Chapter Nine: Autumn Comes with Thistles

That summer consisted mainly of Kitty learning the odds and ends of campus life. She was still an undeclared major, but that was not a pressing concern for a freshman to worry about. By the time fall came around her roommate had dropped out and was replaced with another girl whom Kitty found to be of good company, Marnie. For once Kitty had a roommate that was not boy-crazy or into parties. After a lifetime of living in a party house, Kitty flinched at the smell of alcohol and cigarettes. Marnie being an asthmatic felt the same way. Marnie was a music major and played a variety of instruments. Kitty took an elective with her, in which Kitty learned the basics of playing the ukulele. They laughed and chatted it up together. It was nice for Kitty who hadn't had a friend who was also her peer in some time.


The end of September brought Kitty beautiful, cool air to fill her lungs. The life she once spent so long avoiding was now what she soaked up. College suited her and it suited her well. Like so many things in life when something is going well a ner-do-well will appear sensing the opportunity to squash another's happiness. On this day it was Stafford who felt the positive balance of the world leaning in Kitty's favor or so Kitty thought when she saw the unwelcome sight of Stafford waiting outside of her dorm. His tacky sports car illegally parallel parked in front of a fire hydrant. "Hey! Kitty, come here," Stafford called to Kitty as if he owned her. Kitty was trying to pretend she didn't see him. "Over here stupid! It's me, Stafford, duh." Kitty walked to his car hoping he wouldn't continue to cause a scene. She silently kicked herself for telling Sandy in her last message what college she was in. "Uhhhh, Stafford...why are you here?" He sat in his car with the convertible top down and sunglasses on despite it being a cloudy day. "My grandmother died. You missed the funeral. Can I come in?" Every fiber in her body rejected the idea of letting Stafford into her dorm, but she did want closure from him. Part of her had always waited for an explanation or apology from Stafford as to why he as vicious as he was toward Kitty. She was also well aware that he once again was trying to make her feel bad for something she didn't do and had nothing to do with, like missing a funeral no one told her about. Later in life, Kitty put together that Stafford probably didn't invite her on purpose fearing that Kitty might have been entitled to something in Sandy's will.


In the dorm, Kitty was glad Marnie was cramming for a test in the library. Kitty dreaded the idea of Stafford acting as terribly as he does in front of her. Stafford sat on Kitty's bed without asking. His rear-end on her pillow, making himself very comfortable as if he planned to stay for a while. In an attempt to hurry Stafford on his way Kitty asked "So, what can I do for you Stafford?" He looked up at the ceiling for a moment then back at her before he totally broke down crying, sparking pity in Kitty. "The funeral was this afternoon and Grandmother...at the reading of her will...gave me only some savings bonds..." His weeping became too inaudible to make out the rest of his words. Stafford cleared his throat and went on "She double mortgaged her house years ago, there was nothing left." Kitty's assumptions about Stafford were now completely founded. He did resent Kitty because he thought that his grandmother was paying her with money he wanted for himself. Kitty never had the heart to tell Stafford his grandmother was in debt the likes of which would make a banker cringe. Kitty saw this reality every time she saw the past due notices Sandy tucked away, with their red lettering across the front of each envelope. Kitty knew Stafford wouldn't have invested time into Sandy had he known her true financial status.


"Oh Stafford, I'm sorry to hear that." Kitty almost walked over to wrap an arm around Stafford, but then she remembered who he was and stayed on the opposite side of the room as she spoke. He looked up, touching her blankets and taking in the scenery. "You seem to be doing well for yourself." Kitty knew he was going to start making insulting accusations any minute and wanted him out. "Stafford, my roommate is a very skittish girl. She'll be back any second and if she sees you she'll have campus security in here to throw you out. I just can't have that on my conscience. Why don't you go, but keep me posted on everything, okay?" Stafford begrudgingly walked to the door, "Yea Kitty, I'll stop by next week. Tell your roommate to get over it though, because I'm not in the mood to deal with hysterics." Kitty agreed as she opened the door for Stafford to leave. As he walked down the hallway he leered at every female in the dorm. Kitty now knew what he wanted, to use her as a gatekeeper to the female campus residence for him. She had no respect for Stafford. He may have been a handsome man outwardly, but after knowing him as a person he was truly disgusting through and through. When she heard his suped-up car drive off she reminded herself to use the side entrance from now on.


Fall went along smoothly after that. Stafford didn't come back for the rest of the year, much to Kitty's relief. She didn't know who she liked less Stafford or Pam's boyfriend Ben, each were terrible. At least Ben wanted to be a good guy but messed it up too often due to his alcoholism. Stafford just wanted to learn to be better at being bad to people. With finals behind her, Kitty had to see her counselor to pick a major or risk losing her financial aid. The meeting was simple enough, the exchange of greetings, followed by light chit chat. The counselor moving the meeting along asked, "Well, what are you good at? We can start there. You can always change your major if something else appeals to you more later." Kitty thought for a minute, she drew a blank. Her mouth must have been open or her expression was that easy to read as her counselor said, "how about you take an aptitude test. They are being held next Saturday in the computer lab." Kitty agreed. She had no idea what her talents were. She knew what she was bad at; art, science, dance. It wasn't just a matter of not being bad at something, it was also not knowing what she wanted to do or that she could well being the problem.


Marnie was all in with Kitty for the test. Not that either of them expected Marnie to have anything new in her results. Marnie had started music as a child and wanted nothing else her entire life. While Kitty couldn't see as looked back on her life, what she excelled at above others. The test was comprised of two hundred questions with a three-hour time limit. The results were immediate. Marnie finished quickly and walked out. Kitty though used the whole three hours to fill out the questions, going back multiple times to change her answers. She felt like it was a defining thing to be locked into, she could not help but to be terrified by it. When she submitted her last answer the moderator printed out her scores. Being as how she was the last person in the room Marnie came back in to see what Kitty had on her exam. The moderator said, "You did really well in hospitality. Not so much in analytics." Kitty could have cried. Hospitality was so confining, so drab, she wanted nothing to do with it. Her only thought was of the bully who called her a "toilet scrubber" was right. She felt as if she were low level for life. Marnie did her best to comfort her.


A few days later Kitty went back to see her counselor. The counselor pulled up her test scores. Kitty was despondent about the subject. "I see you think that this is a bad thing to have this kind of aptitude." Kitty stared at the wall behind her counselor trying not to be apart of the conversation. "We don't do hotel management necessarily at this school, but there is a program for it at our sister school in Chicago." A hotel manager wasn't so bad to Kitty. It wasn't just toilet scrubbing, she could be the manager of a toilet scrubber. This brought Kitty back to being depressed again. Kitty just could not face the thought of her bully being right. In an effort to push back at fate, she asked her counselor "what is the most general degree? Something I can transfer to a university anywhere?" The counselor sat back in his chair and replied "liberal arts I suppose, but I highly suggest that you look into this aptitude test score. You could have a very steady career in the hospitality field if you applied yourself." Kitty bucked back by saying "I'm selecting liberal arts as my major." The counselor shook his head in disagreement as he typed in Kitty's decision.