Saving Kate





Vianne, Kate and Colin have been friends forever. But nothing can last forever, as Kate falls apart and Colin does his best to fix her. But when he fails, Colin's world collapses and takes him with it. Vianne is left with one friend dead and another as good as. Looking back eight years later from Cordoba, Spain, Vianne recalls all this. At the arrival of someone she never thought would look at her again, Vianne finds out that to truly understand the present, you must first know the secrets of the past.

And secrets there are.






















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3. The Feeling

It’s been eight years, so most of that night has faded. A few things stick in my mind. Mrs Ellis opening the door that I had bled my knuckles on. She had curlers in her hair. I wondered how anyone could sleep with them in.

How Kate’s neck was blue.

How it was the same rope that we’d use to build swings across the creek.

How he grabbed me around the waist when I tried to cut her down.

 

“Leave her, Vee. We can’t help. Leave her…..Oh, God...”

How he held me and rocked me like was fragile and like was the one who could break. But that wasn’t me- it was Kate, who hung behind us, turning slightly, blue-black and still warm.

“Kate….Kate, I’m sorry, I should’ve listened. We should’ve seen,” I gasped out, the words dripping down Colin’s chest with my tears. I looked up at him with imploring eyes. “We should’ve seen.”

Something in Colin breaks at my words.

 

For the first month, I was so very angry. With myself. With her parents, for pretending all was fine until their daughter ends up dangling from the attic rafters. With the world that drove Kate to the edge; labels, ideals, rumours.

 

The few days after, when I called around to see him, his mum told me he was asleep. After that it was “He’s just having a bit of a rest” then about a month after, “He’s busy studying. It distracts him, you know?” Then I stopped coming around. Of course there was a funeral, a special assembly, the works. That’s faded from my mind because there was nothing extraordinary about it. Everyone dies. I accepted the hugs and the flowers and the “Whenever you need to talk…I’m here’s. No one I’d ever known had died before, but I knew what to say to everyone who asked me about it and only lost it when I was alone, in my bed, with nothing to distract me but the whoosh of my breath and the beat of my heart.

 

 A deep, vast, gaping sadness still opened up under my ribcage whenever I heard her name, but I wasn’t isolated, alone or sinking. I had friends from lacrosse and glee that I hung out with when I wasn’t studying in the library. He, I assume, was with his mates from basketball. But still, two months after we found her, it was feeling like he’d spirited away with her. Feeling so guilty and so alone that he had simply caved in and disappeared. When I realized this, I began to look out for him at school, heart leaping when I caught a glimpse of his shirt tail nicking behind a corner or glance into a class and see him writing, head down, thick arms twitching as the fine bones in his fingers worked. But that was all, the only times I saw you. You swapped Art History for Classics at the beginning of the semester – the only class the three of us had together.

Eventually, I’d forgotten what he smelled like.

And our handshake.

But never how his eyes had sunken into their pupils when I choked:

 

“We should’ve seen. We should’ve known, Col.”

And so, I came that night to remember it all again.

 

“Mum, what night does Anna have book club?” I was making dinner for Mum and Ben; Dad was staying late and would eat elsewhere.

“Thursdays.”

“So…tonight?”

 “Yes, I suppose so. Why? Planning on checking up on Colin?”

There was no point in denying it, and I wasn’t breaking any rules.

“Yeah, just gonna run round and see how he’s holding up. I barely see him at school anymore, we’re so busy.”

I held my breath as Mum dug around in a cupboard under the sink, not answering. But when she came up, she was holding one of Anna’s china dishes.

“Take this back to Anna. She left it here when we had the dinner before-“

Mum caught herself on Kate’s name. She smiles, eyes flitting downward, “well….In November.”

 

I took the dish and gapped it, as she called out to be to be home by 11.

Colin’s house was the furthest away from town compared to any of ours. It’d often be Kate and I going to his place to pick him up, so he wouldn’t have to walk so far alone. Our town was sort of shaped like a pear; the single lane road coming into it would be the stalk, met with the town centre, the top of the pear. From there it curved outwards, like hips, bearing the weight of all of us living on them, swelled by houses and schools. Then suddenly, it stopped, the creek circling around the back cuts off any access to the forest on the other side. When we were little, we would sit on that bank and taunt ourselves with the ideas that we could see bears and ghosts sneaking among the trees. Colin’s house backs onto this bank and I skirted around the back of his house to get to the back door.

 

I didn’t bother knocking. Colin never closed the door on the back porch because Toby, the spaniel, wanted to be let inside just to come out again. I double checked the drive for Anna’s car, but it’s gone, over the other side of town at book club. With that reassurance, I slipped inside.

“Holy Shit!” Colin was slicing liver when I padded into the kitchen, startling him. He dropped the knife, which narrowly missed his toe. “Vianne, what are you doing here?”

“I just came to see you,” I smiled, despite myself, “you’re never at school.”

“Huh...”

“Oh, and I have this. It’s your mum’s. How’s Classics? I miss you in AH…nobody to copy off anymore!” It was a stab in the dark at a joke, which I don’t think reached Colin.

“Vee….I don’t know if I-“

Oh God, I was trying so hard. Trying so hard not to scream. Trying hard to not to reach into him and pull him here, where he can hear me, see me. But instead of pulling, I drove him out with poison, venom.

“Don’t you if you can what? Do you not think I’m hurting too? That just because I’m not boxing myself in, giving up on everything that I don’t care?” I spat, wanting to stop, but relishing the fragmented walls falling out of his eyes. Now he could hear me. “Do you really think that ignoring everything she left behind will bring you closer to her? Jesus, Col…..I loved Kate too, you know? I-“

 

“Don’t say her name,” Colin hissed.

 My best friend leant on the kitchen counter like it was holding him and the world up. Tears melted and dripped. They collected in the dips of his nose, pooled in suspension under his chin. A single sob shudders through him, bends him. Another rolled up and over him, until he was braced against the bench. God, I was angry. I wanted to pick that knife off the floor and drive it through his chest, feel bones splinter, organs rupture, I wanted to feel his blood flow over my fingers, proof that he was still alive. But as a tear dripped onto the bench, I went slack. I knew this boy, inside out. Our whole Iife together had been boundless, limitless. That was how I justified what I did next.

 Like a vet would approach a wounded animal, I reached out a trembling hand and pressed circles, slow, revolving into his back with my fingertips and waited for him to shake me off.

 He doesn’t. Fingertips turned into hands and when he just shuddered and choked on something he couldn’t say, I was there. I was sliding up between him and the bench.

 

I was pulling his face towards me and nudging his lips with mine.

They retuned tasting of salt, creek water and charcoal.

He was not pulling away.

 

I was feeling his tears run into my eyes, my mouth. A second, deeper time, and my mouth tasted of the lemon of holding on. Arms snaked around my waist, lifting me onto the bench. This was barely registered as something kicked to life in Colin and stirred and swelled. He trembled as it pumped through him, a want so strong, I could feel it buzzing between my toes. Hands held my face so tightly it hurt, my waist, my arms, they all hurt. We clutched and clawed and moved, two people trying to feel enough to fill the void left by the third. Colin said so many things. Raking across me, his hands implore that he was to blame.

“I should’ve saved her.”

His nose brushed and dived past my own, murmuring that he was so, so, tired.

“God, just let it end. I can’t cry anymore.”

Salt ran over my tongue. His tears stumbled down my cheeks, pleading with me to help him forget.

“If I’m yours, she can’t have me. Drown me, Vianne. ”

But I couldn’t. That’s not the way it had to happen. It was the shuddering, brain bruising crunch after a free fall that slammed us when I pull away. Any want, any fire had been banished by a sickening guilt that permeated his voice when he told me to leave, and hung in my slipstream when I did.

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