Damn it, why does everything have to be so difficult in the morning? Karen thought to herself. See, this is why I get all of my shit done early - I can't stand trying to get stuff done in the morning.
Looking at the messy stack of loose leaf paper, post-it notes, as well as her notebook, she couldn't remember where it was. She had been looking for this note for the past forty-eight hours and still, she could not for the life of her remember what she had done with it. Twenty years. Twenty years she had been caring for herself and she had yet to lose something for as long a span of time as she had with this stupid note. What was even more outrageous, was that this wasn't even something that she needed to do for herself - all of this was for the benefit of her sister.
Claire was her Irish twin. Karen was the younger of the two, by eleven months. The girls were even in the same grade, as Claire's birthday was at the end of July and Karen's birthday was at the beginning of June. However, the sisters couldn't have been more different from each other. Whereas Karen was an outgoing person, Claire was an introvert. Karen had a naturally loud voice, Claire was soft-spoken. Back when they were in high school, Karen was an athlete; she played on the softball team, the basketball team, and the soccer team. Claire, on the other hand, wrote for the school paper and worked backstage a couple of times for the school plays and concerts. Despite all of those differences, however, the girls were pretty much inseparable. They had mutual friends and they loved each other. They always had each other's backs.
Their other sibling was a brother - a much older brother - Jack. Jack was seven years older than Claire and close to eight years older than Karen. Because there was such a large age difference between them, the girls were not exactly "close" to their older brother. Especially since Jack seemed to take their "fathering" role more so than their dad had. Because it was not their dad who had interviewed all the boys they wanted to go on dates with or waited with before each of their school dances - no, it was their older brother. To make matters worse, Jack was a very intimidating guy, physically. He was a well muscled kid, since he played soccer, basketball, and baseball (as he had helped perfect Karen's skills in all of those sports).
Stop thinking about Jack! Karen thought to herself, giving her head a firm shake. You need to find that paper!
"Good God, Karen," she heard Seth breathe behind her. "What the hell happened here?"
"Hey Seth," she grunted, not turning around to look at him. "Did you need something?"
"No, no," he said easily. "I was just wondering if you wanted to go get lunch together or something."
Lunch? Is it really time for lunch already? Didn't I just get here? But instead of saying any of those things to her best friend, she simply nodded and said, "Yeah, all right. Give me a minute so I can get unburied here, and then we can go."
Seth nodded and held out a hand to her so she could have something to station herself against and a few moments later, she was free. Once they were ale to start walking, her friend continued, "So, why the mess? You're not usually hidden behind a large stack of newspapers and magazines and other papers like you were this morning."
"Yeah, I know," she said slowly, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her left ear. "I was looking for an article that I wanted to give to my sister. Something about weddings and things you should do or not do when you're planning them."
"Oh, that's right - Claire's engaged," Seth said. "What, she's been engaged for what is it, a couple of weeks now, right?"
"Right," she nodded encouragingly before looking ahead again. "Anyway, I wanted to give it to her, but of course, now I can't find the stupid piece of paper with the magazine's name or article title."
"Eh, don't worry about it, Karen. I'm sure that the piece of paper will show up when you are least expecting it to. You'll see. And hey, if you would like, I'm sure we could always go to the magazine stand or something like that and pick up another copy."
"Thanks, Seth. I appreciate that."
And Karen did appreciate that. He certainly didn't need to make the offer for her to know that he would have done that if she would have asked. The problem was, that Karen wasn't actually looking for a wedding magazine for her sister; she was actually looking for a piece of paper that had a phone number on it - Jordan Lockley's phone number. The Jordan that Karen was seeing, and had seen before . . . the Jordan who fought against Seth (in the only fight that Seth had ever taken part in). Going even further, Seth actually won that fight, until he tried to tell Jordan that he couldn't go out with Karen. Part of the reason that she always tended to split the fight into two parts is because after he said that, Jordan turned right back around and beat the living shit out of him. The other was because when Karen heard that, she got pissed, because in her mind, Seth didn't have some claim over her. After all, it wasn't like she was some maiden fair in the Middle Ages that was waiting on the brave white knight to come and rescue her from her ridiculously tall tower. No, she lived in the twenty-first century. There was no man that could tell her whom she could date. That had been pretty much the only fight that she had ever had with Seth, but it lasted for the length of Karen's and Jordan's relationship (which, thankfully at the time, was only about two weeks).
As much as Karen hated to admit it, though, there was a very small part of her that was thrilled and excited by the thought that Seth actually cared about who she was dating. Because if he cared about that, then maybe, just maybe, that meant that he cared about her. However, she quickly ruled that possibility out, because Seth had never made any sort of move on her, Karen was pretty sure that he must be uninterested in her (or bi or gay), so she let her musings drop and she continued focusing on the other male specimen that she was attracted to. Of course, that meant that she was mostly just going out to be fuck buddies with enormous ass holes, but hey, what could a girl do about that? That's right - nothing. Well, she supposed that she could have decided that she wasn't going to date anyone until she found someone who was worth the time and effort it would take to find someone decent, but who was she kidding? Karen had a need for sex. It was like, she was addicted to it, or something. Certainly, she had sex much more than any lady she talked to, and Karen was even willing to bet money that she thought of sex more than a handful of men as well.
But anyway, back to what had happened between Seth and Jordan that led to them fighting in the abandoned lot all those years ago - it actually had to do with fact that Jordan had said he wanted to take Karen out to the restaurant that was right across the street from where Karen typically took lunch at. Obviously, since Jordan won the second fight that night, he considered himself to be "the winner" and he did ask Karen out on that date. And, being Karen, she agreed easily. The thing that had hurt Seth about the whole thing was that he had to hear about what happened on that date in the locker room the day after it happened. He got to see Jordan claim that Karen had gone down on him (which, she was a little embarrassed to admit, was true). What happened just a week or two after that, though, Karen was willing to bet that Seth never heard about - it was how Karen had lost her virginity. She had fucked the only man that Seth couldn't stand. Not only that, but he was her first (and only, until college, at least). If Jordan bragged about that, though, Karen never heard about it. And she was pretty sure that she would have heard about a rumor going around that she had lost her virginity. Surely that would be news enough to get all of the gossips in the building to start talking, for a couple of weeks, at least.
Like she said, though, that was all in the past. Karen hadn't seen Jordan for a couple of years, and he truly was a different person. He was not the giant ass hole that he had been in school. He was kinder. Gentler. More mature. But would Seth actually believe that? Karen could see the look on his face once he figured out who she had been on a date with, and believe her - it was not a happy expression. Karen couldn't blame him, not really, but she didn't want to lose her best friend over this. But what could she do? If he told her not to date him, then sure as anything, she would immediately want to date him even more. And if he told her that he didn't care, she would know that he was lying to her (because he really was an awful liar). So, all in all, it was probably for the best that he didn't say anything at all. Karen could see that it irritated him, but he wisely decided to drop the matter completely.
"So what do you feel like getting this afternoon, Karen?" Seth finally asked, after they had been walking in silence for a solid five minutes. "What sounds good today?"
"Fast food would probably be best. I need to watch my money now that my sister is getting married."
"That would be a wise decision, I suppose," Seth mused. "Is Claire making you her Maid of Honor?"
"Yeah, that's what she said, at any rate."
"That must be nice," he nodded, giving her a wistful look. "To have a sibling that you are close to."
Karen gave him a soft look of her own, clasped his hand, and patted it fondly. "It is very nice. You are welcome to use my family members at any time."
That was what she said, but it wasn't all of what she had been thinking. If she would have said what she was thinking, without filtering it, first, she would have said, "It is very nice, you should really try it sometime." But that was not a valid option for her. Karen knew the trouble that Seth had accepting his brother because he apparently skipped their mom's wake and funeral. Karen understood why Seth hated his brother. She really did. But it was such an odd thing in her opinion. She couldn't imagine ever hating her sister or brother. Yeah, Jack could get a little over-protective, sometimes, but he only did that because he loved his sisters. Nevertheless, Seth did not share those loving feelings that her brother had for her and her sister, so rather than bring that to the forefront of their conversation, she skipped that part and simply commented on the borrowing of her siblings. As expected, Seth seemed to miss the fact that she had been thinking about his brother, though that wasn't too surprising. The only reason that Karen would have expected Seth to say anything about Logan would have been that he had mentioned his brother for the first time in at least two years that very morning. However, he seemed to be over that incident, as he seemed to be enjoying his walk with Karen.
"You good with Subway for lunch?" Karen asked him after she spotted the green sign just ahead of them.
"Yep - sounds good to me."
The two of them turned to lighter subjects as they talked at lunch. Karen was thankful for that. One of the best things about Seth was that he didn't like to talk about personal things in public. So instead of discussing Seth's family problems or Karen's newly rekindled interest in a man that Seth couldn't stand, they talked lightly about their respective assignments for the paper.
"You really do need to start getting your assignments in quicker, Seth," Karen said between bites of her six inch Meatball sub. "If you don't start turning them in quicker, they're going to start giving your assignments to someone who can snap a photo much quicker than you."
"Why should I have to sacrifice the quality of my photos in order to give the paper an extra three or four hours to put the paper out?" Seth asked with a disgruntled shake of his head. "I turn in better photos than anyone working for the paper at an equal or lesser time than me. Why would they get rid of their best photographer? For an extra three hours? Half of the other guys' photos need to be edited, and that takes time. The same time that separates our photos being turned in, for the majority of them. So, really, does it matter that they get their photos in a whopping three hours before I do? No. Not when you sit back and consider all of the time that is spent editing their subpar shots for the fact that mine are ready to go every time."
It was always Seth's argument whenever she brought up the subject, but really, Karen couldn't blame him for using this line - it was true. Seth did take extremely beautiful shots every time that he snapped an image. Probably because he actually took the time to think about what was going on in the subjects' minds every time he pressed down on his release button to snap a photo. Every time. When you looked at his sports photos (even though he often complained about having to take them), you just felt an immediate pull to whatever he had been trying to convey. Whether it was an elated smile after a glorious play or victory or complete and utter despair after losing a game that they had been winning until the last minute. They just, drew a person in. That was how Seth had caught her eye in high school, after all.
He had been photographing for the school newspaper. She had seen him clicking away with his camera, but she hadn't given him much thought at first. Then she saw the pictures. Every single one of them just . . . Filled her with such, raw emotion. He seemed to catch everything that she felt during each and every game. When she saw his crusingly beautiful picture of he tear-streaked face after losing the girl that scored the conference winning goal, it inspired her to train even harder for her senior year. And it worked − when she saw the picture of her triumphant fist pumping the air (along with the rest of the team) after they won the conference for the first time in their school's history the following year (against the very team that had defeated them the year before), it was epic. She started talking to him because of his ability to capture her in his pictures. She always knew that he would be a photographer professionally - whether it was at his own studio, for a town newspaper, or traveling the world to capture global events for something like National Geographic or something. There was no doubt in her mind. That was what Seth loved to do; that was what he was excellent at.
Karen, though, took a lot of time trying to find a major that she wanted to do in college. She went from everything from Marketing and Advertising to being a Physical Education teacher to what she ended up getting - a Mass Communications degree. It was probably the right choice, although, there were still some days that she wasn't sure that she had made the correct one. However, she had much to be thankful for in her degree. One, the country was very much a Mass Communications place for hiring, at the moment. Getting a job was tough; but someone with a broad based degree could find something. Though Karen knew that physical papers would probably fall out of print sometime in the next ten years or so, she was glad that she would have a little bit of time left to work for one of the best papers in the country.
The two of them continued their everyday chat the way they usually did at lunch. When they were walking back to the Chicago Tribune's pressroom, though, Seth inclined his head to her. "Do you have any plans for this Saturday?"
Tipping her head back, Karen thought. She did have plans . . . plans with the man that Seth was not going to be happy that she was dating again. Deciding it best to see why he was asking her first, before she could respond, she asked, "Not sure just yet. Why do you ask?"
"Well, the guys and I were going to go to a bar on Saturday night. I think Pete's got a new girl that he is bringing with him. Would you like to join us?"
Ah, if Pete was going to be going, then Karen could not bring Jordan. Pete had actually beat the living shit out of Jordan after Jordan beat Seth up and started going out with Karen the first time. The two of them did not get along, to say the least. It was kind of sad, because Karen really did want to go hang out with Seth and his non-newspaper friends. It had been a long time since the last time that she had seen any of them. However, it would have to be another time - like one that she hadn't already promised to attend a date with someone that Pete (and Seth) couldn't stand.
"I do have a lot of stuff that I have to get done for my sister's wedding, this weekend," Karen said evasively. "But if I get done early, I'll see if I can stop by."
That answer seemed to satisfy Seth, which meant that it satisfied Karen. She really wished that Seth and Jordan could patch things up. No, she didn't expect the relationship with Jordan to last very long (after all, if she were being completely honest with herself, this arrangement was more of a fuck buddies set up . . . She had just broke up with Gary Stewart, the man she had been steadily dating for two years, and she wanted, well, needed really, to blow off some pent up sexual energy. Hence, she had contacted Jordan. He seemed to be a good choice for this because of two things: one, they had already had sex before, so there was no reason to believe that he would say no and two, Jordan was kind of addicted to sex. He would have sex with pretty much anything. As much as Karen hated to admit it, she felt kind of nervous when he was left in a room alone that had something like a pencil sharpener in it, because she wasn't sure that Jordan wouldn't try to "take advantage" of the object and get hurt. It was sad, but oh so true.
"Well, thanks for going to lunch with me, today. I know we go to lunch together on pretty much every day, but I really needed it today. I had a really rough morning, and you always make me feel better," Seth said slowly, giving Karen an easy half smile.
For just the briefest moment, she felt the smallest twinge of hope in her heart that Seth might actually ask her out. Then, of course, she remembered that she was going out with one of Seth's sworn enemies tonight and besides that fact, he hadn't even asked her out, yet. Gay, remember? Gay or asexual. The feeling quickly dissipated and Karen walked over to her desk.
Seeing the messy stacks of looseleaf paper, notebook paper, and post it notes strewn across her desk made Karen sad. It was so easy to forget that she was planning a meaningless sexual frenzy with Jordan for this weekend when she could feel so perfectly comfortable and at home with Seth at lunch just half an hour before. No matter, though. There wasn't anything that she could do about that problem at the moment. Maybe she would be able to just tell Seth that she wanted to go on a date with him. Why was it so difficult for her to say those words to him? She certainly had no problem saying words like that to any other guy she had ever been interested in. Being shy around men was her sister's dating characteristic, not hers. In fact, Karen asked out almost every guy she had ever dated. So why was it so hard to see herself just walking up to Seth and asking him out on a date?
It had to be because she thought he was gay or asexual, right? Because, it couldn't be that she was scared of being rejected, could it? Because, if you got right down to it, that was ultimately what was holding her back - fear. Fear of being rejected. More importantly, it was the fear of being rejected by someone that she truly cared about. Karen honestly loved Seth. The kind of love that she felt at the moment was more the kind you feel for a brother, but it was still different. It was almost like she was just settling for loving him like a brother, but she honestly thought there might be a chance for her to feel more. For them to be more together. They had lived together once. Not once did they ever cross the "friend" boundary line. Surely, if Seth was interest in her, he would have made a move, right?
Karen was just about to call her search to quits when she saw it - on the corner of her desk, a blue sticky note with Jordan's phone number written on it. Briefly, she wondered if that was a sign from the gods, or something. Pocketing the paper, Karen went to work straightening up her desk once more, trying not to think about the fact that she wanted Seth to ask her out.