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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1. The Innocence

 

 

 

When we were six, the three of us were inseparable. He wouldn’t remember, but a pair of us never felt quite right. When it was me and her, it was too safe. When it was him and her, you told me there wasn’t enough trouble. When it was him and me, we didn’t feel anything enough. Three was perfect. Hide and seek meant that you never had to hide alone, never were afraid of never being found because people would look twice as hard if there were two of you. We gravitated together because we were the only three in the whole of Grade 2 that couldn’t do the monkey bars.

 

“It doesn’t matter anyway, they all get blisters on their hands.” I swapped my peanut sandwiches for Colin’s tomato ones. Dad forgot that it was me who had the allergy, not my brother.

“Yeah, remember when Alice’s burst in math and stuff leaked on her book?” Colin asked as Kate swapped her chocolate chip cookies for Colin’s Twinkie. “That was so gross.”

“Yeah, and it was all purple and smelt weird.”

“And then they write funny after, like they can’t hold the pencil.” Kate delicately picked the seeds off her strawberries. Picking tomato out of my teeth, I let the conversation peeter out, while watching the Monkey-bar Kids. We all silently agreed that what we had was better than blisters anyway.

 

I guess looking back; Kate was always the delicate one. She cried when her mum yelled at her, even when we were there and even when she was older. She could colour inside the lines better than any of us. But she was also the breakable one.  There were times when I feared she might fall apart, scattered on the floor, so twisted that neither he nor I could put her back again.

 

“Hey, Kate! Oi! Watcha doin’ here? Me and Col have been-“I flopped down on the sidewalk on our street. Kate was supposed to be at the park, where, at eleven years old, we set fire to our school books on the last day. It was tradition, a day that not even Kate could be down on. The licks of the flames in your face and the beat of the sun on your head, with grass wriggling up between your toes, all while you watch nine months of tables and handwriting twist and curl and blacken, was quite a feeling. But this euphoria could mean nothing to Kate today if she was sitting on the curb in tears. “What’s up? It’s the last day of school. We’ve got another whole month until we have to go back. We can go picnicking and fly fishing an-“

“Yeah,” *hiccup* “exactly.”

“Fly fishing?” I frown.

“No, we have to go back. I have to go back. I have to go back 'cause if I don’t, they’ll think they’ve won. And everyone will believe them that I am fat and ugly, 'cause that’s what they say, every day. The teachers will know I’m not good enough, coz they say I’m stupid. They never actually say it, but they say I’m struggling and talk to me slow and stuff. They hate me there, everyone does. Except you and Col, and what if we’re in different classes? I’ll be all alone and-“Kate was gripping my arm hard and suddenly she seemed to realize what she was doing. So, lifelessly, she dropped her hands and her head and whispered: “A month doesn’t seem so long now, huh?”

“No,” I whispered back, realizing our ritual with the books was silly; school was always coming back to get us. “No, it doesn’t at all.”

 

I’m sure like me, he found that the school years just blur into one. The massive, life changing difference between Primary and Intermediate is only a vague feeling of being too small for everything. But, I’m sure, like me, that everything changed when things weren’t simple anymore. For the first time there was a distinction in our trio like no other. We were all thirteen by the time he was the one who sat the longest with Kate when she cried. Toasting marshmallows by the creek that summer, when Kate and I were whining about being cold, he gave his jacket to her. Watching a movie in a nest of popcorn bowls and beanbags, Kate and I would be watching the screen but he’d be watching her. I thought nothing of it. I think I still foolishly believed that what we’d agreed one March when we were eight still stood strong.

 

“I saw Mum kissing her boyfriend,” Colin said, throwing a four of clubs down on the grass.

“Oh, gross! Kissing looks gross as!” Kate squealed, knocking out.

“Yeah…do you know what else?” Colin had set his cards down and was now leaning closer to Kate, whispering, “Kate, guess what else?” 

“Colin, what-“

“I COULD HEAR THEM!” Colin leaned right in and made slurpy-licky noises right in Kate’s ear. I’m killing myself as Kate rolled away, groaning.

“You’re a monster, Colin Marsden,” Kate shuddered, “God; I’m never going to kiss someone.”

We all agreed that kissing and such was awful and was only done by idiots like Shane Warner who got his head stuck in his school bag and the nurse had to cut him out.

“What if,” I said, winning the round with my last ace, “we all lived in a little house together when we’re older? We would never have to get married or kiss or anything. We could just….”

“Play card games all day,” Colin offered.  “That sounds like a plan, but…”

“But?” Kate and I asked curiously. It wasn’t like Colin to doubt a plan of mine; after all, mine were the best.

“But….” Colin grinned, winning the last round with his joker, “I don’t really want to live in the same house as you guys, you two smell like girls and I’d probably come home and find bras and lipstick everywhere!”

Kate and I proceeded to tickle Colin until he begged for mercy and forgiveness.

 

By the time school started for our freshman year, I was pretending not to notice how he’d hold her hand and gently help her off the bus in the mornings. Or how an unwritten rule was scrawled on his face in the afternoons: the seat that he saved on the bus was for Kate. Or how whenever lacrosse practice took up my afternoons, he’d take Kate down to the creek, even though we agreed to all stay at home so no one would ever miss out.

By the time that school year started Kate and I had changed. Kate stopped crying as much. But this didn’t make us feel better. Especially when, instead of crying to one of us, small red scratches appeared on her arms.

 

“Col?”

“Yeah, Vee?” We were walking home from school on the last day before study leave. It was a rare moment that I was alone with Colin. Kate had gone home sick around lunch and we were on our way to check up on her. I didn’t really know how to phrase what I was about to ask, but figuring it was just Colin, I winged it. “Have you see Kate’s arms?”

Colin was very quiet for a moment. Then,

“Yes.”

“So…what do you think?” I pressed.

“Trees,” Colin said simply, “she was probably tree climbing?”

“Trees?” I asked dubiously. Kate was always our spotter, the one who had 911 on speed dial if one of us fell. She never climbed. Colin knew this.

“Well I don’t know!” Colin cried exasperatedly. He seemed like he was grasping at straws. “Maybe,” he sighed, in a ‘let’s just leave it’ sort of manner “she got them at the creek or somewhere. It doesn't matter.” We were both quiet for a time. When we spoke again, it was about what chocolate was best to buy her. I realized that Colin didn’t want to know about the scratches, and at the same time, I realized that neither did I. And that I was sure, if I found out, I’d wish I hadn't.

 

 

 Our old pants didn't fit around our hips anymore, which had ballooned outwards. As far as ballooning went, Kate was streets ahead. She managed to fill every top she owned perfectly by midyear break. Whereas, my chest was still happily content in its crop tops. He joked that even he’d have bigger boobs than me by the time we were sophomores. But Kate was never a joke. She was always fragile and beautiful and to be treated with the upmost care. Of course, now, I understand that that is how you look at and hold someone when you love them

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