Friday, March 4, 2011

One: In which we meet our heroine

Katie was looking out the window. Again. There was this family of squirrels that lived out there, in a tree. They were always there, just hanging out. Maybe they weren't a family in the traditional sense of the word, but Katie didn’t really believe in traditional families.

(Well, she did, actually. She ached for a traditional family, but she'd never say that to anyone. Instead, she liked to talk about the value of groups of friends as families, of unrelated people coming together to form family-like units based on shared values, trust, and unconditional love -- but really, in her heart-of-hearts, she knew those were not really families. Katie had one of these pseudo-families, they spent holidays together and met for breakfast regularly. It was really Sex and the City that popularized these alternative families and made them mainstream, made them seem less desperate, but Katie knew: she knew as much as she loved her friendfamily, they were basically those people who end up on a deserted island after the lucky half of their shipmates are rescued during the terrible storm that destroyed their boat and these were the remainders who washed up on shore, unsaved, clinging to one another for fear of being alone. But this wasn't family. This was a group of squirrels keeping warm and sharing nuts. So these squirrels that Katie liked to watch were likely more a “family” than a family, but still, Katie liked to see them, she liked to think that they were--)

“Katherine? Your thoughts?”

(--happy. She wondered what they got up to in the winter, and she was gripped with a worry, all of a sudden, that she’d still be here, in this job, in this terrible, terrible job, in the winter. Winter was months from now, and if she was still--)

Katie felt a nudge against her ribs, and looked away from the window and back to the group. Fifteen faces staring at her. Katie stared back. Melissa, seated beside her, nudged her again.

“Your thoughts?” Don Juan’s smooth baritone came from the head of the conference table. “Katherine? Your department must have an idea about this.”

Katie hated that, being called “Katherine”. It wasn’t her name. She was legitimately a “Katie”, named for Katie Scarlett O’Hara. Her parents were not particularly huge Gone with the Wind fans, but Katie’s older sister had been, at 6, likely the world’s youngest Vivian Leigh devotee. Hence the name. But Don Juan (whose name wasn’t even actually Don Juan, it was Don Ambrose, but he was so old-man sexy that Katie and Melissa had started calling him Don Juan one night they’d had too many drinks and the nickname stuck, not that they’d ever call him that to his face, oh, no) had called her "Katherine" at the interview and it had stuck ever since. For five long months, she'd been Katherine. It was awful.

“Oh, yes. We’re very excited about it.” Katie smiled broadly. “Really looking forward to the possibilities.” Katie had no idea what they were talking about, but Katherine had to make it look like she was all over it. Katherine was the supervisor of a small team of graphic designers, working for an advertising agency, but Katie was an artist, so she had a hard time caring about whatever went on in this board room. Hell, she had a hard time caring about anything that went on in the entire building. But whatever, she had a mortgage.


She blamed her aunt for the mortgage. Ultimately it had been Katie's decision to buy a house, but it wasn't until the ink was fresh on the papers and she was sitting in the lobby of her lawyer's office, waiting for her cab (none of the members of her "family" -- God, it sounded like a cult when you put it like that -- had a car to pick her up), to take her back to her apartment to start packing up her stuff that she realized she'd never actually wanted to own a home in the first place.

The whole thing had been one of Aunt Angela's Ideas.

Her aunt was forever having Ideas. She'd call up Katie or her sister Anne (their parents were huge Anne of Green Gables fans) and say, "Listen, I have this idea." Sometimes these ideas were helpful, like, "I had an idea about supper this weekend," but sometimes they were ideas like, "I had this idea that you should be a homeowner." And then she'd outline all the reasons why her idea was a good one -- "The restaurant is owned by one of my clients and they won't be able to pay unless they do well, so if you girls wanted to take me there for my birthday we'd be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. What do you think?" or "What with the rent increases in this town lately, and the decent salary you're making, it hardly seems responsible to be tossing money away with rent. What do you think?"

It was the "What do you think?" that was the trick, how her aunt manipulated things without overtly controlling her niece. It put the idea back on Katie, it made her think about it, and the more she thought about it, the more she realized that owning a home was a Good Idea.

A good idea? Yes. Sure. But hers? Absolutely not.

And yet. She was now the owner of a small, two-bedroom house for which she had a 40-year mortgage, which meant she'd be trapped in this boardroom until she was 72 years old.

Speaking of which. Katie looked at Don Juan and repeated, "Yes, we're really looking forward to the project," and smiled a hard, wide smile.

"Terrific. Glad to hear it, Katherine," he smiled back at her, and then glanced at the clock. "Okay, folks. Looks like that's it for the meeting. There are still a couple of hours left to the work day. Let's go make the most of them!"

All around the board room table, Katie's colleagues began packing up their briefcases. Katie rarely brought anything with her to meetings. She didn't have a briefcase. Still, she made a point of fussing with some papers while she stood.

"So, listen. I don't have anything to do this afternoon," Katie's best friend, Melissa, said in a low voice. "What do you say we get out of here and hit the end-of-winter sales?"




  1. OK, if this takes place in New York, Katie and Melissa should skip to go to the sales, but then take a wrong turn and run into the BEST SAMPLE SALE OF ALL TIME in an old warehouse...

  2. Even if they are just checking out Sears, I'd love to know just how they could both leave and not make anyone suspicious. Maybe I could try that at my work...

  3. Skip work, skip work!

  4. they skip work and head to the shops and galleries of her favourite side street so she can have a flat white

  5. okay, i'm amused by all of your comments. mostly because i didn't ask for plot suggestions, guys! i said, pick one or the other and you're writing whole scenes! something tells me you all should have writing blogs!

    thanks for the support. clearly you all want katie to skip work. even my mother!

    i also like that cyndi wants this in new york, while keri wants me to set this in new zealand. you are living out your fantasies..which is what fiction is for!

  6. You can't ask opinions of library workers and except to get only what you ask for!

  7. This is fantastic - I really enjoyed reading it! I've bookmarked it to come back and catch up another time!

  8. Thanks Luisa! We'll see you soon!