Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chapter 19: In which Katie attempts Cognitive Therapy

Katie knew what she had to do. She'd get some take-out, go home, and try to figure out what Melissa was talking about.  Around the corner was a Thai place that did a killer Tom Yum soup. But over by her house was a little Italian sandwich place she'd always meant to try.  

Katie thought about the comfort of a sandwich: soft white bread, creamy cheeses, roasted, marinated vegetables. But then she thought about the strangeness of the restaurant, the anxiety of the unknown. Sure, the sandwich might be great. But what if the owner spoke Italian to her? It was possible. Toronto was like that, with pockets of people who chose to speak their first language first. It could catch you off guard.  And what if the TV was playing loudly in the corner, some soccer game, so she’d have to shout to make herself understood, and the place was filled with intimidating Italian men in their undershirts, drinking tiny cups of coffee, leering at her?

Katie wasn’t prejudiced, exactly. It’s just that parts of Toronto could be intimidating. Or could feel intimidating, when someone was insecure about fitting in, when someone was worried about their right to be there, in the Italian sandwich shop, even if it was in their neighbourhood. This line of thinking is likely a source of racism, but Katie didn’t have time to combat her inner prejudices. She didn’t have the emotional strength at the moment to face her intolerance for middle-aged Italian soccer fans.  She’d just had a fight with her best friend, dammit. More than a fight, a horrible misunderstanding that might have severed their platonic love forever, and she wanted a community she was able to navigate. She wanted the Thai.

Specifically, she wanted the nice Thai family who owned TryThai, a tiny restaurant on the edge of Kensington Market. It wasn’t really a restaurant, more of a shack, with a little counter and two small tables in the windows overlooking the busy street. Katie usually came here when she was in the neighbourhood. It was cozy, it was safe, and it was cheap. The Thai parents didn’t speak much English, but the four daughters who worked there did. Three of them were still in high school but Kimberly, the oldest, went to U of T. She was studying fashion design, but her parents thought she was majoring in Commerce.

“Sometimes having parents who aren’t interested in learning English has it’s advantages,” she’d once told Katie when Katie had been eating at a small table waiting out a rainstorm.

“What happens when you’re done school and you can’t get a job in business?”

“Oh, they won’t care. Because I’ll have my own fashion line by then.” She tossed Katie a fortune cookie, which, of course, was missing it’s fortune.

Kimberley wasn’t working when Katie went in for her Tom Yum soup. It was the dad, ("Mr. Thai", as Katie liked to think of him. She wondered if that was racist., too. It probably was. Sometimes life in the big city could be so hard. Racism was everywhere, waiting for privileged, well-meaning white girls to say the wrong thing.) Mr Thai always smiled at her and sometimes he added extra spring rolls to her order. This never felt creepy, only fatherly.

She pointed at the menu and said, “Tom Yum soup”, knowing she was probably saying it wrong. Kimberley and her sisters had given up trying to teach her how to pronounce the menu items. Mr Thai smiled and got the order ready for her. She noticed he was watching some soccer game in the back, and whenever the crowd would yell, Mr Thai yelled, too. Katie felt really lonely. It was enough to make her want to become a soccer fan. She would have an instant community, and also then maybe she’d be brave enough for the Italian sandwich shop.

At home Katie found not only the soup, but two cold rolls along with the two fried rolls she’d ordered. Nice Mr. Thai. She should really make a point of finding out peoples’ names.

Katie put the soup in a real bowl, and the spring rolls on a nice plate. She took a quick peek down into her basement to see if there were any major puddles on the floor, and, seeing none, she took her meal and sat down on her sofa in front of the television. She wasn’t quite ready to be alone with her thoughts. She knew the thoughts would go to Bad Places.  She would think about what Melissa had said, she would worry about the art show, she would worry about Bobby, she would worry about what Melissa had meant by “grown up friends”, by “I really hope you figure this all out soon”. All? Of what?  

She ate her soup and her spring rolls and she watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but had to stop part way through. It was an episode in which Penny auditions for a musical, unaware that she has a terrible singing voice. Katie was always hoping that one episode could end with Penny actually getting an acting gig. Instead she toiled endlessly at the Cheesecake Factory, her dreams of an acting career seeming more and more remote with each passing episode. Katie knew this was supposed to be a point of humour, a “let’s laugh at the delusional woman with dreams” kind of deal, but Katie had never found it funny, and today Penny’s plight nearly made her weep.

She went over to her bookshelf to find something else to distract her from her brain while she ate her spring rolls.  There, on the bottom shelf, was Banish the Bad Feelings by Bringing on Better Ones! It was the cognitive-therapy workbook Aunt Angela had picked up at a garage sale during those Terrible Four Months. “Here, I thought this might help,” Angela had said, tossing the book into the darkened room where Katie had been staying. “Either this or a shower....”

Katie hadn’t used the book at the time, but maybe it would be useful now? She pulled it off the shelf and sat back down with her spring rolls.

Do you find yourself lost, fixated on negative feelings?
Are you wondering when things will get better?
Is your life heading a direction you’re unhappy with? Do you want to learn to steer yourself in the right direction?

Sure, thought Katie. All of that. She flipped the book open to the chapter: Fixing Your Life.

Make a table with four columns. In the first column, write down the current situations that you find difficult or are making you unhappy. In the next column, write down the reasons for that -- are you blocked because of outside forces? What about that situation can you control? Is the force internal, or external? If it is internal, how can you shift your thinking to make it better? What changes can you make to influence the external? Next, write down what situation you’d like to be in. Finally, write down some practical ideas about how you can get to that place.

Katie ate the rest of her spring roll, and looked towards the television. She knew Grey’s Anatomy would be on soon. Losing herself in Grey’s Anatomy might be easier than tackling things head on. Apparently they were doing musical episodes now.

But no. She was supposed to be an adult. And adults fixed their problems with things like cognitive therapy exercises instead of escapist television.

So Katie found herself a notepad, a pen, and a ruler, and drew four columns across the page. At the top of the page she wrote “Getting My Shit Together”.

Present SituationExternal or Internal?Desired SituationHow to get there
Fighting with MelissaBoth. Friends again. Apparently I need to listen better. She doesn’t think I’m a good friend anymore. Take her shopping??
I’m not over BobbyInternal. How to shift thinking...????To be over the guilt. To stop feeling like I made a mistake. I thought I was over it!!!!
Write him a letter? Go visit him??
Hate. My. Job. External!!! okay and internal. Making art for a living. Who the fuck knows. Find Eoin??
Missing sister. ???????Find sister. Ha!
Everything. Everywhere. To be happy. To feel justified in giving up Bobby to pursue my dreams. To make dreams into plans. To face up to my mistakes. Take responsibility for myself. Be my own hero.

Katie stared at the list. This cognitive therapy stuff had promised results. Well, she had almost finished her list and so far she could only feel her heart racing and her stomach clenching. Plus she was thinking about Melissa and Bobby and Annie now, so she felt sick and teary. So much for steering herself in the right direction. This only felt worse.

And then her phone rang.

Katie jumped up, grateful for the distraction. Be Melissa be Melissa be Melissa.


“Katie? Hi, it’s Eoin.”

Katie jumped a little. It was him! “Oh, hey,” she said, trying for cool.

“I was just calling to see how you’re doing.” Like he’d promised he would!

She took a breath, and was so tempted to tell him everything, all about Melissa, the fighting, the blow up at the gallery-to-be. She wanted to cry, break down, beg him to come over and rescue her again, like he had at the wedding.

She glanced at her list. Be my own hero. It was pretty heavy-handed, but it helped. She smiled into the phone, having read once that smiles could be heard over phone lines, and said, “I’m okay.”

“Yeah? Because when I left you, you were kind of....”

“I know. And I’m still a bit...” she shook her head. No! Don’t choose that path. “I had a bad night, but I’m doing well.”

“Oh, that’s a relief.” He sounded as though he’d been genuinely concerned. “Because I was hoping you might want to get together tomorrow night?”

“Yeah?” Katie’s heart skipped. She hoped she sounded cool. She knew she probably didn’t, that the eagerness was evident in her voice. She grabbed her pen and scratched “Find Eoin” off her list.

“Yeah. I was thinking....”

You Decide!

Does Eoin say, “Yeah. I was thinking we could go to this art opening at my friend’s gallery on Dundas,”


Does Eoin say “Yeah, I was thinking you might like to come over for a traditional Irish supper at my place. I’d cook, of course.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jenny's First Giveaway!

So, there are a lot of book review blogs out there, and I read some of them. (Not all of them. Because then seriously--I'd never eat. Or bathe. Or write. Because there are a lot of people reviewing books online, people).

Sometimes the book review blogs will let people win the book they've just reviewed--they get copies from publishers or writers.

Well, as a thank you to my faithful readerfriends, I too am going to give away books! But here's the thing: I will only give away the books that I win from other blogs. (No publishers are giving me free books to give away. Not yet, anyway....)

So! The first book I'm going to give away is called Violets of March, by a ladywriter named Sarah Jio. I won this book from the book review site Chick Lit is Not Dead.

Here is a little synopsis:

Ten years ago, Emily wrote a best-seller and married the handsome Joel. Now she's suffering from writers' block and Joel has left her for another woman. Emily retreats to her great aunt's place on Bainbridge Island, where she discovers a red velvet diary, within which is a mystery no one on the island wants to help her solve....A little bit romance, a little bit intrigue, a little bit history and a little bit humour.

This book can be yours! I will send it anywhere in the world (or I will once Canada Post get their demands met and they can stop the strike)!

All you have to do is answer this question:

How did Katie meet Bobby? I've been trying to figure out the genesis of their relationship and I'm not sure about it yet. Did they

A) Meet on the subway one day when Bobby forgot his tokens and Katie paid his fair;
B)Take a first aid course together at a downtown community centre;
C)You make it up! Tell me your idea of how they met!

I will randomly select the winner by placing all your names in a hat. And don't forget to leave your email address (do the whole mynameATgmailDOTcom business) and I'll let you know if you've won!

Contest will end in one week.'ve got til bedtime on Thursday June 30th!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chapter 18: Conflict! A unanimous vote keeps Katie and Melissa from making up...

Aunt Angela appeared in the doorway. She was holding Katie's phone in her hand. "While I was in there you got a text," she said. She held it out to her niece. "I checked. It's from Melissa." Angela's face was impassive -- she wasn't giving anything away. (Not only as she a good house-sitter, she was also a mean poker player. She'd funded her recent trip to Spain with money she'd made at Casino Niagara's elite tables.)

Katie sat up and brushed the hair out of her eyes. She was pretty sure she knew Melissa would forgive her; they'd been friends for like, ever. Still, Katie was nervous as she reached for the phone.

I am still so angry. What u did was inexcusable. Dont call me 4 awhile.  I will find u when I am ready. -M

Katie read it three times, until the words were blurred by her tears. She looked up at her aunt and her mother, both of whom had these sad, sympathetic eyes. "She just needs time, honey," said her mother. "Whatever it is that happened between the two of you, it will be fine." 

Oh, her well-meaning mother. If she only knew... Katie flopped back on the sofa, her eyes closed. This was bad. This was really bad. She and Melissa always forgave each other.  This was new. This was different. Katie didn't understand what Melissa was doing, and that was scary.

Katie was at work by 8:30 on Monday morning. She was never that early for work but things were different. These circumstances called for a change in pace. 

Melissa had never ignored her like this before. Melissa had said not to call her, so Katie sent texts, sent emails, even veiled public-consumption messages via Twitter (@melissawills i heard someone acted like a freakshow at that wedding, i bet she's sorry), trying to get Melissa to respond, pay attention. If she couldn't get forgiveness, Katie wanted a fight, she wanted a showdown. She wanted something. This silent treatment was agony. And yet nothing would bring Melissa out. Katie went through the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday with no word from her angry, former best friend. 

Katie decided that Monday would be it, the last try. Melissa couldn't ignore her -- they worked together, after all. So Katie set out early, bought pastries from a nice shop near her house, and placed the warm, greasy-in-a-good-way paper bag of treats down on her friend's desk, along with a bouquet of flowers and a note that said, "I'm so, so sorry. It's all my fault. Please talk to me,"  beside the gifts and went over to her desk to wait for a result. 

Melissa got in about 15 minutes later, dressed in a sharp black suit with turquoise heels. Katie wanted to tell her how great the look was, but knew she couldn't move, couldn't approach her. She felt a sudden empathy for stalkers whose objects of affection have taken out restraining orders against them. All they want is acknowledgement, she thought, her heart sinking as Melissa picked up the flowers and the bag of pastries, dumped them in the garbage, and ripped up the note without even reading it. Acknowledgement and a little bit of respect. 

There was very little middle ground or fence-sitting where Melissa was concerned. This was handy when you were trying to decide on a movie, or debating things like politics, or whether to get that top that didn't quite fit but was 50% off. It was part of the reason Melissa was so good at her job -- she rarely wavered once she'd made a decision. Katie had seen her apply these black-and-white ways of thinking to people many times. But never had this side of her friend been directed at her. Katie knew her only recourse was to wait it out. 

"Did you have fun at the wedding?" Mike was leaning over her desk. "Did you meet any great guys?" Katie thought about nice, cute Eoin, who hadn't called her all weekend, either. She sighed. Why hadn't she gotten his number, too? All this waiting around for other people to make the first move was making her crazy.

"Not really." She wanted to be able to talk about Eoin, but somehow it didn't seem right to be gossiping about her love-life when her friend-life was in such shambles. 

"That's too bad. But I guess you have other big things to worry about right now. No time for romance." Mike glanced over his shoulder towards Melissa. He knew! Melissa must have been talking about it! Katie felt a surge of hopefulness.

"Yeah, I guess there's a lot going on." Katie lowered her voice. "So what's she told you, anyway?" She hoped Mike would dish. 

"Not much. But I guess we'll talk more about it when we meet up after work." 

"What? You're meeting up to discuss it?" Melissa must be taking this all very seriously. Katie tried to see this as a good sign. But why involve Mike? "I guess she wants an impartial opinion...." 

Mike shrugged. "Whatever. I'm just excited to get together. I wonder what her dad's like? Do you think he's like, crazy cool and intimidating?" 

Melissa's dad? What did he have to -- oh. Katie suddenly remembered a flurry of emails that had been exchanged on Friday afternoon between Melissa, herself, Melissa's father, Mike, and Nora. "Right. My art show." Katie felt like she should be putting air quotes around the words. "We're meeting up at the gallery space." This had nothing whatsoever to do with Katie's bad behaviour and subsequently destroyed friendship. 

"Yes...?" Mike looked confused. "That's what I've been saying. But I might not get there right away. Marketing wants Paul and I to be in this afternoon's pitch, and you know those guys. It might take forever to get away." Katherine nodded sagely, although Katie only had a vague idea what the guys in marketing were like.  "So when you go to meet up with her, just let her know I'll be as quick as I can?"

Katie felt like telling Mike that there would be no meeting, there would be no art show. But she didn't. She just smiled, smiled, smiled, and checked her phone for for the 100th time that morning, but no messages from Melissa, none from Eoin, just one from her mother advising her to "Hng n thr!!!" which she chose to interpret positively. 

By 5:30 Katie was standing outside an empty building on College Street, hands shoved into the pockets of her denim pencil skirt from Joe Fresh. She was pretty sure this was the right place -- the shop was vacant, a LEASED sign in the window. But no sign on Melissa. No Mike, either. 

She had no idea if Melissa would be coming. Melissa had successfully avoided Katie all day, which wasn't hard since everyone was in some sort of tizzy about the pitch. The clients had flown in from New York and everyone felt it was this coup that a little upstart from Canada had nabbed them. Katie knew that Melissa would be in the thick of it, all suitey and businessey with the Big City Bigwigs.  It was the kind of day at the office that Melissa loved, and Katie felt badly that the day had a Drunken Katie-shaped cloud hanging over it. 

So no Melissa, and no Melissa's dad, but Katie could see Nora wasn't missing the meeting. Tall, confident, striding along in a classic trench coat and tight brown boots, she was definitely hard to miss. The denim pencil skirt that had looked so trendy when Katie had spotted it on sale no longer seemed quite as nice as it had when she'd bought it (for only $12, purchased along with milk, bread, and pistachios at her local Superstore). 

"Hey, Nora." Katie smiled at this woman she barely knew. Nora smiled back, but her eyes were behind big, black sunglasses, and Katie couldn't tell if she was eye-smiling too, or just mouth-smiling. If only Katie could see her eyes, she'd know if Nora knew about the wedding incident. 

"So, how's tricks?" Katie asked, testing the waters. "Did you have a nice weekend?" 

"Yeah, it was alright. Went to dinner with some friends...Hey!" She pulled her glasses off and Katie could see they were bright, clear. Honest. "How was that wedding you two went to? Melissa hasn't talked to me about it yet." So she didn't know. Melissa hadn't talked. Katie felt her heart squeeze gratefully. Maybe it wasn't all lost....

"Speak of the devil," said Nora, looking behind Katie. Katie turned and there she was, Melissa, alongside her tall, distinguished father; they were climbing out of a cab. Katie felt her heart beating quickly. It was now or never. 

"Ah, so here's our artist." Mr Williams bent down and gave Katie a hug. "And Nora," he shook her hand. Katie couldn't help but feel a bit smug that she warranted a Williams-family hug and Nora just got a handshake. She might have been fighting with Melissa, but her family still liked her, and that must mean something. 

(Clearly, Katie was grasping at straws). 

"Now, I'll let you ladies in, and then I'm afraid I have to take off right away. But Melissa's got a set of keys, so as long as you lock up, I don't mind how long you stay. Have fun! Let your imaginations run wild...." Mr Williams unlocked the space, gave them a quick wave, and then jumped straight into a cab. 

"That dad of yours. Such a mover and a shaker," Katie said, her words followed by an awkward, stupid-sounding guffaw. 

"He's a land developer. He has meetings." Melissa's tone was harsh, angry. Impatient. 

"I know. I'm sorry. I'm just...." Katie trailed off as Melissa and Nora began to tour around the room. 

"The light in here is great!" Nora stood by the windows. "Check out the high ceilings! And the roof is real authentic tin!" 

Katie wanted to exclaim with her, she wanted to join in. But she was just watching Melissa, who stood by the door to the bathroom, flicking the lights on and off. Katie went towards her, slowly, feeling like someone advancing on a wounded animal who might turn rabid and bite at any sudden movements. 

"Melissa. Please. I'm sorry." Katie's voice was quiet. Melissa didn't turn around. "I don't know what else to say." 

"You keep saying you're sorry. Over and over again." Melissa's voice was quiet, so quiet. "What are you sorry about, Katie?"

"I embarrassed you. I told everyone your secrets."

"That's what you feel badly about?"

Katie didn't know how to answer. Was this a trick question? "Um. Yes?"

Melissa sighed, and turned to face her friend. She looked so tired. "Katie, come on."

"Come on what? Are you saying I shouldn't be sorry for that?" 

"Yes, you should be. What you did wasn't cool. You told people my secrets, and you talked about David, too, which wasn't--" 

"But he hurt you! I was only--" Katie cut in, defending herself. 

"That's not the point. Katie, at first I was angry because of that, sure, but look. You are so self-absorbed." She glanced towards Nora, who was outside having a cigarette. "You made it completely about yourself."

"What?" Katie asked. But inside she was thinking, and so what if I did?

"Think about it. You went up there and embarrassed me, and David and Georgina. I appreciate that you were trying to defend me, by the way, but I'm an adult. It's up to me to deal with that stuff." 

From far away, Katie could hear a phone ringing. A cell phone. It wasn't hers. And it wasn't Melissa's. 

"Okay, so you'd rather I have kept that stuff to myself. To yourself. Okay. But how am I self-absorbed?" The phone kept ringing. Katie turned around to scan the room. The ringing was outside. Nora was outside.

"You don't listen, Katie. Look. You clearly have some issues with Bobby still to work through and I just...if we're going to be friends, adult friends, I need you to--" 

The ringing had stopped. Katie turned again and saw that Nora had picked up a phone from the outside window-ledge. She was walking back into the shop. "Sorry -- what? I'm not telling you that," she said in an irritated voice.

"Katie, are you listening?" Melissa grabbed Katie's arm and swung her around to face her. "You're not even listening to me now. Come on." Melissa's voice was hard. "This is important." 

"Pervert! I am not--" Nora's voice was raised. It was Eoin. Katie knew it was, and she was desperate to talk to him. She turned to face Nora, and Melissa jumped into her view. 

"Katie, listen. I love you but we're in our 30s now. We have to grow up, Katie. I'm trying to communicate with you in an honest way, and you're just pissing me off! Okay?" 

"Okay." Katie smiled at Melissa, distractedly. "I hear you. I am listening. I promise. Just--" Katie could hear Nora's voice raised, she could tell that the phone call with Eoin wasn't going well. "Nora, let me!" Katie turned from Melissa's intense gaze and went towards Nora. "Sorry, Melissa, just a sec," she said over her shoulder, running towards Nora who was now moving quickly on those too-tall boots towards the sidewalk, "Wait, don't!" Katie reached out a hand to stop her but it was too late, Nora had tossed the phone into the road and a car, two cars, ten cars, ran over the phone, crushed Eoin and his art project. "What did you do that for?" 

"He was a pervert." Nora shook her head. "Wanted me to text him a photo, can you believe it?" 

"No, it was..." Katie wanted to explain but wasn't sure how to. "It was his art project." 

"Sure, okay," Nora did not look convinced. "Hey, Melissa. So did you guys get a good look at the space?" 

The three of them were standing on the sidewalk. Melissa locked the door behind them, shook her head. "I just don't think Katie's ready for this." Melissa smiled at Katie with this sad little smile, her eyes tired and a bit teary. "Let me know when you're fully committed, Katie," and she actually reached out and squeezed Katie's arm, which was both unbelievably patronizing and unbelievably nice. "I really hope you figure all of this out soon," she said, and Katie nodded, thinking, you and me both. Because I kind of have no idea what's going on.

Katie watched as Nora and Melissa flagged down a cab and climbed into it together. Katie watched as it drove off, the tires crunching Eoin's cell phone into dust as it went.  

"What just happened?" Katie asked College Street in general. She leaned against the dusty windows of the storefront, where her art show was likely not happening now. How was she going to prove she wasn't a self-centered kid, but a fully realized adult? Was a mortgage not enough? Katie felt like she was in one of those movies where the guy has to prove he's changed in order to win back the love of his life before Prom.

Katie knew what she had to do. She'd get some take-out, go home, and try to figure out what Melissa was talking about.  Around the corner was a Thai place that did a killer Tom Yum soup. But over by her house was a little Italian sandwich place she'd always meant to try. 

You Decide:

Katie gets the tried-and-true Tom Yum soup!


Katie goes for the unknown Italian sandwich!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chapter 17: in which Katie's mother shows up and gifts are exchanged

"But I just want Melissa to know how sorry I am about everything," Katie said, staring mournfully at her sandwich. "I need her to ..." 

"Oh, Katie, she knows." Aunt Angela put the teapot on the low wooden coffee table, her long gray hair swinging loose around her face. "Just give her some space." Angela sat down on the sofa next to Katie, and patted her leg. "So what should we get up to this evening? Rent a movie, go for dinner, take a walk..." 

Just then the doorbell rang. Katie's heart leaped. Melissa! Eoin? Jehovah's Witnesses? She gripped her cup of tea, the heat radiating into her palm. 

Aunt Angela put her cup down and got up. "I'll get that," she said, her long, caftan-ish dress floating around her as she moved towards the door. Katie sat up quickly, and realized with a sudden pang that she really had to pee. Again. 17 cups of earl grey (not to mention buckets of free champagne) will do that to a lady. 

She didn't want to miss out on seeing who was at the door. But she also didn't want to wet herself in front of whomever it was. Practically won out and Katie rushed towards the bathroom, a lovely large room with tasteful art on the walls and a big stone sink. This place was much nicer than the house Angela had been "sitting" when Katie had her Terrible Four Months and she'd hidden in the guest bedroom. If only those months had been spent in this delightful home, perhaps those months might not have been so terrible.

She was washing her hands when she heard the voices. It was her aunt, in the living room, her voice low, calm, and another voice, a woman's. It wasn't Melissa. It wasn't Eoin. And it certainly wasn't a Jehovah's Witness, unless her formerly atheist mother had become a convert to the door-knocking faith. 

Katie slumped forward, pressed her forehead against the bathroom door for support. She and her mother hadn't really spoken since that awful night at her mother's house, with the chicken and the raw carrots and Jonah running wild. And those hurtful things they'd said...sure, they'd texted apologies, but as anyone who's been dumped or propositioned via cellphone knows, text messages don't really count in the long run as real life. 

There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Katie?" Her aunt was standing in the hall. Katie didn't answer. "I know you're there, Katie. We could hear you peeing." 

This was not a helpful announcement. Katie pressed her forehead tighter into the door. The caftan made a swooshing noise and then there was another voice.

"Katie. Come out. Please." 

Katie was aware that she was a 32-year-old-woman in an expensive party dress, a tax-payer with a pretty powerful job and a mortgage. She couldn't hide in bathrooms her whole life -- after all, she'd basically hid in the bathroom only a week ago at that breakfast place. She didn't want to be the sort of person who found herself seeking refuge in lavatories on a regular basis. That was not a quirk she wanted to cultivate. So Katie opened the door and stepped out into the hall. 

Her mother and her aunt were both standing there, their arms crossed, their mouths pursed into worried pouts. That was where the similarities ended. While Katie's own mother was tall, slender, with frosted hair, expensive jeans and a look of fatigue she'd worn ever since Anne had "gone away," as her mother put it,  Angela was softer, rounder, with flat sandals on wide, comfortable feet. Her face was lined, but not with worry. With laughter, sun, an excess of living. 

And yet they were sisters. Only two years apart, they'd traveled different paths, much like Katie and Anne had. Angela was the free spirit, never had a career, never settled down, "never committed to anything besides her own sense of entitlement" is how Katie's mother put it. She was also an alcoholic, 20 years sober. Katie recalled those days when Aunt Angela used to show up at Christmas dinner 6 hours late, invariably with no presents and a man called "Daryl? Dave? Something with a D, anyway," on her arm. Those had not been happy Christmases. But she'd gone on a trek to India and two years later she'd returned tanned with a bunch of saris, a high tolerance for spicy foods and hadn't had a drink since. 

Her mother on the other hand had completed a four year undergraduate degree in social work, worked for social services for three years, married her boss, and promptly quit work to raise her children. She'd never gone back to her job, claiming "raising two teenaged daughters is social work enough for anyone!" She didn't make those jokes about her children anymore.

Katie didn't feel drunk now. Mostly just tired. It was only 8pm but it felt so late. 

"Hi mum," Katie smiled weakly at her mother. Her mother just nodded. "How did you know I was here?" 

"Your aunt told me." 

"I did not!" Aunt Angela swatted her sister on the arm. She turned to Katie. "Now listen, I was on the phone with your mother when you drove up. I mentioned that I thought you might be in the truck. And you were!"

"And so you drove across town to see if it really was me in the pickup truck?" Katie's mother hated driving.

"Well, Angela said it looked like you were upset. She said...." 

Angela took Katie's hand, and began leading her towards the living room. "I told her that you looked like you needed your mother." 

Katie wanted so hard to yank her hand away, to say, "What do you know about mothers? If you could have seen us lately, if you could know what being a child in this family is like right now..." but she didn't. She wanted to be hostile but she didn't have the stomach for it. Instead she turned to her mother and her aunt and said, "Can we order a pizza?" Because pizza she did have the stomach for. 

In the end she didn't tell her mother anything about the wedding, about what went down.  It wasn't that she didn't think her mother would understand -- she knew she would. She'd understand a bit too well. So rather than remind her mother of the pain she'd caused everyone by leaving the perfect boyfriend, they instead ate pizza and Angela showed them pictures of her trip to Spain. She handed over their gifts -- a Spanish fan and a set of castanets for each of them. Katie imagined clicking them in meetings at work whenever she wanted to get Don Juan's attention. 

Her mother had loved Bobby -- only she'd called him Robert. She used to call him sometimes when Katie wasn't even home, ostensibly to chat about a computer problem or get his advice on what software to get but really she was calling because she loved him, liked him, felt he was the son she'd never had. The breakup had been hard on her. Katie didn't think that when you broke up with your boyfriend you should have to worry about your mother's own grief, but there it was. So she didn't want to bring it up, talk about the wedding, about the feelings it had brought up, about how she missed him. It would only make them fight or something.

(What Katie couldn't fail to notice when Angela dumped the stuff out of a shopping bag and spread it on the coffee table, was the three fans tumbling out, three sets of castanets. "Pick your favourite, one of each," Angela had said, and for a moment, both Katie and her mother sat frozen, unable to pick up either a fan or a pair of clicking castanets. For the third of each was for Anne. Finally Katie picked up a dark mahogany fan and a set of castanets on a dark green velvet ribbon, and her mother picked a blue fan and a red-ribboned set of castanets. The other two items Angela silently picked up and placed back in the bag, and Katie wanted to ask, "Just what is Anne supposed to do with a paper fan and castanets? For all we know she sleeps on a grate," but she didn't say anything. Neither Katie or her mother mentioned Anne, or the fact that they'd both left the yellow fan behind because Anne had always loved yellow; it was her favourite colour. All her bridesmaids had worn yellow, sallow complexions be damned.)  

"These are great, thanks," Katie and her mother played with their fans as Angela tidied up the pizza plates and went into the kitchen. 

There was silence for a while, just the sound of the tap running, dishes sliding into soapy water. 

"So." Katie opened and closed her fan. "Is Jonah still at the house?" 

"No." Her mother clicked her castanets. "He's back with Jason." 

"Ah." Katie took a breath, wanted to say more. Didn't want to. This was like walking on a freshly-healed foot, just minutes out of its cast. 

"It's a shame, really." her mother clicked softly.

"Why's that?" Katie braced herself for the inevitable. Jason's not coping/Your sister has turned up at their place in the middle of the night, looking for money/Jonah's wetting the bed and Jason's taken up with the babysitter

"Because I think that kid would really enjoy these little clickers," said her mother, with a genuine smile. She snapped the castanets at Katie. "Ole!" she said, and Katie laughed. 

"Well, that's a nice sound," Aunt Angela appeared in the doorway. She was holding Katie's phone in her hand. "While I was in there you got a text," she said. She held it out to her niece. "I checked. It's from Melissa." 

You decide! 

Melissa's text reads:
I'm srry 2. Evrythng is cool. I understand. Let's meet up + have a post-war drink. xo M


Melissa's text reads: 
I am still so angry. What u did was inexcusable. Dont call me 4 awhile.  I will find u when I am ready. -M

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chapter 16: In which Aunt Angela makes copious amounts of tea.

“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. 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?” 

Katie looked up. Way up. He was so tall, she was leaning against his rib cage. "What?" She could see into his eyes. Blue blue blue. 

"We should get out of here," he said, over the music that had started up again. "Where's your stuff?"

"It's with Melissa. At our table. I can't leave without her..." Katie started towards where they'd been sitting. There was no one at it. Even Laureen, the old-lady-teacher, was missing. Katie found her coat and her cute red pocketbook, but no Melissa. 

"Where could she be?" Katie got down on her hands and knees, crawled under the table. "Melissa?" She felt around but didn't feel her friend or her friend's stuff. 

"I think she's gone, Katie." Eoin's voice was muffled. She could feel his hands around her ankles; he was yanking her backwards. 

"Okay, okay," Katie crawled out again, and found Eoin sitting on the floor, too. It was the first time they were on the same level, and she could seem him carefully, closely. He wasn't particularly hot, not in a movie star or football-player way.  He was no Bobby, who had dark features and broad shoulders, strong arms -- a fit, athletic guy with a lovey-mush heart. But there was something about Eoin that was electric, that was alive. Katie felt like crawling into his lap. Instead she just stared at him. Blue blue eyes with long lashes, a biggish nose, but it suited him. All of him suited him. Friendly, smiley lips. Pinkish skin. He looked too big for his body, for his bones, he was all angles under that swirly pink shirt.  Smooth, blond hair, cut short but still a bit curly, and really smooth-silky, with dark bits at the roots. Not like he dyed it, but like it was just that colour. "Caramel sauce," she said, reaching out to touch the hair. He let her run her hand across his head. 

"Okay, Katie. Let's get out of here." He stood, pulled her to her feet. He had her bag and jacket in hand. "You didn't drive, did you?"

Katie laughed. "Who has a car in Toronto?"

"I do," he said, and a few minutes later they were seated in his old Dodge truck. "I got it when I moved to Canada. I thought it seemed like something cowboys would have." 

"There are no cowboys around here," Katie said. They were driving down Lakeshore, the bright city lights drowning out the stars. 

"I know that now," he said, shifting gears. They were going faster and faster. Katie unrolled the window, let the wind roll over her, and promised herself she wouldn't puke. 

They were going to Aunt Angela's. Katie didn't want to go home, and Eoin had persuaded her that tracking down Melissa in this state would only make things worse. Katie had gotten a text earlier that day from Aunt Angela telling her that she was home, and would Katie like to stop by and get her presents from Spain? Now seemed like as good a time as any....

Aunt Angela was currently house sitting for a friend's partner's parents. For a woman who had essentially brainwashed her niece into buying a rundown house on Toronto's sketchier side, she had actually never owned property herself. "I just don't have the income," she'd always said, with a look of regret on her pretty, middle-aged face, but Katie was pretty sure that Aunt Angela would never get a house even if she could afford it. Or a car. Or a cat. Or a child. Or a suitcase that was too big to use as anything but a carry on. 

The house she was currently staying in was a kind of mansion. When they pulled up to the driveway, Eoin actually said, "You know someone who lives here?" with a shocked kind of voice. 

"Thanks. I'm not that scraggly," Katie said, though she did wonder how many homeless family members one needed to have before one could be considered "rough". Anne was one, and, given her Aunt's transient lifestyle, she could be considered another, current living conditions aside.

"I just mean, this is some house," he parked the rattly truck in the round-about driveway. "Don't take it personally." He smiled across the truck  cab at her. 

"Sorry. I'm just drunk. It makes me sensitive." Kate was no longer in the fun-zone of drunkenness, and was dropping into that pre-hangover stage when everything made her either want to sleep, cry, or vomit. 

"Oh, is that what it is?" Eoin reached across and popped her door open for her. "Let's get going." 

Katie let herself gingerly out of the cab and walked towards the giant house. The sun was setting and the mosquitoes were coming out. It was still only early spring but there was the smell of barbecue on the air. Katie felt ravenously hungry, for all the post-booze wooziness. She wondered if Angela might order them a pizza. Suddenly the front door flew open and there she was, Aunt Angela, in the caftan-sporting flesh. 

"Katie! You're here!" She rushed forward and Katie allowed herself to be enveloped in an Aunt Angela hug. 

She was looking over at Eoin, leaning against the passenger side of the truck. "And who is this?" 

He stepped forward, handing over Katie's jacket and purse. Katie noted that he clearly wasn't one of those guys who act like ladies' handbags have leprosy when faced with having to hold one. She thought this was an incredibly appealing quality. "I'm Eoin. A friend of Katie's. She has had a rather difficult afternoon..." He shook Angela's hand. "And now I leave her in your clearly loving hands." 

"You're not staying?" Katie's head was starting to hurt. Her mouth was dry. She worried he was leaving because she was a spaz. Now he'd never want to show her his studio. Her sensitive, post-drunk soul felt a stab of insecurity. 

"I thought you might like some alone time with your aunt." He pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open. "But how about I get your number and I'll check on you later?"

Katie liked the "let me get your number" business, but she wasn't so keen on him asking her in front of her aunt. That didn't feel particularly romantic. Nor could she tell if he was asking her out of obligation or because he actually wanted to see her again. But considering he was the first guy to ask for her number in a long, long time, and considering that she really wanted to see him again, and she wanted to see his art studio, not to mention his wide, friendly smile and those blue, blue eyes....

"Katie?" her aunt nudged her hard in the ribs. "Are you going to give him your number, or do you need me to do it?"

Katie blushed and reached for his phone. "Here, I can put it in for you." She had to do it twice before she got it right, her fingers were that shaky. She hoped that he put it down to excited nerves (which it was), and not delirium tremors (which it wasn't). 

An hour later, Katie was on her third cup of tea, snuggled into a warm, soft sofa in the sunroom, overlooking a big, lush garden at the back of the house (which turned out to belong to a big-time movie director, "though I can't tell you which one-- I had to sign a confidentiality clause when I took the gig," her aunt had said with such earnest sincerity Katie had no choice but to believe her). "Another cup?" Angela held up a teapot. "Oh dear, it's empty. Shall I make another pot?" 

"Sure." Katie reached for her grilled cheese sandwich. Not exactly pizza, but she was staring to feel less drunk-hungover than before. Which meant she was starting to remember what she'd gotten up to at the wedding. And now she was feeling a different kind of sick. 

"Aunt Angela, please give me my phone back. I need to call Melissa." She had filled her Aunt in on the sordid, embarrassing details of her behaviour at the wedding, and true to her free-spirited, hippy form, her Aunt had not laughed, pitied, or berated her. She had simply listened, and made copious amounts of tea.

"Not yet," Angela called from the kitchen, where she was brewing up more Earl Grey. "You've done enough damage with that thing.' 

"I only sent a couple of texts. No big deal. I just want Melissa to know that I'm sorry." 

"Katie, you sent three texts and tried to call her twice before I got that phone away from you. In a one hour period that's quite a lot of unsolicited contact, even from one best friend to another." 

"But I just want her to know how sorry I am about everything," Katie said, staring mournfully at her sandwich. "I need her to ..." 

"Oh, Katie, she knows." Aunt Angela put the teapot on the low wood coffee table, her long gray hair swinging loose around her face. "Just give her some space." Angela sat down on the sofa next to Katie, and patted her leg. "So what should we get up to this evening? Rent a movie, go for dinner, take a walk..." 

Just then the doorbell rang. 

Your Turn to Decide!

Who is at the door? 

It's Katie's mother (Aunt Angela's sister)!

It's Anne, Katie's sister!