Chapter 18 - Defining Point
The chirping of birds signals the beginning of yet another day. Katherine tosses from side to side, the bright light of the sun and cold hard wood beneath her preventing her from having any real sleep.
She relents and gives up on sleep, opening her eyes to be greeted with the sight of an unfamiliar park. The melancholy washes over her instantly and a mournful sigh escapes her as reality crashes before her once more. In the brief moments that she truly falls asleep she forgets where she is and imagines that she's once more atop the soft mattress of her bed, cocooned in duvets and blankets, fluffy pillows beneath her head and Damon sound asleep the other side of the wall. She awakes every morning expecting to be back there, to see his dazzling eyes at her door and his voice thick with sleep telling her breakfast is waiting for her. It causes her physical agony each time she realises that's never going to happen again.
She used to feel strong and capable of anything, but since she's left New York and Damon she feels weak and pathetic. Two things she's not accustomed to or fond of feeling. Her muscles and bones throb with the discomfort of sleeping sat up or on the ground, her once bright eyes are dull sunken and encased in dark bags and even though she's been managing to get enough money to eat - being an attractive young girl, with pleading doe eyes and cleavage to boot is proving to be useful in extending people's generosity with their money - her ribs are slightly protruding out from beneath her skin. Mentally and emotionally she feels drained and the time she spent in New York with Damon she grew more accustomed to luxury and comfort than she'd realised.
Comfort isn't the only thing Katherine had grown used to again in the time she'd been with Damon, it was also company. Since she was a child Katherine had been a solitary child who preferred her own company and those she created in her imagination, but when she found friendship in Rebekah she grew to like being part of a twosome and having someone to share everything with. Losing that caused a gaping hole to form in Katherine's life that she'd never felt before and overhwhelmed her with a loneliness that ate at her soul - a loneliness that Damon had healed. But without Damon, that hole and loneliness has returned tenfold.
Deciphering and understanding her emotions has never been Katherine's strong suit, but suppressing them has. The life that she's led required her to have this ability since a majority of the time it was the only way she was able to survive. Instead of focusing too much on her emotions, she focuses on the task at hand - finding Rebekah.
She's still standing firm on her decision to seek out Rebekah and fiercely determined to succeed, although, she's coming to the realisation that it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, particularly since she has no idea where she could be. She's been travelling from town to town, city to city, revisiting all of the places she and Rebekah went to, but in the years they were together they traveled all across country and returning to each of those places could take years. Besides, what are the chances of Rebekah even being in any of those places and of Katherine bumping into her at the perfect time?
Her plan is barely a plan and is falling apart at her feet, making it nearly impossible to cling to hope. It's also getting increasingly difficult to ignore the instinct that she should return to New York. Whether it's the deep need to see Damon again that's clouding her judgement, she's unsure, but she's able to partly justify it since New York is also the first place she met Rebekah and one of Rebekah's favourite places.
Katherine wonders what she will say and how she will feel even if she does find Rebekah. On the one hand she cares for Rebekah and wants to see her again and on the other, she despises her and is filled with rage at her betrayal. She's also afraid, let's not forget that. She's afraid of what Rebekah will tell her and the ugly truths that she hid from her. She once trusted Rebekah more than anyone else on the planet, but Katherine knows now that she was always a stranger and that everything Rebekah has ever told her was likely a lie. Yet part of her is doubtful and confused. If Rebekah truly was in cahoots with him, why didn't she simply hand Rebekah over? She had so many opportunities to do so but never did. And maybe Katherine is naive for still thinking it, but she can't help but wonder how anybody could be so good at lying. Rebekah seemed to genuinely love and care for her. How could she keep up the pretenses 24 hours a day for two years? But every time Katherine is inclined to attempt to make excuses for Rebekah she reminds herself that her association with him means she's capable of anything.
Facing Rebekah is nerve wracking for Katherine, but facing her past and him is terrifying. It's that daunting likelihood that is the only reason she has even a shred of doubt about her decision. She's been running for so long and reserved her a long time ago to the reality of her situation. Did she really want to risk everything and go back to the very place and person she'd been running from just to uncover the truth? Not so long ago the answer to that question would've certainly been no, but things have changed.
If she ever wants to lead some semblance of a normal and contented life she needs to confront the man that has haunted her every second of every day since she was thirteen years old.
Just thinking the name in her head sends chills down her spine and she involuntarily shudders, pulling the blanket tighter around herself. Katherine has spent so long running from the past that she so rarely allows herself to think of it. She deliberately blocked it from her consciousness because she believed it was the only way to survive and she never believed she would voluntarily choose to come face to face with it again.
She couldn't even allow herself to think his name because of the horrendous domino effect it caused within her mind that set her heart racing with terror and made it impossible to breathe. But since she made the decision to find Rebekah, it's been impossible not to relive the past that she'd so desperately tried to bury and with it all memories of him have returned to her as though they happened only yesterday. The flood gates are open and now Klaus' face invades her mind numerous times throughout the day and night without warning, propelling her into an abyss of panic and fear. Every time she sees that twisted grin and hears that British accent, it makes her want to abort her plan to find the Rebekah and the truth and run forever.
In so many ways Katherine is braver and more courageous than any other young person her age, but when it comes to Klaus she's not. When it comes to him, she's nothing more than a cowardly little girl, broken, afraid and lost. And she hates it. She hates the power he has over her, what he has made her, how he makes her feel and what her life has become because of him.
As the thoughts of him relentlessly build up like a relentless game of Tetris, she closes her eyes tight and makes the same wish she's made a thousand times over. She wishes that every trace of Klaus will disappear and that she never met him on that fateful Saturday afternoon five years ago.
PAST - 5 years previously
"Kathy, get down here! Kathy? Kathy! KATHY!"
Katherine lies back on her bunk, earphones on, completely oblivious to Mrs Hughes bellowing up the stairs. Eventually, with a vein practically bulging from her head and her face as red as a tomato, Mrs Hughes storms up the stairs and barges into Katherine's room.
Katherine sees her before she hears her and removes her earphones to catch the end of Mrs Hughes angry rant.
"What is it?" Katherine snaps with attitude.
"Don't talk to me with that tone, missy," Mrs Hughes replies waving a finger in the air. "I told you yesterday that we're having visitors today and you haven't done anything I've asked of you."
Katherine shrugs nonchalant.
Mrs Hughes sighs loudly. "Kathy, you've been here for over a year now. Do you not want to find a family of your own?"
Katherine ignores her.
"Mr Mikaelson and his family are a very wealthy and respected family. You should be counting your lucky stars that they are even considering adopting you. Miss Patterson told me she'd spoken to you about how important this is."
Katherine still remains silent.
"Well, they'll be here in an hour, so make sure you're ready. And I want you on your best behaviour. None of your usual rudeness and attitude. I expect you to be graceful, kind and polite."
"Do you hear me?"
"Kathy, I said do you hear me?"
"Yes," Katherine bites.
With that Mrs Hughes leaves a sulking Katherine behind. God, she detests that woman. Katherine is appreciative of Mrs Hughes for providing her with a roof over her head and cooked meals, but it doesn't change the ill feeling she carries for her. Though Mrs Hughes can show warmth on the rare occasion, mostly she's harsh and cold and intolerable of Katherine's "stinking attitude". Katherine is weary of her constant lectures and inability to relate to or understand anything about her.
Mr and Ms Hughes are the twelfth family to foster her and certainly not the worst of the bunch, but not the best either. Mr Hughes, an ex serviceman is an unassuming and placid man who spends all of his days in front of the TV with his head in the paper or in the backyard tending to his vegetable patches. His wife, on the other hand, is domineering, stern and in your face. She rules with an iron fist and structure and routine are compulsory in her household.
The couple have no natural children of their own - not that Katherine minds, she prefers being alone rather than forced to bond with children and call them brothers and sisters when she cares nothing for them - and Katherine often thinks how lucky those unborn children are to have never been born and lumbered with such inattentive and unfeeling parents.
Katherine used to be excited when Miss Patterson - her social worker - called, because it meant that today may be the day she was finally adopted and became part of a family. On those days she would wake at the crack of dawn, spend hours braiding her hair and practicing her sweetest and most angelic smile in front of the mirror. She even wore the hideous floral dresses that she detested that her social workers bought for her and insisted she wear.
But eventually that routine slipped away and at thirteen years old, Katherine has met so many potential parents she can scarcely count them. With each rejection, Katherine was forced to accept that she will always be like this - unwanted, unloved, the lone wolf forever roaming and never truly belonging - and now meeting with potential adopters is nothing more than an inconvenience to her day.
Deep in her heart Katherine wants nothing more than the affection and belonging that comes with having a family of her own - after all, she is just a child - but she is much too stubborn to admit that. Just like all humans, she's been shaped by her environment and over the years has learned to adapt so as to protect herself. That means she's grown into a feisty, sharp tongued and challenging teenager that most foster parents are keen to be rid of as soon as possible. In the past, Katherine has been lucky enough to have foster parents that genuinely cared for her and were determined to give her the best chance in life, and Katherine was naive enough to believe they would adopt her, but just as with all the others, she was never good enough for them. Now she makes no attempt to bond with or impress any of the foster parents or potential adopters she meets. After all, what would be the point in trying only to be rejected?
Katherine turns the heavy metal playing through her earphones up full blast and turns on her bunk to face the wall, angry with the world and everyone in it and wishing she could disappear forever.
Miss Patterson arrives 15 minutes before the Mikaelson's are due to and proceeds to give Katherine her second lecture of the day, much to Katherine's annoyance.
"Katherine, we have spoken about this, haven't we? When we have these meetings with families, you need to make more of an effort."
Katherine stands before Miss Patterson, hand on hip, wearing baggy black jeans and a scruffy band tee that she's had for years but still fits into because she's scarcely grown.
Mrs Hughes holds up her hands. "I did tell her, but she refuses to listen. Nothing new there. She never listens. It's in one ear and out the other with you, isn't it?"
Katherine shoots a brief death stare in Mrs Hughes directions and sucks on her teeth.
Miss Patterson looks over to Mrs Hughes. "I'd like a few moments alone with Katherine to chat, if that's okay."
Mrs Hughes excuses herself and Miss Patterson proceeds to invite Katherine to sit at the kitchen table with her. Miss Patterson is a woman of thirty, with fair skin, mousy brown hair and a sweet smile. She's plain and unassuming but has a kindness to her. She's not Katherine's first social worker, but she's by far her favourite because she treats Katherine like a person and takes the time to listen to her, instead of making her feel like a project. She's also the one that actually calls Katherine Katherine instead of Kathy - a nickname that Katherine despises. But despite the fact that she likes Miss Patterson, she knows better than to let herself get attached to anyone and makes a point of always keeping her at a distance.
Miss Patterson tilts her head and her eyes fill with pity - a look Katherine is all too used to seeing when people look at her.
"Mrs Hughes told me you've been restless recently. Is everything okay?"
"I know how difficult it can be to go from place to place but these meetings with prospective families are very important. We've spoken about it before. My only goal is to make sure you find a family that will love you and care for you like you deserve."
Katherine has heard it all before and rolls her eyes.
"I know you've not had the easiest of happiest time in foster care and that you would rather not be here. I'd love to change that for you, but you must cooperate with me."
Still surly, Katherine crosses her arms and says, "What's the point?"
"The point is that this is your life and if you want a family to choose you, you have to work with me to make it happen. Your last few meetings have been a disaster."
Katherine thinks back to the meetings that she deliberately and maliciously sabotaged and feels no guilt for it. She may not enjoy being with Mr and Mrs Hughes, but it's still better than the alternative - being rejected again, having her hopes shattered again, crying herself to sleep again.
"I really hope we don't have a repeat. This family are different. They've expressed a huge interest in you and seem adamant that they will proceed with the adoption. They told me the meeting was more a formality that they're happy to undertake as part of our process, but they feel assured in their decision."
"How can they say that when they haven't even met me? They must be stupid."
"They're not stupid. They've read your files and I've told them all about you and that's enough for them."
"Did you tell them that I put worms in the coffee of the last family that came? Or that I was suspended from school last week for dragging Amy Fisher through the mud and pulling her hair? That I was forced to leave the Wilsons' because I drove their car and crashed it into a wall? Or that I always argue back and never listen? Did you tell them that I never clean up and sit in my room all day alone? Or that every foster family I've ever had has wanted me to leave because I'm so bad?"
Miss Patterson sighs deeply. "They understand how challenging it can be for children like yourself that have grown up in foster care and they're open minded. There's no such thing as a perfect child, Katherine. They seem to see in you the child they want to complete their family."
Katherine cringes at how corny that sounds.
"Has Mrs Hughes told you anything about the Mikaelson's?" Miss Patterson asks swiftly changing the subject.
Katherine shakes her head.
"Niklaus Mikaelson was originally from Britain and came to America over a decade ago on business. He and his brothers are invested in a number of fields, namely art and real estate. They're a very wealthy and respected family that would give you a great life."
Money didn't interest Katherine, particularly since she knew the chances of them adopting her were slim to none.
"Unfortunately, Mr Mikaelson's wife Sarah has had health complications and can't have children, but they have always wanted them. They contacted me directly and were desperate to meet with you. I've spoken with them a number of times on the phone and they sound very lovely."
"If they can't have children why don't they want to adopt a baby? Why would they want a teenager?" Katherine asks with a frown.
"Because they expressed the desire to want to make a real difference in a child's life and since you've been in foster care since you were a baby and had some...difficulties, I told them how life-changing being adopted will be for you."
Katherine hates when Miss Patterson tries to get her hopes up, because it inevitably ends with disappointment.
"They won't want me once they meet me." Katherine says it with no sadness in her voice, because in her eyes it's a simple fact. She has come to believe that there is something about her that makes her completely unloveable and nothing can change that. Miss Patterson has always insisted it's just a matter of finding the "right family" but Katherine knows different.
"Don't say that. They will love you, I know it."
"I can't tell you what to do, Katherine, I know that by now. But trust me when I say if you don't at least make an effort with the Mikaelson's when they arrive you'll regret it. This could be the chance of a lifetime for you, if you'd only give it a chance."
Miss Patterson always manages to strike a chord with Katherine and unlike Mrs Hughes, who she always deliberately disobeys out of spite, she can't do anything else but listen to Miss Patterson.
She nods and Miss Patterson beams at her. "That a girl."
It's only a minute or so later that the bell rings and despite claiming not to care, Katherine feels her stomach churn with nerves.
"Oh, that'll be them," Miss Patterson announces.
Mrs Hughes bounds in from the dining room. "Now are you ready?"
Katherine nods and Mrs Hughes goes to answer the door. Miss Patterson stands and goes to stand beside Katherine and whispers, "You'll be great, just be yourself and they'll love you."
Katherine suddenly feels the little girl she is as she hears Mrs Hughes exchange greetings with the Mikaelson's in the hallway. A few moments later Mrs Hughes steps into the kitchen with the young couple in tow.
Nothing about them strikes Katherine on first appearances. They both look so ordinary and domesticated, just like every other couple she's ever met.
Miss Patterson steps forward with her hand outstretched. "Hello, I'm Nicola Patterson, Katherine's social worker. You must be Mr and Mrs Mikaleson."
She shakes their hands in turn and Mr Mikaelson says, "Please, call me Klaus."
The British accent catches Katherine off guard and she stares at him with her brow furrowed.
"And this is Katherine, who I've told you so much about."
All at once Katherine feels utterly exposed as all eyes fix on her. She manages to force a small smile.
"Oh, of course. We've so been looking forward to meeting you. Haven't we, love?" Mr Mikaelson turns to say to his wife.
"We certainly have," she beams.
Mr Mikaelson steps toward Katherine and stoops down until he's at her level.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Katherine. My name is Niklaus, but you can call me Klaus."
His mouth turns up into a smile and Katherine stares up at him with her brown, uncertain eyes completely unaware of what is to come.
Despite her initial intention to make no effort with the Mikaelson's, Katherine found herself intrigued by them and their genuine interest and positivity about meeting her made her hopeful that perhaps Miss Patterson was right and they really will adopt her.
She showed Mr and Mrs Mikaelson around her room and Mr Mikaleson took a particular interest in the drawings that covered her walls, telling her she was very talented, although art was much more of a pass time than anything else to Katherine. He also questioned her on the band posters of various metal, rock and punk bands that Katherine spent her days and nights listening to in order to drown out the rest of the world. Mrs Mikaelson opted to ask her about school, her favourite subjects and friends. Topics that Katherine generally disliked talking about, because usually when they were only discussed when she was being scalded or punished for doing something wrong.
Unlike other families, the Mikaelson's seemed to have no end of questions to ask her and actually liked her responses, rather than turning their nose up at her. It was the most attention she'd received in a long time - perhaps in her entire life - and she didn't anticipate just how good it would feel. It caused her defenses to drop instantly and she reverted back to the childlike state she spends most of her time suppressing.
By the end of the meeting she's grinning from ear to ear - much to Miss Patterson's joy - and it's only when the Mikaelson's leave with Miss Patterson that her mood dramatically changes and she remembers the inevitability of disappointment and rejection. The emotion of it causes her to lash out in anger and she smashes the plate of cookies off the table before storming to her room and slamming the door shut behind her. She flops down onto her bed on her front, her face pressed into the pillows and can't stop the tears of frustration that come.
After half an hour or so Katherine hears a knock at her bedroom door.
"Go away!" she yells.
"Katherine, it's me," Miss Patterson's soft voice calls.
"What do you want?" Katherine snaps.
"I have some wonderful news."
The child in Katherine means she's scrambled to her feet and opened the door in less than 30 seconds. Miss Patterson's smiling face greets her immediately and she announces, "They said yes. The Mikaelson's want to adopt you."
Thirteen long years Katherine has waited to hear those words and nothing could prepare her for the euphoria of it. Before she has even had time to think she has thrown herself into Miss Patterson's arms, overjoyed and secure in the naivety that she has finally found her forever family and her happily ever after.
Katherine replayed the memory of that day in her head a thousand times over until she could no longer bear to think of it. The constant torture of wondering how differently things may have been if she hadn't of met the Mikaelson's that day very nearly drove her to insanity.
She made a decision to close the book on that part of her life because she knew if she didn't it would kill her. She became so consumed with regret, bitterness and hatred that there was nothing left of her. The only way she knew to survive was to lock it away and never look back. It's why she's never stopped running, why she has never spoke of the Mikaelson's to anyone or even allowed herself to think of them for more than a passing moment in years.
If she'd never met Damon, that likely never would've changed. She would've kept running until she could run no more or he found her, but Damon revived the old Katherine - the little girl full of hopes and dreams that wanted nothing more than to belong. She got so caught up in hiding, running, pretending, lying, but he made her see that the truth does matter, that her life matters.
When she first left New York it was because she couldn't bear to face the memories of that day and the weeks, months and years that followed and because she wanted to protect Damon from getting tangled in the web of the Mikaelson's. Her intentions were to return to the life she had on the streets, to continue living in denial and isolated from the rest of the world. But now she's forcing herself to face up to the truth, to relive the pain, admit to her lies and uncover Klaus' so she can finally be free from the overbearing weight of events and traumas she has suffered the last five years.
It all goes back to that day which has been the defining point of her life - the one moment in her life where everything changed. She always wondered why it changed but accepted that she would never have an answer to that question or any of the other questions she had. What happened happened and there was nothing she could do to change that. Damon was the first and only person to question her on that. To challenge her and ask why she was so willing to accept the way things were and remain in her miserable existence of running and living rough. She argued with him so often telling him he had to accept that there were no answers she could give him, just as she'd accepted it, but she no longer accepts it. Turns out, Damon's stubbornness and unwillingness to ever let it slide rubbed off on her and now she can do nothing but question everything and wonder how and why her life came to be this way and why Klaus did what he did. She may fear Klaus above anything and anyone on earth, but it's worth seeing him again to get the answers to those questions.
Katherine's entire life is a mystery, from the day of her birth until today and though she knows Klaus won't have all of the answers, just knowing his reasons for hunting her down will be enough. It never used to be important enough for her to risk herself - nothing ever was - but now life hardly seems living if it's this way. Not now she's had a taster of what life could be like. A life where she could be free, liberated, able to make choices and shape the direction her life is going in. A life that she can share with others, where she has a real future and is able to truly live instead of simply existing. A life where she can enjoy the simplicity of nice things - soft bed sheets, homemade pancakes, the embrace of the man she loves.
Katherine always thought the day she met Klaus was the only defining point in her life, but now she can see that meeting Damon has been just as life changing. Meeting Klaus is the point in which her life changed for the worse and meeting Damon is the point in which her life changed for the best. Klaus changed her life in just two weeks and Damon in three months.
Both were unexpected whirlwinds but somehow the latter makes the former more bearable. Knowing that if she had never met Klaus means she may have never met Damon makes her question her wish to have never met Klaus for the first time in her life. For as awful as her life has been because of Klaus, she cannot believe anything would be worth giving up Damon. She can accept the agonising pain of never seeing Damon again because knowing him and living with that pain is better than never having known him at all.
Damon showed her how life could be, reminded her that she was worthy and deserved better, forced her to question herself and her choices, gave her the strength and courage to finally take action and take her fate into her own hands. He inspired her in every possible way a person can be inspired by another and though she is not necessarily aware of it, her love for him is the driving force behind everything she's doing. He's the reason she's still breathing, the reason she's still going on and why she won't stop until she uncovers the truth, even if it means facing Klaus and every other one of her worst fears.