Part III Everyone

Jacqueline was born in winter, as a large proportion of people in Seagull were. The winter in this part of Seagull was cold, quiet and can lasts for quite a while. She used to live in the part where there was beach, sunshine and summer and left ever since she finished high school. She got into a college in the other side of the coast and travelled to the city where she got her graduate degree, found a job and met Michelle.

To the north of the city lies the mountains where Michelle was born and raised. They all speak the same language everywhere here, but the way they said it was just different from person to person, depending on their background. Michelle told Jacqueline that the first time she went to the city it took them three whole days of travelling on the bus. Even though it was such a long journey Riley was very excited, she even bought Michelle vanilla milkshake and honey roasted peanuts which were only seen on the bus food cart at that time.

Therefore, in this quiet, cold and long season of the year, Michelle moved in with Jacqueline, with an excuse that the heat in the college dorm was not working very well. After finishing high school, she moved out of the small place Jacqueline had helped her applied for and moved to the college dorm, where she decided to concentrate on making her portfolio so that she could applied for a major in illustration with several freshman courses she was taking. As the leaves turned orange and yellow and red, she missed the nights where she could snuggle under the same blanket and brushed her cold feet against the warm calves of Jackie's. Jackie would whine a little but never pull her leg away. College life was full of serous business to consider, and Michelle even met some friends. But still in the middle of the day in the library, or on the way when she was waiting for the bus, she thought she miss Jackie. She spent her whole high school doing that basically. At first, she thought of her as someone she could never have but she pretended that she could have her so that she could just imagine things that they could do together to make her life feel better. And as they got closer she thought of her as a pure miracle; she even wrote in a note book about what they had done and what they talked about the first several times they hang out, in case these occasions never happened again so that she could read about them when she was alone. And now she thought of her as a close friend and a great lover whom she really enjoyed spending time with. She finally wasn't afraid that someday she would wake up and found out that this was nothing but a dream, that she still was that helpless teenager, with no family, no friends, no place to stay in the city and no money so that she would have to beg like a homeless dog wagging its tail for sympathy.

She called Jacqueline one afternoon and told her about her first two months in college. She told her that she had joined Swimmer's Club, volunteered as a faculty weekly journal editor and also told her about the people she met. She said that the school dorm was fine with such a price that she could afford given that she was still doing part-time at Harrison's Grocery and she had applied for student loan. However, the heat wasn't working very well. To her surprise, Jacqueline asked her if she wanted to move in with her.

"Why don't you come stay with me, Chelle? Where I worked is pretty close to you, and I can probably pick you up everyday after work or you can take a bus to my place, it's only 20 minutes! Hopefully you're not too busy with your new life in college, Chelle. Because when I was at that time, I got so caught up with all the lab reports and stuffs I don't even remember how the sky looks like anymore!" She laughed.

"Sure, why not." Michelle answered quietly with a big smile, "I know, Jackie, Victor was in chemistry and I hardly ever seen him since October." She chuckled.

"So, when are you coming? This Friday? Sounds great! I'll see you then and help you move, and I've got a surprise for you!"

"Me too." Michelle said, and she hanged up the phone. She was thrilled to see that after three days of continuous snowing the sun finally came out.

As she dragged her boxes of belongings out of the staircase and into the familiar apartment of Jacqueline's, she sensed something unfamiliar in the air despite the usual smelt of dryness and detergent-like cleanness and the sight of some messiness in Jackeline's apartment. Before she could figure out what it was, something had already hoped on her feet and rubbed its soft, furry body against her leg. Yelled in surprise and happiness, she turned to Jacqueline who was closely following her and before Jacqueline could put the stuffs down from her armful Michelle jumped and kissed her on the cheek.

"You got us a kitten! And it's a calico one! Oh, aren't you the best! You know I always want a kitten!" She was enthralled and kneeled to pet the cat.

"Her name was Toffee, and I picked her up from the Animal Rescue." She looked at Michelle and the kitten, which fondness in her eyes.

Later that night when they were in bed, Jacqueline left the lights on. Find it safe and comfortable with a stack of towels, Toffee curled herself into the opened drawer of their nightstand and fell soundly asleep.

They kissed, both a little drunk from the icewine Jacqueline bought for dinner. With Michelle's departure since summer they haven't got a chance to be together, so everything felt extraordinarily incredible.

Jacqueline looked at Michelle, her hair had grown into a bunch of black locks, her face glowing in the light of the lamp and she could tell that Michelle had gain some pounds ever since college, which was something she always wanted to help her achieve.

"You look great, Chelle." She said. She ran her hand up her lean thighs absent mindedly and commented.

"You do too, Jackie." Michelle grinned and said. She kissed her neck and worked all the way down to the inner part of her thighs. The foreplay was heavy and sentimental and satisfying, as Jacqueline taught and always wanted. Only a woman can do this for her and make her feel this way. Oh, no no, only Michelle was willing to do this and can do this.

She came hard and sharp without even realizing the sound she had made, and she felt like the whole universe had collapsed into one side and then slowly unfolded and back to normal. After that when she glanced at Michelle and caught her putting one of her fingers into her mouth and licked stuff off it. She did this in a natural and not obvious way while looking at Jacqueline, her pupil dilated a little bit and her cheeks were pink.

This was the most erotic and weird image of Michelle Jacqueline could ever think of in her entire life. It was so engaging and seductive and all of a sudden Jaqueline yearned for a new kind of connection with Michelle she had never experienced before, and this yearning made Jacqueline want to hurt her, to made her suffer the same passion as herself did.

"You're all mine tonight." She dangerously lowered her voice and said that to Michelle without realizing it. She pinned Michelle against the bed pole and kissed her hard on the mouth, almost bruising her. She looked at Michelle and saw a hint of bewilderment and fear in her eyes. Even better, she thought. She rolled her over and pressed herself against her, half kissing and half biting until she heard Michelle's sobbing. She ignored that and smacked her several times before she pulled her hair and took her from behind.

"See, you like it." when Michelle's sobbing turns into some kind of moaning, Jacqueline said.

Michelle was all confused, at first she was scared and she wanted to ask Jacqueline to stop. Clearly Jackie was more drunk than she realized she was. Strange was that somehow, she seemed to be enjoying this more and more…

When this was over Jacqueline left Michelle alone in bed and went into the shower. When she came out of the shower Michelle was almost asleep, when she heard Jackie called her.

"Chelle, you asleep?" She was in her pajama and smelt like shampoo and steam. Michelle didn't open her eyes. She was too tired to answer her.

She could feel Jacqueline tugging a strand of her hair behind her ears. She was her Jackie again , who would always treat her preciously, and who would always invite her to follow if she was in darkness or in pain.

"You're not mad at me right, Chelle?" she said, "I think I was too drunk, and every night since summer when you're not here with me, I wanted you. Do you know why I got Toffee? I have never got a pet except for those lizards and snacks my sister kept when we were young. But once I saw the photo of Toffee I thought of you. You have no idea how grateful I feel when you are here tonight, lying here in my bed." She sighed, "I love you, Chelle."

The next morning, when Michelle got out of bed, she found that Jacqueline had made pancakes. Pancakes, bacon or sausages with scramble eggs with fresh pressed fruit smoothie were classic Jacqueline's menu for breakfast. They had the breakfast in a quiet feeling of content, and Jacqueline suddenly asked, "Hey Chelle, what was the great news that you were going to tell me yesterday?"

"Oh right! Look what I almost forgot!" Michelle laughed.

It turned out that the great news was Michelle was awarded an $10000 renewable scholarship. And then they decided to head to the southwest and spend the upcoming Christmas there. Jacqueline hasn't visited her family for a while and they can wear sandals on the beach.

That night when everybody left the apartment of Katherine Victoria Laine, she sat down by the table and light up a cigarette. She didn't really try to throw out her couch or anything. Indeed, she had a little bit of Mysophobia, but she didn't think throwing out the couch was a good idea.

Katherine had been married to a wealthy businessman named Larry who owned an investment banking company at the age of only twenty-five. She was fifteen years younger than Larry, a newly graduate in a local art school and has just got a job as a minor character in a local theatre. Larry spoiled her with everything she could ever imagined and ever thought of, indulged her with all the supports she could imagine to help her build a solid career. This eight-year's marriage ended with a car accident, Larry was killed, leaving Katherine alone and childless, heart so broken.

She moved from the mansion in the suburbs to this apartment in downtown area and live by herself. The environment was good, the neighbours are well-educated and friendly and she could book cleaning service for her apartment everyday. She seldom cooked since Larry passed away, and on the occasions where the whole casting crew had to travel to a certain place to film, she travelled with them and slept in a tent. On those days when she didn't have to work, she went to her personal trainer and worked out until she thought that if she exercised for one more minute her heart would stop. She almost did everything she could think of to recover from the death of Larry and she kept telling herself that she was doing a great job. As an actress and a director, one thing she had was she never let any emotions catch her or get in her way so that she could untangled herself from work.

One of the minor things Larry didn't like about her was that she smoked. She quitted smoking for him, and then she started doing it again recently. She sat there silently, enjoying this process of slowly clearance of her mind. What an unpleasant evening.

After a while she spotted something at the corner near the kitchen. It was a small bag, to be precise it was one of those luncheon bags children carried to school. She hadn't seen one of those for years. It must belong to that stupid teenager who came to clean her apartment and slept on her couch, and there must be some lunch she hadn't finished in it. It might go bad by the time she woke up tomorrow, she thought.

What a nuisance, she stood up to pick up the bag and decided to throw it away. To her surprised, there was no lunch in the bag. The zipper was broken and the bag wasn't closed, so she could see the stuffs inside it. There were a box of colour pencil which weren't sharpened, a notebook and a childish colouring book, a water bottle which is half full, and an ugly dog-shaped toy. The dog had only one ear and smiled at her innocently.

She thought of that girl. She couldn't believe that she was already more than sixteen. She looked like a rat in a famine movie. She opened the colouring book and looked at all those pictures the girl had coloured, and then she lost interest and put it away.

And then she opened the note book. On the corner of it written the name of the girl, "Michelle B. Thomason."

The notebook has a lot of pages missing, and Katherine supposed that the writer might have torn them out to hand them in or the writer was just very critical of her own work. The first page was clearly an assigned essay, "Role of Sports in a Student's Life", it titles, so Katherine thought that the situation must be the former one.

She turned a few pages of blanks away and then she began to read.

"On Friday this week, Mr. Wolff said that we could write whatever we want to write in a notebook frequently just for practice, so I decided that I should start…"

"Usually nobody talks to me after class, but today the boy who was supposed to helped Lisa, a girl in ninth grade built her stage for the school musical bailed, so she needed another helper. I was the only one in the classroom when she found me and she asked me if I could help. Since I was waiting for Riley to pick me up with nothing else to do, I said yes and we worked together with another girl for two hours. Afterwards she took us to the shopping mall and bought everyone ice cream…"

"I was really worried about Riley. She said she always feel tired when she was at work. I suppose she is not having very good rest at nights recently. The basement where we stay is damp and has a weird smell. Maybe I will find a job this summer so that since everyone in the household is working, we might be able to afford the rent upstairs so that Riley could feel more comfortable. She had been coughing a lot, and I think when she gets better and when I save enough money, I might take her to that cat café near school…"

"I started working as a cleaner in building 8310 on 7th Ave. People in this building are so rich you can't even imagine. One girl on the 3rd floor always throws away good food and she is very thin. I don't understand why she even bother to spend her money on food. Anyway, one day when I took out her garbage, I can't help but pick out a pack of shrimp she had just thrown away in front of me. It was still frozen and I cooked them in the common kitchen that night and topped some spaghetti. It was the best meal I've ever had since Riley went into the hospital…"

"The lady in 1201 couldn't see anything so she didn't go to work and stayed in her study all the time. I always talk to her while I was dusting her study, and today she asked me whether I could give her a hug, given that her brother haven't come to visit her for a long time and she felt lonely. I hugged her and she sobbed in my arms, so I asked her not to worry and told her that one of my eyes couldn't see very well too. I hope she feel better by now…"

Katherine lighted up another cigarette as she read along. She closed her eyes and sighed. Certainly the world was not treating the girl very well, given that she was young, poor, sick and maybe not very bright. She thought of the way she begged her. She thought of how the manager's belt hit her back, her neck and even her head; watching all that at the moment had made Katherine feel good and excited somehow, but now when she played the scene in her head one more time it seemed so hard to bear. She thought of what the girl was doing right now. She seemed so weak and she might already be dead on the streets tonight with that check in her pocket without even have a chance to go to the bank and put the money into her bank account. What she had suffered tonight was all in vain, and the spaghetti with shrimps might be the last good meal she had.

She never knew at what time she had turned into such a monster. Maybe since Larry was dead, or even earlier. All of the friends and relatives said that she had done a great job recovering from her lost, and now she doubted it. How can this be true given what she had done tonight?

And right now which that cigarette and the notebook Katherine started to genuinely feel sorry for someone she hardly knew, which hadn't occur to her for a long while.

She had never prayed in her whole life, but that night she started praying. She secretly prayed that the girl will be alright, that someone would help her. She also prayed that the girl's sister will get better and they could live somewhere nicer. But most of all, Katherine prayed that she will be forgiven and if possible, she could be given a chance to make it up for the girl.

That's why when several years later, when Katherine read about the name list of the first-year students she and several other alumni of the local art school sponsored, she felt that her prayer was answered. "Michelle Thomason," she murmured with such a relief. She decided that she should go and pay her old school a visit after Christmas.