9000 words, though I'm still 2,000 short of where I should be to finish on time. Slowly catching up.
Once again, the proof reading may be a little thin. My apologies.
-- Chapter 3 --
The daylight filtering into Kristy’s room through the blinds tracked slowly across the walls. Drained as she was by the weeks of preparation for the launch, the shock of the layoff, the fight with Katie, she might easily have slept all day, had the presence of someone next to her not wakened her. She half sat up with a start, then saw it was Katie, her hair looking recently washed and clad in her accustomed tank top and plaid flannel pants, who had nuzzled into bed next to her like an oversized teddy bear.
Katie opened her eyes and regarded her. “Did I wake you up?”
Kristy flopped back on the pillow and stared up at the ceiling. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve been asleep a long time.”
“What happened?” Katie asked. “Did something go wrong? Are you sick?”
“I got fired,” Kristy said flatly.
“What do you mean you got fired?” Katie asked, incredulous.
“Fired. Laid off. No job.”
“But… Even I didn’t get fired. I called Mandy, my boss, and told her I was really sick. She said next time I better call and tell her that before my shift started. How could you get fired?”
“It’s not personal.” Kristy shrugged. “There was some kind of strategy change and they cut the whole Player program. And since they’d brought me in to manage the project, they didn’t need me anymore. They don’t need me, so that’s it.”
“I’m sorry.” For a moment there was silence. “What will you do?” Katie asked.
Kristy sighed. “Well. I’ll have to find a new one. I guess there wasn’t much I could do today anyway. I’m so tired. I’ll clean up my resume over the weekend and start searching on Monday.”
“I can help pay the rent till you get a new job,” Katie offered.
“Kiddo, do you have any idea what the mortgage on this place is?”
Katie shook her head.
“Thirty-two hundred dollars a month.”
Katie made a strangled noise. “Will we have to move?”
“Only if my new job is somewhere else. I’ve got six months’ expenses saved up. We can get by for a good while. Maybe order out less, but we’ll have plenty of time to cook.”
Katie burrowed into the sheets and pillows. “I’m nowhere near to making it on my own out here, am I?” she said in an unusually small voice. “Are you going to send me back to Mom and Dad?”
Kristy raised herself up on one elbow and regarded her sister’s half-burried head. “No. I guess not.” She saw her sister’s shoulders relax.
Prompted by she knew not what, Kristy reached out and stroked her sister’s back, like a parent comforting a small child. “I’m sorry. This must be hard for you. You’re used to having someone to keep an eye on you and take care of you. And I haven’t been paying any attention, I’ve been so busy.”
She felt Katie’s shoulder shaking gently under her hand. It was a moment before she realized that her younger sister was sobbing silently into the pillow.
“What? What’s wrong, Katie?” she asked, leaning close.
Katie’s shoulder gave a last shake or two, then her hand futilely pounded the pillow. “No! It’s not like that at all! No one keeps an eye on me except to tell me when I’m screwing up. You’re the one who’s all grown up and Mom and Dad are so proud of. And I’m just… No one even remembers me.”
“What are you talking about?” Kristy asked, surprised by this seemingly self-indulgent outburst. “You were always the baby. Mom was always worrying about you.”
“Only because she wasn’t proud of me like you. Remember that time I got locked in trunk for hours at grandma’s house? That’s what it’s always like with me. Nobody noticed.”
“What?” Kristy sat completely upright. “What do you mean locked in a trunk? You were never locked in a trunk.”
“I was!” Katie contradicted, in a half sob. “Don’t you even remember. I’d just turned five. All the cousins were over. I got locked in a trunk up in the attic. For hours.”
Kristy wondered for a moment if this was another of Katie’s scams, but her voice remained at the edge of sobs. “I’m sure I’d remember something like that. Locked in a trunk?”
Katie sat upright and kneaded the pillow in her lap agitatedly.
“We were over at Grandma’s for… I don’t know. It must have been in the spring because I had just turned five. I was playing hide and seek with the cousins — Jamie and Ann, and Tim and Bobby — and they helped me hide in one of those old trunks up in the attic. And then… When the grown ups asked them afterwards they said they’d gone to play another game and forgot I was still hiding. I couldn’t get out and no one could hear me. No one thought to look for me till dinner time. It was hours, and I’d screamed until I’d given up. I used to have nightmares for years afterwards of being trapped in the dark. Mom and Dad yelled at you afterwards and said you should have been keeping an eye on me.”
This detail finally jogged a memory in Kristy — her agitated parents holding the sobbing Katie and grounding her on the theory that she should have known where her younger sister was. As if she would have been playing with the little kids.
“Okay, I think I do remember something about that. You can’t have been in there for hours, though. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes.”
“It was hours. I’d cried myself hoarse.”
“It can’t have been hours. You kids ran off while we were all finishing dinner, and we realized you were missing when desert was served and you were the only kid who didn’t show up. Twenty minutes tops.”
“How do you know?” Katie demanded fiercely. “You didn’t even remember five minutes ago. It was hours.”
“I remember. I just didn’t connect it with what you were saying because it wasn’t that big a deal. You cried for a few minutes and Mom and Dad yelled at me, and then you fell asleep and were fine.”
Katie cast herself, face down, on the pillow. “It was a big deal!” she wailed in muffled tones. “You just don’t remember because you didn’t care.”
Kristy watched her shoulders shake, then gradually settle into rhythmic breathing. Though still tired, she no longer felt like going to sleep. Instead she looked at her sister, trying to reconcile her own memories with Katie’s clearly deeply felt ones. That something so essential to her sister’s memories of their childhood had been, by her, nearly forgotten was unsettling to her view of herself and her family. They’d never been the closest family, but she had never thought of them as being the sort of family in which dark memories bubbled up. Nor, she was sure, could Katie’s memory of the time involved be correct. There was no way she could have been missing for hours without anyone noticing. And yet, the very fact that the incident had barely impinged upon her memory except as a case of unjust blame of her by her parents seemed to underscore the possibility that Katie’s memory of it was more accurate.
After turning the issue over for several minutes, while Katie continued to sleep in apparent peace, she lay back down next to her and drifted off into uneasy sleep, but with a protective arm around her younger sister.
The light was beginning to fade outside when they both stirred again. Katie swung her feet to the floor and sat up.
“How’s the hangover?” Kristy asked.
“Feel like you could eat?”
“Let’s go see what we can find.”
In the kitchen the pizza confronted them, one shoe still embedded in the clammy cheese and toppings.
“I think the pizza is a goner,” Kristy ruled. “Do you still want the shoe?”
Katie accepted it and wiped it off with paper towels while Kristy slid the pizza into the trash.
“What do you feel like eating?” Kristy asked.
Katie opened the freezer and peered around inside. “Where’s that pint of ice cream I got for us?”
“I ate it after you left,” Kristy confessed.
“After all that shit about carbs you ate my ice cream?” Katie demanded. “You bitch!” But the imprecation was delivered genially.