Story by Sam Weeks
Katie sighed as she jumped into the pool. Today is a day of lasts, she thought. My last jump in the pool. My last dinner with my father (for a while, anyway) and my last days of freedom before college starts.
“Katie,” her father called “I have just fixed some drinks and snacks. Why don’t you come out and we can talk?”
She climbed out of the pool and squeezed out her waist-length hair.
“So,” her father said, “why are you looking so sad? You don’t have to go back, you know. I told you you could go to college here. There is a fabulous course you could take. I could sort everything out.”
“I can’t,” Katie said positively. “I know it could be, but this is not my home. I don’t even speak Spanish well enough to go to college here.”
“Well, obviously,” he said, laughing, “but it will be an international college and then when your Spanish gets better, we will see.”
“I can’t, Papi,” she said, “because I have things to go back to. I have Grandma, for one. She has always looked after me after Mummy left. I need to be with her.”
“Look,” he said, “I totally understand. The offer will always be there. The other thing I need to say... how can I put it... when you arrived a year ago and said you wanted to take a gap year, your grandma said that something had happened. I just wondered whether you had sorted it out. You seem so much happier now.”
She looked at him. “Oh Papi. It seems such a silly thing now but then it was so immense in my life. So important. You know my friend Suzanne who calls me all the time?”
Her father nodded. “I think I met her last year, didn’t I, at your Sweet Sixteen party. The pretty dark one who I took out to dinner?”
“Oh yes” she confirmed. “I forgot that. As you know, we have been friends since we were five years old, and she has an older brother ....”
“Ah,” he said. “It is all making sense.”
“I know. Obviously I had a crush on him and he didn’t have one back. It all seems pathetic now.”
“Well, it is important to you. Tell me about it. For goodness sake, you upped and left your life.”
“His name is Josh and he has always been Suzanne’s big brother. He has never noticed me, not really, and of course I have always loved him for afar. He doesn’t like my type. He always goes out with these blonde cheerleading types. Stupid vain shallow girls that can’t hold a conversation,” she said bitterly.
“And what is your type exactly?” her father asked. “You are absolutely beautiful. Everyone says so. They tell me that you must have got the beauty from your mother”.
“Well that is debatable,” Katie replied. “I don’t know what my type is -- a bit ethnic, a bit 'hippyish,' I don’t know. I don’t follow the crowds. I wear what I fancy, not what I’m am told to wear. Never bought anything from Hollister, Gap or Abercrombie unless it came from a thrift shop.”
He nodded. “Well, then.”
“Well, Josh was having a pool party about a year ago and I don’t know why I did this but I borrowed a very tight red dress from Suzanne and these ridiculously high shoes and I went to the party. Okay, I did get lots of attention from other people but it was him I wanted. He walked into the room and he saw me. I saw his face light up and he was coming towards me.”
“So?” her father said.
“I don’t know. Somehow someone got in the way and one of his pathetic girl friends came over to him and he was gone. That was it. I felt like such a fool. I was wearing something that wasn’t me, I changed myself, and for what? For someone who isn’t ever going to want me to love me and I changed. I was so ashamed of myself that I just had to go.”
“You know,” he said, “as much as I am pleased you are here -- and for the first time we have spent quality time together -- you cannot run away from things. I have changed my mind. I am not going to send you to college here. I want you to go back to YOUR life and sort YOUR life out. If Josh doesn’t want you, so what. Learn to deal with it and find someone else who will appreciate you for what you are. And for the record...”
“I think it wouldn’t do you any harm whatsoever to wear things that are a little bit more... how can I put it? Feminine. You actually have a lovely figure and you should show it. It isn’t changing you, it is improving you and there is nothing wrong with that. Tell me. Did you feel good in the red dress?”
She nodded, looking down.
“Your plane doesn’t go off until midnight. I am going to take you shopping and get you some new clothes, okay?”
They arrived home tired but happy with bags and bags of new clothes. Katie went to repack her bag when the phone rang.
After about twenty minutes she heard a knock on the door and her father walked in.
“Katie,” he said, “I have something to tell you. Suzanne’s mother called me.”
She looked up. “Is Suzanne okay? Is Grandma okay” she then thought
“Yes darling. They are both okay. It is about this Josh that you were telling me about.”
“Is he getting married?” Katie interrupted.
“No, darling... sit down. It all happened ten months ago and everything is okay relatively. The reason why they didn’t tell you was because they didn’t want you to come home and they thought that you might. But... well, Josh was involved in an accident. One of his friends fell asleep at the wheel and the car swerved...”
Katie sat down on the bed in shock.
“He was wearing a seat belt but his back was broken anyway. It appears that when he was born he had blood vessels in his spine. I’m not sure she did explain. And they didn’t know about it and something happened...”
“So what now?” Katie half-whispered. Her mouth was dry and she thought she was going to faint.
“It appears that he is paralysed – forever. He has been in hospital learning everything again; he is coming home so you can see him.”
“Daddy,” Katie said, trying to regain all her strength. “Please take me to the airport”.