With all the discussion about the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest, it seems like a good time to introduce Cate.
Cate is the heroine of my JAMMDI short story, “A Night at Northanger”. Cate has grand dreams of hosting serious news shows, but, instead, she’s found herself working for… Ghost Trekkers. Yes, Ghost Trekkers, that probing programme of supernatural investigation, or, as Cate likes to describe it in her darker moments, Tits ‘n Ghouls. Little do they know what they’re up against when they spend a night at Northanger Abbey….
I’d intended Cate to be part of a one-off, a completely unrelated short story. Somehow, it never seems to work that way, does it? I sat down to write Pink IX, and who should show up with the film crew, but Cate.
Since Pink IX takes place in 2004, Cate is a bit younger there than she is in “A Night at Northanger”. She’s just out of college and has a summer internship with the DreamStone film crew which is filming on the grounds of Selwick Hall
Hot off the pages of Pink IX, here’s Cate’s first meeting with Eloise (as told, of course, by Eloise):
“Excuse me.” A girl with a clipboard was hovering just inside the door to the dining room. She ventured a tentative smile, an I’m-so-sorry-but smile. “You’re not supposed to be in here. It’s registered personnel only.”
I must have given her a look, because she fidgeted with the metal bit at the top of her clipboard. “You know, production staff, caterers, people connected with the family. So I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Unless this was like hospital admissions, where you had to be officially engaged before anyone would tell you anything, I considered myself pretty darn connected. Besides, picking up someone’s socks and taking turns with the washing up had to count as a domestic partnership.
I peered over her shoulder at the chart. “I should be on there. I’m”— the owner’s girlfriend? Researcher in residence? Chief cook and bottle washer?—“Eloise Kelly,” I finished lamely.
She rustled efficiently through several sheets of closely printed pages, looking up apologetically as she came to the end of it. “I’m afraid I don’t see you here. Unless you spell your name some weird way?”
“Nope,” I said. “It’s just Kelly, spelled the usual way. No Q’s or silent N’s or anything like that.”
She checked again and shook her head. “Sorry. Still nothing. Are you with the magazine people?”
Now there was a magazine involved, too? Colin wasn’t going to like that.
“No, I’m with Colin. The owner,” I specified, when the DreamStone representative looked blank. “The one who keeps trying to make sure that no one sets the rosebushes on fire.”
Comprehension dawned. “Unhappy looking guy in a green jacket?”
“That’s the one.”
Her face brightened. She grinned at me, girl to girl. “He’s cute.”
“Thanks.” I wasn’t sure why I was taking the credit here, since his looks weren’t something I’d had a hand in. He had his mother to thank for that, although he also had her to thank for Jeremy and the DreamStone invasion, so maybe not so much. I shrugged. “I like him.”
Which, as any woman knows, is girl-speak for “I’m ridiculously over the moon about him, but not like I’m going to tempt fate by admitting to that.”
Shoving the clipboard under one arm, the girl stuck out a hand. “I’m Cate, by the way. Cate Kartowsky. That’s Cate with a C.”
“A cate conformable to other household cates?” When she gave me a blank look, I said, “Sorry. I was having a Shakespeare moment. Isn’t this production supposed to be…?”
“I was a communications major,” said Cate. “With a minor in poli sci. Lots of Rawls and Nozick, not so much on the Shakespeare.”
“I do English history,” I said. “So the Shakespeare sort of creeps in.”
Cate nodded knowledgeably. These things happened. “I guess we’ll all be getting our Shakespeare this week, right?”
“Help me out here. Someone told me it was Much Ado About Nothing, but in Regency costume?”
“You’ve got it,” said Cate. She leaned closer, making sure no one was listening. “I know, it sounds ridiculous. But there’s the whole Austen craze and Micah wanted to capitalize on that. He also wants cred for doing Shakespeare. There was some version of Much Ado About Nothing that made a big stir—”
“With Robert Sean Leonard,” I said. “And Kenneth Branagh. We were all in love with Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio when I was in Upper School.”
Cate looked blank. It made me feel very old. I was only twenty-seven. Should I really be feeling this ancient?