Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chapter 27: In which Katie hides under her desk for awhile, and then her mother turns up with an unexpected bit of news.

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Back at the office, in her new white t-shirt, Katie watched the elevator doors opening and closing with an anxious churning in her stomach. What if Melissa brought Rebecca and Angus back to the office? It was entirely possible. Not every meeting could be conducted on the sidewalk or in Cuban-French fusion restaurants. Eventually people want big wooden tables and receptionists to make a deal seem real. She took out her bun, wiped the makeup off her face, and hoped that with her tshirt and Canadian accent they'd be fooled. These diversionary tactics were the kinds of things that would only work in a chick-lit novel. But given that her life often felt like a chick-lit novel, Katie kind of expected this ruse to work.

By four o'clock Melissa had not yet returned, clients in tow or alone. Katie was starting to relax when the elevator doors opened up and out walked Melissa, who was talking over her shoulder to someone.  Katie couldn’t see who it was. Was it Rebecca and Angus? She couldn’t tell! Panicking, Katie dropped down and crawled under her desk. I will just hide under here until I know who’s out there, she thought, not feeling entirely confident in her “tshirt and no makeup” disguise.

“Katie?” Erica’s voice called out to her. From her desk, Erica had a direct sightline to Katie’s hiding spot.  Still crouching,  Katie turned around, putting her finger over her lips.

“Shh!” She hissed at Erica, whose eyes went wide with understanding. She nodded slowly and went back to her keyboard, where she continued typing away.

“I don’t know where she is,” Katie heard Melissa saying. Oh no! Had she confessed the ruse to Rebecca and Angus? Or was Melissa pretending to be looking for Violet Marsh? Not knowing who she was expected to be, Katie stayed tucked into the tiny space under her desk. For once having the body of an underdeveloped teenaged girl was playing in her favour.

“Erica? Have you seen Katie?” But Erica was keeping her word -- Katie had told her employee to “shhh!” and shhhing was what Erica was doing. “Erica?” Melissa’s voice got louder, more managerial, but Erica continued to ignore her. This blanket “shhhing” was not entirely what Katie had intended, but she was rather touched by Erica’s loyalty.

“Well, I don’t know where she could be, Mrs Christensen,” said Melissa. “Would you like to wait in the boardroom?”

Mrs Christensen? Wait a minute! That was Katie's mother!


“Thank you, Melissa," said Katie's mother. "I only wanted a quick word, but I’m not sure I have time to wait. I only put a loonie in the meter.” So it wasn’t Melissa’s clients after all. Katie started to crawl out from under her desk. She could just tell them she had been rebooting her computer, or something.

“Do you want to leave a note?” asked Melissa as Katie was about to stand up. She could tell their backs were to her desk and they hadn’t seen her yet.

“No, what I have to say has to be said in person.” Katie stopped mid-stand. “It’s about her sister.” Katie inched back into her hiding spot. “It’s not good.” Katie’s heart nearly stopped. Anne was dead. Anne was dead. Anne was dead. Anne was --

“Is she--?” Melissa’s voice was a whisper, but Katie still heard it. “Oh, my god.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just....” Katie’s mother’s voice trailed off. “Listen, could you just have her call me when she gets back? I was down here meeting with some friends and I just thought I’d pop in and try to catch her.  She’s a hard one to pin down, you know.” Though her mother was laughing, Katie thought she sounded a bit disapproving. Like, a responsible, mature daughter would make regular phone calls. The mother of a responsible, mature daughter would not be forced to cut a lunch date short and waste a loonie in order to "catch" her kid. Her mother laugh-sighed. “We're not like you and your parents, with your weekly Williams-family get-togethers.” Now her mother just sounded wistful. Katie felt equal parts guilt and rage. She as also getting sick of hiding under her desk.

“Yes, my family is a bit co-dependent.” Melissa’s voice was airy, non-committal; she wouldn’t get sucked in the mother-daughter drama, bless her. “I’ll see what I can do about getting Katie to get in touch with you.” Melissa’s voice was fading; Katie figured they were walking toward the elevator.

So Anne wasn’t dead. But something was happening with her, a d it was serious enough to make Katie’s mother brave the downtown traffic, but not serious enough to warrant two loonies in the parking meter.

“Erica!” Katie hissed and Erica looked up from her keyboard.

“Yes?” She mouthed.

“Is my mother gone?” Katie whispered and Erica nodded. “You can talk again, Erica,” Katie said, using her inside-voice. She crawled out from under her desk and brushed off her pencil skirt, which was now wrinkled and dusty. So much for dressing like a professional.

“Katie?” Melissa was standing at her desk. “I was just leaving you a note. Were you under your desk?”

Katie nodded. “Um, yeah?”

“This whole time?”

“Um, yeah?”

“What didn’t you tell me?” Melissa jabbed a beautifully manicured finger at Erica. “You have a direct line of vision to the underside of her desk.”

Erica’s eyes got big again. She bit her lip but said nothing, as loyal to Katie as she was to her Sunday night Dr Who downloads.

“Don’t blame Erica. I swore her to secrecy.” Katie took the note from Melissa. It said, Be a decent human being and call your damn mother.  “So, my mother was here?”

“Yeah. She wants to talk to you about Anne.”

“What do you think is going on?”

“Chase after her and find out.” Melissa raised her eyebrows. “Or you could just hide under your desk for a while and think about it some more. What were you doing down there, anyway?"

Katie was about to explain that she'd panicked when she thought it might be Rebecca and Angus, when the elevator doors opened up and guess who strolled out?

“Shit!” Katie dove back down and crawled under her desk for a second time.

“Yoohoo! Melissa! We’ve come to talk terms.” Rebecca’s voice boomed across the office. Katie waited until she heard Melissa’s voice fade away completely, and then she crawled slowly out again.

“That was close,” she said to Erica, who merely nodded and smiled. She really had no idea what Katie was talking about, but she thought she needed to be supportive.

Katie hurried towards the elevator, and quickly texted her mum on the way downstairs. Heard u’re looking 4 me. I’m in lobby. Whats up?


******

10 minutes later Katie and her mother were sitting in her mother’s Toyota Camry. She hadn’t wanted to commit to another loonie to the meter, so they were sitting in the car just in case the meter maid came along and ran them out of their expired spot.

“This is crazy, mum. Jason’s serious?”

“I don’t think this is crazy at all. I think he’s being very responsible.” Katie’s mother’s hands gripped the steering wheel.

“But full custody? Anne’s Jonah’s mother.”

“By blood, maybe, but your sister … she’s not … maternal right now.”

“Yeah! Right now being the operatiave words. This is temporary. It’s not forever.”

“Anyway, I wanted you to know, just in case you hear from her first.” It was as though her mother had stopped listening. “Your father and I agree with Jason's move on the divorce and his custody suit. Well, maybe you shouldn’t tell her that part -- we don’t want to appear unsupportive.  But do tell her she needs to get in touch with Jason so he can send her the divorce papers.”


“How? Drop them off under the Don Valley bridge? Leave them at the Y? This isn’t happening. I can't be the one to tell Anne her marriage is over. That's messed up.” Katie’s guts felt all loose. At Anne and Jason’s wedding there had been 175 guests. They’d had a make-your-own-sundae bar and there had been 7 bridesmaids.

Just then a meter maid (though it was an elderly gentleman) came down the street and her mother turned to Katie. “You have to go.” There was real panic in her eyes. Her mother didn’t do well with authority figures.

But Katie wasn’t budging. “We can’t let this happen, mum. We have to find her so she can fight for her son!” Katie coudln’t see how her mother could be so blase about this. "We have to do something!”

“I am. I’m doing what’s best for my grandson. Now you have to get out, Katie. He’s coming!” The meter man was only one sedan away.

“Okay, okay.” Katie eased her way out of the car. “Tell dad I say hi,” Katie said, and slammed the door, just as her  mother responded with, “You could tell him yourself if you’d ever come by the house.”

Katie’s mother peeled away just as the meter man arrived at their meter.

“Fuck!” Katie yelled, and marched back towards her office building.

(Too bad she was so caught up in what happened with her mother, otherwise she might have noticed that she passed by a copy of one of her You Were Going To Be Fantastic paintings on the way -- only it wasn’t a copy that Katie had made, and it was hanging in a place where Katie herself had never put up a painting: someone was talking back.

You decide!

Katie gets her aunt to hire a private detective to help find Anne

Or

Katie and Eoin do an overnight graffiti blitz of the city’s bridges to try to communicate with Anne.




6 comments:

  1. Eoin - I'm in love with him now...
    Cyndi

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  2. Much as I love the idea of painting graffiti, I think we need to bring in the professionals. Unless another clue turns up. Eoin might notice the new poster?

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  3. Oooh, private investigator vs. graffiti and Eoin. As much as I like private eyes, I like the graffiti idea better. Graffiti!

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  4. My vote goes to Eoin!!

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  5. I'm gonna have to go with the detective on this one!! :)

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  6. Keri couldn't post here, but she says Grafitti!

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