chapter sixteen

2 months later....

“Guys, I’d like you to meet Marissa.” Gina called out to the noisy lounge. We all quieted down, giving Gina our full attention.

“This is Marissa,” Gina said again. “She’s the new intern here.”

“Hi.” Marissa said softly. One look at this girl and you could tell that she was always soft spoken. Shyness oozed out of her every which way, and she seemed more interested in the floor than in our reaction to her.

“A new intern!” Laurel cheered. “Thats great!”

“Fresh meat.” Jeff observed quietly. I quickly elbowed him in his ribs.

“Don’t think so.” I told him. “She’s got me, you aren’t putting her through the crap you put me through.”

“My, my, my! We’re bitter!” Mark chimed in. I rolled my eyes at the trio after giving them a final “NO.”

I walked over to Marissa, who had seated herself next to my sister, and was listening to her rattle off rules and regulations.

“Ker, come on, she just got here! Lay off with the rules!” to Marissa I said, “Hi, I’m Cassie. Nice to meet you.”

“Hi Cassie,” she replied. “I hear you were the last intern here.”

“Yeah, lucky me.” I laughed. Two weeks ago, I had been given a ‘promotion’ so to say, and was no longer considered an intern. My segment was now extended to a regulation 3 hour show, and Jay, my wonderful prankster, was still my partner in crime. Now on a set schedule, Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m., I was the happiest I had been in months. I had managed to put my troubles in the back of my mind, and was now concentrating on the happy times.

I still kept in touch with Nick, he was becoming one of my best friends, fast. Howie and Keri started seeing eachother, rather unofficially, I might add, and so I saw him a lot around the house as well. Brian and Kevin, both in serious relationships, were the two I only got to see once in a blue moon, for that precise reason, if not work. The last of the quintet obviously went without saying. He was part of the troubles I had put out of my mind.

Or tried to, anyway. His phone calls, letters, e-mails and constant trips to my house were an annoyance, and I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t ever going to rid myself of him. He and Keri had grown strangely close, and, although they didn’t seem to know, I knew they were plotting something. Those two angered me the most at times. Howie always reassured me that they were just talking as friends, not to do me any ill. I’d always respond to his reassurance with a rotund “Yeah, right.”

While I didn’t accuse AJ ever again of wanting to cause me any more harm, I didn’t really listen to what he had to say, hoping he’d get a clue and leave me alone. But the man wouldn’t give up. Thats persistence for you...


“So Mark, Laurel and Jeff are the ones who’re gonna try to pull the Intern Initiation stuff on me?” Marissa asked. We were sitting on the porch swing in front of my house later that day, and I was letting her know the way the morning crew’s collective mind worked.

“Yeah, so whenever you see them being extra nice to you, thats when you gotta back away.” I told her, remembering the days when they had initially started with me.

“Extra nice, huh?” Marissa asked, laughing. “They don’t know who they’re dealing with.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I’m not what I seem to be.”

“You mean you’re not shy and quiet and nice?” I asked, with a tone of mock surprise.

“Right,” she laughed. “I can read people, you know. They won’t be pulling that stuff on me, but I’ll still need your help.”

“Count me in,” I replied. “And maybe now we can come up with something to torture them with!”

“A taste of their own medicine?” she asked, grinning.

“You know it!” I told her.

We sat in silence for a while, watching the local kids play a round of street hockey in the empty street. They were so enthralled in their game, shouting and arguing, praising eachother and boasting all the while. Seeing their happy faces made me close my eyes and wish for a childhood like that.

“Hey, watch out!” Marissa shouted, standing up and racing toward the street. In the instant she shouted, we heard a child scream and a car come to a screeching halt. Not thinking, I stood and ran after Marissa, fearing the worst.

I came to the end of my driveway and saw AJ’s Mustang not even an inch away from the makeshift goal post the kids had set up, and the goalie sitting in a crouched position on the floor, crying.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” I shouted, kneeling next to the boy. I shot AJ a nasty look before asking the boy if he was all right. He sniffled and nodded slowly.

“He’s just scared,” Marissa told me, soothing the child. “He’ll be all right.”

No sooner had she spoken that the little boy was now up on his feet, tending the goal again.

“Kids,” she grinned. “They forget so easily!”

“Not all kids.” AJ mumbled, glancing my way.

“AJ, quit it.” I warned.

“Who are you?” Marissa asked, looking at AJ.

“Thats AJ,” I introduced. “Keri’s friend. AJ, this is Marissa, she’s new at the station.”

“Nice to meet you.” Marissa said, smiling warmly as she extended her hand.

“Likewise,” AJ returned the greeting. “So you’re new at the station, are you?”

“Yeah, I am.” Marissa answered. “And you’re a Backstreet Boy, aren’t you?”

“Guilty.” AJ laughed. He turned to me. “So, you gonna invite me in, or what?”

“Or what.” I replied, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Cass, when are you gonna quit?” he asked me, matching his tone of voice with my own.

“When you LEAVE for good!” I shot back before turning my heel and walking back up my driveway. Immature? Childish? You better believe it! Two could play at this game, and if he was going to be the annoying one, I’d resort to being the immature one. One of us would cave in soon, and I knew it wouldn’t be me...

“Cassie, hold up!” Marissa exclaimed, catching up with me. I glanced at her and saw AJ making his way toward us as well. I stopped in my driveway and glared at him for the third time that day.

“I’m not here to see YOU,” he began. “I came to see your sister.”

“Oh, save it for someone who cares, McLean.” I called back as he brushed past me. At times like these I could only think of strangling him.

“Bad love life?” Marissa questioned when AJ was out of earshot.

“Oh, trust me, Marissa, he is NOT part of my love life!”

“Yes he is.” she replied simply. I stared at her, amazed at how sure she was of her answer.

“And how would you know this?”

“I can read people,” she reminded me. “And it more than shows between you two.”

“What else did you discover from this little get together?” I asked her, intrigued. We took our seats on the porch swing again.

“He loves you,” she began slowly. “Only he did something bad, that you can’t seem to get over, so you lash out at him with all you can.”

I stared at her, my mouth hanging open. She couldn’t have...could she?

“You’re denying your feelings for him,” she hurried on before I could protest. “To those around you, to him, to yourself. Its not a healthy thing to do, Cassie. Whatever he did to you, he has regretted it for a long time. Its about time you put it behind you.”

“Marissa, HOW did you learn to do that?!” I asked her, breathless. The words she said had yet to sink in completely in me, and right now I was only interested in her gift, where she had gotten it from.

“Its a gift,” she replied. “I guess you could say it runs in the family?” she shrugged. “Anyway, thats what I learned from you two right now. And I’d be happy to help in anything.”

“Thanks Marissa, but I think I have to work it out on my own. If there’s anything I want to work out, anyway.”

[chapter 15 | chapter index | chapter 17]