Dependence, independence, interdependence, co-dependency…
Good relationships are built on mutual trust and vulnerability, but a good relationship can’t exist without both independence and dependence.
In. Out. In. Out.
Natalie’s jaw slackens, and the breath passes through her mouth. A bead of saliva trickles down her chin and onto the scarlet 1000-thread-count Egyptian cotton pillowcase.
My eyelids flutter heavily as my chest rises and falls in rhythm with hers.
An arm jerks backward as Natalie’s body convulses. Her dark eyes snap open and stare at me, unseeing.
I lift her right arm by the elbow, pulling down her gray, ribbed henley sleeve to the wrist, and return the arm to bend in front of her. Her fingers draw in to make a loose fist, and I tuck her hand next to her left, just under her cheek. Her rattling has shaken the thick duvet half onto the floor, and I pat it back into place. I used to do the same for my nephews when we shared a room. They were forever throwing off their covers and then waking up from the cold. I sink to my knees in the thick plush carpet, perfectly manicured as always. I bury my face in the softness of Natalie’s duvet, breathing in the mixture of laundry soap and Natalie’s jasmine perfume and some indescribable essence that clings to everything in Natalie’s house.
I wish I could stay here forever in the moments when Natalie is asleep and motionless. I wish that her muscles could remain loose and her breathing even. Instead, it is the sharpness and angles that define her waking moments.
I came back to Natalie because she needed me. Or I needed her. Whether that makes either or both of us crazy, I don’t know. How do you know whether you are messed up for needing someone or normal for being part of a human relationship?
(from “Tomorrow” in Coming to Terms)
You can find free stories about Kat and Natalie on Kat-Sitting. If you’re new, start with “Spanking the Cockroach” as the other ones contain spoilers.
The order of Kat and Natalie stories:
1. The Way Home (full-length novel)
Natalie always wanted a little sister. Kat didn’t know she was allowed to want anything…or anyone.
Kat, a shy farmgirl, arrives at her freshman dorm with a backpack, a suitcase, and her mother’s wish for Kat to attend college “at least until you get married”. Her roommate Natalie, a confident and fun-loving social butterfly, decides sight unseen that Kat will become her best friend for life. Natalie teaches Kat about college life, academics, and friendship by taking Kat under her wing…and over her knee.
Then their lives fall apart one fateful night on campus, and for the rest of the decade Kat and Natalie struggle to find their way back to each other. Their way home.
1.5. “Tomorrow” (short story) in Coming to Terms
Picking up the pieces after an unexpected separation, thirty-something Kat Astra tries to make sense of a relationship gone wrong. Ever since the two met as college roommates, Natalie has been an infuriating mixture of confidence, overprotectiveness, discipline, and emotional unavailability. Natalie expects openness and honesty from Kat, but she forgets one thing: Natalie has needs, too.
When they seek help, the couple receives a mandate: create new, positive memories to replace the old, hurtful ones. In an uncharacteristic move, Natalie plans a trip for them to get away from their daily grind. On their first vacation together, they come to terms with their relationship roles. How will they make things work? Will the fun of their time in the sun carry over into their ordinary life, or will they continue their cycle of misunderstandings?
“Tomorrow” serves as an intermezzo between The Way Home and Lighting the Way, the first two books in the Kat and Natalie series.
2. Lighting the Way (full-length novel)
College roommates, best friends, and family. Can Kat and Natalie find a way to stay together…without killing each other?
Kat Astra knows one thing: everything is her fault. A dead-end job. A fear of confrontation. An inability to speak up when necessary. Desertion of her best friend in her time of need.
Natalie Mestecom knows one thing too: everything Kat does is Natalie’s fault. The relationship rule is simple; Kat has problems, and Natalie fixes them. But what worked in adolescence becomes more complicated with adulthood, and new developments in their relationship challenge these roles. Kat is no longer sure whether she is willing to be disciplined according to Natalie’s rules, and Natalie is no longer sure whether she is worthy of Kat’s trust.
Can Natalie allow herself to be vulnerable? Can Kat believe in her own strength? Can Natalie believe in Kat’s strength? How will they, each in their own way, learn to move beyond guilt and blame in order to forge a new relationship together? In order to make peace with themselves and each other, Kat and Natalie reconnect with family, re-visit memories of their past, and make plans for taking steps forward in the future. To light their way home.
3. Kat-Sitting stories take place after Lighting the Way