Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chapter 48: You Are Fantastic

"Eoin," Katie said. "I think you need to look at it now." She held up an envelope that was on the bottom of the pile. It had a red URGENT on the front. "It's from immigration. I think this is serious."

Eoin came forward and ripped it open. His normally jovial face turned pale and frightened.

"What is it? What's wrong?" Katie felt her stomach go cold.

"I'm being deported," Eoin said, his voice flat. "They're sending me back to Ireland."

Eight Months Later

"Of course, of course. We'll be happy to meet with you. Absolutely." Melissa waved a pretty, manicured hand urgently in Katie's direction. Katie gripped Erica's arm tightly. "Yes. Sure." Melissa continued. "There's a great little boutique hotel right near our offices, let's meet there, shall we? Our space is undergoing some ... renos." Katie glanced around their cramped office, which was currently sporting three large blue buckets to catch the drips from a leaky roof. They didn't even have proper desks for all their staff yet (albeit a small staff, consisting of Erica and Mike -- Paul had stayed on at Ambrose's to "keep an eye on the competition", he promised), let alone a meeting room and a cappuccino machine. "Yes, it's a lovely place called the Senator. I'll meet you there in twenty minutes."

Melissa hung up the phone and gave a triumphant shout. "It's done! I think. We have a meeting, at least."

"Where you'll charm them and they'll have to sign with us," Katie clapped her hands. "Ooh! Can you imagine the fun we could have with a software company? We could do so much online stuff."

"We have to sign them first," Mike said, grimly. "Don't get too carried away."

"We have to think positively," Erica reminded him. "Positive thinking is the only way we're going to succeed."

"Yeah, that and clients," Katie said. "But I have a really good feeling about this one."

It wasn't as though they hadn't been getting work. Since they'd finally left Ambrose six months ago and set up their own company, they'd had a few small accounts, mostly just sent their way by Rebecca. But they still needed a big name to help them move up, and this software deal would be just the thing to put them on the map, as it were.

"I have a good feeling, too!" Melissa said. She grabbed her purse. "I'm going to head out now. I'm too nervous to just sit here, waiting!" 

"Okay, keep me posted on how it goes, Melissa. I've got my phone, so text as soon as it's over!" Katie watched as Melissa smoothed down her already impeccably-pressed suit and smoothed down her perfect hair. It was just as well they'd decided Melissa would be the one to meet clients first, Katie thought ruefully, looking down at her own wrinkly ensemble of faded blue jeans and soft black tshirt. Once an artist, always an artist, Katie thought.

After Melissa had left Katie stared glumly at her computer screen. She knew she should be working on some ideas for the possible deal with the software company, but she just wasn't that interested in software, to be honest. There was the online marketing angle, and that was cool, but Katie was way more in her element with tangible, physical stuff. Art pieces. She'd probably end up passing any online stuff to Mike, and he'd take the lead on the account, anyway. Katie sighed, and decided to Facebook-stalk Eoin.

Katie and Eoin had broken up. There wasn't any other way to describe it. He'd tried to fight the deportation but he'd been living in Canada illegally for so long there was no way they'd renew his student Visa. "It's not as though I was actually ever a student, anyway," Eoin shrugged when he lost his fight, then pulled Katie close to him, right there in the hallway of the stuffy government building. He'd been wearing a suit that day, it was dark blue and too small and his tie was crooked and his feet were in giant black Converse sneakers with no socks. It was no surprise the government wouldn't keep him, but Katie would, Katie wanted to, her heart broke and she sobbed into his white shirt front, turning it translucent with tears.

"I don't want to lose you," she'd snuffled, and he'd laughed and kissed her wet face.

"You won't lose me."

"I won't?"

"No. Because you'll come with me. You'll come to Ireland and we'll make art together."

For one whole week that had been the plan. Katie and Eoin had decided that she would move with him back to Dublin. She would find renters for her house, she would quit her job, she would pack up her art supplies and her cardigan sweaters and she would take this leap with this man she loved.

Her mother had been appalled. Her aunt and her friends had been thrilled. Her boss had been stoic but accepting. But her sister .... Anne hadn't said anything much at all. She'd only smiled tiredly and said, "I'll miss you, Katie."

And yet eight months later Katie was here, in this office (her office, she fiercely reminded herself, like a slap. It has your name on the door, and everything), spying on her ex-boyfriend.

He looked like he was doing well. Really well. Although the deportation had been a negative, a lot of positive things were happening for him. His show in Toronto had been a smash hit, and New York, London, and Barcelona had all asked him to do the same kind of project for them, following Vancouver (and Bobby's) lead. The London one, set to coincide with the 2013 Olympics, would basically set him up for life. Katie knew all this from his status updates and his friends' comments; though she and Eoin were Facebook-friends, they hadn't had any direct communication in a long, long time.

There were a bunch of new photos: Eoin with friends out at a pub somewhere. (He had his arm around a girl, a strange, pretty girl. Who was that? She was tall and leggy with satiny tops and skimpy skirts. Katie felt a jealous sadness, and clicked quickly through the photos, looking for evidence, looking for salt to rub into this already aching wound. Surely she'd find one of them kissing. She could cry herself to sleep with that one for days.)

"Umm. Katie?" Erica's voice, rather timid, rather quiet, but firm. "Can I ...."

Katie quickly shut her laptop. "What's up, Erica?"

"Nothing. Really. It's you want to talk about it? About Eoin? Because I'm happy to listen...." Though Erica wouldn't make eye contact, Katie had no doubt as to her sincerity.

"It's fine, Erica. Honestly. I'll get over him, eventually. Anyway, I have to go out to meet Anne right away, so it's cool. I can talk to her if I need to." Katie grabbed her sweater, shoved her phone into her bag, and hurried out the door. It wasn't only that she wanted to get away from this potential conversation, she was honestly already running late.

"So sorry!" She gasped as she rushed into the Magic Oven. It was right by the dog grooming place where Anne was now working as assistant manager and accountant. "I know you only have a short lunch break."

"It's okay," Anne said. "I figured you'd be late so I warned my boss. She's cool. I just can't make a habit of it."

"Well, that's okay then. You're not really supposed to be forming habits, anyway," Katie said, and was pleased that her sister laughed. She was far enough along in her recovery that she was able to appreciate jokes about her alcoholism.

"So how's it been with Jonah?" Katie asked between sips of her iced tea."Is he doing better?"

Jonah had been having a tough time adjusting to having his mother reappear. Katie knew that Anne felt really badly about it. On top of all that, Jason had moved his new girlfriend into the condo he'd shared with Anne, which was definitely an adjustment for their son.

"I think so. Seeing me regularly, in the same house, at the same time each week seems to help. Plus Aunt Angela's been amazing. I don't know what I'm going to do when her house-sitting gig runs out."

"You could always move in with mum and dad," Katie said, and the sisters both laughed. "Seriously, though, you're totally welcome to live with me. I'm all alone in that house, and until business picks up I could use the help paying my mortgage."

"How's it going, anyway?" Anne asked as the waiter delivered their large spinach pizza.

"Oh, fine." Katie sighed. "We're waiting to find out about this software company. If we land that, well, we'll be set. We'll be viable."

"That's great!" Anne raised her glass of lemonade in a toast. Just then, Katie's cell phone pinged.

"Just a sec," said Katie. "It might be from Melissa."

WE GOT IT!! said Melissa's text. WE GOT THE ENTIRE ACCOUNT!

"We got it," Katie said, staring at her phone. "We're ... viable."  She felt a wave of relief wash over her, relief and regret.

"I guess my toast worked, hey?" Anne said, cheerfully, and reached across the table to squeeze her sister's hand. "I'm so glad that things are going so well for you and me. You are happy, aren't you?"

"Yeah." Katie smiled at her sister. Anne was right. She was working, seeing her son, staying sober, and Katie had been around to help her transition. Katie was proud of that. And meanwhile, Katie was working at a mostly creative job, one that was just about to explode on the marketing world. So what if she wasn't painting much for herself any more? She would get around to her own work when the job settled down. And so what if she'd broken up with Eoin? He was great but he'd had to go back to Ireland. It just wouldn't have worked out in the long run. Katie clinked her glass against her sister's. "Hooray for us!"

That night Katie, Melissa, Erica and Mike ordered in Indian food and sat in Katie's house, celebrating the rise of their fledgling company. Paul came by, too, and over samosas and chicken vindaloo they tried to convince him to come work for them. "It'll be great! We'll have tons of work now," the cajoled him, and by the third bottle of wine he seemed like he might be willing to make the leap.

Katie sat surrounded by her friends and colleagues, her heart high and her face flushed. This is it, she said to herself, reaching for more rice. She wished she could tell Eoin about it, but she wasn't sure what he'd say.

He hadn't really understood why she didn't go with him. Not at first, anyway.

"Is this about work?" He'd asked. "Because I know I told you that commercial art is still art, Katie. I know I said that and I do believe it. But ... you've only just gotten started on your own path. Are you sure you want to give up your own work to make art for corporations?"

That had made her angry, mostly because she knew he was right. She'd stormed out of the apartment, yelling, "I have a chance to be a success, Eoin. Why would you deny me that?"

"This isn't the only way to succeed, Kate!" He'd called after her. "Please don't just take the easy way out! Don't forget yourself in all of this!" But she was already down the stairs, his voice fading as she ran.

Later, when she'd calmed down, she'd come back to his place, and he'd opened the door and put his arms around her, saying nothing. "It's not just the work, Eoin. It's not the art. It's Anne. She's only just back on her feet. She needs me here. She needs support while she goes through the custody and everything."

"Then come and meet me, come to me later," he'd asked, but she couldn't know when Anne would be better. She couldn't make Eoin wait. And so they'd ended it. Severed things. It had hurt, it had been awful, it had been hard, but there had been the business to set up and Anne's living arrangements to settle and the visitation and the courts and Jason and the divorce.....But now Anne was doing well, better than well, and the business was taking off, thanks in no small part to her creativity and innovation, and she was even going to hire someone to waterproof the basement, everything was terrific, everything was amazing.

But later, when the celebration was over and Melissa and the rest of them had left, slipped out with leftovers to catch the subway home, Katie headed off to bed, glancing quickly at her pile of art supplies, untouched for months, promising herself, as she always did, "I'll get to that soon. This weekend. I swear it."

The next morning she got to work only a few minutes late, carrying breakfast muffins and lattes for everyone. "In honour of our success!" she called out, and Melissa laugh/sighed.

"If we keep landing deals like this we're all going to gain 10 pounds what with all the celebratory eating that we're doing!"

"At least we'll be able to afford new clothes," Erica said, reaching for her muffin.

Around midmorning Katie decided to take a break from work and checked Facebook. Not really to stalk Eoin, but there he was, anyway.

Hey! his message said. Anne told me the good news about the software company. Congratulations. It looks like things are going really well for you and Melissa. How are you, anyway? I have to admit I really miss you.

Katie felt her heart lurch, drop. "Katie? You okay?" Melissa was standing by her desk. "You look seriously pale."

"I'm um...Can we go talk in the hall?" The two friends hurried past Mark and Erica and the drip-catching buckets and huddled in the stairwell like kids in a suburban highschool.

"Okay, what's up?" Melissa asked.

"It's Eoin." Katie said, feeling even more like a highschool student. "He says he misses me."

"What? Just out of the blue?"

"Well, I guess Anne contacted him and told him about our success. I have no idea why. But she did and now he's sending me facebook messages congratulating us and then saying, I have to admit I really miss you."

"What a jerk!" Melissa scowled. "How could he manipulate you like that?"

"No, no, he's not being manipulative, honest." The idea of Eoin doing anything underhanded was almost laughable. "He's incapable of that. He's just ... being Eoin. Weird, honest Eoin. He misses me so he had to tell me." Katie's heart constricted and she felt a bit teary.

"Okay, so maybe that's what's going on." Melissa conceded, grudgingly. "So what will you do about it?"

"Do? What do you mean? What can I do?"

"Oh, I don't know. Write back? Tell him you miss him, too?" Melissa took her friend's hand. "Because it's obvious that you really do."

"I know." Katie crumpled and sat in a heap on the top step. "I do."

Melissa sat next to her. "You don't regret staying, do you?"

"No ... not really. I mean, I needed to be here for my sister and well, if I'd followed him I might never have found my own two feet."

"But are these the feet you want?" Melissa waved above them, to the door to their office. "Is advertising really where you want to be?"

"I don't know," Katie whispered, her face lowered to her lap. "Some things about it are. But sometimes I worry that this is just another form of running away from what I really want to do." She couldn't even look at Melissa, but hoped that she was sharing these feelings with Melissa The Friend, and not Melissa The Business Partner.

"Look." Melissa took her hand. "I think you need to get in touch with Eoin, first of all. And you need to think about what you really want. Things here are about to get mega-huge. You need to get out now if you're going to get out at all."

Katie squeezed Melissa's hand.

Back at her desk, Katie composed a million different versions of a reply, and settled on,

Hi Eoin, 

Yes, things here are going really well with the company, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go where the company might take me. I guess I've got some thinking to do! I hear you're off to New York to work on the city project there. Have fun, and thanks for getting in touch. I miss you, too. 


She then worked on the software company account, and allowed herself to check her Facebook messages every fifteen minutes. By 1:15, he'd written back.

You've got some things to think about. Well, well. You know where a good place to think is? New York! Come and meet me here. You can go to galleries and out to restaurants and shows and you can spend the days in Central Park and the lobbies of fancy hotels and you can figure out what to do with your life. You could even stay with me -- no pressure. I can get us a double room, just friends. But maybe a friend is what you need?

"Melissa!" Katie hissed across the office, and within seconds the two of them were once again hiding in the stairwell, pouring over the message, which Katie had opened on her phone.

"So what are you going to do?" Melissa asked.

"I don't know. What do you think he means by friends? Does he mean friends, or is he saying friends because he thinks I want him to say friends?"

"Do you want him to say friends?"

"Maybe? No? I don't know. I don't know!" Katie stared hard at the message. Who knew the word "friends" could cause this kind of stress!

"I hate to say this, but I think you're going to have to go to New York." Melissa winked at Katie. "I think this one might require a face-to-face meeting."

Three days later it was Anne who drove Katie to the airport in their parents' car. "You're sure this isn't a mistake?" Katie had been asking repeatedly since she decided to go on the trip.

"Of course no. A mistake would have been ignoring it. By going you're opening yourself up the possibility that something -- anything -- might happen. This is an adventure, not a mistake!"

After she'd gotten the message from Eoin, Katie had called Anne who'd confessed that she had gotten in touch with Eoin on her little sister's behalf. "You were so happy when you were with him. And if I've learned anything it's that happiness is rare and important. I want you to be happy, Katie. I think he's good for you. And I know you gave him up because of me. But I'm fine now. So call him."

Katie had hung up with her sister, and she had shakily phoned Eoin and told him that she wanted to see him, that she was looking forward to the trip. He'd sounded excited, and he'd promised that he'd give her all the space she needed, but he had some good ideas for where she could go for inspiration, and some friends he thought she should meet. He said he'd meet her at the hotel when she arrived. He told her to bring her sketchbook, and some slides of her work. "Your work-work, not your job-work," he'd stressed, and she'd felt so happy when he'd said that. "Not that your advertising stuff isn't awesome, because it is. But I want this to be all about you, Katie. Not about anything else." She wanted that, too.

Melissa had assured Katie that the business would still be there while she was away. She'd left her preliminary ideas and plans for the software firm with Mike, and they'd hired on Paul to pick up the slack while she was gone. "And if you want to be a freelancer, or work part time, or whatever when you get back, we can do that, too. Okay? I just want you to be happy," Melissa had said during one of their many heart-to-hearts in the stairwell.

And that morning, over breakfast, Melissa had told her to come back to Toronto soon, because she had finally booked a gallery space for Katie to display her work. "So you have to come back, because you have a showing in six months."

Katie had hugged her friend tight, and Melissa had hugged back.

"It's not one hundred percent altruistic of me, Katie. If the show's a hit it'll be good for the company," Melissa reminded her, and the two of them had laughed.

So now Katie and Anne were on their way to the airport, and Anne and Angela were going to housesit while she was away. Katie had a one-way ticket to New York in her hand. She didn't know when she'd be back, and she didn't know where she was headed next. Katie felt a bit anxious and excited about an unknown, unplanned future.

Almost as though she were reading her sister's mind, Anne reached across the seat and took Katie's hand. "Whatever happens, though, you know it's going to be fantastic."

"Going to be?" Katie looked at Anne, and smiled. "I'd say it already is."


  1. Fantastic! I'm sorry it's done - looking forward to a sequel!

    1. Aww, thanks Cyndi!! Hopefully I'm manage to work more sex scenes into the sequel -- dedicated to you, of course!

  2. Perfect ending! And I'm happy to have the sex scenes merely alluded to, but them I'm really, really old.....

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