Chapter Seven: Going in Different Directions

The first time that Stafford asked about Sandy's will was over dinner on a rainy April night. He had been hinting at it here and there, but never blatantly questioned any single thing in it particularly. Kitty knew he often hinted with little leading questions to find out how much Sandy was paying Kitty, something Kitty was intentionally vague about as Stafford was not a person she wanted to have any form of a personal relationship with. Sandy commented on Kitty's good cooking skills seemed to have set Stafford off who snorted "She's not in the will, right? Because you know people like her have a way of popping up and having things go to them." Even a person with a lowly background like Kitty knew that was an offensive jab and tasteless too. Kitty was so put off by Stafford that she went to her room and locked the door before she did her usual nighttime clean up, if Stafford was set on pushing her out, he could clean up after himself.


In her room, Kitty picked up her final mail away packet. Her last assignment was to write an essay about her childhood. Kitty wrote about her parents, or what she remembered about them anyway. They had died when she was only three years old. Both had overdosed on the same bad batch. Pam being a little older thought that they were just out for a couple of days and told Kitty not to bother them. Pam went to school by herself, while Kitty was home alone. A concerned mailman asked her on the second day or seeing her in the same clothes where her parents were, Kitty pointed to their bedroom and said "Mommy and Daddy have been taking a nap. They won't wake up." Pam came home from school to find police cars and a coroner's van hauling away her long-dead parents. Pam always hated Kitty for it, she blamed Kitty for making their death something she had to face. Kitty looked at it as dealing with reality, something Pam never wanted to. Kitty finished her essay and went to sleep, k knowing she was at the end of her high school education, and being secretly grateful Sandy had made it so.


In the morning she found that Stafford left everything out from the night before. For a man who complained that she was lazy or that she couldn't do anything right, she noticed he never went behind her to do what he mocked her for. As a matter of fact, Kitty came to the conclusion that Stafford was a layabout who mooched off of his grandmother and squatted in her guest room. After breakfast, Kitty cleaned up and took her last homework packet to the dropbox on the corner. There she saw Mr. Fieldbrook in his cokebottle glasses and broom. "Hello, Mr. Fieldbrook" Kitty was genuinely glad to see the man for once. "Hello, Kitty. How goes it? That Stafford still there is he?" He replied as both a question and statement. "Yes, he has been every weekend since Sandy's fall." Kitty tried to sound indifferent but the frustration piggybacked on her words. Mr.Fieldbrook must have sensed Kitty's lack of enthusiasm. He dropped an interesting fact about Stafford on Kitty by saying "Stafford must have absorbed his father's attitude toward people. I suppose Sandy doesn't talk about Milly, Stafford's mother, much these days. They were so close until Milly went off with Chris. Sandy knew that Chris would leave her, but Milly had Stafford anyway. Of course Sandy was right, Milly blamed her all the same. They are still raw about it to this day. It broke Milly's heart so much that she sent Stafford to stay with his dad when he was a boy. Too bad too, now he's just like him now." Mr. Fieldbrook realizing he probably said too much, went about his business sweeping the sidewalk, continuing his habitual eavesdropping on any loud conversations he could overhear in the neighborhood.


Kitty went back into the house to look at the pictures on the walls again. She focused hard on Milly and Sandy's picture outside of the courthouse. The picture had the nicest frame on it out of all of the others. It also was very aged, almost as if it had an orange tint to it. Then she thought about Stafford, there was not a single picture in the house of Milly and Stafford, only Stafford's baby pictures and none of his father. It had never struck Kitty as odd, but then she had never given it much thought prior to that. Maybe her own irregular family had desensitized her to other irregular families. Sandy and Stafford were on the back porch together. Stafford was telling Sandy about his days in a business school, while Sandy nodded with her eyes half-closed, nearly asleep. Kitty looked at Stafford trying to figure out what his father would look like as if she could mentally piece together the man's face from what Sandy and Milly were not. It was impossible. Stafford noticed Kitty looking at him "What do you want?" He acknowledged Kitty in annoyance. "I was going to make pork for dinner. Is that something you would like?" Stafford scuffed, "No I'm not going to eat that, are you trying to give me heartburn?" Kitty held in saying that he probably wouldn't have heartburn with every meal if he would eat like a person and not like a starved insect. "I'll make you a nice salad Stafford." She faked a smile and walked away before he could protest.


The week before Milly's birthday, Stafford picked up Sandy to drive her to the other side of the state where Milly owned a condo by the river. With Stafford around, there was no fanfare for Kitty's birthday when it passed. Kitty didn't remind anyone of it either. She knew Stafford would find a way to tarnish it, as he did with everything else. Stafford being the kind of man he was made sure that Kitty was not to be left alone in the house without Sandy to oversee her as "she probably already has sticky fingers" eluding to Stafford's assumption that all poor people were thieves. Kitty had lost a lot of respect for Sandy allowing him to speak to her as he did. She once thought of Sandy as a great benefactor, but now she saw her as a cheap old lady that didn't pay her. Kitty having been homeless before, planned to sleep in the shelter while they were gone. On her way out she stopped to get the mail one last time. There were two letters, one for Kitty from her mail away course and the other from Pam. Kitty put both in her backpack and walked to the bus stop. Little did she know that was the last time she would ever be back at Sandy's again.


On the bus, Kitty read the letter from her mail away course. It said that she graduated with an enclosed diploma. Kitty was so pleased she had to refrain from cheering for herself. It changed everything and instead of making a trip straight to the women's shelter she instead stopped at her social worker's office. Now that she was eighteen, she no longer feared the woman the same way that she once had. Kitty walked into the government building and announced to the front desk clerk "I'm here to see Mrs. Wells." The clerk had her sit down while she went to Mrs. Wells's office. There was some whispering and then the clerk came back and said "Okay go right in." The office was small and had shelves lined with old files and regulation manuals. Mrs. Wells was just as Kitty had remembered her, graying hair and glasses that slid to the end of her nose. "What brings you may way? You know we've been missing school." Mrs. Wells had no real fears for Kitty vanishing after Pam had been taken away. She suspected Kitty would be slippery about going back to the group home, which was why she put that as a low priority item on her agenda to follow up on intentionally. Kitty held up the diploma and smiled "I just wanted you to get a copy of this, I got it in the mail today." As far as Kitty was concerned she was Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and this was her golden ticket. Mrs. Wells took the paper and congratulated Kitty. "Good job Kitty, I knew you had it in you." Something even Mrs. Wells didn't expect or believe. "The last note I have about you in my file is that your sister lost your birth certificate and social security number, is this still a problem for you?" Mrs. Wells was late for another appointment and wanted to usher Kitty along. "Yes. If you have it that would be everything I need." Kitty could not have been more pleased with the way this was going. "I have copies that I can give you, you'd have to go to the social security administration for a new social security card and to the hospital of your birth to request an authenticated birth certificate, but these will get you working in the meanwhile." She handed document copies to Kitty who carefully placed them in her bag. "Thank you, it's all I need." She said to Mrs. Wells as she went to leave. "Oh, Kitty now that you are done with high school, you could look at the community college, they're doing tours this time of year. You should look into it." Mrs. Wells handed Kitty a pamphlet as she walked Kitty out the door. Kitty was so gleeful she almost hugged Mrs. Wells, almost. As Kitty zoomed out Mrs. Wells mentally noted that Kitty was the most successful of her wards to date.


At the bus stop again Kitty looked at the route map. The woman's shelter was a fifteen-minute trip north. The college was multiple transfers and nearly two hours away. The women's shelter had a free meal and a bed if she got there early enough. The college was where she had the worst humiliation of her life up until that point and nothing there was guaranteed. As she thought about what her next move should be the bus going east toward the college pulled up. Kitty walked on without any hesitation.