"The Last Princess"

By Peter Stone

©Peter Stone 2014

 

1/24/01. NEW YORK TIMES. Page 36.

 

            BUCHALTER – Theodore Michael. For twenty-eight years, was loving and devoted son. Son of Robert and Hanna (nee Gusikoff). Brother of Lisa and Jonathon.

The entire Advertising Department of Young and Rubicam expresses its deep sense of grief over the untimely passing of one of its best and brightest. He will be greatly missed. We share with her family and especially, Krystal, the loss of a vital piece of their hearts. His time came too soon.

His friends and colleagues.

 

           

            One week later, Krystal Rose Yureneva, fiancée of Ted Buchalter, returned to her childhood home state of New Hampshire to confront the memorial service her family had requested even though Theodore Michael Buchalter was not technically a relative.

 

Harsh, black lines rupture a stark, white canvas. That’s exactly what Krystal feels like today, January 18th. She is a vast, empty, cold space fractured by jagged black streaks of pain and melancholy. Strangely, the white void has been growing larger, encompassing more and more of her life, ever since the moment she heard of Ted’s death when she would have thought the exact reverse would be the case. She imagined, from watching countless movies and reading hundreds of books, that a person would be numb for a long time when the words, “We’re sorry to inform you,” or “There’s been a terrible accident” or “We did everything we could but the injuries were too severe,” were spoken. How was someone supposed to react, she wonders. Denial? Disbelief? Shock, surely. But Krystal knew instantly that this was no movie or television show, no practical joke or mistake. Ted was gone. Her world shut down almost instantly, closing in around her with the same staggering force she imagined existed at the bottom of the ocean. It was crushing, forcing the air from her lungs with agonizing pressure. Her head threatened to simply implode from it. It was so utterly painful that she could not imagine a worse sensation. But of shock, she saw no sign.

It came later, cracking through the solid, black agony that was her every breathing moment until finally were only black, jagged lines of pain instead of the solid black of before. Now, even more time has passed and the white vacuum has spread almost fully across her. Just like the snow outside the house.

Krystal stares out the window at the fresh fallen snow, covering the soft, sloping hill of a ten or so acre yard. In the summer, there is a field of wildflowers and tall grass there, but once the cold weather sets in nothing but empty space grows there. Around the edges of the field, the rough bark of tree trunks pierce the pillow softness of fresh show, defiant of the winter and its overwhelming lack of color. The last few flakes of the morning snow wander down from the sky, the lazy ones who are in no hurry to lay with their brothers only to be trod upon by angry boots or melted in the noon sun. Krystal can see a road in the distance and every so often a car will silently cruise through the white ocean, with its snowdrift waves, like a lonely shark.

The roads were cleared, maybe three in the morning, but there was still another two inches of snow to fall so the black pavement is hidden under a final dusting. There are only a few fresh tire marks to spoil the smooth surface because it is January 19th , Sunday morning in New Hampshire. Those who do not have to go out, do not. Across the street, sleepy children lie almost lost in a sea of warm, goose-down blankets, waiting for the smell of mom cooking pancakes or father’s stern voice to call them from bed for a snowball fight or a sled ride down the back hill. In a few hours, the marble-smooth covering will be shattered by little boots, dog prints and sled runners. Krystal knows the paths they will take to the “big hill” just under a half a mile away behind a copse of trees at the back of the field behind her home. She’d done it enough as a child. One day she thought she’d be taking her own daughter, or son, to the hill.

There is the distant sound of a metal shovel scraping along pavement, but in the dense expanse of confusing white, it is hard to tell where the sound is coming from. Snow does that, steals the sound and funnels it a different way, adding to the surreality of the suddenly alien world. A boy came by earlier on his banana-seat bicycle, turned slowly into the driveway. He labored up the curving, snow-covered asphalt, standing on the pedals to get past the steeper parts and tossed a plastic-enclosed paper onto the front steps of 1640 Nightingale Lane. It’s the heavy Sunday paper, the New York Times. The paper will lie there for many hours before someone bothers to pick it up. Even then, it will go mostly unread. Only page thirty-six will be carefully studied, the small half page section dedicated to obituaries. Ted’s office got together and put their pleasant, but meaningless comments at the end of the printed marking of his passing. 

On the second floor, past the master bedroom where her grandparents used to sleep, past a large towel closet, in the bedroom she spent the summers in, the young woman named Krystal Yureneva sits in a handmade rocking chair watching the very last remnants of the snowfall drift past her double windows. There is an overwhelming sense of melancholy about her, like a tangible yet invisible blanket of gloom resting on top of her, holding her down and making all of her movements slow and strained. The rocking chair was a gift to her mother the day after Krystal’s birth. Her grandfather had spent several weeks making the most perfect rocking chair he could, from finding the right soft pine at a local lumber yard to staining it the color of deep peat moss in a garden of vegetables. When Krystal just a few days old, while her mother slept in what was the same bed Krystal was conceived in, her grandmother would sit in this chair, in the very same room and watch over HER daughter. Three generations, two of them in blissful slumber. The eldest generation would rock Krystal back and forth and think how lucky she was to have a beautiful baby granddaughter who would grow up without terror and death. No, Irina Karelin Yureneva thought, this little girl will have a good life, grow up to be healthy and tall. Not like herself, barely reaching five feet tall with shriveled fingers from arthritis and tired legs from childhood polio. Milk was everywhere in this country. And meat. And bread. One did not have to wait in line for food here in America, she thought.

Twenty-nine years later, Krystal, who did indeed grow up to be strong, healthy and tall, watches the winter. On her finger is a small, teardrop shaped, diamond engagement ring. She plays with the ring absently as if it’s uncomfortable or irritating. She takes it off, puts it on her pinky and rubs the spot where it rested on her ring finger. It’s just a hair tight, leaving a thin red circle on her skin. She rubs the circle until the red goes away and then slides the ring back into its place. She lets it sit there for a few minutes before her fingers find it again, absently repeating the process like an animal unconsciously worrying a sore.

Krystal’s eyes are a soft, yet intense, blue. Her hair is a wheat-colored blonde but streaks of a brighter blonde run through the wavy tresses. She has a tendency to put more blonde streaks on her left side for some unconscious reason, but this time she’s managed to even it out almost perfectly. Two weeks ago, she was very happy with the results. Today, she could care less. Her face is a just barely warmer than to be called pale. Days in the sun do nothing to deepen her flesh to the color of a healthy tan. She simply gets redder and redder until her friends at work tell her that she is “done and should be taken out of the oven”. Light freckles dot the round swell of her upper cheeks just under her eyes in a totally random pattern. As a child, she was teased mercilessly about them. She endured first grade taunts like, “freckle-face”, which, even then, she suspected wasn’t very creative, and “connect-the-dots”. When she discovered make-up, just a handful of years ago, she found that blush or a tan foundation would cover them up leaving her with a more even facial color. One morning after a shower her future-fiancé, Ted, saw her without make-up and made her swear to never cover them up again. He said that she must be an angel because she had stars on her face. Then he claimed that he found the constellation Diana just under her right eye and Leo under her left. Krystal said he was being silly, but he grabbed an eyeliner and started to connect the dots. Krystal tried to stop him, but she was laughing too hard. It was a few moments later that he said he loved her for the first time, bringing her almost to tears. Twenty minutes later, both of them were terribly late for work and naked after their gentle lovemaking. It was just the second time. Ted touched her freckles and swore that he thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. That did bring her to tears. Of course, that ended that. Krystal never covered up her freckles again.

Two years of braces gave Krystal straight teeth, but good nutrition and frequent dentist visits combated her family genetics of horrible teeth brought over from Communist Europe and points further East. Her father’s marriage to an American-born woman, albeit a woman of Soviet descent, granted Krystal an even better chance of an attractive smile. So, even though she has thinner lips than she would prefer, Krystal still draws attention with her naturally amicable grin. Her face, as a whole, is very pretty but, in the end, just very pretty. Never reaching into the realm of gorgeous or fabulous, Krystal was quite happy with being able to turn a few heads but not causing traffic accidents. She felt she could fit into any number of social situations and not be seen as slumming or desperately trying to reach beyond her means.

An active childhood kept her slim through her teenage years, but the frame given her by centuries of Russian labor and struggle never allowed her to look model-thin. Her shoulders were ever so slightly wider than her friends and her hips were wide and full. No matter how many days she went to the gym and used the cross-country skiing exerciser, the “ducky machine” Ted called it, she couldn’t change the width of her hips. Everything she hated about her hips, she loved about her bust. Ted claimed that the first time he saw her, what caught his eye was her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes, but Krystal knew it was probably more like her chest and seductively revealed cleavage.

She caught Ted’s eye making Xeroxes. Krystal, an ambitious twenty-one-year-old fresh out of college, had abandoned the freezing winters and economic boredom of New Hampshire for the bright lights of New York City. She’d gone to school in Upstate New York, NYU Albany, and had traveled with friends into the city on long weekends to go “clubbing”. Available alcohol, strange but interesting men, and deafening music all made Krystal realize that she was in the right place at last. Manhattan was a different planet than the cold, desolate area of New Hampshire where she grew up. Even in the dead of winter people traveled from club to club having fun. No one was miserable on a Saturday night in Manhattan. The thought of returning to the in fighting and back-stabbing of her family in a place where the most common Christmas gift was a snowmobile.

Krystal finished her last year of college, studying hard and making friends. One of the girls she became friends with was a political science major whose family came from the heart of Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Catherine Burtrand, whose father had a stroke many years ago and needed constant attention, was offered the family’s Manhattan apartment if she was willing to help take care of her father, who would be living with her. Catherine was thrilled at the concept of a five-room apartment on West Eighth Street, which had the largest collection of shoe stores in the smallest area in the city. Washington Square Park was just two blocks away and NYU’s Film School was nearby. However, Catherine was not so sure about living alone with her father who couldn’t speak very well and shuffled around aimlessly when he wasn’t watching television. Catherine wanted someone to live with her and started talking about getting a roommate. Krystal, sensing an opportunity, offered to help her out with her invalid father in exchange for a place to live. Catherine immediately agreed, liking the strong-willed girl from New Hampshire who worked hard and didn’t seem to sleep around with other girl’s boyfriends.

Six months later, with a bachelor’s degree in Literature, Krystal landed a job in advertising. Pretty, smart and capable, Krystal was the perfect producer’s assistant, a job that required a great deal of Xeroxing and a certain amount of lying to vendors about the whereabouts of her boss. The heyday of the Advertising industry in New York had passed twenty years before Krystal set foot on the premises, when cocaine was on everyone’s glass coffee table or inside the tissue box and sex with one’s superiors and inferiors was commonplace, the world of Young and Rubicam was still an eye-opener. Speed was not uncommon, but pot was the drug of choice. There was even rumor that a creative director was hooked on heroine. Krystal’s boss, a good-looking but vapid woman five years her senior, flirted with almost every man she met, was definitely having an affair with a married Art Director. Everyone seemed to know it, but no one said anything about her long lunches or early Fridays.

Krystal worked hard and learned the business quickly. She met a ton of new people and a large majority of them were young, white, single and male. Krystal was more interested in her work than trying to find a husband even though most of the other girls she met were doing just that. Latch onto the right creative person and stay with him as he rises through the company. Eventually, if the girl chose the right Art Director, she would either be able to stay home and raise his children or at least get a cushy job where she didn’t have to work all that hard thanks to his position in the company. Krystal thought that concept of a “career” was ridiculous and was certainly not looking to get involved with one of the silly, self-involved white males who managed to keep the advertising industry populated almost exclusively with more like themselves and potential girlfriends or wives. Then a kind of cute guy helped her pull a jammed piece of paper out of the Sixth floor Xerox machine. He seemed to know what he was doing and wasn’t doing it because he had to use the machine. He didn’t try to look down her shirt or ask what kind of name is Yureneva was. He said his name was Ted Buchalter and even shook her hand. He didn’t do anything stupid or try to act macho. His shirt was untucked and had embroidered flamingos on the chest. And he didn’t ask her out that day. It took him a week and a half. Krystal thought it was cute, especially since they saw each other every day. He stammered and was obviously nervous when he asked, which Krystal thought was terribly cute. So she said yes.

Ted wore a tie on their date, pulled out the chair for her at the Chinese restaurant, paid deftly in cash so they wouldn’t have to wait and then took her to what she knew his friends called a “chick” movie. One of those Merchant/Ivory movies that they call “films” or “pictures”. There weren’t any guns or fights or exciting sex scenes. Even Krystal was bored. After, he took her home in a cab that he insisted on paying for. She invited him in, hoping that Catherine’s father was asleep. Ted smiled sweetly, shuffled his feet and whispered that he thought she was very pretty. Krystal lifted his chin so he stopped looking at his feet and kissed him. They were together almost every waking minute after that.

So, this very pretty girl sits watching the last of the snow drift downward past her double windows, rocking gently and playing absently with her engagement ring. On the wooden chest behind her, next to the last remaining stuffed animals from her childhood, lies an open suitcase. It’s new; she bought it specifically for her honeymoon, seven days in the tropical paradise of Cancun. The suitcase has a sleek design, Italian and modern. Carefully folded inside is a new wardrobe of summer clothes. Long, flowing sarongs, tank tops, and a series of spaghetti-strap shirts from Victoria’s Secret with embroidered words like “princess”,  “angel”, “sexy” and “goddess” across the chest. She thought she could let Ted pick out which one she would wear each day depending on his mood. There is also a very conventional one-piece bathing suit with a swirling blue design and a dolphin wrapping around the waist. That was the suit she bought first, the same style and general design that she’d always worn. Ever since she was a little girl. But hidden under the rest of her wardrobe was the suit she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to wear. A racy bikini with high French-cut sides. Very high cut. So high cut in the back that she blushed just to look at it. When she tried it on in the dressing room, she was shocked by how much of her was, well, visible. She’d never had the courage to wear anything like it before, but this was supposed to be her honeymoon and she thought she should take a few risks. In the back of her head, she thought that once she put it on they might not even leave the hotel room. Putting the suit on at home did precipitate a sudden weight loss program on her part. Weight loss and a visit to the gym every night for an extra hour on the stair-climber to firm up the back of her thighs and her butt.

On the bedside table next to her lamp, the Winnie the Pooh lamp with the ‘silly old bear’ holding a collection of balloons that light up when turned on, was her favorite picture of Ted. He’s at an amusement park, she forgets which one, and he’s taking a drink from a water fountain. The fountain is kid-sized and made to look like a giant alligator with its mouth open. Ted had to lean way over to get a drink. In the center of the alligator’s open jaw is the metal waterspout from which Ted is about to take a drink. He’s turned his head to look at the camera and has a big smile. He’s got his hand on his chest, holding that ridiculous fish shirt he loved so much out of the water. He didn’t shave that day so he’s got rough stubble across his cheeks making him look so much more sexy, Krystal thought. She remembers kissing him that day, the prickly stubble brushing her chin and upper lip. It’s her favorite picture because it reminds her instantly of all the things she loved about him.

Everything she’s ever wanted.

Sure, she had to push a little to get him to pop the question. All women had to push just a bit. There wasn’t much that would make men push that marriage button. He was funny about it, too. Like she didn’t know it was coming. Like she didn’t know he’d drained his account to get the biggest ring he could afford. He even bought the diamond separately and had the ring made to fit it. She couldn’t imagine that he knew anything about diamonds, but somehow he’d managed it. A Tavern-on-the-Green dinner, no talk about her work or his, a promise of love and he even slow-danced that night. He wasn’t very good at it, but he made a solid attempt to not step on her feet too many times. They ended up swaying back and forth slowly, which was fine with Krystal. Just to feel his chest against her cheek was enough. They practically closed down the place. Almost the last ones, Krystal and Ted danced against the glass doors, illuminated by white Christmas tree lights wrapped around the surrounding trees. He slipped the ring onto her finger after the last notes faded and whispered the proposal into her ear. Of course she accepted. The ring didn’t come off her finger for a week and she looked at it so much Ted teased that he was going to take it back. He claimed she loved that ring more than him. Then she’d have to show him how much she loved him. Krystal had never been happier during the months before they were to get married. She hoped Ted had felt the same way. She’d never find out now.

But she was done crying. That’s what she told herself.

That didn’t mean that she wasn’t depressed so deeply in her soul that she could barely move. She just sat there and stared out into the white canvas, making designs in her head with the tree trucks and the hand-like branches that once held a drapery of rich green that completely enclosed the upper stories of the house from the street. As a little girl, the trees were always threatening to her, closing her in and sealing her off from the rest of the world. Her family liked that. Carefully building walls around themselves, protecting themselves from some barely perceived threat that did not exist. The fires of their paranoia, fueled by the horrific stories from the lips of her great grandfather, never truly died in the first two generations to grow up in America. Only Krystal’s generation had no fear of the knock on the door, the uniformed men in the streets or the long black cars cruising slowly down the white, snow-covered streets. Krystal was not afraid to tell her friends that her family was Russian and that they had lived through the great revolution and rejected the communist teachings of Lenin and Marx, whoever they were. For a little blonde girl living in rural America, Russia was a fantasy-land many thousands of miles away. Like the Black Forest in Germany or the deep, dark woods in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

So the trees, isolating her from neighbors who should ‘mind their own business’ and protecting her from prying government eyes, were walls that she was unconsciously determined to break down. The family compound, as she came to call it years later, was more like a prison camp than the pleasant, open images she saw of America’s other famous compound, the Kennedy’s. Instead of handsome young men playing football after Thanksgiving dinner, Krystal’s holiday experiences in her own backyard were dominated by memories of her grandfather watching her from the back porch as she played with her dolls and plastic horses in a handmade, wooden barn that Yuri himself had created with his own wizened hands. He didn’t watch with the pleasant ease of a man contented with the world, happy in the autumn years of his life. He watched like a prison guard assigned to make sure there were no escape attempts. His narrow, glacier blue eyes never left Krystal, scanning even her smallest movements as if to ensure her dolls were not carving a lock-pick from the small metal hinges of the barn’s doors or shaping the soft wood of the horses’ stalls into a makeshift knife for use in the midnight escape attempt. Even when Krystal would lose herself in the story her dolls were living and she would gallop them towards the tall grass that represented the edge of their property, a harsh bark from her grandfather would return her to reality and the closeness of the house.

Being the only grandchild, Krystal knew she was special but in a porcelain way. She was a beautiful creature who represented all the good things in life to her father’s parents. Lacy dresses and pearl-inlaid, silver hair combs were birthday presents. Jewelry was not a focus of her family, not because it flaunted her family’s money but because it was a sign that they had money at all. Money and jewels that could be taken, stolen in the middle of the night. Piercing one’s ears was considered asking for trouble. Wearing a diamond ring outside the house was asking to be assaulted and beaten. The newspapers and television simply backed up her grandparents’ argument. Young black men were killed for their jackets or sneakers. Girls in America were raped because they wore short skirts and walked home after dark. They had many stories from Mother Russia, where women were taken right off the street to be whores for the Politburo. Krystal would never suffer the abuses of the government, her grandparents said, because she would know how to act and what to avoid. America, despite its capitalist system, could easily slip into the same dark woods that they had grown up in. Money was not the root of all evil. Communism held that special honor.

Krystal hears her mother coming, slow careful steps up from the back stairway that leads from the kitchen. Krystal’s mother climbs the stairs to the second floor, where her daughter’s room is. Of course, Krystal hasn’t lived in this room for several years now. No, her mother thinks, Krystal is a big girl now. She moved out after college and never looked back. So proud and tough, eager to make her mark on the world or whatever it is that young people think. She misses Krystal terribly at times. Like on lazy Sunday mornings when she wakes up and realizes that there is nothing that she has to do today. So, as much as she hates to admit it, she is happy that Krystal is home again. Even if it is only for a couple of days and under the worst of circumstances.

             She worries about Krystal, but their family has a strong genetic tolerance for tragedy and suffering. The Russian people have endured the worst of dictators and the bleakest of times. Even the country itself seems to be trying to destroy the humans that wander briefly upon its surface. Vast stretches of emptiness, land that staunchly refuses to be cultivated. Brutal, unending winters of mind-numbing cold and snow with only brief, sparse summers. The Yureneva family has endured endless starvation, death squads, alcoholism and poverty for centuries. Krystal’s pain, too, shall be endured, added to the vast mountain of suffering they all carry.

            Krystal hasn’t come out of her room since she came home two days ago. She kissed her mother on the cheek, carried her single bag upstairs and closed the door. Her mother and father left her alone, knowing that she had to get through this time alone. There was nothing to say. Her father suggested leaving a bottle of Vodka outside the door, but one alcoholic in the family was enough, said her mother. When her mother checked on Krystal later on that night, her mother found her lying on the bed, fully clothed but asleep. She let Krystal sleep hoping that the next day she would feel better about the situation.

            The next morning was no different. Krystal remained in her room, sitting in her old rocking chair and staring out the window at nothing. Her bags were still packed, but Krystal had found her old bathrobe and sat wrapped in it. In the dark. The food her mother brought went ignored, and the tea went cold. Krystal would only nod when spoken to or say nothing at all. So her mother left Krystal alone, knowing that it would take some time to heal the deep wound that Krystal had. Checking on her once every few hours, her mother found Krystal asleep most of the time. Staring into the nothingness of the New Hampshire winter the rest of the time.

            The next day, her mother ironed Krystal’s dress, doing her best to make it proper and pretty. Krystal whispered thank you when her mother brought it in. Her mother expected more tears, but perhaps it was like being in shock. Maybe the tears would come later or maybe not at all. Krystal didn’t tell her about the overwhelming agony she had endured when Ted was taken from her. It was a body-destroying physical pain that prevented her from doing even the most simple of tasks. Alone in their apartment, where he had moved in just three months ago, destroying her carefully designed living room with his giant television, she was overcome with his “stuff”. The plants she had grown for years in the windowsills were moved to the kitchen where the afternoon light was too intense to make room for his bookcases of fantasy and science fiction novels. The throw pillows she had needlepointed with playful images of flowers always seemed to be on the floor under Ted’s feet. His framed Apocalypse Now poster, with that eerie close-up image of a heavy-set and crazy Marlon Brando was easily three feet by four feet and now dominated the pastel blue wall where she kept her favorite photos of friends. Ted was definitely like a dog that had to mark his territory, but Krystal allowed the intrusion because he was there every morning when she woke up. No more rushing to get back to her apartment before work or cursing because she didn’t have the right clothes.

            Suddenly she was left alone with constant reminders of the fact that he wasn’t there. A closet filled with his clothes. Drawers of his tee shirts and underwear and socks. A toothbrush, a comb, a razor in the bathroom. Corona beer in the refrigerator. A book with a pencil stuck in the middle, holding the place. The last book he’d ever read, she thought. She would realize that and be driven onto her knees, as if struck by a physical blow. Great, wracking, tearless sobs would issue from her chest as she lay on the bathroom floor or the bottom of the shower or on the couch where they had snuggled so many times before. A red-eyed, sallow-skinned stranger stared back at her from the mirror, but she didn’t care. She tried drinking to deal with it, but after six shots of Tequila, Krystal’s stomach wanted to tear its way out of her body and all she did was cry. Continuous weeping until she could barely breathe. Drinking was not the answer.

Only mundane tasks that required intense concentration allowed Krystal to continue forward. To dress. To find her wallet and keys. To eat something even though she was not hungry at all. It was tasteless and she threw away the bowl of cereal after two bites. After three days of this self-destruction, Krystal found herself crying at work when a co-worker was talking about a series of storyboards that had to be handed in the next day. There was nothing terribly sad about a woman selling aspirin or a child happy with his cold medicine, but Krystal sat at her desk and sobbed. Her co-worker, unsure of what to do, left her alone. After Krystal had pulled herself together, she realized she would never survive this crippling experience alone. But she would have to survive, alone. Without him.

So there was only one place that she could go, where the day to day pain and struggle for emotional survival would nullify some of the overwhelming sense of loss she couldn’t deal with. Home. Where her mother would dote on her and make sure she ate. Where her mother would drive her absolutely insane with questions about New York and comments about her life and how she was ruining it. It would make her focus on why she left rather than missing Ted. Krystal packed for a week, called her mother and locked her apartment behind her. Six hours later, her seven-year old Dodge struggled the last few miles in the newly fallen, six-inch snow to her parents house in Londonderry, New Hampshire. The place she had determined she would never return unless she absolutely had to and the fact that she couldn’t handle this loss alone was killing her. The anger, however, was keeping her from thinking about Ted. It had already started working.

A day later, the black dress she’s going to wear today is hanging carefully in the closet, ironed by her mother yesterday. Krystal doesn’t care what it looks like and barely glanced at it when her mother brought it in. It is a black mark in the corner of her vision, plaguing her every time she glanced in the wrong direction. It was a lonely fabric specter bound to her soul, waiting ominously.

There is a polite knock on the door a split second before her mother comes in. Catherine Yureneva is dressed carefully in jeans and a pink shirt with a green monogram on the chest pocket. Her mother is an attractive woman. Her hair is a curly brown that gets frizzy when the weather is humid. Her build is similar to Krystal’s, but she’s a little shorter. Her mom’s weight goes up and down and Krystal worries that her mother likes wine too much. Today however, Krystal doesn’t think about that. She listens to her mother’s chirping voice that sounds much too cheerful given the subject matter.

“Oh, good you’re awake. Today’s a big day. Did you sleep well,” Catherine asks, as she bustles around straightening things that haven’t moved since the last time. Catherine looks at Krystal with disapproving eyes.

In the past two days, Krystal hasn’t even thought about what outfit she’s going to wear. She’s been sitting in those paint-splattered sweatpants and the ripped tee shirt that reads “I heart my attitude problem”. Or just her robe. Krystal’s mother tried to comb her hair yesterday evening, but Krystal barked at her just like she did when she was nine and refused to comb her hair. Wash, dry or comb. It took two years before Krystal realized that all her friends had pierced ears and were wearing skirts instead of the same old pair of jeans. Her mother just said that Krystal was a late bloomer. It took a few more years, but Krystal eventually decided that the boys punching her in the arm and teasing her were higher on the cute scale than then they were on the disgusting scale. To see Krystal wearing that same ratty pink robe with the holes under the arms was almost too much for her mother to bear.

 

 

 

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