Chapter 6

Chapter 6

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

It was one of those rare nights when everyone was in a good mood and were home all at once.  Caleigh’s dad’s lecture was cancelled and her mom expectantly found some free time in her busy schedule.  Her dad leaned against the island kitchen nibbling on a carrot and talking about Newton as her mother and she moved about their brightly colored kitchen preparing the night’s meal.  The sun sat low on the horizon through the window that Caleigh looked out of.  Summer was dwindling and she could see the days growing shorter and shorter.  Caleigh washed the crisp butter lettuce under the sink and rinsed them off to put into the salad she made up of cashews, dried apricots, finely shredded carrots and sliced apples.  She looked up at her mother, who was checking on the lightly coated tilapia cooking in the oven.

She loved their kitchen and that was where they mostly took their meals if they were ever able to get all three of them together.  Her mother had painted the walls a sunny shade of orange on a whim when she was feeling industrious and accented it with red corner table and billowy, yellow curtains.  It was her mother’s domain and her father left it that way, only meandering in for a snack or drink.  Caleigh could remember making cookies and brownies when her mother had just been doing her doctorates.  Now, there were less and less meals, but it was where Caleigh chose to do her homework when she was home. 

Her mother pointed to the beautiful oak hutch standing on the side that had belonged to her grandmother.  “Mike,” she said, “could you set the china out?”

Her father raised an eyebrow.  “The good stuff, eh?  Is this so Caleigh’s friends won’t think less of us?”

Her mother smiled as she wiped a bead of perspiration from her forehead.  “We just never use it.  I thought it would be nice to have it out.  By the way, Caleigh, when is Becky coming by?”

Caleigh tossed her salad together with olive oil and a bit of seasoning.  “She should be here any minute now.  You guys have met her before.”

Her father nodded as he bit into his carrot.  “She’s the one that lives on the farm, correct?”

Caleigh turned around to face her parents.  “Yes, but she’s self-conscious about it.  Do NOT ask any questions about how to milk a cow or when they feed the chickens!”

Her father put the carrot down.  “Why not?  That’s nothing to be self-conscious about.”

Caleigh sighed and turned around again.  “I know, but she is; so for Pete’s sake, keep your animal farm questions to yourselves.”

Her mother smirked.  “But what if she knows where Snowball ran off to after the great rebellion and Napoleon took over everything?”

Caleigh stared at her.  “Mother.  You are not funny.”

Her father hugged her mom from behind.  “I don’t know what you kids think is funny nowadays, but that was pretty funny.  Do you guys even have jokes any more or are you just serous all the time?”

Caleigh groaned.  “Like all the time, Dad.  All of the kids are slowly being replaced with aliens who have no sense of humor and we’re going to take over the world.”

Her father opened the oven a smidge to peer inside.  “Well, remember us little people when you’re ruling the world.  Let us have Monty Python, but you can destroy everything else.  Speaking of everything else, are you joining track this year?  You just dropped out freshman year and you were so good at it.  You were so good at the javelin throw.”

Caleigh rummaged through the drawers for the salad forks.  “You know I had too much on my plate.  I had to drop something, but yeah, I did enjoy it.”

Her mother shut off the oven and took out the fish.  “Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices.  It doesn’t mean your life is any less fulfilled, it just means you have more time to concentrate on what you do have in your life.  I’m so glad you’re mature enough to make those decisions on your own.  I know your dad and I are a little forgetful sometimes and lately, we’ve been busy with work, but we’re always here to listen.”

Caleigh walked into the adjoining dining room with Prussian blue wallpapers accented in emerald feathers and wisps of pink flowers.  A large bay window looked out onto the garden that her mother tended to in the summer.  Caleigh spent so many days lounging there reading and watching her mother outside as she grew up.  She set the salad on the long, wooden table in the middle of the room.  Her mother had inherited it from her mother after her death and it was a reminder of where they came from.  Caleigh sighed loudly so her parents could hear her from the other room. “Mom, there is no need to get so mushy.  I’m not on drugs.  I’m not pregnant.  I’m not going to parties where they drink.”

Her mother followed her in with a platter of fish on her good china that she so rarely used simply because they were rarely home and when they were, they never entertained guests.  “That’s good to know, but it would be nice to see you with a boy.  It would do you good.”

“Mother!” Caleigh exclaimed, “My life and happiness are not contingent on having a boyfriend.  I’m perfectly fine by myself, thank you very much!”

“Honey, I’m not saying that.  I’m just saying that perhaps you would enjoy having a boyfriend.  I’m not worried about you at all because I know you’re going to make good decisions when it comes to your body and yourself, but maybe having a boyfriend would make you see things differently.”

“How, Mom?  Am I supposed to just go out with any random guy and magically see that it’s all butterflies and rainbows all of a sudden?”

“We’ve talked about this.  You’re not going to make good decisions as a kid because you’re a kid and I’m fine with that, but that’s just how you learn what you actually want.  I just wish you were more open to the idea of dating.  Sometimes, you’re just so wrapped up in your books and painting that I don’t know if you see there’s a whole world out there just waiting for you.”

“When do I have the time for dating between taking all my AP courses, volunteering, working, and after-school projects?  If I don’t get the best grades and extra-curriculars, I’m not going to get into a good college.  If I don’t get into a good college, I won’t get a good job.  If I don’t get a good job, I’m going to be a failure!”

Her mother sighed.  “You teenagers are so dramatic.  I don’t know where all this is coming from.  You know we are fine with whatever you do.”

“Except that I should find a boyfriend in between all that?”

Her mother shrugged.  “Well, it would be nice to have grandkids.”

“Dad,” Caleigh yelled out, “make her stop!”

Her father trotted in with the plates and silverware.  “How dare you Anne?  Not my daughter.  She’s going to become a nun and join the nunnery.  Then, she’s going to meet a nice guy on the mountaintops with 8 kids and they’re going to sing songs about deer and raindrops.  On second thought, that sounds like a commune.”

“Or a cult,” her mother quipped

The bell sounded then to Caleigh’s relief, and she rushed to the front door to let in Becky.  She threw open the door and saw a nervous Becky fidgeting in a pale blue dress and turquoise flats.  “Thank god you’re here.  My parents are annoying the crap out of me.  Ignore them if they say stupid stuff.  Come on.”  She shut the door and led Becky through their living room and back to the dining room, where the table was perfectly set and her parents waiting in their seats.  The two took their seats as well.

Her father passed the rice pilaf.  “Nice to see you again, Becky.  How have you been?”

Becky shrugged.  “Good, Mr. Storm.”

Caleigh’s mother smiled as she took some rice.  “That’s nice.  And how are your parents and sister?”

Becky sipped from her glass of water.  “Laura is in 8th grade this year. My dad is pretty busy with the farm, and my mom helps out when she can.  She works part-time at the elementary school close to us.  My dad wants to know if you guys still go hunting.”

Caleigh’s father beamed at her.  “We haven’t gone since Caleigh took up painting.  Caleigh is a natural, but since I started my new position and she started at West, there hasn’t been time.  Now let me ask you, are you like my daughter and want to join the nunnery?”

Becky stopped her fork midway to her mouth.  “I’m sorry.  What?”

Caleigh groaned.  “Excuse my dad.  Sometimes, he thinks he’s funny and he’s not.” She shot him a menacing stare with one arched eyebrow.

He chuckled.  “Nothing wrong with nuns in my book, but I guess the topic is off the table.  I guess we’ll just awkwardly eat in silence now.”

Caleigh’s mother cleared her throat.  “Like our first date?”

After dinner and desert, Caleigh pulled Becky into her room and double-checked to make sure the door was locked.  It wasn’t that she thought her parents would spy on her, but just that she wanted some privacy in her life.  This was one part of her life that she didn’t want to share with them.  She wasn’t sure what to tell them because she wasn’t sure herself of her feelings.  All she knew was that her resistance to him was slowly fading away.  She disliked him at first because he seemed so arrogant and selfish, but she was wrong about that.  He was actually very kind and thoughtful.  And he was thoughtful of her.  There had been other boys who tried to get her attention, but the wall she put up stopped all of them dead in their tracks.  Not Hunter.  He just kept trying.  She liked that about him.  She liked someone who wouldn’t give up.  She smiled.

Becky threw a small embroidered pillow off her bed at her.  “Why are you smiling?”

She threw it back, missing her by an inch.  “I’m not smiling.”

Becky fell back on the bed laughing.  “Yes, you are!  You’re such a bad liar.  You don’t have to tell me, but you should admit to yourself that you like him.”

Callie paused for a moment and asked “would you like to see my new painting?  It’s not done yet.”

Becky looked puzzled.  “You never let me see things that are half-finished.  Yes, show me!”

Callie got up and opened the closet door, pushing back through the multitude of supplies in there and pulled out a 13 by 7 canvas.  She placed the painted side to her chest and walked towards Becky.  “It’s not finished, so don’t be so harsh.”

“Are you kidding?  If I could paint half as well as you, I’d be happy.  Now, let me see it!”

Callie slowly turned the canvas around to reveal a bolt of golden lightening splitting a gnarled tree perfectly in half in the center of the painting.  On the left of the tree, a group of faceless people aimlessly gathered in the brightness of day as warm and neutral tones softened the figures and edges, and on the right, people stood with only glowing eyes staring back at her while swathes of grey darkness wrapped around them like a snake slithering through.  Although Callie colored both sides, she only showed the wizened tree in great detail, as its limbs extended across the canvas, acting like an extension of the lightening as they crisscrossed the images.  “What do you think?”

Becky tilted her head.  “It’s kinda strange.  I don’t really get it, but I’m not really one for art, so what do I know?”

Callie let out an exasperated breath and plopped down on the bed as well as she tossed the canvas lightly to the floor.  “Good, because I have no idea what it means either.”

Becky laughed.  “What do you mean?  You’re the one who painted it, right?”

Callie leaned back onto the white, fluffy pillows on her bed.  “I did, but I’m not sure what it is.  I just saw it in a dream of mine and I felt like I had to paint it.  If I don’t paint them, they keep reoccurring, but if I paint them, they go away.  Does that sound crazy?  I mean, that’s pretty crazy, right?”

“Of course that’s crazy, but you’re my friend, so it’s not crazy.”

“What?”

“I mean, I know you.  You’re one of the most grounded and sane people I know.  I’ve known you forever and I’ve never known you to say anything ridiculous, so I believe you when you tell me.”

Caleigh paused.  “I’ve actually been wondering about something that I need your help with.”

Beck sat up.  “What is it?”

Caleigh looked away.  “I don’t know if you’d go for it.”

“Spill it!”

“I thought maybe we could go to the county fair and meet up with some friends.”

Becky sat up straight as she continued to stare at Callie, while Callie evaded her glance.  “And who exactly is it that we’re meeting up with?”

“Well, Hunter and Nate, of course.  The state fair is this weekend and I thought it would be fun to go as a group.”

Becky cocked her head to the side.  “Since when?  As long as I’ve known you, you’ve hated groups and the state fair.”

“That’s not true.  I went when I was a kid.  I’ve just stopped for a few years, but wouldn’t it be fun to go again?  Especially with people we know?”

“People that YOU know, not me.  I have no idea who Hunter is and I’ve never actually talked to Nate before when we’re at school.  What exactly am I supposed to say to people I know nothing about?”

Callie shrugged.  “I don’t know, but it could be fun.  There’s games and funnel cake and prizes.  Say you’ll come.  Please!  Pretty please!”

“Why Nate?  I mean, I understand why Hunter is coming, but why Nate?”

Callie shrugged again. “No reason.  I talk to him a lot at work and he’s super nice.  Also, he’s the same height as you.”

“Is he really?”

“Like almost.  Pretty close, I swear!”  Becky cracked a smile and Callie knew she would go.  She knew she could always count on Becky to come through and that she only needed a bit of convincing.  Ever since she met Becky in the fifth grade, the two became inseparable and Callie found she could really open up to her and confide in her her fears and dreams.  Most of them anyway.  There were some that even she refused to acknowledge in the light of day.  Some dreams would continue to haunt her, waiting for her in the shadows of the night, but she immediately dismissed them when she realized she was awake in her own bed, safe and sound.   Caleigh laughed.  “You’re the best friend, ever.  I’ll ask Nate at work tomorrow and Hunter…”

“What is it?”

“You know what?  I have no idea how to get a hold of him.  I don’t have his number.  I don’t even know where he lives.  He just shows up randomly in my life.  Maybe I should put a message in a bottle and hope it gets to him by Friday.”

“Or put out the bat signal.  He’s probably holed up in a cave somewhere.”

Caleigh let out a light-hearted laugh.  “You’re such a jerk.”

Becky smiled.  “You really do like him, huh?”

She shrugged.  “I guess.  I don’t want to sound crazy, but I feel like I’ve known him before.  I could’ve sworn I’ve seen him in my dreams.  Does that sound crazy?  When he’s close by, I feel relaxed and jittery all at once.  It’s hard to describe.  I’ve never felt like this before.  I just feel like there’s this connection between us and we don’t even have to talk about it.  We just both know.  When I see him, it’s like recognizing an old friend who left a long time ago and kinda looks like them, but not.”

“You mean like Emery?”

“Yes, I mean no.  I don’t know how I feel about Emery.  I always felt safe with him when we used to be close friends but it’s different now.  I’m still getting used to the idea that Emery is back and he’s dating Emily.  How could he date such a horrible person?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely pick Emery over Hunter.  Emery is just so…”

“Tall?” Caleigh finished her sentence.

Becky shrugged.  “Well, yeah, that helps, but he’s also super nice.  He even remembered my name and we never talk.  Hunter is cute, but he seems like he would get you in all sorts of trouble.  Emery is just a really nice guy.  And tall.”

“Maybe I want trouble.  Maybe I’m tired of normal guys.  Maybe I’m not meant to be what everyone wants me to be.  I just feel so much pressure to be somebody, but I don’t even know who I am.  Do you ever feel like that?  Sometimes, I feel like I’m all over the place and there’s a part of me that wants to go in one direction and another that doesn’t.  They expect us to figure out our lives, but they don’t even give us the freedom to do it.  I want to find me before I figure out who I should be.

Becky sighed.  “I get it. There’s just a lot of pressure to be successful, but they never teach us to succeed at who we are.”

Caleigh peered at Becky.  “Sometimes, you say the most remarkable things, Becky Ann.  I love you for exactly who you are.”

Becky blew her a kiss.  “And I love you for who you are right at this very moment.”




© 2017 Kerry Yang



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Added on December 12, 2017
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Author

Kerry Yang
Kerry Yang

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Writing
Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by Kerry Yang


Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Kerry Yang


Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by Kerry Yang