Published: 16th October 2014
Normal is so overrated. At least that’s what seventeen-year-old Kate Triumph tells herself everyday. But the truth is she lives in constant fear that someone will discover how not normal she really is. With her startling speed and her unusual ability to heal, Kate believes she’s something of a freak.
Then Andrew Shore arrives.
He claims he’s her father, sticks around for a few days and leaves her a plane ticket. “Come to Mercer Island,” he says. “Give me a chance to get to know you.” Soon Kate is floundering in a world of new: new address, new car, new high school and, of course, new father. Not to mention Zack, her intriguing new neighbor, who makes her want to abandon her steadfast rule of never allowing anyone to get too close. But when she discovers someone is trying to kill her, life for Kate gets a bit more complicated. And a lot less normal.
Husky Stadium is crowded. The University of Washington’s purple flags flap loudly like applause as I stride up the stadium steps. High school students draped in their school colors are swarming the stadium in droves. Their eyes search out familiar faces and occasionally I hear my name called but not once do I acknowledge it. It’s always some other Kate, some other girl’s face that lights with recognition and smiles or waves in response.
I put my earbuds in so I don’t hear them, those other Kates and their friends. I turn the volume to loudest and jog in place.
And then I see her, one of my many ghosts. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She’s smiling at someone I don’t know. Their conversation is animated and fun, whatever they tell each other is so hilarious they throw their heads back or double over with laughter. You can’t fake that kind of happy. She catches me watching her when she turns to grab her backpack off the ground.
It’s not her, I tell myself. It’s never her.
And just like that I’m seven years old again.
“Don’t look down, Kate,” she’d said that day in her yard. “You’ll chicken out if you look down.”
“I’m not scared!” I yelled back. I had no reason to be.
The tree wasn’t that tall, and its branches had always held us before. My mother explained it again and again when I asked why, WHY? and why some more.
Perhaps it was the storm the night before that had weakened the tree. Or perhaps it was simply more evidence that life isn’t fair.
But Alice’s mother needed more explanation than that. She needed to know why her daughter spent three weeks in a coma due to severe head trauma while I — the girl who cushioned her daughter’s fall by hitting the cement first — didn’t even need a check-up.
“It’s just one of those things,” my mother explained first to the doctor and then over and over again to every person who asked. “A freak accident,” she called it.
But all I heard was “freak.” The word got caught up inside my head, bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball, until I thought I might go crazy.
When Alice did wake up she wasn’t the same. She had to learn how to talk, walk and eat again. And during rehabilitation she discovered her only friend had unexpectedly moved away.
The voice is so close I jump. My eyes focus back on my surroundings and I notice the girl I thought I knew has moved on toward the lockers. I don’t have to look again to see it isn’t Alice. Alice was smaller, darker. And from what I’ve heard she gets around now with a cane.
“Kate?” the voice says again. “Kate Triumph?”
“Yes?” I turn and find a dark-haired girl about my age smiling at me.
“I thought it might be you. I’m such a fan,” she reaches out and touches my arm.
“What do you want?” I say.
This sets her back a bit. Her smile slips in the corners, but she soldiers on.
“Seriously, everyone on my team worships you. My coach, Coach Thom over there,” she points toward the stadium at a tall, bald man who, when he notices we’re staring at him, waves a clipboard in the air. “He’d really like to meet you. He’s been talking about you all year. He keeps a chart with all of your winning times up on the wall of our gym so we know what to aim for.”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupt. “Is there something you need?” This isn’t the first time I’ve been approached by someone at a track meet. But I’m not looking to make friends today. No point. Friends are complications. And complications are something I’ve got enough of already.
The girl shifts her feet and forces her smile back in place with an enviable effort. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Lyla.” She holds out her hand and I take it reluctantly.
“And this is my friend, Todd.”
Suddenly there’s a guy at her side. I didn’t even notice him. He must have been standing just behind me.
“Hi, Kate,” Todd’s voice is deep. Like he’s swallowed something heavy. His eyes move down my body and get stuck somewhere between my waist and shoulders. I should tell him my eyes haven’t been at the height since I was seven, but I honestly don’t care.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I say, “but I really need to check in with my coach.” I try to move away when Lyla reaches out and grips my arm. Her fingernails dig into my skin.
I glance down at her hand, more than slightly annoyed, but she doesn’t release me.
“I understand, Kate. But can you, please, promise to come say hi to my teammates? It would really mean a lot to them.” Her eyes are pleading, her voice is pleading. I wonder if Lyla ever hears the word, no. I look at Todd to find the answer but he’s moved over to a large group of boys standing near the fence.
“Sure, okay,” I say. But it’s a lie.
There is always a story behind the story when it comes to writing a novel.
With KATE TRIUMPH I was actually working on something completely different when her name popped into my head. The name was so strong and intense I knew she had to be something special. My husband thought the name sounded like some kind of super hero but I didn’t want to write a super hero. I wanted her to be amazing but I also wanted people to be able to relate to her.
And then it hit me. What if James Bond had a daughter? What if she was stronger and quicker and all the things you’d have to be to do the things a spy would do, and yet she’s living in the real world. Oh, and she’s seventeen. I knew she’d have an overprotective parent, one who wouldn’t want anyone to know about her abilities, and that Kate herself would feel like a freak.
And once I knew these things I immediately had to abandon what I was originally working on and move on to KATE. She was that insistent. When I finished the book I thought I was done. But that wasn’t the case at all.
She made it clear she was edgier and a bit more vulnerable. Her sense of humor needed to come through as well. Kate is definitely one of my favorite characters I’ve written. All those years of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars definitely paid off. She’s spunky like Veronica and intense like Buffy. Not to mention she will always win in a fight.