Friday, September 30, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 64: Kat's Story, Part Nine

"So," her dad finally said something. "What made you want to come for the rehearsal again today?"
Katrina stared at the passing people, relieved that it wasn't her out there in the sun. "Why, I didn't want to let you win, dad." she said as sweetly as possible.
He paused. "I must seem pretty evil to you."
"More or less."
"If only you would listen to my side of the story for once, instead of painting such an ugly picture. Has it ever occurred to you that I don't enjoy making things so difficult for everyone?"
She sneered, pretending to flip through some notes.
"Fact of the matter is, I too wish we could be a family like before. Unfortunately, there are so man-"
"Unfortunately what, dad?" Katrina suddenly snapped. "It must have been really difficult for you, right? Spending all your time earning big bucks while mom cries every night for you to come back."
"Now, listen-"
"And now you're gonna rund us down even further, huh? Cutting off the alimony, stopping me from coming to rehearsals - you would just love it if mom and I disappeared from the face of this earth, wouldn't you?"
"That's not true."
"Oh, that is so true," her voice grew mocking. "Ex-father."
Without warning the car stopped, almost sending Katrina's forehead to the dashboard.
"I'd hoped you would understand." he gazed at her. "There's always been a part of me that hungers for fame and wealth. Unfortunately, I wasn't born that way and I was determined to work all the way to the top. Even more unfortunately, having a family got in the way most of the time. Your mom especially."
"Painful as it was, everything went terrific after the divorce. I finally had back the two things the marriage robbed from me - time and money. That was the best year of my life, Katrina. I had a chance to re-invent myself to everyone."
"And now that I'm this close," he held his thumb and finger an inch apart. "I can't afford to have any scandals coming from the mouth of you two. Women always have a way of making us appear the victimisers. I see it every day in my workplace. Well, it's not going to happen this time."
She shook her head. "Rubbish. I'm not buying a single word of it."
"Katrina, you're a smart girl. Please understand. All I'm asking is that you both lie low. I'll try to work out something on the alimony, I promise."
"I won't," she said. "I'm going to let Mr. Rogers make me famous. And there's nothing you can do about it."
His jaw tightened. "That's not what I'd hoped to hear."
The car started again, not a single exchange heard between them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 63: Kat's Story, Part Eight

(Haha, these preambles are so great that they *might* have rendered the Writer's Block obsolete. Anyway, I was just mentioning today that it's the time of the year when you're all out of gas, and yet the final stretch is still ahead. Busy, busy, busy, that's such an overused word these days. Really gotta rekindle my love for Ghostopia; it helps that I don't impose any deadlines or Chapter limitations on myself. It'd be nice to do a "Year In Review" feature next month to reflect on Twisted Tales' first year.)

Big puffy clouds swept across the sky, reminding Katrina of the cotton her mom stuffed into teddy bears. It was Sunday once more, and she was supposed to be at Mr. Rogers' mansion in twenty minutes. Her mom had to work an extra shift today, making Katrina take the bus instead. Which usually meant she would have to end up all hot and sticky. Ugh.
It had been well over a half hour's wait. Already the impatient queue was growing longer, with the heat bringing out the worst in everyone.
Gosh, I can't afford to be late, she thought as she willed the minute hand of her watch to go slower. Maybe it would be faster if she walked there instead.
Another five minutes later, she was seriously entertaining the idea. It wouldn't take too long if she ran all the way, would it? It made her terribly anxious to be standing around doing nothing but wait.
As though reading her thoughts, the sun came from behind a passing cloud and beat down on the crowd even more mercilessly. Katrina could almost hear everyone groaning as she did inside. If the bus doesn't come in a minute or less, I'm gonna be dead meat. Literally and figuratively.
She wiped the sweat off her brow, so worried that she didn't even notice a familiar black car park itself at the side of the road. A spectacled man got down the car and walked over to her.
"Katrina," he tapped her shoulder. "Aren't you late for your rehearsal?"
"Dad!" she whirled around in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I was just passing by on my way to the rehearsal when I saw you here. Mom couldn't take you there?"
For some incomprehensible reason, he looked a lot less hateful today. Standing there with his neatly combed hair and tucked polo shirt, he almost seemed like a doting father asking his daughter how her day went.
"Nope, she had to work. But why are you going for the rehearsal?"
"Didn't I tell you? Mr. Rogers is my good friend, and he wants me to come take a look. More so when my daughter is going to be a part of it."
What a complete U-turn. He was being so nice that Katrina couldn't help feeling suspicious.
"Why don't I give you a lift there? You're going to be late if you keep waiting for the bus."
She hated situations like these. On one hand, an endless wait that would make her late, and on the other a ten-minute ride with the devil.
"Hop in if you're coming with me." he got back into the car.
Oh well, what was the worst that could happen? She bit her lip nervously and plonked herself on the front seat.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 62: Kat's Story, Part Seven

The following week was terrible for Katrina. She shut herself out from everyone, most especially Mr. Harold, for fear that he would grill her on the bad job she did. He obviously had had high hopes that she would nail it and make the school proud, but now Mr. Rogers would probably hire one of those better pianists her father recommended. And the worst thing was, she didn't dare breath a single word of this to her mom.

The bell rang. Katrina grabbed her backpack, stuffed her books in, and trudged out of the classroom.
"Katrina!" Someone called out to her.
She turned around. Uh-oh. It was Mr. Harold. She wanted to run away, but that would have been dumb. "Yes?"
"I've been looking for you. Mr. Rogers called."
She swallowed hard. "And he said?"
"He wants you to come over again this Sunday, two o' clock."
"Okay." came her reply.
"One more thing," He spoke in the sort of tone that made her fidget uncomfortably. "I heard you didn't do so well that day."
"I know," Katrina sighed. "He told you that, didn't he?"
"Don't you let that get to you, dear. He understands all about talented musicians and their occasional off-days."
"You mean, he's not mad at me or anything?"
"Of course not! Whatever gave you that impression?"
"I dunno," she shrugged. "I would've been mad at myself, seeing the way I played that day. Furthermore, I heard that he's been auditioning other pianists as well."
Mr. Harold looked surprised. "I didn't know about that."
"But - listen to me, Katrina," he continued. "Mr. Rogers still needs you very much, and he is aware of that fact. He won't let you go till he sees once more the girl he saw playing at his garden party. Go home, put together something beautiful, practise for all your life, and just be yourself on Sunday. Okay?"
Katrina could feel her confidence soaring again. Yes, no amount of badgering from her dad would distract her this time around. All she needed to do was continue working on last week's compositions and her talent would pull her through like it always had.
"I'll do it, Mr. Harold. Thanks for your advice." The girl smiled the broadest she had in a week.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 61: Kat's Story, Part Six

Katrina kicked the dirt on the pavement, pressing her sole hard against the gravel for good measure. What on earth happened just now? She had never once - not in any recitals, school performances, or any other performances - played as badly as she did just now. Everything was a jumbled mess screaming to come out all at once.
A very real fear was creeping into her now; the fear of having screwed things up for herself. She had vested so much hope, prayed so hard, and expected so many big things to come from this that it was more than mere disappointment. A cold feeling burned inside when she recalled once more how Mr. Rogers bade her farewell with the words "try harder".
Of course, it was all her dad's fault.
Him, the pitiful excuse for a man who hated his daughter enough to threaten her like that. Well, at least she did go for the rehearsal and he didn't show up. Ha ha.
Suddenly, a black car swerved up to the side of the road where she was and promptly stopped, startling her quite a bit. The windows rolled down, revealing the last face on earth she wanted to see.
"Princess," The smartly dressed man smiled almost sinisterly. "You didn't listen to me after all."
"Enough is enough, Dad," Katrina continued walking. "If you keep bugging me, I'm going to tell Mom."
The car tailed her. "Whoa, whoa...I just wanted to ask how it went."
She didn't reply, pretending to hum a tune instead.
"Did Mr. Rogers like it?"
Still she ignored him.
"I'll bet it didn't go so well, judging from the way you look."
"You shut up!" she snapped, yelling at him. "I don't ever want to see your face again!"
She started running away as fast as she could. However, he accelerated the car and blocked her path.
"Bear with me for a moment; I'll just say two things," he said to a frozen Katrina. "First, you might or might not know that Mr. Rogers and I are sctually old friends. It would be only too easy for me to say not-so-nice things about you to him. Which, I'm ashamed to admit, I have done."
"Second, I've been doing my darndest best this past week to scout for other young piano talents. And believe me, I already have a few shortlisted. You can expect Mr. Rogers to be auditioning them soon. I've seen some of them play, and I wouldn't be so confident now if I were you."
Seething deep inside, Katrina balled up her fists. She had a very good mind to knock his teeth out right here and right now.
"Isn't life difficult, princess?" he blew a mocking kiss to her. "And oh, remember to tell Mom that I've negotiated my way out of those monthly alimonies. See you."
His car sped off.

Friday, September 23, 2005

reCAPPENING: Ghostopia, Chapters 56-60

Kat's story: Katrina, as she was called back then, had an extraordinary talent for playing the piano. However, she often was troubled by financial difficulties at home caused by the divorce of her parents. Things became worse when her father, a lawyer, refused to send alimony for the month.
However, her lucky break comes when her principal invites her to perform at a garden party in Mr. Rogers' mansion. Mr. Rogers, a planner for school children performances, is subsequently impressed and asks her to come for their concert rehearsal on Sunday afternoon.
As she practises for the big day, her father unexpectedly calls. He's gotten wind of her offer, and doesn't want her to go for the rehearsal. In his own words: "Imagine the implications if my ex-daughter became famous and started bad-mouthing me in public."
This makes Katrina very upset and eventually affects her playing on Sunday. Mr. Rogers and the conductor, Mrs. Yates, isn't too impressed and calls it a day, leading us into Chapter 61.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 60: Kat's Story, Part Five

(Part Three Of An Ongoing Series: Here's another shameless plug for my much-hyped October feature, be sure you don't miss it for the life of you! And do get set for a record low of posts in a month for September, barring a last-minute avalanche. On to the story!)

"Well, here we are." A rickety blue car pulled up in front of Mr. Rogers' lavish mansion. Mrs. Williams pecked Katrina on the cheek and brushed aside her fringe. "Go make them proud of you, dear."
She nodded solemnly and got down, double-checking to make sure she left none of her notes behind. The phone call yesterday was still very vivid and troubling; so much so she hadn't practised for today as much as she should have.
Her mom had also noticed that she wasn't her usual self last night, however all questions were brushed away with a casual "I'm okay". Katrina had wanted to tell her about it, but she wasn't sure how.
"Mom, Dad called and he said he would kill me if I went for the rehearsal."
"Mom, Dad doesn't think it's a good idea if I became famous and started dissing him in public."
"Call the police, Mom! Dad won't let me play the piano!"
The more she repeated them to herself, the more ridiculous it seemed. Furthermore, her mom was troubled enough to be burdened by stuff like that.

"Try that last part again. It sounded awfully weird."
Katrina scowled to herself and repeated the final stanza. The kids started singing, but were stopped halfway by the conductor, a surly old lady by the name of Mrs. Yates.
"No, no, no," she shook her head vehemently. "Too fast. Pay attention!"
Katrina let out a very audible sigh of displeasure. Mrs. Yates' sharp ears caught it and she glared daggers at her, making her play again. However, her mind just wasn't into it. It sounded bad and she knew it.
Mrs. Yates shook her head once more.
"It's okay," Mr. Rogers said, visibly tired. "We'll continue next Sunday. Good job, everyone."
Katrina felt like the proverbial fool wanting to dig a hole and hide in it, trying very hard to not bang the piano keys in frustration. Why didn't anything go right today? Somehow she just could not hear the melodies in her head. Her mind was wandered and restless, and the lack of practice told.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 59: Kat's Story, Part Four

(Sighh...a brief flirtation with writer's block, and we've gone 11 days update-less. Have been doing some measure of soul-searching (script-searching?), but still the results are minimal. However, common sense dictates that new paths only pop up when you continue down the old ones - let's keep finding out what shall happen to the folks over at Ghostopia.)

Before Katrina could get over the initial wave of ecstasy, Sunday was already round the corner. Still she had to slowly repeat in her mind that it was real - she would finally get to do more than playing for applause in her school and informal parties. It was intimidating, knowing that much of her regular life would be disrupted if she had to travel around the country, but there wasn't much to miss about her "regular life" anyway. She wouldn't mind a bit if her mother and herself bought a trailer and lived on the road, waking up in a new city every day, just like in the movies. And then she needn't to go to school any more, for she would have one of those private tutors. Yes, that would be really cool.
Smiling to herself in the way daydreamers do, Katrina continued scribbling down notes for I Won't Grow Up. She played out a few portions, stopped and frowned, then continued scribbling. Another round of testing, and still it didn't sound right.
Suddenly, the phone rang.
She got up. "Hello?"
"Katrina?" It was a low, grating voice - exactly the sort she was allergic to.
"Do you know who I am?"
Katrina swallowed. It didn't strike her at first, but now it did. "D-dad?"
"Of course it is, princess."
"What do you want, dad?" Her voice grew cold.
"Why that tone?" he chided. "Can't I just call to say hi?"
"I know you better than that."
He laughed, making her uncomfortable. "I always knew you had my brains. Now, is all that hoo-ha I hear about you performing for Mr. Rogers true?"
"Of course," she spat back. "I'll be joining him for a rehearsal tomorrow, and once that works out Mom and I will travel around the country performing with him. We'll be rich and famous, we'll have everything we need, and I hope you'll have a good time stuck in your office."
It felt really good to say that, so good she couldn't help smirking.
"You ungrateful girl," he continued calmly. "I don't really care about all that, because I know those are just castles in the sky. Take it from an older, wiser man, dear, you'll only get fifteen minutes."
"However, there is another reason why I must make sure you don't make it to the rehearsal tomorrow. See, I've finally managed to step up into the big leagues. My career and reputation is skyrocketing. Imagine the implications if my ex-daughter became famous and started bad-mouthing me in public."
"Ex-daughter?" Hot tears welled up in Katrina's eyes. "I hope you die, too!"
"I'm sorry dear, but that's just the way it is. Now, either we finish this the easy way or the hard way. I could easily arrange an "accident" for you and get away with it, or you just pick up the phone and tell Mr. Rogers that you're refusing his offer. What's it going to be?"
Katrina was so furious that she didn't know what to say. She slammed down the phone as hard as she could.
She sat at the piano, trying to shake it all out of her mind, but her father's words repeated themselves louder and louder. "I hate you," she wept. "Why do you always do this to us, dad?"
As her teardrops fell on the ebony keys, the phone rang again. Katrina didn't pick it up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Writer's Block

It's been a roller-coastery past week, one which fluctuated from "stupifyingly awful" at times to "moderately enjoyable". There're lessons to be learnt from feeling like the dumbest person on earth. Sighhh...well, at least an exciting fundraising week in college has made me considerably less ranty now.
However, I'll have you know that I was *this* close to pulling the plug on Ghostopia on Thursday/Friday night. For a long while it seemed like this story was screwed up in a major way. Screwed up so badly that the more I continued, the more I was hurting it.
I won't be afraid to admit that long-drawn stories like this work very badly in the Twisted Tales format. Planning and continuity all turn into a nightmare - not just for the writer, but the reader as well. It reminds me of one of those Hong Kong martial arts comics I read when I was younger; you'd continue reading about a certain battle for many issues and suddenly stop to wonder: "Wait a minute...why are they fighting again?"
So that explains why I've been slow to update lately...but this is probably a better pace for us. Always being 10 Chapters behind can be daunting for the reader, and I start writing for the sake of writing. It's really been while since Ghostopia was a labour of love to me. Everything's in such a mess now.
No worries guys; Ghostopia will continue, we will get the satisfying conclusion (notice how I use "we" instead of "you"). I mean, a blog shouldn't have to worry too much about pleasing its readers, should it? This is just a drawing board sketch for the bigger, better version of Ghostopia I'll rewrite next time.
Or maybe I'm being too hard on myself?
Anyways, a final footnote: Don't forget about OCTOBER! A truly inspiring month where we gather round and celebrate not one, but TWO birthdays! One of a gawky 20 year-old, another of a cooing 1 year-old!
And my point would be?
Visit this site, y'all - I shall be running a feature I've been DYING to run since June/July. It's called..."Did You Really Think I Would Let The Cat Out Of The Bag So Early?" Ahhahhahaha, meloves a peppering of sarcasm every now and then. Check back to un-bait your breath. Run along now, little ones.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 58: Kat's Story, Part Three

Smiling nervously to herself, Katrina fingered a loose hair back into place for the umpteenth time. She'd spent the past week practising six hours every day and working with her piano teacher to come up with the best arrangement. And of course, the fervent daily prayer. In mere minutes, it would be hung out and dried for all to see.
Mr. Rogers, a tubby round-faced man stood and asked if everyone enjoyed their meals. The guests murmured a "Yes", and he rambled on with the usual pleasantries. Katrina tried to listen, but she could only hear the songs she'd be playing.
Oh God, please don't let anything go wrong, she practised a particularly difficult segue on an invisible piano. Please don't let anything go wrong. Please don't let anything go wrong.
A nudge from Mr. Harold, sitting beside her, jolted Katrina. She stared at him blankly, and out of the blue the guests started clapping.
It was her turn!
She didn't think her face could go any redder. Katrina got up, forced a smile, and stepped over to the piano. A few of the guests starting whispering to each other. Don't pay any attention to them. Imagine you're at home playing.
She started with a slow intro leading into Claire de Lune, probably one of her least favourite pieces. Nonetheless, it wasn't difficult and her confidence soared in no time. Already the familiar hush was descending upon the awestruck crowd.
It was strange; she actually felt more nervous before performing than during. Her fingers had taken on a life of their own now; she didn't even need to think about what to play next. A seamless segue into the more familiar Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy, one key higher to Ave Maria, then a jazzed-up Unchained Melody. Why, the crowd could even be yelling out requests for all she cared.

"Miss Williams, that was absolutely brilliant." Mr. Rogers grinned broadly and shook her hand after the party. "I mean it."
Katrina bit her lip sheepishly. "Why, thank you. I'm glad you liked it." Good thing she prepared an answer for that earlier.
"Guess Rick was right after all," he motioned to Mr. Harold. "You really could spice things up for the kids. Do you play, contemporary pieces?"
"Sure I do," she giggled. "As a matter of fact, I prefer that to classical stuff."
"Wonderful! Can you come here again on Sunday afternoon? Say, two o' clock?"
"Sure." Oh boy, here it comes. He's gonna offer me that job.
"We'll be rehearsing for an upcoming staging of Peter Pan, and I'd like to try you out. Should I search around for compositions, or can you figure that out yourself as well?"
Yes! Katrina felt her heart do a little jig. "I'll work out the compositions myself, sir."
Mr. Rogers nodded approvingly. "My, my, what a gem you're going to be. So I'll be seeing you on Sunday afternoon?"
"Sunday afternoon."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 57: Kat's Story, Part Two

(My, my, it's just struck me how strangely ironic it is that I'm writing a story about a Katrina at a time when another Katrina's caused so much havoc. But just a coincidence here folks, you can check that I already had the name Katrina locked down in Chapter 5. Prayers to the victims, since we're on it.)

Katrina walked glumly down the hall, semi-ignoring the noisy chatter around her. She felt like storming up to her father, where ever he was, and punching him in the face. It was bad enough that he'd broken up their family - the bitterness was still fresh in her mind - but now he was even scrimping on the alimony. There was no way her mom could earn enough to pay for her piano classes and the rest of the household expenses, and he knew it.
She took a deep breath and knocked sharply on the principal's door. He had called her to discuss the offer from his friend. If things went well, Katrina prayed, it would be a good-paying one.
"Come in."
She stepped in apprehensively. "Good morning, Mr. Harold."
"Take a seat, please," he beamed at her. "First off, I must really commend you again for the fantastic job you did yesterday. I had scores of parents coming up to me asking how someone as good as you isn't appearing on TV."
"It was nothing, really." she blushed.
"You needn't be so afraid of showing off your talent at times, Katrina."
"I know."
"Never mind, let's talk about what we're supposed to," Mr. Harold leaned forward. "My good friend, Mr. Eric Rogers, will be having a party at his mansion next Saturday at seven thirty, and you have been selected to perform for his guests. I have yet to ask him about the payment, but expect it to be in the range of hundreds. Think you can make it?"
Wow! Hundreds! Katrina quickly pushed her jaw back to place. "S-sure."
"But here's something else you don't know," he continued. "Mr. Rogers is actually a planner for children performances held in numerous schools round the country."
She frowned, not sure how this concerned her.
"Recently I went to one of his events, and after that he came to me asking how it could have been better. I told him that performance wise, he had everything down pat - but the music needed just that extra zing to it; something that was able to draw the audience into every scene. You know what I mean."
"Of course, I had you in mind, and he agreed to see whether you are what he needs. So, Katrina, this party performance serves also as an audition. Do your best, impress him, and he'll take you in, I promise. It'll open up far more doors than you could ever imagine."
Katrina couldn't believe her ears; this had to be the best piece of news she'd heard in years. Already she was piecing together a medley of tunes that were sounding in her head.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 56: Kat's Story, Part One

(Heheh, another week-long break between posts. Let's hope it was a justified one. It's time for the startling truth behind Kat, isn't it? Just afraid I won't be able to live up to the hype, lol. Btw, I think these little preambles are quite neat, compared to lumping them all at once in a Writer's Block.)

"Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for our very own Katrina Williams!" boomed Anthony, emcee for the day.
Meekly a waif-like girl stepped onstage, constantly brushing back her messy long hair. She nodded slightly at the beaming parents and proceeded to sit herself down at the piano. As her fingers stroked out the first few notes of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Katrina felt an uplifting joy creep through her. She wasn't the showy sort, but suddenly she loved being in front of all those ogling eyes watching in awe her dainty fingers slide effortlessly up and down. She could work the piano like magic, and she knew it.
After a good twenty minutes which felt like five, she finished her last piece. The audience clapped loud and long, and suddenly she felt shy again. She mouthed "Thank you" and walked down the steps at the side, trying very hard not to look dumb doing so.

"Mom I'm back," Katrina called out, closing the door behind her. She'd gone home straight after her performance, not bothering to stay back for the stay back for the remainder of the carnival. It felt awkward anyway, seeing all her other school mates with their parents, and being subjected to "Hey, where's your mom?" a million times.
"You're back," Mrs. Williams walked out with a basket of laundry. "So how was your performance?"
"It was okay, I guess. The principal told me that the some of his friends are interested to get me to play at their parties."
Her mom smiled and sighed at the same time. "That's nice to hear." She put down the laundry and lit up a cigarette.
Katrina scowled. "Mom, you told me you would quit that. It's really bad for health."
"Bad for health?" she scoffed. "I'll tell you what's bad for health - not having food on the table. Your dad just called - business was bad. He won't be sending us money this month."
"But, mom! That was a court order! Isn't it against the law if he doesn't send us money?"
"So whaddaya expect me to - sue him?" she cracked. "Never marry a lawyer when you grow up, honey."
Katrina sighed; she knew her piano classes were a terrible burden on her mom's finances. Already they were in the red over last month's fees, and now her dad was saying he didn't have enough to give them this month. He'd probably splashed it all on his other wife, that jerk.