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Authors: Laurel Osterkamp

The Standout

BOOK: The Standout
9.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015

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Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
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Part I: Robin

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Part II: Ted

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Part III: Robin

Chapter 38

Part IV: Zelda

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Part V

Chapter 62: Robin

Chapter 63: Robin

Chapter 64: Zelda

Chapter 65: Ted

Chapter 66: Robin

Chapter 67: Ted

Chapter 68: Zelda

Chapter 69: Robin

Chapter 70: Zelda

Chapter 71: Robin

Chapter 72: Zelda

Chapter 73: Robin

Chapter 74: Robin

Chapter 75: Robin

Chapter 76: Ted

Chapter 77: Zelda

Chapter 78: Robin

Chapter 79: Robin


Other Books by Laurel Osterkamp

The Holdout

Part I: Robin
Chapter 1

I wanted to jump but I didn’t have the guts.

It was one of those moments that I knew would never leave me. I was clinging to the trunk of a solid elm, praying that the rickety old tree house underneath my feet wouldn’t collapse. “You whore!” Clara screamed, her face as red as her hair. I looked to Robert, fruitlessly hoping he might help, but all I saw was his backside, just a pair of khaki shorts and a blue Polo jersey retreating through the freshly mowed back yard. I was paralyzed in equal parts by fear and guilt, wishing I could take it all back, wishing I could be someone else, wishing I could jump.

It started innocently enough. I met Clara in a fashion design class at a community college that was like a strip mall with classrooms. The arts building was big and stretched out, with lots of lounges and study areas, and there was a coffee shop at the north end that had a fireplace against a picture window.

On the first day I was early, so I stopped to buy a latte, and I noticed a guy noticing me. You know the type: tall, dark hair, sparkling eyes, well-built. I couldn’t even a find a slight, personality-defining imperfection, like a crooked nose or a chipped tooth, to give his face an endearing dose of uniqueness.

I gave him a half-smile, secured a cardboard sleeve around my coffee cup, and went on my way to class.

Before the second class, I stopped for coffee again, and Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome sat in the same spot as before. This time he had an architecture textbook and a sketch pad, and every few seconds he would absently draw something. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and grinned like he knew me.

I smiled back. With a flick of his head he gestured me over and I responded.

“What’s your name?” He asked.


“Really? That's so funny. My name is Robert. It's like we're the same.”

That was the beginning. Before every class I would get coffee, and Robert would always be there, studying architecture, and we would always say hello. One night he asked me out and I said yes. There was no ring on his finger, after all. He seemed put-together, driven, and interesting. I’d thought I hit the jackpot.

And for a while, it was like I had.

He didn’t ask much of me. His schedule was busy and mine was too. He had roommates, he said, so he always came to my place, but he never stayed the night. I enjoyed the reprieve from loneliness, but I wasn’t in love, so I didn’t question it.

And then there was Clara. She was the star pupil in our little fashion design class but she should have been the teacher. I didn’t even know people with her sense of style existed in Des Moines. And with her lovely hair and slim frame, her clothes look fabulous on her. At first I was intimidated, jealous even. She’d come up with these incredible, couture-worthy designs, and I wanted to pick her brain. Perhaps, just by osmosis, I could absorb some of her brilliance.

Yet she always left before class got out. “Sorry,” she said to the instructor the first time this happened. “My husband is waiting.” They took class at the same time but his got out sooner than hers did, so to accommodate him, she always left early.

I talked to her every chance I got. “I really like what you did with the last assignment,” I said one time. “The collar is amazing. How you’d learn to create lines like that?”

She blushed in pleasure, and told me how she’d learned from her grandmother, who used to work with Diane Von Furstenberg and who also owned a whole closet-full of wrap dresses.

“God, I’d love to see them.”

“You should!” She cried. “My husband is out of town this weekend. We should have a girl’s night. Come over and see my gramma’s dresses. It’s not just stuff by Diane Von Furstenberg. She was quite the fashion plate.”

I brought two bottles of wine and a box of chocolates, and Clara’s gramma told us stories about living and designing in 1970’s NYC. Meanwhile we tried on dresses by Tomas Maier, Kenzo, and Halston. By the end of the evening we were giddy and tipsy. Clara's gramma had gone to bed, Clara was lying on the floor and I was on the couch.

The room was spinning so I spoke to the ceiling. “When I grow up, I want to be your gramma.” If I could sit up and focus, I’d have looked again at all her photos: women with large sunglasses, holding cigarettes and emanating chic. Nothing in her apartment seemed post-1980, except for me and Clara.

“She’s had quite the life,” Clara responded. “Lots of lovers, lots of adventure, and she was always well dressed.”

“How did she end up in Des Moines?”

“She met my grandfather. He convinced her to marry him and he brought her out here for work. Then he screwed everything in sight while she grew bored and depressed.”

My buzz started to dissipate. “Why didn’t she leave him?”

Clara let out a loud sigh. “It’s harder than you think, to leave your husband when he’s cheating on you.”

I turned my head towards her. Her neck was arched, her hair was fanned out, and she looked like Sleeping Beauty. What prince wouldn’t value her? “What are you saying?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just a feeling, I suppose.”

And we left it at that. Eventually, she got up and slept in the bed with her gramma while I slept on the couch, blissfully drunk and unable to think too hard.

Because I could have put two and two together. Instead, I remained willfully oblivious while my friendship with Clara grew strong and my fling with Robert grew stale. Then, Easter came and Clara invited me to eat with her family. The day was lovely and warm. Clara’s gramma was napping, her mother didn’t need help in the kitchen, and Clara’s husband was yet to arrive to the celebration.

“Come outside," said Clara. We went out onto the porch. I thought we would sit on the patio chairs and absorb the sun's rays, but Clara was too squirrely to be still. "Look!" she pointed to her tree house. "My dad built that for me when I was seven. When Bobby and I have kids, I want him to build one. Tree houses are, like, a requirement for childhood, don't you think?"

“Sure,” I replied, though I’d never had a tree house and I’d never actually wanted one.

“Let’s climb it right now!” Clara, who seemed to operate at extremes, ran towards the trunk with its rickety steps. “Come on,” she cried, and I followed even though I could already taste fear on my tongue.

I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of heights. Sure, I feel nauseous and dizzy whenever I’m up high without a barrier to prevent me from falling to my death, but who doesn’t get that way sometimes? So I climbed the half-rotted wooden steps of Clara’s tree house that was built in the early nineties, and I silently repeated the mantra, “You’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe,” while we sat up among the branches.

Then we heard him call. “Clara? Babe, are you up there?”

And Clara answered, “Hey Bobby! Here we are!”

I didn’t want to look down but I had to. There he was, freshly showered after his tennis match, looking up while his face fell. Robert was Clara’s husband, and the horrible knowledge of our situation pulsed like a living thing between us.

“Robert?” I uttered, before I could censor myself, before I thought better of admitting to knowing him.

Robert was mute. He stood below, his mouth gaping wide and his cheeks flaming red. Clara looked back and forth between us. “What’s going on?” She demanded. “Do you two know each other?”

Neither of us answered, but Clara was not okay with silence. “Bobby! Is she the reason you’ve been so busy lately?”

I should have put Clara’s feelings first. I should have stayed silent. But the betrayal was too fresh.

“You lied to me the entire time?” I said to Robert. “How could you do that?”

Robert muttered something about not wanting to hurt anyone.

“No!” Clara cried. “Bobby! Tell me you didn’t fuck her.”

Instead of answering he just walked off, and Clara turned to me with tears in her eyes.

“It didn’t mean anything,” I said. “He doesn’t have real feelings for me. Maybe you can talk this through. . .”

“You whore!” she cried, her face changing from wounded doe to angry wolf. She grabbed the planks of the tree house and started shaking them.

“Clara, please stop.” I pictured falling, landing in a heap of broken wood, my head hitting the ground, my body as fractured as the tree house would be.

“You bitch! You man-stealing slut! You pretend to be my friend while you’re screwing my husband!”

She continued to shake the tree house and I wrapped my arms around the trunk, certain that I’d tumble down, lose my breath and die. Nobody would think I didn’t deserve it.

“I’m sorry Clara, I didn’t know. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I could barely get the words out; they were little more than whispered pleas. Clara kept on shaking the tree house and calling me names, yelling accusations, and instead of jumping to safety, I screamed so loud that her father came out and told her to stop.

“And I’d never felt worse about myself,” I tell Nick now. He’s on the couch with his feet in my lap, listening to my awful tale.

BOOK: The Standout
9.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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