6. Organic Soapbyinspirixis1©
"Katie! Katie, over here!"
Oh god, how embarrassing. Katherine tried to smile benignly and maintain some sense of decorum as she waked towards her ridiculous mother who was waving her hands over her head, trying to draw as much attention to herself as possible.
"Katie!" She had the most enormous smile on her face, which was slightly flustered from all of the excitement.
A small little bit of Katherine's heart soared to see her familiar face, to hear her warm maternal voice, but a bigger bit quashed it immediately. This was absurd. She hated coming home, it always set her back.
Her mother's arms folded around her and squeezed her tight.
She smelled like that oatmeal and lavender soap that she loved so much. She had sent an enormous chunk of the stuff to her for Christmas last year, it was too roughly hewn to give it the title of bar, it was a chunk. Katherine had wrapped it in a plastic shopping bag and stowed it at the back of the cupboard under the sink. There was no way she was putting that shit on her skin, she only used Lancôme. If her mother ever came to visit her in New York City, which she doubted would ever happen, she would get the chunk out and her mom could use it.
"Oh Katie, I've missed you so much. It has been way too long this time," her mom said as she held her at arms length to look at her.
"It's Katherine now mom, remember?"
"Oh yes, yes, of course," she said with a casual wave of her un-manicured hand. "Come on, there's no time to waste."
What was she talking about? This was Denver, there was nothing but time to waste.
They collected her luggage and her mother drove to her sister's house on the outskirts of town where there was more hoopla and fussing as she was greeted by Louisa and her ten year old son Brandon.
Brandon was excited. It was a school day but his parents had gotten him off school to go to a farm with grandma to learn about sustainable agriculture for 'Earth Day.' Katherine had never heard of anything so absurd in her life.
"We'd better get going," her mom said. "Why don't you just go upstairs and change your clothes Katie dear?"
"Change? Why would I want to change?"
"We're going to a farm. There's going to be mud and dirt and dung. You can't wear high heels to a farm."
"I don't have anything else," she protested.
"You can borrow some of my stuff," Louisa offered.
Katherine was hesitant. She didn't want to wear Louisa's saggy baggy ugly clothes. What if someone took a photo of her and put it on facebook? She would be the laughing stock of The City if that happened. She followed her sister upstairs and was horrified at the clothes that she pulled out of her closet.
"I don't know if any of these will fit you Katie," she said. "You look like you haven't eaten since we saw you last year."
From the concern in her voice Katherine could tell that wasn't supposed to be a compliment, but she took it as one anyway. It was good to be skinny. Nobody is interested in people who are fat.
After Louisa left the room Katherine had a mild panic attack, not a full blown one, just a mild one. What was she going to do? She couldn't wear these clothes. She pulled her valium out of her purse and gobbled one down. It was going to be okay, she could figure this out.
Jeans. She pulled her jeans out of her suitcase and changed into them. They weren't meant as farm-wear, they were $500 boutique jeans, not your average pair of levis, but they were more appropriate than the Italian wool slacks that she had been wearing.
Now for the top. She could not wear any of the shirts that Louisa had gotten out for her. Despite the fact that she wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything like them, they were way too big. But Brandon wasn't much smaller than her; maybe he'd have something she could wear. She might be able to pull it off as shabby-chic.
Brandon was a dork, she could tell just from looking through his clothes. He was lucky that he was being raised in Denver, he would be eaten alive in New York. She was just starting to panic when she finally found something that would work.
It was a t-shirt that he must have gotten from a sporting event, it said 'Rocky Springs Little Athletics' as part of the design. It was screen printed by hand, she could tell from the way the different colors didn't match up perfectly, and it was distinctly retro. It looked like something out of the early eighties.
She changed into it and examined her appearance in the mirror. She looked cool. She touched up her makeup and pulled her hair back in a loose bun. All she needed was a pair of old-school converse sneakers and she would be fine. She looked through Brandon's closet but his feet were too small. She went back to Louisa's room and settled for a pair of jogging sneakers that were a size too big. They weren't great, but if anyone took a photo they probably wouldn't get the feet in anyway.
"Hey, that's my shirt," Brandon complained when she came back down stairs.
"Okay, looks like we're ready," her mom ignored Brandon's complaint and started out the front door.
Her mom couldn't stop talking about the farm on their way out there. It was called 'The Somner Family Farm,' and it was in the process of being converted into a fully organic and sustainable farm. She hadn't been there yet but she had heard about it from her gardening friends. Apparently the Somner Family were in debt and had to sell the farm, but the new owners had worked out a deal whereby the family could retain partial ownership of the property if they stayed on as business partners.
Katherine was only half listening. She had little to no interest in the goings on of some obscure farm. She was trying not to think about one particular man who used to love to take her bicycle riding along these country roads. His parents owned a tandem bike and Katherine would sit on the back seat and pedal until she got tired and then she would rest her feet on the top tube and lean forward and hug him around his waist and let her head rest on his back. She could feel the air enter and leave his lungs, his heart thud along steadily and his chest vibrate as they talked and he pedaled for hours.
Sometimes, if the weather was good and the bugs weren't too bad, they would look for a nice secluded spot and pull off the road and make love. Matthew was the only man who had ever made love to her. When they had sex he would look into her eyes and tell her, "I love you Katie-Bear."
Towards the end, when she had known that their relationship was impossible, it had gotten too much for her. Matthew was a simple, steady man. Not in a stupid way, he was anything but stupid, but his desires, his dreams, were simple. He wanted to live in Denver, near his family. He wanted to swim every day. He wanted to get married and have children.
Katherine wanted no part of it. By the time she broke up with him she was already living in New York and lapping up every second of it. There was no place in her life for a man like Matthew. New York was fast and fun and exciting. She adored her job at the magazine and she loved the glamorous lifestyle it afforded. She had a penthouse for Christ's sake... a penthouse. Her life was awesome.
She was jolted from her thoughts as they pulled in to a narrow dirt drive that wound gradually uphill. Tall green grass intermingled with spring flowers by the roadside. Painted wooden signs marked the different destinations. 'Somner Family Residence,' then 'Produce Market,' and finally, 'Education Center.'
A teenager in a dark green polo shirt that said 'Somner Family Farm' across the breast greeted them and directed them to the lecture hall where a different teenager in a matching shirt gave a well-polished presentation on the history of the farm and its future mission. It wanted not only to produce fruits, vegetables and meats in an environmentally responsible way, but also to promote sustainable agriculture to the next generation through outreach programs, especially focused on at-risk youth.
Then he lay the day out for them. They had a couple of different options; they could go out into the fields or they could visit the greenhouse in the morning then in the afternoon they could have a cooking class or a science class.
Brandon wanted to see the greenhouse and so that's what they did in the morning. After they learned the purpose of the greenhouse and were shown the different stages of plant growth there was the option of learning how to transplant seedlings and repot the bigger plants. Katherine watched as her mom and Brandon happily got their hands filthy doing the work that the farmers should have been doing themselves. She had to admit that it looked kind of fun though.
At the end they got to keep any of the plants they had worked on and she was surprised that she felt mildly disappointed that she hadn't joined in.
After lunch they went to the science class. The 'lab' was a big room with long high benches and a blackboard at the front. Katherine just about fell off her seat when the instructor walked in, she was expecting another teenager but instead there was Matthew standing up there in one of those green polo shirts.
He looked good. No, he looked fabulous. His dark brown hair was just a little bit longer and shaggier than he used to keep it, giving him a casually disheveled look. His broad muscular frame moved with the same mixture of calm and purpose that she remembered.
She hadn't seen him in two years, but all of the old feelings came rushing back. Her heart was beating quickly and she felt her cheeks flushing with heat. Her mouth and throat dried up. What was Matthew doing here?
She had purposefully chosen this date so as not to run into him or any of his family. It was during the work-week two weeks after Easter, he should have been off doing normal things, doing his normal job as a researcher at the university.
It's not that they had parted badly, actually they were still in intermittent email contact, it's just that she didn't want to have to deal with this... this regret.
She watched as he started to give his lecture. He was talking about greenhouses and the greenhouse effect.
"Did anyone here take the greenhouse tour this morning?" He asked.
Hands rose around her and Matthew looked around the room, his eyes falling on her for the first time.
He blinked again.
He appeared to be frozen. For long seconds he just stared at her. She couldn't tell what he was thinking.
Finally he appeared to remember where he was. "Ah... Okay, good. Did you notice how warm it was in there?"
She had noticed that it was warm in the greenhouse, but not nearly as warm as she was feeling sitting here under Matthew's gaze.
He continued with his lecture. He talked about the greenhouse effect on the earth and they did a bunch of fun little experiments. He was trying to emphasize the concept of light changing wavelength when it bounced off something. Then he talked about gasses and demonstrated using glass jars filled with different gasses how they could either let infrared radiation pass through or trap it.
At the end of the class he had each kid draw a picture that showed how visible light came in through the atmosphere, was turned into infrared light by bouncing off the ground and was then trapped by greenhouse gasses.
Brandon was eating it up. He had heard adults talk about the greenhouse effect but nobody had ever explained it to him before.
When people started filing out he came over to where they were sitting. He greeted her mom and Brandon then turned to her.
"Katie, you didn't tell me you were coming to visit," he said.
Her mom scooted Brandon away and shuffled out the door.
"It's Katherine now," she corrected him.
He cocked his head to the side and raised one eyebrow in surprise.
"Do you work here now?" She asked.
"No. Grace and Nicholas bought this farm and they're trying to turn part of it into an education center, they asked me to create a science curriculum for kids, so I'm just testing different things out, seeing what works and what doesn't."
He had such beautiful deep brown eyes.
"How long will you be here?" He asked.
"Just a couple of days."
"Can I see you?"
"What do you mean, see me?"
He smiled. "Well I haven't spoken to you in two years, I assume you must have some news to tell. Can we meet and talk about our lives?"
He was so simple, so genuine. No other man she knew would actually say what he meant.
All of the men she knew had perfected the act of cool indifference, they all had the ability to shrug and mutter something appropriately chic, something that left you with less information than you had at the beginning of the conversation. They all did it, especially her boyfriend Lawrence, although she didn't know if she was supposed to call him her boyfriend yet. Probably not. There was probably a rule that said you had to have sex with someone before you got that title.
The rules of dating men in The City were complex and tiring, as was her relationship with Lawrence. She never knew what he was thinking. He acted so indifferent, but at the same time he pursued her. He could talk until the cows came home but it was always about some academic topic; art or the theatre or politics. He never talked about how he felt or asked her how she felt. It was weird to her but she was assured by all of her friends that it was totally normal.
"You need to act more mysteriously," they told her. "That will draw him in and put you in control. Lawrence is a great catch, you need to be strategic about this."
He was a great catch; wealthy, good looking, popular, all of the things a girl wants, right?
Standing there looking at Matthew she wondered if those things were really what she wanted.
When they had been dating she never once felt confused or upset because she didn't know how Matthew felt about her or anything else she cared to ask him about. It would never occur to him to lie, or to conceal something that was bothering him. He was the salt of the earth, goodness incarnate.
"Yeah, I guess we could meet," she said.
The next day she made sure she looked fabulous before she stepped out the door. She wore her knee-high boots on the outside of her skinny jeans and a flowy navy blue silk blouse that made her arms look marvelously thin. She was feeling pretty good but she took a beta-blocker for good measure, she wanted to be cool as a cucumber and smooth as silk for this conversation.
The café was on the university campus. When she arrived she could see Matthew sitting inside waiting for her. She was five minutes late. Fashionably late.
"Hey." He smiled when he saw her.
"I'll just get a coffee," she said.
She felt his eyes on her as she waited for the barista to foam the non-fat milk for her skinny latte.
"So?" He asked when she sat down.
"Tell me about your life. What are you doing for work? What are you doing for fun?"
She answered all of his questions with what she considered to be an appropriate level of enthusiasm and style. She watched him carefully for cues as to which direction to go in but Matthew didn't know how to converse like that. Instead of nodding and agreeing with the things that she said were fabulous he furrowed his brow and squinted his eyes at her. After a few minutes she was starting to loose her confidence so she decided to turn the conversation around.
"How about you? Are you still swimming?"
She looked down at his hands. No ring. "Not married yet? I would have bet my right hand that you'd be married by now," she said in a friendly way.
He tilted his head in question.
Wasn't it obvious? "You were always so keen..."
"No. I wasn't keen to get married, I was keen to marry you. There's a difference."
There was silence while he stared at her and she tried not to blush. She failed miserably.
She cut him off. "It's Katherine."
He sighed. "Katie, I can see through this." He motioned his hand towards her.
"What do you mean?" She asked uncertainly, she didn't think her shirt was see-through.
"Katie, it's me Matthew, you don't have to pretend with me. Please stop pretending."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "What are you talking about?"
"I can tell you're not happy. You don't have to pretend you are."
"I am happy," she said indignantly. "I have everything I want. How dare you tell me that I'm not happy?"
He bit down on his lip for a moment and then he tried again. "It's okay, it's not a reflection on you or how successful you are... everyone goes through rough patches."
She got up and swung her handbag over her shoulder. "I don't have to listen to this shit," she said on her way out the door.
She spent the rest of the afternoon crying. She drove up to the local make-out point and cried for hours.
She and Matthew used to come up here when they were in high school, before they started having sex. Matthew didn't like to make out in the car or try to grope the way other guys did, he liked to lie on the hood and look at the stars and talk. She would lay her head on his outstretched arm and every now and then he would turn to her and kiss her.
When they did start sleeping together it was in a bed. The first time was during the summer before they went away for college. His family were all away for the day at a swimming meet that Matthew was skipping.
They lay together in his bed all day. He was so gentle with her. He kissed her tenderly and told her that he loved her. It was his first time too and he was nervous, he kept on asking if she was okay, "I don't want to hurt you," he said. "I never want to hurt you Katie-Bear."
They did it three times and by the third time he had a bit more confidence. The second time he'd figured out how to make her orgasm and the third time he played it out until she was begging for him, moaning his name and bucking against him from the pleasure.
That night when his family got home she stayed for dinner and he sat beside her and held her hand under the table.
She cried for those memories. Simpler times. Happier times.
The stupid thing was that she had nothing to be upset about, no reason to feel sorry for herself. She had a life that others would die for. She was living her dream.
She had always dreamed of living in New York and working in the publishing industry, always. Even when she was a little girl she would ask her mother where the books they read had come from.
"From the library pumpkin," her mom would reply.
"No, but where did the library get them from? Where did the book shop get them from?"
She had always been fascinated with the production of media.
Working for the magazine was in some ways even better than working for a publishing house. The perks were excellent. There was always some lavish gift basket waiting on her desk or some fabulous party invitation in her mail. She was living the high life. So why did she feel so empty? Why did she feel like she needed to take a beta blocker to see Matthew?
Because he saw through her.
He wasn't looking at her trendy clothes or beautiful jewelry. He didn't notice that the shade of lipstick that she'd chosen complemented the $300 hairpin that was holding her hair up off her shoulders in a casual yet elegant way. What he saw was an empty life, a motionless soul.
The shadow of the mountains slowly engulfed Denver and spread out over the plains as the sun slipped away. She put the car in drive and the next thing she knew she was sitting outside Matthew's parents' house. She must look like a wreck but she didn't care anymore. She rang the doorbell and was face to face with his mom.
"Katie! What on earth are you doing here? Come in, come in..."
"Ah, hi Mrs. Watson, actually I was just wondering how to find Matthew?"