My phone rang, making me jump out of my writing trance. “Hello?”
“Hey, Kitty Kat. I’m running a little late. I ordered pizza for delivery and it should be there soon. You know where I keep my money.” Mom had stuck me with the nickname when I was little and besides her, my best friend was the only other person allowed to refer to me as such. My stomach rumbled and I was suddenly glad she’d thought ahead to order dinner for us. I hadn’t noticed in the thick of writing how starving I was.
“No problem. Thanks, Mom.”
“See you soon. I have to go because my phone is about to die,” she said.
I was trying to count out money from the very unorganized stash when the doorbell rang. I answered the door and was surprised to see Walt standing there with delivery boxes.
“Hey, I wasn’t expecting to see you,” I said, surprised.
“I just got this job. Cool, huh?”
“Sure. Let me just count out the rest of the money. Give me one sec,” I left the door open and walked back into the kitchen.
Walt followed me in and put the boxes down on the kitchen table.
“Thank you. Just one more sec,” I said.
“I’m in no hurry,” he replied and sat down on one of the table chairs.
I didn’t want to be rude and ask why he was making himself at home so I counted fast and hoped my mom would be home soon. He was giving me an “off” feeling and I wanted him out.
“So, are you from Rochester?” he asked.
“Yes, I was born here.”
“Me too. Do you like it here?”
I hated answering questions about myself. “I don’t mind it but I can’t wait to move to the city someday. I need change.”
Most people only associate New York with the city, which is full of life and always busy. But the state – the rest of it, anyway – is old-fashioned, full of trees and doesn’t change. In the almost seventeen years I have lived here, Rochester in particular seems content to stay exactly the same. At least, that’s my perspective.
“Are you going to come to a L.S.A.B. meeting sometime?” he asked.
“I’m not a joiner,” I answered, handing him the cash. He put it in his pocket without counting. I wanted him to just get up and go. I wasn’t asking him questions, which should have made it obvious I wasn’t interested in learning more about him.
“I noticed that. I heard someone make fun of your last name when I was asking about you. Is that why you don’t like anyone at school?” he asked.
“No one really notices me at school, which is how I prefer things,” I replied.
The most attention I got was when someone decided to make fun of my last name. I couldn’t go one day without someone giggling. It’s pronounced “Horn-eh” not “Horn-ee.” Katherine was a great first name that fit my old-fashioned sensibilities but my last name was more like a curse.
“Thank you for delivering my food,” I said. I walked to the front door and opened it up for him to leave. He stood up and looked at me, pausing before he left.
“I’ll see you around,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was definitely something about him that made me uncomfortable. After shutting the door behind him, I did something we never did at our house and turned the deadbolt.
I went back to the kitchen to put the pizzas in the oven to try and preserve the heat and shuffled back to my room, trying to shake the sense of unease I had from Walt being in my house. When I saw the light from the computer and the last message on the screen before I’d gotten up to answer the door, I couldn’t stop the smile that lifted my lips. My anxiety evaporated.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to be in love with someone you’ve never met but if the movies are right when they describe being in love, then I was. I chatted with Robert Stratton on Facebook for over a month and really, it was the only thing I had to look forward to at the end of the day. My junior year of high school was anything but interesting. I suppose it was my fault since I didn’t go to any school events and I didn’t really care for local community activities either.
I didn’t become “friends” with anyone other than Alissa and some of my favorite authors on Facebook, but there was something about Robert’s smile that made me “confirm his request” without any hesitation. He’d been following a post from an author we both liked that I’d made a comment on and he noticed I was from the same area and sent me a quick greeting through the chat feature. The rest was history.
We chatted about our current reads or how my day was but he had never suggested that I send him dirty pictures or other perverted things I’ve heard people do on TV. Maybe it was naive of me, but I really felt like we connected.
I heard someone at the front door and felt a momentary stab of alarm until the muffled cursing and jangle of keys drifted to my room from outside through my open bedroom window. The door opened and then slammed closed. That meant my mom had a bad day at work. Her deep sigh heralded the countdown before she let loose on a new rant but I’d been waiting to eat until she got home, so listening to her would be bearable as long as I could chew while she did so. I shut my laptop to avoid any accidental viewings of who I’d been talking to.
Meeting my mom in the kitchen, I pulled the pizzas out of the oven and brought two paper plates down from a cabinet for us, loaded up my plate, and sat down at the table.
“What was with the locked door, honey?” Mom asked. Then, because she couldn’t apparently contain it anymore, she threw up her hands. “My boss is making me work weekends for the rest of the month. He didn’t give me a choice as usual. I guess it’s too hard to ask if I already have plans! Oh, no! Just assume!” My mom got sarcastic when she was upset, much like Alissa did, which is probably why I handle my best friend the way I do when she’s stressed out.
I listened and added in my opinion or empathy when needed. My mom was a nurse and had worked with the same physician since before I was born. The doctor never kept the same schedule at the hospital, so it should never surprise her when her schedule changed, but it did.
“Well, on the bright side, we didn’t already have plans and now you don’t have to hang out with your grumpy daughter,” I said with a huge smile. What I really wanted to say was, “Oh, good, I can write all weekend.”
I love my mom but since it had just been the two of us as far back as I could remember, we didn’t have the typical mom and daughter fights. The arguments were generally about how she worried about my being such a loner or how she didn’t want me growing up alone with lots of cats and no lifetime experiences.
I didn’t want to tell her about Robert because I was afraid of the lecture she would give me about how you can’t trust anyone online and you should never share personal information with anyone you don’t know. I’d already heard it from Alissa.
My mom was still going on and on about how her boss was the prime example of how not to treat your employees. I half-listened while I ate my pizza and planned my schedule for the upcoming parent-less weekends in my head. I always knew what she was going to say before she said it, so there really was no reason for me to fully listen. My mom’s social life was as nonexistent as mine.
“Not that I need to say this, but I hope you don’t plan on getting into any trouble while I’m at work and you’re here all alone.” She couldn’t sound any more sarcastic.
“Bad joke, Mom. What kind of trouble could I possibly get into with a laptop and an iPod? Alissa has a boyfriend now who is a senior and he’s talked her into helping with some of the anti-bullying campaigns he works on, so she’s been staying busy. I’ll ask if she can keep me company but I doubt it.” I tried not to sound jealous, but time with her boyfriend meant less time with me and I did miss the distraction of having her show up unannounced. She always entertained me and I love her.
“I’m glad you aren’t one to get into trouble my Kitty Kat, but please try to at least have some fun while you’re still young. Trust me, getting old is not fun, so enjoy it while you still can.” She gave me a little hug and walked the five steps into the living room so she could get her daily dose of the news. I sat at the table alone finishing my pizza wishing my mom was more traditional, for instance, eating with me at the table like Alissa’s family did almost every night.
I cleaned up after myself and took one last look at the unused paper plate next to the pizza box before turning on my heel to go back to my room.
Crossing the threshold into my small room always relaxed me. I kept everything picked up and all my books were organized, covering one entire wall. I never wanted toys or games for presents, just books, so my room was void of anything else for decoration, unless you could count my dark red comforter.
I picked up my cell phone and saw a message from Alissa.
Alissa: It’s Friday night so let me guess… you’re sitting in your bedroom?
Katherine: You know me so well.
Alissa: You really should come to one of these meetings. Anti-Bullies are HOT.
Katherine: A meeting on a Friday night? You’re losing your coolness.
Alissa: Ironic coming from you. Hanging with the boyfriend and getting some good coverage for my article… that makes me an awesome multi-tasker.
Katherine: No comment.
Alissa: That was a comment.
Katherine: Have fun!
Alissa: Whatever… see you tomorrow!
Spring break was coming up, which meant midterms were right around the corner. English class was my only consistent impressive grade. My lack of perfect grades and community involvement were two of the many reasons I would be going to a community college before university. I argued with myself on either doing homework or writing. Writing always won.
Alissa invited me to watch a movie at her house and I decided to walk over, taking advantage of the perfect spring weather. My skin appreciated time out in the sun, making the half-hour walk tolerable. The contrast between my apartment complex and her neighborhood always left me in awe. The feel of old houses reminded me of how I imagined London. Someday I would go there and write, while sitting at a corner coffee shop, and let the city inspire me.
I rang the doorbell and Alissa’s mom answered the door.
“Katherine, so great to see you,” she said, pulling me in for a hug. “Come on in. Alissa and Matt are in the game room waiting for you.”
“She didn’t mention Matt was here.”
Alissa’s mom rolled her eyes at me, not needing to say anything.
The game room was the first room on the right. I waved at Alissa and Matt but followed her mom into the kitchen. “I’m going to grab some water before the movie.” I never felt uncomfortable making myself at home.
“Sure, honey. Take whatever’s in there.” She walked over to the counter, pulling some microwave popcorn out of the cupboard. “How are things going?”
“Good, I guess.”
“Are you doing okay with Alissa and Matt dating?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I just want to make sure you don’t feel awkward, is all,” she said.
“I like Matt,” I replied, not wanting to tell her how jealous I actually was. I wasn’t sure if I would ever have a boyfriend, especially one as good-looking as Matt.
“Okay.” She looked unconvinced but she’d known me long enough that I didn’t respond well to prying. “Well, enjoy the movie.” She handed me the bowl of popcorn before I walked towards the game room.
Alissa and Matt were cuddling under the blanket we always shared. I sat down on the recliner. “What movie are we watching?”
Alissa giggled and said, “We can’t decide. You choose.”
Matt kissed her on the nose and I sighed, reaching for the remote. The selection of movies on during the early afternoon were slim. I decided to stay away from a girly movie, not sure Matt could stomach them. The Avengers had just started and I decided that was a good one.
“I could beat up the hulk,” Matt said, causing Alissa to giggle.
“I’d like to see that happen,” I replied, rolling my eyes at him.
Not much else was said during the remainder of the movie. I lost track of how many times I heard kissing noises. Matt did get up to bring us back drinks. I left after the movie ended, leaving them alone to do whatever it was they do when no one was around.