What Katie Did
“Darling, your ride is here,” Katie’s mom trilled. “Should I call for Carlos to help with the luggage?”
“I’m on it, Mother,” Katie volleyed back in a light tone, calibrated to match her mom’s. “Be right down.” She had only to force her bulging suitcase closed, and wipe away that last bitter tear.
For someone so petite, she was strong: mentally and physically. Way stronger than she looked, and fierce when determined. Nothing sidelined Katie Charlesworth. Certainly not a trifle like a Tumi bag stuffed to triple its capacity. Least of all a telltale emotion.
Katie surveyed her bedroom. Had she overlooked anything? The light on her phone was blinking, indicating multiple new messages. She erased them without listening. For good measure, she loosened the phone jack, just enough to break the connection without looking unplugged. She double-deleted her e-mails, then changed her password. No one would ever guess her new one: Lilyhaterforever. With that, Katie closed the door and descended the stairs, “game face” on.
“Just one suitcase?” Vanessa Charlesworth asked. Her professionally plucked eyebrow did a practiced arch as Katie came into the living room to say good-bye. “Won’t you be needing more clothes? For an entire summer on the Cape?”
Her mom’s question didn’t signal skepticism. In sixteen years (seventeen in August), Katie had never once given Vanessa a reason to doubt her. Not that Nessa would’ve noticed, anyway. The matriarch of their Boston brownstone floated through life on her happy bubble, never conceding it could burst. If only she knew the truth, thought Katie, fighting hard to sound normal over the lump in her throat. “Duh. I FedEx’d the rest of the luggage ahead.” The lone truth in a sea of lies.
Vanessa raised a glass to her daughter—her morning toast was liquid. “That’s your Charlesworth brain, always thinking.”
The taxi driver leaned on the horn, not for the first time.
“Have the best summer ever
, Mother, and kiss Dad good-bye for me.” Katie stood on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on Vanessa’s papery cheek. “Be careful to use lots of strong sunscreen. You’ll need it on the cruise of the Greek Islands and the tour of Bali.”
To which Vanessa parried, “I will, sweetie. And you: Do not forget to buy Lily’s aunt Sylvia a serious gift—something for the house, I’d think. And don’t wait until the last minute. It was very generous of Sylvia and Henry to let you and Lily live at their home for the entire summer.”
Katie nodded. “Already handled, Mom. I know exactly how to thank such gracious people.” If an ounce of sarcasm escaped, it went unnoticed.
Pleased, Vanessa hit the “play” button in her clichéd (unfortunately, alcohol-addled) brain: “Breeding will always win out, a trait you and Lily share. I would have thought”—a tiny tsk-tsk
in her voice—“she’d pick you up in the Lincoln Towncar. Why the taxi?”
Surprised that it had taken her mother that long to ask, Katie trotted out the prefab fib. “Her dad sent the Lincoln for an airport run, her mom’s got the Esplanade, and one of her brothers commandeered the Jeep. By the time I get to her house”—Katie was afraid she’d spit if she said Lily’s name out loud—“I’m sure one of the cars will be back. Not to worry, Mother, we’ll arrive on Cape Cod in style.”
Katie and Vanessa’s exchanges were like a badminton game, light and airy volleys, little puffballs of superficial information bopping from one to the other. All very polite. No slamming, spiking, or sweating. Nothing weighty or substantive crossed into the other’s personal space. Anything out of bounds stayed that way, was not retrieved. And no one ever argued the point.
Katie didn’t see any reason to change the rules now.
The taxi driver, grizzled, grumpy, and BO-stinkified, made sure Katie knew she’d been charged for “all the waiting time.”
Whatever, she thought, resisting the urge to hold her nose.
“Where to?” demanded the crabby cabby.
Katie gave him the address of the bus station. She shuddered. Not that she’d personally ever been there, but she imagined the Greyhound terminal a depressing, grimy place with dirty windows, sticky floors, and surly ticket agents (for some reason, she pictured them old and wrinkly, with stringy gray hair and bad teeth). As for the passengers? Desperate and ashamed that bus travel was their only option.
Today she was one of them.
She’d been to Cape Cod dozens of times—by plane, limo, or SUV. She hadn’t even realized buses went there. As a kid, she’d spent summers in the tony town of Chatham, staying at posh resorts, or renting a mini-manse where her mother would entertain and her father, a Boston banker, would come up weekends.
Once Katie’s friends were old enough to drive (or find someone with a license), her crowd would go for weekends, crashing at someone’s parents’ summer home. The girls, bikini waxed and pre-tanned, spent lazy days on the beach, barbecuing and (except for Katie, who abstained) downing prodigious amounts of alcohol. Some capped evenings off with a random and/or romantic hookup. It never “meant” anything. Always, there was loud music, raucous laughter, salty munchies, like-minded friends, and freeform fun. Oblivion. Lovely oblivion.
That was Katie, then. Past tense. (Future tense, if she could swing it.)
For now? The present was just plain tense.
“‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’” Grandmother Charlesworth used to cliché.
Necessity had caused Katie to invent a mother of a plan back in May, when she discovered something Vanessa didn’t even know yet: The plug was pulled on the family funds. The horrifying discovery had set Katie’s plan in motion.
She needed to fake it, make everyone think this summer would be exactly like those old carefree Cape weekends, three whole months worth!
Only this summer she’d be living in a luxury mansion with her best friend—without parental supervision!—shopping, sunning, and funning, sprinkled with large doses of worthy (read: wealthy) boytoys.
If nothing else, it would give her time and space to figure things out, and the chance to earn money of her own.
Her (ex) best friend Lily McCoy had rubbed mock tears from her eyes after Katie confided the real reason she needed to bolt Boston, fly under the radar, and what they’d be doing during those long, lazy summer days.
“Working?” Lily had sputtered, barely able to get the word out. The privileged daughter of State Senator Louis McCoy had been incredulous. “Kidding, right?”
,” Katie corrected her. “We’re going to be counselors at a day camp at the Luxor Resort. It’ll be a goof!”
“And the punch line is?” Lily wondered aloud.
Katie laid out for her best friend what she’d privately dubbed “Plan A,” for Awesome. As long as they were ensconced in Lily’s aunt’s deluxe five-bedroom mansion-with-pool, and showed up at trendy clubs at night, who’d be the wiser?
“But what about sleeping in?” Lily had asked, realizing daily drudgery eliminated noon wake-up calls.
“Weekends! We can sleep away Saturdays and Sundays.” Katie tried to make it sound like that was a bonus.
“So let me get this straight,” Lily said. “Monday through Friday, we’ll babysit snotty brats for drudge wages, and then … weekends we’ll sleep? Forgive me if I don’t see the Awesomeness of your plan.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Katie nudged her. “It’ll be just like Paris and Nicole, only without reality TV cameras.”
“Right,” Lily had said skeptically. “And without being able to quit in midseason.”
That’s when Katie played the guilt card. “You
can quit, if you want. It’s not your
entire life that’s being yanked from under you like some cheap rug. You’re not about to suffer. …” She paused for maxi-effect. “But you can be the hero, helping your bff in her hour of need.”
Laying the guilt-trip had worked. Eventually, Lily agreed to go along with the plan, help Katie keep up appearances, and earn coin. “Remember,” Katie cajoled, knowing she was about to hit on Lily’s (Achilles’) heel, “I got us day
jobs—every night we’ll totally go clubbing and meeting guys.” Lily McCoy was all about flings. Both a speed and
serial dater, Lily’s violet eyes were always out for a new conquest.
Just for security, Katie added the capper: “I’d do it for you
She and Lily had long ago pledged allegiance to each other, and the fabu-lives they cultivated, deserved, and treasured—no matter what deep, dark secrets they had to keep and cover up for each other. So it’d been set. A done deal. With Lily’s help, Katie could have the life she loved, while figuring out how to escape the one she’d be coming home to in September.
Until, just like that! Poof! It got undone. Plan A had died an instant and painful death when her now ex-best ex-friend Lily McCoy drove a stake through its vibrant little heart and pulled out.
Lily’s weapon of choice? The backstab, the betrayal, the “Something Better Came Along, and too bad for you” bludgeon. And it was all for a guy
Bluntly: She wasn’t going with Katie to the Cape this summer. She wasn’t going to be a counselor alongside Katie at Camp Luxor. And she wasn’t going to be able to offer her aunt’s luxury mansion, either. She was really sorry. (Right.) But for what it was worth, she, Lily McCoy, would totally keep Katie’s secret. She’d make sure everyone believed Katie was summering on the Cape, kicking it with heirs, scions, and trust-fund trendoids, their usual crowd.
For anyone else, the betrayal (for that’s exactly what it was) would have been a deadly blow.
But Katie Charlesworth wasn’t, had never been, anyone else. No one’s victim, she—along with the mission the plan had been formulated for—was very much alive and kicking butt. It needed adjusting, was all.
Not for nothing was Katie called “The Kick” at Trinity High. She was the trendsetting, A-getting, acolyte-acquiring leader of her class. Katie’s accomplishments were the stuff of popularity legend: captain of the tennis team, anchor of the debate team, she played offense on varsity soccer, pioneered the yearly clothes-for-the-homeless drive, and edited the junior class yearbook. Fashion-forward, Katherine Lacey Charlesworth was an authentic Boston blue blood without, so the myth went, a care in the world.
She was also hot. Not in that willowy Uma Thurman scary way—more “petite Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods” adorable. Small, but far from ana’, Katie’s athleticism gave her curves a muscular tone. Her fine, platinum hair and kelly green eyes were offset by freckles, and a toothsome smile. Katie projected confidence and accessibility, the can-do charisma kid. She was hard not to like but easy to envy (a few wannabes, like Taylor Ambrose and Kiki Vartan, pretended they didn’t).
She did have a pretty (damn—Katie only cursed parenthetically) perfect life. She worked hard at it too. No way was she losing it now.
No matter her father’s heinous life-changing screwup. No matter her mother’s oblivion. No matter her once healthy bank accounts were now empty (which she wasn’t supposed to know about). No matter Lily, the linchpin of her brilliant time-buying plan, had detonated the bomb too soon by backing out to stay in Boston with her latest tastycake. No matter Katie couldn’t turn to any of her friends, or their parents’ cushy Cape cribs—no one could ever know the truth—no matter, for the first time in her life, she’d have to go it alone.
Katie did what Katie does: She went to Plan B. Finding there was none, she created one. If it worked, the B would stand for Brilliant.
Technically, Katie wasn’t old enough to get into a Cape Cod summer share house. But if she did, she would at least get to keep her job at the Luxor. Listing herself as eighteen, she went online and found the cheapest option still available. She’d bunk with strangers, stragglers like she who, for whatever reason, had waited until the last minute, when all the decent possibilities were long taken, and signed up for the last share house left. It was in downmarket (according to everyone, anyway) Hyannis, not Chatham. It had five bedrooms; Katie made the fifth housemate. A full share was $2,000, but she was able to split that in half by finding someone to share her room with.
Katie twisted her neck to look out the rear window of the taxi. Rows of stately brownstones off Boston’s prominent Newberry Street stared back. Would the mailbox still say CHARLESWORTH
when she returned? In the hot, smelly taxi, Katie shivered.