The fact that Kate spelled her nickname with a “K” even though it was short for Catherine with a “C” baffled me, even if it didn’t really surprise me. Kate was unlike any girl I’d ever known—even though admittedly I’d not known very many. She made no apologies for who she was and had the rare quality of being naturally confident while not at all cocky or full of herself. She never sought the attention or validation of others, nor did she make any conscious attempt to fit in.

This was exactly why she did fit in—seemingly effortlessly—with just about everyone she encountered. She was a star on the squash team, so she was respected by student athletes. She was a math major, so no one ever wrote her off as a dumb blonde. In a place where just about everyone tried too hard—at their classes, at not seeming too socially awkward, at attracting members of the opposite sex—Kate didn’t try at all, and she succeeded at everything, regardless. Adding to my fascination with her was the fact she didn’t seem to notice any of this.

So Kate was different, and if I had to describe my feelings for her in a single word, that would be the one I would choose. was no intense fire like I’d felt for Bella, nor did I view her as asexual the way I saw Angela. I liked Kate, and if I couldn’t be with Bella, there was no one I’d rather spend time with.

Within a week of our first meeting, I found myself practically living in her room, returning to mine only to sleep, far preferring the person I was in her presence to other recent incarnations of myself. It wasn’t that spending time with Kate made me forget about Bella—there was no forgetting about Bella. I’d noticed, though, that in Kate’s presence I missed Bella less. With Kate, I could go a minute or two without feeling the gut-wrenching pain that had become normal for me. I told her as much, one afternoon while we were studying in her room.

She looked up from her laptop and smiled. “Baby steps. Maybe in another week or so, you’ll be able to last five minutes.”

“Trust me. I can last a lot longer than five minutes.”

I wasn’t sure what got into me, where the sudden need to mention my staying power came from. Kate had never expressed any interest in me that way, and I was by no means ready to even think about trying a relationship with anyone other than Bella. At the same time, for reasons I didn’t entirely understand, I didn’t want Kate to think of me as just a friend.

I didn’t know how I wanted her to think of me.

“I’ll have to take your word on that one,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Seriously, though, it may never be easy, but it does get easier. You’ll see.”

“How do you do it?” I asked.

“Do what?”

“This, with me. You’re the only person I know who can tolerate my company for prolonged periods of time without lecturing me on my need to ‘snap out of it’.”

When Kate said nothing, it hit me. She didn’t push me because she understood. I was a selfish prick for not realizing this sooner.

“How long were you with him?” I asked finally.

She sighed. “Ten months.”

“I’m guessing he was the one to end things.”

“You might say that.”

“Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about it? I mean, you’re always encouraging me to talk about Bella.”

“Uncomfortable isn’t the right word, just…” She paused, closing her eyes. “Really, really sad.”

“When did it happen?”


“Did you see it coming?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“What happened?”

“He died from a drug overdose. So no, it’s not exactly the same situation as yours. I have no doubt that were he still alive, he’d still be with me.” She blinked back tears. “But I do understand devastation and constant longing, and feeling powerless to change it.”

I didn’t know what to say that would offer her comfort, or how anything I could say would. I took her laptop from her hands and placed it on the floor before gently pulling her into my arms. She tensed immediately, but after a moment, relaxed as she exhaled and rested her head on my shoulder.

It wasn’t like the first time I embraced Bella, despite the fact it had been about comfort then, too. With Bella there had also been a feeling of desperation—that no matter how tightly I held her she would never be close enough. Nor was this like the supportive, almost familial hugs I’d given Angela. Holding Kate was—for lack of a better word—nice. It was nice to give physical affection freely, to touch and be touched, to give comfort to someone who’d given so much comfort to me. Reciprocity made perfect sense to me; what I didn’t understand was why my dick was hard.

I held Kate until afternoon turned into evening and her room grew dark around us, silently attempting to wrap my mind around both how someone who’d been through something so much worse than I had could still concern herself with my emotional well-being and why her doing so resulted in my arousal. Comprehension eluded me on both counts.

When it was time to go to bed, I went upstairs to my room only to find Irina passed out on the futon.

“Is she okay?” I asked Mike.

“I got her to chug a ton of water, so she should be fine. I’m going to keep her here, though, if you don’t mind, so I can keep an eye on her. The Power Hour was what did her in, and that was my idea. I feel kind of bad now.”

It was probably the closest to chivalrous Mike would ever get. I wouldn’t have thought he had it in him; far be it from I to discourage him from self-improvement.

“I don’t mind.” As I walked into the bedroom, I realized that if Irina was in our room, Kate would be alone. I changed into pajama pants and a t-shirt and grabbed my laptop on my way out the door. “I’ll be downstairs,” I said as I left.

Kate was obviously not expecting me.

“Forget your key again?” she said as she opened the door, narrowing her eyes when she saw it was me. “You’re not my roommate.”

She was wearing a white tank top and shorts that could have been underwear; they were a huge departure from her usual uniform of baggy sweats.

“If you’re cold, you should put some clothes on.”

“I’m not cold,” she insisted.

“Really?” I lowered my gaze to where I could see her hardened nipples through her shirt.

She folded her arms across her chest, blushing. “Is there a reason you’re here?”

“Irina’s passed out cold in my common area.”

“So you invited yourself to spend the night with me.”

“What makes you so sure I want to spend the night?”

“You mean you don’t?”

“Well, I was kind of hoping to spend the next several hours here, yes. Saying I want to spend the night has certain connotations–”

“Though if you spend the next several hours here, you are technically spending the night,” she interrupted.

“Can I come in or not?”

She pushed her door the rest of the way open and I followed her inside to the common area. I sat on her loveseat and after pulling a baggy sweatshirt on over her tank top, she plunked herself down on the floor in front of me.

“You know if you stay here, everyone is going to assume we’re sleeping together. Granted, I don’t care what people think, but you may have difficulty getting action in the future if the all the girls in Mathey think you’re already otherwise involved.”

I snorted. “That’s not me. Besides, if I wanted action, I could get it. Lauren Mallory throws herself at me at least twice a week. Casual sex holds no appeal for me.”

“It doesn’t now, but you won’t be hurting forever.”

“That’s what you think. Have you stopped hurting?”

“Let me rephrase. You won’t continue hurting to the point that the idea of physical intimacy with another person is repugnant.”

This was useful information. “How long did it take for you to have sex with someone else?”

“My situation is different.”

“Granted, but the physical aspect is probably the same.”

“I meant my situation was different because Jason and I weren’t having sex.”

“Wait. What?”

“Why is this so surprising? Lots of people are still virgins at eighteen.”

“Are you saving yourself for marriage?”

“No, but he was my first boyfriend and I wanted to be sure. I’d decided I was ready the week before he died. He wanted things to be perfect for me, and started making plans. We didn’t get around to actually seeing them come to fruition.”

“That’s the problem,” I said, sighing. “There’s always a last time. You just never know that’s what it will be when you’re actually living it.”

I remembered the last kiss I gave Bella, less than an hour before she broke up with me. If I’d known then that I’d never kiss her again, I would have tried to make it count more. At the very least, I would have used tongue.

“Do you regret waiting?” I asked.

“Yes and no. I mean, it was right not to jump into a sexual relationship two weeks after we starting seeing each other. I wasn’t ready then. But I do wish I hadn’t let him talk me into waiting so he could make it ‘perfect.’ From what I hear from my friends, no one’s first time is any good. It hurts and you don’t know what to do, and you walk around the next day feeling kind of raw.”

“My first time wasn’t like that.”

She laughed. “I wasn’t talking about guys. This is one area where things are decidedly better for you, and further proof that God is male.”

I wasn’t sure why it was easier to talk about sex with Kate than it had been with Bella, but it was. Maybe it was because Kate and I were not intimate, or that her inexperience assured me she wouldn’t judge me because of mine. Though in all fairness, I was no longer inexperienced. If nothing else, Bella had taken care of that, because that was what Bella did. She fucked.

“I was so happy to be that close to her, I wouldn’t have cared if it hurt.”

“If I’d actually gotten to do it, I wouldn’t have cared if it hurt, either.” She stood up and yawned. “I hate to abandon you, but I think I’m going to bed now. Think you’ll be okay on your own?”

I nodded, but sleeping alone in her common room wasn’t what I’d had in mind.

“I’m going to ask you a favor, and it’s okay to say no because I know there’s a good chance it will offend you. In fact, if it does offend you, I fully expect you to hit me. I’d deserve that.”

“Okay,” she said tentatively.

“This afternoon when I held you…I really liked holding you. I’ve been trying to figure out why ever since. I don’t think it’s a sex thing, not that you aren’t pretty. I just felt like if someone like you could get something from being in my arms…if I could comfort you…then maybe I wasn’t completely ruined and that I still had something left to give. And maybe if I still had something to give then eventually I would able to feel, and maybe there was hope for me yet. I don’t know what it was; I just know that I need to feel it again.”

She walked across the floor, stopping when she reached the doorway to her bedroom and casually looking over her shoulder at me.

“Are you coming?”

I leapt to my feet and followed her into her bedroom. She took off her sweatshirt and I wondered if maybe she’d misunderstood me until she went to her dresser and pulled out another tank top, which she layered on top of the one she was wearing.

She moved over to one of the beds and made herself comfortable under the covers, patting the vacant space on the mattress once she was situated. I stretched out beside her and pulled her into my arms.

“Thank you,” I said, placing a small kiss on the top of her head.

“Don’t thank me yet. Just so you know, I hog the covers. Seriously though, this is just as much for me as it is for you. I always feel loneliest at night.”

I gave her a gentle squeeze. That night, in the safety of Kate’s embrace, I dreamt of Bella but felt no guilt for doing so. The number of times Kate quietly muttered the name “Jason” in her sleep told me that if she knew, she’d be more than understanding.


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  1. on 01 Sep 2010 at 10:24 pmizziey

    wow. i really, really like kate. i’m so grateful that edward had someone to hold. i just hope she holds him back.


    Colleen reply:

    I like her, too. I enjoyed writing her. In a lot of ways, she was easier than the rest of them.


  2. on 10 Jan 2011 at 3:50 pmSea4Me

    Kate’s a strong one! Edward sounded a bit like he was working it when he asked to hold her, but maybe he wasn’t.