My First - Jason & Katie(4)

By: Melanie Shawn

Nothing had changed on Harper Lane, though. Certainly not the houses, which were still all painted in one of three color combinations – blue and yellow, green and white, or blue and white.

And judging by the few neighbors that she had seen out on their lawns, the people hadn’t changed, either. Mrs. Belmont still watered her yard in that same pink and green moo moo she had worn since Katie could remember. Mr. Peters still mowed his lawn in white shorts that were two sizes too small and black socks that he pulled all the way up to his knees.

As she pulled up in front of her aunt’s two-story home (painted in the white with blue trim option, for that Mediterranean flair, Katie thought with a small smile) she felt a confusing combination of relief, nostalgia, sadness, and anxiety. She had always known that at some point she would need to come home and face her past. She’d just…been busy.

After she graduated from law school at Pepperdine University she had immediately started working at Wilson, Martin, Gregory and Assoc., a very prestigious law firm in San Francisco.

The first three years at the firm went by in a blur. Katie worked 80+ hours a week and even worked every holiday, including Christmas. She’d barely had time to breathe, let alone go out of town.

Last year, even though she was on the fast track to make Junior Partner, she had taken a vacation.

Well, vacation might be a bit of an exaggeration. It was two days off, tacked onto a weekend…and she hadn’t gone in on the weekend, which was her normal custom. So, it was four blissful, unscheduled days all to herself.

Katie had spent her ‘vacation’ in her apartment, so it was really more of a ‘staycation’ - but still. She cleaned, cooked, slept and had a Julia Roberts movie marathon, but she had indeed taken time off.

At the end of the four days, she had felt herself starting to take stock and think about dealing with her past, so she had been MORE than happy to go back to work on Wednesday.

Now, as she opened the door to her rented blue Honda Accord, Katie took in a deep breath and let out a cleansing sigh. The air smelled of a familiar combination: sweet from Mrs. Greyson’s beautiful flower bed, and fresh from the trees that lined the street. Katie was home.

She moved to the back of the car, popped open the trunk, and reached for her suitcase. She was stopped cold in her tracks by the sound of a man’s voice.

“Need a hand Kit Kat?” a deep voice sounded from behind her.

A shudder rippled through her body and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Her carry-on slipped from her shoulder and dropped to the cement ground of the driveway.

“Jason?” she said, her voice a whisper of disbelief.

Katie had known that she would have to face Jason at some point on her trip home. He was, after all, the best man in Sophie’s wedding - and seeing as how Sophie was marrying Jason’s little brother, Bobby, well let’s just say it was inevitable that their paths would cross. She just thought she would have a little more time to prepare herself before she came face to face with him.

She also thought she would have the buffering (protective?) shield of a room full of people surrounding them.

Nope. Here they were. About to be face to face, for the first time in a decade. Alone.

She stood frozen with her back to him, staring down at her pink and black suitcase, wishing with all her might that she could just climb into the trunk and hide. That, however, was probably not the most mature response to this encounter…and also, shall we say, not the most subtle.

As the realization sank in that the extra time and buffer-people she so desperately needed to get through this encounter with Jason WERE NOT FLIPPING FORTHCOMING, Katie felt as though the air was literally being sucked from her lungs.

Great. Panic attack number two, here we go. And right in front of him. So, yeah. You could say this visit was not going well.

Jason Andrew Sloan had chestnut brown hair, whiskey-colored soulful brown eyes, and a smile that could, as her Aunt Wendy always said, “melt butter in a freezer.” He was also the first person Katie had met in her kindergarten class at Harper’s Crossing Elementary.

23 Years Ago

It was the first day of Kindergarten and Katie was paired up with a boy as a table buddy. A BOY! Could this day get any worse? The class’ first official assignment as kindergartners was to write their names on the white paper sitting on the desk in front of them and then tape it to the back of their seats.

Katie wrote her name in all capital letters and rainbow colors and taped it on the back of her seat, just as she had been instructed to do. She was proud of finishing her assignment in time to go out for recess. She noticed her table buddy (THE BOY!) had not.

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