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Caleb + Kate
By Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Cindy Martinusen Coloma
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe course of true love never did run smooth. William Shake Speare The Tempest (Act 1, Scene 1)
"Love is like death's cold grip crushing the beats from an innocent heart."
A ripple of muted laughter rolls through the girls around me, and I bite my lip to keep from joining them. Elaine dramatically recites her poem from where she stands at the front of the class, chewing at a hangnail, her knees angled as if she needs to use the bathroom.
"Love is like a decaying tree on a warm spring day. It was born from pain and was fathered by suffering. Once upon a time, there was love and people believed in it, and then love died or perhaps it relocated to another planet, no one knows, though people still seek it, long for it, act like it's still around ..."
I wonder when and how Elaine became so utterly strange. It's painful to watch and to hear the snickers among the other girls sitting in the theater-style seats, their feet tucked carefully beneath matching plaid skirts. "Women & Literature" is a semester class required of all females in our junior year. We meet in the drama classroom-with the stage and the seats-perhaps to subconsciously empower us young women to take the leading role on the stage of our lives. Or at least that's what Ms. Landreth said at the start of this semester.
Part of me wants to take Elaine by the shoulders and shake some sense into her; another part of me wants to stand up and tell the other girls to be quiet and just listen. Elaine adjusts her black glasses, looking out at us as if she still cannot quite focus, despite the thick lenses. Her choppy raven-dyed hair looks like she cut it herself.
"Love has died, like God and Romeo, and not even the birds can find a song to sing."
A text from Katherine pops onto my phone: Need advice about prom.
"Why believe in love, O Women? Oh, why do we want to believe in what cannot be believed in? Love divorced itself from mankind. Move on, hearts."
Elaine finishes her poem and makes a bow, remaining at the front of the class as we offer awkward, halting applause.
Monica leans toward me. "Wow, cheerful. That sounds like something you would say."
"Thanks a lot," I whisper.
"Elaine, that was quite a poem," Ms. Landreth says from the front row. She rises and addresses the class. "Comments or questions, ladies?"
I write Katherine back without looking down at my phone. Brave of you to ask advice from me.
Monica leans onto her hand with her elbow on the armrest, and whispers, "Did you hear Katherine and Blake broke up?"
"Really? Who broke up with whom?" I whisper. "And why now?" Tomorrow night is the prom-who breaks up a six-month relationship the day before prom?
Ms. Landreth clears her throat. "Kate, was that a question directed at Elaine?"
At the Gaitlin Academy, pupils are encouraged to express their individualism through art, debate, athletics, or whatever means possible. This allows for an odd assortment of rules and nonrules. But in Ms. Landreth's class, I am intruding upon Elaine's individualism because she was expressing herself; I disrupted that expression by my whispers to Monica. Sometimes the whole thing seems a bit ridiculous to me.
"No, I wasn't directing a question," I say as Monica covers her smile with her hand.
"Why don't you give us your response to Elaine's poem?"
Elaine stares at me as if I annoy her as much as she annoys everyone else. There is no way out of it now.
I stand, which Ms. Landreth expects when someone is speaking in class. "I found it to be ..." Elaine stares as if daring me to put down her poem. "... It was nice."
"Please now, Kate. You know we need something of value other than it being nice. How is it nice? Why do you choose the description nice for a poem about the death of love in our time?"
I sigh and catch Monica acting as if she's waiting anxiously for my response. She is fully enjoying my discomfort.
"I found it to be nice ... because it's sad and the subject of love is a melancholy subject. I suppose as women who are intelligent and independent"-I glance around and several other girls are hiding smiles-"we know that though love is not dead in theory, the dream of fairy-tale love is dead in actuality. It doesn't exist. Sad as it might be, that's why Elaine's poem is also nice, because it's true."
"Bravo," Monica says aloud, then whispers, "Aren't you quick?"
Ms. Landreth is nodding thoughtfully. "Interesting thoughts. Anything else?"
"Um." I try to come up with something else, since Ms. Landreth has that look of expectancy in her expression. "Only that I wonder about the author's experiences with love that brought her to this opinion."
Ms. Landreth tilts her head to the side, nodding still, as she looks expressively toward Elaine. "Elaine, would you feel comfortable sharing a little about the origin of your poem?"
"I actually do have some experiences with love. More than you have, Kate," Elaine says in a defiant whine. I hadn't meant it as a criticism. I really do wonder. If Elaine is talked about at all, it revolves around her eccentric nature, not her love life.
I settle down into the theater seat, hoping to blend back in with the other girls, as Elaine continues. "I wrote the poem after this guy I liked returned to New York last Christmas. I'd thought he was the one."
The one? I hate that line. Whenever I look around at the millions of people in the world, I rarely see a couple who exhibits any kind of oneness-as if they've found their one and only. My parents have a good relationship, but the idea of "the one" doesn't truly work on them either. Maybe life just destroys what begins this way. I didn't know and I'd given up trying to figure it out.
My phone vibrates and someone else's rings behind me, continuing around the class like dominos falling one after another. Nearly every phone in class rumbles or rings with an incoming text. There are some barely veiled exhales and murmurs in the room; Elaine stops talking.
"Ladies, don't let us be distracted now," Mrs. Landreth says, but she never forces us to turn our phones off in class. It's our choice-yet another part of the progressive teaching at Gaitlin that allows the student to experience choices and consequences. I think it's a mistake, though I keep my phone on vibrate. A chorus of phone vibrations and ringtones often disrupts class.
I'm still digging under the seat for my purse and phone, but my eyes catch Monica's as she glances up, raising her eyebrows. "Gaitlin has a new guy," she says aloud.
Exclamations pop up and down the auditorium.
"I hope he isn't a freshman."
"He's good-looking, from what I can see."
"Alicia says he's hot, the picture just got blurred."
Mrs. Landreth clears her throat. "It is exciting that we have a new student, but let's finish with Elaine's poem, ladies. Elaine, any final words about your poem?"
Finally I find my phone hiding at the base of my purse. Monica always tells me I should have stuck with the Gucci bag, since it was more organized than my Chanel purse. Monica holds her phone in front of me. I glance up at Ms. Landreth, who is now listening to Elaine talk about the death of her cat-both of them with a straight face-and then at the phone. I see the blurred profile of what appears to be a very attractive boy. He looks built, tan, and has black hair-not the typical Gaitlin guy.
Monica waits for my reaction and I don't disappoint her. "Looks nice," I whisper. "Who is he?"
"Scholarship," she whispers, rolling her eyes. "Too bad, huh? But he might be fun for a while."
Scholarship means he doesn't come to our prestigious prep school by way of money. Monica's baseline criteria for serious dating are: money, car, and good-looking. In that order.
"I wonder why he's transferring so late in the year?" I whisper. She shrugs.
The intercom on the wall suddenly beeps and the room quiets even before Ms. Landreth lifts her finger for silence.
"Yes?" She sounds irritated, as she tends to be when the outside world interrupts her class.
"Please send Kate Monrovi to see the headmistress."
"Certainly." Ms. Landreth gives me a look of disapproval, as if I'm guilty as charged-but guilty of what?
Monica tries her own facial communication with a what-the-heck? look as I gather my bag, book bag, and writing book.
"Good luck," Tayler says behind me.
I hear someone whisper, "What's up with that?"
"She's in trouble, again," Monica says with a laugh that breaks out snickers of laughter around the room. Except for Elaine, who still stands at the front of the class.
Mrs. Landreth clears her throat. "Monica, there's no need to further disrupt the classroom-or would you like to escort Kate and visit Ms. Liberty as well?"
I toss Monica a glare with a sarcastic curtsy and walk up the stairs. My exit is followed by an applause of fingers tapping on the keys of their phones, no doubt texting out guesses as to why I am being summoned to the headmistress. I'd like to know too. Nine times out of ten, it's bad news.
I will never hear the end of this. My cousins are merciless anyway, but when they see me wearing a Gaitlin Academy uniform-well, it might end in a fight.
As I walk from the principal's office-or whatever it's called-a girl holds up her cell phone and snaps my picture. I turn back and she's texting. What was that about? Maybe they don't have new guys very often here. Or maybe no new guys with brown skin and tattoos on his back and upper arms. If it wasn't a Hawaiian cultural thing, the tattoos might have kept me from being accepted-or so the principal informed me. Hilarious.
"Because it's part of your culture and not visible with your shirt on, we can still admit you," the woman said politely. As if I should be grateful. Maybe I should have told her that the tattoos have nothing to do with Hawaiian culture-that my grandfather hates them more than anyone and he's full-blooded Hawaiian. And he certainly doesn't have any tattoos. But why stir up trouble? I'm officially enrolled and I'm a cultural anomaly.
I push open the door with my elbow, cradling my motorcycle helmet under my arm. Then I stuff the striped tie and Gaitlin blazer into my backpack-along with all the paperwork I'm supposed to read over and have signed by a parent by Monday morning. By then, I must also have purchased khaki slacks-I've spent most of the last seventeen years in swim trunks or shorts-and some white, button-down, long-sleeved shirts. Long-sleeved! And I've never worn a tie, not once, let alone an actual blazer-is that what it's called? Or is it a sports coat? Whatever it is, it has the crest of Gaitlin Academy over the left pocket-like we're supposed to pledge ourselves to the school. The hardest thing about the prestigious Gaitlin Academy might be adjusting to the monkey suit. Who knew schools really make students dress like this?
Outside the administration building, a few dark clouds float in the otherwise blue sky. I should make it home without rain, but I'm going to need to get the Camaro running. Quick. Rainy Portland, a motorcycle, Gaitlin school uniform, backpack, and books-no good will come of all that. As the principal lady said, "Gaitlin students are of the highest caliber." Probably don't allow students to come in soaked and muddy uniforms. I smile now, enjoying the image of the academy seal spackled with dirt and the horror on the principal 's face.
I reach the parking lot and walk toward my dad's Harley-Davidson, gleaming black and chrome in the spot I parked near the entrance of school. I swing my leg over the seat and make a swift kick and the engine roars to life. Nothing like the sound of a Harley. My street bike in Hawaii was my pride and joy, but there's nothing like a legendary Hog rumbling down the long asphalt trails of the mainland.
As I pull my helmet over my head, I look back toward the school. There's another student looking my way. And ... I know her. Blonde, tall, and even with the distance between us, I see she's as beautiful as ever.
I'd wondered if she attended Gaitlin. After all these years ... Kate Monrovi.
I quickly hop on the bike and act like I don't see her pretending not to watch me. She won't recognize me anyway. Hard to recognize a stranger.
I force myself to stare straight head, no glance back, and drive out of there.
Katherine sends me text messages as I walk from Women & Literature toward the administration building.
She writes: What should I do? Should I still go to the prom with Blake? He asked if I saw a future together. I should have just lied until after this weekend.
I want to answer that she should have listened to me about breaking up with him a long time ago. She hasn't really liked him for six months. With every fake "I love you," she's created a bigger mess because she didn't want to hurt his feelings. How are his feelings now, Katherine?
I type Let's talk at lunch, partly to avoid fifteen or so texts telling me the details of their breakup while I'm meeting with the headmistress.
I can't help but love Katherine. She's reckless and flighty in some ways but also sweet and insecure. Sometimes I wonder how she survives our school.
I shiver in the cool spring air. A few bubbling gray clouds float in a pompous parade across the sky. The sweeping green lawns glisten from last night's rain all the way to where they meet the wide river on the northwestern end of the school property. We resume rowing practice next week.
Those clouds should be the last of the storm, clearing out just in time for tomorrow night's prom. The theme this year is "A Night of Shakespeare" and it's being held at my family's hotel. Every year the school chooses a different theme and location, and my father's never liked the idea of two hundred high school kids invading his five-star Monrovi Inn. But this year he finally agreed, since I was on the planning committee. How could he resist? He's stressing out about it now as they prepare the event area at the hotel-somewhat away from the other guests. Poor Dad, he might be catatonic by Sunday.
Phone vibrates again. Katherine: Blake won't even talk to me.
This is why love is like death's cold grip, I think. Once upon a time, I believed in love, I believed in the entire happily-ever-after dream. My aunt and uncle's divorce, which turned one of those perfect couples into hate-filled enemies, was the first prick to the bubble. My older sister's strange marriage, our associate pastor's affair, and my own first crush crushed-all of these sent the dream of love deflating like a loose balloon in the room. Then I started comparing the people I knew to the romantic comedies and the fairy tales-and there was no comparing. That kind of love was not real life. Poor Blake was getting a quick lesson in that fact.
I've nearly reached the administration building, wondering again why I'm being beckoned to the headmistress. Maybe it's about prom ... I hope. Suddenly, a motorcycle roars to life down at the parking lot. The brick walkway makes a fork, and I see a guy pulling on his helmet near the entrance. From the distance I can barely see him, but I can safely guess this is the new guy.
He glances my way, and I realize that I've stopped and am staring. I turn away, but when I glance back, he is still looking. Then he turns and his bike soars forward and out the main entrance.
I walk slowly toward the door to administration and listen to the rumble of the motorcycle until it disappears into the sound of distant traffic on the highway.
Perhaps the new guy will make school life more interesting. The girls will be going crazy over him if he's as good-looking as Alicia is texting, and the guys will be acting all tough and insecure at the same time. But I'm not going to hold my breath. I'm two months away from finishing my junior year, and there are some days when it's all I can do to stay focused. As much as Gaitlin tries to polish and groom its students for the global marketplace of the elite, I'm one of my counselor's disappointments. NO DIRECTION is probably stamped across my cumulative folder.
Ms. Cobb, the headmistress's assistant, sits behind the main counter at her metal desk, tapping away at the keys of her computer. A small bell rings as I enter, inciting her to hop up with earnest formality.
"May I help you?" she asks like she doesn't know who I am.
"You called me to the office?"
"Kate Monrovi," I say with a sigh. Ms. Cobb always asks every student's name as if she needs glasses or has Alzheimer's.
Excerpted from Caleb + Kate by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma Copyright © 2010 by Cindy Martinusen Coloma. Excerpted by permission.
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