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Author Topic: If You Can Get It (mainstream fiction)  (Read 1033 times)
brendan_hodge
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« on: August 03, 2018, 05:48:04 PM »

The cell phone buzzing in her hand was a reproach.  Kristy had promised herself she would avoid screens and spend her Sunday morning relaxing.  Instead she’d been checking her work email, and now Katie was calling.

Kristy set the phone on the table to let it vibrate its way through the six rings that would send the call to voicemail. She smoothed out the newspaper to read the front-page article, knowing even as she did so that she was going to pick up the phone and answer it at the last moment because Katie always got what she wanted.

“Katie.  What’s up?”

“Um.  Hi.” 

Katie’s eloquence was as stunning as ever, right up there with her sense of phone etiquette. The seconds dragged on as Kristy declined to probe why her ten-years-younger sister had called. 

“So. What are you doing now?” Katie finally offered.

“You know how it is here. Busy at work,” said Kristy, turning over the page of the newspaper and scanning the inside headlines.  “I’m heading into the last month before a product launch I’m in charge of, so I don’t know when I’ll next have a quiet morning to call my own.  What are you up to since college?  Sorry I couldn’t fly back for graduation.”

“I’ve been looking for a job and stuff.  Well.  Mostly I guess I’ve been fighting with Mom and Dad.  Being home really sucks now they’re in this religious nut phase.”

“Mmm hmm?  I bet.” 

“Actually…”  A hesitation followed by a rush of words.  “After having been on my own for five years, I just can’t stand going back home.  Mom’s always asking me why I’ve been out late.  Last week she freaked out because she said I had too much alcohol in the house.”

“That hardly sounds like her.  She never noticed the bottle of vodka I kept in my dresser during high school.”

“Yeah, well she notices now.  So I had to get out.  I’m moving.”

“Where are you going?”

“Well.”  The pause was just long enough for Kristy to realize what was coming.  “I was hoping to move in with you.  Just for a while.  Until I can get a job and get my own place.”

“Look, I dunno, Katie.  It’s really expensive here in the South Bay if you don’t have a good job.  And I’m barely going to be home over the next month.  Maybe you should think about it a bit.  Do you have any college friends you could move in with?  Maybe closer to home or in a more affordable city.”

“Kristy.  How often have I asked you for anything?” 

Kristy silently tallied the ‘Mom and Dad said they didn’t have money for’ calls over the past few years: text books, study abroad, car down payment. 

“Look, I’m sorry.  I know you’re busy,” Katie pleaded.  “I just need a few weeks.  I’m not going to cause any trouble.  I’ll stay out of the way.”  The words were coming faster, and she sounded close to tears.  “Please?”

What kind of sister am I?  Kristy sighed.  “Yeah.  Okay.”  Compulsively she got up and began neatening: coffee cup and breakfast plate to the sink, newspaper folded.  “When are you thinking of coming?  The next couple weeks are really crazy, but—”

“I’m parked out front now.”

“Now?” A few steps and a look out the condo’s front window showed Katie’s red Focus parked on the street, with boxes and bags visibly piled in the back seat.  “Katie.  What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry!  Mom was just so—“  Words apparently failed and she began again.  “Thursday night she just totally reamed me out for literally no reason.”

“Literally?”

“And I decided I had to get out so I started throwing things in the car.  I was going to call you, but I kept worrying you’d say no.”

“So you just showed up?  Katie, that’s—  Oh, it’s stupid talking on the phone when I can see you.  Come up here.”

Kristy hung up the phone, opened the front door, and went out onto the balcony shared with the condo next door.  She watched Katie get out of the car, stretch, and come up the stairs.
 
“You look like you overslept an 8AM class,” Kristy said, surveying Katie’s battered flip flops, plaid pants, tank top and bedraggled hair. 

“You look like Sporty Mum from some Stepford Wives compound,” Katie shot back.  “God, I feel terrible.  Can I use your bathroom?”

Kristy pointed and Katie dived for it, leaving the door slightly ajar.  From inside, Kristy could hear the sound of retching.  After a moment it ceased and water ran.  Katie emerged wiping her face with the hand towel.  “That’s better.”

“Are you sick?” Kristy demanded. 

“I spent the last two days living off Red Bull and Doritos and taking naps in rest areas.  I feel disgusting.”

“Why didn’t you get some decent food and sleep in a motel?”

“Do you have any idea what they put in that fast food?  Besides, I didn’t want to waste money.  Can I take a nap before I bring my stuff in?”

Kristy went to open the door to the spare bedroom, but Katie threw herself down on the couch, pulled one of the cushions over her head, and was still. 

For a moment Kristy stood, contemplating the motionless form before her and the fading prospect of a quiet Sunday.  Still, the interruption was quieted for now.  She went back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee.  Maybe there would even be time for a run before Katie woke up.

***

When Kristy emerged after her shower, feeling damp but virtuous, she ventured back into the living room and saw that Katie remained motionless on the sofa: her head under the cushion, one leg hanging off onto the floor, plaid bottom in the air, as if the couch were some monster that had paused half-way through consuming its victim. 

Nonetheless, her sister’s presence somehow constituted an obstacle to the planned lazy day.  The couch and its occupant continually drew her eye, and Kristy found herself cleaning the condo, moving the filing cabinet out of the spare bedroom, shifting books off its shelf and onto the one in her own room, and generally reorganizing to accommodate two rather than one. 

Memories of the first weeks after Kevin had finally moved out came back to her.  Then the sense of “no one else here” had been overpowering.  However increasingly unwelcome that presence had been in the final months, the lack of it, after three years, had been palpable, and she had cleaned, replaced furniture, re-organized and redecorated until she no longer expected to see him sprawled in the recliner or crouched over a cup of coffee in the kitchen.  Now “someone else here” seemed to radiate through the condo, and she felt the need to deconstruct the order which had been hers and hers alone, rather than allow the presence of a new resident to violate that order.

Six o’clock found Katie still asleep and Kristy sitting in one of the armchairs opposite the couch, staring at her phone.  She called The Mandarin’s Garden first and ordered dinner.  Their “Should be there in twenty-five minutes,” promised a clear end point to the necessary conversation.  With that protection she called her parents.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 05:50:32 PM by brendan_hodge » Logged
Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2018, 02:43:31 AM »

I read this a few nights ago but didn't leave a reply. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed it. I might read through again at some point to see if there was anything else I can comment on, but from memory, I just wanted to be more engaged with how MC feels when she talks to Katie and finds out she's outside. It felt a bit distant and relied too heavily on dialogue. I felt it needed so fleshing out , with emotion. But otherwise well balanced and well written imho.  Grin
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jcwrites
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2018, 12:12:54 PM »

The prose is clean but it reads like conversation (and largely expository at that). In all, the scene doesn't offer much in the way of developing conflict, but this isn't my genre.

You might reconsider your character names: Katy, Kristin, Kevin. Starting with different letters helps the reader keep them separate.
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Doris
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2018, 03:39:22 PM »

Enjoyed reading this except the Kevin paragraph. Who is he? Boyfriend, room mate? Kind of lost me on him but I was looking forward to reading more, especially the phone call to the parents. Good job. Yes
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brendan_hodge
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2018, 01:28:19 PM »

Thanks.  I appreciate the feedback.

After a couple pieces of feedback, I'm trying to resolve the Kristy/Katie naming of the sisters.  Yeah, sure, some parents name that way, but apparently it's just too hard to keep track of on the page.  I hadn't even thought of the fact that the ex-boyfriend has a K name as well.

Good point on dialogue heavy without drawing out the emotions.  I'll see what I can do there.
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