Kate Wesley pulled into her driveway and turned off the engine, her head swimming over the news she had just received from her friends. She stepped out of her car into the mid-august sun and shook her head at it all.
Her school, the most pompously prestigious private school in her small city of Kingston, was closing for year. After being open for - god knows - a bazillion years, the local government demanded it be closed for a year to "clean up the crime situation". Apparently there was a drug problem - Kate could practically hear a chorus of duhs made up of those under twenty-five erupt across the city. Greenwood was practically the leading hub of upper middle-class drug transactions, affectionately gaining the nickname of "Greenweed". Apparently the staff and high administration were turning a blind eye to the problem until one janitor was busted for drug trafficking, bust the whole network wide open. Kate assumed that the committee in charge of youth drug problems were embarrassed and panicked, putting the school under lockdown for a year to make an example for other private schools.
Of course, the closure had to occur on the eve of her senior year after she spent three gruelling years working to receive the honour of having a high school diploma from Greenwood Academy.
Truth be told, it was always a lot more to her important to her parents for her to graduate from a private school than it was to Kate. Both her parents had attended them and then moved onto first-rate Canadian universities, and as far as thy were concerned it was the best formula for success. Now it was no longer a viable option, considering the only other private school was tiny, outside the city, and frankly a little strange, and Kate would most likely end up going to the perfectly competent public school conveniently located only five blocks away from her house. Also, the fact that most of her friends would be transferring there would make it an almost seamless transition.
Kate entered her house to hear the voices of her parents in the kitchen at the end of the hall.
Her father's voice rang first, forceful but always slightly timid. "Lana, This is a huge decision to make so quickly, we need to weigh things before imposing this…"
Her mother, fearless
and headstrong to obnoxiousness. "We have weighed the
option, this is head and shoulders the best option, and though it may
seem drastic -"
"It is drastic!"
"As far as I'm concerned, this kind of thing happens all the time but even earlier on!"
"I can't believe you're so blasé about this, don't you care at all?"
Kate heard her mother's heavy sigh. "There you go Lewis, making me the bad guy again of course I care…"
Kate, bored by their latest divorce/no divorce bickering, start to head upstairs to her room.
"Then how can you just do this to her without even asking her?" She froze mid-step, and started heading back down.
"I'm her mother, this is not a negotiation!"
"She's almost 17, maybe it should be!" Kate padded quickly and quietly towards the kitchen. "Youy just know that if you run it by her before the last possibly moment, she won't let you!"
Kate turned the corner into her kitchen and spoke to her mother. "I wouldn't let you do what?"
Kate's mother sighed in annoyance and put her head down, her long dark hair falling forward the way Kate's did. That was pretty much all they had in common. Her father turned the colour of their maroon countertops, looking more like the guilty one than her mother, which was usually the case.
Despite his discomfort, Lewis managed to stand his ground. "Well Lana, I guess this is it."
"You know, I'd really appreciate it if you could at least put up a pretence of supporting this, God knows you were the one who called Henry -"
"Who?" Kate interjected.
"The man you'll be staying with in September," Lana responded to Kate, seeing an opportunity to introduce the plan.
"Excuse me?" Kate choked out, the blood rushing from her face. Lewis came to the rescue.
"Lana, jeez! Honey, it's okay, it's just an option we're toying with…"
"An option for what?" Kate demanded.
"Well, what with your school closure and all, we need to find a new school for you to attend…"
"Right, but what does that have to do with living with someone?"
Kate's Dad continued. "Well, there aren't really any viable options for Kingston, so we were toying with….well, with…"
"Oh Lewis, for Pete's sake. I didn't mean to be harsh Kate." Kate's mother had been talking to her like this, as if they were newly acquainted, for as long as she could remember. "We were considering enrolling you in a very nice private school not actually located in Kingston, we'd set you up to board with someone for the year and -"
"You want to send me away? You want to send me away? For some stupid private school? Guys, I hate to break this to you, but there are other perfectly good schools here, you don't have to outsource to get a decent year's worth of education."
It was Kate's father's turn to sigh. "You mean a public school?"
Kate was amused at his tone. "What, is that a four-letter word here?"
"It's just that, you know, we have spent a considerable amount of money on your education up until now, and it would just seem like waste after all that work for you to end up with a diploma from some Joe-Blow public school, don't you think?"
"Okay maybe, but I could kick ass in all my classes, take all kinds of AP classes, maybe do some extra curricular stuff - I could pad my transcript, really."
"I won't be the same," Lana insisted. "You want to stand out, right? And graduating from this school will distinguish you. And I know from direct experience it's a great place."
"Okkkay, so what are we talking here. Ottawa?"
"Toronto! I've never even been to Toronto! No, no, this not okay. I won't. Now if you'll excuse me -"
"Honey, we're not done here." Lewis declared softly. Kate stopped and begrudgingly lowered herself into a chair.
Kate's mother began. "His name is Henry Wilder, you must remember him? Your father went to college with him, we use to see him and his family a lot until it sort of fell apart - anyway, the point is that he has a nice big house and it's only him and son, do you remember a little boy? Anyway, there's more than enough room for you, and it'll be a great experience for you to get out into the world, I mean, you are talking about that all the time, right?" Her mother smiled, but there was a glint in her eye that showed how clever she felt for manipulating Kate's words like this. "Besides, how is it very different from what you'll be doing when you go off to college in a year? Think of it as a kind of practice run."
"Mom, It is very different! In college you're starting from the beginning with everyone else, but this way I'd be starting at the end - knowing no one, nobody knowing me or why I transferred to another school in in my senior year. It'd be super awkward."
"Oh c'mon Kate, God knows that with your brains you'll find a way to fit in!" What was Kate supposed to say to that? Her mother enjoyed using Kate's supposed intelligence to paint her into corners.
"I just…I mean, this is all so sudden, I'm not prepared to be away from home so long Daddy…" Her last place to turn was fatherly sympathy.
"That's the other thing. Me and your mother have decided -"
"To get a divorce. It all comes together now."
"Kate, don't be like that…"
"Why didn't you just tell me that you're getting me out of the way?"
"Lewis was turning
red again. "It's not like that, it's just that the timing is
perfect, you don't want to be around when the shit hit's the fan,
do you? We'll have to sell the house, split the belongings, it
won't be fun…"
"I don't care, I know you guys need a divorce, you have my blessing, don't feel the need to spare me!"
Lana chimed in. "Kate, it's just easier for everyone -"
Kate whirled at her. "No, it's easier for you. You thought you'd have to wait a whole other year, but now you get it early! Don't have to play this family charade anymore. That's awesome."
Lana looked shaken, yet kept her poise. "Well, considering how you feel about me, it seems like this will turn out to be the best thing after all -"
Kate scoffed. "Yah, I guess you played it just right, 'cause at the moment all I want to do is get away from here."
With that, Kate stormed out with Lana staring at the floor stoically and Lewis resisting the urge to go after his only child.
Kate heard a "look what you did!" from her father as she rushed upstairs, but didn't feel like staying to listen.
She stayed in her room for hours calling her few good friends to warn them about the possible bad news, and as the clock approached midnight she started to listen for the familiar whhirrrr of her mother's electric tooth brush followed by the closing of her bedroom door. When it came, Kate silently made her way downstairs to find her father, who was a perpetual night owl like her.
Invariably, there he was at the kitchen table with his laptop and a midnight late-night snack of chocolate-chip muffin. He saw her and looked almost frightened for a moment, then put on his best rueful smile, slightly turned down at the corners.
"Hi Honey," he greeted her as she sat down opposite him. "I assumed you'd gone to bed by now."
"No, not yet, little too rattled to sleep," responded Kate.
"I hear that. Nice little bit of drama today, huh? I'm sorry for that, it wasn't supposed to end up that way."
"Yah, and I'm sorry about what I said, it wasn't directed at you, it's never been you I've wanted to get away from."
"Oh God, I know. Jeez, this is all just such a mess. I never wanted you to feel so much animosity for your mother, it's not what it looks like, she wants what's best for you."
"Oh c'mon Dad, even you must know her motives are not that pure."
"I know, she just…I dunno," Her father hung his head and shook it. "This just doesn't come naturally to her, you know? And now that we've decided to separate...it's a lot for her to manage at once."
"Well it's not really my job to help her manage better, is it?"
"Noo….but I mean, she's telling the truth when she says that staying here will be no picnic, and what's wrong with a chance to get away early and explore the world?"
"I dunno, I just…I feel like I'm being shipped off or something."
"But in some ways, hasn't that been what you've wanted for the last little while? I get that you've grown out of us -"
"I'll always be here, but you don't need me down the hall anymore, do you?"
"I guess not. But
it'll so strange, so hard…"
"Probably not much harder than it would be here if you adamantly insisted on not going."
"You're probably right…But it's the devil you know, right?" Kate smiled.
Louis smiled, but only for a second before making a point of scowling. "You're mother's not the devil! But putting that aside, don't you think it would refreshing to face a new one?"
"Well, I guess when you put it that way…"
"Uh-huh, it's sort of undeniable, no?"
"Well, it's still far from ideal…and then all my friends! Shit."
"Your friends will still be here, and you'll get to make new ones too!"
"So, what are you thinking?"
"That this is kind of unavoidable and I have shut-up and take it?"
"Now that's the spirit. I promise you, things will work out alright. Next week we're all gonna take a drive up there together to meet Henry and see his house and to check out the school. Sound good?"
"I guess…" Though Kate was feeling calmer, she still felt melancholy about the whole state of affairs, "Could you not tell Mom that I acquiesced after all? Just let her believe that I'm still mad as hell and am only giving in 'cause I know she's too callous to ever change her mind for my benefit. Cool?"
"Sounds pretty emotionally unhealthy to me, but what the hell, you got it. Now you go get some sleep, I don't wanna be responsible for passing my bad habits onto you," Louis said smiling.
"I'm off, I'm off, I'll talk to you tomorrow." Kate headed upstairs, her head a little clearer than before. On the other hand, she had a lot to think about now that the move seemed certain.
She climbed into bed with a million thoughts of the things she would have to pack, the people she would have to tell - did she remember much about Toronto from that trip she took two years ago? - and all the plans she would have to cancel. It was all a little bit overwhelming, and Kate tossed and turned for what felt like forever before she finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.
By the time Kate was in the backseat of the car heading towards Toronto to visit her future residence, she had pretty much come to accept the reality of the situation. Despite that, she was increasingly uncomfortable, having avoided spending more than ten minutes alone with her mother all week to be suddenly forced to endure a whole car ride with her. She put on her headphones, nestled her head comfortably in the crook of the seat, and called it a day.
Suddenly they were pulling up to the house, in what was seemingly an old, established neighbourhood juts outside of downtown Toronto with many smaller, more modern houses but a few excessively large manors that looked at least a century old. The Wilder House was one of these. With large double doors in front and a large driveway, Kate was reminded of a slightly smaller version of the Victorian mansions she'd seen in movies.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Kate's mother addressed her for the first time in hours. "Didn't I tell you there'd be plenty of space for you?"
"Uh-huh…wait, only two people live here?" Kate asked in confusion.
"Henry's lived here since Cameron was a baby, and he never got around to selling it," explained Louis.
"Ah," Kate nodded, still surprised. She stepped out of the car onto the beautifully manicured lawn and tried to picture herself living behind one of those large curtained windows on the second floor. It was difficult. She felt strangely like she was a tourist visiting the former home of some American Hero as she followed her parents up to the house.
Upon introduction, Henry Wilder seemed alright to Kate. He was middle-aged with an older air about him, seemingly vaguely contented. He was someone Kate felt comfortable trusting. Kate tried to recall what her mother told her about him. He was apparently a big-shot lawyer who had a tendency to make money and then spend none, except for on his son. He worked a lot, rarely achieved the full 8 hours of sleep, and effectively kept his mind off of things he couldn't control. The only reason he'd stayed in the house in the first place was to give his son some semblance of continuity after all the changes that had taken place.
It was important to Henry to do this, although Cameron didn't seem to need it. Past about twelve years old, he didn't seem to need much of anything from anyone - all the same, the gnawing feeling of guilt subsided somewhat when he tried to make his son comfortable.
The son wasn't home, but Kate didn't mind; she assumed that they'd cross paths sooner or later then mostly stay out of each other's way. She got a tour of the house which she assumed could not have covered the massive whole of it, and was shown where her room would be. Actually, it was more like a suite, with a normally unused bathroom connected to it and a whole other room on the other side of a door. Kate was baffled by all the free space, but didn't question it; she suspected she would be spending a lot of time in her room so, the more space, the better.
Kate seemed nice enough to Henry; she was a pretty, nice-looking girl who would most likely not give the family too much trouble. Also, Henry was secretly hoping she would possibly cast a new light on the dreary place, create an atmosphere that Cameron didn't feel such a need to run away from. This weekend he was off at one of his friends' cottages, doing God knows what with his delinquent friends. Henry had stopped attempting to discipline him years ago; he always came back in one piece. Cameron was a tough one - he wouldn't let anyone push him around.
The Wesley's stayed for lunch, discussing the benefits of the new school with an indifferent Kate. Whether it had won two or three education awards was of no interest to her, and this was evident; therefore, they simply stopped off at the school to take a quick look before heading back to Kingston.
The whole trip had been somewhat of a whirlwind to Kate, and as they made their way back home she let everything she'd seen and heard sink in. It was all very foreign to her, but it did not seem necessarily inhospitable, and if she kept her head down she might just be able to get through.
Word spread fast of Kate's impending departure from Kingston, and all her friends rallied together to throw her a party she wouldn't forget. It was held at her best friend - and resident partyer - Kara's house, which was bigger than hers, with a grand foyer and three floors and a hot tub. It was the perfect party setting, but Kate wasn't feeling it. Half the people she didn't even know, and the other half she could only stand on her good days - and this day, being the last of her Kingston days, was not a good one. She flopped down on Kara's bed and let out a great sigh, staring not at the ceiling, but at the door. 3, 2, 1...Kara rushed in to her own bedroom right on cue, just like Kate knew she would. She was predictable in that she always felt that at partieseveryone should be having as good a time as her.
"Hey, party girl, why don't you come down and join the party people?' she said laughingly, slightly buzzed. Kate just shrugged. She didn't really know why, but she wouldn't. "Look, you know you can't bail on your own 17th birthday party slash going away party, right?"
Kate smiled ironically at her friend. "Kar, we both know this is your party - your house, your friends. I'm just along for the ride...and I guess I'm getting carsick. I think I'm gonna head home -"
Kara jumped up. "I'll come with you!"
Kate just laughed. 'Kara, you have like fifty people downstairs ripping apart your house, you have to stay here - look, don't worry about it, I'll call you tomorrow before I leave, ok?"
Kara nodded enthusiastically, appeased, and Kate, thankful, left the party for home. But at home, she was unable to sleep. Fear kept threatening to creep into her mind, contaminating all of her positive spins. She tossed and turned until dawn, when she finally gave into her restlessness and got up to do her final packing.
Kate left at noon that day, without even looking back. She didn't even call her friend back; She had nothing to say. Somehow she already felt like her old life was over.
On the surface, Kate hadn't experienced much change in her life, and she had feared that it would be a hard for her to adjust to her change of address. It was therefore strange that as she unpacked her things, hung her clothes up, made up her bed, and decorated her room, she didn't feel the way she thought she would feel. Of course she was somewhat apprehensive of what lay ahead of her at her new school and really her new life. But overall, she was calmer then she thought she'd be, and she was almost excited for something new - though definitely a little sick at the same time.
As soon as she lay her head down that night to sleep, she knew it wouldn't happen. She also knew various over-dramatized versions of the day that led ahead would most likely infiltrate her thoughts, effectively keeping her from sleep. Admitting defeat, she got out of bed and headed downstairs to sift through the fridge to find herself a snack.
As she was debating whether or not to crack open the chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream, Kate heard the still-foreign beep beep of the alarm, meaning the front door had opened. She froze, cold air blowing on her, and held her breath. The clock above the stove said 1:45 - who safe came into a house at that time? Kate slowly walked to the end of the kitchen, and bent her head ever so slightly around the corner to get a look at the intruder.
And what an intruder. Beautiful, really, with perfectly placed disheveled fair hair, and wide, almond-shaped pale blue eyes that, despite their brilliant colour, seemed to have an indefinable darkness to them. The features were classic, with a roman nose and the kind of jaw line that could make a woman weak in the knees. In this case, that woman was Kate, who was standing there in the middle of a darkened kitchen in her Winnie the Pooh pajamas, swearing under her breath at the realization that this beautiful stranger had to be Cameron - the same Cameron she'd share quarters with for a year. He wore little more than a black wife-beater most parents would claim was too small, one that showcased his lean muscular build all too well, and well-fitting jeans. He threw his bags down haphazardly, and only noticed two pairs of eyes on him half-way to the kitchen.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, his slurred words tumbling out of his mouth.
For a few seconds, Kate just stood, there, frozen, unable to answer this creature who had abruptly, almost violently entered her life. Eventually she managed to squeak out, "Kate. I'm gonna be liv-"
"Oh, you," He sneered, "The homeless one." He flung open the fridge, then found himself forgetting what he'd wanted to retrieve. Gotta stop the drinking! he thought amusedly, then turned back to that girl.
"Um, not exactly, it's just that my school kinda…"
Cameron sighed aloud, and slammed the fridge door closed. "Look, I'm really not interested in your story, Okay?" Cameron started heading towards the door when he heard a sharp intake of breath behind him, and turned around on his heel to see the brunette, wide-eyed, making various shocked noises. Somehow, this angered the slightly inebriated Cameron. "See, I just wanted to come home and crash, not have to deal with some indigent schoolgirl sneaking up on me!"
"Sneak up on you?" Kate found herself yelling, her blood boiling at his arrogant condescension.
"What the hell are you doing up this late anyway?" He demanded defensively.
"What the hell were you doing out this late?"
"Oh, don't turn this around on me - wait, you're not gonna tell my Dad this, are you?" Not that his Dad would care; it would just be easier for his dad not to think that he needed some father-son chat. The girl's mouth broke into a wicked grin, and for one brief second Cameron was actually afraid; then it settles into a serious line. She took in a breath, then exhaled slowly.
"Look, let's just all calm down here. This wasn't my first choice either, you know, in fact I had no say -"
Cameron broke in with a seemingly amused tone cut with an edge of sarcasm. "Oh, well when you put it that way, I'm being selfish. Then it must be no big deal that you're invading my house, my school, my very life, everything, huh?"
As intimidated by this character as Kate was, her anger seemed to override it. "God, you're a drama queen. And drunk. Look, Look, I'm trying to be civil, but apparently that's just too much of a stretch for you. Well whatever, screw you. I'm going to bed. See you tomorrow."
Cameron looked away, his fuzzy brain trying to process her speech, and when he looked up, she was gone. He groaned and ran his fingers though his hair, massaging his head, in which the pressure seemed to be increasing. He was dumbfounded by her little declaration; he would've pegged her as meeker than that, especially around him. She had the meek look. That glasses, Winnie-and-the-pooh-pajamas look with her seemingly colorless hair pulled back from her face. The glasses made her deer-in-the-headlights look even worse, but it didn't last for long, as was soon replaced by an entertainingly stubborn expression that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Either way, he wasn't enthusiastic about having to deal wit her. Whatever, he thought - it was no skin off his back if they didn't like each other. They'd avoid each other, and everything would be okay. As he said it to himself, he almost believed it - so why wasn't the pressure in his receding?