Authors: H. Mattern
Table of Contents
Saving Katie Baker
Copyright © 2013 by H. Hattern. All rights reserved.
Saving Katie Baker
Extras Just For You copyright © 2013 by H. Mattern.
First Kindle Edition: September 2013
Book Design and Formatting:
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This book is a work of fiction; although the tornado in Alabama on April 27, 2011 was very real, the characters and events in this novel are fictional and in no way associated with real persons, living or dead. Any correlations are coincidental and not intended by the author.
WRITTEN IN MEMORY OF:
who taught me to always believe in magic-
and his invisible dog.
who wrote the sign
“no girls allowed except Heather”
on the tree house.
You both are very missed!
Saving Katie Baker
, along with my love of writing in general, is all Ray Bradbury’s fault. It’s him who first encouraged me to put my stories out into the world. I wish he were still alive so I could tell him what an impact his novels and his inspiring words about writing have had on my journey. It’s because of him “every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”
There are many others to add to this list, but where do I begin? I’m so grateful for my beta readers who took time out of their busy schedules to read through the rough draft and share their feedback. I appreciate ALL of your input.
My group of SRC ladies, you know who you are and you know your words helped me bloom into what I am today. I will forever be grateful for each of you: The mermaid, the dread goddess, my fairy art mother, rain, and all you other magical beauties.
Miss Pat thanks for being the coolest neighbor ever and for putting up with all our biker parties and shenanigans.
Now, where oh where would this story be without the biker dudes? You know who you are, all you Fairy Ridaz. You guys taught me what community really looks like. You are our church, our family, and our tribe.
And finally, I want to thank my family.
My husband first of all who put up with my daydreaming ever since I was fourteen and lovingly encouraged me to chase after each dream, even when some of them might not make sense to him, he’s always been my biggest fan. Babe, you are my everything.
To my kiddos, you three are my biggest adventures. It’s because of you that my imagination stays alive. I love each one of you so very much.
er throat had begun to close up as the song played. What was it about certain lyrics that could pull so intensely at the soul? The ones that blasted through the radio ripped through Katie Baker’s heart, as if at any moment the song would shatter it into a million little misshaped puzzle pieces on the floorboard.
The message felt way too close to home and stung like a bad sunburn. She knew the tune would be going through her head for the rest of the day; the all too familiar, painful words were forever going to be etched on her mind. Katie had known them; felt them deep in her bones. Even now, as she caught her voice instinctually singing along, she knew the words could have been her very own syllables bleeding out through the stereo system.
Twenty-one-year-old Katie Baker took a deep slow breath, an attempt to ground herself. She looked into the rear view mirror and pulled it down a bit to take a better peek at her daughter who appeared to have finally fallen asleep in the back seat. Her little girl’s head, full of blonde curls, currently sported a sweaty sticky look, with pieces of hair clinging stiffly to the toddler’s face as she lay motionless, sleeping soundly in her car seat.
Her daughter lay there, head crumpled forward in a pose that would surely cause any adult to wake up with a neck full of kinks. This little one didn’t seem to be affected. If only adults could be as flexible as children. As the thought entered Katie’s mind, she knew there was more than one meaning to the sentence.
Katie ran her hand through her own blonde hair, forcing fingers through the tangles knit together by the open air. She didn’t mind though: a worthy sacrifice for driving with the windows down. While the Alabama spring wind danced around her, Katie daydreamed about how the rest of her evening would play out.
Bedtime should be easy. It had been one of “those” days. Not really a bad day per se, but simply one of those days that leaves you exhausted and ready for sleep. Katie thought about her claw foot tub and the bath with new lavender salts waiting for her at home. She was excited to retreat there. It would be the perfect medicine, a calming bath and a novel by Ray Bradbury, her favorite author. There was nothing quite like having a good science fiction story to take you away—a portal into another world. A bath and a book, those were her portals.
The sun was setting below the horizon as Katie turned her SUV into the subdivision. It was a quiet neighborhood, consisting mostly of older couples and their brick homes with perfectly manicured lawns. “The Box Property,” she remembered her husband calling it, since most of the homeowners seemed to come from a box. They all looked alike, drove the same cars and cut perfect lines in the lawn. The neighborhood ended where her street began. Although technically one could say she was still in the subdivision, she really wasn’t.
You would think that if you were entering “McGreggor Forest Subdivision” that it would mean you too were part of it, but not in Katie’s case. Each of the brick houses sat on a small square piece of property, no more than a quarter acre. But her property, her little cottage, was on almost three acres down a gravel driveway in the middle of the subdivision.
One could consider the home “family land”, since before her husband became its owner it was his father’s. “A gift so you can move back home”, he had told them as soon as he found out they were pregnant with nowhere to go. Katie had grown to love her little cottage, nestled between the trees. She hadn’t at first considered how out of place their street must look, but she didn’t care. She was never one who enjoyed subdivision life anyway.
Turning onto the gravel road, Katie gripped the steering wheel tightly. She felt her shoulders tense. Her heart pounded even quicker in her chest with anxiety, a sign that her evening wasn’t going to be the perfectly quiet one she had hoped for.
Oh please, not tonight
, she thought to herself.
It didn’t matter how hard she wished them away, there were dozens of two-wheeled machines parked across the street, a whole rainbow of them in open view from her house, where her only neighbor lived.
I’m going to kill him. Mr. Popular is going to die.
As the wheels of Katie’s vehicle slowly crept closer to her home, around the circle drive that she shared with the neighbor, Katie instantly wished she were a part of “the box property” even if it did mean her sweaty self would need to get out there and push a mower every day in order to keep the perfect lawn that was required. It would be better than the alternative, living across from this person.
“Ugh,” Katie said aloud as she fancied what might have been. If the neighbor had only stayed out of their business, then her husband might still be alive. Her story could be a romance rather than a tragedy.
Katie wished her husband could be here, to be the bad guy. Katie simply wasn’t cut out for confrontation. That’s what he always told her. She admitted it: she hated disagreements, and tried to avoid them at all costs. Katie was determined to change . . . to “grow some balls” as her husband used to say. She didn’t have a choice now, but how does one learn to grow balls? How can an introvert become an extrovert? Was it even possible?
Katie parked her Dodge Durango, brakes squealing as she came to a stop. She could feel her face heat as she wondered if the bikers across the street had noticed and whether they were now aware of her arrival. Katie wished she had taken care of that squeaking already. It would have made hiding easier, but she hadn’t had the time or the money to do so.
Katie attempted to put the thoughts out of her mind as she stuffed her planner inside her oversized leather briefcase, a rare splurge, and slung it over her shoulder. The weight held significance. Katie knew it was too heavy for her to be carrying. It was too big for her small frame, and often caused her neck and shoulders to ache, but she felt that its beauty was needed in her life so she endured it regardless of its downfalls.
Carefully, and as quietly as possible, she attempted to open and close her door noiselessly as she moved back to get her daughter, Micah, out of the car seat. She hoped that by some miracle she could get inside the house without waking the toddler. She tenderly pulled her daughter close to her chest as she stood up and slowly closed the car door.
With her daughter still asleep in her arms, Katie walked to the red front door. She remembered how strongly she insisted that it be painted red when they first moved in. Her husband was afraid the sun would turn it an ugly shade of pink over time but nonetheless he had given in to her many pleas. She sighed, feeling the weight of her exhaustion as her mind continued to run away with itself down memory lane.
Katie heard a blatant wolf whistle from across the street.
“Look Mommy, Motor-yite-yites,” said Micah, lifting her head off of her mothers shoulder and pointing to the group of colorful sport bikes revving their engines. The little girl was now wide-awake. Having her daughter there was the only thing that kept Katie from flicking off the biker dudes.
Katie was constantly amazed at her daughter’s growing vocabulary. She was frequently told Micah spoke well above her almost two years old. She patted her daughter on the back and walked inside their little cottage, hoping it wouldn’t take long to get Micah back to sleep.
Warm milk had been known to help calm children down and get their bellies ready for dreaming, but it never worked with Micah. Katie tried it, but Micah just wasn’t a child who liked the taste of milk. Katie had even tried the sleepy-time lavender lotions and calming baby massage, but that just induced yawning. Sleep still came much later.
It was hard being a young mom. Katie often felt like a failure. She reluctantly did the only thing that she knew worked with the little one to get her asleep, and brought her daughter to bed with her. Everyone kept telling Katie that this was a bad habit to get into, letting the child co-sleep, but Katie didn’t mind.
Could it be that what works for one family may not work for another?
Katie’s opinion was: if it works, then it works. She waited until Micah had fallen asleep and then carried the little girl to her own crib;
at least she wakes up in her own bed
, she thought to herself.
“I’m going to kill him,” Katie said aloud into the telephone as she rambled to Jill, her closest and, truth be told, only friend.
“Honestly, I’d love to see that. I can see it now, the headline would read, ‘Small Blonde Princess Kills Biker Dude.’” Her friend laughed out loud at the thought.
“I’m serious, he’s gone way too far! I’m sick of his bullshit. The parties, the constant revving of engines, it’s just too much, and tonight, one of them had the gall to whistle at me? Who fucking does that? I’m done.”
Jill continued to respond with super irritating and mocking laughter, “If you really feel that strong about it then you should talk to him. Stop talking about it to me, Ms. High-and-Mighty, and actually do something.”
Katie rolled her eyes as if her friend could see her and replied with a cynical, “Well, thanks for your help,” before hanging up.
“Ugh,” she vented out-loud again as she stomped her feet in the kitchen, feeling much like the toddler she was trying to raise. Katie composed herself slightly, and walked to the room where she had just lay her daughter down. Peeking in, she could see the little girl, laying face down and still rolling around a bit as if attempting to rock herself deeper into sleep.
I wish you looked more like your daddy
. Katie thought to herself, instantly finding that she missed and craved the touch of his arms around her. What she wouldn’t give to have those simple things back. Things like his fingers intertwined with hers, the way his hand would rest on the curve of her back when he’d lead her into a room, and the smell of him when he embraced her. Come to think of it, even those things that irritated her back then—like the hairs that he would leave in the sink after trimming his goatee—she even missed those things. All of them were gone now, and gone forever.
She closed her daughter’s door and walked to the bookshelf her father had made for them right before their wedding day. Her father, the great carpenter, was always gifting them with his work. Katie loved this about him. Sliding a chair from her dining room table up next to it, she climbed up and grappled for the box.
“I know you would both be disappointed,” she whispered aloud. She didn’t care enough about their disappointment to keep it from stopping her.
The Indian on the front of the cigarette box beckoned her a lot lately. She accepted the invitation tonight and retreated outside to the red table-and-chair set where she did most of her thinking and “breathing”. With a view of nothing but the trees in her back yard, Katie could stare up at the stars and moon that lit up the sky. It was usually such a peaceful and calming place to spend the evenings before retreating to the tub. The back deck, her little getaway, was supposed to be a place of seclusion.
Not tonight though. Tonight, no matter how hard she tried, was anything but calming. Katie could hear the ruckus still going on next door. With an uncontrollable “hummmf” she lit up one of the cigarettes and inhaled deeply. Their parties usually lasted all night long so she figured she might as well just accept that tonight would remain a disappointment. Katie could feel the burn fill up her lungs, a feeling she welcomed tonight because it seemed to numb the others.
Only three puffs in she began to hear feet approaching. Quickly. Running. Bounding. A big Golden Retriever came leaping up the stairs of her back deck. Katie jumped out of her seat and climbed up onto the chair, “shhooo, go away,” holding the cigarette between her fingers high above her head. She insisted, “Get out of here you dumb dog—go home!” As soon as the words left her, she saw someone else come around the corner.
“Montag! Get over here. You come when I call you! I’m so sorry, ma’am,” he said.
Katie knew who he was. Not only was he obviously the owner of the pesky cow of a dog, but also the man responsible for the many thunderous parties that kept her feathers ruffled and left her family up with countless sleep-deprived nights. He stood there, with an unshaved face, leaving just enough bristle to give him the common five o’clock shadow. With his dark hair and scruffy face, he had that shady Italian look that was displayed in all the Tuscany romance movies—surprising for someone living in this small country town. He was definitely not a cowboy. It was that look that would make many other girls—the normal ones—go weak at the knees.
He was wearing a cut-off basketball shirt that showed a black and grey Celtic tattoo on his arm. She didn’t want to focus long on it and was unsure exactly what the symbol was. There was no denying Katie found her neighbor to be an attractive man, but not worth the time. She didn’t consider any man worth her time if she were completely honest with herself.
But it doesn’t hurt to look and admire.
“We’re not being too loud, are we?” the man asked.