"No Place Like It"
2004 - Fall
Katie looked down at her nails, her features contorting into a frown as she picked at the nail of her index finger with her thumb. She’d gotten all of the paint out from underneath them hours ago, before she’d gone out, but she’d gotten so used to being covered in paint, paint chips, paint fumes and other paint accessories, that she sometimes felt phantom symptoms. For the past six months that was all she’d been doing, painting in Italy covered in sweat under large ceiling fans, painting in Scotland covered in rags with open windows, painting, painting, and painting. But for what? That was the question she didn’t have an answer to any more. Before, when she painted it was like a calm came over her heart and everything made sense, it was like diving into a cool pond on a hot summer’s day. It was cathartic and freeing and she loved every minute of it. That’s why she did it, because she loved it because it was a beautiful part of her. But it was different now, the art still flowed into her, but it was desperate and volatile and harsh. It ripped through her, violently purging her emotions onto the canvas in relentless waves. It was exhausting, and painful, and left her with a terrible feeling of emptiness when it was done. And every time she started a new work, she talked to herself until she was convinced that the next one would be different, that this one would make it better, and the world would be full of light again, but she had finished so many ‘next ones’ that she had lost count. And nothing had gotten better, nothing had changed, her soul was still a void.
Katie felt a hand land on her shoulder drawing her out of her musing. Turning her head to the side she found a smiling face looking over at her. The woman was tall and bronzed with shoulder length, wavy brown hair, stunning by anyone’s standards, gorgeous my most peoples. Gema. Katie dropped her hand back down to her side and plastered a smile across her face.
"What were you looking at? Gema asked curiously, wondering what could possibly have captured the other woman’s attention. The intensity of Katie’s look had surprised her when she’d emerged from the washroom, the seriousness of it not matching with what she had seen of the other woman before.
"Hands," Katie responded dismissively. "Let’s see if we can’t find a more productive use for them," she continued wiggling her eyebrows suggestively before turning a speculative eye on the woman beside her.
"Works for me," Gema replied reaching down and grasping Katie’s hand, allowing the dirty blonde to begin to lead her down the hallway, though her motions were interrupted when they heard the front door of the apartment open.
"A letter came for you," Julia called out her eyes drifting over to the two women and immediately knowing what was going on. "It’s from Jessie," she added in what she hoped was a blasé tone to the woman holding Katie’s hand, but a pointed one to Katie.
Katie looked over at Julia for a moment, then over to the counter where she could see a letter, then over a Gema. Jessie a name that become synonymous in her mind with both heaven and hell. "I’ll just be a second," she said to the beautiful brunette and then she slowly crossed the room, sharing a look with Julia before picking up the letter.
Katie closed her eyes momentarily as she finished reading the letter, and then with a shaking hand carefully put it back into the envelope. She had talked to Jessie since that day she had called to inform her girlfriend of her trip, but they hadn’t talked much. At first they’d called, because they hadn’t remembered how not to have the other in their life, because they hadn’t wanted to learn again, but they’d soon stopped. Things had changed, they weren’t really seeing each other anymore, and every time that they spoke, and their voices were distant out of the fear of getting hurt it was like losing each other over again. The thinly veiled hurt, and anger and fear creating a palpable wedge between them. So, for months Katie hadn’t heard anything from Jessie, no letters, or emails, or phone calls. Nothing, and then this letter, this letter where Jessie said that she missed her, and that maybe not talking to each other wasn’t the best thing to do. This letter where she said that she knows things have been weird between them, but that they could work on that, on everything. This letter where she said that she’s not even sure why she’s writing, or what she’s feeling, or what they could even do, but that she wants to try because being away from Katie is harder than she thought it would be, and she had been expecting something on the harsher side of devastating.
Placing the letter down on the counter once more, Katie took a deep, shuddering breath, the confusion she had been feeling as she read the letter having quickly turned into anger. She’d had her heart torn out and stomped on for the past six months. She’d been totally consumed and tortured, haunted during her waking and sleeping hours by memories of Jessie, and thoughts of them possibly getting back together. And, now that she had finally started to pull her shit together, had finally decided to stop living in the past, or some fantasy world in her head, and at least attempt to move on, Jessie had to write that letter. But Katie wasn’t biting this time, she couldn’t afford to, because she knew that if she accepted, three months later, when they hadn’t seen each other for a while and Jessie started to find it hard again, she’d break up with her again and she’d end up right where she had been at the beginning of summer. They’d gone through this at varying degrees for two years, since the day she’d left Jessie’s fear and anxiety and the inevitable result of it had been looming over their heads, and she couldn’t do it anymore. She was tired of her life being a blur, of having memories of times that should have been amazing covered in dark clouds. She was starting to get some sensation back and meant to hold on to it. No, she wasn’t going to let Jessie plunder her heart again; she was through, no more yoyo. This pretty jellyfish had found its spine.
"Thanks," Katie said to Julia absently turning back around, composed once more.
"No problem," Julia responded watching Katie push off the counter and walk back over to the woman she had left moments ago. So that was it then, the fall of Camelot.
"Feel like finishing the tour?" Katie said as she approached Gema, her lips curving up mischievously.
Katie shook her head smiling as she turned her head to look out of the window, biting down on her bottom lip to stop from full out laughing.
"What?" Grace asked peevishly as she came to a stop at a red light, turning around to give Katie the full force of her glare.
"It’s just…" Katie started remembering Jessie’s ‘hey, hey Kool-Aid’ story and wondering if it would be wise to continue.
"It’s just what?" Grace asked having a good idea what was coming.
"You are extremely pregnant," Katie said with a touch of wonder in her voice looking over a Grace, her eyes focusing on her stomach. There was life in there, tiny human life that would one day grow up to play soccer and dent its parent’s car.
"Just know," Grace started sighing, "that when it’s your turn I’m going to gawk and mock you viciously, because fair is fair," she continued smiling a bit nonetheless. It still amazed her that there was an actual life growing inside of her, so she couldn’t really fault other people for being in awe as well.
"I have a low threshold for pain," Katie replied glancing up at Grace as they started to move again. "Jessie’s gonna to have to have the babies."
"Does Jessie know this?" Grace asked arching an eyebrow. The truth was she was kind of surprised by the comment, she hadn’t figured that the two of them had gotten to a point again where they would be comfortable talking about who’d have the baby.
"Not exactly," Katie responded laughing softly. "It’ll be our little secret for now, okay?" she continued winking at Grace. "So where are we going anyway? Are you going to badger me indoors? Over coffee? As we casually stroll through a boutique?"
"Badger you?" Grace asked innocently though that was exactly what she had been planning on doing since she had gotten over seeing Katie naked.
"That’s why we’re on the this quaint little road trip isn’t it?" Katie asked her tone serious, though her words remained light and breezy. "You want to find out what my intentions towards Jessie are."
"You know I always liked that about you," Grace said, her gaze flickering to her rearview mirror before she focused in front of her again. "The word coy has absolutely no meaning for you," she continued. "You’re right of course."
"Of course," Katie replied her gaze flickering back over to Grace. "So?"
"So what are you intentions towards my dear, sweet, stepsister?" Grace asked. The truth was she’d always liked Katie, even though she’d always been a bit chatty for Graces tastes she was and had always been a kind person. The truth was she still liked Katie, but she also remembered what Jessie had been like after they broke up, she remembered Jessie’s eyes always looking like they were on the verge of breaking out into tears and she liked Katie a little less every time she remembered. Jessie had never really gone into detail about why they had broken up, other than saying that it had been too difficult to stay together over such a long distance, but a part of her had always blamed Katie. Jessie had told her that she shouldn’t, had told all of them not to, but Jessie was family and whether it was reasonable or not you always sided with family. So Katie, whom they had all loved and taken into their hearts when she and Jessie were together, became somewhat vilified over the years, the dastardly breaker of Jessie’s heart. And, even though she was trying to be impartial, Grace still carried a little bit of that around with her.
"Forever," Katie replied, her eyes still focused forward.
"Excuse me," Grace asked her eyes flickering towards Katie briefly, their expression questioning.
"Forever," Katie repeated. "I’m going to be completely honest with you, because I think you’d know if I wasn’t and would kick my ass for it," she went on smirking. "I love Jessie. I always have, even when we weren’t together I still loved her more than I’ve ever loved anything in life. And back in the day, we fucked things up, I fucked things up … whatever, things got fucked and we both got screwed," she continued noting Grace roll her eyes and smiling at the action. "I can’t change what happened back then, all I can do is concentrate on the future, and tell you that I want that future to be with Jessie. So my intentions, my intensions Grace are this. To make her smile, to make her so happy that when I propose in what promises to be an idiotic fashion she’ll overlook it and say yes anyway. To have babies with her, to buy that ranch she wants somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and to learn to like horses. To have a porch with a swing, and to grow old sitting out there looking at the stars with her in my arms. Those are my intentions," she finished, blinking back tears, but smiling softly as she turned her head to look out the passenger side window.
"Wow," Grace exclaimed looking over at Katie once more. "I kind of want to marry you now."
Katie looked back over at her, and they held each other gaze momentarily before Grace turned her head forward once again and they both laughed softly.
"On a more serious note," Grace continued a moment later, "I like those intentions, I really do. But, if you break her heart, I promise you that I will hunt you down like a rabid dog and make you pay."
"Hmmm, a vague stipulation is nobodies friend I suppose," Katie muttered in response. "Noted," she continued. "But I promise you, you’ll never have to know the horrors of plaid."
Karen entered the kitchen clutching a folder in her hand heading towards the fridge before spotting her daughters hunched over figure at the table. Stopping halfway to her previous destination she turned her attention towards Jessie who was staring intently at one of the many books spread out before her. She sighed and turned her attention to the window, it was a beautiful summer day outside, Jessie shouldn’t be cooped up in the kitchen reading by herself.
"You work too hard," Karen said softly as she walked over to the table.
"You worry about me too much," Jessie responded her lips quirking up into a smile as she recalled that they had this conversation before.
"I think that you should…" Karen started to say, but Jessie interrupted her knowing what her mother was about to say and not really wanting to hear it.
"Henry’s already taken," Jessie quipped, her eyes never leaving her books.
"You’re funny," Karen replied not at all amused. "Jessie…" she started again.
"Mom, I’m fine," Jessie said shortly, finally looking up from her books and turning to face her mother. "I know you worry about me but you don’t have to, I really am fine," she continued sighing. "I want things alright, right now I want this," she went on waving to the books spread out in front of her. "I want to be alone," she continued her eyes meeting her mothers steadily. "I want to find out who I am, separate from being half of a couple. I don’t need anyone in my life right now, so you worrying about me not having someone is an exercise in futility."
"You’re at the language section aren’t you?" Karen asked looking down at the books covering her table. The truth was she believed her daughter was telling the truth, last summer and for most of the school year had been rough for Jessie, had been rough for everyone who cared about her. She’d been quiet, and listless and sullen, and her eyes, which Karen had gotten used to sparkling continually, had seemed to burn out. But over the last few months, she had been getting better. She’d started talking more, and eating more – for which Karen was eternally grateful – and her eyes had begun to show some signs of life again. It was just that she just hated seeing her children less than blissful and now that Eli had seemingly gotten his act together, all of her doting could be directed at Jessie.
"Go," Jessie said finally, waving at her mother tired now of the woman looking at her with those thoughtful eyes. "You’re going to be late for your appointment."
Karen looked down at her watch at this and sighed. Jessie was right, she and Henry were supposed to be meeting with the florists in ten minutes. She’d forgotten how much work planning a wedding was.
"Try and get outside for a least a few minutes won’t you," Karen said standing up.
"Will do," Jessie replied saluting her.
"Alright, I’ll see you later," she said, and with that she was out the door.
Jessie watched her mother disappear out the door, before bringing her hand to her head, rubbing at her eyes before allowing her gaze to drift towards the window for a moment. It was a nice day out she realized, her mom was right, she should go outside for a while. It was a nice day, she thought to herself again, her lips curving up slightly. And with that she picked up a few of the books surrounding her and headed for the door as well.
"So … Katie?" Eli commented turning his attention away from the TV and turning to face his sister. He’d seen this episode before.
"Yep," Jessie replied watching as Ozzy worked diligently on his drawing of what looked like ‘The Screaming Man’ with claws. She didn’t understand how Eli could have watched this show in its original run and then continually watch the rerun marathons. She wanted to hit herself in the head with a frying pan and they were only five minutes into the episode.
"How’d that happen?" Eli asked, his attention back on the screen as Ozzy begged Sharon not to let Kelly bring home any more cats. He saw his future there before him and he was actually looking forward to it.
"She’s getting sued," Jessie replied watching the TV and seeing Eli’s future while wondering if he was looking forward to it.
"Fun," Eli returned nodding his head.
"We’re going to win," Jessie replied with a shrug. The words slam and dunk flashing neon in her mind.
"I bet what she likes most about you is your humility," Eli commented smiling at his little sisters smugness.
"I seriously doubt that’s what she likes best," Jessie returned looking over to meet her brother’s gaze causing them both to break out smiling.
"You happy?" Eli asked seriously a moment later.
"Very," Jessie responded.
"I’m glad you think so," Jessie replied smiling over at Eli.
"Mom know?" Eli asked feeling Jessie’s head fall against his shoulder and raising his hand up to ruffle her hair.
"Nah," Jessie replied batting his hand away from her head and glaring at him. She was pretty sure she didn’t have the words ‘petting zoo’ tattooed across her forehead. Eli’s shirt on the other hand, did say ‘Pit Stop’ so she felt justified using him as a cushion. Eli had inherited their father’s snuggly gene, he really had.
"Can I tell her? Please," Eli asked smiling teasingly, though he seriously wanted to be there when Karen found out that Jessie was back with Katie.
"Get out of my house," Jessie responded pointing to the door though she made no effort to remove her head from his shoulder.
"You have any cheese snaps?" Eli asked not even paying attention to her.
"What kind of question is that?" Jessie asked peevishly. "Of course I have cheese snaps."
"You’re a good woman," Eli commented. Grace never bought cheese snaps.
"I’m going to tell Grace you said that," Jessie responded smiling. Nothing got Grace going like comments regarding typical gender stereotypes that had been enforced through centuries of patriarchal rule.
"Please don’t," Eli said. He was pretty sure he was whining, and surprisingly he was okay with it.
"You are so whipped," Jessie teased, raising her hand and snapping her wrist.
"Shut up," Eli grumbled.
"When’s the baby due?" Jessie asked still smiling.
"Dunno," Eli replied. "Though it’s gotta pop out soon, if she gets any bigger I think she’s going to explode."
"You’re an idiot," Jessie replied her body racked with laughter.
Katie closed her eyes letting the breeze from the open window rush across her face. Finally opening them once more she looked down at the small device in her hand and turned it on, scanning the words that appeared on the small screen once more. It was a development offer for a gallery in Chicago. She’d be given effective ownership of the gallery through a fifty- five percent share, in return for managing it and contributing pieces of work on a bi-annual basis for name recognition. The offer was tempting, more than tempting, it was a generous gift that she by all rights shouldn’t have received, especially considering that she had publicly retired from professional painting – a decision she had constantly been debating with herself about since the moment she had made it.
Sighing she dropped her head back against the back of her couch her eyes drifting back towards the bedroom. Who was it tonight? Stephanie, that was right, the best thing about the class she had been teaching. Katie rolled her eyes and sat back up, the thought that the woman lying on her bed who she could barely talk to without wanting to boil her own head was actually the best thing about her recent position snapping her out of her malaise.
Katie looked back down at the letter in her hands and smiled. She’d accept it, why the hell not, even if it was in Chicago. Whatever it was that she was doing in her loft in London certainly wasn’t what she wanted, it hadn’t been what she had wanted for quite some time, so she could as well go back. Yeah, she could as well go back, why the hell not, there was certainly nothing to keep her in England, and this opportunity was just what she needed. An opportunity to paint, teach and scout for new talent, it was a dream, one she intended to catch.
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