chapter twenty five

“One month, Howie. One long month, and she has yet to say a word to me!” AJ exclaimed. He was sitting in his best friend’s living room, cup of coffee in hand.

“Maybe she’s just too busy to talk to anyone?” Howie offered. A lie, naturally. He knew very well that Cassie always had time for those she loved, even if her schedule was insanely hectic. He knew, also, that Cassie didn’t want to see AJ, not since the day she had been released from the hospital. He remembered that day like it was yesterday...

4 weeks ago...

Keri had been sitting in the same couch for the last 4 days, not moving an inch unless it was to walk into her sister’s room, trying to convince her to talk to someone about what had happened. Now, as Howie observed her, her head tilted back against the back of the couch, eyes closed, he saw how exhausted she really was. The dark circles under her eyes told the story of the past few days. Not just her story, but Nick’s, Howie’s, AJ’s, Denise’s, Charlie’s, her mother’s...everyone who made the waiting room into their home that week.

“Ker, are you feeling alright?” Nick whispered to his friend. Howie wasn’t the only one worried about that girl. Her pale face and weakened will were worrying everyone aorund them.

“I’m OK Nick,” she replied, opening her eyes and turning to her friend with a warm smile. “Maybe after today we’ll all be able to get some rest.”

“I hope so, too,” Nick agreed. “This past week has been horribly tough on us all. Especially on Cass and AJ.”

At the sound of his name, AJ appeared. Having only been released from the hospital the day before, he had returned to help see Cassie and her family home.

“How are you feeling, J?” Keri asked, noticing his arm in a sling, and surely there had to be some taped up ribs under his shirt. That awful limp wasn’t helping him conceal his pain, either.

“I’ve had better days, Keri, but I’m alright.”

At that moment, Keri’s mother walked into the waiting room, Cassie’s clearance papers in hand. Without saying a word, the group nodded slightly, collectively, and Keri’s mother turned and headed into her daughter’s room.

No one could make out what was being said in the room, but there was a lot of muffled shouting, presumably from Cassie. Howie winced as he heard Cassie and her mother arguing for what seemed the umpteenth time in the past few days. The way he figured it, Cassie was apparently having a harder time than AJ at accepting the assault, and talking to her loved ones about it. It had become clear to everyone that although they went through the same things, Cassie didn’t agree with the fact that they indeed experienced the same things. She refused to speak about the incident, and had whoever was in her room asking her about it removed at the touch of a button. Her mother, though, wasn’t one to give up, much like everyone else had. Howie admired the woman; she knew her daughter inside and out, and rode through all of Cassie’s emotional spirals. Yet now, as Cassie’s hospital time was drawing to a close, another argument had surely ensued.

Within minutes, though, both women emerged from the room, Cassie’s eyes cast downward, her mother’s head tilted upward in such a victorious way that Howie thought surely she had won the war.


“Just so everyone knows,” Cassie interrupted her sister. “I am alright, feeling just dandy, life couldn’t be better, but I don’t feel like talking right now. So, if you’ll all forgive me, I’m riding home with my mother, in silence.”

Everyone followed, in surprised silence, behind Cassie and her mother. Outside in the parking lot, everyone split up, going their separate ways. Nick jumped into his Durango, Howie climbed into his corvette, and both drove off, promising to visit Cass in the next few days. Keri climbed into the backseat of her mother’s car as the woman walked around to the driver’s side and took her place behind the wheel.

It wasn’t until the two were in the car that AJ walked up behind Cassie in an attempt to get a few words out of her. He placed a hand on her shoulder and was horrified at her reaction. She shuddered at his touch, supun around as if startled, and stared at him wide-eyed, with the fiercest, purest fear he never would have thought imaginable.


Back in the present, one month after the assault...

“Tell me something, Ker.” I blurted out, apparently startling her. She jumped from her position over the stove, almost dropping our dinner on the floor.

“Geez, Cass! You could’ve at least warned me! You blast in here faster than the wind without notice!”

“Sorry,” I laughed, helping her out with the cooking. “So can you tell me something?”

“Anything you want to know, Sis.”

“What have I accomplished this past month?” I asked her. The glum look on her face told me what I needed to know, and then some.

“Well, you’ve managed to push away your dearest friends, your stepsister, your SISTER and everyone at work. You have managed to go days without speaking to anyone, unless you’re doing your radio segment, which doesn’t really count. To top it all off, you’ve managed to put permanent concern for your helath in me and Mom, not to mention Charlie. I won’t even get started on AJ, either!”

“OK, OK! Enough said. Now, tell me something else.” I pleaded.


“How do I fix things with you all?”

She must have noticed the crack in my voice, because she immediately whipped her head to face me and, putting down her cooking utencils, leaned in and embraced me, inspiring me to cry on her shoulder, as I always have.

[chapter 24 | chapter index | chapter 26]