Chapter Thirteen | Pushing Uphill
❀ Kate ❀
Four days later
SMS: Hey, I just got here. Is the door unlocked? I brought the groceries you asked for and thought we could talk about my competition. We should go over your and dad's flight details, if you’re feeling up for it.
Sitting in my parent’s narrow driveway, I took a second to breathe after running around literally all day and shot a quick text to my mom. Something seemed off about our brief phone conversation during lunch hour this afternoon, but I reminded myself of her unpredictable nature to keep myself from obsessing.
Mom barely responded, and sounded distracted when she did acknowledge whatever I was saying at that moment. I started to tell her about Sawyer, but stopped when I realized she couldn’t give me the maternal affirmations I craved after the fact.
It’s something I’ve come to accept; She hasn’t been the same or anywhere near close since Amanda’s death almost eleven years ago.
It usually keeps me away for extended periods of time, but I have to remember this is my fault...I single handedly caused the turmoil she fights within herself constantly. So when I can, I try to do a little extra to help. Like make sure she eats, since my dad works his ass off out of state for 6 months out of the year as a talented, sought after architect.
Armed with four bags of my mother’s favorite treats and a few essentials, I closed the back door of my car with a hip and bounded toward my parent’s with ice for blood coursing through my veins. I never knew what I was going to get, and started mentally praying for a good day.
Luckily, the door was unlocked. I let myself in without hesitating and had to squint from the sheer darkness overtaking their living room and kitchen. “Ma?” I called out cautiously, taking my time depositing the heavy plastic bags onto their aquamarine soapstone counter before making my way into the furthest room toward the back of their one story house. I was careful to avoid Amanda’s baby pink door, with it’s Simple Plan and Avril Lavigne posters still plastered all over it.
My dad boarded it up a month after she died, and not a single soul has stepped foot into what remained of my little sister ever since.
I heard my mother snoring softly from inside her bedroom, and peeked through the crack solemnly. She laid face down, buried underneath a heavy weighted blanket; Completely dead to the world. A few of her auburn curls could be seen peeking out from the cotton material of a pillowcase. Wordlessly, I turned away and headed back into the kitchen. I just couldn’t bring myself to wake the grieving person she’d become from her escape.
I got to work, unbagging and organizing. The stillness all around me served as a somber reminder of how bad things had really gotten over the years. Not a single new picture hung on the mascarpone colored walls, and all signs of life had been slowly stripped away. Everything was so...bare compared to Sawyer’s tastefully decorated apartment, or even mine, which had a splash of color here and there.
I unveiled the eggs and 2% milk, the only kind my mom will drink, and tapped my short fingernails against the counter absently.
I need to get these perishables in the fridge sooner rather than later.
My heart sank at the lack of contents, and I carefully organized what I’d bought into neat little rows on all three shelves. As I was closing the refrigerator, I heard the front door swing open and straightened up. If my dad’s surprised voice on it’s own didn’t irritate me, his bewildered statement definitely did the trick.
“Kate? I didn’t know you were dropping by. Where’s your mother?” He looked internally drained, as usual. While smartly dressed in a crisp button down shirt and black slacks, the clothing itself almost seemed like it was hanging off of his 6′0 foot frame. Dark circles surrounded his sunken hazel eyes, and I blinked at him in disbelief with an identical set when he rounded the corner to give me a halfhearted side hug.
“Sleeping. Really? Dad, I fly out to Virginia tomorrow morning. Remember? You’re still coming to watch me compete...right?”
I could feel his body stiffen in response, and started to prepare for the inevitable disappointment I knew was coming. “Oh honey...I thought we told you? I’ll be working this weekend and well into the next. Your mother can’t miss any more appointments, and she has one Monday afternoon at 2:00 P.M sharp; The therapist I’ve paid in full threatened to stop seeing her if she keeps flaking-”
Always an excuse, and no, you didn't say a word about backing out.
They’ve known my USLA entry had been accepted for close to four months now, and made zero effort to make themselves available for one of the most important events of my life. OUR lives.
I flashed him one of my infamous pan am smiles and brushed past so I could snatch my car keys splayed out on the counter. “It’s no big deal,” I lied with a heavy tongue. It felt thick, and smothering. I wanted to tear it out. “I’ll just see you guys when I get back next Wednesday.”
It IS a big deal, why can’t you speak up for yourself!?
“We’re really sorry, Kaitlyn.” My dad offered in an exhausted tone from where he lingered in the kitchen, sighing heavily when I slipped out of their front door without another word. I was so focused on trying to leave without exploding in his face, I didn’t even realize he used my full name until I had already rushed into my car and pulled out of their driveway.
I flipped my radio on and tuned into some random Country station, using an arm to control the steering wheel as I fought back tears on the way to Sawyer’s. I recognized the song that was playing, and mentally screamed it's chorus. Cole Swindell's 'You Should Be Here' never failed to make me think of what could've been.
"You should be here, standing with your arm around me here
Cutting up, cracking a cold beer
Saying cheers, hey y’all it’s sure been a good year
It’s one of those moments, that’s got your name written all over it..."
Danica was probably right...what did all this matter? What or who was I doing it for? If I got any closure out of this experience at all, it’s not like anything would change.
Amanda will still be dead, sitting in that blue floral urn on my parent's dresser...and the broken people who raised us will still lead their depressing lives in solitude. I just wasn’t ready to admit that to myself yet.
I openly bawled at the heavy realization.
◦◦ Sawyer ◦◦
Oh my GOD, this apple pie smells so fucking amazing. It’s really going to make for the perfect after dinner dessert, and I happen to know Kate loves low fat vanilla ice cream on top of hers. Good thing I picked up a carton on my way home from the store after she left for work earlier in the day.
You wouldn’t find an ounce of that reduced this and that crap laying around my place a week or so ago, but I knew how important maintaining a trim, athletic figure was to my girlfriend. Every once in a while she’d indulge with me though, so this was my way of breaking even! Sweet, fresh apple baked pie...and shitty chemically altered cow juice.
I set the homemade treat on one of my elevated steel racks waiting to serve it’s purpose, watching the steam rise from our pie’s criss cross patterns with a watering mouth before forcing myself to finish setting the table. I broke out my best china wear, choosing two crystal wine glasses and pouring a generous amount of Clean Orange Malvasia Bianca in each to compliment our meal.
Bacon wrapped lamb chops, garlic mashed potatoes, and a oil/vinegar dressed salad with way too many black olives for my taste—but it’s Kate’s favorite, and tonight was a special occasion after all so I had to go all out.
Tucked neatly underneath my girl’s egg shell clothed napkin was a two-way plane ticket to Virginia.
I didn’t know much about this life guard champion ship she was competing in, but she’s had her eye on winning it ever since we met and well before then. I wanted to support Kate, cheering her on from the sidelines...and okay, maybe I’d been salivating at the idea of her running around in minimal swim wear as well.
I mean...if you were dating some gorgeous athlete with strong legs for miles, silky smooth skin, a killer mouth and great hair, wouldn’t you agree? She’s a knockout, and I couldn’t (nor did I want to) keep my wandering hands off her.
As I was setting a thin sterling silver butter tray in the center of my little arrangement, I heard a soft knock at the door and suppressed a squeal of excitement.
Just after seven; She's right on time.
“One second!” I shouted instead, jogging over to unlock it with earnest. Kate emerged from behind the heavy wood a moment later, and I longed for just a second to appreciate all that natural beauty as I gingerly pulled her into my arms.
The first thing I noticed however, were two puffy swollen eyes. Whenever Kate cried, a gorgeous forest green color overshadowed the less pigmented golden browns. They appeared to me as green as ever, and I frowned with concern. “...Babe? Everything alright?”
“...It smells so good in here.” She muttered, brushing off my question as she tilted her head up to nibble my lower lip. When I raised a skeptical eyebrow, Kate lowered her gaze. “I’ll be fine. My parents aren’t coming to...you know, it’s not even worth talking about, Soy bean. I’ve missed you all day and believe it or not I’m starving to hell.”
I whined a little, nuzzling my nose into the crook of her bronzed neck to try and inspire a smile out of Kate. I really had the worst time dealing with her sadness; If I could, I'd round it all up in a ball and flick it as far the fuck away from her as possible. But I couldn't, so I had to rely on my childish antics to turn the mood around. Her girlish giggling implied I'd succeeded, and made me involuntarily grin.
"I'm glad to hear that, 'cause I spent the last few hours on dinner and everything is all set! Sit down, babe. First chair to the right. I'll be there in a sec." I peppered my girlfriend's forehead with kisses and hurried back over to the pie so I could place it in the fridge to cool a little faster.
"I would've changed before coming over...but I'm just so frazzled. It's been one hell of a fucking day, that's for sure." Kate called after me, and I glanced over my shoulder to find her removing her hot pink and lime green Nikes; Setting them neatly by my door. Within the minute, she'd plopped into her seat and was gazing in my direction adoringly. "I really needed this, Sawyer. Thanks babe."
She wasn't my normal type by any sense of the word, but that's exactly why I liked her so much. Kate's messy top bun might've looked ridiculous on anyone else, but she wore it so...elegantly. Her formfitting black leggings hugged all the right places, and I couldn't help but smile at her oversized white-tee. She usually kept one in the backseat of her car, so she'd have something comfortable to wear after a long day protecting dumb asses like me from themselves on the beach.
"Enjoy! I baked an apple pie for dessert. Before you do anything though, check underneath your napkin." I willed myself to sound nonchalant, but my heart was doing jumping jacks at a pace even Kate would've found impressive. Sliding into my own chair opposite from hers, I watched anxiously as she smiled with confusion and complied. Slowly, her brow knit into a complicated frown.
"...Soy, what's this?" Kate held the plane ticket up so I could see, and shook it a little. Her expression was unreadable, which worried me. I brought the wine glass to my lips and took a demure sip before responding in a nuetral tone.
"What does it look like, Kay? A plane ticket! I'm flying out on Monday to watch you kick ass at that competition. Surprise!" I leaned back and inhaled the expensive white mixture before savoring a long drink. I was expecting a much different reaction from what I'd gotten, and stared back in shock when Kate began to shake her head slowly with a sharp laugh.
"Why wouldn't you run this by me, first?" She asked, visibly stressed. With no idea what I'd done now, I froze right where I sat.
"I beg your pardon?" What was so wrong about wanting to support my girlfriend? Her parents weren't coming for whatever reason, and I hated to think of Kate all alone out there without anyone witnessing such a grand achievement.
"You can't come, Sawyer..." She mumbled, sliding the plane ticket toward my side reluctantly. I stared at it for a second, then at her with a wounded scowl. Kate kept her fidgety eyes on the food in front of her, making no effort to even pick at it.
This made no logical sense; We were dating, what was the problem? Didn't Kate want me near whenever possible? After several seconds of silence, I placed my wine glass down and leaned across the table. My words came out in a haughty growl.
"...and just why the hell NOT!?"