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Katherine and Jack
“Yes, hasn’t Katherine turned into such a doll of a little child?” Mrs. Cutterman bragged intemperately about her daughter, as much as she knew there was very little truth to her words. When had a little white lie ever hurt anyone, after all? Mrs. Johnson smiled genuinely and patted Katherine affectionately on her head.
“I wish I could say the same for a daughter of mine; but the God Almighty chose to bless me with such pugnacious little boys.” Mrs. Johnson frowned then, as if recalling exactly how aggressive and obnoxious her sons really were.
Katherine rolled her eyes; some days, she longed endlessly to be a boy. That way at least she wouldn’t have to sit here in this uncomfortable, ruffled, itchy excuse for an outfit. That way she could be running outdoors on this beautiful April day. Pennsylvania rarely got such mild days so early in April, and now it was all going to be wasted, thanks to her mother, who had dragged Katherine to this stuffy tea party. Katherine stared longingly out the window.
“Do have another cake, dear,” offered Mrs. Cutterman to Miss Lucy, who was young and pretty; a fresh face among the aging housewives. Katherine wondered what Miss Lucy was doing here, when she was so young and could be doing so many other important things with her time; but this was just Katherine’s perspective on things.
“Oh, why thank you.” Miss Lucy answered politely, taking the sweet from Mrs. Cutterman.
“Have any of you heard about Emily and Joe?” Mrs. Cutterman continued.
“No! Do tell,” Mrs. Johnson exclaimed, leaning forward in sudden interest. And the ladies were off, discussing and gossiping about other people in the town.
Katherine finally couldn’t stand it; “Emily” this and “disgrace” that. It was all so boring to a nine-year-old!
“May I be excused to use the ladies room, mother?” Katherine interrupted.
“Do not interrupt me when I’m talking, Katherine, it’s very rude.” Mrs. Cutterman automatically scolded.
“Sorry”, Katherine said through her teeth, feeling as if she would explode if she didn’t escape soon. After getting permission, Katherine finally did get a chance to escape. However, she walked purposefully straight past the restroom, and directly toward the French doors leading to the garden.
Katherine gleefully flung open the doors, breathing in the fresh spring air full of the scent of flowers, mud, fresh grass, and rain.
Jack stiffly looked up from his work. Ouch. He rubbed the kink in his neck, the result of leaning over to his paperwork for too long.
He sighed; it was such a nice day, but what could he do to enjoy such a day? When he was a young boy, this would have never been a problem. But age had taken its inevitable toll; after all, he was only mortal, as much as he wished to go back in time to the good old days of childhood.
He had to squint against the bright April sun as he looked around him, watching other people stroll around the garden. After a moment something caught his eye; why, what was this? A little girl? Dressed in fancy clothes? Her auburn hair was curled, and she was wearing a ruffled, silk blue dress decorated with pearls and flowers and bows. He absently wished that he could buy such pleasant things for his daughter.
The little girl skipped around a measure, then seemed bored. That was fast, he thought, amused at the short attention span of the child. Strangely, she then skipped over to Jack, staring up at him with curious, expectant brown eyes.
“Hello” Jack said, simply to break the silence.
“Hi. What are you doing there, Mister?” she asked him, in an innocent enough manner.
“Just doing some paper work.” He answered casually enough. Jack wondered why she had chosen him to approach. He looked around him; not that many people were around, so she must have just come up to the first person in sight. Evidently, that was Jack.
She leaned over and gestured to him to come closer.
“Do you want to play a game?” she whispered mysteriously in his ear. And for that one second, as Jack was distracted, intrigued, and off guard, she snatched up his papers from the spot on the bench exactly next to him. Off she ran, leaving Jack absolutely in the dark and confused.
Jack sat there for a quick spell, trying to process what had just happened. Then, all at once, it hit him. Rage fumed and boiled up inside him at this relentless child. I was fooled, and even more pathetically, a mere child had fooled me! A nine-year-old girl! How mortifyingly embarrassing!! He thought, enraged. The helpless state Jack was in lasted no more than a couple of minutes, and he was soon up on his feet, racing after that brat of a child.
Katherine turned a corner, sprinting over bush, over bramble, and through a short stretch of wood. She was young and quick on her feet; Katherine was obviously more athletic than most girls her age.
Jack was no match for her youth. He was out of shape from sitting in the office six hours a day, five days a week, and was huffing and puffing in no time at all. He did have one advantage that even an out of shape middle-aged man could not help but acquire; long legs and long strides. One of his strides was equivalent to nearly three of Katherine’s.
They continued this way through the wood and into, off all things, an elaborate, magnificent labyrinth.
It was like stepping into a fairytale of her wildest dreams. Katherine could not help but stop running when the labyrinth came into view; she gasped at the brilliant, impressive sight, caught up in the wonder of it.
Katherine had simply been winging it when leading the chase with Jack, so it was totally unexpected, for her, to stumble onto something as such by accident. It just goes to show that God works in mysterious ways. You intend to stir up a little trouble, and have some fun doing so, but you end up with a little surprise.
When Jack did finally enter the scene, he found Katherine zipping around the corner of the entrance of the labyrinth. Jack smiled broadly; now it was her turn to be fooled! Little did Katherine know, Jack was as familiar with the labyrinth as the back of his hand! Jack cackled evilly at the prospect.
As the idea popped into his head, he suddenly realized (in the midst of all this) that he was really getting into this little game. This brought back a lot of childhood memories, but he refrained from going into retrospect. He must focus on the task at hand! Jack visualized the labyrinth’s blueprints in his head. Ah ha! He thought, as he came to a conclusion. Keeping his newly formed plan in mind, Jack started off toward the left outside of the labyrinth.
Katherine charged through maze, randomly selecting turns to take. She was pleasantly surprised that her energy hadn’t been spent yet. It seemed as if her energy had been renewed in the excitement of the maze.
Jack, after running several paces down the left exterior of bushes, finally found what he was looking for; a break in the bushes. He was delighted to find that it still existed, considering he had made the hole when he was just a boy. He used to run through this maze when he was a boy; he hadn’t realized it was this close to the restaurant, but all the same he hadn’t ever paid much attention.
Jack squeezed through the hole, stumbling out into the path on the other side. Coincidentally, Katherine had just been coming that way. Crash! They collided.
Jack and Katherine fell on the floor from the impact of the hit. Jack’s papers flew out of Katherine’s hands and splayed out all around them, but they paid no mind. Jack and Katherine then looked over at each other, admittedly a bit suspiciously.
Jack, being the gentleman, asked Katherine “You okay?” She nodded vigorously, flashing him a smile.
At that moment, both of them burst out in joyful laughter at the ironic humor of the situation. The game was keep away, but they had found their way to each other by complete accident. Well, not entirely by accident, as Jack’s original motive was to catch her eventually.
Katherine gathered Jack’s papers up and handed them to him as he found his way to his feet.
The rest of the way back to the restaurant (and to Katherine’s annoyed mother) Jack and Katherine chatted good-naturedly. Jack decided that if he could have this much fun with this stranger, than perhaps he would take the rest of the day off of work to spend time with his daughter.