Authors: Jamie Hill
Blame it on the Stars
The Blame Game
By Jamie Hill
Books We Love Ltd.
Copyright 2013 by Jamie Hill
Cover art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2013
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
* * *
To Pamela, with love.
Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born: yours is the darkness of my soul’s return~ you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars. ~ E. E. Cummings
Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart
or burn down your house, you can never tell. ~ Joan Crawford
“Men. Can’t live with them, can’t live...with them.” Catlin McCall tossed back the last of her beer, and set the empty bottle on the bar.
That was funny.” Jetta Craft, her friend and co-worker, slurred from the next bar stool. “Did you hear what you said?”
Of course I heard what I said.” Catlin looked at her. “I may be drunk, but I’m not deaf.”
etta finished her beer and lined up the bottle next to the six others they’d polished off that evening. “Well, personally, I’m not ready to give up. I know there’s a man out there somewhere for you. With your looks and charming personality, there just has to be.”
Catlin tossed her long, curly hair over her shoulder and laughed.
“Are you being facetious? Because I do have a charming personality. A damn charming one, at that.”
Who’s charming?” Jetta’s husband, Jim Craft, slipped his arms around his wife from behind.
Where did you come from?” Catlin blinked at him.
Originally? Topeka. Just now? I cleaned some dude’s clock playing pool. So, who’s charming?”
Who do you think?” Catlin replied. “I’m a good catch. Why can’t I get the right man to realize that?”
ed his wife back and forth in his arms. “You’re being too picky. I’ve introduced you to every cop I work with, and most of the fire department. Honestly, I think we’ve covered them all. You expect too much.”
“That’s, like, ten guys,” Jetta reminded him.
“I know, right?” Catlin picked at the label on her last beer bottle, tearing it into little pieces. “I’m not too picky. This town is just too small. I need to get out of Marshall, Kansas and go somewhere I can meet people.”
“If you didn’t want the small town atmosphere, why did you take a job teaching at a tiny Catholic high school?”
“Um, money of course. They really wanted me.”
Yeah, I know.” Jetta shook her head. “They wanted me, too. I guess having one black teacher makes them feel better about the fact that we have two black students.”
Catlin shook her head and waved her hands.
“Don’t go there, please. I don’t want to think that hard tonight. I just want another beer.”
Jim put his hand on her shoulder.
“You’ve probably had enough. Tomorrow is a school day.”
Catlin looked at him,
her vision blurry. “Why did we bring you again?”
im smiled. “Designated driver, of course. That’s why we left your car at home, remember?”
etta snapped her fingers. “You should have brought your car! I bet you could attract a lot of guys if they saw you drove a Jaguar.”
Catlin shook her head.
“I don’t need a guy who wants me for my car. He should want me for
...” She looked around. “Did I say that out loud?”
Time to go.” Jim grabbed Catlin by the arm. “Come on, princess.”
Not yet,” she mumbled.
Jetta took her other arm.
“Yeah sweetie, let’s get you home.” She whispered in Catlin’s ear, “Besides, I’m ovulating. Jim and I need to turn in early.”
Catlin nodded her agreement
and stood. “Okay, time to go.”
im tossed some cash on the bar, and led them out. Catlin climbed in the back seat of the Craft’s Celica, and closed her eyes.
She was quiet until they dropped her
off, and Jetta made sure she got into her house. “Thank you.” Catlin smiled at her good friend.
You’ll be okay?”
I’m fine. Go on. Have fun.” Catlin closed the door behind her, and locked it. She skipped her usual nighttime routine and fell into bed, clothing, makeup and all.
Catlin woke up the next morning with a killer headache. She knew she would. She couldn’t drink more than one of any drink without it affecting her in a bad way. But she’d suffered through a particularly bad blind date two nights ago, and made the mistake of complaining about it to Jetta, who insisted they go out last night to commiserate. Now Catlin was paying the price for it.
She slapped at her alarm clock, and swallowed two Excedrin at the bathroom sink. She stood in the shower until the hot water was gone. By the time she was dried off, she
was beginning to feel human again. She towel dried her naturally curly hair, and ran some leave-in conditioner through it to tame the frizzies. Her hair reached the middle of her back, and usually took a long time to get it looking decent. This morning, however, Catlin wasn’t being too critical. She pulled it back, still damp, into a loose ponytail and called it good. She dabbed just enough makeup on her face to be passable, and went to her closet.
It was September, but the weather had turned cool early, so she chose a flowered sun dress with a solid jacket to go over it. She rubbed lotion over her long legs, and decided they looked
decent enough to go without pantyhose. She
As she looked herself over in the mirror for the final time, she thought of Jetta. They were dark and light versions of each other. Jetta also had long, dark curly hair and dark eyes. Their figures were almost the
same; they wore the same size, and could trade clothes. Jetta wore her hair loose and flowing, while Catlin pulled hers back most every day. She felt more like a teacher that way.
feel like was either ‘charming’ or a particularly good catch.
Where had that crap come from?
She hoped no one she knew had been close enough to hear her drunken ramblings the night before. That behavior wasn’t her, it was the beer talking. She was normally quiet and reserved.
She was almost always late.
As usual, she
made it to school with only minutes to spare. She parked and gathered up an armload of paperwork to haul inside. The principal met her at the entrance. “Barely beating the first bell again, I see.” Frank Turner held the door for her. Tall and athletic, he was a force to reckon with where the students were concerned. Fortunately, he was easier on the teachers.
apologetically. “But I did beat it, that’s the important part.”
walked her part way down the hall. “How are things going for you so far, Catlin? Everything under control?”
She shifted her armload of papers and held them up for him to see.
“Judging by the amount of homework
have at night, I’d say we’re in full swing.”
He laughed and turned into his office as Catlin went on to her classroom.
“Take it easy!” Frank called over his shoulder. “But not
easy, of course.”
Catlin rolled her eyes.
It was the second week of the new school year. She taught English at St. Joseph’s High School, a small Catholic school in the medium sized town of Marshall, Kansas. The school had about one hundred students, which made it easy for everyone to get to know one another. Catlin enjoyed the small class sizes, having grown up in a much smaller town herself.
She stepped into her classroom and looked at the five students milling around the room.
“Greetings, yearbook staff.”
The Divine Miss M.” Clint Stewart, the yearbook editor, grinned at her. “How are you doing today?”
chuckled. Clint was a good kid. He was also very cute and knew it, with tousled blond hair and a six foot build that towered over her by several inches.
Hi Clint. So, have you guys started designing layouts for the beginning of year activities yet? We want to get as much done early as we can. You know it’s all going to hit in the spring, and we don’t want to be buried and have to work all summer finishing up.”
Clint waved her off.
“We’re talking about it, don’t worry.”
She started to respond when a knock
sounded on her classroom door. Catlin looked up to see a pretty, blue-eyed girl with long blond hair standing in the doorway.
“Hell-o, who’s this?” Clint waggled his brows.
Catlin shoved him back lightly with two fingers.
“Down boy.” She smiled at the girl in the doorway. “May I help you?”
Are you Miss McCall?”
I am. Come in.” Catlin turned to Clint “Design. Draw. Do something. Now, please.”
He reluctantly went to the
back of the room.
Catlin sat at her desk, and motioned to a chair next to her.
“Sit down. I don’t believe we’ve met.”
sat timidly. “I’m Dana Naughton. My family just moved here.”
Glad to meet you Dana. Where did you move from?”
Kansas City, and man, am I in culture shock.”
chuckled. “I’ll bet. You’ll get used to it. Marshall is a great town.”
Dana rolled her eyes, not in an obnoxious way, but
more humorously. “Now you sound like my dad. He grew up here. He’s wanted to move back for ages, you know, a great place to raise the kids and all that. But mom loved the city. She said she’d wither away in a town this size.”
I’m glad she changed her mind. Maybe she’ll get to like it after you’ve been here a while.”
Dana looked down.
“My mother didn’t come with us. She said it was her dream to live in New York City, so she went there and we came here.”
Catlin reached out and touched Dana
’s arm. “I’m so sorry. Maybe a little distance will help your parents get a better perspective. They’ll probably figure out they hate being apart, and this will bring them back together.”
Dana grabbed a tissue from the box on Catlin
’s desk and dabbed her eyes with it. “I don’t know. My dad is pretty pissed off at her. Excuse my language.” She composed herself and cleared her throat. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I’d like to know if you have any positions open on the yearbook staff. I realize we’re starting a couple weeks later than everyone else, but I was hoping—”
Hallelujah!” Catlin exclaimed. “We’re so short-handed on the yearbook, we’d pay you to join up.”
Clint interjected from the back of the room
, “If we had any money to work with, that is.”
Catlin and Dana smiled. Catlin said
, “He’s right, of course. We don’t have much. But we would love to have you. How does your schedule look?”
I was waiting to finalize it until I talked to you. I’ll do whatever I need to in order to free up first hour, so I can be on the staff.”
Well, we’ll have to check with Mr. Turner, and then run it by the guidance counselor.”
“My father and Mr. Turner went to college together. I think he’ll give me whatever I want.”
chuckled. “So that means your father gives you whatever you want?”
tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Pretty much, especially since Mom left. Well, thanks Miss McCall. I’ll let Mr. Turner and the counselor know.” She left Catlin to wonder exactly what the yearbook staff had gotten into.
Second hour of the day was Caitlin’s planning period. She went to the teacher’s lounge, rummaging through her purse. “Caffeine,” she called, and found the necessary quarters. She put her money into the soda machine and pressed the button for a Dr. Pepper. “Ahh,” she sighed as she took her first drink.
How are you feeling today?” Jetta entered the room.
Like crap, thank you very much. And you?”
Jetta picked up Catlin
’s soda and took a drink. “I’m fine. Of course,
wasn’t drinking last night.”
Baloney. I might not remember everything, but I remember that much.” Catlin made a face at her.
the jab. “Have you met that new kid, David Naughton? Holy guacamole!”
sat on the old, vinyl sofa in the room. She stretched her legs out and leaned back. “I must have met his sister. She seems nice enough. A little spoiled, maybe.”
tta shook her head. “The boy is a real piece of work. Thinks he’s God’s gift to the human race. Interested in football, girls, and whatever goes along with football and girls.”
were chuckling as Frank Turner walked in. “Somebody pass the feather.”
raised her can of pop and took a drink. “We were just talking about the Naughton kid, what was his name? I understand you know the family.”