by rugal b.
The end is here. Does Kim have any regrets?
|It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m out at the Donna Motor Courts. Not as an occupant though. My dad owns it so I work here at nights after school with the occasional rare weekend shift. Nothing hard though. I’ll do a bit of light room service, laundry, checking people in or doing associated things in the office if the front desk clerk is there. A little bit of everything I guess and it beats working at Walmart.
Even if this place has a reputation, I never feel unsafe. Work’s usually slow so I can get school work done or just relax in peace and quiet. That’s what I’m doing today. Well, there’s no school work to do because school’s over for me next week since we get out a few works earlier than the underclassmen but I at least use it to get some reading done.
Or I try to anyway because it’s not long before I hear the sound of footsteps, muffled as they are on the carpet, approach the desk. “Here,” says the voice as I hear something placed on the counter.
I look up from my book; it’s Kelsey Blankenship. I’m not surprised to see her since I know her voice after all. However, she’s also a frequent guest at the Donna. She’s very bad at hiding her relationship with Karl Hennepin but even if she wasn’t, well, of course I’d know. It’s the family business. Not that I think she knows that I know because I can see the look of horror on her face when she sees my own.
“Kim?” she says quietly, her normally unflappable demeanor breaking down. “Oh my god, Kim?! What the… what are you doing here?!”
“My dad owns it,” I state calmly. “I work here you know.”
“But how come I’ve never...”
“Seen me around? Because I’m usually doing other stuff or in the back,” I explain. “You just happened to come by when Linda’s on her lunch break.”
“Oh my god,” Kelsey mutters. She turns to me with a serious look in her eye. “Nothing, do you understand? You saw nothing. Not me, nothing. Do you understand?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lie.
“Good. Make sure you keep not knowing.”
Kelsey begins to leave and suddenly I’m overcome with a sudden urge for companionship. “I did see Karl earlier,” I say. She freezes dead in her tracks.
“You didn’t see anything, Kim.”
“I know what I saw.”
“What’s it going to take?” she asks as she marches back up to the desk; I can only give her a confused look. “To keep your mouth shut. What do you want?”
“I’m not trying to blackmail you,” I say with revulsion at the very thought of the idea. “But if you want to keep me quiet? Then can you meet me at the Sunshine Diner? Linda’s back in the next fifteen minutes so I’ll be off for the day. We can talk about the price of my silence there.”
“You’re ridiculous, you know that Kim? Fine, I’ll be nice and give you twenty to get over there.”
I giggled to myself as she marched out. Kelsey Blankenship is what she is. A lot of people find her intimidating, or their scared of her. She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s confident and that’s a combination that can send a lot of people running the other way. But things like that don’t intimidate me. It’s not my job to be intimidated by people, whether working here or trying to help them in school.
Fifteen minutes on the dot, Linda’s back. I give her an update on what’s going on, grab my stuff and head out. Thankfully, Sunshine is right next door so I’m even able to make it by Kelsey’s pointless deadline. I smile as I take a seat and order a coffee, she can only glower.
“What do you want?” she asks with no real provocation. “I don’t want to hang around here all day waiting for you. So what do you want?”
“I just want to hang out,” I say, keeping my positive expression. “We haven’t done it in a while.”
“And we’ll have to do it again another time,” she says as she starts to get it up.
“Kelsey, wait,” I say with uncharacteristic nerves. “I’m serious. I just want to hang out with you and talk to you for a little bit. School’s done next week, we’re going to different colleges. We can’t just spend a little bit of the time we have left on a quick chat?”
“Why would I want to talk to you?” she sniffs but with little hesitation sits back down. “I could be with Amanda right now,” she grumbles.
“I’m not trying to blackmail you Kelsey, honest. Why should you care anyway? School’s done, you’re gone in another month or two anyway off to… I don’t even remember.”
“Right. So who cares if anyone knows you have a thing going with Karl?”
“I care,” she says with the type of firmness I’ve come to expect from her. “I won’t be seeing him when I leave anyway so what does it matter to you? It’s too late to worry about any of it.”
“Why keep it hidden at all? How long have the two of you been an item?” It’s a question I largely know the answer to, I’m just hoping to see if she’ll actually answer me. She doesn’t but I expect that so I press on. “Even if it’s been a few days or a few weeks you couldn’t have just said something?”
“Kim, you’re aware of who I am right? Kelsey Blankenship cannot be in a relationship. She cannot be in a relationship with someone ‘below’ her like Karl Hennepin. It just doesn’t happen.” She looks at me with complete seriousness. “Amanda already had it bad enough when she was carrying on that joke of a relationship with Ricky. My reputation would take a dive if it was found out I was slumming it.”
“That’s it? You’re worried about your reputation?” I ask, more than a little incredulous. “And that doesn’t make you upset that you have to keep something like that hidden?”
“Why would it?”
“You’re not upset with the idea of having to sneak around and keep everything hidden?”
Kelsey’s face moved into a sort of smug amusement as she stirred a spoon around her own coffee. “Kim, Karl and I got exactly what we wanted out of our relationship. We didn’t need to advertise everything to the world or run around having movie dates like a couple of dumb middle schoolers,” she states with confidence.
“So it was just some… some sexual thing?” I ask. The topic of intimacy hadn’t really come up but I’m not an idiot, I know why people would get rooms at the Donna. “Did you actually like Karl?”
“I like Karl plenty,” she says as her confident smirk suddenly turns a little more downcast. “The truth is that I’m going to miss him. A lot. But that’s how it has to be I suppose. We’ll find other people. It’s just a dumb high school thing. I don’t regret it.” Kelsey looks at me with a little more warmth than I’m used to seeing from her. “In a way, you’re the lucky one.”
“Not having to worry about a relationship ending, not being able to see your romantic partner anymore. You don’t have to worry about that weighing on you.”
Is that a backhanded compliment? I couldn’t tell. Kelsey isn’t usually one to give compliments or indeed act in ways that would be considered compassionate. I like the girl, in a way, but even still this is somewhat uncharted territory. She puts up this front all the time, the face she wants to show to the world. Often times after talking to her I’ve wondered where the persona of Kelsey ended and the real Kelsey began or if there was even a difference. I guess I can only hope that I’m catching a glimpse of the real girl through the cracks of a persona.
“It’s not like I didn’t want a boyfriend,” I protest. “But I just never had the time. There wasn’t really anyone who was interested in me anyway.”
“There were plenty,” Kelsey replies. “Tyler from Eastman for one.”
“Him?!” I asked astonished. My own counterpart, so to speak, from over there having an interest in me? “Where’d you even here something like that.”
“Through Deanna,” she shrugs. “There were others too. Ones I know more or less for a fact. But relationships are hassles. Like I said, you were the lucky one.”
It does bother me however. The thought that I gave up just being a normal teenager to be the overachiever, to go to a good college and have a good career eats at me constantly and I always begin to wonder if it was worth it. I don’t bring this up to Kelsey however because I would never give her that type of ammunition. It’s also not all that long before she decides that she’s definitely had enough of the chat, sends some texts and tells me that she has to get going.
Has it all been worth it? I start to doubt myself as the day continues and my talk with Kelsey lingers in my head. It goes on into the next day until I’m out picking up something for lunch. I run into Tara Stills, a girl I really tried to reach out to all year. I was certain I’d never make progress but around a month or two back she’d stopped hanging around the crowd of bullies and other (and I hate to use the term) lowlifes she’d been with. I hadn’t talked to her since and when I see her she doesn’t say anything to me. She does, however, flash the smallest smile my way.
Throughout the rest of the last week I keep getting well wishes and thanks from lots of people. Seniors, underclassmen moving up, those I’ve talked with extensively and people who probably know me more by name and reputation than anything. There’s probably a lot of going through the motions but I’d like to think most of it is genuine. It makes me feel great to know that I’m leaving having had an effect in whatever small way on so many people.
So as the last bell of the last day rings and I give one last, sentimental look at the classroom and desks and everything else I ask myself once again, has it been worth it? I’d certainly like to think so. Do I regret it? Not a bit.
* * * * *