There is so much that I want to say to you right now. I had this whole thing planned out in my head but somehow the words are escaping me. They usually do. I wish I could tell you that I don’t love you anymore; that I’ll be fine without you. I know I told you that before, but you must have realized that I lied angel. I will never be fine without you. I will never be fine with looking at you be with someone else. I know why you had to do it. He can give you the respectability and the acceptance that you need from the world. He can give you all the things that I never could. All that I could have given you was my love; my heart; my every waking moment. I know now that wasn’t enough for you.
In a perfect world, you’d be with me. A part of me wants to hate you for taking the coward’s way out. Did you think that it was easy for me? Did you think I had nothing to lose by being with you? You’ve forgotten, haven’t you? I would have given up everything to make you happy. And now you want me to wait? You want me to be here just in case you come to your senses and decide that love is worth fighting for? I’m tired of fighting angel. I’m tired of giving you time and space. I’m tired of smelling HIM on you when you come home. I’m tired of seeing his marks on your body. I am driving myself crazy imagining how they got there. I am tired of living with this pain.
You say that you don’t want to hurt me, yet you hurt me more and more each day. The knife through my heart twists a little more every time I hear you say that you love him. I feel my soul shatter with every broken promise. And yet I still kept hoping…but I can’t anymore. I know where you were last night. I know what you were doing while I stayed by the phone waiting for it to ring. I guess you forgot that promise too.
It’s too much. You have gone and you have taken my world; my everything, with you. I have nothing left, not even the will to live. I have nothing to live for. I never realized that my love made you feel so empty, and for that I apologize. It’s over for me…for us. I can’t stay here any longer. I guess this is goodbye my darling. I hope that you find whatever it is that you’re looking for; whatever it is that I couldn’t give you. All I ever wanted was to make you happy. Think of me fondly sometime and know that I have never…that I will never stop loving you.
I lost count of how many times I had taken out that cursed note. It was almost an addiction. Maybe if I read it enough times, the pain would come and carry me away from this terrible reality. Now, it lay crumpled and tear-stained on the chair next to me. How I longed to tear it up; to throw the pieces on the ground and stamp them out of existence. Had my love cried like this for me? In my heart I know that she did, although pride always kept her from revealing the worst of her pain. I reached for it again, smoothed out its many creases as best as I could and tried to make some sense of the words. Had I really been that blind? Evidently, I had. I had known that what I was doing was hurting Cassidy. Was it wishful thinking that kept me from seeing how much, or was I just too wrapped up in myself to see what was happening right in front of me? Had I really managed to convince myself that this was for the best? My head already knew the answer, even though my heart remained clueless.
I jumped a little and turned to face the woman who had taken the seat next to me, even though I didn’t need to see her to know who it was. The waiting area was remarkably deserted, which in itself was either a miracle or some sort of macabre coincidence. There always seemed to be just one family at a time waiting to see whether their loved one would make it through the night, as if misery had an interest in taking turns. I guess it was my turn tonight and I’m all alone, save for my one companion.
Wavy black hair surrounded a face that housed the most piercing grey eyes. I had seen a gamut of emotions in those eyes over the years; emotions that could change them from the color of storm clouds to a rich blue-grey, and then back again. All I saw in them tonight was grief. Anna, or rather Dr. Adrianna Lazell, was Cassidy’s best friend. It was Anna who had found the note and it was Anna, not me, who had saved Cassidy’s life and brought her here. I was never as glad as I am now that Cassidy had managed to have someone as close to her as Anna was. My darling did not let people in easily. She should have never let me in.
“How are you holding up, kiddo?” It was a running joke between us. Anna always called me ‘kiddo’, even though she was just over thirty, but didn’t look a day older than my twenty-eight. Well, she used to call me that anyway. She hasn’t really called me anything in the past few months, although I’m pretty sure she started referring to me as ‘the bitch’ in her mind; not that I haven’t deserved it. Seeing the concern in eyes that had recently only held contempt was almost my undoing. If nothing else could make this real, that could.
“Okay, I guess…I’m not sure. This all seems like some sort of bizarre nightmare, you know? Cassie was always the strongest person I know.” I wasn’t lying…not really. It was just easy for me to forget that Cassidy was much more fragile than most people realized. She hid it better.
Anna leaned in closer and wrapped an arm around me, trying to give the comfort she knew I needed. There was a time that I thought Anna’s scent was intoxicating. Now, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I may have needed it, but I did not want her to try to console me. I wanted her anger; her repulsion. I wanted my sins to be washed away in the face of her hatred. Cassidy was right when she said that she knew where I was and what I was doing. I was doing the same thing when I got the call. Steven understood that I needed to go, but he thinks that Cassidy is just my best friend; my room-mate; my confidante…everything except my lover. He had wanted to drive me to the hospital but I knew that I couldn’t let him risk that.
Maybe I was still being selfish and I wanted my secrets kept, but I prefer to think that I genuinely cared for him and didn’t want to see him hurt. I don’t mean emotionally; he was a good man and eventually he’d understand…maybe. But Anna has been known to have an explosive temper and I doubt very much that even Jesse would have been able to hold back Sierra, who did not know what was going on and was undoubtedly scaring a large number of unsuspecting people on the highway in her attempts to get here.
I wished so much that he could be here. I longed for his shoulder to cry on even as I prayed to have one more chance to tell Cassidy that I love her…I still love her. I hate myself for this. Even in the midst of all this self-loathing and guilt, I still could not say for certain what I wanted.
“Don’t give up on her yet Beth. She’s still in there somewhere and she’s going to need you when she finds her way back.”
“Isn’t that why we’re in this fucking hospital Anna, because I gave up on Cassie?”
I could not read the emotions that flitted across Anna’s face. I saw her pity and a slight spark of understanding. I saw the anger that I knew she was trying so hard to control replaced by a false warmth, but there was something else there; something else swimming below the surface that I could not put my finger on. Then it dawned on me. Love. Anna was in love with Cassidy. I wondered how it was that I had not seen it before, but I should have known better. Clearly I’m not very good at seeing things that are right in front of me.
Anna is the only person I know who could rival Cassidy at hiding their feelings. For a brief moment, I felt the first stirrings of jealousy but I firmly clamped down on it. I had no right to that anymore. It made sense, in a way. Anna and Cassidy made a much better match than we ever did. But I know them. They would have never acted on their feelings, even if they were mutual. I found myself wondering if they were.
“Regardless of what you think, I’m not here to pass judgment on you Beth. I don’t agree with you did and what you’ve been doing, but this is neither the time nor the place to get into that. The point is, there is a woman in there who would rather die than be without you and right now we still don’t have any guarantee that she’s going to make it. But if…when she does, are you going to be there for her or are you just going to get her hopes up and walk away?”
“I don’t know if I can walk away again Anna. I don’t want to hurt her any more but I don’t think I can be a part of the life that she needs.” I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. “I don’t know if she can be a part of the life that I need.”
“You need to make that decision Beth. You can’t have it both ways. Not knowing whether you were going to walk out or you were going to stay was hurting her more than anything else.”
“I know I need to make things right Anna. I just don’t know how.”
I buried my head in Anna’s shoulder and finally let it out. I had been trying to be strong; anything to keep the guilt away, but guilt was so much a part of me now. I should have been stronger. I should have seen what was there in front of me all the time. I hadn’t, and now Cassidy was bearing the brunt of my indecisions. Suddenly, there was a loud noise and my heart jumped into my throat.
“What the fuck is going on?!”
I had been so lost in thought that I almost hadn’t heard the angry thud of a broad shoulder making contact with the double doors, or the menacing footsteps heading straight towards me. The lone nurse stationed at the small desk right outside looked up and then hastily looked away relieved that, for once, the rage wasn’t directed at her. I, unfortunately, felt no such relief for the 5’10” vision of fury standing in front of me was Sierra, Cassidy’s very protective, and very pissed off, sister.
Sierra, at thirty-four, was six years older than Cassidy, four inches taller and outweighed her by at least 30 pounds. For all intents and purposes, she looked like the stereotypical tattooed butch. It wasn’t something that she actively aspired to…it was just her. She was fully capable of lifting me off the floor and pitching me out of the doorway, especially since she had never actually liked me. I had no doubt that would be my fate before the night was over.
Anna had managed to make her way to the other side of the room for, while she felt sorry for me at the moment, I was sure she had no intentions of intervening on my behalf should things get a bit ugly. I couldn’t say that I blamed her. I would have probably done the same in her position…no, I would have been cheering for a fight. I could only hope that Sierra’s partner wasn’t too far behind or I might be in need of a hospital room myself. Calm, rational explanations just didn’t work with Sierra so I meekly handed her the crumpled note and waited for the explosion. She took it with a suspicious glance but didn’t say a word.
“What is this, Beth?”
“Just read it. It’ll explain everything you need to know.”
Anna had waited until Cassidy came out of surgery to call Sierra. I knew that she had told her there had been a minor accident and that Cassidy had been hospitalized. I think she was trying to spare her from the full brunt of what had happened. It scared me greatly to think of what Sierra would do if Cassie didn’t make it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Anna leave. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed that she was either going for help or to check if Cassidy was awake, and not merely abandoning me to my fate. I could do nothing but wait as Sierra read the note. I wanted to atone for my sins but I didn’t want to die. As expected, I found myself wrenched out of my chair and lifted a few inches off the floor.
“I thought she was in an accident. Tell me this doesn’t mean what I think it means Beth. Tell me that you’re not running around on Cassidy and she didn’t try to kill herself tonight.” Sierra’s words came out in a low growl and sounded more like an order than a request for information.
“I wish I could, but I can’t.”
“How the fuck could you do that to her?! Have you lost your mind? You mean everything to her. Hell, she even stood up to me to be with you and you betray her like this? I ought to rip…” My head cracked painfully against the wall. I closed my eyes against the blow I was sure would follow…and then I felt myself being let down.
“Baby, this isn’t the time. Calm down and let her go. Beth, how is Cassie?”
I knew that I could derive some small comfort from the fact that Jesse chose to walk in at that exact moment. Undoubtedly, Sierra had simply pulled up in front of the hospital and rushed out of the car, leaving poor Jesse to find a parking space. They had been together for a little over three years now, almost as long as I had been with Cassidy, and Jesse was the only one who could calm Sierra’s notoriously bad temper. Cassidy always joked that her sister went from a tiger to a teddy bear with one touch of Jesse’s hand. Obviously, it was true. I liked Jesse a lot, and not just for the obvious reasons. She was a small woman, and certainly she was dwarfed by Sierra, but there was an aura of calm determination around her that made people stand up and take notice. Somehow she had managed to get her lover into a chair and was now waiting for an answer.
“I’m afraid she isn’t doing so well.”
“Just take your time and tell us what happened, Beth.”
“I…um…I don’t really know.” I hung my head in shame. It was my duty to know.
“Beth, I don’t understand.” Jesse placed a restraining hand on her partner’s thigh and her confused eyes flickered from mine to hers. I knew that Sierra’s fuse was in danger of being lit again as she just held her hand out. Jesse took the note.
“How long, Beth? How long have you been screwing around on my sister?”
I couldn’t lie. “A few months now. I know it’s not an excuse but we’d been having a lot of problems. I guess our differences just crept up on us and starting pulling us apart. On top of that, some people from the office had started asking questions about us and I…I panicked. It’s stupid, I know, but I didn’t want anyone to find that she was my lover, not just my friend or my room-mate. And then Steven asked me out and I wanted to say no, but a part of me wanted to say yes. I wanted to know what it was like to be out with someone and not feel like everyone’s eyes are on you.”
“Steven…from the office?” Sierra was livid.
“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I care about Steven, I really do, and I can have the life that everyone wants me to have with him. I love Cassidy and, in a perfect world, I would be with her in an instant but with her I can’t have all the things I always saw myself having. I just don’t know how to be a part of her life without sacrificing my friends and my family. They would never accept our relationship, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to give up everything.” I didn’t know whether I was offering up reasons or excuses.
“She’d do it for you.”
There really wasn’t anything else to say. Sierra was right. Cassidy would give up everything that she had in this world to be with me. There had been terrible fights between her and her sister over me. Sierra hadn’t seen the wisdom in getting involved with a straight girl but Cassidy had put her foot down and that had almost cost them their relationship. Just look at us now. It would have been for nothing. I knew that I didn’t deserve that kind of love.
“Beth? She’s awake. She’s asking for you.”
Beth could have sworn that her heart stopped when she heard Anna’s voice.
“How is she, Anna? Tell me the truth.” I didn’t need to hear her words to know that it was bad. I could see it on her face. Her eyes were red and I was certain that this was not her first stop after leaving Cassie’s room. I could tell that Sierra too was afraid to hear what Anna had to say. She and Cassidy hadn’t seen eye to eye on a lot of issues but those disagreements could never break the bond between sisters. As if sensing her lover’s unspoken distress, Jesse quietly took her hand between both of hers.
“She’s…um…she’s conscious but she’s still heavily sedated. She’s probably going to be in and out for a while. They want to keep her on a low dosage of painkillers and sedatives for a few days since she’s in a lot of pain. She went into the water pretty hard so she had some broken bones and…uh…internal injuries. She’s breathing on her own but her right lung was punctured and they’re going to have to keep an eye on her. The surgeons have done the best they can and she should be alright but she’s going to need a lot of physical therapy to regain full use of her left leg. She had multiple fractures and they had to put some pins in. The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be any brain damage from the oxygen deprivation.”
Sierra looked like she would cry, and I wasn’t sure whether it was through relief that Cassie wasn’t going to die or pain as Anna listed her injuries; but that would ruin her tough-as-nails image so she held it back. Jesse looked at her partner and knew that she would be cradling her later. She was the only one in this world that Sierra would cry in front of. I, on the other hand, had no such reputation to protect so I promptly burst into tears. I made no effort to brush them away and I felt Jesse’s comforting hand on the small of my back.
“Beth, I think you should go see her now…but not for long. She needs to rest.
“I don’t think….” Sierra piped up but Jesse would have none of it.
“Sierra, hush. We’re all worried…and relieved, but Beth needs to go in now, okay? Let her do this, for both their sakes.”
I knew they were watching me make my way down the corridor, veering a little but brushing off offers of help. This was something that I needed to do alone. I looked back once and saw Sierra turn to face her lover. I could tell that Jesse was a little bit afraid of the intensity in her eyes. I didn’t need to hear it to know what she said, but a harsh whisper caressed my ears nonetheless.
“If she ever does anything to hurt Cassie like that again, I’m going to fucking kill her.”
I knew it wasn’t just a threat. It was a promise.
I stood hesitantly at the door of room 114, my hand unmoving on the knob. I had gotten my fair share of strange looks from the few hospital attendants who had passed by. I knew that I had to go in, but I felt so sick to my stomach that I feared I would pass out. This wasn’t the time for doubts, though. That had cost us too much time already. I gathered my courage and turned the doorknob. The room was a little dark but I could make out the solitary form on the bed.
“Hey.” The response was weak, and a little slurred, but it was music to my ears.
“I guess it’s a silly question but how are you feeling?”
“Like I almost died…but I guess that’s a fair representation.”
“Do you remember anything about what happened?”
“I remember everything Beth.” Her voice sounded so weak. I went to her and sat in the chair on the side of the bed. I took her hand in mine and reeled at the pain I saw in her eyes. A thin sheet covered her and I could see the bulge of the cast on her leg. My mind could not comprehend the reality that her bones were being held together by metal. Her breathing was shallow and I was reminded that at least one rib was broken.
“I’m so sorry baby. I never meant to do this to you.”
“I did this to myself Beth. I let the pain get the better of me.”
That was my Cassie, always trying to take the blame unto herself. I wasn’t going to let her do that this time. This was squarely my fault. Yes, she had made the ultimate decision to end her own life, but I had sown the seed, watered it and added fertilizer.
“No. I did this. Let me be the one to take responsibility for once. I decided that I wanted something else, but I wanted to keep what I had too. That was wrong of me. You deserve so much more than that.”
“But I want you.” She would have had tears in her eyes by now but the sedatives were kicking in again and I could tell that what she wanted most right now was to go to sleep. I would let her, but not before I could show her that she had something to live for. Her name was Anna and she was waiting outside. She would be my redemption.
“I know, but you deserve someone who wouldn’t even have to think about it. Their choice would already be made. You deserve someone who would always put your needs first, no matter what. I can’t give you the life you need, but you knew that already, didn’t you?”
She nodded and I could tell even that simple act caused her a great deal of pain.
“I don’t want to be alone.”
My heart broke for her. She sounded like a scared child.
“You will never be alone. I want to be a part of your life…for as long as you’ll have me. I’m always going to be your friend and your shoulder to cry on. Don’t forget, you still have Sierra and Jesse…and Anna.”
She looked at me strangely when I mentioned Anna’s name and, through the agony and the fatigue, I saw what I had been looking for in her eyes. I knew what I was doing was right. Cassie would probably not want to see me for a while, but that was okay. I knew that she wouldn’t be able to heal if I was in her face all the time. I hoped and prayed that one day she would let me be a part of her life again; and when she did, I resolved to do whatever I could to get her and Anna together. They deserved each other. They needed each other.
We talked a little more and I’m afraid I wore her out. I looked over at Cassie and the steady rise and fall of her chest told me that she had fallen asleep. I gently rested her hand down, leaned over and stole one short, sweet kiss…our last kiss. I walked out of Cassidy’s life that night, not completely but as a lover. So what happened next? You’d like to know wouldn’t you? Undoubtedly, some of you are hoping that I walked out of the hospital and got hit by a bus. No such luck, but I guess it probably feels that same. Well, I went out and explained my decision to the others, got punched out by Sierra, treated by Anna, and comforted by Jesse. No one said that doing the right thing wouldn’t hurt.
Five years have passed since the night that I almost lost Cassidy. I thank God each day that I didn’t. My son loves his aunt, even though he can’t actually say her name yet and I’m not about to tell you what he does say. Yes, I have a son…and a daughter. Steven is very proud of his children. He travels a lot now since he got that promotion. Sometimes I miss him like crazy but I have good friends to help me get through. I can’t say that he’s completely comfortable with my friendship with Cassie, having finally been told the truth about our relationship; just I can’t say that she has ever truly warmed up to him. They’ve called a truce though, a sort of silent acceptance of each other’s position in my life. The truth is, I don’t think I could do without either of them.
Jesse, Sierra and I conspired to get Anna and Cassidy together and it worked. Their four-year anniversary is coming up in a few weeks. They have never been happier and Anna is about to become a proud parent. I can’t tell if she’s more scared or excited though. Probably a bit of both. I do know that she is hanging on to Cassidy’s every move and she’s going to get smacked soon. Everyone is here now and I can take a good look at my extended, if dysfunctional family. In an extreme twist of fate, we all live within half an hour of each other.
The only evidence of Cassidy’s ‘accident’ is the slight limp that she retains, but she is radiant…and happy. I can’t help but feel a tiny hint of jealousy and some part of my brain tells me that it should be my child that she is carrying, not Anna’s. Then, I look at my own children and I know that I would not have had them if things had worked out differently. I look at Cassidy and I know that she would not have been happy if she had stayed with me. I look at my life and I know that fate exerts her control for a reason. I have everything and everyone I need right here in my own little perfect world.