Chapter 1:

Chapter 1

A Kat's (GOD AWFUL!!!) Blessing

A short-haired, and equally short-statured girl tapped the eraser end of her pencil against her desk as she looked at the exam before her. Math was never Kat’s strong suit. Then again, school as a concept wasn’t her strong suit either. When she should’ve been studying she’d slack off. Homework would remain untouched until hours before it was due; completed by either cheating off classmates or praying for a higher being to bestow upon her the answers. The latter approach never seemed to work.Bookmark here

All of this culminated in her current struggle. The final boss of her 11th year of high school, one could say.Bookmark here

I definitely should’ve grinded more, she thought to herself as she tugged on the front of her school uniform to cool off.Bookmark here

One by one her classmates handed in their exams and vacated the school building to begin their summer vacation. With each person leaving their seat she grew anxious. Her peers were going off to experience the freedom of summer as she tried to decipher the secret codes before her. When one would cheer as they ran down the hall in excitement, she’d imagine putting a hex on them for abandoning her.Bookmark here

An hour had passed since the last student left the classroom, leaving her as the sole prisoner to the school. Even her teacher, Mr. Schlesinger, had begun to show agitation. He too was ready for Kat to wrap it up and get out of his hair. Once she turned in her exam, he could quickly grade her exam and begin his long overdue vacation.Bookmark here

Kat winced in pain from the attack on her psyche. You don’t have to glare at me like that! I’m suffering just as much as you are!Bookmark here

She looked up at the old analog clock hanging above the door to the classroom; it was half-past noon. Her pencil hadn’t touched her multiple-choice answer sheet in what she perceived to have been years. Decades, even.Bookmark here

Okay, maybe not decades, she thought. But enough time to drive a weaker person insane!Bookmark here

She couldn’t take it any longer. The tease of summer vacation was too much for her. Kat shot out of her seat, causing it to fall to the floor, clacking against the stained hardwood.Bookmark here

Mr. Schlesinger’s eyes shot up from the noise. For a split second, he thought Kat had finished her exam, only to be disappointed when he saw her clasping her hands together, gripping her pencil as if performing some sort of religious ritual.Bookmark here

“Praying to God won’t help you at this point. You should’ve studied more,” he said as he poured another cup of coffee from his Thermos.Bookmark here

“If I don’t pray to God for answers now we’ll be trapped in here for days! Do you want that?!” Kat barked.Bookmark here

He did not want that and rolled his hand to tell her to carry on with her ritual.Bookmark here

Kat went back to focusing all her spiritual energy into her pencil. Whichever god that’s hearing this prayer, please bestow the answers to the exam in this pencil, so that I may escape to freedom!Bookmark here

She let out a battle cry as she struck her answer sheet with the newly blessed pencil from the gods.Bookmark here

“B! A! A! B! D! A! C! B! AAAAAAND C!”Bookmark here

She had slain the beast.Bookmark here

With a smile on her face, proud of her accomplishment, she looked at Mr. Schlesinger. His face showed absolute disdain like someone had told him he was going to have to come back into work over the summer to give supplementary classes for a stupid girl who hadn’t put in enough effort into her education, and would undoubtedly continue to do the same throughout the summer, wasting both his and her time.Bookmark here

No, that’s exactly what’s going to happen, Kat thought, grabbing her chair and sitting back down at her desk.Bookmark here

She erased her answers and tried again. Striking her answer sheet yet again, she called out her attack. “D!”Bookmark here

Mr. Schlesinger’s glare did not dissipate, so she erased the answer.Bookmark here

“B,” she said, this time with less gusto.Bookmark here

The glare eased some.Bookmark here

Onto the next question. “C—”Bookmark here

Glare intensified.Bookmark here

This back and forth continued until the answer sheet was filled in.Bookmark here

Quietly getting up from her desk, Kat scooted over to Mr. Schlesinger and handed him the answer sheet. She walked back, grabbed her backpack, and hung it over her shoulders.Bookmark here

“Thank you for all that you’ve done for this past year,” she said in a tone that toed the line between sincere and sarcastic. “I look forward to our time again next year.”Bookmark here

Kat began to head out the door, only to turn around and walk back to the teacher’s desk. She unzipped a small pouch on her backpack, pulled out a candy bar that had softened from the summer heat, and placed it on the edge of the desk. With the offering given, she marched out of the room.Bookmark here

Mr. Schlesinger sighed as he got to grading. He was quick to mark the answer sheet, which was becoming littered with red marks. When he saw what her final grade was going to be, he looked for an excuse to give her a bonus point and pass.Bookmark here

On the bottom left corner of the answer sheet was a little doodle of her swimming at the pool, yelling “IT’S SUMMER!!!”Bookmark here

He scribbled “nice doodle +1,” and wrote down the final grade.Bookmark here

Kat barely passed the exam by one point.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Kat marched down the hallway, each step letting out a squeak that echoed down the empty, locker-lined corridor. A smile rose on her face as her pace picked up. Her boundless energy soon became too much to constrain as she bolted through the school in absolute glee.Bookmark here

“Summer!” she shouted, darting past the classrooms with nobody other than the odd faculty member who had yet to leave. “Summer!”Bookmark here

Her shoulder rammed the exit door like a quarterback, flinging it open with a loud THUNK.Bookmark here

Kat flung her backpack and leaped into the air. As she did, she removed her school uniform, revealing a tank top and athletic shorts. She had jumped in the air as a student but landed as a free woman.Bookmark here

“It’s summer vacation!” she yelled at the top of her lungs, her voice bouncing off the brick of the school building and echoing across the nearby cornfield.Bookmark here

“Yes, yes. It’s summer. I’m sure everyone in town has heard you by now.”Bookmark here

A tall figure clad in a black gothic lolita outfit stood above Kat. Her long black hair waved with the summer breeze as she protected her dark, tanned skin with an equally flamboyant black parasol. Her demeanor was calm and carrying, like that of a gentle mother. Despite her expression and height, which broke past 6ft with her platform boots, she was sitting at the desk next to Kat just hours earlier.Bookmark here

“I’m stunned by the combination of you removing your clothes out in public in such a fashion, and doing so within one second it took between you jumping off the stairs and hitting the ground.”Bookmark here

“It’s not like I was stripping to my underwear. Besides! Look at you, Maria! You’re already changed out of your uniform too!”Bookmark here

“But I finished my exam hours ago,” Maria commented.Bookmark here

Kat let out a small “Urk.”Bookmark here

“On top of that,” Maria continued, “I got changed in the bathroom as to have some decency.”Bookmark here

Kat threw her arms in the air. “Whatever! It’s summer now, so it’s fine!”Bookmark here

“It sure is.”Bookmark here

“It’s summer!”Bookmark here

“You said that already.”Bookmark here

“It’s summmmeeeerrrr!”Bookmark here

Maria bonked Kat in the head with her parasol. “You can stop now.”Bookmark here

“Alright.”Bookmark here

Kat and Maria walked on the dirt and gravel road, with Kat kicking the rocks into the air as she swung her backpack back and forth. The road sat between farmland on one side and trees and thick brush on the other. Large, puffy, cotton white clouds floated gently across the sky, bringing a small reprieve from the summer sun whenever one would blot it out.Bookmark here

“What do you got going for summer this year?” Kat asked, chewing on a piece of grass.Bookmark here

“Oh, same as every year,” Maria responded. “Help with the farm. Watch my siblings. The usual.”Bookmark here

Kat let out a long sigh. “But that’s the same every year,” she complained. “Don’t you want to go out and do something new? Something wild and exciting?”Bookmark here

“I’m content with it. They’re things that need to get done, after all. And I enjoy it.”Bookmark here

“But that’s so dull and boring!”Bookmark here

Maria smiled. “What can I say? I’m a dull and boring girl.”Bookmark here

“Says the farm girl wearing a fancy dress in the middle of farm fields.”Bookmark here

“Guess that makes me a very dull and boring girl who happens to wear gothic lolita in the middle of farm fields.”Bookmark here

“We’re seventeen! This is our last summer as high school students! Next summer we’ll be officially adults according to the government! Life only goes downhill from there! We’re at the peak of our lives right now!”Bookmark here

“If high school is the peak then life is surely depressing,” said Maria.Bookmark here

Kat ran out in front of Maria and turned to her. “This summer, I’m going to go all out!”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

Kat nodded. “First thing I’m gonna do is get a job!”Bookmark here

Maria twirled her parasol. “Nothing quite screams the joys of youth like working a job.”Bookmark here

“That’s not the ‘joys of youth’ bit. It’s what comes after saving up from the job! For the first half of the summer, I’m going to work my butt off. But in the second half, I’m going to travel!”Bookmark here

“That sounds fun,” said Maria. “I wish I could travel. So, where do you plan on going to? Out to the coast and see the ocean? Or maybe up to the mountains? I’m sure it must be extremely nice this time of year.”Bookmark here

“Heh heh heh,” Kat verbally chuckled. “It’s a secret.”Bookmark here

Maria continued walking past Kat. “You’ve got no idea, huh?”Bookmark here

Kat frowned and puffed out her cheeks. “I totally know!”Bookmark here

“Uh-huh.”Bookmark here

“D’ya wanna know?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine, thanks,” Maria answered without stopping.Bookmark here

Falling to the ground, Kat clasped onto Maria’s ankle with her arms. “You have to say that you want to know!”Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

“Because I can’t continue the bit otherwise!”Bookmark here

“Okay then,” Maria said. She clasped her hands together. “Please, Kat! You must tell me! I’m just dying to know!”Bookmark here

Kat jumped to her feet and dusted the front of herself off. She then looked up towards the clouds. Her eyes seemingly look past them, as if staring off into infinity. She was a woman dissatisfied with her life. It had been too routine for far too long. Tired are the sights of the farms, the wildflowers, the endless skies over the seemingly flat landscape. There was more to life, and she wanted to experience it.Bookmark here

“Wherever fate takes me.”Bookmark here

Maria bonked her on the head with her parasol again.Bookmark here

“Hey! That was a cool one-liner I just said!” Kat argued.Bookmark here

“Ya huh,” Maria answered sarcastically, opening her parasol.Bookmark here

Kat picked up her backpack and the two resumed walking. “What I’m getting at is I want to live to the fullest this summer!”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you certainly will.”Bookmark here

Kat placed her arm around Maria’s shoulder. “We certainly will.”Bookmark here

“When I’m not busy with chores and babysitting, I will gladly live my life to the fullest with you,” Maria smiled.Bookmark here

Kat pointed down the road at nobody. “Just you watch! This is gonna be the summer of Kat and Maria!”

***Bookmark here

“Whaaaaat?!” Kat cried out.Bookmark here

Kat’s thirty-five-year-old mom, Elli, finished stuffing the back of her small electric car with enough dress fabric to outfit an army. If an army wanted to go into battle wearing cute dresses, that is.Bookmark here

“I just need you to watch the store until this evening,” her mom says, grabbing a hair tie from her jeans pocket and tying up her long brunette hair into a bun. “I’ve gotta go a town over to help Luanne with designing the dresses for her bridesmaids. Knowing her, it’s gonna take hours before she settles on something.”Bookmark here

“But it’s the first day of summer vacation!” Kat argued. “This is supposed to be the time for kids like me to go wild and have fun from sunrise to sunset!”Bookmark here

“You’re seventeen, Kat,” her mom argued. “You’re almost an adult.”Bookmark here

“I know! That’s why time is of the essence! I’ve got so much goofing off to get done!”Bookmark here

“It’s only the first day of vacation. You’ll still have the rest of summer to goof off.”Bookmark here

“She’s right, you know,” Maria said, browsing the various gowns and clothing that Kat’s mom has made inside the shop. She always loved seeing the new outfits Kat’s mom would make, hoping to one day match her sewing skills. “What I would give to work here all day instead of having to work in the fields and watch my siblings.”Bookmark here

Kat let out a pout. “That’s just because you aren’t the one who has to do it. You know how boring it is to sit here and do nothing all day?”Bookmark here

“Versus getting up at four in the morning to take care of the cattle?” Maria countered.Bookmark here

“Urk…”Bookmark here

“She’s got ya beat,” Kat’s mom. “You’re lucky all you have to do is watch the front of the shop! Even Ludwig could do it!”Bookmark here

Ludwig, an overweight calico cat, twitched its ears when it heard its name called. But when he realized nobody was specifically talking to him, resumed his midday nap atop the front counter in the store.Bookmark here

Kat may not be the brightest person in the world, but she knew when she was beaten. She also understood how hard her mom worked as the only tailor for miles, acting as the defacto woman to go to if you needed anything mended, or wanted a custom outfit made. Over half the county’s clothes had probably been touched up or outright made by Kat’s mom.Bookmark here

Sitting in an air-conditioned store and handling customers coming to pick up their mended clothing was the least she could do.Bookmark here

Kat let out a sigh and then smiled. “Okay, mom. But just this once!” she joked.Bookmark here

Kat’s mom patted the top of Kat’s head. “Y’know, Luanne is also doing cake tasting for her wedding cake this afternoon as well. I’ll try to snag you a piece.”Bookmark here

“Awesome!” Kat cheered.Bookmark here

Kat’s mom got into her car and drove off, remembering to wave goodbye as she did. Kat and Maria waved goodbye to her.Bookmark here

“You’re lucky to have as cool a mom like her,” Maria said.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I am,” Kat said, putting her hands to her hips in a proud fashion as if she had worked hard to be placed in such a favorable situation.Bookmark here

“Makes me wish I had her for a mom.”Bookmark here

Kat let out a small laugh. “You could, but you’d have to marry me,” she joked.Bookmark here

With a swift motion, Maria grabbed Kat in her arms and twirled her around like a casanova. Maria tilted Kat back and leaned her head in as if ready to kiss her. “Maybe I’ll just have to do that.”Bookmark here

Kat’s face turned beet red.Bookmark here

Maria lifted the tiny Kat by her armpits like a child and stood her back up. “I was merely kidding,” she assured her.Bookmark here

“D-don’t joke like that!” Kat fumbled, still embarrassed by Maria’s seductive moves.Bookmark here

“I was only following your lead,” she smiled. Maria then produced a pocket watch from a hidden pocket inside her dress. “I need to head home to watch my siblings. You free tomorrow afternoon?”Bookmark here

Kat gave a thumbs up. “I’m free every afternoon!” she gloated.Bookmark here

Maria let out a small “hmph,” tilted her head and made her way down the road to return home.Bookmark here

Plopping down onto the cushioned seat behind the register, Kat pulled out a remote and turned on the small 20” TV that sat in the corner of the ceiling, flipping channels until she found some anime, and turned the volume up.Bookmark here

“Looks like it’s up to us to hold down the fort, Ludwig,” she said, scratching the top of the lazy cat’s head.Bookmark here

Ludwig let out a small purr, then went back to snoozing.Bookmark here

“Lazy cat,” smiled Kat.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.