"Fuck you, asshole! You fucking shithead. Go fuck yourself. Fuck you. Fuck you!"
OK, I admit this wasn't a very classy way to end things. On the other hand, how cheesy is it to find your boyfriend in bed with a little freshman twat? I knew I wasn't handling this very well and it really wasn't my finest moment, that's pretty obvious. Hurt. Angry. Betrayed. The whole world had fallen in on me. It was a crappy end to a crappy quarter. Day after day of snow. Grey skies. To say that matched my mood would be the understatement of the year. Boston in the winter is no picnic, let me tell you.
Bill. I thought I loved him. I really did. No, that's not true. I knew I loved him. I thought he loved me, but I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. He tried to explain while I shouted at him and the slut in his bed smirked.
"Kat, I'm sorry. It just happened. Kat, listen to me!"
"Fuck you, Bill."
I walked out. And kept walking. It was snowing. Freezing. Shit. Everything sucked. When I got to my apartment, there were already three messages from Bill. Two seconds into the first one, "Kathleen, Kat, listen, please. Don't delete this message," I stabbed the button to delete it. Deleted the next two messages without even listening to them.
Then I couldn't stop my tears. Couldn't sit up, couldn't stop shaking. Two hours later I opened my eyes, looked around. Silence. No phone. No lights. No answering machine. Power was out. My apartment was freezing.
Tears turned to fury. I couldn't believe this. What the fuck did I do? This wasn't my fault. I'm not a crybaby. I'm not a weakling, and I'm not stupid. Dean's List every quarter since freshman year. Shoo-in for Phi Beta Kappa. Mathematics major at the end of spring term. Already accepted at MIT for grad school, deferred for a semester. Even Stephen Fucking Hawking knows who I am, for Christ's sake.
Well, maybe that last one's a little bit of a stretch. Or not. Because every year for the last few years he's asked the head of our department, Professor James, to recommend someone to spend a semester as his assistant, and this year Professor James sent him my CV. Hawking hasn't responded yet, but he and Professor James go way back and Hawking always takes on whoever Professor James recommends.
I headed out to find a coffee shop with power. There was one in the next block, thank god. Ordered, sat down with my coffee, booted my laptop and opened my e-mail. A note from Samantha in California. We'd been friends in junior high school for a couple of years until my dad's work took my family to the east coast. We'd kept in touch, though, and saw each other a couple of summers when my parents agreed to let me attend a session at church camp in California. I smiled as I remembered some stuff from those visits. Shivered a little, too.
Hey TK —
Buddy and I are thinking about a quick spring break trip up to Napa. How about you and Bill join us for a couple of days?
I was always "TK" to Sam. It started on an overnight with her when we were playing with words and our names. Kathleen—Kat—Tak—TK. OK, kind of dorky, but Sam and her brother always called me that. No one else did. Talk about nicknames, everyone called Sam's brother "Buddy." No one ever used his real name, Peter.
Our break is March 16-30, and Buddy's friend Jim is coming with us.
Turned out Dad's company transferred him back to California during my freshman year, and my folks were willing to pay half my way to California at spring break each year if I wanted to come back. I sure as hell wasn't going to stay around here during break now that Bill and I were through.
You bet. Bill is history, but I'll be in San Francisco on the 17th. Say 'hi' to Buddy, will you?
I remembered Jim. He and Buddy were never apart in junior high school, it seemed like.
You OK? I want to hear about this. Jim's going to ride up on his bike. He says it's fine if you ride with him. Interested?
More than interested, I thought to myself. I'd been on a motorcycle once or twice. Scared shitless each time, to tell the truth, but in a good way. Well, thrilled is actually more like it. Felt a tingle just thinking about it. I could do this.
In the next two weeks Bill left a dozen messages on my machine. They all boiled down to the same thing: he didn't know how it happened, it didn't mean anything, he was sorry, and please, couldn't we talk about it.
I had my own second thoughts. Had I been unfair? I know I loved Bill. He meant the world to me, or so I had thought. We all make mistakes and I was smart enough and honest enough to admit I'd made my share, although nothing, I thought, as bad as this.
Then, just as I was thinking I'd been too hard on Bill, and on myself, I saw the little slut across the quad standing with her girlfriends. She turned and smiled as I passed by. It was all I could do to keep walking and not scratch her eyes out and rip her ears off.
Bill and I did have one short conversation at the student union over coffee. By then I was cold, stone cold. I felt nothing towards him although it took an effort of will to stay that way. He was earnest; he was desperate, even. If he'd had a little more polish, a little more integrity, he might have had a chance, a small chance, of persuading me to let him try again. That small chance disappeared when he tried to blame the twat for what happened.
"Kat, I didn't even want to."
Bullshit. Considering the way she'd had her legs wrapped around his butt and how he was hitting bottom on each stroke when I walked in, he sure looked like he wanted to.
"See you, Bill."
I knew it wasn't finished, of course, and the tears and the beer and the sleepless nights over the next week or so proved it. I was better when the day came to travel but I knew I wasn't over it.
I love San Francisco's cool, foggy mornings and the way the sun burns through later. Compared with the snow and ice I left behind in Boston, it was heaven. I staggered out of the gate to see Sam waving. That wasn't Buddy with her. It took me a second to recognize Jim.
He'd grown. We all had, of course, and I felt another little thrill as I looked him over. He was doing the same to me, I guess. Then Sam was hugging me, hard, and I was hugging her back.
"TK, I'm really glad you're here."
Rested my cheek against hers for a minute. I'm not a really big touchy-feely sort of person, but with Sam it was different. She held me some more and kissed my cheek. Smiled.
"Jim's glad to see you, too."
Jim hugged me hard enough to make me realize he'd been working out. Another tingle. Get a grip, I told myself. Easy. One step at a time. I was a little confused. I'm not a prude, far from it, but I wasn't necessarily expecting to get laid on this trip.
Shit, who am I kidding? Now I couldn't wait. Even if it was revenge sex, I didn't care.
"Hi, Jim. It's 'Kat, ' you know that."
"Sam, where's Buddy?"
"Circling. He'll be by in a minute or two."
I'm not sure I remember exactly when I figured out there was something more than brother-sister stuff going on between Sam and Peter. Sorry, I meant Buddy. In junior high school I think it was kind of a vibe, below my level of consciousness, not something serious enough to listen to. I remember wondering a little about some of their hugs, yeah, but I was innocent enough to think they were just very affectionate.
By the time I attended church camp with them one year I guess they trusted me enough to be open about it. To say I was floored would be an understatement. Sam and I had some long conversations about the whole thing. You can guess what they were, but finally I realized she and Buddy were serious about each other and they weren't hurting themselves or anyone else. I was maybe a little envious, even. Nothing like that was ever going to happen with my brother, I was sure of that.
Besides, I thought Buddy was pretty hot anyway, so I wasn't surprised that Sam did, too. The three of us did a little fooling around, about what you might expect. No harm to anyone, and we were just as good friends afterwards as we had been before. I didn't know much at all about Jim. He was just around, except not at church camp. I liked him, although nothing ever happened between us.
Buddy drove up then and we all hopped in his car and headed for Jim's apartment. Sam and Buddy already had everything they needed for the trip, so all I had to do was make sure I had a couple of things to carry with me on the back of Jim's bike. I handed over the rest for Buddy and Sam to take in their car.
Jim and I were standing in front of his house after Sam and Buddy had taken off. I'm not a car person, much less a motorcycle person, but Jim's bike looked pretty big to me. A Triumph Bonneville 650, he told me. It could have been a Wowza Zapper 130 for all I cared, but I kept my mouth shut. Guys care about these things, I know, and despite my tendency to shoot off my mouth I know when to keep quiet.
"Kat, you been on a bike before?"
I was thinking about my couple of rides with some guy who was trying to impress me freshman year.
"Yeah, a couple of times."
"OK, no sweat. You've got long pants and a jacket. Leather would be better, but what you've got is fine. Here's my extra helmet. Just put your feet on the rear pegs and your arms around me, and you'll be fine."
Arms around Jim? Sure, I could do that.
"Hang on tight!"
.... There is more of this story ...