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Happily Ever After
You know that whole fantasy about growing up with an adorable childhood friend and then having her fall in love with you leading to a happily ever after sort of situation? Well it turns out that actually does happen! Or at least it did for me. Believe me, I am legitimately just as surprised as you are. However, things are a bit messier in real life than they are in fiction. The road to happy endings is full of obstacles and uncertainty. Still, if someone were to ask me at this exact moment whether I feel okay with how things turned out, I would probably tell them that despite some major caveats, I am quite happy. So, while I am certainly no prince, I hope you will enjoy this little fairy tale of mine.
Prologue: Miracles do happen
Karina smacked her lips together to ensure her lipstick had been applied evenly. Life had been tough for Karina lately. She had been kicked out by her parents at age seventeen during her rebellious phase and had lived by hopping from place to place in the two years since. She had become desperate to the point of making ends meet by selling her body. She hated it. She had begun to hate herself in general. She was standing on a local overpass one gusty winter day considering whether she should end it all when a miracle occurred.
She had already placed one foot over the guard rail when a man driving by in a pickup truck noticed her. He hastily pulled over and parked while throwing the door open so hard it might have actually broken somewhat. With panic clearly written on his face, the man grabbed Karina’s arm to pull her back from the brink. In doing so they both fell backward with her landing on top of him. Instead of getting back up immediately, Karina lay there weeping into his chest for a good 15 minutes. It must have looked insane to anyone who happened to pass by this scene straight from a particularly dramatic chick flick.
Lying in this man’s embrace felt entirely different from the ones who had purchased her services over the last few months. She felt safe, secure, and even somewhat happy. This was some random man she had never met and would probably never meet again, but she couldn’t stop herself from taking comfort in his tender embrace.
The man offered to stay with her for a while and suggested they calm down while talking at a local restaurant. Although her nerves prevented her from having any appetite, she accepted his offer as the embarrassment of what had just happened set in. She tried her best to enjoy the dinner placed in front of her. As the night came to a close, they exchanged contact information and soon after became an item. Things were finally looking up for Karina.
Then after a few months of dating, Karina started showing signs of pregnancy. At first they thought Karina was putting on weight from eating better. Alas, this was not the case. Her pregnancy came as quite the shock to her new boyfriend who had not yet taken her to bed. She was convinced he would berate her and subsequently abandon her. However, contrary to her expectations, he didn’t get angry or lash out at all. Instead, he encouraged her to carry the pregnancy to term all the while assuring her that he would love the child as his own. Karina pretended all was well even as she accepted the man’s marriage proposal; she was feeling nothing but shame while seething in anger directed toward her past self and her unborn child.
Chapter 1: Childhood Friends
My earliest childhood memories all take place in our little home in the northern part of Georgia. It was an okay place in the foothills of the mountains not too far from the Tennessee state line. It has never been the most populated area, but we weren’t so far out in the sticks that we were unable to get internet or anything like that. It was a safe, if not boring place to grow up in.
All in all, it was the kind of rural area you can find all over the southeastern states; a place where everyone knows everyone else and they all wave at each other as they drive by in the pickup trucks. People around these parts weren’t even close to what one would consider rich, but there was always food on the table in my house.
It so happened, that one of the families which lived nearby had a child my age. In fact their child was exactly 2 days younger than me. There weren’t too many children in an area filled mostly with an aging population. There were basically no other children within a comfortable walking distance from our house. Thus, my neighbor and I spent a lot of time together over our formative years.
We did all the stereotypical stuff you think of when we were young. We carved our names into a tree with a heart surrounding them. “Kevin + Caroline” Soon after there was a comical scratch mark over the name Caroline with the name Kitty replacing it. Kitty got her nickname from her tendency to climb our favorite tree. She was simultaneously athletic enough to climb trees but would always go on to pretend to be too dainty to climb down on her own leaving me no choice but to come up after her almanbahis like a fireman helping a cat down from a tree it totally could have gotten down from on its own.
Our tree wasn’t just good for climbing. We would sit under the tree and read stories together. Her favorites were ones involving princesses or ladies rescued by dashing knights who were always revealed to be princes themselves. We played make believe often. She fancied herself a helpless damsel in distress and I played the role of her devoted knight. I would rescue her from the vile, and somehow always invisible, sorcerer just in time to head in for lunch.
In the afternoons we often played in the local creek looking for crawdads. Some days we would come back with a bucket filled to the brim. Other times we just enjoyed the feeling of the cool water streaming past our legs on a hot summer day. We had sunburn more often than not. I was a boy with freckles all over my face and rusty bronze hair always outside with his bff and her pale skin encapsulated by strawberry blonde hair. Kitty at least tried to block some of the sun with her frilly parasol that didn’t match at all with the color palette of her swimsuit. I just popped on some swimming trunks and let nature do its thing.
Every day was more fun than the last as we played the days away. I must have thought these days would go on forever happily looking forward to the new day to come, but Kitty always grew quiet as the sun went down and it became time to head home.
As years crept by our slow life continued much in the way it had up till that point. Then tragedy struck. I remember the overcast October day one late afternoon after school. What little light made its way through the clouds created long shadows throughout the house. I was enjoying my free time after school by drawing me and Kitty in my notebook when I suddenly heard a commotion outside.
I ran to the window to see Kitty’s dad, Roger, red in the face marching to his pickup truck. I had never seen him like that. Roger was always so calm and patient when I interacted with him. I knew something was very wrong. Starting to get nervous, I ran outside to check on the situation.
Upon arriving, I saw Kitty out on the porch sobbing while her mom, Karina, stood in the doorway yelling obscenities a sheltered child like me had never heard. I caught sight of his gaze fixed on Kitty with slightly moist eyes just before he sped off.
Ten year old me had no idea what was going on and even less of an idea how to console poor Kitty. I looked to Karina trying to find some sort of guidance, but she simply snorted and stomped back inside. I heard the door lock behind her. What about Kitty? She was still outside with me, and I knew for a fact that Kitty didn’t carry a key to her house. Even I knew it was going to be incredibly awkward for Kitty to have to knock on her own door to be allowed inside after all of this. That concern would have to wait. For the time being, I had bigger things to worry about.
I wracked my brain trying to come up with ideas to console my friend. I did everything in my ten year old repertoire to make her laugh or at least smile at me through her tears. I made funny faces, strange noises, told awful jokes, but nothing helped in the slightest. She was utterly inconsolable. I hadn’t drawn the conclusion that her dad was truly gone. In my ignorance, I unfortunately tried to convince her that we could have Roger take us out for some ice cream to make her feel better when he got back, but that just made her cry even harder.
Having tried everything in the book, I ultimately decided to wait it out. I sat next to her for at least an hour. When her sobs finally transformed into sniffles, she turned to face me. She looked awful. Her eyes were red and puffy while her nose dripped uncontrollably. I am sure she was terribly embarrassed to be seen like that. After seemingly waiting an eternity there came a few more sniffles, when finally she attempted to speak.
“I’m… sorry,” she said choking out the words as best she could in her current state. “I’m so, so, sorry!” she started becoming agitated again.
“No, wait! Why are you saying sorry? You aren’t doing anything wrong!” I tried to comfort her.
“Daddy’s gone!” she managed to raise her voice before crying again.
“Yeah, but he’ll be back soon, right?” I asked not at all understanding the situation.
“He’s not coming back!” she shouted in response. “He’s going back home to Indiana! He hates me now!”
I looked at her completely stumped as she continued, “Daddy tried to get me to come with him, but I told him I wanna to say here with you, Kevin! I want to go with daddy, but I can’t ’cause then I’d have to leave you too!” More intense sobbing followed.
I fell silent. What on earth was going on? What could I say to that? Now, a nearly ten years later, I still don’t know what the correct response to something like that would be. In reality, Kitty was right about him not coming back, though he would never make it to Indiana. We almanbahis giriş found out many years later through Kitty’s paternal grandmother the full truth of what had happened that evening.
It turns out Roger had called his mother from his truck right after he left our line of sight. He was venting all his pent up emotions while driving. He complained of disagreements he and Karina had been having over how to raise Kitty. Karina had a cruel streak toward her daughter since she had accidentally gotten pregnant with her doing sex work before she met Roger. She always made a point to punish her or generally make her life miserable in any way she could despite Roger’s attempts to intervene.
In short, Kitty reminded her mother of a terrible time in her life. She was a constant reminder of the time in her life she spent serving a random customer she hated all those years ago. Roger, who had been acting basically like Karina’s doormat for the last 8 years of their marriage finally snapped after one of Karina’s tirades against Kitty.
He was at first sympathetic toward Karina due to the circumstances under which he had met her. He could even justify taking Karina’s abuse when it was targeted against himself, but he truly loved Kitty like his own daughter; he couldn’t stand for her to be mistreated anymore. Roger had finally had enough and resolved to rescue himself and his beloved daughter from Karina.
Thus Roger begged Kitty to come live with his family in Indiana only to be rejected. She was determined to stay with me and suffer under a mother who hated her. This broke Roger, and the flood of emotions he had repressed for 8 years keeping Karina in check came pouring out.
Roger’s mother tried to get him to pull over by telling him it was dangerous to drive while so emotional. He wouldn’t listen. She told us that after driving about 30 minutes he decided to turn around and come back for Kitty. He said something along the lines of how he couldn’t live with himself if he left his precious daughter all alone with “that woman” and that he would find some way to convince her to come with him. Fearing what Karina could already be doing to Kitty in his absence, he impatiently attempted a dangerous U-turn while not in his right mind. This decision unfortunately cost him his life.
Karina obviously found out what happened to her husband. She hid the news from Kitty. She also made a point to prevent contact between Kitty and her paternal family members from this point on. This means Kitty never got the chance to attend her father’s funeral. Furthermore, she lived her life believing her father had abandoned her to move on with his own life back in Indiana while she was left to languish with her mother.
As naive and dense as I was at that age, even I could tell something about Kitty changed after this event. She had historically been quite adventurous. She could be downright obnoxious at times. She suddenly became much quieter after her dad left. If I would have previously described her as a tomboy, I would now describe her as timid and overly conscious of others.
It didn’t take long for me notice inexplicable bruises on various spots of her body. There was no way I could know that Roger was the only thing preventing this kind of behavior from occurring all these years. Every time I would ask her about her injuries, she would tell me some dubious excuse like how she fell down the stairs or ran into a door. These were things she had no history of doing. Kitty was an athletic type during her early childhood. She most certainly was not clumsy.
Eventually my parents took notice whenever Kitty came around to play. Her visits became more and more frequent as she was avoiding her mother; she started to avoid being outside where her mother could easily call for her to come back in as well. Thus the rambunctious, athletic Kitty I knew grew into a meek and reserved indoorsman.
While I couldn’t connect the dots as a child who was raised in a home with nothing but love and affection, my parents certainly noticed. They reached out to child protective services, but nothing ever came of it. Karina was absolutely abusing and neglecting her child, but she was just careful enough to prevent real action from ever being taken against her.
Fortunately, my parents were sympathetic to Kitty. They all but adopted her during this period of her life. Kitty would stay over at my house probably 5 days of the week or more. She took most of her meals with us and slept with me in my room. Every now and then Karina would demand that she come home for some reason or another. Then every time Kitty came back to us she would have a fresh bruise or two.
Kitty was all smiles when it was just the two of us. She acted completely different when there were adults involved. She was quiet and halfway hid herself behind me whenever my parents were in the room with us. She had become completely distrustful of all adults including my parents. She was especially avoidant of my mother. This honestly broke my mom’s heart, almanbahis yeni giriş but she never let it show in front of Kitty.
Chapter 2: Growing up
Years passed and we entered high school together. Kitty really had moved in with us. This worked out for Karina as well. Her house was frequented by random men almost every night. I was old enough to have a decent understanding of what was going on at this point. I was glad to keep Kitty away from her mother.
There weren’t enough rooms in our small house to give Kitty her own room, so she had continued to share a room with me all this time. It started to feel a little awkward to me as we got older and hit puberty. At least she wasn’t sleeping in my bed anymore since my parents bought her a twin bed of her own. It was cramped with both of our beds in the room though!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in high school. Then again, I was a goody two shoes through and through. I joined the band, regularly attended several clubs after school, and helped out as a teacher’s assistant. Kitty was like my shadow. She went to just about every function I did. If I played sax in the band, she did too. If I went to the afterschool tabletop games club, she did too. She took every elective course I did and struggled desperately to keep her grades high enough to be placed in honors level classes like me consistently.
Kitty would barely talk to other students, and talking to a teacher on her own was like the end of the world for her. I always had to be there as an intermediary. Honestly, it was like I was a helicopter parent. Her overbearing attachment to me seriously started to weird me out a bit. Still, I was sympathetic to her plight, so I enabled her to continue behaving this way mostly out of pity.
Being completely honest with you, I also liked having her around. What teenage boy wouldn’t like a cute girl following him around like a little puppy? Still, it meant I couldn’t have too many friends of my own. It would make Kitty uncomfortable to be around others too much. So I had to be as isolated as she longed to be.
Around our third year in high school, Kitty doubled down on her love of fairy tales with princesses and the like. If boys loved dinosaurs and super heroes, Kitty loved all things courtly love and princesses. She started to actually act out a roleplay where she was a lady in some European peerage when we were in private. She became very formal and overly feminine. I had no idea what had gotten into her. I just played along. That seemed to please her.
Her whole prima donna act escalated to fussing over me like I was some princely lord. She meticulously attended all my needs doing weird things on my behalf. It was like everything had to be perfect or else she thought someone was going to freak out and berate her. Doing things “properly” seemed to please her. She would smile happily every time a setup met her approval.
Like at restaurants for example! If we went in my shiny new (actually old hand-me-down) car to a Burger King or Hardees to grab a snack after school, she would carefully arrange everything on the table for me like a servant carefully setting the table for a nobleman. She literally wouldn’t eat at sonic because she knew we would end up eating in the car. This was totally unacceptable for her.
Seriously, it got annoying! She would take my cup and put a straw and lid on it for me. Then she would set it at the “perfect” distance on the table. If I picked it up to drink and set it back down even a centimeter out of place she would take the initiative to fix it for me. Don’t get me started on silverware placement or how she obsessed over my clothes being “properly” tucked in and the like.
On one level I was glad she was showing unique interest in something. On the other hand, all this being prim and proper was a problem for me. Truth be told, I am a slob. But beyond that, I absolutely despise straws. I will take a cup with no lid and no straw any day of the week. That is a hill I will gladly die on. I don’t know why it bothers me so much… but it genuinely does! Secondly, who actually cares about table manners and stuff at a fast food joint?! Am I the weird one here? I didn’t think so.
I was having a pretty rough day leading up to this exact situation playing out as usual. So, I ended up confronting her about it.
“Why do you do that?” I questioned.
“Umm… do what?” she asked timidly.
“Take my drink and like move it around all weirdly all the time. Every time we eat you get all weird and act like we’re at some tea party,” I responded with an edge to my tone.
Her eyes were downcast. Her earlier smiles were nowhere to be seen with the wind taken out of her sails.
“We’re at a freakin’ Wendy’s, Kitty. No one cares how you eat or whatever. And by the way,” I said with an upward inflection, “I don’t like having a lid on my cup, let alone a straw.”
I knew I had messed up the second I finished speaking. Sure, it’s a bit weird, but her little “happy fun time” tea parties don’t hurt anything. She started trembling slightly having been reprimanded by me. She made her body appear as small as she could. It was like she thought I was going to lose my mind over this and start hitting her. I realized immediately… Yeah, that is probably exactly what she thinks.
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