Kitty's forty-fifth birthday was quite the day. That morning she found in her email an invitation to interview for the corporate job that Gavin so looked down on her for not having all those years ago. She paused as she read over it, thinking about how this one offer would have seemed to help solve her relationship problems all of those years ago. Now it meant a headache of life changes she simply did not have the time for or interest in. Luckily she had not been in a relationship with Gavin for a long time. She replied politely to flat out turned it down without so much as an afterthought. That had been Gavin's dream for Kitty, it had never been hers. Where she worked the hours were long enough, the pay was good enough and she didn't have to move. Kitty chuckled at how she once felt so inferior to Gavin when they compared careers. Time had changed her outlook completely. She mentally noted her evolution of the type of thought processes that she rotated through. There was a point in her younger years when to her every problem "one thing" would have resolved all of it. As a mature woman she was well aware there is no "one thing" to solve all of anything. In life, difficulties have to be sorted through bit by bit until whatever the issue is becomes manageable.
Middle age was not the curse Kitty had expected. She was herself, but with a little more skill to access to take care of whatever life threw her way. She wondered if Gavin had taken advantage of that when they were together. She used to look up to him. He seemed so much more established compared to her. She let that take her in at first. Now she saw Gavin as a mid-level earner who had over-extended himself with his penchant toward buying off the people in his circle, like the nanny whom he married to keep her affections. His visibly thinned hair and potbelly on his rail-thin body aged him significantly. Kitty tried not to notice when they saw one another at Guy's school and social functions. Kitty had once feared life without Gavin's money to protect her from uncertainty. Within a year of them being separated, she was noticeably healthier, had saved money, and had an overall better sense of self. Things were going so well with Gavin out of her life that she only had another few years before she had a solid amount in her savings account to retire early. She used to use her paychecks to "keep up" with him, which only took her hard-earned dollars away from herself to put into what Gavin wanted. Still, it was not as if she was in a hurry to leave her life in the city, even in knowing that being apart from Gavin was a relief. She always loved Chicago most, too bad that Stafford was nowhere to be found anymore. Stafford was attached to Cincinnati like a branch to a tree. Kitty just couldn't ever see herself moving back to her home city, especially for a flimsy side relationship, like what she had with Stafford.
Her only regret about her life was that Guy has grown up to feel like Kitty abandoned him. He said so himself when he was in middle school, it crushed Kitty to hear it. In a way he was right, she did put more time into her work than she did with him. Some of it was that she was busy, some of it was that she didn't know what an involved parent was, as she didn't have one when she was growing up. The bulk of the issue was that she thought that because he was close to Gavin that he did not have the same need for her in his life, something Guy told her was not so. Kitty's disdain for Gavin's parenting style had caused her to react by trying to be the opposite, which she found out had hurt her son only after the fact. Guy was not like her in that he could go off on his own and be okay, he was fragile and needed to be cared for. Kitty assumed that when she was gone in his younger years that the nanny or Torry were filling his emotional needs, her assumption was misplaced. Neither surrogate put in the time that Kitty would have. All Kitty could do was apologize to Guy. She told him that she was not a good mother and that he would have to directly tell her when he needed her. Guy wouldn't hug her after their talk for some time, indicating to her that the damage had been done. Guy had only been close to Gavin in the way that she had seen because he was not getting both parent's attention. Gavin and Kitty both misread Guy at the time.
Guy for the most part lived with Gavin since their split. He only ever was at Kitty's condo when Gavin was out of town on holidays or for work. To fill her empty-nester moments, Kitty would spend her free time with her friends, who were mostly just Blair these days. On her birthday, the workweek had been long. Kitty was excited to be able to go out that night. She and Blair were going to go to see a screening of the cult classic The Room. Kitty had a flask containing Drambuie in her purse, so did Blair. Neither of them planned to drive. Kitty wore her platform high heels with skinny jeans and a poplin top. She loved being single, Blair a perpetual bachelorette was an ideal guide into the dating world a woman like Kitty needed. Kitty met up with Blair outside of the theater, identifying her figure from afar, Blair's newest set of implants an F cup on her petite frame up from her previous DD were quite a noticeable feature on a person. Kitty walked right up to Blair's "P" shaped silhouette. They laughed together, each agreeing that they were proper tarts. In the theater, Blair made a connection with a former friend of an ex she bumped into. Blair asked Kitty if she wouldn't mind it if she went off without her. Kitty who was a little tipsy by then agreed and decided to catch a cab home.
The walk by herself was short. Blair had stayed back in the theater, with her conquest. Kitty stumbled a little as the cab she called was taking too long and Kitty felt awkward hovering by the theater. She didn't want to have to get a ride with Blair and the man she was with. Kitty waited outside of a sports bar, sitting on a chair in the otherwise empty outdoor seating area. She could hear the people inside yelling over some game on the cable tv. The cabbie sent her a message saying he would arrive "shortly." Kitty took out her flask and sipped the last of the liquor it contained. From over her shoulder, she could hear a man yelling to "put that shit down!" Kitty wondered if there was a bar fight about to brew inside. The voice yelled again this time closer. It was the sports bar's bartender. He was stomping toward her, Kitty looked at the flask in her hand and made the connection to what was happening. The bartender, a stocky man in his fifties confronted Kitty using many obstinacies. He told her to leave immediately. He was enraged that she was drinking on his property, something that he had not served. Kitty tried to pacify him, but he was on a mission to tell her off. When she got up to go he pushed her back with the palms of his hands, causing her to trip. As she fell her high heel twisted under her ankle and she heard a loud popping sound in her knee. Pain washed over her and she screamed. The bartender continued to try to push her on, she could not move. She cried out for help, now people were surrounding her and pointing. Her cab pulled up at that moment and she asked to be taken to the hospital for an x-ray as the cabbie carried her.
At the hospital, Kitty was informed that she tore her ACL. Kitty was furious. Gavin was good enough to show up to comfort her but she was too angry to be appreciative. She took action and called the police to press charges. In the weeks that followed Kitty found out that the bartender, who it turned out was the bar's owner had a different story. He said that she was a trespasser and that she had refused to leave. He also described her as heavily intoxicated. The one thing the bartender failed to say was that he never warned Kitty she had to leave before using force against her. The cabbie backed up Kitty's claim though. It took two years of court proceedings that necessitated the bar owner be court-ordered to release the footage from his security camera. The bartender said the footage had been accidentally "erased." Gavin helped Kitty by offering his lawyer already on retainer to aid her. The lawyer found another nearby business with its own security cameras, which proved that the bartender had in fact used force on Kitty unduly. Not that it mattered, for those two years Kitty was harassed and hounded by the bar's regulars who found out where she worked and did every dirty trick in the book to try to discredit and trash her. Sometimes they would follow her home, other times they would call in fake complaints to her boss. Her injury required surgery and had a slow healing process, not that she received any sympathy from her attackers. She could no longer stand for hours at work like she used too, and had to quit her spin classes, something she enjoyed for years as her personal time. Sometimes she felt crazy from dealing with how unreasonable and ridiculous the ordeal had become.
The bartender never apologized once for injuring Kitty. He instead would call her a faker. He hired P.I.'s and used his family members to take pictures of her walking. The experience soured Kitty on living in Chicago as every time she thought she could focus on her own life, another one of the bartender's lackeys would show up to antagonize her. She called the police on those lowlifes so much that the police stopped coming. There were not enough restraining orders or time in the day to keep people like that from coming after her. Even Gavin informed her that he had been followed by the bartender's family a few times. She might have won in court, but the bartender and his crew were too unable to mentally process their actions as inexcusable. Kitty had had enough by the time the bartender personally stapled the final payment for her hospital bill onto her car's windshield with a nail gun. The police once again, took no action, saying it was a "personal dispute" and that it was "his word verse yours." At a loss for words, Kitty asked if they would at least enforce the restraining order she had granted against the bartender. They refused. Kitty decided that she hated the city because she felt it had turned on her.
With her being unable to work as she had before and with Guy going off to college. Kitty found herself in a place she never thought she'd be; looking for greener pastures in the world once more. It was too soon for her to be able to retire and still live with the same quality of life as she had in the city. She quickly came to realize that she would have to go where there was a lower cost of living. This problem combined with the freezing midwest winters causing her knee to throb in pain with every motion. It was Torry who suggested that she move to where it was warmer to prevent that from going unchecked. Blair gave Kitty the idea to move to Arizona. That was where Blair was from. She told Kitty all about the low cost of living there and said that the people there would not have sided with the terrible bartender as they had in Chicago. The idea grew on Kitty. She knew it would involve putting in for early retirement and preparing to rent out her condo for extra cash, but it was her best option. Chicago had nothing left for her anymore. Guy had moved out and on. The only thing holding Kitty back was Pam, whom she reasoned she could still visit with, only now she would take a flight instead of a car to see her sister.
Her going away party was a lovely but scaled-back affair. Kitty had only wanted to say goodbye to Blair, Gavin, and Guy. They had a quiet dinner at Gavin's house, Guy for once hugged Kitty, causing a tear to fall from her eye. As for Gavin, Kitty no longer resented him the same way that she once had, she felt sorry for him in many respects. Gavin and the nanny had split when Guy was in highschool. Kitty found out through Guy that Gavin now cruises bars as if he was trying to recreate his first meeting with her, a habit that Gavin cultivated after his divorce. Kitty felt like this was the validation Gavin never gave her when they were together. Gavin never seemed invested in Kitty. This was why Kitty rejected Gavin and nurtured her relationship with Stafford as a coping mechanism. When she found out he was trying to find another "Kitty" she was not mad but saw that he did care at least at some point enough about what they had to want it again. Unfortunately for Gavin, he fell into a cycle of dating younger women that used him for his money before leaving him. Not that Gavin had much to give, the nanny had taken him to the cleaners when they split. Kitty had gotten the condo and Gavin's paid off Mercedes, both of which he willingly gave to Kitty as a parting gift. The nanny took his retirement, their house, his new car, and a chunk of his monthly paychecks in alimony, but not before their one hundred thousand dollars plus wedding. There were times if Kitty had been petty she might have said something snarky to Gavin along the lines of "that's what you get," but she never had the gall knowing that she bigger cheater among the two.
When the going away party had ended and Kitty was alone in the condo for one last time, she cried, not for where she was going but because she could not get back those few good times she had already had. It took some strength to pull herself together to leave for the airport by herself. She hoped that there would be new things to become fond of where she was going. Her belongings including her car already were moved to Arizona having arrived via the shippers the day before. Everything was in order, but still so uncertain. Would she ever be happy? Had she left Chicago for the right or wrong reasons? Is she too old to start again? These thoughts spiked her anxiety on the flight. The place she had lined up for herself was a little ranch-style house was just outside the city of Scottsdale. It was dry, quiet, and peaceful there. That first night she took in the alien environment that she was in, too timid to venture out on her own. She had to acclimate herself to Arizona as a person eases into a cold swimming pool. She had to stop herself from calling Guy every hour. He was off doing great things for himself, being young and free. It did not take long before she was unpacked, and familiar with driving through the town. Still, she missed Guy, Blair, and her old job. It was not long before she was at the animal shelter to get a dog to keep her company. She picked out the two of the yappiest little dogs she could find to dampen the deafening silence with their barking banter.
The winter nights were still cold in the desert and she thought about how Stafford would hold her when they were together. She hadn't had any contact with Stafford for years by then. Kitty could not resist looking up the man in her longest-running relationship. His picture on his social media page was of him on a boat probably on Lake Erie. In an act of pure nostalgia, she messaged him, expecting to hear nothing back. His profile was set to private and she assumed he had remarried. That night she received a text message from him to her old phone number, something she only kept in case Guy ever needed her. "Kitty this you?" Stafford wrote. She responded, by calling him. They had too much to catch up on for texting. Stafford told her that he moved into his mother's co-op after she had to go to a care home for her dementia. He was renting out Sandy's old house for an income, having lost his job when Marnie first was injured. His cheery tone dimmed as they spoke. Kitty could tell he had never gotten over Marnie's passing. Stafford could not afford to keep her on life support forever. When he had to face the reality of her condition, it was too much and he bankrupted himself trying to fight Marnie's prognosis. Kitty did not dare say her name, but she didn't need to, Marnie was in the conversation all the same, without a word. The call ended with both of them being a little sadder knowing the other was out there alone.
Stafford did eventually agree to visit Kitty by the summertime. The morning he knocked on her door, Kitty showed him her humble home. He smiled and told her that this is what he pictured her as and not the person Gavin tried to mold her into. Kitty took his comment as a compliment. To her, Stafford was not the same hot head as he once was. In the hours that followed she realized that while she was living the single life in the city, Stafford had been in self-imposed isolation. Marnie's death had wrecked him. Stafford felt like the world blamed him for not being able to stop Marnie's death. Kitty had never thought about how strange it was that they had never been in bed together in a house, only hotel rooms during their affair. Not that it mattered as Stafford now didn't even try to shake her hand anymore. Over dinner, Stafford confessed that he kept his distance because he thought his trip to Seattle with Kitty had doomed Marnie. Hearing Stafford say that made Kitty realize that although she had hoped that they would pick up where they left off like they had so many times in the past, she wasn't sure anymore if the man she used to know existed anymore. Stafford left for his home again early the next day. He had been scheduled to stay with Kitty for four days and lasted a mere twenty-four hours. Kitty did not protest this as they each could tell their connection had disappeared after too much bad blood. Kitty saw him off, worried about Stafford in a way she never had before.