Sunday, May 29, 2011

Part Fifteen: In which Katie makes a speech and a friend shows up to save the day!

Poor Melissa. For the past six months she'd been so strong-seeming, but in reality Katie wasn't sure she was ready for this. She hadn't seen David since he'd walked out on her at their own wedding, and she hadn't really had any closure. And yet here they were, at another wedding. Would there be closure today?

Two hours later, Katie and Melissa found themselves at a table near the back of the University of Toronto Faculty Club. Seated at the table with them was an out-of-town cousin, an elderly woman who turned out to be Lucy’s old grade one teacher, and three of Lucy’s friends from work.

David and Georgina, who’d pretty much avoided Melissa at the church, were now seated on the far side of the reception hall. Melissa glanced towards them, her leg jiggling nervously under the table. “Let’s get some drinks.”

Katie hadn’t planned on drinking much today; she’d been a bit of a lush last weekend. But Melissa needed her, and Melissa needed a cocktail. Plus it turned out it this wedding had an open bar. “Fine. I’ll get us some drinks, and and then we’ll make a plan.”

“We don’t need a plan.” Melissa sighed, tiredly. “I just want this to be done. I’m too old for the drama. I’ll just go over there and, I don’t know. Face him and ask if we can talk. Maybe see if he and Georgina want to get coffee later.”

“That’s your plan? Just … coffee?”

“Yeah? What’s so wrong with that?” Melissa ran her hands over her face, rubbing at her temples.  “I’m sick of the anxiety, Katie.  I realized sitting in that wedding that I just want to clear the air, make nice, and move on. Doesn’t it seem like it would be best to just be mature about it?”  

Katie shrugged. “I don’t know. I was kind of imaging slipping laxatives into their food, or something. You know, like vengeance!” She pumped her fist into the air and their seatmates looked over, surprised.

The elderly elementary teacher raised her fist as well, and said, “Solidarity, sisters!” in a loud, raspy voice. She then went back to folding her cloth napkin into a swan.

“Laxatives?” Melissa was whispering. “That’s not really our style.”

“Yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Katie got up. “I’m getting us some drinks,” she said, and walked over to the bar where an eager young man was polishing a glass. He didn’t look like he was old enough to shave, let alone card anyone.

“Hi....” said Katie, leaning on the bar. “I gin and tonics.”

“How about champagne?” The child-bartender pulled a bottle from the fridge behind him.

“Oh, no, I’m looking for the free booze.”

“This is free. There’s a free bottle for each table.” He grinned at Katie, braces flashing. “Hey. How about I get your number for later?”

Katie grabbed the bottle wondering if it was a good thing or a bad thing to be hit on by a teenager.

An hour and a half later Katie was pretty sure it was a good thing, especially when the teenager had access to the champagne. Apparently a number of tables had turned their bottles down and, seeing as the cousin and two of the work friends were currently pregnant, with the 3rd friend abstaining out of “respect for my wife”, there was plenty of champagne for Katie, Melissa, and the elderly teacher, whose name turned out to be Laureen.

“I tell you, babies are a curse on the young,” Laureen toasted the table, but only Katie and Melissa clinked her glass.

There were a few speeches, and then the food was served, but it was lamb, and Katie made a point of not eating lamb. “They’re babies,” she’d hissed at the server who tried to put the plate in front of her. “I don’t eat babies.” She hiccuped and covered her mouth with her hand. “I should stop drinking,” she said to Laureen, who raised an eyebrow and said, “Why?”, tossing back her own glass.

Melissa rolled her eyes and took the plate from the server. “I’ll eat hers,” she said, scraping the meat onto her own plate. “You can have the vegetables,” she said, setting a plate of sauteed green beans and roasted potatoes in front of Katie, who sneered at them. 

“They’re soaking in baby juice.” She picked up two of the green beans and pretended they were legs, dancing over the potatoes. One of the work friends said, in a kind of nasty voice, “You’re a real 'life of the party', aren’t you?,” which might have made Katie feel badly if she hadn’t been feeling so delightfully bubbly.

Also, she had to pee. Quite badly. She got up from the table and she felt a rush, a lightness filling her head, causing her to stumble. Oh, man. I’mma dah-runk... she thought, and took a deep breath. Must be sober. Must not embarrass self or Melissa. Must get coffee. But first -- must pee.

After wandering around the faculty building and finally finding a washroom that didn’t contain urinals, Katie came back into the hall to find a room full of people dancing like grownups, all pressed together, swaying to something slow and schmaltzy. There was Melissa, her arms around the waist of a tall guy with a terrible, swirly, pink-patterned shirt, with curly dark blond hair and long, skinny feet. Melissa was smiling, and Katie felt happy for her friend, until she noticed David and Georgina were dancing, too, their arms wrapped all tightly and their eyes locked in that true-love way. He was whispering into her neck, she tossed her head back, they were so blissfully happy and together. She couldn't stop staring at them. 

Katie felt a sadness rush over her, tears in her eyes. Oh, damn. Oh, heartache. Oh, Bobby.... The song, which she now recognized as “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King, which under normal circumstances would make her roll her eyes, was tonight the most beautiful, the most affecting piece of music she’d ever heard.

Katie leaned against the doorjamb, drinking from a glass of champagne the boybartender must have put in her hand. She was watching all the married couples on the dance floor, and thought about Bobby, about the ring, the proposal.

He’d wanted to make it “official” he’d said, with flowers, with candles, a make your own sundae bar set up on their coffee table because he knew she’d love it.  She closed her eyes and she was back there, in their Vancouver apartment by the water. “I know I want to be with you for the rest of my life, Katie. So let’s make it official,” he’d even been down on one knee, this man who loved her more than anyone ever had. His eyes were so full of love. That truelove look, beaming up at her. The ring proffered with such grace. Katie shook her head, shook the memories loose. This was not the time. This was not the time.

“...And that’s why I’m so pleased to have Lucy in our lives. Please raise a glass to the best daughter-in-law a man could ever hope for!” Katie looked towards the front of the room and saw that the speeches had begun. The dancers were still on the floor, only not moving, the pairs of lovers had their arms around one another, David and Georgina among them, with poor Melissa standing off to the side, her arms crossed, alone. Melissa had loved that guy with her entire soul. She’d given up grad school in New York for that bastard. She’d been ready to die for that motherfucker and now his tongue was in Georgina’s ear?

“Would anyone else like to say a few words to the happy couple?” The MC asked the room from behind his podium. A shuffling, a ripple ran through the crowd but no one stepped forward. “No?” A laugh rang out -- it was Georgina, David was whispering a joke or something and the two of them were laughing, in love in their own private world. Katie felt a stab in her heart. Before she knew it, her hand was reaching into the air. “I”ve got something to say!”

She ran forward, the champagne sloshing out the sides of her glass, wondering just what it was she was up to. All she knew was that she had to say something. For Melissa.

“Hi. I”m Katie. I’m a friend of the ….” she took a sip of champagne. “...bartender.” She raised her almost-empty glass and the room shared a gentle, collective laugh, and she knew she had them on her side. “I just wanted to say a few things about love. I mean, I’ve been watching all of you dancing out there, all true-lovey, and I just really wanted to say that love is special. And when you are lucky enough to have someone in your life who loves you, who carries your heart around in their pocket, who is willing to sacrifice everything for you, you should not let it go. Lucy and … er ... ” she raised her glass in the newlyweds’ direction, “Congratulations. And I mean -- how amazing is it that you both showed up today?” 

Katie looked out across the room of patient listeners. “Fellow guests! Raise a hand if you thought maybe this wouldn’t happen. If you thought maybe one of these two fine young lovers might get cold feet.” She scanned the room. Only Laureen, the old elementary school teacher, had a hand up; Katie was't sure if she meant it or it was just reflex. “Listen, what I’m trying to say is this: Weddings don’t happen all the time. People fail to turn up at the church.” Katie’s voice rose, she was gaining steam.  “People are cheaters. They cheat and they lie, they hurt the person who has pledged to love them because they are cheaters, liars.” Katie heard a few gasps, and sensed that perhaps the crowd wasn’t onside any longer. But she didn’t care.

“People named David ruin the lives of people named Melissa because they can’t keep it in their pants around people named Georgina!” Katie stabbed a finger towards David, who was no longer standing with his arms around Georgina, because Georgina was currently running out of the room.

“Katie! What are you doing?” Melissa was there, all of a sudden, yanking the microphone out of her hand. “Shut up!”

“I’m defending your honour!” As she tried to grab the microphone back she could see David running away too; probably he was chasing his wife but Katie hoped he was running from the burning shame.

“I don’t want your help,” Melissa pleaded. “He’s not that bad. Honestly. We’ve talked. It’s okay.” She was moving away from the podium and tried to pull Katie with her but Katie yanked backwards, spilling what little champagne was left in her glass. Everything was spinning. She felt a bit sick.

“He was an asshole who hurt you, and I’m making it better!” she yelled, hoping David could hear. Melissa stopped yanking on her friend.

“For God’s sake, you’re just embarrassing everyone, Katie. I never asked for this.” And Melissa walked away on her pretty shoes and in her pretty dress, her shoulders hunched inside her pretty, green shrug.

Katie felt hot, defeated. “People shouldn’t hurt people. And love is the worst. Love just makes us hurt one another,” she said, weakly. Someone else had the microphone now, people were laughing, awkwardly. The MC had the mic again and he was turning it all into a joke, her into a joke. “It’s not funny. What David was awful. He’s an awful, awful person.” But no one was listening.

Katie slid down a wall, she must have walked over to one, because now she was sliding down it, her back supported by the clean, cool surface. “Eternal Flame” had been playing that night, kind of as a joke but kind of because Bobby had always said if he ever proposed, he’d do it right, and she’d always said, "then you have to play 'Eternal Flame', because that’s what the 13-year-old me would have wanted", and then there it was, on the stereo, with Bobby on one knee, his open, gentle face upturned, that ring held aloft, and Katie had let the song play out; the ice cream melted, the candles melted themselves down to stubs. She’d left him there on one knee and moved out the next day. “I can’t be what you need,” she’d said, breaking his heart in the worst possible way. 

Katie stared up at the ceiling of the faculty club. "I'm just as bad as David," she said quietly to herself. "Actually, I might be worse."

“Miss?” said a male voice. Katie was expecting the child-bartender, but instead it was the tall, blond man in the hideous shirt who’d been dancing with Melissa. His hand was out to her and she took it. He helped her to her feet, and smiled. “I liked your speech. It had a lot of spirit.” His voice was familiar. Deep, kind. Irish. “I’m Eoin,” he said.

“I know,” Katie said. “And I’m Katie.”

“I know,” said Eoin. “And I have to say,” he gestured towards the podium, “all of that seems quite in line with what I’ve come to expect of you. Now, let’s get you out of here before they send the Garda. Oh, that’s Irish for police,” he added.

Katie leaned against him, her head spinning. “I knew you knew Irish slang.”

Eoin began to lead her towards the exit. “So where should I take you?”

You Decide!

A) Eoin takes her to track down Melissa so she can fix their friendship
B) Eoin takes her to her Aunt Angela’s apartment so she can decompress

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some entertainment while we wait for chapter 15!

It's International Chick Lit Month! To celebrate, why don't you listen to me and Ann (of The Year of Shopping Detox fame) talk about chick lit on the radio!

Book Show episode 117: International Chick Lit Month Spectacular

Then, pop on by the CBC and pick your favourite Saskatchewanish book! I was on the selection committee to pick the top 10 books that represent our province. You might be surprised -- no Sinclair Ross on this list, friends! Then check out the other provinces and pick your top book for each one.

Have fun with these various activities. Chapter 15 is currently germinating and will be posted soon!


ps Are we still having commenting problems, gang?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Apparently blogger is having some issues with commenting at the moment, so please send your votes for Chapter Fouteen's choices A or B to jennysryan at gmail dot com.

Thanks! Hopefully this is a temporary situation....!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Part Fourteen: In which we jump ahead in time and attend a wedding!

"Katie, what am I going to do?"

"I know. I know exactly what you're going to do." Katie took her friend's hand in hers, warming it. "You're going to --" Katie paused. What? What could she possibly suggest that would make this any easier? "You're going to take me with you, and we're going to wear our gorgeous new dresses and wear our killer shoes and drink too much and flirt with all the hot guys there. We'll be fabulous!"

Melissa dropped Katie's hand, and raised an eyebrow. "Who exactly are you channeling here -- Carrie Bradshaw or a mid-90s gay stereotype?"

"Sorry." Katie smiled ruefully.  "I just ... I don't know what to say to make this better. Making sure we have fun might just be your only defense."

"That and my gorgeous new dress and my killer heels." Melissa deadpanned, and the two friends laughed.

The rest of the week passed quickly. Mike and Paul, their secret romance unveiled, took fewer trips to the copier and therefore more work in Katie's (err, Katherine's) unit got completed. Which was just as well, because she'd finally figured out what their next project was and it was a huge deal, very big-name clients, very lucrative account. Katie actually took a bit of pride in seeing her small group of staff working together to create cool graphics for the company's ad campaign.

"Don't get too comfortable here," Erica cautioned her. "You're going to have to quit soon enough when your art career takes off." Mike and Paul had filled her in on the plans to put together Katie's art show, and Erica had already offered to do the invitations. ("And my improv group will perform for free!" she'd promised. She'd only been a member of Improfessionals for a week and she was already a star player. Katie felt slightly jealous. Not of the improv, but of how Erica had so easily found a calling and excelled at it in such a short period of time. Still, she wasn't that jealous. Erica was still living at home and wore wearing animal sweatshirts everyday. It wasn't that enviable a life.)

So the week passed quickly, and before she knew it it was Saturday morning.  Looking fabulous as promised in her new dress (short, black cotton with a wide grey belt; a '60's feel so she'd done her hair in a high, swinging ponytail) and wore tall, red leather boots she'd found at a consignment shop, (and which she suspected were actually Ukrainian dancing boots but no one had ever called her out on this so she couldn't know for sure) and red lipstick, shoved her phone, credit card, and transit pass into her small black vintage clutch, and set out to meet her friend.

While Katie rode the subway towards St George Station, where Melissa was waiting, she admired herself in the windows on the subway car. She did look pretty good. She felt a bit bad admiring herself when she was on her way to help her brokenhearted friend, but there it was: Katie felt cute, and she was going to enjoy the feeling while it lasted. She just wouldn't let Melissa know how self-satisfied she was, especially if Melissa didn't look her best due to her depressive state.

The subway car came to a stop, and Katie got off the train to meet her friend at the platform one floor up. Stomping up the stairs in her red footwear (they had to be for dancing) she watched her feet, delighting in the stompy sounds her boots made on the shiny tiled floor. She was so intent on her feet that she didn't notice Melissa until she'd nearly collided with her. And then when she saw her, she couldn't look anywhere else.

"Oh, Melissa, you look..." She was wearing the Monet-on-drugs dress from the sample sale, with a gauzy blue and green shrug made of the softest, airiest wool. Her feet (beautifully manicured, so long and slender) were in a pair of sky-high forest green, peep-toe heels. Her usually-straightened hair was curly, wild, all around her head. And her eyes were big, bright, and shining.

"Yeah, I look awesome. Believe me -- I know. I've been up since seven this morning getting ready."

"Well, you don't look it."


"I mean, you don't look like you tried that hard. You look ... effortless. You don't look like you put in a lot of work, I mean, you look natural." Katie shook her head. "Ignore me. I'm trying to say you look great."

Melissa laughed. "You do, too." She linked her arm through her friend's. "Shall we go?"

They got to the church just in time, sneaking into a back row as the bridesmaids began their slow shuffle down the aisle. "So is this Lucy from U of T?" Katie whispered to her friend.

"Yeah, remember? She and Brent were friends of mine from U of T. I still hang around with Lucy sometimes. I thought I inherited them in the breakup but I guess David has some visitation I didn't know about."

"Oh, right, yeah." Katie had met these people at parties of Melissa's, parties where she always felt a bit uncomfortable. Business students, law students, studenty-students -- Katie always felt like she stuck out a bit in her Art-School chic. And she remembered Lucy, alright. She was the only 22-year-old Katie had ever met who bought a suit for her interview at Starbucks. She ended up being a hedge-fund-something or other. Katie yawned, and craned her head around. "So do you see him?"

Melissa half-raised on her seat. "No, I don't think he's -- oh." She landed back on the pew with a thud. "There he is. And her. It's her."

"Do you want to go?" Katie dropped her voice to a barely-there whisper. Melissa shook her head. Her eyes were dry, and she smiled widely, but she didn't turn to look at Katie. She was staring instead at a point about 6 rows up, where David was seated, and where, snuggled up against him, was the infamous Georgina.

The ceremony was torture. Not only because she had to pee, which was bad enough, but also because Katie could feel Melissa struggling not to cry throughout the entire thing.

Poor Melissa. For the past six months she'd been so strong-seeming, but in reality she wasn't ready for this. She hadn't seen David since he'd walked out on her at their own wedding, and she hadn't really had any closure. And yet here they were, at another wedding. Would there be closure today?

Your turn!

A) At the wedding reception, Melissa ends up making peace with David and Georgina, only Katie, not knowing about the truce between them all, has spiked their meals with laxative in a effort to exact revenge!

B) At the wedding reception, Katie gets drunk and makes a speech for the happy couple, only it backfires and ends up embarrassing David, Georgina, and worst of all, her best friend Melissa.

What terrible fate awaits them? You decide!

PS I've had some people tell me that they are having trouble posting replies. If this happens to you, email me at jennysryan at gmail dot com and i'll post your answers for you!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Part Thirteen: In which Katie's friends decide to organize an art show, and then author pleads for your help.

"There never was a show." Katie shrugged. She felt Melissa squeeze her hand under the table. “Whatever. It just didn’t pan out.” She tried to be nonchalant about it. “Life happened.” Heartbreak happened. Anne happened. Excuses. The art just dried up. “You were going to be fantastic” pressing heavy in her pocket. Oh, Annie. Weren’t we all?

"So what's stopping you from having another one?" Nora asked. Katie turned to look at her, with her cute smile and her cute gamine haircut. What was that in her voice? Was she being genuine? Was she laughing at her? Katie couldn't tell. Perhaps they were frenemies! Katie had heard about frenemies. She wondered if having one made her suddenly more relevant to today's youth culture.

"Well, for one thing I don't really have any art." Katie shrugged. "So I doubt I could put one together."

"If there's enough lead time you could do it." Paul's voice was all excited. "We could all help!"

"What? Paint her paintings?" Mike elbowed Paul flirtatiously. 

"No, I mean we could, like, help with promotions and stealing her office supplies for her projects," Paul defended himself.

Melissa cleared her throat, raised an eyebrow at the two of them. "There will be no stealing of office supplies, gentlemen. But we could help.  My dad's company just bought a storefront on College. We could do a pop-up gallery there, I bet. Probably rent free, or at least pretty cheap, since my dad's business doesn't move in until September. I bet he'd be more than happy to have us take it over for a while."

All of this was happening around her, and Katie felt her heart get light, her cheeks flush. Could this be true?  Or was the cheap gin causing her to halucinate?

She looked at her friends' smiles. Nope, this was real. She felt a bit sick, suddenly, but she knew it wasn't the gin. She thought about the last time, of the promise she'd made to the gallery and then how it fell apart, she'd been a failure. She'd come home to Toronto to make things better and she had not. Truth be told, Katie had only just gotten her life on track. The job, the house, cheeks free of tear stains and pillow-streaks, hair basically decent. She was wearing lipgloss on a regular basis, and this she considered a victory. How could she possibly put together an art show? And what if she fell apart again?

She looked around the table at her friends' faces. All of them, including her frenemy, were smiling encouragingly at her. They believed in her. They wanted to do this. "Fine!" Katie flung her hands in the air, dramatically, artistically. She wished were wearing a pashmina to unfurl. "Let's do it!"

"Okay!" Mike hoisted a drink aloft. "A toast for our little artiste!" The others raised their glasses and clinked, but Melissa, curiously, was not joining in.

"Just a sec--" she said, not looking at them, but staring at her phone. She walked away from the table, texting furiously.

"What's up with her?" Mike forked in a mouthful of Ritz Cracker pie. Melissa had made her way out to the sidewalk.

"I'm going to go check," said Katie at the same time as Nora said, "I'll just go see."

The two of them, both rising from their chairs, froze, looking at one another across the flowered tablecloth. "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" was playing quietly in the background as they stared one another down. Nora was tall, like Melissa, broad shouldered, stately, muscled and tone. You'd think that short red hair on a big woman would look butchy, but Nora wore it like a sophisticated sleek cap. In her 3-inch heels she stood nearly a foot above Katie, but Katie was Melissa's friend. Sure, Melissa and Nora had known one another longer, but Katie and Melissa's friendship had been forged in the furnace of their early 20s, their lives fused together on late night subway rides and in all-night diners, at roof-top parties and while peeing in alleyways. They'd ridden out Y2K together -- that meant something.  

She knew that Nora and Melissa had been hanging out while she'd been with Bobby in Vancouver but Katie was back now, Katie was no longer lying in a pool of sadness, those Terrible Four Months had been over for nearly twice as long as they'd lasted and she was back. And she was ready. Nora blinked and Katie took her chance; she pushed her chair back so hard it landed on the wooden floor as she hurried towards Melissa who was standing, on the sidewalk, staring into space.

"Melissa? What's up?"

"I got a text. From David's sister."

"I didn't know you two were still talking."

"We're not. Well, kind of. Sometimes we send texts. Like when their grandmother died, she wanted me to know."

That made sense. Even Katie had loved David's grandmother, a nearly-deaf Ukrainian lady whose two chief joys in life were making perogies and watching people consume them. "That must have been some funeral," murmured Katie, imagining the spread of cabbage rolls, borscht, and sausage. Not to mention all the perogies they'd have had to eat in her memory.

"Did you say something?" Melissa asked.

"Oh, just that it's a shame you had to miss the funeral." Katie was covering, but she also meant it. Not only because of the food. Because she and David had been family once, and one of the worst things about a breakup is the loss of that family.  Once Katie had gotten over missing Bobby, she had to grieve all over again about losing his parents, too.

"I know." Melissa sighed. "I would have liked to go."

"So what was the text this time?"

"She wanted me to know...." Melissa took a deep, ragged breath, and handed Katie the phone. "Just look."

Mel--D married G. Both will b @ wed sat. xox Elaine

"What?" Katie's voice rose about fifteen octaves.

"I know. Apparently he married that Georgina person."

"The one he...." left you for, the morning of your wedding? Katie said the rest of the sentence in her head.

"Yes. That same one. I texted her back for details but all I got was this." She handed Katie the phone again.

Las Vegas on wknd. Surprz to all. Still cmng 2 wdng? -E

"Katie, what am I going to do?"

"I know. I know exactly what you're going to do." Katie took her friend's hand in hers, warming it. "You're going to --"

You decide! 

Okay. This is a first in Choose Your Own Adventure History -- I don't have any ideas.

So -- it is up to you guys to find one for me. Keep in mind:

1. the wedding is a week away,
2. Katie is Melissa's date, and
3. Melissa already has a killer dress.

So what should Katie's advice be? What is the plan? Katie and I leave it in your hands!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Post Twelve: In which Katie goes out for dinner, drinks too much gin, and secrets are revealed.

“She left you a note, Katie." He held out a piece of paper; it was letterhead for the building. Thick, creamy paper embossed with The Richardson Building in elegant burgandy script. Katie opened the note, and saw a message written across it in a scrawling version of her sister's usually neat handwriting:  You were going to be fantastic.

"What's that mean?" asked Melissa.

"I don't know," said Katie, but she did. She totally did.


"And then--" Melissa had to take a breath, she was laughing so hard "--that James guy wanted me to feel the injustice of racism! Right there! Lying on the floor pretending I was a star fish. What?"

"We know, Melissa. We were all there," Katie said, rolling her eyes. They were out at a little restaurant, tucked away down a side street that tourists didn't know about. It was called Aunt Agnes', (it was actulaly Katie's Aunt Angela who'd introduced them to it. "It's like it belongs to me!" she'd laughed, and Katie and Anne had given up trying to convince her that Angela and Agnes were two completely different names), and only had about five little tables. The food was good, inexpensive, and featured little tasting plates so they could order a bunch of stuff to share. You could get things like baked macaroni and cheese tarts, tiny meatballs, and toasted asparagus sandwiches. The whole thing had a very 1930s feel. Even the music was vintage -- hits from long before their time were always playing on an ancient Victrola.

And, true to its early 30s feel, the alcohol was cheap and plentiful and mostly gin. And Katie was deep into the gin.

"I wasn't there," declared Nora, a friend of Melissa's from highschool. She had moved to Toronto a year before Katie had come back, and Katie always felt a bit of a rivalry with her. Katie felt she'd swooped in and taken her place while she'd been away. This rivalry always intensified when Katie drank, when she got edgy, sharp. "I was having a respectable day off," continued Nora. "Unlike the rest of you, I'm in a union. They can't make us work outside of our regular hours." Nora was a city planner. She planned roads, or something.

Nora, Melissa, Katie, Mike and Paul had gone out for supper after the dreaded improv workshop was over. They'd invited Erica, but, being the star of the day, she'd been whisked off by James and Luis to talk about upcoming auditions, much to Katie's delight. The rest of them felt they needed to relax a bit after spending the day being agreeable, open-minded, and optimistic.

"Racial injustice is a very important thing to consider in the workplace, Melissa," Mike, born in Vietnam but raised in Orillia, shook his finger at Melissa. "You and I both know how difficult it can be to get ahead at work."

"I didn't think you had any trouble getting head at work," Katie mumbled into her Gin Fizz, and the whole table laughed, Paul blushing a deep pink. It was probably inappropriate to talk this way with people she supervised, but at this point Katie couldn't care less about her position of authority. She had no right to be held in any higher esteem than any of these people. She was a joke herself.

The note from her sister was in her pocket. She hadn't dared look at it again. She hadn't even talked to Melissa about it. They'd ridden up the elevator in silence, the note balled up in her hand. They walked into the office, and found the group partnered up, one of them blindfolded, the other leading their partner around the room. Katie allowed herself to be blindfolded. She was grateful for the dark.

But now she was out, in the light, with her friends. They were laughing about nothing and everything and it kept everything at a distance, the whole thing at bay. She took the last sip of her drink, and ordered another one.

"Are you sure you don't want a water?" Melissa spoke quietly into Katie's ear. Katie pretended not to hear her and popped a cheese tart into her mouth.  But when the next drink arrived Katie didn't touch it. She sat it in front of her, like a security blanket. Like a gun in the bedside table. Like a tax-free savings account. Like freezing your eggs. Like --

"So Katie," Nora looked over at her. "What ever happened to that art show you had been planning? When was that? About a year ago, wasn’t it?"

Katie looked at her, shocked, and a loud scraaaatch -- a needled being wrenched off a record-player-- echoed through the room. The whole room fell into a dramatic silence.

"Sorry! Sorry!" a young waitress called out. "No need to panic. I just brushed against the Victrola." She put the needle back on the record and Al Jolson started up again, but the damage was done. The scene had taken on a very John Hughesey kind of feel. They were in the school cafeteria and everyone was watching.

"Um, what?" Katie smiled up at Nora warily, wishing partly that she'd skipped her last drink, wishing partly she could drink the next one fast.

"That art show! It sounded so good. What was it -- painting and sculpture, or something? You had a gallery all set up. And then...what? I never heard." She cocked her short, red-haired head and smiled. Katie couldn't tell if this was genuine or if she were being mean-girled. She hoped Melissa would step in with the answer.

"Oh, you know." Katie rolled her eyes. "Whatever." Melissa was taking her sweet damn time.

"You had an art show?" Paul sounded incredulous. "I didn't know you were an artist."

"You didn't?" Katie was surprised. Everyone knew this about her. Didn't they? She thought it was obvious. She was often late for things, she never had the right notes for meetings. She read Adbusters on her lunch break, and she once came to work in mismatched shoes. She'd always thought people reassured themselves with, "Oh, but she's an artist", and indulged her eccentricities. But maybe they actually just thought she was disorganized and off-beat for no good reason?

"No, I just thought you did graphic design 'cause you were ... I don't know. Like the rest of us? I mean, we make art, but I wouldn’t call us artists.” He glanced at Mike. "No offence, babe?” (The trips to the photocopier would no longer be secrets on Monday.)

Mike shook his head. "None taken. That's cool, Katie. Tell us about the show!"

"There never was a show." Katie shrugged. She felt Melissa squeeze her hand under the table. “Whatever. It just didn’t pan out.” She tried to be nonchalant about it. “Life happened.” Heartbreak happened. Anne happened. Excuses. The art just dried up. “You were going to be fantastic” pressing heavy in her pocket. Oh, Annie. Weren’t we all?

Time to decide!

Katie’s friends decide to organize an art show of Katie’s work at a new gallery opening in the Distillery district
Katie’s friends figure out a way to get Katie’s designs into the hands of a major client.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011