Every morning, on my drive to school, I see her waiting for the yellow bus to come and haul her off to St. Paul’s School for Girls. She wears a red and blue plaid skirt and a navy blue sweater vest because that’s what all the girls have to wear at that place. I drive by slowly in the winter months and it lets me see her button nose turn red from the cold wind. Caitlin’s wearing her green and orange striped hat today, and I figure it’s because the thermometer said fourteen degrees when I was headed out the door. Her legs are long and prickled with goose bumps from the cold air. She stands tall and waits with her little sister, Maggie. When I pass them I hear that loud and potent laugh sing to my heart. I glance out the window and she’s pulling some of those golden brown strands of hair out the corner of her mouth on account the wind blew them to stick there. She’s not wearing makeup like the girls at my school do. She stands and fools off with her sister. She seems to be too good to be true. I get to school and all I can think about is how I want to talk to her the next day, how I wish I could have that morning, what I might say and what she’ll say back.
I know all about her from my best friend Eddie, considering he’s her cousin and they get together over the summer a few times. Her grandparents came to the States from England, and boy am I sure glad that her parents decided to buy a house in the same town as mine did. She seems to be pretty close with Maggie, who is four years younger than she is. Sometimes Ed gives me the impression that Caitlin has spent most of her life looking after that little girl, and that makes me feel even more drawn to her because she must be kind and able to do things on her own, not to mention for her sister.
I have heard stories about her daddy being awful to his girls, but Eddie says that Caitlin started sticking up for herself when she was around fourteen years old. Story goes that one night her dad came in real late and the two girls and their momma were watching a movie on the TV. I guess the volume was up too high for his liking, so he smashed the glass out of it with the steel toe of his boot and threatened to wail on the girls, too. Even though they were scared for their lives, Caitlin decided that since this had happened before and she had just kept her mouth shut, that maybe she should tell him to stop this time. She told him that it wasn’t right what he was doing and that he should be using his head more before he hit the ones he loved. It must have been a shock to him to actually hear her speak up for her sister and mother, because after that night he never acted mean to any of them again. She took the back of his hand to the side of her face and got carpet burns on her hands and knees from it knocking her down. Guess the good thing is the rough, old bastard never touched any of them women again. I am sure glad that Caitlin is as brave as she is.
Now Caitlin takes this art class in the summer. She loves to read books, or at least that’s what Ed’s been telling me. Sometimes when her dad is out of town and her momma’s working late, she eats dinner on the roof of her house once the sun goes down. She loves to look at the sky, whether the sun is out or hiding and she always draws pretty pictures of what she sees. The one time she painted a picture of the clouds, and the way the sunlight seemed to hit each curve made a person think they were gazing upon the real things. I swear you put that painting in a room and turn the lights off you would see the edges of those clouds glowing off the canvas, that’s how true she paints the sky. She won first prize in the St. Paul’s Annual Art Show, and I was sure to clip out the picture of her that they put in the newspaper. Eddie says that Cait wants to go to college for art, and because she’s so talented, I’m sure that she’ll get in to any school she wants. Here’s a girl wants to do something with her life, and even after countless years of being told she was nothing by her father, she is able to rise above his words and reach for a bright future. I got to find a way into that future.