Monday, May 1, 2017

Chapter 332 Independence Day

          Cassandra, this doesnt change anything, Frankie said. Were still the same family weve always been. We just have different titles now. Okay, Im youre father not your brother and Pops is your grandfatherdoesnt really change much at all, cuz we all love you very much... just the same as always.
          With that kinda love I could sure use some indifference, she mumbled, grabbing several tissues and wiping away the wetness on her cheeks.
          What? he said, not having heard her.
          Nothing. You can go now, she said, waspishly.
Cassandra, come on. Its Christmas, time for family. Go wash your face and come eat with us. Youll feel better.
          Im not going down to face a room full of liars and pretend that everything is fine when its so not fine. Nothing will ever be fine again, she said with a loud, unladylike blowing of her nose.
          Enough of this. Stop acting like a baby! he said. If it wasnt for us youd be in foster care... or much worse. You wouldnt even be here. Donnas parents wanted her to get an abortion and when she refused they made her give you up for adoption even though she didnt want to.
          It felt to Cassandra like a bucket of ice water had been poured into her chest and a rusty sword driven into her already bruised, battered and now shattered  heart. She slowly turned to face him, her face a mask of fury. Are you saying that my mother, my real mother  is still alive? She wanted to keep me but they wouldnt let her?
          Frankies usually tanned face suddenly looked the color of stale oatmeal. Uhno um I dont know, he said.
          Lies, lies and more lies!  When will you stop with the lies??? she shouted.
          Really, I have no idea if shes alive or not, Frankie said. We took you from the hospital as soon as you were born. We left Queens, moved to Catalpa Valley and never saw any of them again.
          You horrible, fucking bastard! she said through clenched teeth. All my life I thought my mother was dead. I thought My whole life is a lie, one huge fucking lie!
          A muscle worked along his jaw as he listened to her retched sobbing. Im sorryIm sorry it couldnt be different. Id change things if I could, but it is what it is, Cassandra. Theres no use dwelling on it.
          Sure, youd like that, she muttered derisively. Just pretend it doesnt matter. Well, I can see it doesn't matter to you. Why should it? You get to do whatever you want, but it sure as hell matters to me!
          “Relax, okay? Lets go eat and…”
          No! If I eat now I'll puke.
          Please come down, Cassandra he pleaded. What possible reason could I tell them for you not being down there for Christmas dinner? Pops will have a cow!
         "Then let him have a cow!" she shouted. 
         "Cassandra, he's sick, he's old..."
          “Tell them I have a headache. Tell them I drowned in the bathtub. Tell Papa I have menstrual cramps and thats why Im bitched out. That hed understand sexist pig that he is, she said.
          Dont talk like that about him, Cassandra! Frankie said, angrily. The poor man is dying!
Then tell them I jumped out of the window and flew to the North Pole in search of Santa, she snapped. I DONT CARE what you tell them. I owe them no explanation. Theyve always treated me like shit and now I know why. I was never wanted... Im illegitimate!
          She turned away again and cried until she thought she could cry no more. At last she slumped down on the chair at her desk, drained and ill, glad to finally be alone, only she wasnt. That was when she saw Frankie crouching beside her, a pained expression on his face.
          What do you want from me? she said. Im not going down. You cant make me. I couldnt eat even if I wanted to. Ill just get sick.
          Im sorry, Cassandra. Really I am, he said. 
          Sure you are, she said.
          "Cassandra, you're wrong. You were all of us."
          "Right," she muttered.
          "Listen to me," he said, taking a fortifying breath. 
After everyones gone, you can ask me anything about Donna and Ill tell you everything, Frankie said. Whatever I know.
“Oh, wow, she said, pretending gaiety.  Lucky me. Well have a nice little chat about my real parents who never wanted me and couldnt wait to get rid of me.
Frankie sighed and stood up.  I wish youd …”
Just get over it? Yeah, real soon, like when pigs start flying, she said.
Youre in shock right now, but youll seeafter the shock wears off…”
“You wanna shock, Frankie?" Cassandra said, viciously. "Ill never forgive you. I hate you. I hate all of you with every fiber of my being.
          A brick to the face couldnt have made him look more stunned. You dont mean that, he said, a note of panic in his strangled voice.
          She looked away. You never believe anything I say so why would you start now?
          Frankie stared at her for a long time, the muscle working along his jaw. All right. You can go to college, he said. Ill fix it with Pop.
My ass you will. Leave me alone, Frankie, she pleaded, putting her aching head in her hands. For the love of God just go away and leave me alone. Pretend I don't exist. You've been doing it all your life. Why stop now?
I never... he said. “Did you ever wonder why I didn't try to get Pops to change his mind about college? Well, it wasn't really up to him. If I had said you should go he would not have stopped you. I was the one that stopped you from going away to school."
"Why?" she said, taking another blow to the heart. "Why would you do that when you knew how much I wanted to go?"
"Cuz...cuz I got to know what an enormously special person you are. When I came back from Afghanistan all busted up and half dead and you were so sweet and caring. You took care of me and... and I realized for maybe the first time that I created you...with Donna's help, of course. You grew up to be so smart and so pretty and so much like Donna. I'd forgotten how much...and I hated that I missed you growing up. I was overseas away from home for so much of your life. I never really got to know you or spend any time with you...until now. So, I didn't want you to go away...not yet. I knew you'd soon get a boyfriend and get married and have kids and then...I'd never see you. So, I did the selfish thing...again. I asked you to help me out with the club. I didn't know how much I would really need you, cuz I never imagined how good you'd be at the numbers thing. I was never good at that, but for you...God, you're amazing! And I loved having you right there beside me nearly every beautiful perfect little girl...who wasn't so little anymore... as much as I tried to convince myself that you were."
He was silent for a long time, trying to keep his emotions in check. At last he added, "Any university you want, okay? And Ill even put you through medical school, too, if thats what you really want.
Cassandra hesitated a moment, because that indeed was exactly what she had wanted for ever so long, but she didnt believe it would happen regardless what he said. Too little too late, Frankie, she said. Please go.
You think on it. Pick out a school to apply to. Im serious. I'm sure youll like the idea after the shock of this wears off. Ill come back laterwe can talk some more and Ill bring you up a plate, okay? There are some great desserts down in the kitchen he said.
Dont bother, she said. I wont eat anything and were done talking.
Youll get hungry later, he said.
If you care at all about me, just leave me alone, she said. Please!
He sighed again. Fine, he said, heading for the door. He put his good hand on the knob and turned back. Will you be all right, Cassandra?
Hunky-dory, she replied grabbing another tissue.
Frankie shook his head and left.
After wiping her eyes, Cassandra blew her nose again.
 She got up from her desk and went to the bed curling into a ball. She wanted so badly to fall asleep, for a week or a month or a year. Maybe by then she could wake up and pretend this was all just a horrible nightmare. But her head ached too much for sleep and the million questions she didnt get to ask Frankie, those he couldn't answer anyway, swirled endlessly in her head.
She now knew her mother was Donna Makowski from Queens, New York. Where was she right now? Was it likely that she still lived in Queens? Not very, she imagined. Was she even alive? Cassandra pressed her eyes tightly shut, praying she was. She would give almost anything to see her mother just once, perhaps get to know her a little bit, but that could be asking too much.
Would Donna Makowski want to know her first child, though? Surely she was married with other children by now. Would she want this painful part of her early years to resurface? Would it cause more pain or be a healing sort of thing?
Who knew?
Cassandra wiped away another tear as she thought of her mother, wondering what she looked like. She had hated so very much not having a mother. She never imagined her mother could actually still be alive. Could she maybe find her and find out for sure if she didnt want to know her first child? 
How many Donna Makowskis could there be? Cassandra mumbled as she grabbed her cell phone. She punched in the name on the search bar and no less than forty-seven showed up and that was just on the first page. 
Casandra frowned as she ran her finger down the list. Oddly enough, most of the Donna Makowskis she could see were way too old to be her mother,  a couple of them were too young and none seemed to be from Queens.
She shook her head in despair. Short of a miracle, shed never find her mother on her own, dead or alivenot without professional help, but who and how could they find someone who might now be living in Timbuktu under another name orthis thought made her hurt all over-- not alive at all? Just as she closed her eyes, silently begging God for guidance, she turned her face into her pillow as more tears formed, and she felt her phone vibrate.
What the…” she said, looking at it.  Damn, I did it again. There was an incoming call, but no sound because she had once again accidentally lowered the volume. After only one ring it stopped. That was when she remembered the text which she never got the chance to read when Frankie came up to her room.
Looking at her phone she was nothing less than stunned to see it was from Simon, the last person she expected to ever hear from again. She bit her lip and read the text: 
R U OK? Can I C U?
 She actually smiled as she texted back: How did you know? but before she could hit send the phone rang again and amazing as it was, it was actually Simon.
 Simon, she gasped.
Cassandra, finally! I sent you a text, called a couple times and…”
Sorry, the volume was down and ...Simon, how did you know? she interrupted.
Know what? he said.
That I needed you, she said.
Need me? Why? Cassandra, whats wrong? he asked, alarmed.
Ill tell you everything whenif…” she said, holding the phone tightly to her ear as tears slipped down her cheeks again. I know Im asking a lot, Simon, but is there any way you can come over?
Im already here, Simon replied.
Where? she said, confused.
At your house, he said.
Youre at my house? No, youre not! she said.
Look out the window. 
What? she said, pulling aside the lace curtain and peering out. Oh, my God, Simonis that you?
Simon stepped out of his car and waved. He headed across the street with the cell phone at his ear.
No, Simon! she said, You cant come in! 
But you just said…”
No yes, I meanum its better if you dont. So um stay in your car, okay? she said, anxiously biting her lip as she watched him look utterly perplexed as he obediently got back into his car.
She was so happy to see him, yet what good was it if she couldnt talk to him face to face? She got the craziest idea that somehow he was her knight in shining armor--or rather a shiny silver Porsche. If only there was some way he could help her if he was willing.
Cassandra, whats wrong? he asked, anxiously. How can I help?
The idea came to her in a rush, insane as it was, and without thinking she set it in motion, reckless of the consequences.
Im gonna ask you for a very huge favor, but first, can you wait for me around the bend, out of sight so nobody in my house can see you? Ill come as quick as I cancould take a while, cuz I have to sneak out, she said in a rush. I know Im asking a lot…”
I will wait, Cassandra…as long as it takes, he said, starting the car, pulling out of the driveway. Ill do just about anything for you.
Her icy heart melted a tiny bit hearing that. Thank you, Simon, she said, watching him go slowly down the street until she couldnt see him around the curve in the road. Youre possibly the only friend I have left in the world.
I doubt that, he said. Cassandra, please tell me what happened?
Ill tell you everything when I get out there, she said, semi-desperately. Ill try to be quick. Just stay there, wait for me, okay?
 As you wish, he mumbled. 
Thank you so much, Simon, she said. Youre saving my life.
Simon stared at the phone after she disconnected, shaking his head. What the hell happened to her?
Cassandra made up her mind quickly. She needed to leave home and Simon was her only chance. She had no plan except to find refuge with someone she could trust. Sophie was the first obvious choice but that was also the first place her brother/father would look for her and she certainly didnt want to be foundat least not until she damn well felt like being found.
So, where can I go? she mumbled to herself, as she neatly though rapidly packed her luggage with what she deemed most essential. Placing the last things in the suitcase and zipping it up she said, Ill pretend Im Scarlet OHara and Ill think about it tomorrow. 
She grabbed her purse and counted the money she had there, a total of twenty-three dollars and fifty-three cents. That wouldnt take her very far.wouldnt even pay for one night at the cheapest motel down on I-90 and it was a holiday so no banks would be open until tomorrow. Nothing she could do about that. She stuffed her bankbook into her purse.
Buck up, Scarlet, she mumbled to herself. Tomorrow is another day. 
And besides that, Simon was waiting.
She grabbed her suitcase by the handle, shouldered a huge totebag and purse, needlessly tiptoed down the hall and down the usually squeaky stairs, lugging the heavy bags as best she could without much noise, but with the racket coming from downstairs, nobody heard a thing. 
At the front door she slipped on her snowy white winter coat, stepped into her knee-high boots and was just about to open the door when from the family room in crawled her freshly awakened from a nap baby cousin Annabella, squealing to be picked up and in need of a diaper change.
No, Annabella, Cassandra said in a whisper. I cant deal with you now. Go back to mama, okay? I have to go.
The babys lip quivered, huge tear drops welled in her coal colored eyes and two seconds later she screamed at the top of her lungs.
No, you dont, you little brat. Its always about you, isnt it? Well, not this time, kid. Its my turn, Cassandra mumbled, whipping the front door open, dragging her luggage, sprinting down the steps and running full out down the sidewalk toward Simon, her waiting Prince Charming.
It may have been Christmas Day for everyone else, but for Cassandra this was her Independence day. 

©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved  

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