(Author's Note: This is my last update for at least ten days; I'll be gone with no hope of a computer or keyboard. Tea and crumpets to my lovely reviewers, to whom I am eternally indebted (I'm a bit of a Review-Wench), and hope I don't try their patience too much with this I was trying to get at some of the panic of leaving home ... but I don't think it came out too well. R&R, m'dears!)
Sheets, pillows, quilts, and general bedding necessities – Check.
Pants, shirts, skirts, blouses, blazers, dresses, jackets, tees, beaters, tanks, shorts, sweats, jeans, shoes, sandals, yadayadayada – Check.
CrapTop, ShamRa, IPlod, FrellPhone – Check.
Life's savings: $163.02 – Check.
Assorted Crap I Don't Feel Like Listing But Need Anyway – Check.
Stephen King Boxed Set, Saw 1, 2 & 3, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, and other favorite flicks – Check.
Kitty Morland tossed the list over her shoulder onto the bare mattress and kicked one of the myriad suitcases fondly.
"Mom! Da! I'm ready to go!"
Her father's heavy steps sounded on the stairs, and, lo and behold, he appeared, breath heaving (Mr. Morland being far fonder of doughnuts and coffee than fruit and exercise), camera in hand.
"All that! Kit, you're going to college, not halfway across the world!"
He shook his head and sighed, hefting the two biggest suitcases.
She smiled nervously and grabbed another bag to carry to the waiting SUV.
"I'll come back for the laundry basket. James!"
Down the hall there was sluggish stirring, grumbling, and hurried footsteps as Kitty's brother appeared in the doorway, yawning.
"Take Kitty's other suitcase down to the car!"
"Daaaaad," he groaned, "I's five in the (yawn) morning!"
"Do it, Jimmy."
James favored Kitty with a dazed glare, ruffled her hair, and staggered down the stairs, boxes in hand.
"Do you want anything to eat before you go?"
Her father left her alone for a last moment; whispering goodbye to her sleeping brothers and sisters she dragged a duffle bag down.
"Good morning, Mrs. Allen," she tried to smile, over her gaping yawn, managing to wave politely instead at the newcomer sitting at the table.
In the kitchen her mother, flustered and rushed by her daughter's impending departure, poured coffee for their summer neighbor – the Mrs. Allen. Mr. Allen taught Physics at Pultney College, and had left the week before. Mrs. Allen, who stayed to manage the closing of their cottage, was soon to depart for Pultney herself and, hearing that Kitty was headed to Orientation that day, offered her a ride.
Mrs. Morland protested – no, they should take their daughter to college – and Mr. Morland coughed and demurred, but then his firm had called – it was urgent, really – and Mrs. Morland remembered she had to take Henry, Jane and Cassy to their championship swim meet that day. There was nothing to be done. Kitty would go with Mrs. Allen.
"Oh, there's the dear! You look good, Kitty, very good!"
"The summer does her good, I think," Mrs. Morland said, "More coffee?"
"No, thank you. I'm glad to help, you know. Very glad. As I was saying to Mr. Allen before he left, Kitty's a very good girl. Very good. And very lucky to get into Pultney – she's very lucky, indeed! Well, very good, very good."
Mrs. Allen, it need not be said, was very fond of the word, 'very,' and was, all in all, a rather effusive individual given to hyperbole, excessive chatter and too fond of cream in her coffee. Her favorite subject of discourse was on fashion, and though she did have an acute sense of it, Kitty had enough of the latest vogue three years ago.
"Call when you get there, dear."
Mr. Morland stepped in and nodded.
"Your car's packed, Mrs. Allen. Kitty – that's all?"
Mrs. Morland put down the coffeepot; Mr. Morland his paper, and both embraced their daughter. Kitty smiled.
"Have fun, Kit."
They proceeded out the front door, cheerfully waving.
Tired, Kitty snuck the bud of her IPlod into her ear, ignoring Mrs. Allen's busy chatter.
Waves of sound poured into her ear, soothing and calm, against the nerves welling in her stomach. 156 Fullerton Crescent faded behind her, into the early-morning lake mists and sunrise. Two hours until Pultney.
Two hours until life after High School.
Two hours until being an unknown, friendless, hopeless, naïve horror-movie-addict stuck in Pultney College with only her Craptop for lucid company and an unreliable DVD player to boot.
Kitty was, needless to way, a little nerved.