Disclaimers: The characters portrayed in this story are the property of CD McKendry. This story portrays scenes of mild violence and the occasional 'four-letter word'. If this offends you, please do not read any further. Also be advised that this story involves two women in a sexual relationship so once again; if this offends you do not read any further. Finally, this is my first attempt at writing anything since about a hundred years ago when I was once a school girl so if this worries you (and it probably should), please do not read any further. If you find anything truly offensive…or if you just want to say hi (which, by the way, I much prefer), please feel free to drop me a line at: email@example.com
For those of you that are left, please enjoy.
WAR, PEACE, UNDERSTANDING & LOVE
The animosity between the two women was so thick it almost felt like a physical presence to those standing nearby. The crowd of curious onlookers was made up of several other students and a few teachers that justified their snooping as being there just incase things got 'out of hand'.
Kristina, the tall dark haired woman stood stiffly, her brilliant blue eyes snapping and crackling as they stared into the emerald green eyes of the smaller blonde woman. The conflict was an old one and wasn't likely to be resolved any time in the near future.
Kristina was chronically late for class, when she bothered attending at all that is. Kate, the grade 12 History teacher had always considered herself to be an extremely patient woman, until she met Kris. She couldn't even remember anymore what their first argument had been about but it seemed that they had never really stopped arguing since then.
Today's argument was no different. Kristina was late for class and hadn't bothered to do the assigned homework. It had turned from a quiet conversation about responsibility into an all out war in a matter of seconds.
"Look, I don't what the hell your problem is. When I come to class, I sit here quietly and don't disturb anyone or anything. What the hell do you care if I finish my assignments or not? Do you really think I care what year the French Revolution took place in or who won the Battle of the Bulge? I'm here because I don't particularly want to go back to juvi, that's all. Leave me alone." Kristina's voice dropped to an intimidating growl.
"Well, I'm sorry. I know you're daddy's little girl and you're used to getting what you want but you can not just walk in here whenever you please because you've got a couple of hours to kill. I will not tolerate it and neither will this school!" Kate shot back.
In an instance, Kristina's eyes went from flashing blue to deathly calm. Her posture straightened and her fists clenched. The observing crowd could feel the change and started to move back fearing the worst. Even Kate blanched at the change quickly reviewing their argument of the last few seconds to try and discern what had brought about this feeling of absolute disgust coming from the much taller woman.
Through clenched teeth with her anger barely controlled Kristina stated with a calmness she didn't feel, "you don't know a thing about my life so do not presume to."
With that she spun on her heel throwing her leather jacket over her broad shoulders and strode out of the school.
She never returned…
August 2002 (Present)
The Harley slowed to a stop at the top of a hill looking out over the small town of Crestwood Falls. The town she had tried so hard to forget over the last 12 years. The rider slowly reached over and turned off the engine while blue eyes peered ominously, taking it all in.
Not much had changed she realized. The pulp and paper mill was still nestled against the water emitting its own unique smell. The main street, barely visible from where she was perched looked to be the same as it had all those years ago. The church at the end of Main St. was still there. Most people of the town considered it to be a sanctuary against their painful everyday lives. Kristina knew better. To her, it was then and always would remain her own private hell.
Raking a long slender hand through her flowing black locks, she remembered with crushing clarity all the torment and hurt. She remembered her father's fiery sermons about hell and damnation. She remembered thinking she was already damned.
Cursing a God that would make her come back here, she started the bike again and her long lean body maneuvered it down the hill and into town. As she rode slowly past the hardware store and the bakery, memories unbidden came to her mind. Angrily, she pushed them down and tightened her grip on the bike's handlebars.
I can do this. One year at the most and then it should all be over finally. I can leave here and never look back again. Kris silently repeated the lines over and over in her head as she pulled up in front of the lavish colonial style home. Her childhood home, and yet another piece of her silent hell.
Using her booted foot to push down the kickstand on her bike, she stood up slowly and threw a long muscular leg over the low-slung seat. Standing to her full height, somewhere in the 6' 3" range, she stretched and then pulled off her scull-cap helmet.
Better get this over with. Kris thought to her self grimly. Nodding to herself once she strode swiftly up the porch stairs and hesitated only briefly before knocking three times on the solid oak door.
After a moment, the heavy door was pulled opened. Kris stood face to face with her childhood tormentor. Although older and seeming quite a bit smaller, all Kris could see was the hatred and disgust in his piercing blue eyes.
"Hello father, I see no one has killed you yet. You truly have the people of this town snowed." Kris said not even trying to be civil.
"Kristina, so nice you could grace us with your presence. I don't know why your mother was so insistent on seeing you again. I've told her not to bother wasting her time. You're still a pile of garbage I'm sure." Kris's father turned and walked away without another glance back.
Kris squared her shoulders once again and pushed her way into the house. The smell of lemon furniture polish and heavily scented candles began assaulting her with a barrage of memories.
Pausing for a moment to calm her nerves and push back the bitter taste that was creeping up her throat, Kris noticed a low but constant hum coming from the other room. Following the sound through to the den, Kris saw her mother for the first time in ten years.
Walking further into the small room as quietly as she could, she observed her sleeping mother. Hair that ten years ago had been an attractive salt & pepper look was now a lifeless and dull gray. Her aging face had deep lines and a hardness that even sleep couldn't erase. Kris's conclusion was that this once vibrant and strong woman now looked like a broken shell. A poor imitation of the original print.
Kris took the chair that was positioned beside the bed and sank into putting her head in her hands.
Two Months Prior
Kris slumped into the chair in her small one bedroom apartment. It had been a long day at the treatment center and Kris felt much older then her 29 years. Sammy, a kid that she had been counseling on and off for about a year had overdosed on some Valium that she had found in her stepmothers medicine cabinet.
Why do I do this? Kris wondered to herself. I'm obviously not helping. Poor Sammy, she was doing really well, or so I thought. I guess I'm not much of a counselor.
The ringing phone interrupted her thoughts and she debated for a minute before answering it. Feeling guilty for her momentary lack of caring, she hastily picked up the phone. Kris was on call with the police departments Victim Witness program and knew that it was likely some type of problem she would need to go and help with. Figuring she'd hear the automated voice of the paging system, she didn't even bother saying hello, just "yeah" to trigger the message.
"Well, it's nice to see that your manners haven't changed a bit Kristina." The heavily sarcastic voice immediately sending shivers up her spine.
"What do you want?" she demanded willing her voice not to shake.
"Can't a father call his daughter to see how she's doing?" the voice asked dripping with disgust.
Kris was about to answer with a well thought out, "Go to hell!" when her father cut her off.
"Don't worry, I don't give a damn how you're doing. I'm calling at your mothers request even though I don't agree with it."
"What's wrong with mom? Why didn't she call me herself, or did you forbid her to use the phone again?" Kris asked feeling all of the anger from 12 years ago coming back.
"You always had a big mouth didn't you? Well, at least when you lived under my roof I had the pleasure of shutting it for you. Now about your mother, she's sick. Actually, she's dying. She asked me to call and have you come home." Her father's voice clearly conveyed how he felt about his long lost daughter.
"What do you mean she is dying? What the hell is wrong with her?" Kris asked in shock. Although she hadn't seen the older woman in almost 11 years, she still felt a pang of fear at the thought of losing her.
"She has cancer in her brain. She's had surgery but the doctors couldn't remove it all. They've been treating it with chemotherapy but there really isn't any hope." Her father's voice sounded cold, as if he was relaying information about some figure that he'd never met.
"Oh my God." Kris breathed the words, the shock hitting her full force.
"Kristina, do not take the Lords name in vain!" her father exclaimed angrily. "Did nothing I ever taught you stick?"
"Yeah, just not the lessons you're thinking of." Kris muttered.
"Your mother would like you to come home. I don't know why but she wants to spend some time with you. I told her you wouldn't come. You're far to selfish for that." Kris's father hadn't changed a bit. He still liked to take the cheap shots.
"I'll come, you can tell her that. I'll have to get some time off of work. It may take a few days to arrange but I'll be there." Kris opted not to fight with the man. The next few weeks would be difficult enough.
"I don't think you understand. I'm not asking you to come for a visit. Your mother would like you to move back home. I'm assuming you haven't settled down any and married a proper young man so it shouldn't be that big of a deal to you. You sleaze about wherever you live. You certainly did it enough when you lived here before." Her father nearly spat the words out at her.
"No. I'll never move back there. I left and I'm not looking back." Kris stated adamantly.
"Not even for your dying mother? Well well well, I guess I can finally prove to your mother how right I've always been about you." Her father sneered.
Kris sighed knowing that either way she would come out of this the loser.
Her father, hearing the rather pregnant pause on the other end of the line, chuckled mirthlessly. "I can hear your gears turning from here. You can't win. Either way, I'm going to come out the hero and you're going to look like the little heathen we all know you are."
He was right. Kris knew that no matter what she did, she'd regret either answer for the rest of her life.
"I'll come. It'll probably take a little longer to make the arrangements. I'll have to find a job and an apartment." Kris finally responded dejectedly.
"Well, you could always have your old room here." Her father offered lecherously.
"Not a chance in hell," Kris replied before slamming the phone down.
Oh mom, Kris thought looking at the broken woman lying on the bed and surrounded by machines, why didn't you just come with me. We could have made it together. I would have helped. Just as she was about to get up and slip out of the room, her mother opened her eyes slowly.
"Kristina?" the gravely voice asked sounding almost afraid if she spoke to loudly the figment before her would disappear.
"Yeah mom, I'm here. How are you feeling?" Kris asked sinking back into the chair and taking her mothers hand gently in her own.
"Oh, well, I don't feel like running the Boston Marathon or anything but I'm okay. I should get up and get you some dinner." Kris's mother struggled to get to a sitting position before being stopped by Kris's larger hand holding her smaller one firmly.
"No mom, you lay down and get some rest. I'll be okay. Can I make you something to eat? Is there anything I can get you?" she asked feeling a guilt she could never have imagined at the state of her mothers condition.
"No, I'm fine dear. If I remember correctly, you're not exactly Julia Child in the kitchen. Stop looking at me like that, I'm not going to die right now!" her mother admonished.
"That's not funny mom. How long have you known?" Kris asked quietly, "About being sick I mean," she added to clarify.
"Oh, a few months or so…" her mother's voice trailed off.
Kris didn't respond, just glared at the prone woman with her best 'I want the truth' look. It always worked with the kids at the center and didn't fail her now.
"Eight. I've known for eight months. Just after the New Year. I had a physical because I was having headaches quite frequently. They did a bunch of tests and then came back and told me about two weeks later." Her mother looked her straight in the eye as she responded this time.
"Eight months and I'm just finding out? Why in God's name did you wait all this time to call me?" Kris asked incredulously.
"I didn't feel the need to worry you unnecessarily. I figured the surgery would take care of it and that would be the end of it. And don't use the Lord's name in vain. You'll give your father fits." The old woman said this last part in an adamant whisper, looking fearfully at the door to the den.
"I don't give a damn what I give that man. If I was lucky, it would be a heart attack." Kris replied a little louder than was probably necessary. Sighing, she stood up and paced to the window. "You know when I was little, I use to imagine that this was my castle and Dad was the King. I thought he could do no wrong. It's hard to learn that lesson." Looking out the window, her mind traveled back to a place she didn't want it. Turning around and shaking her head a little she said, "If you are alright, I'm going to head over to my apartment. I haven't been by there yet. I'm not even sure I remember how to get around this town so I guess it's a good thing it's not very big. I'll come by and see you tomorrow. I have to go to the school and meet with the principal."
"Yes, I had heard you were hired on there as a counselor. I'm glad you'll be staying in town. I want to…" her mother's voice trailed off but the sadness in her eyes relayed her message clearly.
"Don't get your hopes up for something that will never happen. I'm here for you and only you. Don't push for anything else. The only thing you'll do is push me away." Kris said with a determined finality in her voice. "I'll see you tomorrow," she said in a softer voice as she turned to leave.
Kristina rode the Harley through town to the other side and stopped at a large early 1900's house that had been divided up into apartment suites. It had taken some doing but she had found a place listed on the Internet and noticed that the owner of the building was a guy she had hung out with when she was still in school here.
After securing the apartment via email and a money transfer, she'd had most of her things sent ahead while she tied up lose ends at the Rehab Center.
Climbing the outside stairs to her top floor suite, Kris fished in her saddlebags for the keys that had been mailed to her. Pulling them out, she unlocked the door and stepped inside. Looking around, she nodded to herself as she took note that the apartment actually appeared much nicer than it had in the pictures. Or at least it will once I get some of this stuff unpacked. God what a mess! What did those movers do, throw everything in through the door and not bother coming in at all? Kris reflexively started to straighten some of the boxes that all seemed to be piled up as close to the door as they could get.
After sorting through and making it look as though there was some semblance of order, Kris found the box marked "BATHROOM" and opened it up with a small pocketknife on her key chain. Pulling out a couple of towels, she headed further into the apartment in search of the bathroom, turning on the shower in the large stall when she got there.
Once she had taken a quick shower to wash the road dirt from her tired body, she took a closer look around the mess that was to be her home for the unforeseeable future. She was happy to see that the bedroom was large and someone had taken the time and effort to install a skylight. The closet wasn't huge but then, neither was her wardrobe so it didn't really matter.
The kitchen also had a skylight and that along with the light oak cabinets gave it an open feeling. The living room was immediately to the left of the front door and had a large bay window at one end and sliding glass doors that led to a nice sized balcony at the other.
Not bad Kris thought to herself standing in the middle of the living room. And only half the rent I was paying for that dinky little shack in the city. Kris debated whether she should tackle the mess tonight or leave it for the morning. Deciding to make an effort to at least arrange the furniture, she started stacking and moving boxes out of her way. The physical exertion felt good after sitting on the Harley all day and Kris worked until she could feel exhaustion take over. She finally crawled into bed around 100am and fell into a dreamless sleep.
Kris was startled awake by her alarm at 600am and sat up quickly, momentarily disoriented. When the reality of the situation came back to her, she felt a horrible gnawing feeling in the pit of her stomach. Today she would confront another of her demons from the past; the high school.
Choosing to forget about it for the moment, Kris jumped out of bed and through on a pair of shorts and t-shirt. Padding out to the living room, she tied her long hair into a lose ponytail and stepped into her Nikes. Grabbing the keys to the apartment, she stepped outside and locked the door, lifting the doormat and dropping the keys under them after.
She jogged quickly down the stairs to warm up her muscles. Once at the bottom, she spent a few minutes stretching before taking off on her customary five mile run. She had started this ritual shortly after leaving home 12 years ago. Come rain, sun, hell or high water as they say, she never missed a day of running. It was sometimes her only opportunity to review the coming days events or work through something she was feeling badly about.
Running through the small town, memories came at Kris like little bolts of lightening. Each one searing into her heart painfully. All the 'what could have beens' and 'if only's' came crashing down around her until she thought she would go crazy. Pushing herself harder and farther than she normally did, Kris tried to chase the demons from her mind.
An hour and a half later, Kris was sitting at her kitchen table after having showered and dressed. She was wearing light tan pants and a dark blue dress shirt. She knew that first impressions were important and wanted to portray a woman who was confident and in control to the principal at the school. Thankfully, the old principle had retired some five years ago. If he hadn't, I never would have gotten this job. Kris thought to herself ruefully. As it is, I'm sure that there will be more than one or two teachers around who remember Kristina Warner. Grimacing at the thought, Kris gathered her papers and her keys, heading out the door.
Kris revved the Harley and took off down the street towards the old high school. It was the only high school within 20 miles and was used by all the surrounding communities. Even still, it only had approximately 700 students in any given year.
Kris parked the Harley carefully knowing that the climate in this part of the country would only allow her to ride her beloved bike a few months out of the year. Great, I'm going to have to buy a car. Kris looked around at the myriad of family sedans and mini-vans parked in the school lot and thought again, well maybe not a car, I'll get a nice 4x4. Satisfied with that decision made, she made her way into the old building.
The first thing Kris noted was the smell. It seemed to her that no matter where you went in the country, north, south, east or west, all schools smelled the same. It was a combination of industrial floor cleaner and gym socks. Smiling to herself Kris headed in the direction of the principal's office.
Whoa, I swear I just entered a time warp! Not a damn thing in this office has changed. I'm sure those are the same posters that were there when I was in here the last time. And if I look really close, I'll bet those are the same notices just with a new date on them. Kris felt the nerves from this morning come back to her with full force. Okay…calm down girl. You're not in trouble here. You are a responsible adult now. Oh yeah? Then why do I feel like I'm seventeen all over again?
Kris didn't get a chance to answer herself. As she approached the desk, the elderly receptionist, Mrs. Peacock, looked up. Shock registered on her face and she looked down at the appointment book in front of her. Once she had verified the name of the woman standing in front of her, she looked back up quickly.
"-Uh welcome back," she stammered speechless for the first time in many years. "Principal Hannock will be out shortly. He's just in a meeting with the head of the History Department. It shouldn't be long."
"Okay," Kris smiled widely thinking to herself; maybe this won't be so bad after all. It could actually be kind of fun to shock all these people who probably think I'm dead in a ditch somewhere. Kris felt her nerves momentarily subside as she mulled over that thought. To bad I didn't give dear old dad a heart attack when he opened the door.
Voices from down the hall pulled Kris from her reverie. Standing up with her hands folded behind her back she saw a balding man in his mid-fifties come out of the principal's office. Assuming that this was the principal, Kris didn't immediately notice the woman who followed him out the door; that is until they were standing face to face.
Kris was speechless. The last time she had been in this school, this had been the woman that had pushed her over the edge. This woman had been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Kris could see the shock on Kate's face and knew without a doubt that the same look was mirrored on her own. In all of the scenarios about coming back here that had played through her mind over the last few months, this was not one of them.
She knew that there was always a possibility that this woman had stayed here in this small town. Marrying a man and having a couple of kids they wanted to raise with small town values or some crap like that. She just didn't think they'd run into each other on the first day.
Mrs. Peacock watched with rapt fascination as the two women openly stared at each other. When she noticed that Principal Hannock looked completely puzzled, she decided she'd better step in. With those to in the same school, I'll never be short on entertainment! The old woman thought to herself gleefully.
"Principal Hannock, this is Kristina Warner," she said pausing for effect, "your new guidance counselor." This last part was said with a small smirk in the History teacher's direction.
Kris watched Kate's face long enough to see the shock value double on her face then turned a dazzling smile on the middle aged man. "It's nice to meet you sir." Kris said in a polite voice while holding out her hand for him to shake. He did, gripping her large hand with a warm, friendly but firm shake.
"Well, it's very nice to meet you. Your letters of reference were exceptional. They seem to think very highly of you at Porter Place. Come on into my office and will talk some and then I'll show you to your office so you can get settled in." Mr. Hannock turned to see Kate still standing there, slightly open-mouthed. "Oh my goodness I'm sorry. Kate Crawford, this is – "
Kate who stated shortly cut him off, "Don't worry about it. We know each other. I'll see you tomorrow at the staff meeting." She smiled slightly at the older man. Turning back to Kristina she said through gritted teeth, "It's nice to see you. Welcome back."
"Thanks, it's good to see you too." Kris smiled but it didn't reach her eyes.
The tension seemed to be lost on the balding principal and he turned to lead Kristina back down the hallway towards his office.
Kate watched the pair retreat and turned to the receptionist. "Tell me that didn't just happen," she pleaded with the older woman.
"I'm sorry Kate. I know this must be quite a shock to you. I darn near fainted dead away when I realized who she was. I never thought I'd see her in this town again!" The older woman looked sympathetically at the young history teacher.
"Oh God! This is going to be pure hell!" Kate grumbled as she dropped her head into her hands. "We couldn't get along when I was the teacher and she was the student. We'll never get along now that we're on equal footing!"
"I hate to tell you this dear but Kristina always thought of you as being on equal footing. I don't think she gave one iota that you were a teacher. I certainly hope if she is a counselor that she has learned some discipline and respect. She could do some real damage if she hasn't!" Mrs. Peacock fanned herself with her hand just thinking of all the trouble this young woman could cause.
"Don't I know it? Maybe I should have a talk with Mr. Hannock about this." Kate said thoughtfully.
"I don't know dear. He hired her and he did say she comes highly recommended. Maybe you should just leave it alone." Mrs. Peacock said concerned. She didn't want to cause the students any damage but she was looking forward to the entertainment value of this situation.
"Well, we'll see what happens…" Kate said her mind still reeling as she left the office to head back to her own.
Kris's mind was also reeling. She found it difficult to concentrate on what the principal was saying so she tried to reign in her thoughts a little. I can think about this later! She told herself disgustedly. Turning back to Mr. Hannock who was now going on about what a disaster it had been not having a qualified counselor in the school had been.
"Students can get advise from their Mentor regarding school activities and colleges and the likes but there is no one here who is qualified to help these kids with the day to day problems of being a teenager. These kids need some direction and a little understanding from someone who has been there." Principal Hannock looked into Kris's eyes as he said this last part. Seeing the surprise on her face he continued. "You didn't really think that once I knew that you had been a student here I wouldn't pull up your old records did you? I may be getting old, but I'm not a fool Ms. Warner. I know that you're time here wasn't…productive. I'm also aware that after leaving town, you managed to get your act together and put yourself through school. I don't know what was going on here when you were young, but the fact that you managed to pull yourself up by your bootstraps so to speak, says a lot about your character. It also shows me that you may have an understanding of what some of these kids go through on a day to day basis."
Kris was looking down at her hands but looked up to his face when he stopped talking. Not seeing any judgment or ill will on his face, Kris felt immediately relieved.
"And by the way, we don't stand on ceremony around here, you can call me Bill," the older man stated smiling warmly. He stood and motioned to the door, "I'm sure you're anxious to get to your office and start reading through some of the most difficult of your cases. I'll show you the way Ms. Warner."
"Thanks," Kris said softly as she stood to join him. "And please, call me Kris. I don't know if I'll remember to answer to Ms. Warner!"
Bill chuckled at this last comment. "I know what you mean Kris, I have that problem all the time!"
Smiling at each other, they left the older man' office and headed down the long corridor past several classrooms to the back of the school.
"I know it seems a little out of the way but I thought that this would be best. It's quiet down here and you won't be interrupted. I also thought that some of the students may be a little embarrassed and this would keep them out of eyesight from most of the other students." Bill informed Kris as he showed her into the small office.
"This is great, thanks." Kris smiled as she took in the appearance of the small room. It had a window, which was always a plus in Kris's mind. It also had a small desk with a computer on it, another side table that she could use for writing and a file cabinet along with a few chairs and a small couch.
"Well I'll leave you to it then." Bill turned to go but stopped and turned back. Hesitating only for a moment he said, "I know there was some tension, to say the least, between you and Kate. I…hope this isn't going to be a problem?"
"No, no problem. Just some old history that no longer matters. We're both adults, I think we can probably behave like it." Kris said trying to sound convinced.
"Great! Then I'll see you later. Any questions, don't hesitate to come by and see me. My door is always open." With that, he turned and left Kris to familiarize herself with her surroundings and her student files.
Kris closed the door and leaned against it. God I don't know if I can do this! She thought to herself. Closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead with the palm of her hand, she willed the nightmare to be over quickly. I can do this. I can get through this for mom. I left her once; I won't do it again.
She opened her eyes and pushed away from the door, moving over to the desk. Already, there were piles of files on her desk with a post-it note on them saying "FOR IMMEDIATE REVIEW". Kris lowered her lanky form into the chair and decided that the best way to cope with the anxiety was to throw herself into her work and there certainly appeared to be enough of it!
Kris separated the files by the year the student was in. She then took those files and separated them into two categories, PROBLEMS WITH SCHOOL or PROBLEMS WITH DISCIPLINE. When she was done there were files piled all over her desk, the table and the floor. It was easy to see that Mr. Hannock had not been exaggerating the situation. The piles that had PROBLEMS WITH DISCIPLINE far outweighed that of the school problems.
Picking up the first file in the Grade 12 PROBLEMS WITH SCHOOL pile, Kris began to read over the information provided. Along with the obligatory Name, Age, Sex, Address, Next of Kin information there was a sketchy account of this boy's history at Crestwood Falls High School.
A knock at the door brought Kris from her note taking before she was even through the first file. Sighing, she stood up to reach over and pull the old door open, nearly falling over in the process. When she righted herself, she was looking into the eyes of Kate. Not knowing what to say that wasn't going to come out as a smart-ass remark, she simply pushed the door open wider and motioned with her head for the smaller woman to come in.
Kate entered the cluttered office having to step over the stacks of paper that littered the floor. Biting her tongue to stop from snarling at the young counselor, she simply raised her eyebrows as she looked around.
Kris's heart was beating rapidly. This can't be good. I haven't even gotten through the first day yet. Okay…remain calm. I'm an adult now and I need to act like one. Kris repeated this to herself a few times in her head and then looked expectantly at Kate.
Kate shuffled from foot to foot. Kris's gaze was making her far more uncomfortable than she cared to admit, even to herself. "It's been a long time Kristina. How have you been?" Kate decided that civility was the best way to approach the situation. Lots of time had passed and sometimes people change.
"Good, you?" Kris asked, her voice equally as polite.
"Good thanks." Kate stopped. Not sure how to continue, she looked up at the woman standing before her. She noticed for the first time how blue Kris's eyes were and how incredibly tall the woman was.
After waiting for a few moments for the other woman to speak, to give her some clue as to why she had come all the way down to this end of the school, Kris decided to give her a little push.
"Well Kate, I'm sure the reason you came all the way down here isn't to greet me with open arms, so what can I do for you?" Kris's came across a lot more aggressively than she had intended and Kate's back went up immediately.
"Some things just don't change do they?" Kate asked softly. "I wanted to talk to you about your position here. I know it's not really my place but I'm concerned. I know that you don't always have the most patience and in my experience…"
Kate was cut off my Kris's derisive snort. "I'm a trained psychologist. I think I know how to handle the people I'm entrusted with. And your right, obviously some things don't change."
"Look, my only concern is for this school and the students in it. I know that the only reason you're back here is because your mom is sick and I'm not sure that this is the best place for you to be working. Surely your father can…"Kris again cut Kate of in mid speech.
"If I remember correctly, you're a history teacher, not a Human Resources Director. And as for my father, what he can do is go to hell. I told you once before, you don't know anything about my life or me. That's more true today than it was 12 years ago so I'll thank you kindly for keeping you opinions to yourself." Kris turned her back to Kate and picked up the file she had been reading over before being interrupted effectively ending the conversation. She heard a sigh from behind her and then felt the air change around her as the smaller woman left the room.
Kris tossed the thick folder down on the desk in front of her and rubbed her eyes. Well, that went well. I really need to figure out why that woman drives me to the edge so easily. Every time we're in the same room together, I want to strangle her with my bare hands!
Looking at her watch, Kris decided that she could just as easily work from home as she could from the office. There weren't any kids in the school yet as there was another week before summer vacation ended. Well, I did promise mom I'd stop by today she thought picking up some of the fatter files. I'll stop and get some dinner for her and then head home and finish going over these files.
With a plan laid out in her mind, Kris packed up some of the stuff and vowed to make a larger dent in the piles lying half-hazardly around the office in the morning. Flicking off the light, she headed to the parking lot, unaware of the pair of steely eyes that followed her progress.
Kris was furious as she stormed out of the old school building and into the parking lot. Jumping onto the old Honda Shadow that she had fixed up, she cranked the engine to life, revving the engine with a vengeance.
What a bitch, she thought to herself. What a complete and utter bitch! How dare that woman accuse me of being a spoiled brat! Well, screw her! Kris tore out of the parking lot and flew down the town's quiet streets.
Fuck 'em all. I've had enough of this crap; it's time to get out. They don't understand, none of them do. They don't see what a monster that man really is. Father! He's no father. At best he's a sperm donor, at worst, a 6'5" cyclone that rips through the house destroying everything in its path!
Kris's mind was a flurry of activity as she pushed the bike harder and faster, heading out of town to the other side of the lake. Once there, she screeched to a halt and jumped from the bike. Stocking to the water's edge, Kris cursed out everyone and everything.
She sat down on a large rock that was hidden from view in a small inlet. This is where she came to think. This is where she came to cry. This is where she came when the pain and anger were cutting so deep she thought her mind would explode.
God I hate that man! Why can't he just leave me alone! Why does everyone think that I'm the screwed up one? Everyone is always sympathizing with him, telling him how hard it must be to have such a rebel of a daughter. He feeds off of that crap. Well, if this is his town, then so be it. I'm gone.
Kris sat on the rock until the sun had long since disappeared behind the horizon. Finally, the cold air drove her to seek out a warmer place to brood. Trudging back to her bike, she headed home. Home, she thought, only for tonight. After tomorrow its goodbye house, goodbye town, goodbye small, close-minded imbeciles.
Kris stopped at the town's one and only diner to pick up dinner for her mother. She was right about one thing; Julia Child Kris was not! After greeting a variety of people from her past, some friendly, some just curious about the proverbial 'Prodigal Daughter', Kris headed to her mother's house. She spent most of the drive over there trying to psyche herself up for seeing her father.
Tired already from her day, and with a pile more work to do tonight, Kris wasn't sure if she had the energy or the patience for her father tonight. Steeling herself for the barrage of insults that were bound to fly her way, she knocked soundly on the large front door of the house.
The door was opened a moment later, but to Kris's surprise, her mother opened it. "Mom, what are you doing up?" Kris asked, concern immediately coloring her voice.
"Oh, I was just getting your father some dinner before he has to go over to the Maple's place for Bible Study. Come on in and I'll get you a plate." The elderly woman turned back towards the kitchen.
Kris was immediately angry and followed closely on her mother's heels. Upon seeing her father sitting like the King of the Castle he felt he was at the kitchen table while her mother moved around him, Kris exploded. "What the hell is wrong with you!" she bellowed at the man. "Are your legs broken? You can't get up and look after yourself? You'd rather have a sick woman take care of your every whim?"
Kris's mother tried to step in to defend her husband but was silenced by a murderous look from her gigantic daughter. "I always knew that you were a self-centered, self-important son of a bitch but this is pathetic!"
The large man bolted from his seat, knocking the chair over in the process and flew towards Kris. He stopped short when he noticed that Kris didn't move, didn't even flinch. Surprised at his daughter's guts, something she hadn't had when she had lived under his roof, he was momentarily taken aback. Deciding he didn't like it that she wasn't afraid of him for the first time in her life, he settled on staring at her menacingly. "Listen here little girl, you may think that you can come into my house and talk to me any way you please but I will not have it. This is my house and incase you have forgotten, what I say goes. Don't make me enforce it."
"Stop it! Just stop it! All I want in the world before I die is to spend some time with my family! Is that so hard for you two to understand? Hasn't the hate gone on long enough?" Both Kris and her father were surprised at the outbreak from the sickly, normally subservient woman who was as near to tears as Kris had ever seen her. "George please, don't keep doing this! Kris is our daughter! When I'm gone, she'll be the only family you'll ever have."
Kris tore her eyes from her mother to look up at the man who called himself her father. The look in her eyes was unmistakable – pure hate. "He is not my father. I am not his daughter. I have no family other than you mom." With that, Kris left the room quickly, the look of hurt and sadness on her mother's face too much for her to bear.
I'll not reconcile with that man! I'll hate him until the day that I die! The psychologist in Kris reared its head. This isn't healthy and you know it. The hate and anger are going to destroy you. Kris fought off the thoughts her logical side was throwing at her. I will be able to put this behind me soon. It's only another few months and then I can leave. I can cut the past out of my life. My own form of cancer will be gone forever.
Kris retreated to the den where her mother slept, the dinner she'd bought forgotten on a table in the front foyer. Sitting down on the same chair she'd sat in as a child doing her homework, Kris continued to fight within her self. Why did I come back here? Nothing has changed! Mom still does his bidding and defends him. Her tired mind tried to tell her that it was the hurt little girl in her talking but she refused to listen.
A few moments later, her mother appeared in front of her. She looked for a moment like she might say something but whatever it was, she thought better of it and sat down in a chair across from Kris.
"So, tell me about your first day. What was it like being back in your old school?" her mother asked obviously trying to avoid any already volatile subjects.
"The principal seems very nice. He's very happy to have a qualified counselor to work with the kids. I have to say, after going through the first couple of files I agree. There seems to be a problem in small towns when it comes to teens. Some handle it and in fact love it and thrive on it. Others can't stand it. They feel like they're suffocating and this is where we run into a high percentage of drug and alcohol abuse." Kris responded, willing for the moment to play her mother's game.
Kris's mother looked down at her hands, which were folded, neatly in her lap. "Is that what happened to you?"
"No. You know what my problems were. You knew it then and you know it now." Kris bit back angrily.
They sat in quiet contemplation for a few moments until Kris's mother finally spoke. "I don't know what you've had to go through over the past 12 years Kris but I want you to know that I'm very proud that you've made something of your life. I was so worried about you as a kid. You were so headstrong and you hated authority so much I didn't know what to do."
Kris was about to interrupt to dispute her mother's comments but her mother rushed ahead. "I know you don't want to talk about the past. I can understand that. I'm just so very happy that you're here now and we have some time together. I'd like to know about some of the things that you've been up to but I don't want you to think that I'm prying."
Kris sighed, and then she realized she'd been doing that a lot since coming home. Sitting up straighter in her chair she asked, "What do you want to know?"
"Well," her mother thought for a moment, "I know what you do for a living but what about your private life? Do you have anyone special?"
Kris looked at her mother, trying to gauge whether she was just being polite or truly wanted an answer. Not being able to decide which it was, she asked, "Are you sure you want an answer to that? I've never made any secret of my lifestyle and you certainly never wanted to know anything about it before."
"The past is the past Kris. I can't change that, even though I wish I could. If there is something I don't want to hear, I'll tell you. Look, I don't know how much time I have left and I'd like to get to know you. It pains me that I have to say that to my own daughter. That I let things get so bad that I don't even know you anymore." Kris could hear the sincerity in her mother's tired voice and felt another pang of guilt for cutting her out of her life. I feel bad about that too mom. I had to do it though. Don't you see? I couldn't stand it here anymore. I couldn't stand his interference. I'm so sorry mom!
Kris realized that her mother was waiting for an answer. Looking down at the floor momentarily, she gathered her thoughts before answering. "There was someone. We lived together for about two years. I thought she was the one. I was wrong. That was a couple of years ago and I haven't really dated anyone seriously since."
"I'm sorry that you had to go through that. I won't ask you why or how it ended. It's enough to know that it did. I can see that it still hurts you. Can I ask you something else?" her mother's voice sounded hopeful.
"Sure." Kris responded feeling a little strange having this discussion with her mother.
"Do you still love her?" she asked quietly.
Kris tried to answer that as honestly as she could. "I still love the person I thought she was. I probably always will to some degree. Yes it still hurts a little but I'm over it for the most part. Chalk it up to another lesson learned."
Both women sat silently until Kris's mother reached over and laid her small hand on her daughter's larger one and squeezed it gently.
"So, I know that you were working with teenagers but I don't know the specifics. Can you tell me a little about that?" the elderly woman asked in a cheerful voice.
"I worked at a Rehab and treatment center called Porter Place. We worked a lot with runaways; kids that were abused that type of thing. It was extremely challenging. After I finished my degree I landed there. It was interesting work, certainly more so than treating a bunch of wealthy housewives bored with their lives." Kris loved to talk about her work. Even on the days that were the hardest, she loved every minute of it.
"Wow, that does sound interesting!" Her mother exclaimed, obviously impressed. "Did you not find all that sadness and misery enveloped you?"
"Sure, sometimes. Like with any job, there're good days and bad days. On the bad days, I'd go home and play my guitar or go for a run or something. I found that there tended to be more good days than bad though. It helped that I loved what I was doing." Kris answered her mother.
"I'm sorry you had to give it up." Kris's mother stated so softly that the younger redhead almost didn't hear her.
"It's okay mom. I'm glad I can be here for you." And to Kris's surprise, she realized it was true. Even though this would probably be one of the most difficult years of her life, she was glad she had the chance to mend fences with her mother.
Her mother looked pleased at the sincerity in her voice so Kris decided to push on a little further. "I too am sorry about the way that things turned out. I sometimes wish that I could go back and be the little girl that you both wanted. I need you to understand though that I can't make piece with my father. He hurt me too much for that. No matter what I ever did, it was never enough to be treated like that. If I didn't know that then, I certainly know it now."
"We both made mistakes Kris, me more than you. I'm just glad you're here now and we can spend some time together. I know it's been a long time since you've heard it and I know it's hard for you to believe but I love you and I'm proud of you. I'm proud that despite our lack of compassion for what you had to be going through, you obviously turned into a very sweet and loving person." Kris's mother looked so sad that Kris ached for her. She swore that she would never reach the end of her life and have any regrets.
Both women fell quiet, just enjoying the fragile bond that was being rebuilt after to long being broken. About an hour later, Kris noticed her mother had fallen asleep. Gently, she pulled the fragile woman into her arms and lifted her into the hospital style bed. With a light kiss on the forehead, she quickly walked out of the house.
When Kris reached her place, she kicked off her boots and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. She noticed that there was a message flashing on her answering machine but decided to ignore it for the time being. After all, who could it be really? No one knows I'm in town yet!
With that thought in her mind, she walked passed the machine and into the bedroom to change quickly into a pair of sweats and a tank top. Heading into the living room, Kris picked up the stack of files that she had brought home with her and plopped down on the large soft brown couch.
It didn't take long for Kris to become fully engrossed in what she was reading. Some of the kids' files read exactly the way she imagined that hers would have. The problem was, Kris was all too aware that at that age and in that frame of mind, there's not a hope in hell she would have listened to a "stuffy" school counselor. It was going to take a lot of time and effort to get through to these kids, that and a small miracle.
About an hour after Kris started reading through her files, her stomach reminded her of the forgotten dinner on the hallway table at her parent's house. Realizing that she hadn't eaten since breakfast that morning, Kris leaned back on the couch and stretched her long legs in front of her. After a good stretch and a better yawn, she stood, still trying to work the kinks out of her back. Just as she was about to move into the kitchen, she heard a light knocking at her door.
Who in the hell could that be? Kris wondered to her self while moving to the door. When she looked through the small glass pane at the top of the door, she was shocked to see Kate standing there. Their eyes met and Kris felt the electricity that always seemed to surround them pass right through the door. Oh my God I'm so not in the mood for another Tet a Tet! Kris leaned her forehead against the wood frame of the door simply preparing herself mentally for the verbal assault she was sure was coming.
After pausing for a minute to gather herself, Kris pulled open the door and leaned her left shoulder against the frame. "Coming to insult me on your off hours now?" Kris drawled. "You should be careful, this is almost becoming like an obsession for you." Kris knew that she shouldn't antagonize the smaller woman but just couldn't help it.
"Cut the crap Kris. I'm here because Mr. Hannock somehow forgot to mention that you and I would be co-coaching the senior girl's volleyball team. The first unofficial practice is tomorrow afternoon at 3:00p.m. Don't be late." Kate looked absolutely incensed while making the rather snotty announcement. As she turned quickly to leave, Kris reached out and grabbed her shoulder. Kate spun around to quickly and felt her body being pulled down the stairs toward certain pain by gravity. The next thing she new, there was a very warm pair of arms around her and her hands were gripping some very well defined shoulders.
"Whoa there!" Kris chuckled softly as she righted the much smaller woman, "You okay?"
"Why the hell did you grab me?" Kate shouted while trying to regain her dignity.
"Well, it's a long way down those steps but sorry, next time I'll let you have the fall and the concussion that goes with it!" Kris said incredulously.
"Not now, before when I was leaving. You scared me and I lost my balance. Don't you know that you shouldn't grab people?" Kate was embarrassed by her lack of grace and was unfairly trying to turn it around.
"Sorry but you come to my door, bang on it and scare the crap out of me, practically yell at me because the principle has assigned us to work together and then think that you're going to leave without any further explanation? I don't think so! I know that you have a tendency to assume certain things about me but let me clear this up in advance; I'm not a mind reader!" Kris was angry and getting angrier by the second.
Kate stood taking in the appearance of the younger woman. She could see the blue in her eyes darken even in though it was dusk out. "Look I'm sorry," Kate finally managed through gritted teeth, "but I'm normally the only coach of the volleyball team and I'm not sure why I need your help now."
Kris sighed and slumped more heavily against the doorframe. "I'm not really sure why either," she said after a moments thought, "but I have a feeling that Mr. Hannock probably noticed some…uh…tension between us earlier and thought maybe if we worked together it would go away."
Kate noticed for the first time the tired look around Kris's eyes and almost felt bad for her attitude. She didn't really know what it was about the younger woman that aggravated her to the point of wanting to choke Kris but she knew that now was not the time for another round. "I'm sorry that I yelled," she stated softly after a few seconds of silence. "I guess seeing you today after all these years brought back some old memories. I haven't responded well."
The surprise of hearing anything quiet come from Kate's mouth made Kris want to look over her shoulder just to make sure the smaller woman was actually talking to her. Restraining herself she said, "Why don't you come in and explain what happened? I'll try talking to the principal in the morning but I have a feeling that he won't budge on this."
Kate nodded and stepped past the taller woman into the warmth of the apartment. She stood for a moment just in the entranceway to the living room, not really believing that she was there.
"Come on in and have a seat. Do you want some coffee? I was just going to make some when you knocked," Kris asked trying to keep her tone light.
"Sure, if you're already making it that'd be great." Kate answered. I can do this Kate thought to her self. I can carry on a perfectly normal conversation with this woman. She looked around and noticed that although there were still some boxes lying around, the apartment was for the most part already set up.
"It looks like you're settling in quite well. I was surprised that you didn't stay at your parent's place. It's so big and I thought…" Kate was cut off by Kris's terse response.
"You have a nasty habit of assuming things about me. I left there 12 years ago and if it wasn't for the fact that my mother is sick, I wouldn't even be back in town." Kris poked her head out of the kitchen and looked directly in Kate's eyes.
Kate could feel her ire climbing by the second. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's rude to cut someone off when they're talking?" Kate asked pointedly.
Kris smirked a little and then said hotly, "Didn't anyone every tell you that when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME?"
The two women stood staring at each other and tension snapped back and forth. Finally unable to take it anymore, Kris pulled her head back into the kitchen. Slamming her hands down on the rim of the kitchen sink, she hung her head and tried to get her breathing under control.
Kate stood in the living room mentally berating herself. She knew that they had to come to some sort of understanding or their war with each other could affect others around them. Drawing in a deep and slightly shaky breath, she squared her shoulders and walked into the kitchen to face Kris. When she got to the doorway, she stopped, stunned at what she was looking at. Kris had her back to the doorway and her hands on the counter. Her head was hanging low and her entire body seemed to be vibrating with anger. Not knowing what to do, she walked forward until she was behind and slightly to the side of Kris and then tentatively put her hand out and rested it on Kris's shoulder.
Kris felt the warm touch on her bare shoulder and stood stock still willing herself to calm down. After a few minutes of deep breathing and a lot of counting, she turned around and with a face devoid of emotion said, "It's pretty clear you don't like me and I get that, I really do. I will only be here for a year and I'd like to do it as painlessly as possible. I will stay out of your way and you can stay out of mine. I don't need to assist you on the volleyball team and we both know it. I'll talk to the principle in the morning and clear this up. I would appreciate it if you would keep your opinions and assumptions of my life to yourself but if you can't, then please, at least keep them away from me. I don't want to hear them. I'm sorry that my showing up here is difficult for you but I think that it can be easier for both of us if we just agree to disagree and then stay away from each other don't you agree?"
Kate stood there with her mouth slightly open. To shocked to agree or disagree, she simply continued to stare at the young woman.
When Kate didn't respond, Kris turned around again to stare at the coffeepot. "If you don't mind, I find myself a little tired and I think I'll skip coffee and go straight to bed. I hope you can see yourself out."
Kate stood watching the tall brunette for another minute and then turned and left. When Kris heard the door click shut and the footsteps go down the stairs she let out a deep breath. Well, that was fun.
Kris glanced at her watch and realized that time had flown by. As much as she'd argued with the principal about lack of time, he'd been adamant that she assist in the coaching of the girls volleyball team. Kris had tried to explain that sometimes personalities just clash and that was the case with her and Kate but he wasn't buying it. Unfortunately, Mr. Hannock was from the school of thought that "we should all just get along".
Not wanting to be late and give the diminutive woman something else to be angry with her about, Kris quickly gathered her gym clothes and headed off in the direction of the schools gym. Once she had changed and laced up her court shoes, she stepped out into the main gymnasium and quickly felt 16 pairs of eyes on her, and not all of them friendly. Squaring her shoulders slightly, Kris smiled slightly at the girls and then headed towards Kate.
Play nice! Kris told herself as she saw a flash of anger flare in Kate's green eyes. "Sorry," she mumbled softly so that none of the girls could overhear them. "I tried but he wouldn't budge."
"That's fine. I don't suppose you know anything about volleyball do you?" Kate asked hotly but turned away before Kris could answer.
Kris ignored the jibe and turned with Kate to face the young girls all looking on curiously at the newcomer. "Well girls, welcome back for another year. I trust that you all had relaxing summer vacations!" Kate greeted the team. "As you can see, we have a new face hear with us today and I'm sure you have lots of questions so let me introduce you to our new assistant coach Kristina Warner. Ms. Warner will also be the new counselor here at the school."
All of the girls mumbled a quiet 'hello' which Kris returned with a smile. "Okay," Kate started, "I think that as this is an unofficial practice, we'll have an easy day. We'll start with a round of court circuits and then do some stops & starts." Kate delivered the message with an easy smile and the girls responded with some light-hearted grumbling.
Taking up a position on the side of the court, both coaches stood wordlessly watching the activity in front of them. Not able to stand the tense silence anymore, Kate broke first and turned to Kris. "I'm sorry about last night. I'm not really sure what happened but I obviously upset you. I think that if we both act professionally, this shouldn't be too painful. After all, we need to set a good example for the girls and while I'm sure they'd love to watch us scratch each other's eyes out at center court, that isn't exactly the image we should strive to portray."
Kris couldn't help but smile at the image knowing that it was pretty close to the truth. "I guess you're right. I'm not sure what my problem is to be honest. I guess I thought that I left the past behind me and being back here is a little overwhelming."
Kate looked as though she wanted to ask a question but then thought better of it. Instead she opted to make light of the situation by saying, "I'll try to keep the claws in as much as possible then." Then more quietly as if she was afraid to set off another row, " I'm sure you must have enough on your plate with your mom being sick."
Kris didn't look at Kate but simply muttered, "Yeah."
To be continued - Part 3
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