My name is Jessica McNamara but you can call me Jesse; everyone else does. This is my story to tell. I suppose I could be more eloquent. Certainly I have been accused of being overly-talkative on occasion, but I cannot bring myself to be excited by the events I am about to relate. It seems like a lifetime ago, but in reality only five years have passed since that dreaded phone-call. I remember that day in miniscule detail; the kind of memory that mocks you with its clarity. Let me tell you about it, but first I must tell you about my family at the time…my partner Sierra and her sister Cassidy.
I first met Sierra about eight years ago on a blind date. I know, blind dates are usually disastrous affairs and this was no different. I was twenty-four at the time and to say that we didn’t hit it off would have been a serious understatement. It wasn’t that I didn’t find her attractive…those tight denim jeans were definitely doing her justice that night. Unfortunately, I also found her to be rude, ill-tempered and ill-mannered…not a winning combination in my book. I honestly thought that the end of our date would have been the last time I saw her. I was secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, relieved, and spent the rest of the night plotting the demise of the ‘friend’ who had set us up. Imagine my surprise when I got a call from Sierra a few days later, practically begging for another chance.
I have also been accused of being soft-hearted, so I gave in and figured that I could live through one more night of torture. Maybe she wouldn’t be too impressed with me either and that would be the end of that. I saw a different side to her on that second date, one that I was sure she hardly ever let anyone see. It was hidden under all the bravado, but it was there. She was caring, attentive, and a little shy but above all, I felt safe with her. We’ve been inseparable ever since and I could not imagine being with anyone but her. Later on, I would learn that her foul mood the first time we met was due to an argument with her sister.
Sierra adored Cassidy. I honestly think she would do almost anything for her. But they were just too damn similar to avoid locking horns, as it were. Both of them were as stubborn as mules and the cause of this latest rift was Cassie’s choice of a girlfriend…Beth. Sierra referred to her as the ‘straight girl’ because she had never been with a woman before and she was convinced that Beth would break Cassidy’s heart one day. I suspected that this was something she was no doubt well acquainted with, but I could never get much out of her on the topic.
I did find out about Randy, Cassie’s ex, and her eye for the ladies. I guess it took her a while to get over that one. I know that Sierra just wanted to protect her but Cassidy swore up and down that she was in love and my darling, being the softie that she is, could deny her nothing. They seemed happy enough together and eventually moved in to this gorgeous little place near the beach but the specter of Beth’s wanting to keep their relationship hidden always hung over them. Cassidy needed too much out of life to spend the rest of hers hiding in the closet. I was expecting something to happen one day; a harsh exchange of words; a wandering eye…but never this.
It was finally Friday night. My job at the University took up a lot of my energy and I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with my sweetheart during the week. Sierra and I were looking forward to spending an uninterrupted weekend together. In preparation, I had chilled the champagne, bought some sexy new lingerie and rented the most romantic movies I could find to set the mood. Of course, I forgot that Sierra was always in the mood and wanted to get straight to the lingerie…champagne and movies be damned. I, on the other hand, have always been a hopeless romantic and I always get my way…which usually leaves Sierra sulking. This time it was in the kitchen. Sometimes I swear I’m in love with a five year old. I was fiddling with the DVD player when I heard the phone ring and Sierra answer it. I’ll never know what it was but something made me leave what I was doing and go into the kitchen.
“Spit it out babe. Is something wrong?”
Curiosity and concern were warring within me when I heard those words and Sierra’s signaling me that it was Anna on the phone did nothing to ease the tension I was starting to feel. Anna was Cassidy’s best friend…Cassidy’s incredibly hot best friend…Cassidy’s incredibly hot best friend who was hopelessly in love with her. She had confided in me a while ago, although anyone with half a brain could see it. I have to admit, I had always thought that Anna made a better choice for Cassidy, but it wasn’t my place to say so.
I was brought back to reality by the fact that Sierra’s face had gone an ugly white and she just handed me the phone before slumping into the nearest chair. I put the receiver to my ear, deathly afraid of what I was about to hear.
“Sierra? Sierra, are you there?”
“It’s me Anna…Jesse.” Like she couldn’t figure that out.
“Jesse, I need you to get Sierra over to the hospital right now, okay?”
“Not until you tell me what’s going on.”
“There…there’s been an accident. It’s Cassidy.”
“Anna, I want you to tell me the truth,” I dropped my voice “I know you wouldn’t tell Sierra everything but I need to know what I’m going to be dealing with. Am I going to have a full blown breakdown on my hands when she gets there?”
“Jess…Cass tried to kill herself,” I could hear the anguish in Anna’s voice. “It’s pretty bad. She’s been in surgery for the last couple of hours but they should be bringing her out in a few minutes. I didn’t want to call earlier because I didn’t want Sierra to have to be pacing here for so long. Don’t let her know yet Jess, just get her here.”
“We’re on our way.”
Nothing else needed to be said. I couldn’t believe it. My thoughts were flying in every direction and I desperately wanted to join Sierra where she was, but I needed to be the strong one now. I needed to be my darling’s rock or else she would crumble.
“Babe? Baby, look at me.”
It was time to lie. “She wouldn’t say. All I know is that there was some sort of accident. We need to get to the hospital. Anna will give us more details when we get there.”
I don’t think I had ever seen Sierra get dressed that quickly and I would prefer not to remember the drive to the hospital. I honestly thought that we would show up in our own ambulances. Sierra nearly side swiped a van, pulled up on the curb and ran out of the car without so much as a goodbye. I was used to doing the parking anyway, which I did and then I went up to the fourth floor in search of answers. What greeted me was the sight of Sierra lifting Beth a good five inches off the ground and about to swing a punch at her. I didn’t know what it was about…but it couldn’t be good.
“Baby, this isn’t the time. Calm down and let her go. Beth, how is Cassie?”
I put my hand on Sierra’s arm and I felt how tense the muscles were under my fingers. This was definitely not good. The last time she had been like this, she had gone off on some poor woman who had enough of a death wish to smack my ass. That had ended in broken bones and an assault charge, which was eventually dropped because said woman had been too afraid to get within ten feet of Sierra. I took my darling’s hand and led her to a chair. Explanations were needed here, not concussions.
“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.” Beth hung her head in what looked like shame and I knew there was more going on here.
“Beth, I don’t understand.”
“How long, Beth? How long have you been screwing around on my sister?”
There was little I could do to hide my surprise when Sierra said that, but there was no mistaking the words that were written on the note Sierra passed to me. Beth had been cheating on Cassidy? I didn’t think there was anything that could make this worse. No wonder Cassie had tried to end her own life. She was passionate; she gave her all anything she set her sights on and she had made Beth her world. As far as she would have been concerned, her world was ending. It made sense now, in a way. Cassie had been increasingly moody and withdrawn. Sierra had wanted to know what was hurting her little sister… she had wanted to push for answers, but I didn’t let her.
I was afraid that she would end up pushing Cassie away, even as I fervently prayed that she wouldn’t try to drown her sorrows in the bottle again. I started to wonder if I had done the right thing. But Beth? What on earth could have made her do such a thing? She tried to explain and I tried to understand…but how could I truly understand giving up on a love like that? I could never imagine myself just walking out on Sierra. I’d be too afraid of what she’d do; not to me, but to herself. Anna came back and I knew that I would have to talk to her soon.
“Beth? She’s awake. She’s asking for you.”
“How is she Anna? Tell me the truth”
I took Sierra’s hand in mine as we listened to Anna list off her injuries. My heart broke when I thought of how much she was hurting…but she was alive. She was alive and that was the most important thing. We would deal with everything else as they came. I looked at Sierra and I could feel some of the tension drain out of her as she leaned against me. I knew that she would cry later as she lay on me and I stroked her hair, but right now Beth needed comfort and neither Anna nor Sierra were in any position to give it, so I went to her and held her as she cried. I knew that she had not set out to deliberately hurt Cassie, but the fact that she had hurt her at all still stung.
Cassidy would be okay, at least physically. It was her emotional state I was worried about and while the others may have considered it soon, I thought it best that she saw Beth first. At least this way she wouldn’t have to wait and wonder; and she would have all of us around to depend on. We watched as Beth slowly made her way to Cassie’s door and I actually felt my heart go out to her. She had a tremendous amount of guilt to deal with. What was she going to say?
“If she ever does anything to hurt Cassie like that again, I’m going to fucking kill her.” I could tell from the look in Sierra’s eyes that she wasn’t joking and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t scare me.
“Baby, I know that this is killing you inside, but you have to calm down…for Cassie’s sake. She needs us now…she needs you. What she doesn’t need is you throwing a tantrum when you get in there, okay?”
“This is my fault, Jesse. I’m her big sister. I’m supposed to be looking out for her. I’m supposed to keep things like this from happening. She was hurting enough to want to end her own life, and I didn’t even know. What if she had done it, Jess? What if she had been successful tonight? What if…”
My poor baby…what she must be going through right now. I just held her and let her draw whatever comfort she could while I took the opportunity to talk to Anna. I knew Sierra wasn’t listening. She was dealing with her own pain.
“Anna, sweetheart, how are you holding up?”
“As well as can be expected, I guess.”
I knew she was lying. Her eyes were red and I knew it wasn’t from lack of sleep.
“Anna.” I didn’t mean to sound like I was scolding her, or maybe I did.
“I…I almost lost her tonight Jess. If I had been wrong…if I hadn’t gotten there in time…”
“Anna, tell me what happened? You found her?” I suspected that if Anna hadn’t gotten there in time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. Cassidy would have died and a part of each one of us would have gone with her.
“Yes. She called me this morning and I could tell that she’d been crying. She told me not to worry about her anymore…that everything was going to be alright. I…I got scared. There was just something so empty in her voice. I went over and she wasn’t there. I found the note on the kitchen table and that’s when I knew what she was planning.”
“You knew about what was going on with her and Beth?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t surprised that Cassidy would have chosen to confide in Anna. There had always been this bond there and I wondered if it may have contributed in some small part to Beth’s insecurities. “She didn’t want anyone to know. You know how Cass is…she didn’t want to admit that Sierra was right. I should have told you guys, but I honestly didn’t think that it would have gotten this bad.”
“How did you know where she was? I didn’t see anything in the note.”
“I remembered her saying that the first time she knew she loved Beth was when they looked at the sunset together from Lakeview Bridge. It was the night they first kissed…I just figured. I…I saw her jump, Jess. I called out to her but I couldn’t stop her. All I could do was get to the bottom and hope she was still alive.”
I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like for Anna and as I watched a lone tear make its way down her face, I realized what a truly remarkable woman she was and just how much she loved Cassidy. Of course I knew that she had feelings for her….even before I confronted her that day at the beach house, but I don’t think I ever knew how deeply those feelings ran. I was surprised that Anna had taken the time to get down to the river; a part of me thought that she might have followed Cassie off the top of the bridge, as foolish as that would have been.
After a while, we heard the door to Cassidy’s room open and I could see that Beth had been crying. We all stood. Even though I didn’t really didn’t want to hear it, part of me already suspected what she was going to say.
“I’m leaving her.”
“You’re doing what?” I think it was Anna who asked and I could see something flashing in her eyes.
“I have to…. I can’t keep hurting her. She deserves someone who can love her and be there for her always. I can’t be that person. I think I’ve already proven that.”
She looked straight at Anna as she said it. She knew. Deep down, I knew she was right and I knew that it couldn’t have been easy for her to make this decision. Cassidy deserved so much more. I didn’t hate her…I just hoped she could find whatever it was that she was so desperately searching for. Sierra, however, was another matter and I turned to her just in time to see a fist flying towards Beth. It made contact and it was Anna who had to hold Sierra back. Thankfully, although she hated fighting, Anna was the same height as Sierra and roughly matched her in strength. I doubt I would have been able to hold on to her on my own.
After that, Anna treated Beth for a bruised jaw and sent her home. I assumed Steven would be waiting for her. Sierra wanted to make a beeline for Cassidy but I needed to calm her down first. Cassie needed Anna, or rather they needed each other. I watched as Anna hesitated at the door to Cassidy’s room and she looked up at me. I smiled in encouragement and she nodded and went in. Somewhere in my mind, a little voice told me that one day everything would be alright.
It has been five years now and a lot has changed. Thankfully, the relationship between Sierra and I has not been one of them and our love is burning as brightly as the day we first fell in love. But our flame isn’t the only one. Cassie and Anna have been together for almost four years now…with a little help from the rest of us. In fact, they are expecting a bundle of joy in the very near future. Anna is a nervous wreck…you’d think being a doctor would help, wouldn’t you? Steven and Beth have two darling children whom she adores more than anything. Steven isn’t actually a part of our perfect little world but he tolerates us…and we tolerate him.
We are at Beth’s house now and everyone is off doing their own thing. I am patiently waiting to hear a resounding smack when Cassie finally gets tired of Anna’s constant worrying over her. Sierra finds it amusing and she is looking at them right now and laughing. I wonder how she’ll feel when I tell her the news. My hand goes to my stomach and I can’t help but smile. I know that I have everything and everyone I need right here…and Sierra’s going to be a daddy.