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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9. The Peace

Colin stands with his back to me, eyes tripping fluidly over the water, as it rushes and ebbs downstream. I'm late. My old elementary school had proven fascinating and a humming nostalgia had filled me as I wandering outside the classrooms, gazing at cubby holes and pinned-up paintings. I had visited our old eating spots, the "safe" tag bases. I tut at the state of the tree hut twisted in with the wizened braches of an overhanging tree. I'm about half an hour late, afraid that Colin had given up and left. But he turns as he hears me crashing through the scrub behind the school, toward him.

"Took your time."

"Sorry," I pant, collapsing on a newly installed bench, "lost track of time. Have you been to check out the school?"

"Had a bit of a look around."

"It's changed."

"Yeah, I guess. I've been into town and to the woods and stuff. You forget how small this place is," Colin smiles, digging the toe of his sneaker into the grainy mud. "I've already run out of places to be."

 

It hadn't occurred to me until I scouted my mind for places that we could visit. Kate and her family had lived here for about three generations and there was nowhere else in the world she knew. It was a no brainer to have her put to rest in town. But I hadn't even considered visiting until now.

"We should go and see Kate," I gasp, snatching my bag off the sand and standing. Colin doesn't move, just eyes me like I spoke Japanese.

"Why?"

"What? What do you mean why?" It comes out as a half laugh, but only half. Because there's a weird look in his eyes. Dull, like that night in the hotel room.

 Bloated, shaking, gravel-coloured clouds slope over the sun. A wind picks up; flicking cold and creek spray in my face. I take a step closer to Colin, voice low.

 "You have a picture of her on your phone, but whenever I bring it up, you can't say anything."

"Why does it matter? She'd dead, Vianne. She's been dead for eight years. No one cares anymore!"

That slaps me in the face and I stumble back, the poison in his words forcing me away. No one cares?! A tone I've never heard from myself glides out with my words. It's accusing, knowing, coy, daring.

 

"What are you hiding from, Colin?"

"Don't be stupid," he spits.

"Why haven't you been back until now? Why didn't you even go to her inquest?"

 

I remember that detail as I say it. Colin hadn't been there. But I had been to shocked and reeling to notice. Now, I watch him. My eyes reflect in his. I see visions of the bruises, the "tree" scratches and Colin's face every time I had mentioned Kate over the past week.

And not just the past week, I realize.

 When the red scratches first appeared on her wrists, and I had gone asking questions.

"Col?"

“Yeah, Vee?”

“Have you see Kate’s arms?”

"So…what do you think?” 

"Trees." 

 

How guarded he had been, how through his eyes I could see him turning inwardly. How there had

been the feeling of something clawing underneath his idea about the tree climbing.

 The night she died.

 

Kate's neck wasn’t snapped instantly, but by the time Colin and I reached her, she was dead. As Colin pulled me off her, my hands slipped from her wrists, revealing smatterings of yellow-brown and blue-

purple bruises. 

 

How when I had looked up at him, his eyes were elsewhere. Now that I follow his gaze, I find he was staring blankly not at Kate's face, but at those flowering bruises. With the same expression a child would have if they had just broken a window with a ball. Surprised that there was such a thing as consequence.

And as I stare through Colin now, into him, I remember no shock registering in him at all. Guilt, yes. Grief yes. But no shock.

 

 "What, “I say, words seeping out as mist, "did you do to her?"

 

The guard goes down. He is the boy who held me in the attic, eyes wide and watery.

'I swear, it was just going to be one time. The one time that I lost it."

"Lost what?" I'm indifferent to Colin's tears, the utter shame and guilt that are burned on his face. The wind has picked up; I have hair in my eyes and mouth. The brown water surges and rocks beside us. But all is crystal still and clear where I stand. All I can see is Colin and Kate as he starts speaking.

 

 They had been dating properly for about a year. Colin was walking Kate home after a study group at my house. It was a clear, warm spring night, the moon high and unchallenged in the sky. Kate had been down all day. Mumbling, stumbling, and answering with one word, if at all. Asleep in class. Crying during lunch. It had been getting worse over the week and Colin was visibly shaken and tired. There was nothing he could say to her anymore. Nothing seemed to get through her head. Kate had been silent the whole way home and when they arrived outside her house, turned without a word. The curtains in the windows were shut and dark, so no one saw Colin grab her wrist and yank her to face him. 

"Are you going to say goodnight to me?"  

Kate just simply looked at him tiredly. 

"What is there I can say to make you look at least a little alive? Huh?"

Kate sighed and mumbled: "Nothing. I'm just tired, let me-" 

"Don't give me that shit!" Colin grabbed Kate by the shoulders, startling her. 

"Colin, what are you-" 

"Why won't you just listen to me?! There is nothing wrong with you!" He got in the start of a shake in before Kate slapped his arm away and stood, fuming and glaring at him. The moon turned her hair silver, her eyes too. 

"Don't you get it? There is everything wrong with me. My life is complete shit. It's unbearable. You don't know what it’s like to have everybody looking at you, judging you all the time. There's nothing you can do. Nothing-"

Colin stepped closer. There was desperation, frustration, hopelessness and determination. All of which boiling and bubbling under his skin turn to rage. Hot, searing, blinding rage. It came out as steam with his words. 

"Don't say that." 

"It's true, there's nothing you can do-" 

 

A fuse blows. 

A dam bursts. 

A volcano erupts. 

Colin's hand came up and cracked across Kate's cheek, crumpling her to the sidewalk. 

An epidemic starts.

Panic spreads.

 

Kate accepted his apology, went to bed and said that she walked into a doorframe when questioned in the morning about the bruise. 

They stayed together. Colin was on a mission to save her. Kate was clinging to anything she could. And when people asked about the cuts, the bruises and the swellings, Colin would go quiet and Kate would lie and both would breathe out relief when people accepted it. It won't ever happen again, he swore. He would never lay a hand on her again. But she wouldn't listen and everyone was looking him like he was her life raft and he couldn't do it.

He just couldn't do it. 

 

"All the times you told me it wasn't my fault, remember those?"

I nod, silent tears dripping. Someone's turned the volume up, the reality up. I'm freezing; the splashes from the creek have soaked me. My hair sticks to my face and still I only look at Colin. "What about now? Still think it's not my fault?" Colin chokes on his next sentence. He's crying, hard. I make no move to comfort him. Only to turn, pick up my bag and walk back through the scrub to the school.

 

The town smells of evil as I walk through it. Smells of the things that I was too naive to notice. By the time I numbly reach my house, the guilt is pressing so hard on me I can barely see. I write a note to my mother. I tell her everything. I tell her everything, that way she'll understand when she returns and finds me gone.

 

I pack my bag. I take a few things from my room, pictures and books. I walk out my front door and vow that I will never come back here. Never have to remember these things.

There's a bus that will take me three hours away to the next town, where I can catch another bus and then a plane. Then there will be a cab that I can take to my small apartment in Cordoba. Where I can lie on my bed, smell my things, taste my life. I want to go home.

 

 As I sit on the bus, waiting for it to pull out onto the grey, treacherous highway, a figure catches my eye. She's sitting on a bench outside the corner shop. Golden hair cascading down her shoulders and a small, glinting anklet on her foot. She looks up at me and waves.

I wave back to Kate and watch as she disappears. Like one of those things that might have never happened at all.

 

 

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