Kitty was set to be finished at the community college as scheduled by the next year. With time drawing along, she saw Stafford every now and then, but she always found a way to get out of the conversation. During her final semester, she had a lighter course load. To fill out her days, she joined the theater production group as an extracurricular activity. It was so different to be in the theater now that she was a student. It looked smaller and more shabby than when she first stepped in those few years ago as a young ward of the state. She was no longer intimidated by it because she now had become accustomed to it. She knew the students didn't want to be there themselves most of the time and that the staff was not paying attention to anything other than the co-eds who were willing to put their bodies out for passing grades. Kitty was assigned the task of being one of many set painters. As expected Marnie was in the band. Kitty even got to see some of the high school students who auditioned from other schools. All of whom were terrible, which gave Kitty a weird comfort in finding she was not a freak of nature, but just as awkward as anyone else.
Stafford dropped by on Thanksgiving break, naturally uninvited. Kitty knew whatever woman from the bar that Stafford had been trying to strike up a relationship with had finally blocked him on Myspace or he would not have put in the effort to show up. Marnie could hear his blaring stereo playing techno music when he pulled up to the curb. She asked Kitty in a singsong tone of voice if she would be mad if she went on a date with him This made Kitty let out a disgusted groan. "Marn, I don't think you want to do that. That guy once got rough with me in a grocery store. I'm pretty sure he's hit a woman before." Marnie tried to soften Kitty's opinion of Stafford by saying, "Are you sure you weren't being too sensitive? He seems so nice. Maybe he's a little bossy, but definitely not a woman beater. He's not the guy you see him as. Why else would he keep dropping by to check on you?" Kitty scoffed, "he's not here to check on me. He's here to sexually harass the other girls in the dorm. I think I saw him try to grab Mitzy before. The guy is no good for anyone, especially women." Marnie didn't respond. Kitty knew that Marnie was already planning to make her move with Stafford and no amount of warning would dissuade her.
School ended a few weeks later. Kitty had walked at the summer graduation ceremony already though. As for her future, Kitty had not taken the advice of her counselor who told her she should transfer to the sister school to do the hospitality course plan. Kitty just couldn't come to terms with that as her place in life. She knew she was being closed-minded, but she felt like it was a brand on her personage to be this one thing that she didn't like or want to be. She just couldn't do it. Leaving campus would be hard for Kitty, but she also knew she had outgrown it.
She made arrangements to move into a sublet studio belonging to another student who was planning to study abroad, Jeremy Myers. Kitty knew him from an introduction to French class she had taken to fulfill her degree's foreign language requirement. He was a very friendly person, who invited Kitty to join in on the campus's French film nights in the library media room. Kitty used it as an excuse to get out of her dorm, which Marnie occupied less and less. To pay the bills out of college, Kitty was going to work as a sales girl at a luxury fabric shop near the subletted loft until Jeremy returned to the States. Kitty felt like it was a step up being miles ahead of where she started, even though it was temporary. Marnie planned to stay in the area too, as a gigging musician who worked almost exclusively for a jazz club that served mostly seniors.
Kitty wondered to herself in bed on the last night she was in her dorm if she had been so opposed to a hospitality degree program because it was in a place that was so far from Cleveland, the city she was accustomed to. It simultaneously occurred to her that she was rejecting a surefire income out of fear of finding herself in another situation similar to what she dealt with when she lived with Sandy. Kitty never wanted to be in an abusive place between herself and the people she served. The naive Kitty thought of Sandy as a maternal figure for her, until Stafford's presence let her know she was the help and not a person in their eyes because she was very replaceable. Kitty was wounded by it. It was the first time in her life that she felt the coldness of being a throwaway item to someone she felt a familial love for. She worried serving others would be a never-ending cycle of that same pain.
In the morning, Kitty waved goodbye to the campus for good. Marnie drove her to the loft but didn't stay long making the excuse that she had to practice for an audition. As she settled in, Kitty found Jeremy to have excellent taste in furnishings. The loft was a perfectly cozy place for her to tuck herself away from the world, especially during the bitter winter. Jeremy's caveat for renting to Kitty was that she had to care for his spoiled cat, Victoria Truffle. Jeremy doted on his haughty Persian, whom he missed dearly as evidenced later by his mailing the cat postcards and occasionally by his calling to ask Kitty to put the phone by the cat's ear so he could speak to it. That evening, however, found Kitty unpacking her only large suitcase and bookbag to be a short task. She ate a dinner made out of whatever Jeremy had left in his refrigerator knowing it would be long expired before he returned to try to save it for him and watched old DVDs of Mad About You with Victoria Truffle purring on her lap.
Most of Kitty's day at work consisted of her taking orders from interior decorators or cutting small fabric batches for customers doing personal projects. In the times when Kitty had to handle rude customers, she was able to keep a cool head out of the fact that no person could ever vex her the way that Stafford could. Everyone else was an amateur compared to Stafford in the world rankings of obnoxiousness to her. After a particularly rude encounter with an irate designer that Kitty was able to quell, Kitty's boss complimented her on her ability to remain professional and was soon comfortable with letting her open and close the store by herself. Rarely, Kitty would visit Marnie at the club after her shift to have a few drinks and chat about their lives out of school.
Overall Kitty liked her routine, however, she realized how very stagnant her life had become. It was a middle, not an end. As much as she liked her home, it was not hers, it belonged to Jeremy who was paying the bulk of the bills from afar. Kitty had to come to terms with the matter that she simply did not have the income to afford the quality of life she was seeking in her present circumstance. After much soul-searching and becoming a bit more humbled by the realities of being an independent adult, she felt that she would settle and go to the hospitality school when the fall came again. It pained her to apply for it that spring, but she saw no other future insight outside of going back to being a live-in maid if she didn't follow the course laid out for her.
Kitty saw less and less of Marnie as the summer went on. When she would ask Marnie about it, Marnie became evasive on the subject of her unavailability. After Marnie canceled on Kitty for four weeks in a row, Kitty assumed that their friendship meant more to her than it did to Marnie. That is until Marnie sent Kitty an email requesting her help with an outdoor play that July. Kitty would be moving soon to Chicago for school and thought it would be a nice close to their faded friendship. Marnie needed Kitty for a reenactment of Shakespeare's, The Tempest. Marnie wasn't the only community college familiar face there, many of their school chums were going to make an appearance. Kitty was glad to see them once more. Kitty always found it surprising that she did not bump into any of her friends from her old high school or from her group home, not that she had many. Occasionally, Mrs. Wells, her former social worker would call her to ask for Kitty's help in mentoring another youth, but Kitty found it difficult as the children she worked with were too withdrawn and demotivated to have much interest in her advice. Outside of those few instances, Kitty had lost complete contact with her former life.
Kitty missed most of the play due to her cataloging the store's annual inventory with the owner Mrs. North. However, she had been there to help set it up the day before. The wrap party took place at Marnie's dinner club, to Kitty's surprise Stafford was there too. Kitty hadn't seen Stafford in some time. He had gotten slightly fatter and balder than she remembered, but that might have been her general displeasure at his existence that tilted her perception of him. Other females described him as handsome and charming. Kitty assumed those females were deranged in their inability to properly observe Stafford's glaring unlikeability. At the dinner club, the cast took their bow and drinks were soon flowing. Kitty stuck with her usual order of a Colorado Bulldog. Marnie had a triple Grey Goose Le Citron over ice. Kitty remembered when the once shy Marnie would talk down about campus parties with her, compared to now when she was kicking back hard liquor as if she was a sailor on shore leave. Kitty was even more put off by the changed Marnie because she was using phrases that Stafford would use when she lived with Sandy. Describing people she disliked as "full-on knobs" and clapping to get people's attention were making Kitty both embarrassed as much as she was shocked.
Speeches were made with drunken declarations that had become a mood. Sitting off to the side, Kitty felt ignored. This disappointed her because she expected this to be her last hurrah among friends before she went off on her own. She decided to save her dignity and told Marnie she was calling it a night. Noticing Marnie was a little tipsy Kitty asked Marnie if wanted to call her a cab. Stafford then, seemingly out of nowhere answered in his typical offensive manner for Marnie with, "No, Kitty, no one needs you and your dramatics." Kitty wondered why he was there at all. Marnie chimed in "Don't worry Kitty, Stafford is going to take me home." Kitty having little faith in Stafford to ever do the right thing retorted "I think you should go home with someone you know, not him." Stafford again inserting himself into Marnie's response added "How dumb are you? I think she knows her boyfriend better than you. Stop acting like a super dike. Jesus Christ! It's creepy Kitty." Just then it clicked in Kitty's head as to why Marnie had been flaky with her. Marnie was dating her nemesis. "Marn, is he really your boyfriend?" Marnie sheepishly mumbled "yea. It's okay, I was planning to go home with him." Kitty should have said more, but she was so taken aback by this new information that she abruptly departed. Something she regretted later.
The next day in her loft Kitty cried with Victoria Truffle curled up on her lap. Kitty couldn't stop feeling betrayed. Stafford had gotten the better of her again. It was like she could not shake that louse out of her life no matter how hard she tried. How could she be so unlucky to have known a person like him and continue to have him circle her socially as well? To Kitty, Marnie had become another "Sandy" who accepted Stafford's abusive ways toward Kitty as normality. To Kitty, it was as if they had become abusers too. Kitty quietly wrote off Marnie as a friend from that moment. To Kitty, it was her or Stafford and Marnie joined the wrong team. As for Stafford, Kitty assumed that if Marnie was out of her life after she moved to another state, there was no way that Stafford could ever rain on her parade again, or so she thought.