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Authors: Francisco X. Stork

Irises (9 page)

BOOK: Irises
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Kate pulled the covers over her head. “Aarrghh!” Slowly, he
r face crawled
out. “I think Simon proposed to me tonight.”

“You think?”

“I know he did. It's just that he did it in his typical Simon way, like getting married was the obvious, most practical thing to do. He sounded like Aunt Julia.”

“Is that why you looked so sad when you came in? You didn't look like the man of your dreams had just proposed
to you

“The man of my dreams,” Kate repeated.

Mary propped herself up on her elbow. Sisters were supposed to talk about their boyfriends and how they feel about them, and they had never talked about Simon. Did Kate love him? Mary had always assumed that what Kate and Simon
had was their
own way of loving each other. But here was K
ate all
gloomy over the fact that he had proposed. “You have to tell me exactly what he said and what you said,” she pleaded.

“He thought marrying him was ‘best for all.' ”

“And what did you say?”

“I told him I needed time.”

“You gave him some hope, then?”

“I didn't close the door entirely, I don't think.”

“But when was he thinking of marrying you?”

“Right away.”

“I guess you could still go to college, right? You could be married and still go to UTEP.”

When Kate spoke, her words came slowly and without emotion. “He says he's okay with my going to UTEP. It was the funniest thing. I couldn't bring myself to say no to him. Before Father died, I would have told him straight off that I wasn't ready to make a decision like marriage. But now . . .”

“But what's changed? You should follow your heart. You shouldn't marry Simon if that's not what you want.”

“I don't think it's as easy as all that now. He's such a good person. And he's offering me so much. He offers all he has, really. Shouldn't that be enough?”

“Kate, do you love Simon?”

“I don't know.”

“You have to know. You've been with him for more than a year and known him since you were eight years old. How do you feel about him?”

“I feel peaceful. I feel comfortable when he's around. . . . But I'm not sure I feel the kinds of things people feel when they're in love.” She spoke as if she realized for the first time that she was missing out on something.

“Oh.” Mary's mind went blank and she couldn't think of anything else to say or ask.

“Maybe something's wrong with me.” Mary heard Kate's voice quiver. She stretched her arm out of the bed, and Kate grabbed her hand. “Maybe what Simon and I have is love. Maybe love doesn't need to have the kind of feelings that people talk about. Have you ever been in love?”

“I don't think I've been in love with a person, but I always imagined love to be like what I felt for painting once. When I lost myself in painting, I felt like I was part of whatever it was I painted, how it felt to be a flower or a rock. Like a light in me recognized a light coming from what I was painting, and the two lights got all tangled up so I couldn't tell them apart. I had to work hard at keeping the lights together, but at the beginning the lights joined together naturally.”

Kate pulled her hand away from Mary. “I've never felt that way about anything . . . or anyone.”

Mary took a deep breath. “To be honest, I haven't felt that kind of love for painting since . . .”


“Since Mama had her accident,” Mary said quietly.


“I don't know. I just don't feel like painting. The spark i
s gone

“But you've kept on painting.”

“Yes. But it's different. The lights I used to see in and around everything are not there anymore. It's like something I have to do rather than something I want to do. I don't enjoy it anymore.”

“Like what I feel for Simon,” Kate said thoughtfully.

“But you want to be a doctor, and that's a kind of love also.” Mary wanted to change the subject.

Kate shook her head. Then she said, “You want to know why Simon's proposal made me sad?”


“I think Simon loves me. He's attracted to me and wants to take care of me and I don't doubt that he'd be by my side forever. That's just the way he is. I knew all that back when we first started dating, but I've never felt the way he does. Today I felt like I used him and strung him along because having a boyfriend meant I could get out of the house and do things that Father wouldn't let me do otherwise.”

Mary wondered if Kate and Simon had ever made love. She didn't think it was right to make love to someone before marriage, and she couldn't imagine Kate making love to Simon, after what she had just said, but she wanted to ask, even if it was none of her business. “Kate . . .” Mary started to say.

Kate seemed to have read her mind. “Today he complained
— I guess
you can call it complaining — about not being intimate, you know, physical. We've never made love because I never felt
kind of love for him.” Mary felt relieved. “It's a mess,” Kate continued. “I don't know what I've been doing or what I'm going to do. Do I love Simon enough to marry him and hope the rest comes later? Is what we have a form of love? If it is, then isn't marrying him the best thing? The ‘best for all,' as he put it? And even if it isn't love, there's no doubt that marrying him
the best thing for all of us
. in a way. We'd be taken care of.”

“You need to stick with your plan,” Mary said, trying to sound comforting. “You need to go to UTEP and be a doctor. With the one hundred thousand dollars from the insurance, we can get Talita or someone to take care of Mama while I'm in school. I don't see anything wrong with you going out with Simon these past two years. It wasn't like you led him on. You never made any promises or told him things you didn't feel, did you? He knows about your plans?”


“What does he say about you going to UTEP?”

There was silence.

“Kate, are you all right? What's the matter?”

“Nothing, I was just thinking. About
. UTEP.”


“Nothing. I need to go to sleep now, Mary. It's been a l
ong day

“Is there something you want to tell me? Tell me.”

“No, there's nothing else. Good night.”

Mary paused, took a deep breath. “Okay. Good night.”

Mary shifted in the bed and lay her head on the pillow. Why did Kate pull back all of a sudden? It had happened so many times. Just as they began to get close, Kate retreated. It was as if Kate was afraid to be her sister, the way sisters are meant to be. Mary raised her hand and touched her cheek. She remembered the time in their backyard when Kate had dabbed her face with paint.


ate lay awake, thinking about Mary's questions. Did she love Simon? How would she ever know? What did it feel like to love someone? What should she do about college, about marriage, about Mary?

She hugged herself, wishing it was Mother's arms around her.
I need you
she said softly to herself.

Kate stayed home from school the following morning and filled out the paperwork for the insurance company. When she studied the insurance policy, she was surprised to see th
at sh
e was listed as the sole beneficiary. Her father had taken out the policy ten years before, so it was strange but fortunate that he had not listed Mother as well, because there might have been problems collecting the benefits, given that she was incapacitated. And Mary? Kate wasn't sure, but she suspected that if Father had listed both Mary and her as beneficiaries, they would have had to wait until Mary turned eighteen to receive any of the money.

After she put the documents in the mail, she called the insurance company to ask how long it would take to process the claim. The lady at the other end of the line was obviously accustomed to hearing the question. She couldn't predict, but it wouldn't be long; it could be as short as a week, no more than a month. There would be a small investigation and then the check would be issued.

“What sort of investigation?” Kate asked.

“Nothing unusual,” the insurance lady said in a sympathetic voice. “We look into the cause of death. It's nothing to worry about. Was an autopsy performed?”


“Your father died suddenly?”


“We'll need to get his medical records.”

“I need to send those to you?”

“We'll get them directly from his primary physician. The policy usually provides for a release of the records. We'll check. If we need a consent form, I'll mail it to you or you can come get it. We're right here on Mesa.”

“Is the check mailed?” Kate asked.

“We may have someone deliver it in person or ask you to come get it. For your own security, we want to make sure that the right person gets the check, and we'll ask you to sign some documents saying you received it.”

There weren't too many other details to take care of. She found her father's savings account book in the top drawer of his desk. Father didn't use a regular bank. He deposited his monthly paycheck from the church with the Ysleta Credit Union, and then he took out in cash what he was going to need for the month. He paid his bills with money orders that he bought at the post office.

There was four thousand dollars in the savings account. Kate hoped that was enough to keep them going until the insurance money came in. She had found out that the home care organization that employed Talita charged fifty dollars a day. If the insurance money didn't come in quickly, she didn't know what they would do.

Fortunately, there weren't any debts other than what was owed to the funeral home, and she thought the church would pay for that. It worried Kate that none of the deacons had so far mentioned that they would take care of those expenses. Her friend Bonnie had said that a special collection had been taken up for them, but she hadn't heard anything more about it. Father had also mentioned a retirement account. She reminded herself to talk to the deacons about that. At school she was great with numbers, but these kinds of figures were confusing and worrisome and they clouded the mind with questions. How, for example, did Father manage to pay fifty dollars a day for home care for Mother? His small monthly paycheck must have gone directly to Talita.

She couldn't help feeling that it was unfair. She was eighteen years old. Her classmates at school were worried about the prom and trying to have as much fun as possible during their last semester in high school. She had to worry about money and make decisions about marriage. In the next few days, Kate threw herself into her schoolwork, or tried to, as a way to forget the many thoughts that whirled in her mind. It was good that advanced calculus, astronomy, and Honors English demanded all of her attention, even if she couldn't fully give it to them.

She and Simon sat together for lunch as they always did, but there were more and more silences between them. She could tell that his pride had been bruised. She felt bad about the sad way he had walked out of the house, and part of h
er wanted
to reach out to him and give him hope, but she thought that to do so might make it worse in the long run. For the first time, she wished that she and Simon could talk to each other freely. They would talk about Mother, about how important i
t was
to go to the best school she could get into, about all th
e things
they each dreamed of for their lives. She wondered if Simon was capable of this type of communication. Another time, she might have tried. But she was too tired to do s
o now

And there was also this strange feeling she suddenly had toward Mary — a sense of regret. She wasn't sure whether the regret came from disclosing too much, or from not telling her about Stanford, or from what she had discovered about herself as she talked with Mary. Was something wrong with her because she didn't feel passion for Simon? Why couldn't she feel the kind of feelings Mary felt toward painting? Mary was wrong when she said that Kate's desire to be a doctor was love. Love had a softness and a receptiveness to it. Her desire to be a doctor was strong, willful. It would not bend.

BOOK: Irises
9.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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