Chapter 10, North of Happenstance

North of Happenstance: Chapter Ten

Dearest Nanny Moore,

 

I must apologize for the tardiness of this letter. I know I promised to write weekly, it was, after all, the deal to secure your continued silence as to my whereabouts. I hope you haven’t been worried. It’s surprising how busy life has become in what I’d estimated would be a sleepy little town. This is perhaps because Whestleigh offers a sort of lifestyle I was never prior allowed to partake in. Regardless, I will endeavor to make up for last week’s absence with a longer letter.

            I wish you could come visit me. Maybe someday. Not until I’ve had time to fully furnish my new ‘home’ though. You would be horrified at my hosting amenities as of now. I’ve managed to get a new coffee maker and a microwave oven, but I’m still rather lacking in regards to…well, everything else. Don’t worry, on my next free weekend I plan to hit up the department store in Castlewye, a town twenty minutes outside of Whestleigh. I’ve heard it has promise—whatever that means.

            Classes are well underway now. I made a deconstructed mug in my pottery class. I got an A on it. Truth be told, it’s ugly. You’d hate it. Mother would never allow for its existence. Just to give you a hearty chuckle, I’ll include a picture of within the letter. Please, don’t forward it on to mother and father. I know you hate playing the middle-man in my scheming, as you call it, but it’s the only way. If they were to know my exact location, if they were given insight into what I am doing they’d never forgive me. Or worse, they’d come here to fetch me and bring me back home. You and I both know I’m not strong enough to resist them. Not yet. Maybe someday.

Kate stared down at the beginnings of her letter, the pen dangling loosely in her right hand. Nanny almost had a conniption when Kate had called upon arriving in Whestleigh, that woman worried out of her mind as to her ex-charge’s whereabouts. She’d ceased to be a member of the MacDonald household years ago, but she’d always kept in touch with her Katy. Knowing her parents would reach out to Nanny upon knowledge of their daughter’s defection, Kate decided to beat them to it, while simultaneously swearing her lifelong companion to keep the secret of her locality well-hidden.

This had only been granted under certain conditions: One, Kate had to write to Nanny Moore every week so that she wouldn’t worry, so that she’d know her favorite little baby was safe and okay. Two, that Kate include a secondary letter in each correspondence, this one to her parents, which Nanny Moore would covertly mail off to them upon reception (after first discarding the envelope containing Kate’s return address into the wastebasket). That parenthesis was paramount, as it revealed her concealment. Nanny Moore was the only one allowed to know where Kate was…in case anything should happen. Reluctantly, Kate had agreed to these provisions, including an additional letter in each post, the second marked to her parents—written in her own hand, of course, to eliminate any evidence of Nanny Moore’s role in it all. In these, Kate skimmed, she sometimes omitted, hell she frequently found herself downright lying: about what she was doing, who she was turning out to be, really everything. What her parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

Kate knew how much it bothered her old friend to lie to Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald. It went against her very nature, and to people under whom she was once employed no less! She also knew how much Nanny loved her, and how much she also, desperately, wanted Kate to get out from under their thumb. It was the only reason for her acquiesce.

Placing her pen back down on the paper, Kate forcibly cleared her mind of this thought. It didn’t do her any good to despair of her current situation. It was this or nothing. Besides, it was her parents own fault for this subterfuge.

            I got a job, a real job, this time not one that daddy fixed up for me. It mostly consists of stocking shelves and doling out customer service, simple non-demanding work. Certainly it’s a step or two beneath the education that was afforded me. But all the same, I love it. My boss is nice—cute, too—and my co-workers have been nothing short of welcoming. It’s nothing like the cutthroat atmosphere I grew accustomed to at Banner Investment, the atmosphere you used to pray I’d learn to hate and leave one day. Well, I did leave and you know what? For the first time in my life I’m…happy. Life is somehow richer, even without my fancy title and envied office. I don’t know, it’s just simpler I guess. For example, the whole office is just abuzz about some employee Halloween party our boss is throwing next week. I mean, a Halloween party?! How trifle. How refreshing! Finding a costume is utmost in everyone’s mind; apparently, there’s a contest of some esteem awarding prizes to the best dressed people there. Of course, I don’t know what I’ll wear, and not having much time to put anything together it’ll probably have to be something from a previous year. I still have that Cleopatra outfit….

            Oh! Big News: I have become a bonafide actress, having recently been cast to play the role of Juliet for a small group theatre project. It’s part of my Shakespeare class. We will be traveling to a local high school and performing a short excerpt—just one act of the production—in front of their Drama Department. I’m a nervous wreck. Do you remember the last time I was in a play? I believe I was seven. I don’t think a single audience member has forgotten. It’s not often that the Tree in “Once Upon a Thanksgiving Night” breaks down in the middle of the stage and screams for help because they are, and I quote, “asphyxiating to death”. I was such a precocious little thing. I didn’t handle stage fright very well. Fingers crossed that I’ve outgrown that awkward phrase.

            I told you about my perfectly awful neighbor Anne Ganthy, right? She’s truly a horrid creature, bent it seems, on making it her life’s purpose to annoy me. She’s now got a petition going around the block to get Danger evicted. She says he must be disturbing a noise ordinance somewhere, and either way, she’ll get the city council involved in pursuit of a barking law.

            Backup a minute… I didn’t tell you about Danger, did I? Of course not, he’s the main reason I’m so late in my weekly letter. Danger is my new dog. I know, try not to shudder at the thought. Muddy paws, slobbering tongues, and shedding hair abound! I’m just as surprised as you undoubtedly are, upon reading the news, at this newest addition to my life.     

            I had no intention of getting a dog. Ever. Growing up in an animal-free home had pretty much fixed me upon the illusion of having pets. It’s entirely Madame Penny’s fault; I dare say you’d probably like her. She spouts out wisdom in rather unorthodox ways, rather reminiscent of your colorful teachings.

            Anyway, she decided last week that what she needed was an animal for her shop—she’s a psychic remember? They are said, she assured me, to help the process of intuitive channeling, and are, I guess, super-sensitive to telepathic messaging. I repeat what I’m told. Regardless, because of a so-called capacity to help others heal, she had her sites sit specifically on a cat. Plus, she figured it wouldn’t take up too much room in her small shop. I was forced to accompany her on this journey.

 

            “It’ll be fun,” Penny insisted, more-or-less pulling Kate out the front door of her house. She’d shown up in one of her famous surprise visits. Kate had the day off from school; she’d worked her schedule out to have Tuesday’s free. Unfortunately, Penny knew that.

“Why me?” Kate asked, shrugging on a light coat. Fall in the east coast held a decided nip, not that she wasn’t used to that, a Minnesota girl.

“Who else? You’re practical, sensible…I need someone who won’t let me leave the store with an armload of animals I simply can’t house,” Penny informed her, all but pushing her inside the small crossover she drove on special occasions.

“I have homework to do today,” Kate whined, but it was done so half-heartedly. She wasn’t really in the mood to research the elements of Shakespearean Drama as it compared to more modern productions.

“I promise we’ll be back in plenty of time for all of that. Besides, you need a break,” Penny insisted in a cajoling voice.

Kate buckled up. She couldn’t pretend a want to argue further.

They stayed at the pet shelter for nearly two hours, which was considerably longer than Kate had envisioned but Penny had insisted upon playing which each and every cat in existence and, that activity exhausted to its furthest limit, had then enquired about the dogs. Kate checked an impulse to glance down at her watch.

It was then, as they were being led down a narrow walkway which, in turn, led to a banquet-sized hall housed wall-to-wall with individually caged dogs, that the afternoon took a decided turn.

That’s when Penny stumbled upon Danger. She’d already stopped at nearly each and every stall, reading the attached biographies of its specific pet, when she reached his kennel. Unlike most of the others, Danger’s biography was relatively short. He was approximately two years old, a pit bull mixed with elements of a Labrador. His home life had been unsteady, at best. His original owner had passed away not long after obtaining Danger. He’d then gone to the shelter only to be rescued and returned two more times. Each owner had claimed he was a good dog, affectionate, kind to strangers and even tolerant of cats. It’s just…he was too energetic! He needed a home where he would be allowed to run that energy off. He needed someone who could devote more time than either the previous owners had been able.

Immediately upon Penny and Kate stopping, Danger had rushed forward to greet them, his tail waging eagerly, ready to lick their fingers through the wire pen separating them. It was love at first sight…for Penny anyway. She’d demanded that he be released to the outside corral, the better to play and really get to know one another.  The lady working had agreed at once, almost as eager now as the dog himself.

So that’s how Kate and Penny had spent the second half of their time at the shelter: goofing with Danger. He could fetch like a champion, compete in tug-of-war like a boss, and he lived to have his belly scratched. Kate, crouched on her hands and knees, laughing up at Penny had declared that he was the perfect companion. Of course, she’d never actually known the friendship of a canine, but still, he was sweet.

“He is rather a lover, isn’t he?” Penny said, talking in that baby voice everyone’s prone to using when around small things.

“Yeah,” Kate said, her agreement punctuated by the wet kiss Danger laid on her at just that moment, his tongue leaving a sopping trail down the left side of her face. And, believe it or not, prim-and-proper Kate had only laughed harder.

“Well, maybe it wasn’t a cat we were meant to meet today,” Kate conceded, springing up to her feet at a cue from the worker. It seemed their time with Danger had come to an end.

“Maybe we weren’t meant to find me a pet today,” Penny returned cryptically, as was her way.

Her strong emphasis on the word ‘me’ had Kate’s ears perking anxiously. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Kate, have you ever thought of owning a dog?” Penny asked, turning on her in the blink of an eye.

Baulking, Kate took a step backward. Then another. “We didn’t come here for me,” she said, arms stretched outward. “We came here for you.” This reminder was needless.

Penny waved that away. “Of course we did, but I just didn’t feel that particular…how should I say this—spiritual connectedness?—with any of the animals. That’s necessary with pet purchases, especially on an intuitive level.” She sounded vague, purposefully vague.

“But—but what about Danger?” Kate asked, taken aback. If Penny hadn’t wanted him why in the world had they just spent an hour in his company?

“Oh him,” Penny shrugged, “well, he’s great. Super, really. But he’d be like a bull in a china shop at my store.  You’ve got to see my point.”

Kate did, all too well.

“Then why…?”

“Why meet Danger?” Penny asked perceptively.

“Yes.”

“Because then I felt it,” Penny said simply.

“Felt what?” Kate asked, only mildly annoyed. She was used to Penny’s obliqueness by now.

“That special connection.”

Kate’s brows furrowed. Penny was making even less sense than usual. “But didn’t you just say—?”

“No, no,” Penny interrupted, “the connection I felt wasn’t between Danger and myself…rather the two of you.” There was no mistaking the emphasis of Penny’s final words.

Kate’s teeth snapped together. She really didn’t have time for Penny’s extra sensory perceptions right now! “Penny, we came here to get you a pet not the other way around,” she said slowly.

“Well that doesn’t mean you should deny yourself the possibility, especially when it’s staring back at you with those melt-me brown eyes,” Penny countered. To Kate’s sensitive ears, it sounded a little practiced. “I mean, give me one good reason why you shouldn’t get yourself a furry companion.”

“Give me one good reason why I should?” Kate threw back. Two could play at this game.

“I already did—there’s a definite bond between you and no, before you start, it’s not something that only a psychic would see,” Penny said, cutting Kate short. “The staff recognized it too. Why else do you think she let us stay out with him so long? He adores you and you’ve only just met. That’s chemistry babe. If that isn’t reason enough here’s another: he would be someone to come home to at night, a companion to keep you from being lonely in that big house all by yourself,” Penny said earnestly.

“I am not lonely. And there was no more a connection with him and me than with you,” Kate declared stubbornly, though a small, silent part of her disagreed. Sometimes she did get a little lonely. But a dog…that’s serious commitment.

Penny shrugged with a worldly air. “Oh well, I’m sure someone will come along for Danger and if not, at least he’s cared for here.” She looked around the respectably sized-yard they were still standing in. “He gets fed regularly, and even has a place to call his own—a small 6×6 foot crate holding a thin bed and a food dish,” she paused here before adding, “hardly homey but don’t mind that.

“And yeah, he’s given an allotted time spent outdoors and the workers are nothing if not respectful and kind but they aren’t his best friends, people he can devote all his loyalties and life too, they aren’t his to keep…. But then beggars can’t be choosers can they? And he does see visitors, some of whom even stop long enough to consider him for a moment before moving on, breezing in and out of his sight on the regular, to look at yet another option for adoption. But he’ll wait. What else can he do? Either way, I’m sure life here is…fine. It’s good.”

Who could ignore that guilt trip?

 

            Long story short, I came home with Danger, a two-year old fireball with unsure lineage and history. I’d had little choice once the staff worker expressed her worry over how long they were going to be able to keep Danger. That’s all she said, ‘how long they’d be able to keep him’, but the tone of her voice sent shivers down my spine. I decided I didn’t want to know what that meant. I took him home that day.

            Madame Penny is still animal-less but somehow I get the impression she never intended to get a pet—not for herself, anyway.

            Whatever. At least he’s a friendly face to meet me at the door. Only, he does get a little nervous whenever I’m gone—like, had an accident on my entryway rug, nervous. So, I’ve started keeping him chained up outside when I have to leave for long periods of time. It’s a good sized backyard, ample room for exercise and potty breaks. This, however, is where the story gets complicated. He has this barking thing. It can get kind of loud, especially when I’m away. At least that’s what Anne Ganthy told me when she rapped on my door two days ago, a petition in hand and a nasty tone of voice in reception.

 

            “I hear you’ve recently acquired a dog,” Anne said, trying to peer around Kate, whose body was leaning meaningfully against the doorjamb, barring the unwanted woman’s entrance inside.  Anne cleared her throat deliberately, continuing on before Kate had the chance to speak. “I say hear because that’s about all I can do lately…hear him! He’s quite the barker. It’s really incessant,” she stressed.

Kate’s eyebrows had rose slightly at the words, the belied attack. Her voice, however, was contrite when she spoke: “Barking? Oh! I’m—I’m sorry,” she staggered, genuinely bewildered. Kate may not like Ms. Ganthy but she was decorum to her roots; she meant her apology. “Please, I had no idea it was so…so disruptive! I mean, I know he gets a little excited first thing when I come-and-go, but—”

“Yeah,” Anne said, speaking over Kate’s fumbling words. “Well unfortunately, he doesn’t just bark at your departure and return home…the problem persists the entire time your away,” Anne said pertly. “And you are away from him an awful lot,” she scolded.

“Is that criticism?” Kate asked, her eyes narrowing at the verbal barrage.

Anne shrugged. “Merely a fact of the matter,” she said.

Kate nodded her head slowly. She didn’t want to get in a fight about Danger. Truth be told, she didn’t want to spend that much time with Ms. Ganthy—fights were rarely short lived. “Never mind, you’re right,” Kate said in surrender. “If Danger’s barking is upsetting that is a problem. I assure you, I will look into it presently.” And then, in afterthought, Kate added: “I did just get him, maybe it’s just be a phase he’s going through as a result? A little separation anxiety perhaps? If that’s the case, I’m sure it’ll abate shortly.”

Ganthy smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. Her upper lip nearly curled in response. “I’m afraid my patience has reached its end.”

“Excuse me?”

“I want the dog removed. Period. I’m in the process of getting the local authorities to see to it.”

Kate’s head snapped backward. “What? This is the first I’ve even been told about it,” she protested.

“Certainly you don’t think I should be responsible for telling you what’s happening in your own home,” Anne said.

“No, it’s just…I’ve barely even had Danger for a week,” Kate told her, one hand gripping the side of the door frame, the knuckle white. “I’m still figuring things out. If I could just have a little more time,” she pleaded again.

“Time is relative dear,” Anne replied, her voice dripping false gaiety. Then Ms. Ganthy tapped the side of the clipboard she was holding in her hand. “This is a petition that I’m sending around the neighborhood. All I need is two other households to complain about the disruptive noise of that dog,” she said, almost spitting out the last word, “and animal control will step in and relieve you of it.”

“Please, Ms. Ganthy, I promise I’ll look into the issue. I’m taking this very seriously.”

Anne pursed her thin lips. “Well, I’m afraid it’s too little, too loud. I’m only here today because written policy has it that any complaints regarding a violation to the city’s noise ordinance first be brought to the perpetrator. That’s what I’m doing, telling you that you’re breaking the law and I’m going after you.” Anne smile at the words, no doubt getting great joy out the experience, before turning sharply and walking away, leaving a gap-mouthed Kate standing, frozen, on her door stoop.

Maybe it hadn’t been wise, making any enemy out of that woman.

 

            So now Anne has made it her mission to see him sent back to the pound—or worse! What kind of person even does that? If it’s war she wants, then it’s war she’ll get. She has no idea the kind of mental and emotional battle field I waged daily in my past life, but if she keeps this up, she will soon!

            But first, I’ve got to go to church. (I thought you might enjoy that transition. See, I’m still the good, proper girl you raised me to be.) The thing is, I promised to help Pastor Maggie out. She’s hosting a little gathering there tonight, something she’s calling the ‘Youth and Young Adult Ministry Mixer.’ Basically, from what she intimated, it’ll be a meeting to help guide high school students in the developmental shift from adolescence to maturity, from teenage years to adulthood. As a young professional/college-student, I’ll remain both relatable to but also respected by, these students; a role model of sorts in achieving this involuntary evolutionary process. From the sounds of it, the class will offer an opportunity for group interaction, networking, counseling, etcetera etcetera…. Of course, it will also be heavily influenced as a community for members of faith and Godliness. 

            I don’t belong to Pastor Thayer’s church. I think Penny would kill me if I did, but I couldn’t say no either when she asked if I’d partake. I like M.T. Still, the matter remains that I do this incognito, or face a sure fit of hysterics. Besides, it’s just for one night. I figure it couldn’t hurt to lend a helping hand for one night. Right?

 

Kate felt her pen stall on the paper. She hated having such a guilty conscience. But why couldn’t she just be a neutral party member in Penny and M.T’s feud? Why did she have to choose between the two of them? Blowing the bangs off her forehead, Kate’s eyes roamed across the kitchen. Shadows were beginning to form against the cabinet doors. Absently, her eyes moved to the wall clock hanging beside the bay window.

It was 5:43 pm

She had to be to the church by 6:00 pm

“Dang it,” Kate mumbled. She’d have to finish the letter later.

Sighing, Kate moved away from the island where she’d been working. She still had to get a kitchen table yet. Tossing the pen negligently beside the nearly finished work, she resigned herself to completing it when she got home. Kate hated to leave anything only partially-done.

Hopefully this thing at the church wouldn’t take too long….

 

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