Living with Katrina Ch. 09byLaRascasse©
Chapter 9 now and we have a lot of underlying issues coming out here. Sorry for the delay, but I had college work, job hunting and a whole load of other shit to tackle. Chapter 10 is being written as you read this. As always, your votes and comments keep me going so do take a moment to drop them for me.
A huge vote of thanks to my enthusiastic and insightful new editor NaokoSmith who constantly finds ways to improve my writing.
DISCLAIMER – This chapter contains a few brief scenes of lesbianism. I hope that is to your taste.
"Hatred would have been easier. With hatred, I would have known what to do. Hatred is clear, metallic, one-handed, unwavering; unlike love."
― Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye
"Are you happy now, dear?"
The eight year old kid in the back seat replied with a scowl, the one he had worn all morning. He wore his little baggy jeans and GI Joe shirt as he sat with his arms crossed in front of him. The petulant face, however, remained.
"Oh sweetie," said the woman, exhausted at pacifying her son. "Why are you still mad? See, we're going to the birthday party after all."
The boy did not reply. He was giving the 'silent treatment'. His short cropped hair topped a precocious face and plump cheeks. His face drew 'awwws' of cuteness wherever he went, but he rarely smiled. Especially not on occasions like this.
The driver's side door opened and his father got in. He had dressed hurriedly for the occasion. He and his wife had eventually bowed to their son's temper tantrum. The kid was simply adamant on going to this birthday party.
"Henry, is Maureen here?"
"Yes," said the father, strapping on his seatbelt. "I've left her with all her favourite video cassettes and turned on the VCR with the remote at her disposal. I've told her we'll be back at eight. This shouldn't take longer than that, right? "
"No," smiled the woman, leaning over to give her husband an affectionate peck on the cheek.
"Gross!" snorted the little boy.
The couple laughed. Henry started the LeSabre and it revved down the street. Children played in the park, rolling tyres along the paved walkways with branches. Young couples walked hand in hand, their feet crunching over dried autumn leaves. Leaves still on the trees were tinged red, matching the crimson hue in the azure sky seamlessly melding into the imminent darkness of night.
"Lisa," said Henry, as he drove casually through the neighbourhood. "We should go on a vacation this winter."
"I could talk Claire into letting us have the keys to her cabin for a week or so."
"That would be nice," said Henry, taking a turn onto the main road, "but I hear they have opened a new ski resort a little further up the slope. It has great rooms and awesome food."
"Can I ask Claire to come along?" suggested Lisa hopefully. "You know how much she loves skiing."
"I guess," said Henry. "She is your only sister after all."
"It would cheer her up," she agreed. "The last year has been really tough on her, with the miscarriage and the divorce."
Henry nodded in agreement.
"She has wanted kids all her life and after all that trying when she finally got pregnant..." said Lisa, unable to finish her sentence through her choked throat.
Neither husband nor wife spoke for several long moments, partly because they did not want the little boy to hear any more. He fiddled on his own in the back seat, oblivious to anything else. Traffic was unusually sparse, meaning they could pick up some speed.
"I hope you appreciate what we're doing right now, mister," said Lisa, turning her neck to face the boy. "You'll keep your room clean this entire month if you want to go to another birthday party, okay?"
The boy nodded. The scowl had left his face, replaced by a look of calm nonchalance. His eyes lazily registered the various sights outside his window. The few other cars that passed by, the houses he got a glimpse of and the people, laughing and chatting with each other.
He had a full view of the speeding sedan that crashed right into them from the side.
The initial impact knocked him to the side and he hit his head against the door. The car lurched and sped straight onto an elevated curb. The wheels hit concrete with a dull thump and the car was airborne, falling back on the ground on its side. It rolled over again and then once more before coming to a standstill, ten feet from the intersection.
The boy was thrown around the car, seeing the seat spin around, at one point even the black-flecked grey asphalt. He hit his head on the roof of the car and blacked out.
When he opened his eyes again, his vision was distorted by blood. He was wedged upside down in the mangled wreckage of the LeSabre. He tried wriggling, but his limbs refused to budge. There were animated voices of onlookers just outside, waiting anxiously for any sign of life.
Suddenly, his eyes focused on his mother's face a few feet in front of him. There was a deep, twisted gash across her temple and a gush of blood flowed down her face. She looked at him with her beautiful brown eyes and said softly.
"It's going to be all right, Jake. Just remember, we love you and Brittany. Tell that to her as well."
Jake Gallagher woke up with a start. His pulse was in overdrive. He rushed to the bathroom and splashed water on his face repeatedly. The cold dread still persisted. He hugged himself tightly to stay warm, but failed miserably. Those last words, those haunting eyes, that entire scene was branded into his memory.
A cold palm touched his shoulder, making him jump in fright. He turned to see Katrina standing behind him with a look of concern on her face. Her sad eyes watched him shivering. Jake looked at her and saw those haunting brown eyes once more.
The memory of those eyes never left him. Neither did the memory of watching the light in them slowly die out.
The dam of calmness shattered and Jake suddenly threw his arms around Katrina. He was shaking violently. Katrina ran her palms all over his back, soothing and calming him. He held onto her as if he was hanging on for dear life.
"How did you know?" he whispered.
"You woke me up with your scream," she said, still rubbing his back soothingly. "Was it the same nightmare?"
"Every single second of it."
"Honey, I'm so sorry," she said, shedding a few tears on his shoulder. Each drop flickered in the dim moonlight and splashed onto the shoulder that was so used to them.
"I really thought I was over it this time."
"This is the first time in almost a year, right?" said Kat, now caressing his neck.
"Yes. This has to be the worst possible time for it to recur. I don't know if I can face Brittany in this state," whimpered Jake, desperately trying to hold himself together.
Katrina held his face in her hands and looked at it lovingly. He looked even more handsome when he was so vulnerable. He was always the strong one, but that was the problem with being strong, no one asked if he was okay.
"It's going to be all right, Jake."
It had been twenty-five years, but he still could not bring himself to believe in that sentence.
"Okay so we're here," said Katrina looking around the arrival terminal at JFK. "I don't see a flight from Baltimore at eleven. Are you sure you got the time right?"
"Yup," said Jake, masking his dread with an uneasy calm.
"Which airline is she coming on?"
Kat looked at him expectantly. He smiled at her derisively.
"She has a private jet of course."
Katrina's jaw almost hit the floor. Jake forced a smile and waited for the tell-tale phone call. Like clockwork, at precisely ten minutes to eleven, his Blackberry rang. It was the steward on the plane, letting him know that the visiting dignitary would be disembarking at the fourth hangar on the far side of the airport.
They hurried there and waited. Even though it was a cool morning, Jake was sweating. He dabbed his handkerchief on his forehead and wiped trails of moisture down his cheek. He had last seen her well over a decade ago, but there was something about her gaze which he could not forget.
"It's going to be okay," Kat repeated. "Don't be scared of her."
Jake dearly wished he could believe her. His eyes were fixed on a shimmering silvery speck. Katrina used a palm to block the sun and stared at the shape as it grew larger. Gradually, the truly impressive body of the Gulfstream G650 came into view.
They watched in awe while the sleek streamlined craft taxied and slowly entered the hangar. It turned and stopped, the engine disengaging. The whirr of the turbines died down and the metallic beast came to a halt.
Jake gulped. The door opened and a retractable staircase came down to the ground. All at once, there was a flurry of activity inside the hangar. A convertible drew up and two men immediately began transferring luggage into it. Several people sporting smartphones came out, all of them chattering.
"Which one is her?" asked Katrina.
"You'll know when you see her," said Jake apprehensively, steeling his heart for the worst.
All the conversations abruptly halted. A white figure was coming out of the door. Her face was hidden behind obscenely large sunglasses which scanned the crowd awaiting her commands. A few short, measured words made their way to the appropriate people and her retinue went about their jobs. Katrina marvelled from a distance at the total awe in which everybody held her.
Her chauffeur drew the car to the front of the hangar and stood with the door open.
Jake clenched his teeth to hold back his trembling, highlights of his nightmare still playing in his mind. Katrina timidly took a step back, not sure if she should get involved in what was to follow. The white figure stopped in front of Jake, her shielded eyes sizing him up.
Jake obediently followed his sister to the door of her limo. Unsteadily, he settled into the plush seat.
"Not you," said Brittany curtly to Kat. "I want to talk to my brother in private. You run along now."
Katrina opened her mouth to say something, but caught Jake's pleading glance from the window and swallowed her bile. If only she had been off her meds, she would have shown Brittany a thing or two about manners.
"I'll catch you later," she muttered towards Jake and walked off.
Brittany climbed in beside her brother. The chauffeur slid the door shut and started driving. The siblings sat in total silence at first. Jake could feel the thud of his heart slamming into his ribs at every beat. Any faster and it would burst right out of his chest.
"I can almost smell the mediocrity on you," Brittany said, tapping away on her tablet nonchalantly. "Which means nothing's changed."
"What do you want?" he said, not daring to look up.
"I beg your pardon," she said, still focused on her tablet.
"You didn't fly all the way over here just to rub my nose in the fact that you are so much more successful than me," he retorted, surprising himself with his burst of confidence. "I'm not worth that much effort."
Brittany gave a small laugh and put down her tablet. She took off her sunglasses and put them in her purse. She didn't have their mother's brown eyes, nor did she have the same warmth in her gaze. Her nose extended out regally and her thin lips remained perfectly still. This thirty six year old spinster, self-made billionaire and ruthless tycoon made grown men wet their pants in her presence.
'An aberration to the laws of Nature,' she maintained privately, convinced that the same set of genetics could not have created such an inferior human being as her brother.
"You're much smarter than you give yourself credit for," she went on in her characteristically sardonic tone. "In fact, you might even be smart enough to lace my boots if you keep going at this rate."
Jake did not bother cringing. He had long since become accustomed to having his sister hate and undermine him every time she got a whiff of an opportunity.
"I'm here to offer you a job."
He looked at her wide-eyed. She studied his expression carefully, before laughing again.
"No need to look so surprised. We all have our functions in society – number crunching rats to CEO's and all in between."
"Why?" asked Jake, ignoring her barbs.
She laughed once more, louder, and ruffled his hair.
"Because you're my little brother, sweetie," she said with the most pleasantness she could force into her voice. "You're in a dead end job and I want to help you make some advancements in your life."
"So you came all the way here to offer me a job?"
"See," Brittany said with a grin. "Your brain finally put it together. I knew you could do it."
"I'll think about it," he said. "Now, can we talk about something else?"
"Like what?" pondered Brittany, smirking condescendingly.
There was an uneasy silence.
"Do you still hold what happened back then against me?" he said, hoping against hope.
"Oh please!" she sighed. "As if I have nothing better to think about except what my loser brother did when he was eight."
Brittany paused to watch the expression on her brother's face before saying, "Why would you bring it up like that? Are you proud of what you did?"
"For heaven's sake, Brit," cried out Jake in exasperation, slapping his palm down on his thigh. "How can you keep clinging on to the past? How many times do I have to apologize before you'll let it go?"
"You make it sound like you broke my favourite toy, Jake," she quipped back. "You killed my parents."
"No I didn't. It was an accident."
"Fuck the semantics. You put them there in that very time and place where they died. Their blood is on your hands, brother dearest."
For a moment, Jake was transported back to the end of his dream. There was blood. Everywhere he looked, blood. So much blood. He clenched his eyes shut and swallowed the memory. He looked up to see a satisfied smile on her face as she returned her attentions to her tablet.
"Tell me about your friend," Brittany said. "How do you get along with her?"
Jake sighed. Katrina was his soft underbelly and Brittany chose to poke it. It would be a long conversation.
"I swear I'll kill the bitch the next time I see her."
Katrina tried to force some calm into herself, but it was hard. Her mind had more pressing things to dwell on. Some very important figures from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts would be coming to an open showcase exhibition. Getting noticed here would be huge.
She waited, her art hanging and ready to showcase her talent. It was a mix of everything she did – modern, impressionist, abstract and more. A truly eclectic mix, displaying her many talents as an artist.
A few older men started looking at the art and asking questions of the respective artists. This event happened very rarely and some of the most renowned artists were discovered here.
She was taken aback by a middle-aged brunette who spoke up behind her. The woman's deep brown curls came down to her shoulders. She observed the canvas before her carefully.
"What is this portrait?"
Katrina looked at the canvas. It was chaos, yet somehow made sense to her. Disorder was an order few could appreciate like she could.
The brunette sized her up, her smile widening. Something mischievous sparkled in her blue eyes. The navy dress she wore brought their colour out to good effect.
"I like this one. Guess that means I like you too," she said with a naughty smile. "Rhea Starling."
Katrina gaped at her and her outstretched palm. The colour drained off her face while the most famous art critic on the East coast cracked into a grin at her obvious discomfiture.
"You're..?" Katrina hopelessly stuttered, unable to finish her sentence.
"In the flesh."
It certainly was a lot of flesh. The blue dress accentuated every curve on her body perfectly. For someone pushing forty, she looked younger. Her face remained free from blemishes, possibly the result of periodic injections of botox. There seemed to be a permanent smile playing on the big woman's lips.
"It's an honour to meet you," Katrina finally blurted.
"I would concur, if only you would be kind enough to furnish me with your name," Rhea said, articulating each archaic syllable and struggling not to laugh.
"Katrina Bauer," Kat said between bursts of her heart. It thudded against her chest in awe of the colossus in the art world who was grinning merrily before her.
"It's nice to meet you, Katrina. Tell me some more about your art."
"God, just look at you," sighed Brittany. "Look at how out of place you look."
"You brought me to Le Bernardin. Of course I'm out of place," said Jake.
The most expensive and exclusive restaurant in the world was usually booked a full year in advance, by an assortment of royalty, senators, industrialists and the like. Yet it had taken his sister the mere duration of the half an hour drive there to make a reservation over the phone. Simple, when one knew the people she did.
All eyes turned towards them. Brittany ignored the stares with a glazed expression of haughty condescension. The maître d' escorted them to their private table, on the upper level. There were some whispers among the populace regarding who this mystery person was having lunch with the all powerful Brittany Gallagher.
"Don't stare," she said curtly in Jake's direction.
They sat down and the curtain was drawn across their enclosure. She did not even bother with the menu, knowing what the best dishes available were. For someone who had memorized the entire Constitution by the age of three, a simple menu was hardly a challenge.
As much as he disliked his sister, Jake remained in sheer amazement of her. Her IQ was off the charts, possibly the highest ever recorded. Jake did not know the exact number, but it was above 200. Well above 200.
He watched her nonchalantly order for them. Maybe she wasn't aware any longer how disdainful her voice sounded. The sunglasses dangled off her hand. She turned back to Jake.
"How's Aunt Claire?" Jake asked.
"Fine," she replied. Maybe Jake imagined it, but was there something slightly off about the reply.
"So that chick you live with. You doing her?"
"No," he said immediately, desperately hoping for a distraction.
"Shame," she drawled. "She's doable though. I bet she spreads her legs for every loser who comes her way."
"Watch it," he snapped, surprising himself with his bravado. "You don't have the right to talk that way about Katrina."
"Getting defensive, are we?"
"No, it's just..." he said, hurriedly composing himself. "You don't know anything about her. How can you judge her?"
"Watch me," she said, leaning forward on her elbows. Jake knew he was in way over his head.
"Katrina Bauer. 28 years old. Born and brought up in Trenton, New Jersey. Went to Oberlin College for a Bachelors degree in Art. Dropped out. Diagnosed with type 2 Bipolar disorder. Described as manic, erratic and unpredictable by her doctors. Suffers from low self-esteem, leading to frequent anonymous sex. I could go on, but you get the point."
Jake just kept staring at her. She laughed and poured some wine into her goblet.
"As you may recall, Jake," she said, taking a sip. "I know everything."
He could not suppress his gulp. All his fears raised their heads in unison. Her mind-games never missed the spot. She went on.
"You didn't hesitate when you said you haven't had sex with her, but hesitated right after that, while telling me how I didn't know her. You suddenly got defensive, protective even."
There was an uncomfortable silence. Brittany looked down in silent contemplation before suddenly looking up at him with a gleam in her eye.
"You have feelings for the tramp," she declared. "But you haven't done anything about them yet."