Moving into London was quite a thing. Something Jane had waited so long to do; she could almost not remember how much she dreamed when the opportunity first presented to her.
Having been born in Wiltshire, and later moved to Somerset meant that her life usually revolved around being in wide open spaces, with a lot of green grass and sometimes even animals. Small towns where everyone knew each other. Nothing compared to a big, global city like the capital of England.
Her apartment was quite small, but still enough for her. Jane had luckily secured herself a job in a fashion magazine, as a photograph designer, which meant that all she needed for an apartment was space for herself and any clothes she might need to recycle or fit for the next session.
Something she didn’t expect was seeing a young teen living in the street below her apartment.
Obviously, she knew her social status wasn’t the one everyone had. Her father, a college professor, was wealthy enough to grant her a good education and loan her money until she can get back on her feet. Investing almost all her money into coming straight to the city after breaking up with her boyfriend with whom she shared a house back in Devon wasn’t her wisest decision. But seeing such a young girl living on the street frightened her to no end.
“Hey, would you like to eat something with me?” Jane asked after the third day.
She made sure to always leave money to the girl, who could usually be found singing or drawing near the underground station during day hours. But having a little spare time and already began to take a liking to the girl made her want to offer just a little more.
The girl did not react, just watched her wide eyed, without moving.
“I would prefer not to.” Her voice is so small it’s barely audible for Jane.
It comes as a surprise, taking into consideration that she would hear her singing loud and clear for the past days, but now her voice sounded nothing like that.
“It’s okay, I’m sorry.” The older smiles.
She put some money into the hat that sat at her feet and started walking away.
Catherine of Aragon is a stern, tall woman.
She is the chief editor of the magazine, and the tickling of her shoes can be heard from miles away. Her way to hold herself is just as stylish and elegant that Jane doesn’t think anyone in Somerset, or Devon was ever a half of it.
She smiles and nods at Jane, and it feels like a blessing has been given.
That night, when returning to her apartment, she makes a stop at the first fast food chain she can find, buying something for herself and to the girl. Jane goes back as soon as she can after that, trying to get the food to still be hot. The girl is sitting outside an empty store, with the art supplies already saved in her backpack.
“Hi, I brought you food.” Jane says.
“That’s really kind.” The girl smiles, taking the paper bag.
“I’m Jane.” She introduces herself.
“Katherine, with a K.” The younger mimics a smile, which is not really convincing.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Same to you.”
The next day Katherine is no longer where she was the night before, but the paper bag is still there, left totally untouched. It shocks Jane, who thought that it was a good gesture to begin with. Having no time to get offended, she keeps walking until arriving at the magazine.
The camera was already on its tripod, and the models were getting changed into their outfits for the day.
“Hi Jane!” Anna of Cleves, the photographer, greeted. “What’s up with that face?”
“Nothing it’s just… I brought food for a girl living in the street, and I saw it today and it was untouched.” She explained, getting out of her coat and hanging it.
“How do you know it was left untouched?” Anna questioned. “Did you go through the garbage?”
“No!” Seymour sounds offended. “I mean maybe… It’s just I saw the bag there and I wanted to know if she ate.”
Anna chuckles. “Have you considered that maybe getting food from strangers is like… rule number one of what not to do?”
“But it’s different she can trust me.” Jane tries to clarify.
“I know that, and you know that, but she doesn’t. Maybe next time buy her something closed, that you couldn’t possibly poison.” Cleves offer. “Now, how about we use this leather jacket but with that skirt?”
“Hi Jane.” Katherine smiles at the woman when she is passing through the street.
“Hi Katherine, I bought you this, I don’t know if you like it but I love them.”
Opening her backpack, she offers a box of Cadbury cookies. Those are nowhere near nutritious, not that fast food is, but the cookies can’t be even considered a meal.
“Thank you so much.” The girl says, opening the package and shoving a cookie on her mouth.
Jane can’t contain her smile, and takes the chance to say: “No problem, the offer for lunch is still up, just for your information.”
Katherine seems suddenly frightened, but keeps the smile on her face. “I would, but I’m busy right now.”
She shows the pencil in her hand.
“It’s alright, another day.” Seymour is about to leave when she decides against it. “Do you have a phone?”
“I don’t, sorry.” The teenager answers sadly.
“It’s okay…” She searches for a paper, writing down her address. “If you ever need something, just come.”
The girl gives a puzzled look. “Thank you, I will.”
Next morning is quite chaotic, and she doesn’t make it on time to check on Katherine.
First, she can’t get up from the bed, exhaustion keeping her down even when she doesn’t know why. Then, once she does get up, a dizziness invades her, almost making her go back to bed and call in sick, except that she can’t do that, not in a new job at least.
Jane tries to make herself the time, but she can’t. That doesn’t stop her from worrying about the girl for the rest of the day.
A week goes by and Katherine never comes, but still she slowly acts a little less nervous and automatic around Jane, even accepting Starbucks food that is well closed and some water bottles. Jane is sure the girl doesn’t trust her enough yet, but things start getting slowly better.
“Morning Katherine.” Jane greets, smiling.
The girl smiles back. Her smile never gets to her eyes, instead it looks quite sad. Just polite. Jane would probably also describe it as anxious, every time she hears her own name, she straightens the spine just a bit, trying to look taller or intimidating.
“Good morning, Jane.”
“I brought some stuff; I was wondering if you like hot chocolate? It’s getting pretty cold with the winter around the corner.” She offers Katherine the trail, which contains two hot chocolates.
Something she learned was that, if she let Katherine choose her drink, she would drink it. But if there was ever the slight difference between a cup and the other, she would just gently decline, justifying that she already ate or any other excuse that Jane was sure it was a lie.
“It’s not cold yet.” Katherine says, choosing a cup. “Thank you so much.”
“It’s no trouble.”
Jane takes a sip from the other cup, and just as she finishes it, the teenager takes a sip from hers.
“I brought a muffin too. I have to go to the office, but we can split it in halves, if that’s okay.”
“It’s not necessary. You don’t have to do that.” The younger replies, but Jane just offers it anyway.
“I have to go now, have a nice morning.”
Jane starts walking, getting away from Katherine.
A part of her wishes she could do more, but the younger girl just won’t ask for anything. Kat didn’t even always eat the food she was offered, and Jane was afraid of just giving the girl money. She heard it all, how you should never give money to someone in the streets because they will waste it on alcohol, or drugs. But Katherine was so amicable, she wouldn’t do that. Jane was almost sure. Almost.
It was the great barrier she was afraid of. Jane could still not be sure of what to do with a girl who she met just a week and a half ago, even the desire to help stopped her to just blindly trust the teenager.
She got to the magazine, just to find Catherine Parr already buzzing on caffeine.
“Good morning, what have you drank?” She watches the woman’s hand. “Or how many of those?”
“Three? Maybe four? I don’t know. Aragon wants the photos for the article today, as soon as possible.” She explains.
“I sent them yesterday.”
“I know, but… She might have decided to change the whole article and we need more photos.”
“What? You know, never mind, I’m going to text Anna.” Jane takes her phone. ”What is the new article?”
“Blue, the new black.”
“Okay.” Jane finally takes a breath. “What are we supposed to do with the coats from the last cover?”
“Uh, keep them if you want?” Catherine questions, confused. “After all we are meant to do like those photos never existed.”
“Do you really think I can keep them?” Jane asks, thinking how good those could be for Katherine.
“Yes, keep them. In case someone needs them, I take the blame, but please send her the photos. ” Parr begs.
The photos resulted in a quick shoot, consisting of a navy-blue background and different blue coats, going from light pale to dark night blue. The only problem consisted in a piece they weren’t sure if it was a blue green colour or turquoise. She hoped to have made the right decision for Aragon.
Going back home was harder than the shoot itself, since she had her hands full of the coats they didn’t need anymore. It varied from bring pink, to some black ones. Some of them were heavy, winter ones while others were perfect for summer rain.
“Katherine!” She exclaimed when she saw the brown locks of her hair.
“Jane…” The teenager went to help her.
“I have all of these from work, I thought you might like them.”
The girl shifted uncomfortably, her eyes looking at the ground. Jane noticed that she bit her lip. It was a sign that she was baffled about something.
“You don’t have to take them all, but I wish you would choose one. It will give me peace of mind.” Jane says, hoping not to sound as if she is trying to manipulate Katherine in any way.
The girl inspects for a second, before grabbing a black one with pink buttons: “May I keep this one?”
“Hi, Edward.” She smiles at the camera.
Facetiming past midnight with her brother had become more and more common in the last days. Jane was not used to being far from her siblings, nor the rest of the family. Still, even with her strange headaches and fatigue, life in London was something incredible. The city had so much life, and history. Even so many curious tourists helped the atmosphere. It pained her to not be with her family, but her new life was joyful nonetheless.
“Hi Janey, tell me, how is it going?”
“Quite good. I’m so tired though.”
“Tired? How many parties did you attend?” He questions, half joking.
“Funny.” She retorts. “I have just been going to work and to check up on Katherine.”
“Just work? Lame.” Edward mocks his sister. “Who is Katherine?”
“She is a girl living down the street… She, uhm, literally lives on the street.”
Ripping the band aid off quickly was the best thing she could do.
“You are checking up on a girl living in the street?” He sighs. “You are the only one who does it…”
“Don’t say it as if it’s something bad.” Jane returns.
“It shouldn’t be.” She is quick to defend herself.
“Chill out Jane, it’s not that deep.”
“But maybe it is.” Jane can feel her how it’s getting harder to talk without starting to cry. “I don’t understand how much it is… She doesn’t even want to accept food. Yesterday I left her a coat and I’m almost sure she left it anywhere because she can’t accept anything. For goodness sake, I don’t think I have heard her say any other thing that ‘it was not necessary’ or ‘thank you’! So maybe it is that deep.”
She takes a deep breath, while Edward tries to excuse himself saying: “I’m sorry, I didn’t think it meant that much.”
“Yeah, you didn’t. Good night.”
Jane doesn’t wait for him to say something, instead just hangs up the call.
Next morning was just horrible. She feels nauseous and her brain is almost exploding, but she still gets up and prepares herself for work. Walking through the streets is harder than she can remember, and panic creeps in when there is a street with a bloody name she never saw.
“Jane?” She feels a voice calling. “Are you okay?”
Everything goes slowly blur, finishing in Jane summoned into a total darkness.
Waking up in the hospital is not something she was waiting for. Her fatigue is obvious when she wakes up, and her faded memories give her the anticipated news of what she already knew. She had fainted. Jane can barely keep her eyes open when the doctor enters the room, trying to get all the information he can.
He also informs that Katherine is outside, and she was the one who called an ambulance. Jane couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the acts of the girl, but in her dizzy state words can’t come out of her mind as she wanted them to come. Instead she keeps just answering questions.
The only moment that stands clearly in her mind is when the doctor starts talking about blood test results, words like anaemia and HCG are glimpses that she catches until the three words that sat heavy on her stomach.
“You are pregnant.”
When the older one is released, it’s raining outside. They, or rather Jane, decide to take a cab home. Once there, Katherine just simply says goodbye and leaves, walking back to the place where Jane usually found her. Jane notices the girl doesn’t have the coat she left her the other day.
“Katherine!” Jane screams. The girl turns around.
“Go to your house, it’s raining. You have to take care of yourself.”
“Come with me.” She asks. The girl opens her eyes wide.
“No, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. It’s raining.” Jane says as if it wasn’t obvious.
“I know, I’m used to it. Go to your house.” She wraps her arms around, making a barrier between her and Jane.
“Please just come. Just one night.” The teenager clearly doesn’t want to, but Jane can’t leave her alone. “Or I will stay here.”
Jane knows inside her it is wrong. She shouldn’t be trying to manipulate the younger into doing something she doesn’t want to, but the raining and the news is too much. She feels so on edge, that if she said that bringing Katherine in was a selfless act, that would be plainly lying.
“You can’t stay here. It’s not safe.”
“I say the same to you.” Jane takes a breath. “Please.”
“I can’t go in there.”
“Let me take you out for dinner then.”
Katherine seems to think about it for a moment, before nodding. Jane takes the lead and starts walking to a diner a block away. The teenager doesn’t say a word, instead just walks as fast as she can, and lets Jane walk where she is less likely to get damp with the rain. Once they arrive, they settle for a table near a window.
“You can ask for whatever you want, take this as a thank you for helping me today.” Jane speaks calmly.
Maybe saying that can make Katherine know she earned it, and the girl will actually order something.
“It’s not necessary.”
“But I want to. I don’t know what could’ve happened to me without you.” The older smiles.
“Probably someone else could’ve helped.” Katherine smiles timidly.
“I’m not sure, people here in London don’t seem quite amicable.” Jane shrugged.
“In London? Do you come from somewhere else?”
“Yes, I lived in Devon with my ex before moving here.” Katherine opens her mouth when Jane finishes talking, but quickly shuts it. “It’s okay if you want to ask questions, if the question is if the baby is his, the answer is yes.”
The teen gives a sympathetic look, but talks: “I have always lived here, in London, except for a summer I spent in my step-grandmother’s house in Sussex.”
“That sounds nice.” Jane says, but quickly regrets it when the younger flinches.
“Do you mind if I order pasta?” Katherine questions, voice small.
“No! No problem, I think I will do the same.”
“I haven’t had pasta in a long time, I think since I was thirteen.”
“How old are you?” Jane wonders, hoping not to sound rude.
“Fifteen, I turn sixteen in two months.”
The older is lost for words, this girl is just a kid. She probably hasn’t even finished secondary school, and is living all by herself apparently. Under this new information, Jane can totally see it now. How small her contexture is, not grown up, the way she sits, her nails bitten down. There are a lot of indicators of her age, and Jane feels more uneasy than before.
“I know I look older; I’ve been told that.” Katherine breaks the silence, uncomfortable.
“No, it’s not that.” Jane snaps out of her thoughts. “I was just processing today’s information.”
Katherine nods, clearly uncomfortable, but for Jane’s luck the waiter quickly arrives with water and asks for their orders. The teenager asks for plain pasta, until Jane reassures her it’s okay to ask for more. She changes it just to add some sauce that doesn’t sound too gross, and the older happily asks for the same. They stay a moment like that, with Kat just taking in the restaurant.
If she said she remembered going to one like this, she would be lying. After her mother died, her memories are plagued by being in her house, alone with Henry Manox. The summer spent with her step-grandmother is just a vague memory of something her brain tried to forget. Then it’s all about living in the street, trying to live by with what charities offered and painting and singing to anyone who could lend her some money.
“In case you want another coat, I still have the rest in my apartment.” Jane says.
“Why are you doing this?” Katherine asks, manners forgotten. “What do you want?”
Jane purses her lips for a second and then releases them: “I don’t want anything, but I am worried about you. I don’t want to see you suffer.”
“I’m not suffering.” The teenager responds, even if she is not sure. “I don’t need your worry.”
Jane is lost for words.
“I’m sorry for being rude.” Katherine murmurs.
“Don’t be. I get it.” Jane takes a sip of her water. “I just want to do something good. I had a hard time with my ex. We didn’t break up in good terms, nowhere near it. I needed help and even if my family loves me, they weren’t there for me. I wanted to just try and help someone, and I thought you would want help.”
The younger takes a moment before talking. Jane looks vulnerable, something adults usually don’t look. A part of her wants to just believe this is a lie, and nobody is going to just help because they had a rough time. All the kindness the woman showed her is enough to prevent her from just storming out of the room.
“I don’t want help, but I appreciate it.” She concludes, before putting a smile. “What is your favourite colour?”
Jane laughs at the lightness that question brings to the conversation.
Jane takes her time, and decides to have the baby. She is not ready, and she knows it. Utter fear rises from her every time she thinks about it, but still she manages to make that decision.
Her neat calendar starts to become full of the different doctor appointments and parental classes. She tries to get her hands in any parenting book she can find. Her usual morning coffee changes for tea, and she changes her diet trying to avoid the morning sickness.
The only thing that remains without a change is worrying about Katherine, who starts taking dinner once a week with Jane, and asks her about how the pregnancy is going. The teenager is the only one aware of it, and it brings joy to the older having the chance to talk about it.
One-night Jane wakes up abruptly, a tremendous noise ringing in her ears. She realizes it’s the buzzer and moves to the intercom.
“Hello? Who is downstairs?”
“Katherine.” She says between sobs. “I’m sorry to bother you- “
Jane talks before she can finish: “I’m going to get you wait a second.”
She throws a coat and goes straight into the elevator, once she gets out the first thing she notices is Katherine with tears streaming down her face. Jane almost runs, and when she opens the door, the younger clings to her.
“I think I saw Manox.”
Jane starts drawing paths on her back, trying to get her to calm down.
“Do you want to go upstairs, sweetheart?”
Katherine finally nods.