“What is this check you’ve sent to me?” LoWanda was on the phone with Kit Kat and she breathed a sigh of relief. It had been days since she sent that check and she had practiced her response every waking moment of every day since she sent it. “I’m returning the advance for The Independence of the Dowager of Langthrope.”
Just as she had practiced, she paused, waiting for LoWanda’s response. It was so hard not to continue with her speech, but she felt as if the less she said, the better. She was negotiating for the integrity of her book. She had to be strong for the sake of the dowager. Kit Kat cringed at the thought of marrying her off to the merchant. She MUST be allowed to go to India unescorted and unattached.
LoWanda queried, “You’re returning your advance?” It was enough to launch Kit Kat into her speech, “I’m not willing to make the changes that you want to the story. I want out of my contract and I’ll shop the book around to ‘real’ publishers.” There it was. Her threat was out in the open, and she hoped that it would make them cave into her demands.
During the days after she sent the check, she fully contemplated what she was willing to do. She was willing to concede the Christian elements of the story as long as they were willing to keep her original ending. As long as the dowager was allowed to be independent, then she was willing to do the rewrites. Otherwise, she was fully willing to leave Antioch in search of a publisher who would respect her work.
The silence on the telephone, however, disconcerted her. There was no negotiating going on. It was just silent. She held her tongue. This was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? Suddenly, everything she had thought was important about the book seemed silly. What did it matter if the dowager married the merchant? She was imaginary anyway. Kit Kat felt herself crumbling, but kept quiet.
LoWanda quietly started, “We had been considering cutting you loose…” Kit Kat was surprised by the answer. Her editor whispered into the phone, “As soon as they heard that you were getting divorced, they were going to drop you, but I convinced them to keep you on.” The fact that her Antioch House blurb had never been changed crystalized in her mind. They were embarrassed by her. Not only is she not Christian, but now she’s divorced.
“You just don’t represent their readers very well.” It was obvious that LoWanda did not feel the same, but had been trying to defend her. Kit Kat drew in a breath. “Returning the advance lets them cut you free without any regrets.” The revelation of it ran through her, but she was able to stay calm. “Then maybe it’s best if we stop working together. I want all rights to this book, LoWanda.” Her editor sighed, “I’m pretty sure I can get you those.”
She felt shell-shocked as she ended the phone call. It had been so easy to think about shopping around her book to other publishers when the check was in transit, but now that they had accepted her offer and cut her free, she felt lost. She had no idea how to shop her book around and all her past sales seemed pathetic and shallow to her now. She had been Antioch’s highest selling author and they were willing to let her leave because her husband had left her.
April was turning out to be a bad month.
She walked out of the Bowen House and headed over the Lancaster’s to visit Vesta. For the first time since she had moved to Merriton, she NEEDED to be with someone. No one answered at the door, though. She walked around the back and side yard, but she didn’t see Vesta or Elvis. She could smell the goats in the corral, but the sheep were no where nearby. She considered wandering the fields looking for both the sheep and her neighbors, but decided against it. They could be miles away.
John. She could go visit John, but the thought of it sounded hollow. He had seemed preternaturally obsessed with her books. She imagined he would be terribly disappointed to hear that she had lost her contract with Antioch. She didn’t want to take care of him. She needed someone to take care of her.
Dora. She wanted to talk to Dora, but she was teaching school right now. She couldn’t just go barging into the high school, crying and begging for her friend, could she? No, that would have to wait until after school got out.
She walked back to the house to get her car keys. She imagined just going for a drive, but the car directed itself to the ranger station. There were three pickups in the drive. One of them MUST be Roscoe’s. Kit Kat pulled onto the dirt in front of the station and walked into the building. She took in the fresh scent of the evergreens around her. It felt as if the entire mountain was entering her body through her nostrils.
The guy behind the counter had huge eyes. He looked as if he were an anime character and blinked at her. “Can I help you?” Kit Kat nodded. “Is Roscoe here?” The guy shook his head and called to the back. “Samson, can you come here?”
Suddenly, Kit Kat became aware of herself. Her clothing, her appearance and her hygiene snapped into focus. She was wearing a pair of sweats with her hair pulled into a sloppy bun. She hadn’t showered or even brushed her teeth that morning. None of that mattered when she was talking to LoWanda, hundreds of miles away, but now, she was incredibly self-conscious.
The small ranger came out of the back. “What is it, Moe?” The guy with the big eyes pointed at her. “This lady wants Roscoe.” Samson looked at her and his eyes softened. “Kit Kat.” He sounded genuinely happy to see her and smacked Moe on the shoulder. “This is Kit Kat, you dolt! She’s BOM. Give her some respect!”
BOM. She hadn’t heard that word for so long. It had meant something when she was a teenager. Locals Only was a catch phrase for many of the ski resorts, giving preferential treatment to the residents of Merriton and Emigration. But being BOM meant even more.
Moe shook his hands and taunted, “Born on the mountain.” He said the words again with a strange bitterness, “Born on the mountain. Makes no difference to me.” It was obvious, however, that it DID make a difference to him. He looked at her with a touch more reverence. “She wants to talk to Roscoe. I thought you could help her.”
Just listening to Samson and Moe argue with each other about the respect due to locals eased Kit Kat’s mind. What did Antioch House know about her? Didn’t they know that she was BOM? That MEANT something here and they could just kiss her BOM butt if they didn’t want her anymore.