by Glynis Jolly
Chapter 2 - The Appearance of Kaylin
She went to the small table at the east side of the room only to find there wasn't a full cup of coffee left. She dutifully took the pot and hoofed it to the women's lavatory. Saul caught sight of her on her return trip with the pot filled with water and watched her pour it into the reservoir and fill the cylinder with coffee granules. He strolled over to the table with his mug in his hand.
"I was wondering if you'd make good on your promise."
"It wasn't a promise actually... but I do try to keep my word. Does Fortier have you working on the Rococo period still?"
"Yes, unfortunately. Francois Boucher did more than his share of paintings. Tomorrow "boss-man" wants me to move paintings around in the gallery. What that has to do with being a curator is beyond me. If I were him, I wouldn't worry so much about where things are in there," he said, briefly turning his head around to nod at the double door behind him, "and just work on making the exhibition stand out."
"You don't know much about the physical design's influence on the public, do you?" Kaylin poured some coffee into her mug and headed for her desk.
Saul followed her after pouring his own mug of coffee. "You're just going by what you learned in school. Reality is quite different. No one cares about this garbage that's supposed to lure people."
Kaylin gave out a guffaw. "What did you take for electives, Saul? I better they were all business classes."
"What if they were?"
"Weren't you told to take a psychology class or two?"
"Psychology has nothing to do with the business of art."
She shook her head as she settled in her chair and took up her pen. Maybe Corrine did have a chance of getting the promotion.
Kaylin became a part of Corrine’s life when Corrine was nine years old. The Michaels recently had moved from Tennessee to the town of Rio Rancho in New Mexico. It had been difficult for them to reconcile with all the differences they faced. The locals were pleasant enough but their mannerisms didn't allow for the niceties the family was accustomed to in the South. The equal treatment of Latinos was something new to them too. In Tennessee, a person was always polite but only interacted with ones of his or her own kind when at all possible. At least that's the way it was with the Michaels. Children in Rio Rancho had more freedom than what Garrett or Roxanne wanted to give their children. Even finding a Baptist church to attend was grueling. All those deviations took its toll on the family, especially the parents.
The oldest boy, Reynard didn't make the trip, marrying a local girl in Waynesboro, Tennessee. Corrine was quite a bit younger than her siblings. The next one up from her was Dwayne, who had just gotten drafted into the army. Amy was two years older than Dwayne and still living at home.
Corrine and Dwayne were relatively close but the relationship with Amy was strained. Amy was a party girl while Corrine craved solitude. Indeed, Corrine found herself more or less out of the family loop with everyone except Dwayne. Because of her reclusive nature, she had spent many hours in her bedroom during her childhood.
The second summer in Rio Rancho was a mild one with temperatures rarely getting above 90% Fahrenheit. Corrine was riding her bike up and down Pyrite Drive in front of the family home when a small dog came up to her and trotted alongside her. She knew she couldn't keep the dog. Chances were the mongrel belonged to someone anyway. But it didn't stop her from playing with him. When she rode up the driveway to put her bike away for the day, the dog, naturally, followed. It was unfortunate her father, Garrett Michaels came home from work just as Corrine was leaning her bike against the inside wall of the garage. The mutt followed her at her heels. The poor little thing got thrown out mercilessly and the girl got her father's belt on her bare backside.
Corrine stood in front of the mirror hanging on the back of her bedroom door, twisting as much as she could to see the damage her father has inflicted on her. When she espied the welts the belt had left on her buttocks and lower back, she dissolved into to tears again, but now were silent ones of hopelessness and animosity towards her plight in life. She pulled her pants back up and paced around her room, not wanting to even sit on her bed, apprehensive about how much it would hurt. The tears dried on her face as she restored her composure making her skin tight with particles of salt.
The door swung open. Corrine spun around in terror. He stood before her with a drink in his hand and a black look on his face. "Young lady, what are you doing in here? I can hear you down in the basement. Do you want another go-around?" He took a swig of the golden liquid in his glass.
That was when Kaylin came into being. Corrine had frozen in place. She couldn't speak and her eyes glazed over.
Kaylin lowered her eyes slightly. "No, Dad." Her voice was soft but resolute. "I was just walking around my room."
With a tone of provocation, Garrett said, "Well, stop or I'll whip your hide again!" He turned abruptly sloshing his drink and slammed the door behind him.
As Kaylin worked on the Munch exhibition, the sense of proximity of Folier hung in the air even though his obese mass was no longer in the room. The scent of Lagerfeld cologne mingled with a staleness she couldn't quite label. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. She hurried down the hall to the side door and opened it in hopes of expelling the foul odor.
"Hey! That's cold," Joslyn yelled out.
"Tough. The man's stench was making me sick to my stomach. I'll close it in a few minutes." Kaylin roosted at Corrine's desk and re-engaged in her research.
Reading the pages Corrine had bookmark earlier, she let her mind compare her host to the subject of her current work, Edvard Munch. Like the post-impressionist artist, Corrine was unobtrusive, yet was clearly out about in the world just as he had been back in his day. She wondered if Corrine would lighten as she got older like the artist did. One thing she was grateful about was the fact she wasn't like Corrine. She didn't have any qualms about speaking her mind or going ahead with what she wanted to do. Corrine would be just a shell in the world most of the time if it wasn't for her.
She senses something at her right shoulder. Turning her head nonchalantly, she caught the glimpse of Joslyn attempting to look over her shoulder. She calmly pivoted her head back to her work. "Joslyn, what are you doing?"
Joslyn ricocheted back into the five-foot rosewood partition and back forward, almost landing in Kaylin's lap. "I... I... was just wondering if you could help me with my assignment. It'll just take a minute."
"Jos, you're just cataloging art entries. What's so difficult about that?" Kaylin tried her best to keep her tone even and serene. She rested her arms on her desk with pen in hand and stared at her scrawls on the page in front of her.
"I'm having trouble reading the writing on the pages Fortier gave me." The woman's voice was getting whiny.
Kaylin set her pen down and, using her mouse, saved the work on the screen. She stood with deliberation. She pushed Joslyn out of her way and stomped up to the third desk and plopped into Joslyn's chair. After reviewing the entries on the screen and the three pages of notes lying on the desk, she leaped up headed for her own work stall.
"Go back to your desk, Joslyn. There is nothing wrong with Fortier's writing. If you're having such problems, maybe you should find another job. Get out of my stall—now!" She wanted to punch Joslyn's face to a pulp. She sat still with her hands folded in her lap. She concentrated on shallow breaths as she tried her best to calm the fury in her. Her eyes closed and she inhaled the essence of the rosewood.
It took her a full five minutes to find that place of composure within her. Even at that, when she opened her eyes Kaylin had vanished, leaving an uninhabited period of time. Corrine could feel the uneasiness growing inside her. She saw the ballpoint in her hand and wondered how it got there. How long had she been holding it? The monitor of her computer showed all the work Kaylin accomplished. She blinked slowly. No, that didn't make the situation any more comprehensible. The longhand in the catalog was hers but she didn't remember writing it.
She heard a howling outside the angular window to her left, followed by the pane rattling, sounding like tin bells. She tried to ignore it in hopes it would bring memories back in such unfathomed way. But she couldn't help it. She needed to see it. She peered out. The meager side yard looked still until she looked closer seeing to multitude of miniature whirlwinds dancing on the the saffron-colored lawn. Dead leaves got caught in the swirling, climbing in the air as if trying to become part of the trees again. Suddenly, it felt cold and damp in the room. Espying the other two clerks, she decided she must be the only one experience the change of climate in their surroundings. I wonder what I missed this time.
Fortier heaved the door open and waddled in but didn't cross over near to the desks. He stood there with one hand on his back and the other limp at his side. Corrine sensed his presence and lifted her eyes. The man was a goblin, nasty and full of spite. Soon Saul felt his presence and leaned back in his chair twirling his pen in one hand. It took Joslyn several more minutes to realize her co-workers had stopped their activity. Fortier took a step forward and stopped again.
"What do you want, Mr. Fortier?" Joslyn asked.
"Keep on working. I didn't tell you to quit. You still have an hour before quitting time." He went out the same way he had come in.
All three clerks looked at one another in puzzlement and, then, absorbed themselves back into their work.
By the time the end of the workday arrived, the daylight vanished. The silhouettes of he trees in the yard were slight, at best, and faded into the black abyss of night. Corrine continued to stare at the gloom just past the window as she, absentmindedly, put on her wool coat. That's the way my brain is, she mused.
Pulling up in front of her apartment building, she analyed the last ten minutes it took for her to get there. It was one of those rare occasions when she could recollect the entire journey from work to home. She flipped the lightswitch on walking into her one-bedroom flat. That was one of the few aspects about the winter months she didn't like, always having to turn on a light. Her abode faced south on to East Grant Street on the second floor. Admittedly, she lived on what the apartment building owner called the first floor because the floor below her was two steps down from the entrance. So be it. Regardless of what Pascale Gage wanted for her property, Corrine kept telling whoever asked her that she lived on the second floor. True, her apartment number was 102 but the bottom floor numbers weren't even in the one-hundreds. Her home was the basic economic unit: a living room, a kitchenette, and the indispensable bathroom. When she had moved in over a year ago, its starkness had been a little overwhelming at first. And yet, it was the one thing she, now, appreciated about her place. She believed it defined her with all of the blank moments in her life. Anyone coming into her apartment might have thought no one was living there unless they opened the closet door in her bedroom and saw the scant wardrobe dangling from hangers or peer into the refrigerator witnessing the few items on the shelves.
Kaylin hated the apartment. She tried to get Corrine to make it more of a real home with pictures on the wall and a few nick-knacks about. Yet, every time Kaylin brought something like that home, it wouldn't take long for Corrine to throw it away. Or was it one of the others doing it? it really didn't make any difference who confiscated Kaylin's interior decorating maneuvers. Indeed, the confederation was all Corrine.
Turning on her small flat-screen television, Corrine gradually fade away. This type of disengagement wasn't common for her. Usually it happened all of a sudden with her completely bewildered when her consciousness as Corrine would return. She made it to the tattered sofa she bought at a garage sale months ago before Kaylin hijacked her being. Kaylin, being approximately five years younger in matureness, enjoyed the reality shows, which her host found unimpressive. Of course, Corrine deems all television except for movies and news broadcasts to be a wait of time.
When the phone rang, Kaylin debated whether to stay or let Corrine take over.
Chances were the call came from her mother. At the last second, she answered it using her best "Corrine" idiosyncrasies. "Hello."
Roxanne, with her slow southern drawl, said, "Hello, Corrine. How are you?"
Kaylin picked at her teeth knowing full well Roxanne wouldn't wait for a complete answer and would probably interrupt anything she started to say.
"I was think..." Roxanne hesitated as she usually did. "What about you coming over to the more cultured size of Lake Michigan and have Thanksgiving dinner with your father and me? Your grandma will be here, of course."
Kaylin stopped picking at her teeth. Both her and Corrine loved Yeva. Despite the fact she was born in a rickety old house in the Tennessee mountains and didn't have a high school education, she was wise, congenial, and level-headed. She could always be counted on for the unabashed truth without being insulting. A quality neither of Corrine's parents had. "Yeah, I'll come. Do you want me to bring a side dish?"
"Can you bake a pie? And we'll need you to bring the dinner rolls too."
"I can bake a pie. Is apple okay with you?"
Roxanne didn't answer. She could heard the woman talking at Garrett and him replying. "Tell her to bring a peach pie!"
"Did you hear that, Corrine?"
"Yeah, I heard." Kaylin let go of a sign of exasperation and wrote down the items on the note pad next to the phone sensing her desertion from Corrine's body falling on her.
"Be here by one o'clock, okay?" Roxanne didn't wait for a response and hung up.
It was Corrine who wrote down the date and time. Well, that was freakish. I guess I have plans for Thanksgiving. She ripped the note from the pad and stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet. She flipped off the TV and parked herself on the sofa to make a grocery list.
Kaylin visited one more time that day wanting to socialize at Polly's Underground Pub, a block away from the gallery. As she stood leaning against the sink in the bathroom putting on makeup she entertained the idea of being in control all the time. She considered this speculation every so often but dismised the thought when she gave attention to the hassle of the others. As it was, she was the only one who knew the other three and none of them knew her. If she had Corrine's place in the alliance, chances were there wouldn't be any room for downtime for her. Be that as it is, the others weren't spending as much time out in consciousness lately. For that matter, neither was she, although she still got a full day or two intermittently. But when she had those longer stretches, she was exhausted by the time she mollified into the repressed spheres of Corrine's subconscious.
She took a half step back and examined her artistry in the mirror. Maybe she should thin out her eyebrows a little. No. If she let Corrine decide to do it there won't be any grief to pay. Even though the temperature outside was in the twenties, she opt not to wear a hat, not wanting to spoil her hair she blow-dried. She hopped into Corrine's compact car and headed south on East Stephenson Avenue to Polly's Underground Pub.