My small honda Prius bumped around as I drove up the gravel driveway. Rocks hit the side of the car with tiny plinks. Mud covered the wheels and the doors of the car as I drove through puddles and I thought miserably that I would probably have to give it a good washing when I got home. A small house lay in front of me. Small it might be but it felt like it was towering over me.
I hadn't been inside in years. Cobwebs were strung from the doorway like Halloween decorations. The windows were cracked. Mice skittered over the steps and the whole thing looked like it was sagging. Like it was ready to give up. It was a pitiful sight, to be honest.
I was surprised I had even made it this far. Every moment I felt like turning around. It's not like this was my idea anyway. This wasn't what I considered a good use of my time. But it's not like I had a choice either.
I remembered the conversation I had the day before with Ms.Young my therapist. Despite her name, Ms.Young was not young at all. She was at least 60. She had dusty colored hair, like that color you see when it's summer and the wind blows a cloud of it in your eyes. That pale lifeless brown. She wore thin-rimmed glasses. And had cold gray eyes and who knows how tall she was.
She told me to sit down on the couch. Like she did every Tuesday morning. “So Ms.Cassidy.” She would say. And I felt like I was back in kindergarten. Sitting in the principal's office getting chastised for hitting someone or pulling someone's hair or who knows what other stupid thing. I always hated how the teachers would get down on their knees so they were eye level. It's like yeah I know I'm tiny and you're bigger, and have more authority but you don't have to remind me every time you talk to me. They would look you in the eye and tell you what you did wrong and how you needed to apologize and all that other BS.
Counseling was like that. Like being a kindergartener all over again. Feeling like you did something wrong every Tuesday morning. But then again that's why I was there, was it not?
“Ms.Cassidy.” Ms. Young said. “You've been making progress.” But the way she said it was like I had improved my reading skills and I was moving up a level. Not like what it really was..
“I think there's still something you need to do. This will be a big step in getting better”
She said it like I had a disease and the cure was slowly starting to help. But this disease didn't have a cure.
“Yeah, do you have a time-turner so I can go back and change the past?” I wanted to ask. But I didn't. That would probably result in more Tuesdays in the therapy office. The last thing I wanted.
What I really said was. “What?” In the least snarky way possibly.
“I think you should visit your house.”
“I live in my house every day. That's where I'm going after this.”
Ms. Young had sighed. “Your old house where you grew up.”
I wasn't particularly fond of that idea. But I couldn't say no. Ms.Young made sure to remind me of that. I mean theoretically, I could say no but it wouldn't lead to good things. I'd probably have to go back to court. I was on strict probation and doing what Ms.Young said was one of the top rules. “The therapist knows best.” No one actually said that but this whole situation was giving off that sort of vibe.
I didn't agree. How could this therapist help me? She didn't know how I grew up. She didn't know what happened. What really happened. Not what the police told her. She didn't know why I did what I did. How was she supposed to help me if she didn't know anything? I could help myself.
“If I don't know anything, why don't you enlighten me?” Ms. Young had suggested.
“Fat chance.” I had murmured under my breath.
I sighed and looked at my old house. How would this help me anyway? The only thing it would do would bring back old memories. It wouldn't change what happened, it would change what I did. Or didn't do.
Cassidy wondered what would happen if she didn't go inside the house. It's not like Ms.Young would ever know. Ms.Young had said to go to the house never specified that she had to go into the house. But Ms.Young would figure it out. Ms.Young knew everything, had eyes everywhere. Someone was probably watching her right now. Besides, the house wasn't in good shape. It could fall on her at any given moment. Surely that was a good enough reason. But of course, Ms.Young would disagree and send a team of house experts out to the house to make sure the house was safe and just send her right back out there. Ms.Young always got her way.
But Cassidy sort of did want to see what was inside. It had been years since she had last set foot in the house. She had moved out at 16 and it was at least 6 years since then. And Cassidy never visited; she never had a strong relationship with her parents. The only time she did come back was to see her little sister Bluebell. It was a funny name, most people called her Bell. but to Cassidy, she was always Blue. Little blue was so tiny even when she was six Cassidy could still hold her in her arms. And carry her around like she was still a baby. Cassidy loved Blue. Loved swinging her around. Loved giving her piggyback rides. Braiding her hair with flowers and pushing her on the swing. She loved teaching Blue what baking was. And wiping the flower off her nose. Blue was her everything. The pride and joy in her life.
Cassidy wiped a tear from her eye and tried to push the memories away. But the surrounded her wrapped her up. Like a fly caught in a web. Cassidy remembered the last time she was here only a year ago. She had come unplanned; she just wanted to see Blue. She knew that at Twelve was the time her father took a nap and her mother took a bath so they wouldn't be watching Blue. Cassidy quietly knocked on the door.
Blue knew the stranger's danger rule so she stood on her tippy toes and peeked through the kitchen window then rushed to the door to let Cassidy in.
“Cassie?” Blue asked. “Why are you here?”
“Shhh,” Cassidy said soothingly. “I'm only going to be here for a little while. Here, come on.”
Blue took Cassidy's hand and Cassidy shut the door quietly behind her.
“Why are you here?” Blue asked again.
“I wanted to see you, my little flower,” Cassidy said, poking Blue's nose. Blue smiled.
“We only have a little then I have to take you back.”
“Why?” Blue asked in the good-natured way of a child wanting to know all the answers.
“Because I have to go home afterward.”
“Why can you stay for dinner? Mommy made soup and the bread is in the oven. I'm sure we have enough. And if we don't, I'll share with you.”
“I have something important to do.”
“Oh okay.” Blue was only sad for a few seconds before her face lit up. “Can we go swimming?”
“I guess that's fine,” Cassidy said slowly. Letting Blue guide her to the tiny pond on their property.
“But Blue you don't have a suit.”
“Yes, I do. See?” Blue lifted her shirt showing a pink swimsuit underneath. “Mommy was going to take me earlier but she never did. And I never took the suit off.”
“Fair enough.” Cassidy smiled. Just being with Blue made her happy.
“Blue don't you need a life jacket?’ Cassidy asked a look of concern on her face.
“Nope! I can touch. Lookie.” Blue stood proudly in the pond, the water up to her chest. “Daddy says it's okay as long as a grown-up is watching me.” Blue cocked her head at Cassidy.
“But you're not a grown-up are you?”
“I am don't worry.”
“But you're my sister.” Blue looked confused.
“I can be your sister and a grown-up. Just like how your mom's a mom and she's a grown-up.”
“Okay!” Blue dove into the water and splashed around happily ignoring how Cassidy had had your mom, not my mom not our mom.
There were only a few minutes of happiness before it had to get interrupted.
Cassidy heard the snap of branches and the rustling of leaves and spun around quickly thinking it was a cougar or a coyote or some other dangerous thing that would tear her apart. It was none of those but just as dangerous. It was an angry mama bear.
Cassidy's mom and father tore through the underbrush so they were facing her. Her mom's face was red with fury. “What are you doing here?” she hissed.
“I was just visiting.” She said cooly.
“Visiting who. Since obviously, we didn't know you were here.”
“I'm sorry, am I still four do I need to notify you of where I am every second of my life?”
“I don't like your tone, young lady.” Her mom said.
“Well, maybe I don't care because maybe I'm 21 and I don't take orders from anyone.”
Her mom glowered.
“Where is Bell. We were scared out of our minds. We come downstairs and Bell is gone no note, no anything where afraid someone has kidnapped her or run off, and we find you on our property. So I'm going to ask you one last time. Where is Bell?
“Jeez chill out we were just going for a swim she's right over there.” Cassidy motioned with her hand behind her.
“Where?” Her mom asked.
“Right there!” Cassidy spun around but when she looked in the pond Blue was nowhere in sight
“BLUE!” Cassidy screamed panic overtaking her. Her mind clouded with fear she ran towards the pond and dove in, not caring she was wearing a fancy dress, not caring she still had her purse on. She felt her way through the water. “BLUE.” She screamed desperately. “Blue!” Cassidy took off everything that was weighing her down and dove to the bottom. She felt around. And felt nothing. Back to the surface, she went only for a second before diving back down. She felt around the bottom thinking what she was feeling was grass. But grass wasn't normally that long was it?
Cassidy screamed. And felt her way back onto something round. Something long. Cassidy slowly losing air grabbed the body and swam to the top. Praying, praying what she was carrying wasn't what she thought it was.
She resurfaced and in her arms was Blue her body lifeless. “Blue…” Cassidy cried. “Blue…” Cassidy swam to shore her parents in shock and laid her down. She pressed down on her chest and blew air into her mouth. “BLUE LISTEN TO ME!” She screamed tears running onto her sister's still body. “WAKE UP.”
Cssidy kept pushing and breathing pushing her sisters chest over and over and over again.
But nothing can bring back the dead. And she sat cradling the body of her little sister.
“Look what you did!” Her mom screamed in complete hysterics. Her parents pushed her away and cradled Blue. “She's dead because of you. If you never came here today. She would have still been alive.”
A drop of rain on Cassidy's head brought her back to the present. Back to cruel reality. Tears streamed down her face. I never should have come here. How could I ever have thought this would do me any good?
Cassidy remembered storming away driving home crying, the whole week was a haze all month the whole year really. Her parent's words always echoed through her head. But the worst part was she knew that they were right. If she never showed up that fateful day Blue would still be alive. Cassidy remembered her parents calling her telling her that she had to pay for the funeral services the food, all of it. After all, it was the least she could do, they said. Cassidy got mad. she blew up and called her parents a bunch of things she wished she could take back.
But she couldn't because later that night when driving into town they got into a crash. A crash that killed them both. And Cassidy never could apologize because her parents were dead. And so was her sister. Her mind couldn't help running. If she had never come to the house Blue would still be alive and if Blue was still alive they would have never had to drive into town to find a coffin and if they never drove into town they never would have gotten into a crash and if they had never gotten into a crash they never would have died.
All of it was her fault.
I was in shock. It was happening all too fast. My sister my parents. I never was on great terms with my parents. But they were my parents they gave birth to me. They fed me, clothed me. They raised me and however much I grew apart from them we were always connected. Connected by blood, by memories and by so much more. And losing them. Was like losing a part of me. Losing something I couldn't get back.
I was mad at them, mad for them blaming me, mad for how they never understood me. But I was really mad at myself. Mad because it was my fault, mad for not trying to reconnect with them, understand them. Mad that just once I didn't go back for dinner mad, that in this parting I never got to say good bye. Like an ending cut-off, a part of me never complete. It wasn't madness it was guilt. And I had so much of it.
But that wasn't even the worst of it. She remembered the funeral. Since Blue and her parents had died so close to each other the funeral was for all three of them. Lots of people were there, her parent's friends she had never met. Relatives she recognized from old family photos. It all went smoothly. Until the end. Well as smoothly as any funereal can go really.
Her parents had called all her relatives to tell them what had happened and they weren't kind about it. Everyone there knew it was her fault but they were all smart enough to keep their mouths shut. But kids. Kids never do know when they cross the line.
Cassidy was walking back to her car when she passed her mother's cousin and her daughter. She didn't really know what that made them; she just knew they were somehow related. And the little girl who couldn't have been that much older than Blue was looked at her with wide eyes. And then whispered to her mom. “That's the one who killed Bell right?” Now kids whispering was never whispering. And grief can do funny things to you. Cassidy was sick of it all, sick of knowing it was all her fault. She was sick of the way people looked at her. And that little girl made her hit her limit. Cassidy didn't even know what she was thinking but when she came back to her senses the girl was lying limply on the ground a pool of blood surrounding her head. And everyone looking at her like she was a murder, which Cassidy supposed she was.
The girl didn't die. Which was good. Cassidy had pushed the girl so hard that she fell backward and because the world hated her, there just happened to be a rock behind her. The girl split her head open and fell into a coma. It was a couple months since then and the girl was fine. Relatively fine.
Cassidy was sent to therapy so she could talk things through. Wasn't sent to jail which was good just had to pay for the girl's medical bills. Her name was Amber, she found that out.
The rain hit Cassidy harder. She stared back up at the house. The house that was full of so many traumatic memories. But the saying is once you hit the bottom the only other way is up.
Cassidy climbed the stairs and into a house full of shadows.