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!


  1. I vote for the unknown Italian sandwich!!

  2. Tom Yum! She needs spice and safety all in one.

  3. Oh my gosh - poor Katie's life is in complete turmoil and all you can think about is food?!?
    OK, well, ...sandwich...

  4. @nina -- way to brave the unknown!

    @keri--that is a very big sister thing to say. i feel like that is totally what you'd tell me to do.

    @C -- clearly you're not a comfort eater....

  5. I think it's all about who she is going to meet when she gets there. But she would be more likely on this occasion to go with the familiar--i.e. macaroni and cheese, except that it is Thai and spicy and soup.

  6. Ah Nancy... Yes Katie's clearly not really interested in self revelation at the moment. Eat stuff Eat (does she smoke? just maybe on occasion? and poorly?) hmmm Anyway Thai Mac and Cheese all the way.

  7. Tom Yum. Anything with the word 'yum' in it is important right now.