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Page 14


"Fine." She slings her bag over her shoulder, and I follow her out the front door. Beyond the front gate are three photographers this time, smoking as they loiter, and they stand quickly, aiming their cameras at us as we approach.

Katherine swears under her breath as we walk out. "Don't they have anything better to do?"

"Caulter, Katherine -- do you really hate each other? Do you have a comment for us?"

"Mind your own business," she says. "Seriously. Look, we're standing right here, aren't we? Why don't you take a photo of us together, not killing each other. We're friends. That's my comment."

I slip my arm around her shoulder. "Smile for the cameras." I give a thumbs up and Katherine looks over at me, finally breaking a smile before making a thumbs up as well.

The photographers roll their eyes, and we turn and walk briskly down the sidewalk for two blocks before either of us says anything. Then Katherine laughs. The sound is light, melodic. I look at her because I don't think I've heard her laugh -- not a genuine laugh -- in two years at Brighton. She's snarky, yeah, but she's so damn serious at school. Once she starts, she can’t stop, doubling over as she laughs, big laughs from her belly, until she has to wipe tears from her eyes.

When she stops, she looks up at me. “What?” she asks. “You’re staring.”

“You’re the one standing on the sidewalk laughing like a crazy person.”

“My dad is going to hate that photo, you know” she says. “I think we're supposed to wait for a staged media thing. His PR person is going to have a lot to say about it.”

I shrug. “I guess I don’t give a shit about your fucking dad.” We’re walking, but I don’t know where. I pull my pack of cigarettes out and she gives me a look. “You want one?” I ask.

Katherine shakes her head. “Why don’t you just go back to Hollywood or wherever for the summer? My father will make up some reason for you not going to New Hampshire, a reasonable story for where you are. You don't want to put up with his shit all summer, do you?”

“Trust fund,” I say. “Ella’s holding it over me. Is it true the house in New Hampshire is your mother's house?"

She shrugs. "It was her favorite place. We lived in a farmhouse in Loudon when I was a kid, but he sold it for the lake house, since he was going to DC during the rest of the year. But my mother loved New Hampshire, so even though we were only there in the summer, it was her place."

"And he's bringing Ella there," I say. "It's kind of a dick move."

"It's whatever, you know? Not a big deal." I can tell she's lying. "Ella seems okay. I mean, it’s weird that you call her by her first name.”

We’re standing near the entrance to the Metro. “You mean, instead of mommy dearest?” I ask. “Where the hell are we going, anyway?” I’m jonesing for a smoke even though it’s only been like ten minutes since my last. Katherine makes me feel edgy. Or, rather, I feel edgy because of how it felt to have her standing beside me, with her arm thrown casually over my shoulder. That, and maybe I'm irritable because I haven't been laid now in ten fucking days.

"I don't know," she says. "I was just getting out. I didn't have any plans."

"You don't seem like the spontaneous type," I say. "And I don't have to go to your mom's house for the summer, you know. If it bothers you." I offer her a half-hearted out, even though what I really want to know is whether it bothers her that I'm going. I want it to bother her.

"What do you know what type of person I am?" she asks, wrinkling her nose. "I said it's not a big deal. I don't want to talk about her."

We get on the Metro, going who knows where. We're talking, about regular bullshit, nothing heavy. She seems to be less irritated now, and she's laughing at the stories I tell her about some of my mother's friends, Hollywood celebrities, and how our little middle-finger photo is small potatoes compared to the real scandals. She's laughing, and it sounds nice.

"Where the hell are we going?" I ask, when we get off a stop.

Katherine shrugs. "No plans," she says. "Just getting the hell away from the house. Do you have better plans?"

I hold up my hands in mock surrender. "Whatever you want, Princess."

She ignores me, and we walk for a while until we get to a park. I don't know jack about DC, so I've got no idea where we are -- New York and Hollywood, those are the places I know. But she seems to have some idea where we're going, and I'm following her lead because she's not as awful as I thought she was. We're actually getting along, and for the first time since I've known her, it's pretty comfortable to hang out with her.

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