It turns out that I'm not the only one who had the idea of doing NaNoWriMo in the summer: NaNoWriMo did as well and they set up Camp NaNoWriMo to that purpose. So I went and signed up so I can get my cool little web badge if I finish on time. Though I continue to run a bit slower than I should given the goal: 990 more words tonight for a total of 1921 towards the 50,000 total.
Final cup of coffee and perusal of the paper completed, Kristy went out down the back stairs, from the kitchen to the garage under the condo, thus avoiding the sleeping intruder as she left for her run. She returned the same way, and heard no evidence that her sister had awakened as she slipped back into the master bedroom. When she emerged again after her shower, feeling damp but virtuous, she ventured back into the living room and saw that Katie remained motionless on the sofa: her head under the cushion, one leg hanging off onto the floor, plaid bottom in the air, as if the couch were some monster that had paused half-way through consuming its victim.
Nonetheless, her presence somehow constituted an obstacle to the planned lazy day. The couch and its occupant continually drew her eye, and Kristy found herself cleaning the condo, moving the filing cabinet out of the spare bedroom, shifting books off its shelf and onto the one in her own room, and generally reorganizing to accommodate two rather than one. Memories of the first weeks after Kevin had finally moved out came back to her. Then the sense of “no one else here” had been overpowering. However increasingly unwelcome that presence had been in the final months, the lack of it, after three years, had been palpable, and she had cleaned, replaced furniture, re-organized and redecorated until she now longer expected to see him sprawled in the recliner or crouched over a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Now “some one else here” seemed to radiate through the condo, and she felt the need to deconstruct the order which had been hers and hers alone, rather than allow the presence of a new resident to violate that order.
Six o’clock found Katie still asleep and Kristy sitting in one of the armchairs opposite the couch, staring at her phone. She called The Mandarin’s Garden first and ordered dinner. Their “Should be there in twenty-five minutes,” promised a clear end point to the necessary conversation. Then called her parents.
Her father answered.
“Hey, Dad. It’s Kristy.”
“Hi there, sweetie. It’s been a while. How are things at work?”
“Oh, you know. Busy. Katie showed up here this morning.”
“I’m glad she got in safely. I’ll get your mother for you.”
“Dad, wait. What—”
“I know your mother wants to talk to you about Katie.”
“And the Cubbies are playing?”
“Sixth inning and down by three against the Phillies.”
For a moment Kristy could hear a mixture of TV sports and her parents conversation in the background, then her mother’s voice.
“Kristy, I’m so glad you called. So Katie’s with you?”
“Yeah, she got here this morning.”
“Oh, praise God!”
“You could have called and told me she was coming if you were so worried, Mom.”
“Oh, well…” she could picture her mother’s dismissive gesture. “Katie gets upset so easily. I half thought she’d come back after a day or two. I didn’t think she’d really drive all the way to California. You know Katie. She’s not a hard worker.”
“What happened between you two? She’s been asleep since she got here.”
Her mother gave one of the earth-shattering sighs that Kristy remembered well from her teenage years. “I don’t know what it is. She’s been so difficult since she moved back in. I just ask what any good parent would ask: tell me where she’s going, be home by midnight, come to mass with the family, not drinking all the time in her room. You’d think I was trying to keep her under lock and key! She came in at one thirty on Thursday night, smelling like alcohol, and when I asked her if she had any respect at all for our family rules, she just exploded. Cursing. Digging up all sorts of old family laundry. I don’t know what got into her. You were never like that.”
“Mom, what are you talking about? There were never any kind of family rules when I was a teenager, much less home from college.”
There was a pause.
“Well,” said her mother, with notable coolness. “I think we always had respect for ourselves as a family.”
“We may have respected ourselves, but we did it pretty separately. Things were a little different with you then, remember? And you can hardly expect Katie to want to follow rules now that she didn’t have when she was sixteen.”
“All I can do is my best as a mother,” she replied with dignity. “I’m sorry if I failed you girls at times back then, but I’m trying to do the best that I can.”
It was Kristy’s turn to sigh. “Yeah. I know, Mom.”
Mother and daughter were silent for a moment.
“So you two had a big fight about house rules and she left. She’s not pregnant or on drugs or wanted by the police or anything crazy like that?”
“Oh… Do you think she is? I hadn’t thought about that.”
“No. No, Mom, I was just kidding. I just mean, there’s nothing really big wrong, is there?”
“I worry a lot that she struggles in her faith life.”
“Uh, faith life?”
“She never wants to come to mass with us. I don’t think she prays.”
“We only used to ever go on Christmas and Easter.” As soon as she said it Kristy knew this would elicit some kind of guilt-ridden response and she elected to take the easy way out. “Shoot, Mom. I’m sorry. The Chinese food is here. I’m sure it’s going to be okay. I’ll talk with you in a few days and let you know how she’s doing. Say hi to Dad for me.”
Kristy sat staring at the darkened phone for a moment, then crossed the room and shook her recumbent sister’s should. “Katie. Time to get up. Dinner will be here in a few minutes.”