Cathy Morland did not have long, flowing, locks of some unique hair color. She didn't have piercing blue/green/grey/amber eyes that would shoot daggers at anyone, metaphorically of course. As she stared at her reflection in the mirror she tried hard to find an adjective that would qualify her to be a heroine of one of her romance novels. She tried to envision a man with a big, strong chest in an open flowing shirt holding onto her from behind in a passionate embrace.
She sighed as she realized that it wasn't happening, especially since she was no more than a Minister's daughter and one of five children no less. Cathy (who really hated the name Cathy and secretly called herself Catherine) longed to have hair that wasn't dishwater blonde and eyes that weren't blue like an Icee. She wished her nose wasn't so long and her cheekbones were higher. She wished she could fill out a dress better, but she appeared to be a late bloomer and at 17 was still a bit of a stick figure.
She supposed it didn't help that she was prone to playing with her brothers out at the baseball diamond, or the flag football field, or the basketball court. She was tall and athletic and that was what she had on her side. All of the colleges that she had applied to had offered her partial athletic scholarships, which was a good thing because her poor minister father and her mother the chef couldn't possibly afford full tuition to a University; specifically because they moved a lot due to her father's profession and there were no State Universities for which she could claim residency.
It was also a good thing because the hours Cathy killed after school before her various sports practices were not spent doing homework, as perhaps they should have been, but were instead spent with her nose in different romance novels. She was smart, though, smart enough to maintain the necessary grade point average to play sports without actually studying or doing any of her homework. Anything graded she usually threw together late at night before bed or over breakfast in the morning. The only problem with this, in her father's opinion, was that most of her thoughts were unoriginal and tended to run on the romantic side due to the bulk of her reading. She was next to useless at the dinner table when the conversation grew serious and intellectual.
Catherine (thankyouverymuch) did not care, though. She had never cared for intellectual pursuits anyway. She would much rather go for a run than read John Steinbeck or learn Trigonometry. Either way she was graduating and was set to go to the University of Maryland, College Park to play women's basketball with them which pleased her very much. Her father had been rooting for a Seven Sister's College like Smith or Vassar, but her grades weren't nearly good enough and she was happy to go to a school with a good athletic program.
As a graduation gift, her mother's best friend was coming to town to take her with them to a mountain resort in upstate New York. Catherine had high hopes for this trip, having seen Dirty Dancing one too many times and fancied herself very much a Francis "Baby" Houseman-type character. Her mother had insisted on throwing her a party after her high school graduation and Catharine had the good fortune to hear a friend of her father's pronounce her quite a pretty young woman. This comment had caused her to blush and ultimately led to her position in front of the mirror as she wondered, having dismissed the idea of being a Romantic Heroine, if she and Jennifer Grey (pre-nose job) had anything in common. Her hair was straight and only curled if you beat it into submission with rollers. Her nose was long, but not crooked in an interesting way. She wasn't little and cute and someone you might want to teach how to do a lift in a fancy dance. She was too tall for that sort of thing.
Another sigh escaped her lips and she retreated from the mirror having had enough self-abuse for now. She returned to the open suitcase on her bed and began throwing the things she had picked out into it. There was a knock at her door and her mother and her mother's best friend, and Catherine's namesake, Cathy Allen walked into the room.
"I thought you might like some help packing," Mrs. Morland said as they entered.
"I know exactly what type of thing you'll need at this place so I wanted to make sure you'd be prepared," Mrs. Allen interjected.
"Thanks," Catherine said as she stepped aside. "Here's what I've got so far." She indicated a pile on her bed and her mother rifled through it.
"Oh Cathy," she sighed. "Sweats and running shorts and t-shirts? And nothing but sports bras? Don't think you'll get away with doing nothing but playing sports for four weeks."
"No dear, there are dinners and dances and all kinds of activities. Not just athletic things," Mrs. Allen added as she opened Catherine's closet. "Oh my, it looks like we'll have to do some shopping."
"We can't really afford-" Mrs. Morland began to say before Mrs. Allen interrupted.
"Nonsense, Beth, consider it my pleasure. After all, I owe my goddaughter at least three birthday presents. It's on me! Besides, I do love to shop!"
The matter closed, Catherine tossed at least three athletic items into her suitcase before following her mother and her godmother out of her room. There was nothing she hated more in the world than shopping. She knew with Cathy that shopping would not be a quick affair. Usually with her mother she could get in and out of the store in 30 minutes flat by not being terribly picky about what she wore, but with Cathy Allen it was going to require trying on half the store before making any decisions.
Catherine was modeling a dress for what felt like the five thousandth time. They had been in Nordstram's for 3 hours now and they had accumulated a tall pile of clothes that Mrs. Allen wanted to buy for her that she was certain she'd never wear again. She kept her mouth closed, though, because she felt it was better to own clothes she might never wear than to feel awkward at the resort.
The three of them, Catherine, Mrs. Allen, and Mr. Allen, left the next morning deciding to drive from Maryland to New York in Mr. Allen's H2. Catherine stretched out on the backseat with a pillow and her iPod and the drive passed by relatively quickly. She watched as scenery changed from sterile concrete buildings to bright green foliage, to cascading mountainsides and realized that this trip would be very good for her. She was feeling better already. Overall the drive was quite a success, though they did have to turn back at some point when Mrs. Allen thought she had left her funny hat at the last pit stop, but then she realized it was in the trunk and they were back on the road making good time. It was nearly dinner time when they finally pulled the car up to the main building of the resort.
Mr. Allen was in the building for a mere 10 minutes before they were heading to their cabin. Although Catherine used the word Cabin lightly considering that it was two stories, with a massive gourmet kitchen, a cushy lounge area with a flat screen TV hooked up to the Satellite Dish mounted outside, and had several rooms with their own bathrooms all fitted out with complete luxury and style. Mr. Allen had an itinerary and Mrs. Allen went over it with Catherine sitting in their eating area which was nicer than the nicest Dining Room Catherine had ever eaten in.
"There's dinner and dancing tonight, you should wear that blue sundress we got yesterday. I wish the Kolkers were coming this year! Such nice people you'd simply love their children. Oh well, it is just such a shame that we don't know anyone!"
This had become a fairly constant refrain of Mrs. Allen's on the drive up, not that Catherine had heard it much with her earphones stuffed in her ears, but at lunch and pit stops she heard it constantly.
"Look, tomorrow there's a soccer game!" Catherine quickly scanned the schedule and realized there was some sort of athletic pursuit every single day and wished she had packed more outfits for those.
"Let's go clean up and change for dinner. We don't want to be late."
"I was so upset to learn that the Petersons wouldn't be coming back this year! Their son is just your age and I knew you two would get along so well. Such a shame."
Catherine realized that hearing something over and over, no matter how well meaning, quickly killed the intention behind it. She knew that Mrs. Allen was trying to make her feel better, but it didn't change the fact that they didn't know a soul. Mr. Allen did not seem at all put out about not having any acquaintances and simply ate his dinner with the same alacrity with which he usually attacked his evening meal.
When dinner was over and the tables were moved back so that dancing could start, Mr. Allen did his duty and asked his wife to dance and the couple left Catherine to sit on the edge of the dance floor feeling like a huge wallflower. It was then that she realized someone was looking at her. She turned her head towards the exit and found a tall, dark, and handsome man, who couldn't have been more than 20 standing awkwardly in the doorway watching her. She hoped that the blue of her dress made the blue of her eyes brighter and that the hairstyle Mrs. Allen had helped her with complemented her face. She was beginning to realize that perhaps doing her makeup hadn't been a huge waste of time and then she realized that he was staring at her and she was staring right back. She smiled shyly for him before looking down uncomfortably.
She stared at the floor as long as she could and soon she noticed a pair of brown boat shoes appear in her peripheral view. She looked up and saw the same man standing there smiling at her.
"Would you care to dance?" he asked with, she noticed, a lopsided grin. His black hair was falling in his (blue!) eyes and she returned his smile.
"Sure," she said standing up. She quickly recounted the number of heroes in her many romance novels who were blessed with black hair and blue eyes and she felt her heart begin to sing. Because, sometimes, the heroines were women who felt ugly and awkward, but it turned out they were actually beautiful and stunning and all it took was the love of a man to show them that. She felt sure this was the start of something big.
The dance was a quick one and he led her around the floor expertly and she followed him easily. Her soccer coach had insisted that all the girls take dance lessons to improve their footwork and at this moment Catherine was extremely grateful for that. When the quick song ended the band on the stage struck up a slow number and the mystery man didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave her. Instead he stepped closer and put his left hand on her back, taking her left hand in his right one.
"What's your name?" he asked with that same smile.
"Catherine," she replied.
"Just Catherine? Like just Madonna? Or Just Cher?" He was laughing at her, but she didn't mind.
"Catherine Morland. What's yours?"
"Henry Tilney," he said guiding her through a tricky dance step. "You're a good dancer."
"Thanks. It helps to have a good partner," she replied with a bashful smile. Was she flirting with him? Was she, Catherine Morland, actually flirting with a guy? She could hardly believe it herself.
When the song ended the band took a break and Catherine and Henry stood awkwardly on the empty dance floor.
"Do you want...some punch or something?" Henry asked rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.
"Sure, that'd be great," Catherine smiled guilelessly at him. Henry smiled back.
Many a man had lost their heads over a sweet smile and fine figure. And while Catherine wasn't necessarily curvy, she was lithe and tan and her smile was the sweetest smile in the room. While Henry had thought it would be fun to dance with her, as there had been no other eligible girls in the room, he hadn't known that her shy glances and sweet smile would be so charming. Catherine had no idea that Henry was, at that moment, becoming charmed. He walked her back to her table where her companions sat sipping cocktails and ignoring each other.
"Oh Catherine, I am so glad you found someone to dance with!" Mrs. Allen effused a bit too warmly in Catherine's opinion. "And who is your friend?"
"Henry Tilney, ma'am," Henry introduced himself taking her hand lightly in his own.
"Oh! Tilney! What an honor! Your father is a very great man!" Mrs. Allen flushed and she practically beamed at him.
"You know him?" Henry asked attempting to hide his own disgust.
"No, I know of him. It would be such an honor to meet him!"
Henry only nodded his head in acknowledgement, but said no more on the subject.
"If you'll excuse me, I was just about to get Catherine a drink. Can I get anything for you?" He glanced from Mrs. Allen to Mr. Allen and back.
"No thank you, we're all set."
When Henry walked away, Catherine sat down and Mrs. Allen began to talk of all the great things Mr. Tilney had achieved in his life. A publishing magnate, he owned most of the newspapers on the East Coast and one major publishing house with several subsidiaries. He had inherited several holdings in different industries, but had majored in journalism and as soon as he reached his majority and took over the family fortune he bought up the best news outlets in the country, including a large chunk of a major news network.
"It's a shame that papers are a dying industry. He's got so many of them that they will most likely create a huge dent in his fortune," Mrs. Allen was saying as Henry returned with Catherine's punch. She took it gratefully and he excused himself to make a call. "He's a very nice young man, Cathy. You're quite lucky to have caught his eye."
Catherine only nodded, but secretly agreed and felt that this was going to improve her chances for a wild romance worthy of a novel. Unfortunately, as Henry made his way back to her he was waylaid by a gentleman and apparently had to talk with him. Henry caught her eye, shrugged and waved, and was occupied thus for the rest of the evening.
As Catherine made her way out behind the Allens, he caught up with her and grabbed her arm.
"I'm sorry to have neglected you the whole night. There was a business matter to be discussed and I couldn't get out of it. I hope you're not mad."
"Not at all," Catherine said smiling that great smile, though it seemed a bit sad this time.
"It was a pleasure meeting you and I'm sure we'll run into each again soon."
"Sure," she said brightly. Then he took her hand softly and pulled it to his lips. As his soft lips brushed the back of her hand, she felt her legs get wobbly and hoped she'd be able to make the walk back to the cabin.
"Goodnight Henry," she said as he walked off in the other direction.
This trip was turning out to be most eventful indeed.