Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 41: Katie and Anne Reunite!

Welcome to the second Guest-Written Chapter! This one was written by my sister, Keri! I am so happy that Keri was the one to write the sister reunion scene....(who can guess what she mined from her real life?? HINT: it's not homelessness, alcholism, or dog walking....)

“Hi,” said Katie, smiling. Katie's heart pounded in her chest. It really was Anne. The dogs wrapped themselves around Anne's feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog Katie was holding barked happily at the others, like long-lost friends. Katie looked at her sister, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.

“I have to go,” Anne said, stumbling over the dog leashes; she was trying to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”

“Anne,” Katie called. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”

Katie looked anxiously at Anne, who had turned her back and seemed to be talking to the dogs while untangling the leashes.  Katie tried again. "Anne,  I really need to talk to you!"

Slowly, Anne turned around. “Katie?"

Katie reached out towards Anne. Maybe if I touch her, the distance will melt away.  Instead, Anne backed up, almost falling over the dogs, not looking Katie in the eyes, just sort of skimming the ground. Katie noticed that Anne's hair actually seemed brushed and her clothes, while not the fashion-forward choices her sister used to make, looked clean, even if a little worn.
Katie tried again. "I can’t believe you're walking dogs. You always hated them, ever since Odie ate your favourite Chuck Taylors."

Anne smiled a smile of recognition and Katie’s heart leapt a little bit -- maybe thoughts of their uncle’s dog might be neutral enough to start a conversation?

Her heart pounding, Katie asked “Anne, um, do you want to talk? I mean go inside," she said, pointing to the gallery. "We can sit down for a bit."

Anne shook her head and Katie almost cried out in frustration. But then Anne, almost in a whisper, said, "Can I take the dogs back first?"

Katie, not sure if she heard correctly, decided that nodding might be the right way to go here. She quietly asked, "Do you want me to come with you?"

 Anne looked at her, for the first time meeting her gaze, and said:  "No. I will come back."

No way, Katie thought. She didn't want to lose Anne again.  Instead she heard herself saying “Sure, I will go in and make us some tea.”

Anne nodded and then turned, murmuring something to the dogs as they disappeared around a corner. 
Katie let out a deep breath, wondering if she had been breathing at all. She felt her heart racing, and turned to Charlie, Mr Ambrose's dog.  "What did I do?" she wailed.  "I just let her go like that?  Do you think she’ll come back?” 

Charlie woofed, and Katie decided that maybe Anne had developed dog-whisperer powers during her months on streets,  and the dog was telling her not to worry. Sure, that's it, Katie, your sister talks to animals now, ha!  And so do you...
Katie went inside the gallery and plugged in the kettle, thankful that Eoin's gallery-owner friend had trusted her with his space. Immediately she pulled out her cellphone, and turned to Charlie. "Should I call my mum or should I call Eoin?"

But Charlie just sat there silently this time, so Katie poked at her contact list, wavering between her options. Worrying her mum would be mad that she let Anne go, she called Eoin. 

Eoin picked up on the second ring and Katie, barely letting him say hello, launched straight in.  "Oh my god, Eoin. I found Anne!  She was walking dogs and now I let her go and drop them off.  I'm making a pot of tea and waiting for the kettle to boil and for Anne to come back.  I'm so nervous she'll disappear again, but she seemed like she would come back, she really did, I just trusted my instincts...”

Eoin, grabbing the a moment, said, “Of course she will, Katie. She's your sister," and Katie realized she was glad she picked Eoin to call. Her mother really would have panicked. 

“I'd better go, Eoin. I need to think about what I'm going to say before Anne gets back."

But  Katie couldn’t really think, all she could do was pace back and forth, making patterns in the drywall dust on the floor.  It really is like a watched pot, she laughed to herself, as she waited for the kettle to boil, as she waited for her sister's return.

After what seemed like forever,  Anne peered in the window.  Katie’s heart started beating furiously. She went to open the door. 

Anne looked around and sat on one of the chairs pushed up against the wall.   Katie’s lips were dry and her mouth felt like sandpaper. Suddenly sudden she didn’t know what to do or say.  She just burst into tears. “ I missed you. I love you. I need you, Anne." 

Anne swallowed,  and to Katie it looked like she might cry too.  Instead Anne said, "It isn’t that easy, Katie.  I can’t just come back. There is so much more here than just me walking dogs and not living at home anymore." 

Katie sat down on the floor next to her sister and took her hand.  "Anne, you are sitting here with me and I don't care what else has happened. It doesn't matter, none of it matters."

Anne slid off the chair onto the floor and slowly leaned against Katie.  "What have I done?"  Anne pleaded, almost plaintively.  "I have been walking all over this city, looking at you, and that cute boy who wears weird clothes,  I see Jason and some floozy in the park with Jonah, and my heart breaks,  I even saw mum knitting on the sofa talking to herself. Katie, I have been watching this whole time.  I got clean about 3 months ago with an idea that I would make it back into your lives.  I left you that note, remember - like we used to play in that spy game, leaving messages for each other?  I wasn't sure I was ready but I wanted to do something.  Last year when you and Bobby split up,  I didn't know what to say. Everyone always thought I was perfect, with the perfect job and perfect life, but I was screaming inside, I felt so boring, so lifeless.  I thought having Jonah would make me care about something more, but it didn't, it just made it harder to be perfect.  Then I saw you giving up on your dreams too, so I thought that even though I had ruined my life, maybe you could get yours back-- you were going to be fantastic, Katie, you were- remember, we planned it.  You were going to be an artist and I was going to be a famous lawyer fighting for justice.  Instead I got stuck in the corporate game and lost any idea about who I was and now I lost everything, my son, my house, my sister, my mum…." Tears started rolling down Anne's cheeks and Katie put her arms around her sister, noting that Anne had left Jason off that list.

Maybe this could be fixed, thought Katie. Maybe I can get Anne back the pieces that mean something to her.

"It worked Anne -- your note reminded me of what I used to be and so I made that art project for you. All those paintings.... You were the one that believed in me so I did it for you, no one else.  In the meantime, though, other people saw it all too, and now, I guess I get to say when people ask what I do, I get to say I am an artist, for real- well almost," she said, thinking with pride of her new project at work. "I couldn't have done it without you, Anne. Neither Melissa or Mum believed in me the way you always did." 

Anne smiled, and wiped away the tears. "I'm glad Katie. You deserve to be a superstar."  She slowly got up to leave, brushing the drywall dust from her jeans and tucking her hair behind he ears.  "I better go. Joe will be waiting to share my takings for the day. "

"Wait Anne, you can't go -- I need to take you home. We can start again, with mum and with Jonah- they need you too."

Anne laughed a sad laugh. "Katie, Jason just wants to be free, I don't want to deal with the pain and the anguish or risk upsetting Jonah any more than he already is. It's been enough time already- it's better that they forget about me."

Katie stood tall and grabbed Anne's hand. "Anne, no! I won't have my nephew raised by that loser and his floosy- let's not give up. I'm calling mum and Aunt Angela and getting them to pick us up-- please don't go Anne!"

Charlie, who Katie had forgotten about in the corner, came over and rubbed up against Anne's leg. She bent down to stroke his nose and he gave a little whimper.  "Ok," sighed Anne. "Ok, I'll give it a try-- just one conversation though, and it has to be at my place. "

You decide!

1. Katie's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up and brings Jason
2. Katies's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up with Jonah

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chapter 40: In Which We See Things From Anneʼs Point f View, (Such As It Is)

Because of my crazy-time-consuming project with Fiction Express, I haven't been able to write much about Katie. Luckily, a number of you have volunteered to be pinch-hitters!

First up is Annabelle from Shopping Detox. As Annabelle is no longer filling her days with ill-advised shopping sprees in her effort to live a Frugal Life, she is now able to fill her days with writing. Hooray!

Annabelle has tackled chapter 40 -- she is writing in Katie's sister's voice and I love it I love it I love it! It was such a cool concept and Annabelle did such a great job on it.


My son is Jonah. My husband is Jason. My name is Anne.

You carry a picture around with you, folded so many times that you couldnʼt recognize the faces if you didnʼt know them, if you hadnʼt memorized them. But you have. My husband, Jason. My son, Jonah. You run your thumb over their faces, your hand on the picture in your pocket as you wait in line for breakfast. A ladle full of oatmeal, served unenthusiastically by some bored-looking guy paying off his parking ticket. You donʼt care, itʼs warm and filling. Sticks to your ribs.

You wish for coffee, but there hasnʼt been coffee here in a decade. (Not that you was here a decade ago, but thatʼs what OId Joe told you, back when he was still around.) But there are carafes of tea, strong and hot, warm in your hands in a styrofoam cup.

You get here early, just when they open at 6 a.m. because you have to get to work at 7 and you like to watch the morning show on the wide-screen TV.

Nobody talks to you here. You catch the eye of someone you know - smile and nod. No time for small talk at 6 a.m., not here, where everybody comes but everybody pretends theyʼre not here.

* * *

Chunks of time have been slipping away for so long that youʼre used to it. Keeps things interesting, Dianna said. It does - a few times a day, you forget where you are, why youʼre there, why everyone is yelling at you, why youʼre throwing up.

Throwing up. You threw up every day of your pregnancy with Jonah. They said it was just the first trimester, then the second. By the third, you were still losing weight - Katie rolled her eyes, jealous, like she thought you wanted to be putting your baby at risk, as though you were that vain.

Katie. She looks so different now, grown-up, responsible. She used to be different. You used to be fairies, little girls hiding from the Blitz, building a Barbie city in the basement you wouldnʼt let your parents tidy up.

You were going to be fantastic.

The message - the fairy - is showing up everywhere. A message? Or a mirage?

People are yelling at you again. You run.

* * *

Why am I walking dogs? Itʼs your job. But I hate dogs. You donʼt have to like them to pick up their excrement and let them exercise their legs.

Youʼve always hated dogs. So has your sister, and your mother. Genetic? Nature or nurture? When Otis offered you the job, you laughed at him. Me? Most dogs weigh more than me, theyʼd drag me down the street.

Otis was a friend of Diannaʼs. Dianna had a lot of friends. The house you shared was transient, roommates coming and going so often nobody bothered to claim a room - xcept for you. You craved cleanliness. One of your favourite writers had said every woman should have a room of her own, and you did yours up as nicely as you could. You couldnʼt decorate (what would you use?) but you kept your space tidy, and the others respected it. They should have.

You came home one day to find a stranger lying on your bed - sleeping? Passed out? It was a young man, dark hair, and you thought, Jason? Did you bring Jonah? Whereʼs Jonah?

Of course it wasnʼt him. It was a stranger, reeking of cigarette smoke and body odour, passed out with a can of Pine-Sol next to him. In my bed?

Dianna tried to calm you down, but you were livid. My room! My bed! My things! You havenʼt been back there since. There was a shelter across town where you stay now. They have a curfew, which you despise, but at least you get to sleep in the same bed every night.

Thinking later, youʼre grateful it wasnʼt Jason. You donʼt want to see him here. Why not? Youʼre more yourself than you ever were with him, playing happy wife and mother. Itʼs not because youʼre embarrassed of yourself. You just prefer to keep the two parts of your life separate - before and after. And itʼs hard to keep that division firm when people from before show up in after.

* * *

7 bridesmaids in yellow dresses you know is unflattering but itʼs your day, so they can suck it up. 175 guests at the wedding, mostly work friends, nobody you really know. A make-your-own sundae bar, but youʼre too anxious to eat, later you find out youʼre already pregnant. Honeymoon in Spain, swimming in the ocean, food poisoning, Jason hates spicy food, why did you go there?

* * *

Drinking too much coffee, uncomfortable shoes, painting on lipstick between meetings, skipping meals, Jason mad you went back to work too soon after the baby, not knowing what to do with the baby.
* * *

Otis is your boss now, and your friend. At first, when you met him in the house, he seemed like another one of those do-gooders, missionary types who want to get a taste of “life on the streets,” spend a day or a week there, and never come back again.

“I run a business,” he told you, and your guard is up immediately. Is he a pimp? Youʼve seen enough to know that people would pay money for a body as long as itʼs breathing, no matter if itʼs a middle-aged, grey-haired body with cigarette-stained teeth.

“Dog walking,” he says, and this is when you laugh at him. But heʼs being sincere. He needs more people in the downtown area, “Guaranteed youʼll make more walking dogs in a day than you would panhandling for a week.” You say youʼll try it - show him how wrong he is to put his faith in you.

Every day, you think you wonʼt show up for your assignment, but the force of habit is too strong, drummed into you from a lifetime of never cutting class, being the first to arrive and last to leave at work, and you realize you need this, youʼve missed having a schedule, a routine. On weekends, you canʼt wait for Monday again, for walking, for a reason to get out of bed.

You were going to be fantastic.

There it is again.

You trace your fingers on the words. A coincidence? Or a sign?

* * *

Of course thereʼs the drinking. Things have gotten a lot easier once you stopped struggling, accepted that you needed this, drove into the skid. Most things are easy to put on one side or the other of Before and After - Jason and Jonah are before; Old Joe and Dianna are after. But the drinking has always been there. You partied like everyone else in high school and university and still managed to graduate at the top of your law school class. You got a job with a prestigious firm - Faber-Collinge on Bay Street. You only took three months mat leave when Jonah was born - nothing against babies, but you were still working your way up to partner.

* * *

Jonah, with his chubby cheeks and curly hair.

Jason, the look on his face when you decided to hire a nanny. “If itʼs so important to you, why donʼt  ou leave your job?” you asked him. He didnʼt have an answer even though he was the one who wanted to keep the baby in the first place.

You barely breastfed - you werenʼt producing enough milk. Definitive proof that you werenʼt meant to be a mother. Anyway, it let you get back to drinking sooner - the only way to sleep through the night with a screaming baby in the next room.

* * *

Hereʼs how it works: Otis has given you a territory (like the drug dealers on “The Wire” you thought at the time) - a certain part of downtown Toronto, and the twelve dogs who live there. You smile to yourself as you make your way down King Street West - you used to live here, in a loft. Perfect life, perfect family. Did you ever notice a dogwalker riding the elevator? Probably not. You never noticed anything. And nobody noticed you - at least nothing you didnʼt want them to notice.

* * *

You have apartment keys, like when you were 12 and had a paper route. You know the dogs youʼre supposed to pick up well, you recognize the housekeepers and nannies who let you in and give you the dogs.

Why do people this busy own dogs in the first place? Do they ever see them?

The dogs are often frantic when you come by in the morning, eager for a pee and a run in the park. Today, there is a new dog to pick up at a downtown address. You already have three dogs running along, their leashes braiding together as you make your way down the street. This isnʼt a residential area, must be one of those new developments - where they build apartments in old warehouses or churches.

Art Gallery.

You look at the piece of paper in your right hand (the leashes are in your left), double-checking the address. This is it - does the dog belong to the art gallery owner? You imagine a paint-splattered dog, sleeping in a room filled with art installations. It makes you think of Katie. You were going to be fantastic.

At first you think itʼs your imagination, the woman stepping out of the art gallery with a golden retriever looks like Katie. Of course itʼs not Katie. Sheʼs always hated dogs as much as you do and, even if she had a dog, sheʼd never pay someone else to walk it.

“Hi,” the woman says, smiling. Your heart pounds in your chest. It is Katie. The dogs wrap themselves around your feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog your sister is holding barks happily at the others, like long-lost friends. You sister looks at you, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.

“I have to go,” you say, stumbling over the dog leashes as you try to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”

“Anne,” your sister calls after you. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”

You decide!

1) Katie tells Anne that sheʼs the one who has been painting You were going to be
all over the city.

2) Katie tells Anne that she has a new boyfriend who is super-cute.