chapter twenty six

Saying I was sorry wasn’t easy. I never thought it would be to begin with, and when those wonderful souls all told me that it was alright, that I shouldn’t worry about it, I cried. I knew, right then and there, that I didn’t deserve any one of them. I vowed to work, and work hard, to be deserving of the friendship they all offered me, and to make up to my sister all the hard times I had put her through. Charlie wasn’t going to let me off the hook so easily, though.

“After what you did, I don’t think ALL the shopping sprees in the world will make me happy with you again!” she told me, right in front of everyone on that warm April afternoon.

“Well, how about if I take you on one ultimate spree?” I bribed. She eyed me curiously, and I felt her walls breaking down. Sure enough, a smile spread across her face in a matter of seconds.

“I think she takes after you, Ker.” I joked. “Anything for free stuff!”

Through everyone’s laughter, I noticed one was missing. Instinctively, I turned to face AJ, and sure enough, he was silent. I couldn’t bring myself to go near him, to talk to him privately. Although my apology earlier in the day had applied to him, I was not able to approach him on a one-on-one basis, and I couldn’t explain to him my reasons just yet. How could I tell him that I’m...afraid...of HIM?

I excused myself and headed upstairs to my room, where I started to recollect my strength, my fearlessness, both of which I had lost the night of our assault. The night of my...


I jumped sky high at the sound of his voice, and I felt the fear creeping into my bloodstream. My natural instinct kicking into overdrive, I stepped back away from my door until I could back away no more.


He watched in shock as she backed away into the farthest corner of her bedroom. Her eyes wide, she only stared at him as if he were some sort of stranger...

A stranger ready to hurt her. He felt confused, afraid. He wanted to know why she was reacting this way. He took one step towards her and regretted it instantly.

“Don’t come any closer, AJ.”

Her voice was menacingly shaky. It frightened him even more. What was going on here?!?

“I don’t understand--”

“Please go away.” Cassie pleaded, the fear in her eyes more present than ever before.

It hurt him, knocked the wind out of him. Not thinking twice, he took several steps more and reached his hand out to her.

Cassie’s horror-filled sceram shook the entire house, and by the time AJ had recovered, Cassie was nothing but a shaking, sobbing, curled up form on the floor.

Keri was the first to come flying into the room. “What happened in here?!” Her mouth hung open as she tried, in vain, to register the scene before her.

Nick’s reaction wasn’t any help to the situation, either. He came rushing in, saw what the surface allowed him to see, and immediately jumped to conclusions.

The shouting was unbearable to AJ. Keri asking what had happened, Nick shouting his demands, wanting to know what he had done to Cassie, and Cassie’s sobs were too much to handle. And then there were his own shouts; mental shouts that told him something had happened to Cassie that he didn’t know about, that no one knew about. His mind screamed at him that after he blacked out the night of the assault, Cass had suffered something awful.

“AJ!” Nick shouted, grabbing his shoulders, shaking him violently. “What did you DO?!”

AJ stared incredulously at Nick, not believing what he had just heard.

“WHY would you even THINK that I would ever do anything to her?! Answer me, Nick!” AJ shouted back, throwing Nick’s arms back away from his shoulders. The two men stared at eachother vehemently, each ready to hold his own in the battle that would more than likely ensue.

It wasn’t until Marissa came into the room, followed by Howie, Charlie and Brian, that the peace was somewhat restored. Immediately she rushed over to Cassie and, whispering something nearly inaudible to her, helped her to her feet and led her out of the room as the others watched silently.

Downstiars, Cassie turned a tear-streaked face to her friend and pleaded: “Marissa, I need help.”

“Shhh, it’s OK,” Marissa silenced her. “Let’s get you somewhere quiet.”

[chapter 25 | chapter index | chapter 27]