chapter nine

The knock at the door startled me. I looked at Nick, who was obviously shaken up as well. He got up slowly from his place beside me and went to see who was at the door. It was late for me or Keri to have any visitors. I decided to get up and follow Nick to the main hall. Who could it be?

“Geez Brian! You scared me with that knock!” Nick grumbled, letting Brian in. A wave of relief washed ovre me; it was only Brian.

“Sorry Nick, I just wanted to see how Cassie was doing.” he looked behind Nick and smiled at me. “How are you feeling?”

“You have no idea.” I replied.

“Yes I do,” He began softly. “I heard AJ tell Howie what had happened.”

I stiffened. “So he remembered.” I whispered, a knot forming yet again in my throat.

“I don’t think he ever forgot, Cass.” Nick told me. “He must feel horrible right now.”

“How do you think I feel? Answer me, Nick. If he feels horrible, then how the HELL do you think I feel?!?!”

“Like things can’t possibly get any worse...or better for that matter; like you want the earth to open up and swallow you whole; like you can’t look anyone in the face.” He offered, his voice rising. Taking a deep breath, he continued. “Cass, I know how you feel, I’ve been there. I was harassed as a kid too. Its not the best way to live, but its a part of life. And I’ve learned from it.”

I stared at Nick, speechless. How could anyone hurt someone so wonderful? ‘easy,’ I thought. ‘it happened to YOU...’

“I...I just don’t know why he had to come back.” I whispered, looking at the ground.

“You didn’t rememebr him?” Brian asked.

“Not until I heard his full name back at the club,” I explained. “Thats when my entire childhood came flashing back. I didn’t know what to do,” I continued, glancing at Nick. “Except to get out of there.”

“Cass, AJ fell for you.”

Hearing those words, I whipped my head towards Brian, disbelieving.

“What are you saying?”

“I know how you’re feeling, but I had to let you know,” Brian explained. “AJ’s in love with you, or damn well near it.”

I tried as best I could to register those words. My mind was failing me; nothing made sense anymore.

“He told you that?” I asked softly.

“No, its one of those things that need no telling,” Brian said. “I could just tell.”

“No, you’re wrong,” I stammered. “He’s just...doing that as a way to get to me. He’s doing it all over again, he’s never gonna leave me alone, is he?!?”

“Cassie, don’t say that,” Brian began, “I may not agree with what AJ did to you before, but I am positive he wouldn’t be capable of doing that now.”

“He’s not that mean kid anymore, Cass, he’s changed.” Nick spoke up, trying to convince me.

“Maybe you’re right,” I began. “But I’m not risking anything anymore. I’m never gonna see him again, let alone talk to him.”

“Cassie, you’re acting as if this is the last time you’re going to see any of us!” Brian exclaimed.

“It isn’t?”

“No,” he said. “I plan on sticking around. And since I already know where you live..” he trailed off, flashing me a smile. I couldn’ help but grin back.

“And I don’t think Howie’s going anywhere anytime soon,” Nick added. “The way he’s been staring at your sister since this afternoon is reason enough to believe he’s sticking around also.”

“And Kevin won’t forget you guys easily either,” Brian cut in. “He really seemed to like you two. He had this twinkle in his eye whenever he looked at either of you, plus he and Jay have become friends.”

“And what about you?” I asked Nick. I still hadn’t forgotten the emotion in his voice, the look in his eyes, when we had left the club. The significance of it was still beyond me, but I wanted to know what was on his mind. I must have caught him off guard with my question, because he looked baffled.

“Me?” he asked.

“Yeah Nick, you.”

“I don’t know why just yet,” he said slowly, as if choosing his words. “But I’m not leaving you either.”

“See?” Brian said. “We’re all staying. Plus, we all either live here in Orlando or damn well close to it. You’re not getting rid of us that easily.”

“That makes me feel better,” I replied. “I have five stalkers!” We laughed at my comment until the phone rang, interrupting us.

“Hello?”

Silence on the other end.

“Hello?” I said again.

“Cassie, don’t hang up.” a voice said.

“Who is this?” I asked suspiciously. Nick and Brian inched closer to me, trying to see what was wrong, if anything.

“Its Howie. Don’t hang up.” he said again.

“Now why would I hang up on you?” I asked, signaling Nick and Brian that everything was cool.

“Well, I don’t know...maybe because of what happened here a while ago.” I heard the DJ start up the music in the background. Howie was still at the Club.

“So you know?”

“Yeah, and Brian found out too. He’s there, isn’t he?”

“Yes he is. Nick knows too; I told him.” I took a deep breath. “Howie?”

“Yes?”

“Can we keep this between us? I mean, between those of us who know? I don’t want anyone else to find out.”

“Sure thing. Don’t worry about it, I’ll keep it quiet. But AJ may--”

“I don’t care about AJ,” I interrupted. “He won’t talk; he’s done enough damage as it is.”

“Are you feeling alright?” Howie asked, concerned.

“I’m better, I guess. I think it was just the initial shock that got me riled up.” I lied. Of course I wasn’t alright, I just didn’t want Howie to worry.

“If you say so.” he replied. “Hey, are you doing anything tomorrow?”

“Talk about changing the subject,” I laughed. “I’m not doing a thing tomorrow, why?”

“Why don’t you come over? Your sister, Jay and Gina are showing up. It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t know, Howie,” I said reluctantly. “What if--”

“Don’t worry about it,” he answered, as if reading my mind. “He won’t bother you.”

“I’m trusting you on this,” I said softly. “I’ll be there.”

“Great,” he replied. “I’ll let you go now. See you tomorrow, have a good night.”

“You too, bye.”

I hung up. What had I gotten myself into? Spending the day at Howie’s, where surely Brian, Kevin and Nick were going to be. And if they were there, surely AJ would, too. What in the WORLD had I gotten myself into?

[chapter 08 | chapter index | chapter 10]