Read How I Got Here Online

Authors: Hannah Harvey

How I Got Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

Letter 1

This story starts quite simply, it starts with a word, a small five letter word that shouldn’t have been so important, it shouldn’t have started the chain of events that it did, it shouldn’t have held so much power over me, but it did and I can’t change that. This is my history, my story, my past written down for you to see. It all started with a word, and that word is ‘plain’.

I think this is where we need to begin, because all in all it’s pretty much where it all began. You may be thinking how could everything have started ther
e? It’s just a little word, so now I hear you asking how did a simple five letter word get me here? Get me to this point of hopelessness; get me to the place where I feel so trapped. Well the answer to that question is as simple as the word itself, simply put, words have power.

I’m not just saying that because of how I was raised. You may think that growing up in a house with an English professor for a mother, a journalist for a father, and a brother majoring in English, would put some extra emphasis on words
, and just maybe it has influenced me, and that may in fact be true, but you also can’t deny that saying words are powerful, is also very true. Words have a way of being incredibly powerful, from
I Love You,
to
I Hate You
. They carry sentiments, truths and lies. Mostly they can affect the way people feel about themselves, which is why words should be used carefully, because you never know what they’ll mean to someone else.

Still; when you think about the word plain, it doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of word that would be viewed as powerful. It’s a simple little word; in fact the word plain sort of describes itself. Plain is a rather plain word.

For you to understand what it is I’m getting at, I think I need to put it into some context for you, and for that we need to go back two years. It was summer and I had just turned sixteen. Over the summer I was working at the local bookstore, it was my job to help people find what they were looking for, because I was quite good at locating books, even if the customer only gave me a brief description of the book.

It was while I was at work that I met her, Kim, this girl who was so different from our usual customers, who more often than not were quiet bookish people.

I’m not saying that all of this is her fault; I don’t think it would be accurate or fair to say that, but she started a lot of things for me, a chain of events that grew uncontrollable. In short, Kim is the girl who began the process.

So shall we get started? Because you did want to know what got me here right? You do want to know all of it, every tiny detail no matter how small? You asked for it.

Kim was new to New York, when she walked into the bookstore on that sunny day in July, everyone stopped to look at her, because she had that kind of energy and personality, the type that demands the attention of a room. I’d say there were around twenty people in the store, or at least twenty who had a view of the door, and when Kim walked in, they all stared at her, with the sun shining on her golden hair, which was long and dropped in perfect waves to her incredibly slender waist, her eyes round and blue, her face just the tiniest bit sun kissed. She was wearing a white chiffon dress, which had lace detailing round the waist, and it dropped to her knees, she’d paired it off with some simple white sandals, and a silver chain with a silver locket on it. She was petite, probably no taller than 5’3, yet she carried with her such a strong presence. Most people wouldn’t notice a petite sixteen year old girl, there are plenty of them in New York, and so why would one stand out above another? But Kim, she seemed to demand the attention from all around her. I remember there was this one guy in the store, standing at a shelf pouring over some Russian novel, he was the only one not to turn around, and Kim, when she noticed this, just sort of stared at him until he noticed her, then smiled because she was satisfied that he’d seen her.

The fascination lasted a few seconds, twenty at most, before people came to their senses, and realized they were being rude by staring, and so they turned away and went back to their dusty books. Kim didn’t seem to care, she’d caught their attention for long enough, so she just smiled a bright and welcoming smile, and walked straight to the wooden counter, where I was standing pricing a new batch of secondhand books.

‘Hi!’ She said to me, speaking in excited tones as if her talking to me was some privilege, one that she had decided I was worthy of receiving. She rested her elbows on the counter as she spoke.

‘Hello, welcome to ‘Past and Present Pages’, can I help you find something?’ I had said that phrase so many times that day, on our first day of training we learnt that phrase, it was required that we say it to every customer who approaches us. I somehow felt though that Kim wasn’t in
there to search for some dusty cover of a hard to find novel, I was right. She stood up straight and put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes just a tiny bit.

‘Do you g
o to Edgerton High the school on the Upper East Side?’  Kim asked while her eyes looked behind me, at the shelves of the rarest books, the first editions and really old copies.

‘Oh uh yeah I do.’ I don’t know to this day what made me stumble on my
words; it wasn’t a difficult question or anything, because I had been going to Edgerton for a while. It was a private school where my mother worked as head of the English department, her professorship put her slightly too qualified to teach high school, but the private school had a reputation for the best English program in the city, so they only ever hired college professors.

‘I thought so; I’ll be starting at Edgerton soon so I studied the website for all the students, so I’d know them. I was living in California because I was working on a film,’ She pauses here, possibly she wanted me to say something, possibly she just wanted to build up my interest. ‘I’m an actress. Now though I’ve moved to New York, because my father is doing some work on Broadway. So I’ll be going to Edgerton because it’s simply the best school. Anyway like I said I went on the website and got a list of people in my homeroom, in truth I had to pull a few strings to get the information, but it wasn’t too hard tracking you all down. That’s why I’m here, because I like to get a sense of who I’ll be around, I didn’t want to start school and not know anyone. So I’m throwing a party for everyone in my homeroom.’ She pulls out a lace trimmed pale pink invitation, handwritten in calligraphy.

‘Oh thank you, that’s really nice of you.’ I remember smiling at her as I took the invitation and looked it over. It was perfect and delicate just like her, it was such a nice gesture that I hardly thought about her tracking me down, which was a slightly alarming fact that she’d found where I worked.

‘Oh I’m Kim by
the way; I never did say did I?’ She laughs ruefully, ‘Kim Jenkins that’s me, and you might want to remember that name, because it’ll be up in lights soon.’ She looked away then, over her shoulder and out the door, it was then that I noticed a girl waiting impatiently outside, dressed in a neat white skirt, a pale green silk blouse and despite the heat, a tweed jacket. She was dressed as if she were thirty and off to work, despite the fact that she couldn’t have been more than sixteen. It was clear that she wasn’t comfortable in Brooklyn. Kim started heading for the door, stopping with one foot outside she turned back.

‘What’s your name?’ She asked as if it was an afterthought, which considering she was halfway out the door, it probably was.

‘Oh I’m River Lee.’ I had replied.

‘Interesting name, I like it.’ She backs away, ‘See you at my party then, oh and make sure you dress up, I’m not the kind of person to throw a casual boring party, it’s black tie, so wear something nice or you’ll be turned away at the door. I’ll see you there.’ There wasn’t a moment of hesitation in her voice, looking back it was clear she didn’t even entertain the thought I might not come. Perhaps that was my problem, this was apparently
the
party to be at, and I didn’t go.

That meeting was the first and last with Kim for a while, I didn’t see her again all of that summer, she didn’t come into the store again, and I didn’t go to her party, so the next time I saw her was when we started school in September. I had sent her an email though, to the address she’d left on the invitation, it was a short email and it was to the point. I’ll copy it below for you, because you do want to know all the details right? If you don’t then just skim read this part of the letter, skim read it all if you like, it doesn’t really matter, none of it really matters, but you asked for it so I’ll write it. This is the email I sent to Kim back in the summer I met her.

Kim,

It was really nice meeting you today, and I appreciate the invitation to your party, however I won’t be able to come. I’m sure that it’ll be a great party, but I’m really not a party kind of girl, it’s nothing personal, it’s just not my thing. I hope you understand.

River

I never got a response to that email, so I didn’t know if she did understand, or if she’d even received my message.

My parents had tried to convince me to go to the party, but I refused because what I’d written to Kim was true, it really wasn’t my kind of thing. If you knew me back then you’d understand, I wasn’t exactly a wallflower, and I wasn’t exactly a recluse, but I usually opted to stay in, or go out with a few close friends, for a meal or a trip to the theatre. That particular night I stayed in and baked some cookies, which was a favorite hobby of mine, because baking was soothing to me. I didn’t even think about the party, and as the summer passed I forgot about Kim as well, at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, it was just a party I’d chosen not to attend.

Then before I knew it summer had slipped away, taking with it the long warm days, and my frequent walks around my beloved New York. I always liked to go out after work, when the sun was still high and warm, casting its glow over the city. I would
never go into the parks though, because to me the streets were so much more interesting, I’d just spend hours making random turns and see where I ended up. I’d take my camera with me and just photograph the city in the summer light. I would inevitably end up walking alone for a few hours, then I would find a nice little quiet café somewhere, the small one off ones, which had chairs on the sidewalk and sold impossibly strong coffee, had stacks of books inside which you could borrow while you were there, and had that general feel of the past hanging around them. I wasn’t really a fan of the swank chain coffee stores, I’m still not. I would stay at one of these places until the sun started dipping below the tall buildings, then I’d get a cab back to my apartment on the Upper East Side, because my parents didn’t like me being out alone in the city after dark.

I got off track there a little didn’t I? I guess I find it easier to write this up as if it were a story, and since you told me I could write whatever I felt comfortable writing, I’m going to continue in this way.

Back to where we left off then. Summer ended and so did the glorious warm weather we’d been having. It was early September and do you remember the storms? Wait, that was two years ago now, you wouldn’t have been in New York right? You would have still been doing your medical training in Chicago. Maybe you heard about the storms that hit New York that September. I lived them and in all honesty I loved them.

The day school started I woke up and the sky outside was a dark grey, the clouds hung low and were tinged with the darkest purple I had ever seen. The city was masked by heavy sheets of rain which was driving between the buildings, pouring down so hard that when you were outside, you could only make out the shapes of things directly around you, which made for some impressive photos, or so my photography teacher at school told me. The wind was pretty strong as well, sweeping between the buildings and making it seem like people were stuck in a wind tunnel. Yet my school didn’t close due to the adverse weather conditions, even though plenty of schools in the city had, and most of the public transport wasn’t running, due to power cuts and other problems that the storms were causing, so even if they weren’t cancelled, they were running with major delays.
So I trekked to school from my father’s office, which was about halfway between our apartment and the school, because he didn’t have time to get me to school and then drive back to work in time. I said I didn’t mind and really I didn’t, I had a large black raincoat that my mother had purchased from a boutique in Paris, it had a large hood that I could hide beneath and it was just about floor length, so I was set. By the time I reached the school the thunder storm had started. I kept my head down as I made my way into the bathroom, pulling off the raincoat I remember being pleased to find that my burgundy knitted dress, black tights and boots and my hair, were all still neat and most importantly dry. I made a mental note to tell my mother how good the coat was, it would please her that she had made a good purchase, because it had cost her a small fortune.

Evidently though this was a catalyst for problems later on, which I found out when I walked into homeroom. It was ten minutes before the bell was due to ring, and as I walked in the first person I saw was Kim, surrounded by several students who all seemed to know her well, apparently the party wasn’t the only time they’d hung out with her that summer, and so she had achieved her goal, she knew people at the school before she started, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal that I hadn’t gone. The next thing that I noticed was that every other student in the class room was soaked, and when I say soaked you need to understand that I mean completely soaked. Their hair and clothes were dripping onto the wooden floor. You could tell the girls had done the best to hide the damage, they had redone their make-up, and tied their hair back in top knots or braided it neatly, a few had even used the hand dryers in the bathrooms to dry themselves a little, but they were all still looking a little disheveled. I knew a lot of them would have been dropped off by their parents, or by cabs, but just getting
from the street into the building without any protecting from the rain, in the weather that we were currently experiencing, would produce the same effect as standing under a shower head for a minute or so.

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