, she was thinking of those weeks, months, hiding at her aunt's house, after she left Bobby and she came back to "Make It" and all she made was a mess. She was like the kid in Fame who dropped out first semester. (Was there such a character? Who could remember? And did it even matter? (Exactly!!))

"Listen." Melissa bent down so that she was eye to eye with her much shorter friend. "Bobby told me about that talk you had. That you've been, like, crippled with guilt and fear, or something, since you broke up with him." Katie glanced at Eoin, who raised an eyebrow at her. Damn. She knew she should have told him about Bobby when she'd had the chance! "I think, and he thinks, that you have to set yourself free. Right? Otherwise, why did you put yourself, and him, through all that? Jump at this chance!"

Melissa's words were comforting, and they were making Katie brave. But there was another issue. "So let's say I do. Am I selling out?" Katie turned to Eoin, the most "artist" person she knew. "If I do this, if I make my art commercial, am I compromising myself?"

"No!" Eoin said, shaking his head. "Not at all. And there's nothing saying you can't do both. Be a commercial artist and an artist artist. The important thing is you wouldn't be just Office Katie anymore." 

Katie looked off into the distance, staring at the twinkling streetlights. Somewhere, Anne was out there. Maybe the reason to do this for Rebecca wasn't fame, or fortune, or a fancy way to think about herself. Maybe it was another way to smoke out Anne. 

"Okay." She turned back to her friends. "Let's go find Rebecca." 

"Sure." Eoin smiled back. "But first, what's the deal with you and Bobby?"


They didn't end up talking with Rebecca at the Rococo Room -- she'd passed out by the time they went back inside. Instead, Katie and Melissa called a meeting for Tuesday afternoon. 

Rebecca arrived early, with lattes for everyone, and the three of them sat down around the board room table. 

"So." Rebecca sipped her drink. "What have you brought me all the way down here for, ladies?"

Katie's heart froze. Rebecca had forgotten. She'd been so drunk she'd completely put their conversation about the secret street artist out of her mind. 

"Don't tell me you've found the Toronto Bansky already?" Rebecca asked, and Katie felt a sigh of relief. And then panic -- she wanted another Bansky? Katie wasn't that good. Katie wasn't talented enough. Bansky was -- And she was --

"That is precisely why you're here." Melissa stepped in and saved the day. She nudged her friend. "Katie? Why don't you tell Rebecca the truth?"

Right. "Right!" Katie took a deep breath. "The truth is, Rebecca, the artist is...." Katie's heart did a little drumroll. She pulled out a black beret and jammed it on her head. "Ta da!" 

A long, wide silence filled the board room. 

"Excuse me?" Rebecca didn't get it. "What is going on here?"

Katie felt her face growing hot and red, from her peter pan collar to her navy blue tam. She reached up to touch her little hat. "It's me. I'm the artist." Her voice was quite quiet.

"What?" Rebecca's mouth fell open. 

"That's what the hat is for....It was a prop...." Katie pulled the beret off her head and squished it up into a little ball. "Sorry, it was stupid. I just wanted to have a fun way to tell you. " Katie glanced over at Melissa, who was stifling a laugh. 

"Katie is telling you, Rebecca, that she's our Bansky. Katie Christensen is the artist you're looking for." 

Rebecca narrowed her eyes at them. "Really? Do you have any proof?"

Katie pulled out her portfolio, and pushed it across to Rebecca, who spent ten minutes going through it. At the end she took the twisted beret from Katie's hands, and put it firmly on Katie's head. 

"Bien sur," she said. "You are definitely une artiste!"

You Decide!

Katie and Eoin have supper with her mother and her aunt, so that they can finally meet her boyfriend and hear about what's going on with Anne 


Eoin's project is finally unveiled at a gallery downtown and Katie and Eoin talk about love


Anyone else want to help write this story? 

I am looking for people who can write a chapter sometime during the next 3 months as I'll be busy with my book being published by FictionExpress. I won't be able to be as regular with my Katie posts as I've been in the past, so I'm asking readers of this blog to help write Katie's story, if they'd like!

So far Ann, my sister Keri, and Bruna have all expressed interest in helping out. (Bruna, I know you were kind of kidding, and that you worry your English might not be good enough, but I promise, we'd make it work!)

Please email me if you'd like to write this next chapter (jennysryanATgmailDOTcom). I don't mind helping with ideas or edits, and I don't even mind if your "chapter" is just point form what you think should happen. We can totally use that, too! I just think some of you might have fun doing this, AND it would help me out. 

So who's up for the challenge??