Katelyn pressed her cheek softly into the palm being offered by her fiancé, Richard. They travelled the long and winding road surrounded by nothing but cliff sides and Ponderosa Pines trailing off into the distance, a whimsical trail of freshly fallen leaves tracing behind them from the gentle breeze. She had always enjoyed the end of August with the thunderstorms taming the blistering temperatures of July and bringing the sweet smell of autumn. Katelyn narrowed her lashes to fight the peeking sun rays that escaped the branches ahead of her, and thankful the last three days on the road back home to East Pines, Colorado had been more than tolerable with the comforts of Richard’s Lexus. She snuggled back into her seat, the thoughts of returning home to her family after nine long years caused an eruption of excitement to move through her, not that earning her Law degree and working for a highly respected firm didn’t make the sacrifice of leaving everything she had ever known worthwhile, but she was ready to be back where she belonged.
She rolled her head to the side staring at the man who made the past nine years away from her family achievable. When Richard agreed to move to East Pines and continue his career at her father’s albeit prestigious Law firm, she couldn’t have put into words the delight that moved through her, she had no doubts that her father would adore the man she chose to spend the rest of her life with.
Katelyn rested a lazy half smile against her cheek before being interrupted by her ringing cell phone, the lazy smile quickly turned into a grin as she read ‘Nicole’ across the front,
“Are you guys here yet?” The impatient voice asked,
Katelyn laughed lightly at her sister’s usual impatience. “Would you relax? We’ll be there soon, by the way I have you on speaker so behave.” Katelyn raised a brow, moving a mischievous smirk toward Richard,
“Hey Nicole,” he said smiling,
“Hey you sexy thing you.”
“Okay, that’s enough conversation between you both, was there anything else, Nicole?”
“How far away are you guys?”
“We just got into Colorado.”
“You guys left days ago. You should’ve been here by now.”
Katelyn sighed lightly, “You realize we drove across eight states, right?”
“I still don’t understand why you both didn’t just fly in.”
“You know I hate flying, and it gave us the chance to stop in St. Louis to visit Richard’s parents,” replied Katelyn,
“By the time you get here my future children will have already graduated college,” stated Nicole, her sarcasm forcing a laugh from Katelyn and Richard,
“Oh stop, we will be there in an hour or so.” She tilted her head to Richard, pushing a subtle eye roll.
“I’ll be counting down the minutes, I have so much to tell you,”
Katelyn giggled at the almost child-like excitement in her sister’s voice, “Gossip in East Pines? Say it isn’t so?”
“Honestly, a lot has changed in nine years. Except our father and his goons.”
Katelyn sighed once more, she despised hearing her sister talk negatively on their father, nevertheless the strained relationship between them she loathed more.
The company of sophistication and high social standing anywhere she went, she admitted always made her feel good. Katelyn carried her father’s name and anything she pursued in life was a reflection on him. She struggled with Nicole’s rebellious ways when it came to their father’s expectations and standards, he imposed on them although in her opinion he had every right. Her sister always made it clear that she didn’t give a damn about their father’s reputation within East Pines, and in the not so prosperous neighboring City, West Pines.
“Nicole, please don’t talk about him like that. He has standards…and rightly so. He holds a position in town that most would crumble under the pressure of it all.”
“Oh, please. He has both Mayors, District Attorney, Judges, not to mention both police chiefs of the East and West kissing his ass. I have no sympathy for any amount of stress that man is under,” Nicole replied sharply.
Katelyn groaned, before taking Nicole off speaker phone, and shaking her head,
“Nicole, enough. What happened to you being excited that your big sister was coming home?”
“Sorry, you’re right…he just angers me.”
“We can talk more when I get there. Will Zack be there?”
“I’m sure he’ll be over tonight…I can’t see him not coming to see you. He missed you terribly, regardless if he likes to admit it or not,” she paused, “When mom told him you were coming home, that famous cheesy smile came back.”
Katelyn took a sigh of relief, “How is he Nicole? I know he’s still mad at me… nine years later.”
Nicole giggled, “Well…you did kind of call him a junkie, a bit harsh considering he was smoking weed on occasion. I think I can recall you dropping a few F bombs in between calling him a lowlife bum right before you left.”
Instant regret forced Katelyn to swallow hard, “He was changing into someone our parents had raised him to never be,” she insisted.
“I know, I know. Just know he’s doing better, a lot better.”
“Want to indulge me? You guys have been keeping this mystery of Zack and how he’s really doing for far too long.”
“I guess you should get home quicker…”
Before Katelyn could say another word, Nicole ended the call. Rolling her eyes, she pressed her head back against the headrest to let her eyes follow the passing trees as she remembered the last fight she had, had with her brother Zack.
Their final family meal before her ride to Connecticut was cut short by a call from police Chief Chambers. She sighed, never forgetting her father’s tanned complexion turning beet red. Zack was in custody, again. They hit him with defacing private property and possession. Never mind her father, but she was done with him showing little to no regard for their father’s reputation and the hard work that he had put in to insure they had a thriving future. Her stomach turned, remembering her last words being that he was a disgrace to the Jensen name.
“Everything okay over there?” Richard asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Katelyn rolled her head toward him smiling. She placed her phone in the glove box.
“Yeah. I’m sorry you had to hear Nicole talk about my father like that. He really isn’t how she says he is. My siblings just fight him tooth and nail about any ethics or expectations he wants from them. They’re twins in every sense of the word.”
Richard laughed. She watched intently as he grabbed her hand and pressed his peach lips tenderly against it,
“You don’t have to explain anything to me, sweetheart. Your father and I have had many conversations over the years, I know he’s a good man.”
She released a slow sigh of relief, “You’re just amazing.”
With the radio playing the latest number one hit in the background, the aroma of disinfectant lingered as the ambient sound of tattoo machines vibrated needles into skin. Sami Wilson and Zack Jensen worked carefully to ink art onto their client’s skin. The parlor Sami and Zack bought together just over a year ago had quickly become the hot spot for the younger generation of East Pines, some older not ignoring it either. A tattoo parlor in the prosperous city of East Pines was never a welcomed venture, still Sami and Zack dealt with the repercussions of some locals that gathered at City Hall meetings. They argued that the parlor was a catalyst for the trouble makers from the West side having easier access to influence the East sides promising younger generation with their unruly nature. In turn Sami made sure that those who hung around behaved themselves, saving not only earache for herself but for police Chief Chambers too.
‘The East Pines Exiles’, as she liked to call them were the rebel rich kids of parents who worked from sun rise to sun down, insuring they maintain the extravagance the East Pines country club lifestyle persona demanded from its residents. Notably after being awarded one of the top cities to reside in for the last three years, and if bribing their unmanageable sons and daughters to prevent any social embarrassment was the solution, so be it. Sami understood their rebellion and boredom, she wanted to do more. So, once the parlor was set and ready she went on her way with a little help from police Chief Chambers and some of his boys and built a small skate park out back. Soon, those who cared to keep track noticed less misdemeanors being filed. Chief Chambers covertly thanked the tattooist, she knew he wasn’t ignorant to the over exaggerated claims from the bothered locals but appreciated her subtle ideas to help.
“All right Tony, I think we are done,” explained Zack, pushing his chair back, and tilting his head to view the finished piece, “Hey, Sami, come tell me what you think,” he voiced across the parlor.
Sami stepped off her tattoo pedal and slid her chair back to look past her divider. “You aren’t my apprentice anymore, Jensen. I know those lines are solid and the shading is smooth, wrap it up.”
Zack smiled shaking his head. He moved his eyes back to Tony who was busy admiring his new piece in the tall standing mirror, “I want to see you in a few months, so we can add on, it’ll be a beautiful sleeve by the time I’m finished with it.”
Sami went back to finish the black and gray piece she designed for her good friend, Mick Berkley,
“Sorry about that old guy, I wish your nephew trusted his abilities like I do,” she explained.
“He’s turned around leaps and bounds, you taught him good, kid,” replied Mick.
It didn’t bother her when he would call her ‘kid’ even if she was in her early thirties. Something about Mick always reminded her of her father, the quiet, man of few words, never pushed his judgment on others kind of guy. Apart from all of that, he brought her in and took her under his wing the moment she landed in his bar five years prior, looking like a drowned rat trying to get shelter from the relentless storm that had nearly brought the city of West Pines underwater. She quickly offered to work for only a meal and a place to stay for the night, but Mick did more. She reminded him of himself. So, he fed her, let her rent the loft above his bar, and gave her an opportunity to earn some money by working for him behind the bar.
“I didn’t do anything but hand him the tools, he did the rest.”
“And still so humble, kid.”
Sami grinned, “I must get that from you, old guy.”
A deep laugh escaped under the grey and ungroomed beard. He would never admit it, but Sami knew she had been a breath of fresh air for him. She knew he had a son and daughter, but they left with their mother after the divorce, and years of countless calls asking them to visit him, to only be answered with empty promises, he finally decided to step back and rest the strained relationship with his kids. Mick’s lack of showboating his finances grinded too much on his socialite ex-wife. The difference between him and the others who populated the East was he never felt the need to wave his wealth around. He preferred to keep himself to himself, and have people assume whatever they wished about him. Finally, he left the East and bought a small cabin by Cedar Pines falls, deep in the woods of West Pines and made an offer to the local drunk, and owner of the Black Beard bar. Fortunately, his low-balling tactics worked, and he had just enough money to completely renovate it and bring it back to the booming business it once was, and that was something West Pines craved. After the economy went bust, so did its factories and motor vehicle industry, once that happened ‘Dead Pines’ as the locals renamed it was never able to recover. Eventually, local businesses closed up shop and either took their business elsewhere or filed for bankruptcy and continued to reside in their now perished city. To them it was home and that’s all there was to it. That didn’t take long for a new kind of industry to infect West Pines, the drug industry. With the crime rate at an all-time high, Gwen Jensen pleaded for her brother Mick to rethink his new venture, but he didn’t let the dwindling West Pines economy sway him. His childhood friends still lived there, if his bar could be their hope of one day bringing their home city back to the prosper it once was and be a haven each day after travelling eighty miles to Clemton to earn an honest day’s wage for their disfavored families, then he would make sure his bar would always be there.
Sami stretched out the stiffness from her creaking joints before releasing a loud groan,
“We did well today,” she stated, glancing at her watch. It was five thirty already. The day had flown in, as usual.
“We got done just in time for dinner,” replied Zack as he finished sweeping the floor, then placed the broom in the back closet,
“What do you have a taste for? I want to try that new Italian place that just opened, opposite the Post Office. Apparently, some of the staff are easy on the eyes.” Zack winked toward her as she finished putting away her tattoo machines in their stainless-steel cases.
“I’ll eat just about anything, but I need you to lock up. I need gas in the truck, I’ll meet you down there. Let Travis know we’re locking up and for the love of God tell him not to forget to lock the park before they all leave this time, and no later than nine. Chief Chambers will have my ass after last time. McCluskey is itching to get that petition signed to close the park…let’s not give the snob anymore ammunition to do so,” Sami said before throwing the parlor keys to him,
“You got it boss, see you down there, but don’t be long. I’m withering away to nothing.”
Opening the door to her truck Sami gazed up at the dusking sky, the different shades of orange casting a dim warmth against her face from the once awakened sun. She watched as it slowly faded behind the silhouetted mountains for the night sky to take over the graveyard shift, as she liked to describe it. Sami inhaled deeply to let the calming scents of pine and dry gravel tingle her senses, as weird as she knew that sounded, she insisted to Zack that gravel had a soothing smell to it, he of course begged to differ. She loved the aroma of fresh spruce trees first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it settled her like nothing else. Then when the cicadas’ hums would vibrate through her bedroom window at night, it’d ease her to sleep without fail,
“Nothing beats this,” she mumbled to herself before jumping into her matte black pick-up truck, but it was hard to tell. Zack always teased her calling it the ‘Mud matte’ paint job at any given opportunity.
Zack opened the door for Sami as they entered the new restaurant. At first both ignored the pleasant décor presented. Sami followed her friend’s fixated stare onto the very attractive blonde behind the mahogany welcome desk. Getting closer she noticed his expression shift into a surprised one,
“Tara?” He asked,
“Oh my God, Zachary!” The woman screeched as she made her way around the desk to hug him.
“How long have you been back?” He asked as she broke their hug,
“Only a couple of weeks, I wanted to call but, God it’s been a little hectic. It’s so good to see you.”
“I never thought I’d ever see you back here. Have you spoken to your mom or is that still…a sore subject?” Zack questioned.
“Actually…I’ve moved back in with her. I guess I couldn’t stand being away from such a handsome devil like yourself,” Tara teased.
Sami cleared her throat, her subtle way of interrupting the conversation. She knew her stomach’s hungered groans weren’t going to subside any time soon.
“Oh Sami, this is Tara Ream, she was my sister Katelyn’s partner in crime and best friend since…hell birth I guess,” he smiled to Tara’s chuckle, “Tara this is Sami Wilson, my best friend and business partner,” his eyebrows raised as a proud grin followed,
“Wow business partner? What kind of business?”
Zack shrugged, acting like it was no big deal. Sami grinned, it was blatantly obvious he was ecstatic to tell everyone. She understood though, for the first time in her friends’ life he had managed a success without the slightest bit of help from his father. So, she would stand back in silence and let him have his time,
“We just opened a tattoo parlor in town about a year ago.”
“You guys own that place? It’s about damn time this town had a tattoo parlor. My grandfather told me it’s a front for drugs, the West side spilling into the East blah, blah, blah,” she paused laughing, “I sure as hell didn’t expect one of the Jensen’s kids owning it, well…Nicole maybe. I’ll have to stop by sometime and get my first,” she smiled audaciously, resting her curious blues on Sami, “And nice to meet you, Sami. Do you mind if I ask where you’re from? You look very familiar.”
Sami smirked, reaching her hand for Tara’s, noticing an all too familiar twinkle from the blonde’s undeniably inviting blues,
“Moved to the Pines in my late teens, but I’ve been living in West Pines…gotta be at least five years now,” Sami smirked as the suspicious ice blues narrowed. She was aware that her appearance wasn’t East Pines worthy, with her laid-back fashion ideas, from the ripped jeans and to the crimson plaid shirt that rolled up over her forearms to display part of her tattoo sleeves.
“Maybe from High School?” Zack suggested.
Sami shook her head, “Didn’t go to that much.”
Tara shrugged, “Well either way, whoever is a friend of Zachary’s is a friend of mine.”
Sami nodded, she watched Tara’s blues examining her. A small smirk appearing as her new acquaintances bottom lip unconsciously slid between her teeth,
“Let…me take you guys to your table.”
Sami’s gaze finally wandered across the beautifully set restaurant. The high varnished wooden beams cushioned against the cream ceiling. The shield like stained glass windows, and flawless shine off the dark wooden floors pleased her. She loved the intertwining vines that hung over the glass cabinets to reflect the red and white checkered table cloths. The place was filled with thick accents and loud voices being accompanied by clinking glasses, giving her the sense of a true traditional Italian restaurant.
“Here you go, can I get you guys to drink?” Tara asked, placing the menus on the table,
“Yeah please, I’ll have a beer and for Sami—”
“A water on the rocks please,” Sami interrupted before sitting at the table.
Tara nodded gently, before leaving to get their drinks.
“I told you, easy on the eyes, huh? I used to crush on her bad when I was younger,” he whispered.
Sami laughed, before grabbing a menu. She agreed with him, Tara was very beautiful, and she appreciated the woman’s curved figure in her tightly fitted black skirt, and tucked in white dress shirt. She grinned to herself, remembering that familiar twinkle when their eyes first met. She was sure herself and Tara would get more acquainted… Well, at least hoped.
“I could eat a zoo,” explained Sami.
Zack nodded in agreement as his eyes scanned every dish, his mouth salivating uncontrollably,
“So…I have a favor to ask…”
Sami cocked her eyebrow as a slight dread hit her stomach. She knew by now Zack’s favors were never favorable for her,
“I’m busy and or, sick.”
“Come on Sami, you know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t a big deal,” he pleaded.
Sami exhaled deeply putting the menu down,
“What is it this time?”
Tara made her way back to their table with drinks,
“Are you guys ready to order, or need more time?”
“A little more time please,” stated Zack.
Sami examined the waitress walking away, admiring the view,
“Easy on the eyes indeed,” Purposely saying it loud enough for the woman to hear.
Sami unquestionably enjoyed the company of women. Every weekend she would pick up shifts to help Mick at the bar which was the weekend hot spot for a shocking amount of East Pines women who would plead for a small tattoo, or just need to get away from their aristocratic friends and family and enjoy the laid-back attitudes the West side locals never failed to give. Then, some would ask for more and who was she to deny a woman of her services whether it be drinks or an after-hours service? She did have stipulations… Strictly no-strings, no commitment, nothing. She never judged those who longed and needed a plan and commitment, she just insisted never to be the one to give it. Whether they listened or not… That was a different story.
"Okay, so what's this favor that I'm pretty sure I'm not going to want to do but you're going to make me?" she asked, her suspicious tone worrying an already noticeably nervous Zack.
"Well...you see. My family...well, see," he cleared his throat as he calmed his stuttering. “My sister Katelyn is coming back to town, tonight actually…with her hot shot lawyer fiancé, who my father can’t stop talk--"
"Out with-it Jensen," she interrupted.
"They’re having that big welcome home dinner at The Wallace tomorrow night and I know it’s short notice, but I was wondering...if you would come with me?" He asked, his raised eyebrows granting hope,
“You’re kidding right? Jesus Zack, your father and I have a history that I hate re-visiting but constantly have to every time you ask me to one of these gatherings. Not to mention the fact that I don’t even know this long-lost sister of yours.”
Zack put his hand up waving her comment away, "You’ll…like her. She’s…a little different than Nicole and I, but you guys will hit it off. As for my father, you know my mom will keep his mouth in check," He sat forward resting his elbows on the table, “And you know Nicole and I will have no problem putting him in his place if he even tries saying something ignorant when my mom isn’t around,” He assured,
Sami narrowed her eyes, "Zack...I’ve told you on more than one occasion I don’t want to be the reason you guys get into it with him, that is your father regardless how he and I feel about each other. I don’t want to see you lose a relationship with him because of me. The man hates me and I'm okay with that, I'm just not okay with spending a perfectly good night that could be filled with whiskey and cards, with a bunch of snobs who will no doubt remark on something about my appearance or what happened…."
Their conversation was quickly interrupted by Tara, instigating them both to order the chicken parmesan.
"Sami, I don’t have a relationship with that man, you’ve guided me in the last five years more than he has in my whole damn life. I’ll tell my mom to give my father strict instructions to tell everyone attending to not bring up shit… It’ll be you, Nicole, and I. If it starts getting hairy, we get up and leave, simple…Do it for me? Your best friend, brother from another mother. Please?" He pleaded,
Sami took in a deep breath before releasing a heavy sigh,
"It must be serious if you're throwing down the brother card, which in fact you can't use for another six months. Just saying."
Raising from his seat, Zack leaned over the table grabbing Sami's head before kissing it. "I freaking love you!"
“I don’t recall saying yes, and wait…if she’s arriving tonight what’re you doing here?” She asked confused,
He shrugged, "Nicole said she would call when they made it to my parents’ house then I figured I would go over and say my hello’s. I love Katelyn to death, but before she left, she said some really fucked up shit to me. I’ll admit I wasn’t an angel, but it still cut deep, and then I’ll have to endure my father telling us all how in love he is with this Richard guy.”
“Have I missed something?” Sami asked unable to ignore the mockery from her friend.
“You know my dad, right? Arthur Jensen? East Pines’ Lord? Expects his grown ass kids to continue to do as he says? Fails to even acknowledge his twins’ successes? He’s already nonstop talking about how successful this Richard guy is and how I should get closer to him and learn a thing or two. I’m gonna want to rip my face off, I know it…having you be there with me tomorrow will keep me somewhat sane," expressed Zack, noticeably ignoring her lack of an actual yes.
“You never know, he might be a pretty laid-back guy.”
“Please…he’s engaged to my sister. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great to be around when she isn’t in the same company as our father, but when she is? She holds her standards just as high if not higher than my him.”
As Richards Lexus pulled into the lengthy gravel driveway lined with solar lights on both sides, a smile crept across Katelyn’s face as her eyes rested on her childhood home. The rustic cedar mansion still looked as it did before she left, memories of her and her siblings jumping off the porch in the back and into the outdoor pool pushed a small giggle. The Lexus pulled to a stop and there was her father, Arthur Jensen standing with his arm wrapped around her mother’s petite shoulders. She bit her lip in excitement when the small warm smile moved under her father’s aged but groomed beard as he guided her mother, Gwen Jensen down the cobblestone steps. Katelyn’s excitement couldn’t wait for Richard to open the car door for her, quickly she flung it open and leapt into her parents’ arms. She peered up slowly at the delighted, much older faces of her parents, noticing wrinkles that were never there before, and the worn lines that circled their warm smiles, deeper she noticed. Her heart suddenly ached as she noted her mother’s once silver streaks had spread entirely through her shoulder length hair. Yet, still so beautiful.
“Oh, how we’ve missed you baby girl,” declared Gwen as she wrapped her arms around Katelyn,
“It feels so good to be home, I’ve missed you so much. I don’t care what age I am, I’m always going to need your cuddles.”
She watched her mother’s warm smile cushion a falling tear,
“Come on, let’s get you inside. I’m sure you’re both exhausted, I have the coffee on and your sister is inside having a domestic on the phone with Peter, prepare yourself my darling.”
Katelyn watched her father lead Richard up the cedar staircase with their bags, and her mother move into the kitchen as she readied the much-needed coffee. She brushed her fingers through her long brown hair, it was a hot mess she was sure. Her eyes soon rested on the array of family pictures that sat proudly across the cobblestone fireplace that flaunted the blazing fire, cascading the warm glow of orange against the cedar pine walls and thick mahogany ceiling beams. As she neared, a sad smile appeared knowing she hadn’t been in any of the holiday photos in the past years. She swallowed her regret of spending them either studying or with Richards family when his untiring begging would eventually break her. Gradually her eyes smiled at a picture of her brother with his arms draped proudly over her mother and sister with that big cheesy smile that softened her effortlessly, but the sight of her father’s absence in any pictures with Zack instigated a great sadness. She sighed, and fell back into the cream sofa behind her, letting it hug her. It felt so good to be home.
Off in the distance Katelyn could hear her sister on the patio telling Peter all about himself. She bit her lip, laughing. If Nicole was anything, ruthless was on the top of the list,
“God, I hate men,” stated Nicole walking into the living room with hands on hips, her wavy jet-black hair covering a forming grin. The raised and tempered eyebrow amusing Katelyn,
“Oh, just come here and give your big sister a hug, brat,” demanded Katelyn as she got up.
She let out a small screech as Nicole ran to her with arms in the air,
“Don’t ever leave me again,” Nicole whispered against her,
Katelyn broke their tight hold, “I don’t plan on it.”
They both fell into the sofa sighing loudly, “So, everything okay with Peter?”
She observed Nicole’s pleased with herself grin, forcing her eyeroll,
“It will be, I’ll let him grovel for a few days.”
Katelyn laughed lightly at the reminder of how much of a brat Nicole could be.
“Did you grow up at all while I was gone?” She asked, scrunching her nose.
“Well…I have my own place, so…I guess that’s being a grown up, right?” Nicole countered.
Katelyn shook her head, resting a half smile against her cheek as Richard followed Arthur into the cabin like living room. The original wood flooring creaking slightly under their footsteps,
“Well…would you look at this handsome devil. Is he for me?” Nicole asked, getting up to greet Richard with a hug. Katelyn released a timid laughter, realizing her Fiancé had a lot to get used to regarding her sisters sometimes outlandish humor, and personality in general.
“She’s harmless honey, just go with it.” She advised noticing the nervous posture behind his clearing throat.
She knew he was very much sheltered from anything but sophisticated circles, and when it came to the social circles her siblings got into, for a moment she worried. Of course, he would fit into East Pines and her father’s circle of acquaintances, she wasn’t one to call any of them her father’s friends, except maybe Mayor McCluskey and that was pushing it. But would Richard fit into the social spectrum she had grown up to know and love like her siblings? Quickly she pushed the thought to the back of her mind. This isn’t the time.
“Nice to finally meet you, Nicole. Your sister has told me a lot about you.”
“All bad I hope,” Nicole winked furthering Richard’s awkward blushing. Katelyn hid her smirk as Richard moved next to her seeking refuge she knew.
“That’s enough Nicole! Why must you attempt to make everyone feel uncomfortable in your presence?” Arthur asked, pouring whiskey in crystal glasses for himself and Richard, “Any way, as I was telling Richard, your mother and I have made reservations for a small group of us at The Wallace tomorrow night, to welcome you both home, finally.”
“Dad, you know I would have preferred a nice family meal in the comforts of home,” replied Katelyn.
She watched him quickly dismiss her preference away with a wave as if it were a bug buzzing by his face,
“Nonsense. There are a lot of people in this town excited and some new faces dying to finally meet you.”
“Let me guess, McCluskey and the rest of your bent political friends?” Nicole asked, her unamused tone evident.
Katelyn cringed at Nicole. As much as she didn’t agree with Nicole regarding their father, they did see eye to eye on the company of friends he surrounded himself with. Pretentious, rude, and over-indulged snobs,
“I’m sorry…what did you just say to me?” His thick eyebrow arching.
Katelyn squeezed Richard’s knee watching her mother walk toward Arthur and rubbing his back lightly before placing a large cup of coffee on the rustic walnut Burwood coffee table. Katelyn smiled softly at her mother before grabbing the cup and taking a small sip from it. She released a pleased sigh as the taste of roasted coffee beans filled her senses, tantalizing her taste buds as it always did,
“You heard me Arthur…” Spat Nicole, abruptly interrupting Katelyn’s coffee infused bliss.
She watched her sister push off the sofa and storm into the kitchen. She moved her sights on her father, studying his’ stone-cold stare and clenching jaw follow Nicole,
“Dad…” She said softly,
He looked to her, “We treated you all the same, why is it you are the only one who shows any appreciation and respect for our hard work?”
“Arthur, this is not the time or the place. Nicole has her opinions, and you may not…but I love that she is honest about her feelings. She is your daughter…Zack is your son. I won’t have you speak ill of any of them, especially to Katelyn. She just got here don’t you dare put her in the middle. I’ve told you before…,” Gwen warned.
Katelyn’s eyes fell to the floor, the reminder of her father’s hardship on her siblings came flooding back. A part of her wishing she was brave enough to tell him how differently he really did treat them all, especially Zack. If his only son couldn’t unhook the fish from the line, Arthur would ridicule him. If he lost a pole to one of the tents, their father was right there on Zack’s tail telling him what an irresponsible man he would grow up to be. If he fell off his bike and dared to cry, he was being scolded and told that men don’t cry. In some sense, she wasn’t surprised when her brother eventually stopped chasing for their father’s approval and eventually rebelled against any of Arthur’s rules and expectations, but still she couldn’t condone it,
“I wish you would sit with them both and hear what they have to say, dad,” she said softly, leaning closer into Richard’s side.
“What could they say? Anything they’ve ever needed or wanted I have been there to get it, maybe that’s the problem. They are ungrateful and that is all there is to it,” he snapped.
Katelyn watched her mother shake her head and leave them in the living room to join Nicole, and just like that, it was her childhood all over again. Her mother in another room with one child and Katelyn right by her father, listening to his complaints about her siblings. She wanted to defend her sister and talk to him about Zack but for right now she decided against it. The atmosphere was already tense, it was her first night back home. There would be plenty of time to try and mend the somewhat broken home.
After a pleasant but quiet dinner, provided by the local Chinese restaurant, Katelyn escaped out onto the patio with a glass of wine. Her eyes smiled at the star light that blanketed the mountain tops. She turned to the cushioned lounger beside her, grabbing the cream blanket her mother would use to cover herself as she got lost in a book, and wrapped it around herself. The cold crisp of the night sky brushed against her face as she laid back taking in the solitude being offered to her by the star filled sky, the sight capturing her contentment. Suddenly cold fingers covered her view, triggering her to screech slightly,
“Guess who?” The deep but soft whisper asked.
Instantly the familiar voice calmed her, forcing a smile to form. She reached for the covering fingers and removing them to let her eyes relax on her brother, a much older looking brother, with a five o’clock shadow and all. His black shaggy hair forcing her fingers to shift through it,
“I’m sorry, but do I know you handsome?” She asked, sitting up.
Zack laughed, bending down to embrace her before sitting on the foot of her lounger,
“Yeah, I guess I’ve changed a little since you last saw me.”
Katelyn clutched her knees between her arms,
“Christ Zack, you look so much older now…that hair though, I bet dad just loves it,” Katelyn giggled, “I’ll be real honest, I thought I was going to have to fight you to come see me,” she finished, and watched a small sympathetic smile form across his square jaw.
“Nah, a lot has changed since you left, and shit got put into perspective real quick. Regardless what was said between us, you’re still my sister, and I maybe missed you….” Replied Zack with a resting smirk.
She giggled lightly then wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him to her to plant a kiss on his cheek, before being forced to pull away while rubbing her lips,
“Will you shave that thing? It’s kind of annoying, surely the ladies can’t be a fan?” She joked as he proudly rubbed his stubble,
“Actually, it’s a big hit with the ladies.” His playful wink forcing a small chuckle from her.
As they both sat there catching up, Nicole caught Katelyn’s attention with two wine bottles in each hand as she came to join them,
“Look at this, the torturous trio back together!” she cheered.
Katelyn smiled, “How’s Richard doing inside with dad? Does he seem like he might need saving?”
Nicole waved her questions away, “They’re in there getting on like a house on fire,” she replied.
Katelyn looked back at Zack, “Okay, so…I’ve been gone for quite some time, I know there’s gossip to be had. What’s been going on?”
She watched Zack look up at Nicole with a weary expression then back at her, “Well I guess I can tell you now….”
“Tell me what?” She asked, her stomach churning.
The brother she left was too busy getting high and causing trouble around town with defacing local businesses with his graffiti trademarks, or skate boarding and wall riding private properties. After the locals voted and passed a trespassing law preventing anyone from hanging out at the East Pines High bleachers, she knew it left them with nowhere to go but around town. Eventually after several warnings from East Pines Police Department, they moved across the train tracks to the less prosperous and higher crime rated West Pines. Unfortunately, it was a whole different ball game on the West side, and Katelyn dared to think of how much deeper the trouble her brother could get himself into. He did try the whole college thing as a promise to their mother, but Katelyn wasn’t surprised when he dropped out within the first six months and, went right back to getting drunk and high with the rest of the exiled rebel rich kids, who could never uphold the standards their parents had put on them.
Katelyn took in a deep breath to calm her pounding heart, preparing herself for the fear that had festered while she was gone. She bit her lip tightly swearing she wouldn’t freak out. The two hadn’t said a word since she left, and her mother always avoided going into any other details about Zack except telling her he was doing fine.
“Jesus out with it, Zack. Do you need rehab? Because we can get you into anywhere, you know who our family is right?” She snapped her stare to Nicole, “You promised me he was doing fine!”
Her freak out was soon interrupted by the laughter from her siblings,
“Christ Katie, do I look like an addict to you?”
She paused, “No, not really but you won’t spit the damn thing out, you just—”
“Well if you would let me get a word in edge ways…” He interrupted,
She took in another deep breath, “Okay, sorry. Carry on.”
Zack smirked, “I own a business…a tattoo parlor. Dad didn’t want anyone telling you, apparently it wasn’t big enough news to distract you from your studies,”
“Zack…that’s…wonderful news. Why on earth wouldn’t he want me hearing about it? It would hardly have been a distraction, if anything it would’ve stopped me from worrying about you,” replied Katelyn,
“Let’s face it, it’s not a business he’s proud to have his Jensen name on.” He shrugged, “I don’t care, I did it with zero help from that man…and with a little help from Sami.”
Katelyn arched an eyebrow, “If tattooing is what you want to do, then I’m okay with that as long as it keeps you out of trouble, and who’s this Sami?”
“His business partner, our father’s nemesis, my fantasy lover…Lord knows, I’d go gay for her any day of the week, if she’d let me,” Interrupted Nicole.
Zack shook his head with a small smile, “All right, that’s enough out of you.”
Katelyn sniggered, “I’m pretty sure you can’t go gay.”
“Oh, I don’t know…don’t get me wrong, I love men, but she could very easily sway me…she’s done it to quite a few around these parts, even some passing through,” Nicole finished with a cheeky wink.
“Don’t talk about her like that Nicole, that’s my best friend,” snapped Zack,
“You know I love her Zack. I’m not talking bad about her, I was just saying is all.”
“I’m sure she isn’t all that,” stated Katelyn, taking a sip of her wine.
“Oh, honey…” whispered Nicole,
“She’s supposed to be coming for dinner tomorrow, you can meet her then but please be nice,” pleaded Zack.
Katelyn’s eyebrow soon arched as suspicion of his plea intrigued her,
“You’re telling me to be nice, which means I’m not going to like her am I?”
“She’s my best friend Katie…she might not be what you’re used to but she’s…”
“Smoking hot…” Nicole interrupted.
Katelyn laughed as she watched her brother lift the small pillow by him and throw it forcefully toward Nicole’s head.
“She took me under her wing, Katelyn her work…Is just stunning. When I saw her drawings, I showed her some of my graffiti work around town, after that I kind of became her apprentice. She taught me everything I know. I swear she might look rough around the edges but she’s the one whose kept me in check,” explained Zack.
Katelyn dropped her stare, circling the top of her wine glass. This Sami woman seems to have done something Katelyn and her father never could, accepted his talents and used them to make him a better person. She clenched her eyes shut then drew them to the hopeful expression from her brother,
“I guess I can’t frown on that, can I?”
“Katie, she isn’t like the others. My judge of character is improving. When I was on the verge of asking mom and dad to help pay for the parlor, she refused. Sure as shit made our asses work for it though.”
“Is she from the West Side?” Katelyn asked curiously,
“Actually, no. She’s from Arizona and moved with her family to our neck of the woods, but she left a while ago and moved to the West side,” he answered,
“Why on Earth would she do that?”
Zack shrugged, “I can’t really say,” his pause moved toward Nicole, “And it’s no one’s place to say anything either.”
Nicole threw the small pillow back at him, “She’ll hear about it eventually.”
“Nicole, I mean it. If Sami wants her to know she’ll tell her, her damn self,” he replied firmly.
Katelyn examined the stern expression all over her younger brother’s face. She’d never seen such an intense stare come from his usually pleasant puppy browns.
“Now I want to know…” She joked, aimlessly trying to break the sudden tension in the air.
“Sorry Katie, it’s just not our place, but I promise if you give her a chance, you’ll see what I see…she is probably the realest friend I’ve had and have. Just don’t tell her I said that, I’ll never live it down,” he finished with a grin.
Katelyn pressed a warm smile against her cheek, her brother’s sincerity grew, warming her. It was clear he adored this Sami he spoke of. She was intrigued to find out who she was and how in the hell she managed to prevent her brother from becoming an East Pines bum, and transform him in to a prosperous business owner. That deserved her respect, right?
The piercing alarm sound nearly perforated Sami’s ears, reluctantly she opened her eyes to the blurry vision of the sun peeking through the blinds. She rubbed her eyes fresh and smacked the alarm that let her know it was seven thirty a.m. She threw her legs over the side of the bed and rested her elbows on her knees as she hung her head against her palms, regretting the bottle of whiskey Zack talked her into buying, right before leaving her to Nicole’s phone call. Why do I ever listen to him? She looked over her shoulder noticing the figure moving under the blankets. Her antics from the night before came flooding back. Damn. Slowly she rose up from the bed and silently motioned to the bathroom to shower.
She studied the steam from the increasing heat that masked the mirror, her reflection soon disappearing behind it. She rubbed her face, then nodded herself into the shower to once again wash away the escapade of the night before. Living the dream, I guess.
Sami stepped out of the shower soon wondering where that unmistakable aroma of fresh coffee ground was coming from. Inhaling deeply, she quickly dried herself and threw on a pair of tattered jeans, and a custom navy work shirt. It was an old mechanic’s button up shirt with her name sewed into the white name tag above her left chest pocket. She walked out into the living room and soon noticed the half-naked woman in her kitchen, holding a pot of coffee. She couldn’t hide her gathering smirk of approval of the woman’s tanned, curvy figure. She agreed it was a pleasant sight to wake up to, especially being accompanied by the intoxicating coffee scented air around her.
“Coffee?” She asked a still tired Sami.
The stranger approached, Sami’s eyes shut as the soft fingers moved through her slicked back retro hairstyle. She opened her eyes but couldn’t ignore the pleasingly inviting smile that crept across the tanned face. Sami cleared her throat, nodding for coffee. Taking a seat next to the breakfast bar she wrapped her fingers around the cup in front of her. Her eyes fixating on the much-needed coffee being poured, Tracy? Ta…Tanya? Sami struggled to remember the woman’s name. She exhaled deeply and placed her lips around the cold edge of the cup, her mouth soon filling with the small sensation of ecstasy as the coffee met her tongue. She released a grateful groan, with closed eyes and a pleased smile,
“Better?” The half-naked woman asked,
“Yes ma’am, the first coffee in the morning, always…hits the spot,” she replied, smiling slightly at the woman, she took another slow sip.
The beautiful stranger scrunched her nose to Sami’s approval before making her way back into the bedroom. Sami tilted her head wondering what she was possibly doing. Leaving? Nah, it’s never this easy. She did feel bad for forgetting the thoughtful woman’s name but she sure as hell could make a good cup o’ Jo. Her train of thought was abruptly interrupted as the woman came back out and started searching under the cushions on the recliners,
“Missing something?” Sami asked,
“Uh…Nope, found it!” She replied, displaying one of her heels.
Sami nodded, hiding her smile behind her coffee. Her eyebrow arching slightly as the woman seemed to be in a rush to get out of there. She continued to watch her fail a few balances before finally getting her heel on right and then grab her coffee and down it in seconds. She was used to shuffling her visitor’s out the door as quickly as she could, anything to avoid those awkward morning conversations, but never to them openly going on their own accord,
“I got to get home and shower before I open the store, I’ve left my number on your fridge in case you ever need another whiskey night,” she kissed Sami on the cheek,
“Just in case you forgot…the name is Tara…” she whispered softly before firing a wink to the once confused but now slightly embarrassed Sami.
She couldn’t help the cheeky grin that presented itself as she watched Tara wink, walk out and shut the door behind her, no call me, no I get off work at such and such, I’ll call you tonight episodes. Sami shrugged to herself with a smirk before drinking down the last drops of coffee. She looked over at her cell phone as it vibrated against the breakfast bar,
“God, I love that groggy morning voice. Did I wake you?” Nicole asked,
“No, I haven’t been up long. What’s up?” She questioned before trying to clear the morning rasp.
“Zack mentioned last night you agreed to come to dinner tonight?”
Sami sighed at the reminder, “Yeah, I guess. You know I could never turn down the opportunity of having dinner with my best bud Arthur Jensen,” she replied sarcastically.
Nicole giggled, “Oh, cheer up grumpy. It’ll be fun, I’m excited, and my mom can’t wait to see you, and as for my father, he’ll just ignore the fact that either of us are even there.”
“Yeah, he’s a pleasant man,” she paused to Nicole’s chuckle, “Is your sister like you and your brother, or is she daddy’s girl?”
The line went silent, Sami raised an eyebrow, “Nicole?”
“Yeah, I’m here…um, she can be nice….” She replied shadily,
“Great,” Sami groaned at the reluctance of Nicole’s tone,
“Always with the sarcasm. Well I got to get off here and go shopping for something that’ll initiate a disapproval from everyone tonight. Remember dress handsome,” finished Nicole before hanging up.
Sami smirked, her best friends twin sister was someone she always had time for, not just because she was the Jensen family trouble maker but because she never turned her nose up to anyone who didn’t have the things she had. Nicole had what most of the snobby East Pines kids didn’t, a genuine beauty inside and out. Sami was instantly drawn to Nicole’s firecracker mentality and straight forward honesty. If she liked you, you knew it… And if she didn’t… You sure as shit would find out in a heartbeat. The more her father would scorn her for embarrassing the prestigious Jensen name, the more bar brawls and cat fights Nicole made sure to get into. Then when she got offered work at the local salon for Betty Wincher, the City’s nationwide known hairstylist for fashion magazines all over the country, she couldn’t have been more delighted that things were finally working out for her friend. Especially when Arthur offered to buy Nicole her own salon and she refused, letting him know she was grown and would be damned if she would let him be the boss of her as a woman. She didn’t care to carry her families’ successful name into another prosperous business, always insisting to Sami the Jensen name was more of a curse than anything.
Zack looked up as Sami walked in, her feet dragging behind her, “You look exactly how I feel,” he said, before explaining how he debated if he could stomach a day of conversations and concentration.
“Where’ the ibuprofen?” Sami asked.
He pointed to the cupboard under the cash register. She grabbed a bottle of water from the mini fridge behind the cash register, and then the bottle of pills, signaling to Zack to take some but he declined.
He slid his chair over to her with a suspicious look, “So, what did you and Tara end up doing last night?”
Sami wiped the water from her lips, then tightened the bottle cap,
Turning her back, she smirked remembering the woman’s surprisingly laid-back exit.
“How do you do it?” Zack almost screeched, “I mean come on! Any girl…it’s like a moth to a flame…or flies around shit—”
“Firstly, I don’t blush or stutter and act like a little school boy the second a woman says more than two words,” she interrupted.
Zack slid his chair back behind the cubicle divider, clearly unappreciative of her comment. She grinned before flicking a pair of rubber gloves at him,
“Open up the doors, we’re fully booked today, school boy.” Sami’s playful words amusing her more than him.
As the busy day finally dwindled, Sami looked at her watch, showing her four o’clock. The day had taken its time, more than usual but she pinned it on the whiskey from the night before.
“So, I’m just going to get ready with you…and maybe help you pick out something…suitable.”
She looked up at him from the cash register while she counted the days profits, noticing the immediate anxiety in his tone, followed by his lack of eye contact. Declining to show her amusement, she hid her grin,
“Help me pick something to wear? As in?”
She studied him rubbing the back of his neck before leaning his crossed arms along the top of the register, his eyes eventually trailing to hers,
“Well…you have to dress…smart. Not that there is anything wrong with your style, I mean it’s cool and all but, just this once…let’s give it to those proper…uppity socialites,” his puppy browns widening.
“I don’t think I have anything that will be to the standards of the East Pines Royal family.”
"I know just the thing! Your white shirt and your black pencil tie...oh and those black dress pants you have that you wore to my grandmother’s funeral."
It grew harder for Sami to hide the increasing irritation at the mere thought of dressing up for a bunch of snobs who held absolutely zero respect for her. Her narrowing eyes and bulging jaw muscles from her clenching teeth being all she could muster to show her disdain for the evening she was about to endure,
“Damn, you owe me Jensen…”
She looked in the mirror as she fixed her tie. An untucked but tailor fitted white shirt, black pencil tie that hung from its loose knot, the unfastened top button, insisting it made her feel claustrophobic when fastened. She looked over at Zack, with his black fitted suit and black tie cushioned against his collar. She stood up straight, looking at herself through the top of the thick black vintage inspired frames. She wore them mainly when sketching and tattooing, but Zack begged her to wear then to dinner, telling her they went with her outfit. She wasn’t oblivious to his dishonesty; she knew they made her look somewhat more sophisticated. Reluctantly she granted his request. As much as Sami loved busting his balls when it came to his father she always gave in to her best friend’s small demands. She knew his family gatherings were just as uncomfortable for him as they were for her. It killed her to see how hard Zack worked for his father’s approval. He always denied it, but she knew he yearned for Arthur to accept him… She just wished that the snob would see his son’s worth, one day.
“Respectable enough?” She asked,
“Well, we could tighten the knot to actually be with the collar…maybe tuck in the shirt?”
Sami stared back at the mirror, tightening the knot ever so slightly, and placing her tie perfectly over her buttons, purposely ignoring his other suggestions.
“I hope Katherine approves,” she stated, sarcastically.
Zack looked at her confused, “You mean Katelyn, it’s…Katelyn,” his tone lowering,
“I prefer Katherine, I think that’s what I’ll call her.”
Sami smirked, realizing the evident uproar her mistake would cause.
"My dad will have a heart attack and Katelyn will freak out, please refrain from any smartass comments, questions, and please no sarcasm."
"So pretty much, don't say a word," Sami stated.
Sami pulled her truck up to the entrance of the grandest restaurant in all of Pines county, The Wallace. Only the top earners dined there with their families, this was no place for someone like her, but for her best friend, there was very little she wouldn’t do, she would never tell him that, of course. Her stomach flipped as a trace of nervousness rushed through her. Lightly she tapped her fingers against the top of the steering wheel, her palms sweating as the valets stepped down toward her. She felt Zack’s soft reassuring squeeze against her knee, forcing her to look at him,
“It’s going to be okay, and thank you for doing this for me.”
She nodded, resting her stare back on the sheen marble steps leading her eyes to trail to The Wallace entrance. Sami said nothing as the valet opened her door before giving her a ticket, she offered the smartly dressed man a confident nod and handed him her keys. She cleared her throat, noticing Zack walk around the truck, taking in a long deep breath. Sami knew he was nervous at the thought of being in the presence of the man who judged and ridiculed his every action, like he was a defendant up for prosecution in the courtroom.
“Relax, it’s just a meal…with people who adore the ground we walk on,” Sami joked. She froze on the spot to inhale the crisp evening air, and let her eyes take in the beauty in front of her. A friendly nudge knocked her out of her bliss, staying silent, she nodded, and swallowed hard. Let’s do this.
As they neared the entrance Sami admired the two gold plated pillars that held the golden plaque showing off the engraved words, “The Wallace”, above the almost invisible glass doors. The four perfectly placed spot lights glowed directly over the white Aquia Creek sandstone, flaunting the gold trim around every window. She swallowed the sudden regret of deciding not to tuck in her shirt.
Before long Sami felt Zack lightly grab her elbow and usher her up the flawless polished black marble steps. She watched each step she took, watching her unblemished reflection staring back. Two smartly dressed men, with their long suit jackets and top hats met them above the steps, they nodded to them both and opened the large glass doors, smiling warmly. Instantly she was hit by the aroma of polished money as she put it, along with the soft hum of the classical quintet playing in the corner. The beauty being offered was breathtaking but still she preferred the views of the mountain tops and evergreens that hung over her window. Her blissful daze vanished from Zack’s subtle nudge, bringing her back to reality. Sami looked up and there he was… The one man that made sure she knew she wasn’t worthy of his presence or time.
“Hey…Dad,” Zack said, shaking his hand.
Arthur stared coldly toward Sami, throughout the duration of the handshake with his son, refusing to meet his eyes,
“You both made it, I see,” Arthur said coldly.
Sami kept her eyes locked onto the tall stature of a man, her stare subtly drifting to his dark, thick eyebrows. Not another word was said, and the best friends were seated at a table holding what she estimated to be, at least ten individuals. She sat in the chair saved for her by Nicole, relieved to be in-between the twins. Shuffling her chair in further, she felt warm arms reaching over her shoulders,
“Oh, my Sami, I’m so happy you came,”
Sami turned looking over her shoulder, her eyes resting on the lovingly warm eyes of Gwen Jensen,
“Mrs. Jensen,” Sami said with a smile.
Noticing the bright lights of the crystal chandeliers reflecting onto the kind woman’s priceless pearls that rested gracefully over her collar bone. “Thank you for having me, this place is beyond stunning,” Sami finished.
Gwen waved away her comment, and leaned down to whisper,
“I’ve told you before, call me Gwen, and all of this is a waste of money if you ask me, but what the hell, enjoy the most expensive food East Pines has to offer my dear, it’s free,” the warm, and welcoming woman said smiling as she brushed her tiny finger’s through Sami’s hair,
“Yes ma’am,” Sami replied with an amused smirk.
Her eyes soon fell onto the numerous knives, forks, and spoons in front of her, her confusion overcoming the slight embarrassment she felt before Nicole’s small nudge pulled her away,
“Just watch which ones I use and follow suit,” Nicole whispered, placing a kiss on her cheek.
Sami returned Nicole’s welcome with a genuinely warm smile,
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Ah, here they are!” Arthur bellowed, forcing Sami to look toward him. She studied as he stood, running his fingers through his sleek silver hair, and button the jacket of his easily fifteen-thousand-dollar suit she guessed.
“Everybody, please welcome my beautiful daughter Katelyn…and this strapping young man beside her is my future son in law, Richard Sinclair.”
Sami watched Arthur’s chest puff out with such pride, and a twinkle form in the usually stone-cold man’s eyes. She questioned whether his reactions were because his daughter was finally home or the fact that his new prodigy had arrived, another thing for him to boast about she was sure.
“Ugh, here we go…” Mumbled Zack.
Katelyn watched on at the smiling and welcoming faces. Gently she fixed her low chignon, allowing some hair to rest against her face graciously. She adjusted her black silk ball gown that hugged her figure, and not a missed step out of place she kept her shoulders down and back straight.
No matter the length of time she had been away from her father, she still knew his expectations of her, and how she should carry herself. Regardless how she felt about the fake façade, she would always continue to put a smile on her face and do whatever made her father happy. Katelyn knew she was the daughter every father, certainly in East Pines would have been proud to have. She was the perfect image of the perfect daughter, even before leaving and following in her father’s footsteps to pursue a degree in Law at Yale. She held her social standing with an importance, and lived life with discipline just as her father expected. Unlike her siblings, she cared how she conducted herself around town, she had a family name to uphold after-all. That didn’t mean she didn’t enjoy herself when all eyes weren’t on her. When the curtains fell, nothing fulfilled her more than finally being in the company of her siblings and their friends. She sighed, it had been forever since she had been able to let her hair down and tonight was another one of those nights, she had to represent her father and their family name, for the world to see, well East Pines, but to her father, East Pines was the world.
Richard pulled out the red velvet chair across the perfectly polished mahogany floor beneath her, sitting down she thanked him, before greeting her mother next to her with a warm hug,
“It feels so nice to be back home, I can’t tell you enough. It was nice for everyone to show up but…” she paused, leaning in closer, “I don’t know who half of these people are,” she whispered,
Gwen’s warm smile eased her, “I’m just glad to have all of my babies back in one place, and if I’m honest…I wish I didn’t know who half of these people were.”
Katelyn giggled silently, while her mother fixed her cream gown over her knees. She gently rested a kiss against her mother’s cheek before looking across her shoulder, happy to see her future husband, the devilishly handsome, slicked back blonde hair, chiseled chin, strong jaw line, bright blue-eyed man who she admittedly knew adored himself, being embraced by her father. Finally, she turned her gaze back, noticing Nicole across from her, of course disapproving of how revealing her sisters purple strapless dress was for that evening. She watched Nicole flick her jet-black bangs over her left eye as she presented her with a devilish smile, instigating Katelyn’s eye roll and slight smirk.
"Oh Katie, does one not approve?" asked Nicole, flaunting her attire across the table.
"Classy as ever I see," Katelyn replied sarcastically, a small smirk appearing for only Nicole to see.
Nicole raised her glass, "You know it, darlin'," her devilish grin grew.
Katelyn shook her head before her gaze moved over toward the stranger sitting between her siblings. She studied her, of course instantly noticing her loosely fitted tie, the unsupported collar that revealed a trace of a tattoo underneath it. Sami, I presume. She couldn't quite turn away as she watched the mysterious stranger listening to her brother, wondering why on Earth her father would even agree to have one of his friend's attend such an intimate reunion. Yes, the Mayor was present for the dinner, but he was her father’s best friend all through High school and college, and then there was who she presumed to be the rest of City Halls finest. She leaned toward her mother slowly,
"Is that Zack’s business partner, mom?" Katelyn whispered.
Gwen covered her mouth as she finished nibbling on a table cracker,
"Yes, it is sweetheart. She is just wonderful."
Katelyn looked at her mother, puzzled, "She just doesn’t strike me as…someone who would be good for him, are we sure she is?”
“Relax darling,” Gwen paused to sip her Brandy, “I’m very close with her parents, she comes from a good family. She’s just had a rough life is all.”
“Zack spoke very highly of her…but refused to reveal why on Earth she left East Pines and moved to the West….” Katelyn trailed,
Gwen cleared her throat, “Ah, yes…I just thank God your Uncle Mick came into her life when he did. If it wasn’t for him, I dare to think where she would be now. The poor thing.” she paused, “It really was a shame, what happened.”
Katelyn watched her mother smile softly, tilting her head as she rested a soft loving gaze on Sami,
“What happened?” She asked,
Gwen looked at her, “Something that never should, but thankfully Mick took her in like one of his own. Eventually she and your brother became acquainted. Finally, years later they bought the parlor, and even built a skate park in the back for the East and West Pines riff raff as your father likes to call them,” she rested her cheek against her fist, “It was a project Sami and Police Chief Chambers came up with. I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I helped put money into it, but please don’t tell her or your father. It’s strictly between me and the Police Chief. I think you might have even approved of this one, but you’ve been away getting your law degree and meeting the man of your dreams.”
She studied her mother’s face as it lit up,
“I’m proud of you all.”
“Well, I can’t look down on somebody who helped Zachary grow up, and give the rejects a place to hang out,” Katelyn declared, resting her napkin on her thighs.
“Honey, please don’t call them that, they aren’t rejects, just…misunderstood,” she corrected, “I may not approve of how Zack and Sami met, but I’m glad they did. She spent all her talents on him and kept him out of trouble. I just love her…your father not so much.”
“Why? Zack has turned leaps and bounds, even I can see that…How did they meet exactly?” She asked,
“It doesn’t matter how they met, sweetheart, and as for your father…he doesn’t approve of her somewhat…promiscuous behavior with many of the women here around town. She’s been the cause of a few broken hearts but that is none of our business. Then there is the small matter of her chosen profession and bringing it to East Pines instead of the West.”
Katelyn arched a brow, “But, it’s more revenue toward our economy…”
“Yes, but…it’s a tattoo parlor in the old-fashioned suburbs dear. Your father has a warped idea of how East Pines should be, and well they have a bad history, so that doesn’t help matters,” stated Gwen.
Katelyn nodded slowly, “He just likes things a certain way mom. I do have to agree with him on the disapproval of her promiscuous ways, that kind of behavior is demeaning to everyone involved if you ask me, and what’s the bad history with dad?”
Gwen shook her head, “Not tonight sweetheart. I’ll divulge another time.”
She sighed, “Mom…”
Gwen placed her hand over Katelyn’s, giving it a reassuring squeeze, “It’s not the right time…another time perhaps,”
As the dinner progressed the table was filled with deep conversation as the wine flowed. Arthur and the other guests hadn’t said more than two words to Nicole, Zack or Sami but that didn’t stop them from having a good time and enjoying the endless supply of house wine. Katelyn couldn’t help but chuckle to herself at Nicole purposely laughing louder than everybody at the table when Arthur would crack a distasteful joke. She wasn't ignorant to the fact that the Pines political propaganda was a shady one to say the least. It wasn’t a coincidence that the main Jocks of East Pines High back in the day, now held the highest social standing within the law and political circle that controlled both sides of the Pines.
She looked up from her plate, silently examining Sami’s amazed expression to the synchronized waiters. Not a reached-out hand too late to gather their empty plates. She smiled into herself, it was quite apparent the stranger wasn’t as accustomed to the over indulged scenario around her, unlike everyone else. Clearly a fish out of water. Cute.
Her train of thought was interrupted as the voice of Nicole’s visibly drunk boyfriend, the Mayor’s son, Peter McCluskey travelled across the table,
“So Zackie boy, how’s the tattoo business going my friend?”
Katelyn glanced at Zack, his squirming confirming his sudden awkwardness, “Going good, thanks.”
“I’m curious, Katelyn is your sister and all, so I know why you’re here, but why is she here?” He asked, nodding toward Sami.
Sami moved her arm from the back of Nicole’s chair, leaning her elbows against the table, and saying nothing, she pinched the bridge of her nose with closed eyes.
“She’s here for me.”
“Damn, what kind of friend asks another friend into the lion’s den?”
Katelyn watched as the closing eyes of Sami rose in Peter’s direction. Their opening revealed a penetrating darkness behind them. The almost grey stare sent a chill down her arms. Sami’s clenching jaw bulged, causing even Katelyn to clear her throat.
Zack inhaled deeply, and purposely dropped his knife on the plate. The loud clatter causing the table to fall silent, Nicole reached over to grip her brothers clenching fist. Katelyn turned to her mother whose eyes burned into the spoilt brat that was Peter McCluskey. She then shifted her stare toward her father, she couldn’t believe his lack of interest in Peter’s comment. She sat clueless, why was nobody correcting Peter’s behavior? Especially her mother. Suddenly Peter’s obnoxious laughter filled the silence, just before Nicole’s elbow contacted his ribs,
“Geez, tough crowd. I give you props for coming here for the sake of your dear friend but, you don’t belong here.”
Katelyn’s mouth fell open to Peter’s ignorance, she shifted her eyes as Sami pushed her chair back with clenched fists,
Gwen cleared her throat, “Okay, that’s enough. Sami, please stay seated my dear, and have some dessert… Waiter!”
Katelyn observed the clenching jaw of Sami as she rose from her chair, keeping her dark stare on Peter,
“If you’d excuse me, Mrs. Jensen…”
Before Gwen could say another word, Sami walked toward the kitchen and disappeared behind the mahogany and brass doors. Katelyn watched as her siblings quickly followed suit. She stared at her father, but to her surprise he was right back into a discussion with Richard and Mayor Marcus McCluskey. She turned to the bowed head of her mother,
“Mom…” she whispered,
Gwen looked up at her. The hurt eyes that rested on her sent a piercing ache in her heart,
“What would you like for dessert?”
Was her mother seriously trying to act like that didn’t just happen? She shook her head with scrunched eyebrows,
“Mom, what was that all about?”
Gwen moved her hurt expression back to the dessert menu, “Nothing dear, come now this is your night. Oh, these all sound so delicious,”
Katelyn fell back in her chair, astonished that her parents would let someone be spoken to like that, especially her mother. She bit the inside of her cheek, wondering what the hell this big secret was. She looked over to Richard who remained locked in conversation with her father, Marcus McCluskey and Judge Mathers. Pushing her chair back quietly, she rested her napkin on the table and got up to be with her siblings, realizing she wouldn’t be missed in the slightest.
As Sami walked out through the kitchen with Nicole and Zack, they made it outside to the back of the restaurant. The humid night was filled with the sound of cicadas off in the distance. She grabbed a pack of smokes from her black dress pants pocket, while taking in the sound of the cicadas as their soothing harmony vibrated across the star covered night sky. She couldn’t prevent the subtle sigh that escaped, knowing it wouldn’t be much longer before fall would approach and the soothing cicadas would disappear. She held the pack out for Nicole and Zack to take a smoke, a single word not being spoken by the trio. As she lit their smokes, a voice came through the darkness,
“Hey! You shouldn’t be here!”
The three looked over, swiftly shoving their cigarette holding hands behind their backs, their stomach’s sinking,
Nicole giggled lightly, “Oh, it’s our very own Attorney at Law, Katelyn Jensen, hide the evidence,” Nicole joked, then held out her arms to her older sister of three years.
Katelyn held her sister then broke it, turning to Zack and Sami she held out her hand, “Okay, who’s providing the smokes?”
Both Nicole and Zack pointed at the culprit. Sami’s surprise was met with an arched brow and dry stare. Sami reached into her pocket searching for the pack of smokes.
Katelyn’s attention was suddenly stolen as her eyes unknowingly examined the piercingly deep, dark, and intriguingly mysterious eyes of Sami, captivating her effortlessly under the dim streetlight,
“Thank…you, Sami, right?” She asked, softly.
Sami nodded, lighting the cigarette for her. Their eyes remaining locked. Katelyn tried to hold it, refusing to submit to the confidence in Sami’s growing smirk. But soon, she succumbed to the deep stare as it turned to an almost daring one.
"Yes ma'am...and Kath...Katelyn, right?"
Sami looked toward Zack her intentional grin growing,
"So... does dad know you're still smoking?" Zack asked before elbowing Sami.
"No and he's never going to know, right?" Katelyn said with a stern tone.
Zack laughed as he slowly exhaled his smoke forcing a cough,
Nicole leaned up against Sami. Katelyn couldn't help but notice the approaching arm that hung-over Nicole as she rested her head on Sami’s shoulder. It was apparent they were close… Maybe closer than she had expected?
"Don't tell me you two are?" Asked a curiously unamused Katelyn.
Nicole and Zack released a chuckle at Katelyn's usual out spoken assumptions. Sami smirked, blowing her smoke out to watch it dance up into the night.
"Sami and I? Oh, honey I've tried but she denies me every time," Nicole paused winking at Sami, "I'm kidding. No, she's too busy tattooing and teaching our brother how to draw."
"Real funny," Zack spat.
"I'm proud of you, Zack. I never could have seen that coming but I’m glad it did, and Nicole it honestly wouldn't surprise me when it comes to you," stated Katelyn, her amusement growing when Nicole’s jaw dropped sarcastically,
In the corner of her eye she couldn’t help but watch Sami stand there saying nothing as she held Nicole. As untidy as her tie and untucked shirt were… It was a pleasant sight. Okay maybe she was attractive in a poorly put together kind of way, there was no harm in admitting it.
Sami grinned, "Your sister's promiscuity has died down thanks to Asshole McCluskey."
Katelyn nodded with a pleasant smile and arched brow, "I hear you're no stranger to promiscuity yourself, Sam."
Sami's smirk indicated amusement at Katelyn’s lack of a filter,
"You're in town five minutes and that's the first thing you hear about me..." Sami paused, feeling Nicole pinch her side, indicating she play nice. "It's never my intentions to take a woman home on a night out..." Sami drew her dark eyes to Katelyn's almost scorning expression,
“Please, I know your kind.”
Katelyn couldn’t help the irritation that grew inside as she heard Sami’s intentionally dry laugh,
“My kind huh? Seeing as you’re sticking around, I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself.” Stated Sami.
Unknowingly to her, she suddenly felt a slight nervousness, and quickly broke their gaze,
“Sorry to inform you, but I have self-respect and not to mention I'm engaged to a wonderful man, but thank you for the offer.” Her sarcasm seeping.
Katelyn examined Sami’s eyes widen as confusion hit her expression. Nicole and Zack's laughter soon filled the awkward silence,
"Um...Katie I think she meant for you to find out for yourself as in... witness it yourself. I assure you instead of being the hunter, she's the hunted," replied Nicole giggling through her sentence, before digging her face into the side of Sami's neck playfully.
Her cheeks warming, Katelyn dropped her head. It was an easy mistake to make, but still she couldn’t prevent her face flushing a deep red.
Sami grinned, "Thanks for the pre-rejection though...you've saved me hours of pointless flirting and countless lost dollars from buying you drinks.”
Katelyn looked up at Sami with narrowed eyes, "Very funny," then turned to her siblings, “So…is anyone going to let me in on what was behind Peter’s irrefutable ignorance in there?”
She watched her brother and sister’s heads drop. She turned to Sami who met her stare, the clenching jaw didn’t go unnoticed either. Once again raising an eyebrow, she waited patiently,
“Drop it, Katie,” said Zack softly.
“No, I won’t. Something clearly happened, and nobody is willing to share it with me, not even mom…so, entertain me. What’s the big secret that everybody knows but dares to divulge?” Katelyn moved her stare back to Sami, “Do you care to enlighten me? It seems to all revolve around you.”
Sami’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Like Zack said, drop it.”
Any amusement from her expression had now disappeared and Katelyn felt almost timid to the hard stare that seemingly stalked her.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here? Is it the Jensen crew, plus one I see?”
Katelyn turned to the mysterious voice behind her as a tall figure approached.
“God damn…Billy?” Zack questioned.
“God damn…it sure as hell is the Jensen crew.”
Katelyn’s mouth dropped open as she ran to Billy Thompson her childhood friend. Raising on tippy toes she wrapped her arms around him, embracing him.
“Jesus Billy. The last we heard you got locked up,” stated Zack,
“They gave me ten years. Just got out, I had nowhere to go, so I came back, and my uncle knows the manager here, put a word in and the dude gave me a damn job. Can you believe it? This place hiring me with a damn felony?” Billy laughed.
“I hated that I never got to say good-bye before I left.”
Billy smiled. “It’s probably better that way, Katie. I was a mess,” he paused resting his arm around her, “So are we all lawyered up now?”
She scrunched her nose, “Mhm, and engaged.”
His eyes widened, “No shit?”
Katelyn nodded, biting her lip, “I work for daddy now.”
Billy shrugged, “It’s a foot in the door,” he kissed her head, “Congratulations, but if he hurts you…I’ll hurt him a little. Just like back in the day,” he winked, “I don’t doubt you’ll get us trouble makers off the hook, and now I know who I can call, next time.”
She slapped his chest, “There won’t be a next time.”
She watched his subtle silver stubble stretching to his cheeky smile, she returned it, shaking her head at the joker she had grown up with.
“Where are you living now?” Zack asked,
“I’m renting the loft above Kacie’s Barber shop on the West Side. Living with my kind of swine as the Deputy Chief liked to say it,” he laughed.
“Who did your ink?” Sami interrupted.
Billy pulled his sleeves up some more to show his ink covered forearms. “You like? I did them in the joint. That’s how I managed to get through prison life. That shit paid for me to eat. If you know anything about being inside, guys thrive for ink and they’ll even go as far as to sell their damn girls for it. In hindsight, I really should’ve sold my ink skills instead of coke.” Sami joined Billy in his laughter.
“Hey Bill, this is Sami. We own a tattoo place downtown. You should come over some time and check it out,” Stated Zack,
“No kidding? You know my ass will be there.”
Katelyn observed Sami study her friends ink covered arms, her eyes were glued,
Sami peeled her eyes away for a second. “You got busted for coke?”
“That’s a little personal don’t you--”
Billy interrupted Katelyn, pressing his hand against her back gently, with an appreciative smile. “It’s fine, I’m not ashamed,” he turned back to Sami, by this time her eyes were back to his art, “Yeah, coke and heroin.”
“Taking or dealing?”
Katelyn’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t quite believe the audacity of Sami, to just come out and ask such personal questions from a stranger. She glanced at her brother’s expression that confirmed her sudden discrepancies. But without a blink of an eye Billy told Sami it was dealing and explaining he also broke the one golden rule when dealing, never to get high on your own supply. She noted Sami seeming undeterred, giving him subtle nods as she continued to turn his arms over, stalking, and surveying the line work like an artist admiring a painting at an art exhibit.
“You’re still clean, right?”
Billy nodded, “Of course… well, I smoke weed here and there, but clean from coke and H. It’s been a rough couple of weeks being out and not running straight back into the game. I’m fighting the struggle. It’s all I can do, right?” Billy pulled his sleeves back down over his arms.
Sami stepped back. “All right. I want to apologize for the questions, I hope I didn’t offend you, and I give you huge respect for getting off that shit.”
“No offence taken. I’m proud of my ink it tells my story. Kicking heroin was and still is the hardest battle, but I’m doing it, one day at a time.” explained a humble Billy.
“We all have a past. I like your work…your line work is damn near flawless, and that’s with a single needle. Beautiful,” replied Sami,
“You know we use singles huh? I respect that, and thanks, it means a lot that a professional like yourself appreciates my work.”
She shook her head. “Your work speaks for itself. Listen, if you want to, why don’t you come by the parlor tomorrow? Start you on a trial period, see how you do.”
“Wait, are you serious?” Billy asked.
Katelyn couldn’t help her warm smile appearing as Billy’s worn lines over his mouth beamed.
“Yes, I’m serious. Zack can bring you in the morning and we can talk business okay? But I do have one rule.”
“Of course, anything.”
“You need to stay clean. Weed? That’s nothing, but the others…I have no tolerance for.”
He nodded, “Absolutely. I won’t let you down, Sami.”
Katelyn watched a small smile rest against the corner of Sami’s mouth when Billy turned her handshake into a tight hug, but her dark eyes showed not an ounce of emotion. This Sami character was confusing her more. Usually she could get a sense of someone’s character within the first five minutes of being acquainted, but this one was seeming a little harder than she thought.
“I better get back inside,” she paused to embrace Billy. “Welcome home Bill. We’ll have to get a beer some night and catch up,” she finished, placing a soft kiss against his cheek.
“I’ll hold you to that,” he replied, with a wink.
She laughed lightly, turning to Sami as she stubbed out her cigarette,
“I guess it was nice meeting you, Sam.”
Purposely she kept it short with the confident stranger. Their first encounter hadn’t left a nice taste in her mouth.
“The pleasure was all mine.”
Sami followed Zack toward the front entrance of The Wallace to Gwen and Katelyn with linked arms, saying goodbye to their guests.
Sami leaned into Gwen, kissing her cheek softly. "Thank you for having me ma'am. Dinner was pretty damn good."
Gwen embraced her. "Oh no, thank you for coming my dear, it's always a pleasure,” she paused placing a hand softly against Sami’s cheek, “I’m sorry about Peter tonight…please don’t think I feel the same as the others.”
Sami nodded, "I know better Mrs. Jensen.”
Gwen smiled. “And going straight home, I hope?”
“Yes ma'am, I got to be up early for work, you know how it is."
Gwen smiled once more, "Yes, Nicole told me what you and Zack are doing for Billy. Thank you my dear. You be good now. I have my eyes on you," Gwen laughed before releasing Sami from her clutch.
"I'm always good," Sami winked, resting a devious smirk at an amused Gwen, "But you have to come by the parlor, so I can ink that blank canvas Mrs. J. Then afterward show me those moves in the skate park."
Gwen chuckled before placing a finger over her lips indicating for her to be quiet.
Sami bowed her head to Katelyn. "Hope to see you again soon, Katelyn.”
She said nothing, instantly reading Sami's sarcasm and mockery that her mother clearly didn't catch. She made sure to send a noticeably forced smile toward Sami before hugging her brother goodbye and kissing him on the cheek.
"I don't know what to make of her, mom."
Gwen rubbed Katelyn’s hand as it rested on her forearm. "Accept her like your brother does. You need to try and find time to go see his shop, show him you care." They were quickly interrupted by an approaching Richard,
"We must go sweetheart; we have to be up early. Your father has meetings lined up for us, we’re going to need the rest," he insisted, placing a kiss on Gwen's cheek
Katelyn sat at the booth by the window in the local quaint café. It was her favorite seat, looking out at all the oblivious passersby as they shopped for whatever they wished. She was surprised it still possessed the same warming feel it had always had when she was a child. The memories of her mother laughing when her father would purposely distract his wife to steal her marshmallows from her hot cocoa, warmed Katelyn more so as she stirred her coffee. It had been a long week of appointments and meetings with the leading attorneys at her father’s firm, but he had made the transition as smooth as possible.
She stared at her watch, determined time had stood still while waiting patiently for her best friend since kindergarten, Tara Watson. They hadn’t spoken much since Tara left East Pines after high school. Her parents stayed together long enough for her to get out of school, then divorce the proceedings began. After their divorce her father, a very successful realtor moved to Houston to expand his blooming realty business. She wasn’t surprised when her best friend followed suit and left with him.
She stirred her coffee, smiling to herself as the memories of the antics her and Tara would get into settled in. Her peaceful thoughts were soon interrupted by the roar of a V8 engine as it parked across the street in front of the bakery. She recognized the matt black pick up, remembering it was the one Zack and Sami got into before leaving The Wallace. Her eyes widening as she watched the long-bronzed legs of her best friend moving out of the passenger side and walking toward the driver side to meet the tattooist. Her stomach flipped as she watched the two women become locked in a kiss. “You’ve got to be kidding me?” Katelyn whispered. Not quite believing her best friend had fallen into the apparent Sami trap. She cleared her throat as Tara ran across the road and Sami entered the bakery.
“Come here stranger!” Tara’s arms wide to welcome her longtime friend.
Katelyn gave her a slight smile as she slid out of the booth, carefully fixing her black skirt. “God, it’s been forever girl, and from what I just saw, we apparently have a lot of catching up to do.”
Her arched eyebrow clearly amusing her friend. Tara raised her arm as she slid into the booth signaling for a refill for Katelyn and coffee for herself.
Katelyn crossed her arms, her eyebrow arch remaining. “So, want to tell me what you’re doing with the local tattooist, whose female…I might add.”
Tara laughed. “Just having a little fun is all, no harm in that is there?”
Katelyn shook her head. “No, but Sami? Really? I’ve been in town a week and I’ve heard quite a few stories about her. You should be careful. That’s all I’m saying.”
“This is East Pines, please, this place thrives on rumors. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”
Katelyn could sense her friend’s distaste in her tone as the waitress came over to pour their coffees.
“So, she doesn’t sleep around and play with the hearts of some of the women around here?”
“Not intentionally, no but enough about that. So, you got your law degree huh? And you’re engaged? When Nicole told me I almost about fainted. But I’m so happy for you.”
Katelyn smiled, ignoring her friend’s horrible attempt at a change of subject, but appreciating it. “He’s everything and more Tee. He takes care of me, loves that I’m career driven. Not to mention he’s handsome as hell.” Katelyn giggled.
She loved that he never attempted to push the family lifestyle on her, never expected her to give up her career to have his children and live the rest of her life as a loyal house wife. He wanted her to have everything he did. She had hit the jackpot with this one, she knew.
“I’m going to need to meet him before you get my blessing. Oh, we could totally double date.”
Katelyn laughed at her best friend’s sudden excitement. “Who would you bring? Sami?” Katelyn asked, her eyebrows once again raising.
“Oh, please, she would never agree to go on a date. That would be too much like a relationship act for her. She has certain rules…” Stated Tara, whispering the end of her sentence,
Tara nodded, running her fingertip along the top of her steaming coffee cup. “Yeah, she kind of has this, no strings, strictly no feelings policy… kind of thing.”
“Oh God, Tara. Why would you even waste your time with that kind of arrangement? Lord knows you are beautiful; you could have any one you wanted in this damn town.” Katelyn sipped her coffee, a little taken aback by her friend agreeing to such preposterous demands.
Tara shrugged. “Oh, I know. It’s just some fun…” Tara leaned in gesturing for Katelyn to come closer, “And very fun.” Tara teased with a wink.
Katelyn quickly sat back giving her friend an unamused expression,
“Okay, that’s enough. You’re a big girl I guess you know best. But I am curious as to what made you even come back here, have you spoken or seen much of your mom?”
“I live with her…” Tara said quietly, the surprising confession causing Katelyn to almost choke on her coffee,
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Yeah, I know. If you had told me a year ago, I would be getting along with my mother and working with her, I would’ve called you bat shit crazy.”
“No shit, how did that even happen?”
Tara went on to explain that after her father remarried, she was met with an overbearing, snotty mother figure. Eventually, the once a month phone calls to her mother turned into a weekly thing then every day, finally sharing something in common, hating her father's new wife. She agreed to move back to East Pines and in with her mother to try to make something of herself and Lord knows East Pines is the perfect place to get recognized. Her mother's clothing store was an attraction to everyone, she figured she would give fashion a go and taking on her mother's advice she got a side job waitressing at the new and developing Italian restaurant. A little extra money wouldn't do her any harm and to say Tara knew how to charm the customers for her tips, wasn't a lie.
“Do you want to spend the day together? I’m booked in with Sami at eleven to get my tattoo, you should come along and then we can grab a late lunch after, maybe go shopping?”
Katelyn looked at her watch seeing the time was nearing ten thirty,
“I’d love to, but I can’t, I have a meeting over in Jackson. Then Richard and I are supposed to be having dinner with my parents at Mayor McCluskey’s. God you’re getting tattoo’s now?”
Tara’s laugh echoed in the small Café as the unappreciative onlooker’s shook their heads, “I’m getting a rose on my thigh. She drew it out for me last night and showed me, God Katelyn it’s beautiful.”
“Uh-huh, I’m sure, but I prefer real art…on canvases or between frames kind of thing.” Katelyn knew her disapproval was sensed as Tara’s hand moved over the top of hers,
“Katie, you have got to come and see their work. It’s…art. I swear when you do, you’ll see just how beautiful it is. Don’t be so hard on Sami, she’s nice once you get to know her. Come, you can give me a ride to the parlor, you know Zack would be ecstatic if you came to see it.”
“I really don’t think I have the time, Tee.”
“Oh stop. You have ten minutes, come on.”
Reluctantly Katelyn agreed telling herself ten minutes’ tops then she would have to leave.
Katelyn pulled up in front of the parlor, raising her eyebrows to the black blinds that covered the large window panes, but quickly her attention was taken by her brother’s graffiti as it read “Ink Life” above the door, a small smile crept against her cheek.
“Zackie I come with a gift!” Expressed a clearly excited Tara.
Katelyn followed, the pleasant aroma of disinfectant heightening her senses as her eyes methodically studied the nineteen fifties-sixties eras set tattoo parlor. She noticed the Marilyn Monroe pictures, alongside some famous gangsters back in the New York day, struggling to remember their names. The shine from the black vinyl floor as it reflected the tattoo sketch covered walls and the spray-painted graffiti of the words 'Sami and Zack’s place’ across the center wall pleasing her,
“So… what do you think?” He asked,
“I…love it, Zack. Good Lord, I never imagined it to be this beautiful,” she replied laughing as her brother embraced her,
“I knew you would,” he replied, resting his arm around her guiding her to his chair, “Can I interest you in getting some ink young lady?”
“Nice try, but I can’t stay. I have a meeting in Jackson, I was just giving Tara a ride over here.” She replied,
“Can you stay for maybe five minutes?”
“Five is all I have, sweetie. Then I must go,” she said regretfully, before placing a gentle kiss on the cheek of an approaching Billy.
She sat, unknowingly focusing on the view of Sami being completely oblivious to her surroundings and seemingly lost in her sketching’s as she talked with her client. She found herself to be almost drawn to everything from the slicked back retro inspired hairstyle, fitted plaid shirt with rolled up sleeves revealing different array of colored ink sleeves. She was the opposite of everything Katelyn would be attracted to, so why was she slightly enjoying the sight in front of her? It wasn't unusual for Katelyn's attention to be taken by a female, she never wanted to label herself as anything except successful. Realizing her curiosity toward the tattooist had consumed her in a matter of seconds, she shook it off… It was temporary, she told herself.
“I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks,” Arthur paused looking toward Katelyn,
She looked up from the lunch menu and ordered just a coffee. It was only eleven a.m. and maybe something stronger was perfectly fine for some, just not her.
She smiled politely toward the waiter before he left to get their orders. She took in a breath shifting her smile toward her father. As they sat at the lavish Pine Lodge restaurant waiting for their guests, she wished he would spit out as to why he demanded she attend this meeting with him. She wanted to get started on the endless case files that filled her secretary’s desk, but that morning Arthur halted her. Explaining he needed her for more pressing matters. She wondered what could be more important than getting her name out there and start winning cases.
Arthur checked his watch. “Marcus and Malcom should be here soon, I guess we’re a little early.”
“Who is this Malcom again?” She asked, pushing a strand of hair from her face.
“Mayor of West Pines. Nice guy, I’ve been assisting him with some local business projects for that side of the tracks.”
“Oh, yeah? Like?”
He smiled, “A few retail ventures have come up. They requested East Pines, but for right now Marcus is more concerned with his re-election coming up. So, we sold them on the idea of going to the West. I’m going to let Richard look over the contracts that have been drawn up, and go from there.”
Katelyn nodded. “That’ll ease him in nicely, but what have I got to do with all of this?”
Her eyes followed her father’s smile, looking over her shoulder she stood up to greet Marcus McCluskey and Malcom Marzetta. His perfectly trimmed pencil moustache causing her to push her oncoming giggle down her throat. She clenched her lips, and shook hands,
“Please sit,” stated Arthur directing them to the empty seats.
Katelyn straightened her pin stripe skirt as she sat. Her eyebrow arching to observe Marcus’s impolite tone toward the waiter as he ordered drinks. She caught her father’s uncomfortable stare and cushioned a sympathetic smile against the corner of her mouth. Out of the two best friend’s Marcus was the one to always take advantage of his esteemed status.
Arthur clenched his intertwined fingers, resting his forearms on the table, “Okay, so shall we get to business?”
“Always business with you Art. Can we get our drinks first?”
Arthur nodded slowly, “Sorry, Marcus but I have a meeting with the District Attorney in an hour.”
Marcus sniggered, “Are you searching for another plea deal? You know Paul will let you sweat…you emptied his pockets last Friday.”
Katelyn sipped her coffee, staying silent as she observed her father and Marcus joke harmlessly about their weekly Friday night poker antics with the two mayors, district attorney and a few judges. She grinned when hearing about her father’s apparent professional poker side.
Arthur took in a deep breath, “Okay, I brought Katelyn along as you asked. I haven’t filled her in, yet.”
Her interest quickly peeked. She sent them all a soft smile before looking to her father crossing his arms. Marcus sat back in his chair with a smirk.
Arthur took his stare to Katelyn, before leaning down to his briefcase, he pulled out a file, it was small, but her eyes remained fixed as he slapped it on the table. She peeled her stare from the file and back to him. Suspicion rising as his once confident demeanor altered to a diluted one, and his usual ice blues shifting into a darker tone that failed to meet her browns.
He took in a deep breath, “Marcus…Is having a problem with a certain business in town…” he paused, clenching his jaw. “…And he wants something done. I know public interest litigation isn’t something you want to pursue, but I…we feel you’d be the ideal person to do this…”
She displayed a frown that creased her forehead, “You want me to build a case against a business here in East Pines? What kind of trouble exactly?”
He nodded, “Yes, I think it’ll be a nice head start for you…it’s sort of, a disruption toward the community. The crime rate has risen since it became established, I haven’t gathered all the paperwork to support the allegations by some of our residents, but I will get everything you need to build your case. It is our job to serve the community. We’ll see how you do and then look onto more challenging cases.”
She took in a slightly punctured breath, she knew she would have to prove herself but, public interest litigation wasn’t something she wanted to prove herself with. Her sights were on being a highly respected defense attorney. She thought that’s what her father wanted for her too.
Katelyn cleared her throat and held out her hand pushing for her father to give her the file. Taking it from him, she grabbed her glasses from the top of her briefcase. Resting them on the bridge of her nose she opened it. Almost instantly her mouth fell open, dropping the folder she placed her glasses on the table and stared at Arthur, who refused to meet her stare,
“You want me to build a case against…Sami and Zack’s place?” she said slowly,
Marcus leaned his elbows on the table. “That damn place is an eyesore not to mention the kinds of people that come in and out of there…addicts…troublemakers…I’ve had countless complaints of disruption through all hours of the night. Parties, loud music…bottles being smashed, litter all over the sidewalks. They’re vigilantes, no one should be afraid of their City and that’s exactly what’s been going on. We’re mixing the West with the East and if something isn’t done, we’ll collapse like the West. More owners will want to take their businesses elsewhere,” he paused as the waiter placed his whiskey in front of him, “I can get signatures if that’s what you need,” he broke their stare, signaling a nod toward the quiet Malcom, “Malcolm here is willing to let them open shop in West Pines…like I told your father, their revenue will more than likely double over there…their parlor would fit in more, over there. No offense Malcolm.”
Mayor Marzetta closed his eyes raising his palm slightly to Marcus’ comment, indicating no offense was taken.
Katelyn trailed an infuriated glare toward the pleased grin being presented to her from Marcus. She said nothing, and finally shifted her sights on her father. His eyes looking almost pained, his hard swallow causing her eyes to narrow.
She nodded slowly, sucking her bottom lip into her mouth. It was all she could muster without giving them a piece of her mind. She cleared her throat and shut the file. Continuing to say nothing Katelyn rose up from her seat and slid the file forcefully toward her father. She bent down grabbing her briefcase and black Peacoat, hanging it over her forearm, before bringing her eyes to both Mayors and giving them a subtle nod,
“I’m sorry for wasting your time…and mine. I’m not the right person for this case. Have a good day, gentlemen.” With that, she pushed her chair in and left the three stunned men behind her.
Sami put her truck in park and jumped out. Finally, lunch time had arrived and all day she had obsessed over the bakery’s glazed donuts. She peeked through the window, there was a crowd, as usual. She checked her watch, making an executive decision to grab a coffee at the Café until the lunch crowd had died down. She stuffed her hands in her pockets, ran across the road, jumped the curb and walked in. She smiled to herself as the bell above the door rang to her entrance. She appreciated the warm rustic feel to the old place, right from the original wooden beams that hung across the vaulted ceiling, to the cobblestone walls behind the beechwood counter and entrance wall. The array of open weave hanging lights, settling the warm glow.
Her eyes studied the menu behind the teller, tucking her hands under her arms, she turned to look toward the crowd, recognizing a familiar figure sitting with her back to her at a booth by the window. She wasn’t going to approach her but something about the woman’s almost wounded demeanor troubled Sami.
She got closer, taking in a short breath she tapped the shoulder. Sami rested a small smile as Katelyn jumped slightly before looking over her shoulder,
“Hey…” Sami said quietly, noticing the red circles over the usually daring browns.
Katelyn gave a short smile before turning back to her coffee in front of her, “Hey.”
“Mind if I sit with you?”
Katelyn shook her head. The last thing she wanted was company, but she didn’t want to be rude either, so she kept her eyes fixated on her cup.
Sami sat opposite her, “You good?”
Katelyn nodded faintly, refusing to give any kind of eye contact, “Fine, thank you. I was just getting ready to leave…is Zack at the parlor?”
Sami nodded, “Yeah, he’s with a client right now though. I was just grabbing us some lunch but I gotta wait for the bakery to empty out some,” she paused debating if she should push the matter of Katelyn not seeming to be fine like she stated, “Anything I can help with?”
Katelyn looked up at her. “No, it’s fine. I’ll wait until he’s done and see if he can take me to my parents. My car is there, I need to get back to the firm.”
“I can take you, if you like. I need to drop some papers to your mom. It’d be no trouble.”
“No, I couldn’t ask that of you…can I catch a ride to the parlor though?”
Sami waved her refusal away, “You aren’t asking, I’m offering, it’s not like I’m going out of my way. Like I said, I have to give your mom papers. I’ll take you…I just need to grab a couple coffee’s and donuts from the bakery and we’ll be on our way.”
Katelyn tucked a hair behind her ear, cushioning a thank you against her cheek before taking another sip of coffee. She could feel Sami’s awkwardness from a mile away, but she knew it was probably her causing it. She tilted her head back before forcing a smile,
“So, how is Sami Wilson?”
“Good. Busy…and how’s Katelyn Jensen…really?”
Katelyn shut her eyes, taking in a slightly staggered breath, before revealing a smile. “Fine…really.”
Sami shrugged, looking over her shoulder out the window to spectate the crowd slowly thinning from the bakery, “Okay, looks like this might be my chance. Are you ready?”
She nodded, getting up to gather her things and followed Sami out to the truck. Unlocking it Sami opened the door for her to jump in. Soon realizing maybe her heels weren’t the most ideal things for getting into a truck with.
After only a few minutes like she promised, Sami jumped into the truck, placing the cupholder with four coffees in it on Katelyn’s lap without permission. Katelyn arched an eyebrow, rolling her head toward Sami, making sure to express her lack of amusement,
“Relax, there’s a coffee there for you too and here…” she unwrapped the brown paper bag, “I want you to try one of these. Pretty sure a gift from God himself,” she stated, before presenting a glazed donut wrapped in a napkin and handing it to her.
Katelyn couldn’t prevent the small smile appearing. “You really didn’t have to.”
“I know…go on take a bite.”
Katelyn wrapped it back in the napkin before resting it on top of her coffee. “I’m not hungry right now, I will later though.”
Sami shook her head. “Your loss.”
Katelyn watched Sami take a huge bite, her eyes practically rolling into the back of her head, she laughed lightly. “Want to slow down there fatty…oh and you maybe have something on your…” she paused pointing around her mouth.
Sami grinned, wiping her mouth. “My bad, I couldn’t resist. They’re so damn delicious.”
Katelyn crossed her arms, laying her head back as she watched the trees move past her window. Thoughts of earlier racing through her mind. How could her father attempt to do such a thing to his own son? She knew things were strained between them but to go as far as to try and take his business down… And use her in all of it, pierced a pain through her heart. She could feel the tears begin to form, quickly she widened her eyes to fight them and cleared her throat. She shifted her eyes to the tapping fingers of Sami as she followed the subtle beat on the radio. She didn’t know a whole lot about Sami, but she knew she worked just as hard if not harder than Zack to make their tattoo parlor a success. Begging her to question whether her father was trying to punish Zack, or was it really Sami, giving their apparent bad history as everyone liked to put it.
“So, how do you know Tara?”
Sami turned briefly with confusion, “That’s right, you guys grew up together right?”
“Mhm…She’s my best friend.”
Sami nodded. “Yeah. Zack mentioned that. I met her at the restaurant she works.”
“Is she another one of your…” she stopped to Sami’s smirk, “Something funny?”
Sami shook her head. “Not at all, Miss. Jensen, and to answer your unfinished question, she’s…not something we should discuss.”
Katelyn lifted her head, eyebrow arched. “Just remember, she’s my best friend.”
Sami stopped at a red light, leaning her shoulder against her window as she stared toward Katelyn. “Is that a threat?”
She met the challenging stare. “Take it as you will.”
Sami said nothing but left a smirk to rest, furthering Katelyn’s sudden annoyance. The rest of the car ride remained quiet for the most part. Except Sami’s finger tapping, that with every growing minute, annoyed Katelyn more. Finally, Sami pulled up into the gravel driveway. A relief washing over Katelyn once noticing her father’s car wasn’t there. Sami reached over her without a word and grabbed a manila envelope from the dash board before getting out and letting Katelyn lead the way.
“Hey mom, there’s someone here to see you.”
Katelyn nodded for Sami to follow her. Walking through the living room she rested her briefcase, coffee, and donut Sami gave her on the marble breakfast bar, before greeting her mother with a kiss.
“Honey, what’re you doing home? I thought you’d be in meetings all day. Your father said he had a big day planned for you.” She broke their hug before moving to Sami leaning up against the archway, “My Sami…” she said before grabbing Sami’s face and planting a kiss on her cheek.
Katelyn shrugged off her Peacoat, draping it over the stool. She looked over her shoulder for a moment to watch her mother embrace Sami. Turning away she said nothing.
“To what do I owe this pleasure, my dear?” asked Gwen before patting a stool for Sami to take a seat. “Come sit.”
Sami walked toward the breakfast bar laying the envelope on the counter, “I just came to drop this off from Chief Chambers.”
“Oh, yes. Thank you my dear…now that you’re here you might as well have a coffee.”
Sami smiled, moving her eyes to catch Katelyn’s subtle stare, “I’m okay, thanks Mrs. J. I have coffee in the truck, I should get it to the guys before it gets cold.”
“Nonsense. They’ll live. Sit.” She insisted.
Katelyn rolled her eyes to her mother’s persistence. After the day she had, the last thing she wanted was to be reminded of it by Sami’s presence. She leaned her back against the sink, watching Sami as Gwen poured her a fresh cup of coffee. Even in the brightly lit kitchen, Sami’s eyes remained shadowed. Her small trance being interrupted by her mother shoving a coffee in her hands, in turn snapping her out of whatever it was she was in. Her mother’s almost suspicious stare unnerving her slightly,
“So, where is your father?”
Katelyn broke her mother’s stare and sipped her coffee, her stomach turning at the thought of her father at that moment. “Beats me.”
“Everything okay, honey?”
Katelyn nodded slowly. “Mhm, I’m just a little tired.”
Her shifting eyes were soon met by Sami’s suspicious ones. She broke it quickly. Why did it seem like the tattooist could suddenly see right through her? She pushed off against the sink, sighing happily as the coffee warmed her insides.
Gwen took a seat next to Sami. “How did you end up bringing my daughter home?”
Sami smirked. “She just happened to be in the café when I dropped in. Looking all damsel in distress like, so I came to save the day.”
Katelyn choked on her coffee. She turned to the sink trying not to spit out her blissful coffee. She ripped a kitchen towel from its roll and put it to her mouth. Her mother’s laughter filling her ears.
Sami hid her grin behind her cup. “Just Saying.”
Katelyn shook her head, her smile disappearing as the noise of the front door opening and closing echoed through to the kitchen. Gwen pressed her palms against the counter to get up,
“That’ll be your father.”
Katelyn’s widened eyes met Sami’s distressed ones. It was clear to both that neither wanted to be in the same room as Arthur Jensen.
She watched her mother meet him in the archway. Her eyes met his concerned blues, as he bent down to kiss his wife on the cheek. Then they shifted to a standing Sami, her hands stuffed in her pockets. His concerned stare now turning into a hard one.
“What’s she doing here?” He asked, standing tall once again.
Sami clenched her jaw. “I was just leaving.”
“Did you tell her?” He spat.
Katelyn shut her eyes. Oh God.
Sami’s narrowed eyes glanced to Katelyn opening hers. “Tell me what?”
Katelyn blinked slowly, shaking her head. “No…shouldn’t you though?”
Sami stood still, taking her hands out of her pockets. “What’s going on?”
Katelyn watched her father’s clenching jaw now bulge. Gwen pressed her palm against his chest. “What is it Arthur?”
She noted his eyes weaken to her mother’s soft voice, but still her hard stare was never wavered. Her anger and hurt came flooding back, and she knew Sami had a right to know what her father was planning. Katelyn crossed her arms, for the first time she wasn’t willing to back down from the man who once, scared her into submission just with his cold blues.
Sami checked her watch. “Does anyone care to explain to me what’s going on because honestly I don’t have the time for this.”
Arthur’s cold gaze fixed on Sami. He swallowed. “The Mayor…” he moved past his wife, dropping his briefcase on the floor next to him, “Wants us to build a case against the parlor to get it shut down,” he finished with a near whisper.
Sami’s forehead creased, before a dry laughter escaped, her hand moving to her hips. “And you’re allowing this?”
Katelyn watched her father grit his teeth before nodding slowly, raising his chin. She could see he was trying desperately to hold the hard stare he had set on the tattooist. “I stand by his decision. It’s a place that holds nothing but trouble, the people you have hanging out there are out of control. Ninety percent of them are criminals, from the West.”
Sami pinched the bridge of her nose. “That’s…” she paused, looking toward Gwen, “Excuse my French Mrs. Jensen but that’s bullshit. We built a skate park for all the troublemakers to hang out, while we worked. It kept and continues to keep them off the street. Hell, ask your buddy Chambers. He’s always checking in on the place. There hasn’t been one God damn complaint…legitimate complaint anyway.”
His eyes narrowed, and his bulging jaw visible once again. “I have nothing more to say to you. You can leave now.”
“Arthur…how could you do this to them?”
He turned to his wife. “We will talk about this later.”
“No, we will do this right now. I’m just thankful Katelyn found this out before it could go any further.”
Katelyn spat a dry laughter. “Found out? He wanted me to take the damn case!”
Gwen blinked in disbelief. “Are you out of your mind!”
He took a deep breath closing his eyes. “We are not talking about this while she is here.”
Katelyn shook her head, she watched as Sami nodded, her jaw clenched. “Don’t worry, I’m leaving but before I go…” she moved closer to him. Katelyn watched as her dark eyes radiated a fierceness behind them. “If you want to hurt me, then come at me. Do not punish your son for something you think I did.” She cleared her throat pushing her anger to the back, “Everything that damn dude does is to try and make you see him…see his worth. But yet, you refuse.”
Katelyn swallowed a lump from her throat as tears suddenly formed. Sami was sprouting a truth and it hurt her more so to see that an outsider could see how unfairly her father treated his only son.
“It’s true, have you even gone to see his parlor?” Katelyn asked,
Their eyes met, but he broke it off. “Have you?”
Her lips pursed as tears balanced. “As a matter of fact, I have. His work is…beautiful.”
She watched him shield his tears and swallow hard.
Sami took in a deep breath, scraping her bottom teeth against her top lip. “Don’t punish him. You want to bring a fight? Bring it to me,” she took in a deep breath, pointing her finger at him. “No matter what…Zack is not to hear about what’s going on. This will destroy him; your boy acts like he doesn’t care what you think of him, but he cares more than you’ll ever know.”
Katelyn watched her father’s eyes suddenly sink into their sockets. Her mother stared through him before leaving to walk Sami out. She guessed it wasn’t his proudest moment but, she needed him to see that as successful as he prided himself to be in life and in business he was failing as a father for his kids. Regardless of their age, he was still failing them.
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