Caitlin was finishing putting the boxes and storage pieces in the back of her family's Yukon. Her four arms, as well as six-fingered hands, made it easy to carry things. Her two brothers were also assigned to help. Luke, although only 7, carried things eagerly, happy to help out his sister, who he saw as his greatest role model. Marco on the other hand grumbled the entire time, complaining his conversation on AIM with his girlfriend was being interrupted. Her mother brought down her sewing machine, a crucial asset for her wardrobe.
Soon, however, all the items Caitlin needed for college were packed and the car was ready to go. Her brothers would be staying back, as Luke had a youth soccer game later that day, and as his team's best member, he was needed. Marco would be needed as well to drive him there.
"I'm going to miss you Kate!" exclaimed Luke as he gave her a big hug. She easily lifted him up with her four arms and gave him a big kiss.
"Not as much as I'll miss you!" she rubbed his head as she sat him down, "good luck on your game. I know you'll win."
"You do? I don't wanna go, I wanna go with you."
"No, they need you. I'll be on skype, we'll talk every day if you want."
He looked unsatisfied but smiled anyways, "I love you."
"Love you too." She gave him another long hug.
She turned to Marco,
"Marco, I'm going to miss you too." They embraced for a hug as he kissed her on the cheek, despite his long standing apathy to his older sister.
"Stay strong Kate."
Her father called from the driver's seat, "Caitlin, you ready? We need to get back by dinner."
"Yeah, I'm ready."
"Boys, don't get into trouble. Marco, remember Luke's game is at 3, don't be late! We'll be back by 6 at the earliest. Keep the house clean."
"Yeah yeah yeah." said Marco, his eyes rolling, already half way back into the house. Luke on the other hand stayed in the driveway, Caitlin, with her glasses on, could see a stream of tears from his face.
"Your brother really loves you. I remember when he was just learning to walk, he'd follow you everywhere." reminisced her mom,
"A lot better than Marco, what a brat."
"He loves you in his own way."
"Anyways, its going to be a long drive, I suggest you get some sleep." said her father. She sat in the back awkwardly. Her wide triple butt sitting on top of the middle seatbelt, her two tails tucked between her legs where they lay on the floor. She squirmed a bit to get comfortable and leaned against the window, taking off her glasses, where then everything became double due to her lazy eye.
As she sat there, in the back, her parents listening to the XM radio, she started to dream and wander, thinking back on past memories like they were only yesterday. She still was feeling weird from not taking her Vitex supplement the other day and her mind had been going in darker places....
It was a cloudy morning as Theresa dragged a weary Caitlin out of bed. She did not want to wake up, at all. She had been silently dreading the day for weeks, despite saying she was fine; her parents had long learned to tell her emotions from her tail movements. Little Caitlin was crabbier than normal this morning, and she mumbled loudly, "Idowan-na gtho thoo sthool." her giant forked tongue sticking out of her mouth. Her mother, a teacher, had taught her ASL, but she remained largely mute.
After a good 20 minutes she was finally coerced into getting up and she took her sweet time getting ready. Her mother had laid out that days clothing, which she had spent the last week customizing. A large skirt, and a nice blue and white top with four sleeves, it was pretty indeed. Caitlin grudgingly put on her "uniform" and came down for breakfast. Her father was sitting at the head of the table, reading the paper, his face younger and fresh. He had lost his job as a salesman and had just begun construction work a month prior. Taking turns feeding baby Marco, who sat at his high chair, he heralded Caitlin as she came trudging in from the hallway. "You look so lovely Kate!" "Kate" was a affectionate term her parents used, although Caitlin never referred to herself as such.
"Thaanw aw tadtheeee!", which she mumbled as well as signed, she gave him a big four-armed hug, while continuing her scowl at her mom, who had forced her out of bed.
"Have fun today at school, first days are always the best." It was indeed, today Caitlin would start her first day in Kindergarten at the local elementary school. This was a big deal in the Illeri household. For the last summer they had debated, even devolving into fights at time, whether she should be home-schooled or sent to the public schools. The girl's IQ, tested the previous year, was off the chart, and had learned to read at the age of 4. The local school had a gifted program, which room was made for Caitlin. Her father, following Caitlin's stubborn will, had argued for the former, while her mother, urged that she needed to be properly socialized and refused to keep her daughter away from the world. While normally she was overprotective, in this case, she was not. In the end, 'Papa Illeri' saw eye to eye with Theresa and they both agreed it was for the best. She'd already stayed home from preschool, which they both regretted.
Caitlin's mother made her two bowls of cereal and put on the table, which she soon gobbled up, her veracious appetite insatiable, only tempered by her oversized tongue. However, they were running late. "Hurry up Caitlin, we're going to be late." her mother yelled as she finished putting her pink backback in order. Within a few minutes she was crawling into the car, which she hated, as she was forced to sit on her tails, and the seatbelts were just barely wide enough at this age. From there they pep-talked, Caitlin signing back instead of speaking, although her giant tongue sometimes was out of her mouth, as she found it uncomfortable to keep it in there closed. As it did not hinder significantly her eating or breathing, her religious parents refused to alter it for "mere cosmetic reasons".
Caitlin was undoubtedly nervous however but remained cheerful. She had always been courageous, and today was to be no different. She retied her middle shoe, which was very wide and custom-made, as it was loose.
Within five minutes they were at the elementary school, which was only down the street from their neighborhood. Caitlin's appearance was known to most people in the local area, who had closely followed her complicated birth, the first few surgeries to get her liver attached correctly, and had seen her at the local Catholic Church, where she attended Sunday school. Some were scared of her, but others were accepting. The Illeri's fiercely guarded their privacy and refused to give out interviews with only the minor exception. As Theresa could see several cameramen waiting outside the main door, she took her to back entrance, the faculty entrance, where Theresa herself came in every morning.
She turned around and smiled, kissing Caitlin on the cheek. "I love you, and I know you'll do great. Ignore anyone that seems mean."
Caitlin signed back "But I'm scared."
"Don't be, I'll be here in case something goes wrong. Don't let anyone get inside you, sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will only hurt you. Say that with me." She signed it, as well as somewhat mumbled. Her six fingered lower hand came up to cover her mouth, as she was embarrassed by her forked tongue.
With that Caitlin opened the door and hoped out, walking with her odd gait into the building, with her upper right hand holding her mom's. At this point, school was all she was talking about, and she hit her mom with a dozen excited questions about it.
Theresa took her to her class room, Ms. Mulenberry, in the other wing of the building. It was still early, before most kids had arrived, and the two teachers had a quick word as Caitlin timidly waited by the wall to find a seat. Before long, their conversation ended and Ms. Mulenberry walked over, she was a short but thin young woman, with bright blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Caitlin could tell she was a little shocked at her appearance; she adjusted her glasses to better hide her lazy eye, and she sucked her tongue back in her mouth, oh how she hated her face. The limbs she didn't mind ironically. Regardless there was a cautious but warm smile on her face as she took little Caitlin by the hand. "Hey, I take it your Caitlin. I'm so excited to have you in my class." Ms. Mulberry knew some ASL but spoke this, as Caitlin's hearing was impeccable. Caitlin signed back,
"Hi." She was very quiet, especially with strangers, also she could tell her knowledge of ASL was not fluent. However, she smiled and was still excited to start her first day of school.
"Your mom said you were quiet. That's okay, you're such a sweetie though. Do you wanna go by Caitlin or Kate."
Come with me." She took her hand to the back of the classroom where she pulled out a desk. Caitlin took one look at its narrow seat, no holes in it as well, and refused to go further. "Caitlin, what's wrong?"
"Too narrow." She signed as she looked down, motioning at her three legs and two tails, which were straight up. From there, Caitlin turned toward the corner of the room where there was a small flat bench and a table.
Ms. Mulberry saw that and put two and two together. "Oh, we can do that." as she began to pull the bench out to fit in with the other rows of desk, moving the rejected desk to that corner to make room.
Caitlin nodded in agreement, a small smile emerging on her face as she sat down comfortably, her tails hanging off the ledge, free to move around.
"Okay, I'll let you get set up, I have to run a errand, I'll be right back. Let the Teacher's aide, Mrs. Hardbroke, know if you need anything." With that she was gone. Mrs. Hardbroke was a old lady, with a permanent frown on her face. She looked at Caitlin with disgust. Child of Satan for all she cared. She was the aunt of the Principle, so despite being a horrible woman, she could not be fired.
Soon the other children came in. Some knew Caitlin, others were immediately taken by her deformities. Not quite the age to be cruel, they were more carried by curiosity, and a barrage of questions came upon her, although no one sat directly by her.
"Move your arms"
"You have six-fingers!"
"Woah... big tongue."
"Why do you have two tails?"
"Why don't your tails have shaggy hair like my kitty?"
Caitlin tried signing back, but no one understood her. She buried her head as the teacher came in, clearing everyone away.
"Good morning class."
And so on.
Later that afternoon Caitlin ate lunch with her mom in the cafeteria, despite the latter's attempts to get her to be with the other kids. However, she was told she had to play with the others during recess. After some initial crying and stubborness, the other teachers convinced her it would be fun, and she decided to try it out.
The bell rang, and the tables were cleared, the food thrown out, as the students went out to the yard.
Caitlin, while originally sticking close to nest, was nudged out, and she soon saw some kids playing at the jungle gym. They seemed nice back in class and several of them smiled as she came over.
"Caitlin! Come play with us." She ran excitedly to them. Friends, she didn't have many, but something inside her pushed her towards them, a natural social instinct.
It was fun, and they didn't bring up her tongue or eye. She didn't mind at this point showing off her limbs and proudly climbed with ease across the most difficult section of the jungle gym, before jumping off, to the applause of her new friends. While at first she covered up her tongue, Caitlin soon forgot to and even began to speak, although none of them had any idea what she was saying, either mumbling or through sign language. But it didn't matter, they got along, the others utterly fascinated with her and although a bit nosey, as nice as they could be. School wasn't so bad after all, she sort of liked how everyone wanted to hang with her.
Nevertheless, the fun and games was not to last. Near the end of recess a group of 3rd graders came up to the jungle gym, both to seize it, and taunt the "freak" who was happily getting all the attention. This particular group of 3rd graders were a nasty bunch, from broken homes and dysfunctional families, they took out their anger and delinquency on the smaller students. Having just gotten out of detention, they were free to take up their favorite hangout spot, the jungle gym. However, the kindergartners were new and did not know this, as they had naively ignored the warning of the 1st graders, who after a year of hell, ventured nowhere near the place.
"Hey kindergartners, back off!" yelled Bruce, the oldest of the bullies. His sister Meghan was a overweight redhead with a brutish face and a brutish mouth. "You heard him! Off."
The kindergartners turned around, they smiled, some of the girls showed signs of fear but most held their cool.
"What you smillin' at dork!" The third, Pete, came up and pushed a tiny boy by the name of Michael, who fell to the ground crying. The teachers on watch were distracted by a kid who had fallen and broken his leg, so no help came.
With that, most of the others fled, although Caitlin and two other boys stayed back, refusing to budge.
"Oh, great, the freak stayed back. I always wanted to make freak soup."
Caitlin stared at him with her unfocused eyes, but did not move. She was used to taunts, and she was stubborn too.
"I don't think you heard me, I heard your deaf and mute, and dumb to boot. Talk!"
She didn't say or sign anything.
"What, I couldn't hear you. Don't mutter freak" He got closer and pulled out a stick.
She refused, and he raised his stick in anger, but before he could strike the lightning fast Caitlin upercut him with all four hands to the face, before landing a kick with her middle. He fell, bloodied and bruised to the ground. His sister screamed in terror, "You monster, monster monster monster!"
Nothing set her off more than that word. "Ivthm moth vtha vnonsta!" And she ran. By now the teachers had been alerted by the other students to the exchange and had seen Bruce raise his stick, as well as the devastating preemptive blow. They ran to the scene, but by the time they arrived Caitlin was gone.
Everything was a blur, she was moving so fast, her thin three legs moving her along as she sprinted at full speed through the grass. Tears poured across her face as she ran, and she couldn't think straight.
She just ran and ran, and didn't look back. She hated school. Hated it hated it hated it. Before long she was well into the giant neighborhood complex behind the school, and ran blindly along its path.
Up above was a clearing and a small meadow, with several suburban houses surrounding it. Caitlin had lost track of time but was tired, and her two hearts were beating fast. She slowed down before crawling next to a brown picket fence, collapsing in exhaustion and sadness. As she slowly cried herself to sleep, she heard a voice behind her.
She turned around and wiped her tears with her lower left hand, "Don't cry."
It was a little boy, even younger than her, with black hair and stone gray eyes. His home was the smallest and most dilapidated of the houses on the block.
She signed to him, but he didn't respond, so she didn't say anything more and buried her head in her many arms.
"Why are you sad?"
She continued to cry, and the little boy bent down to her level. He repeated himself. "Why are you sad?"
Caitlin looked up, her face and eyes red, more annoyed than anything. While he saw her eye and tongue, it did not show on his face.
"Go away? Why are you sad?" For the third time.
Although him repeating what she said got her attention and she spoke once more,
"Mthethle vthea mueaath.
"Why would they be mean?" The little boy said innocently.
A smile came across her face as she began to open up, she normally hated her voice, but only as no one could understand her and everyone thought she was stupid. So she explained to him the entire thing, He nodded, a bit confused as he was only her age, but understanding.
"Vhathay naaa nthat sthool?" she asked him in turn.
"My mommy said my fever was too bad today, but I feel better." Caitlin had never been very sick so she just nodded along. "I want to go to school tomorrow!"
"Vithat naa vthat vthreaat."
"It is, I know it is." They were by now sitting next to each other, picking flowers, and chatting away.
Caitlin turned to him and said, her right hands out, "Mwwaa vnatmph ppthis Vthathlinnn."
"Caitlin.... That's a pretty name. My name is Jon. Jon Kutcher."
"CAITLIN! WHERE ARE YOU!?" It was her mom's voice, and there were others as well. A car pulled up to Jon's house; there was a rustle as the teachers, and their parents came to the back by the sidewalk."
"I saw them behind that house."
"Jon, why are you out!? You could get sick." screamed his mom, as she pulled him up by the ear. She looked disgusted as she saw the girl he was talking to.
But more importantly, Caitlin's mom ran up to her, "Kate, my dear Kate, I was so scared. You ran so fast, we didn't know where you went."
Caitlin got up and they embraced.
"Never do that again, you hear. Never!"
"Caitlin, wake up! Lunch." It was her mother, but instead of on that foggy sidewalk, in the front seat.
They had pulled into a KFC and were ordering a giant chicken tub. "How far are we?" She asked. Her voice was still fuzzy, deep, and slurred, but far from the mumbling gibberish of her childhood.
"We have about a hour left."
"A hour? How long was I asleep?"
"The entire time. What did you do last night?"
"I had to see everyone one last time."
"Well perk up, we're almost there."
Caitlin pulled out her iPhone with her long slender six-fingered upper right hand and loaded the messenger.
Just tht abt the day we met. I kno y I luv u.
Within a minute it vibrated in response.
Bcuz of my muscles?
She would miss him. 'Every other weekend' she thought to herself.
'Every other weekend."
The third chapter of the Caitlin saga. This one of a more serous tone.
Several scenes in this chapter were eluded to in the previous.
Several scenes in this chapter were eluded to in the previous.
All right, this is obviously a bit different since it's a flashback, and as far as flashbacks go you've handled it pretty well. The story and prisciple is a simple and effective one and you answer a lot of questions one may have. The train of thought feels more focused than chapter 1 and the dialog generally feels better. Here's to chapter 4!