Where should I start? I once read that the best place to start is the beginning. Yes, the big, tough butch can read. Want to know something else? I’m a graphic artist. Now isn’t that a manly profession? But back to what I was saying before. Words have never come easily to me. Don’t get me wrong; I am rarely at a loss for words but discussing my feelings? That’s another story. Well, I suppose I should take that advice and start at the beginning so here goes.
My name is Sierra Mackenzie and I am thirty-four years old. I have one sibling, my sister Cassidy who is six years my junior and the center of my world, besides my partner Jesse, of course. Our parents died ten years ago and I have had the pleasure, and sometimes infuriating task, of looking after Cassidy ever since. She is as stubborn as…well…I am, and we have had many disagreements over the years, but through it all we have shared a bond that has been tested but never been broken. I guess that’s why I went into a near panic when Anna called.
Jesse and I had just finished dinner and she was looking forward to a night of romantic movies and good loving. True to form, I wanted to skip the movies. She refused to let my libido get the better of her plans yet again, so I was sulking in the kitchen when the phone rang. I answered since I didn’t want to bother Jesse, who was trying to figure out the DVD player because I was being childish and refused to show her how to use it (let’s see her put in those sappy movies now, hah).
“Hey Anna. What’s up?” I had always liked the good doctor and had secretly hoped that she and Cassidy would hook up, but my sister seemed happy enough with Beth.
“Uh, Sierra, is Jesse there?”
“Yeah, she’s here. I can go get her if you want to talk to her. ”
“Spit it out, babe. Is something wrong?” I was definitely picking up on something now, and I didn’t like it. I had this sick feeling in my stomach and I had to keep myself from just slamming down the receiver. I didn’t want to hear whatever it was that Anna had to say. Jesse had come into the room and was looking at me curiously so I mouthed that it was Anna on the phone.
“Sierra, hon…there’s been an accident. It’s Cassidy…she in the hospital.”
The room started to spin and I had to lean against the counter to keep upright. I wordlessly handed the phone to Jesse and slumped down in the nearest chair. So many thoughts were flying through my head that I missed the rest of the conversation and didn’t notice it had ended until Jesse kneeled before me and took my hand in hers.
“Babe? Baby, look at me.”
“W…what happened?” My throat was dry. I looked into emerald green eyes and was relieved to not find the fear, or grief, that I had been half expecting.
“She wouldn’t say. All I know is that there was some sort of accident. Cassie’s out of surgery but we need to get to the hospital. She’ll give us more details when we get there.”
I barely remember getting dressed or getting into the car. I know that Jesse offered to drive but I waved her off. I needed to get to my baby sister. Some part of my brain kept telling me to calm down, that Anna would have told us if it was something more serious, but I couldn’t help it. I went into hysterics if Cassidy got a paper cut: so much for my badass image.
I do remember standing in the elevator, going up to the fourth floor where Anna said she’d be. I had just pulled up to the curb and jumped out, but I knew that Jesse would understand…and that she’d actually park the car. My heart felt like it wanted to burst its way out of my chest and I was so nervous that I almost screamed when the elevator stopped and the door opened. Oh well. I needed to do this. Just step up to the plate Sierra.
I shouldered my way through the double doors and then I saw them…Beth and Anna. Beth’s face was buried in Anna’s shoulder and I could tell that she was crying. Anna looked up at me, and her eyes told me all that I needed to know. Something was wrong, badly wrong, and I felt my anger coming up to the surface. This was no simple accident. Someone was going to tell me what was going on, if I had to beat it out of them.
“What the fuck is going on?!”
Beth looked up at me and I could see fear, and resignation, written all over her face. I could also make out Anna slinking away and I knew this was going to be bad. Anna only got out of the way when there was going to be a confrontation, not that she needed to. There was a crumpled piece of paper in Beth’s hand and she wordlessly passed it to me.
“What is this, Beth?”
“Just read it. It’ll explain everything you need to know.”
I read it…and read it…and read it. I couldn’t believe the words that were written there, or their implications. My sister had tried to kill herself? The light in my eyes had tried to end her own life because she felt she had nothing to live for? I looked at Beth and if ever I were to be capable of murder, it was at this moment.
“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.” My 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.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost my control…and my mind. This bitch had been fucking some guy behind my sister’s back. She was the reason Cassidy had been in so much pain. I knew that something had been bothering her. She hadn’t been herself lately, but Jesse had cautioned me to leave well enough alone. Cassidy would come to us when she was ready. I had listened. I hadn’t wanted to be the cause of yet another fight between us; not when things had been going so well. I should have forced the issue. Then I could have just killed Beth, and Cassidy would have moved on. I never make the same mistake twice. I lunged at Beth and slammed her into the wall.
“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…” I felt a hand on my shoulder and knew without looking that it was Jesse.
“Baby, this isn’t the time. Calm down and let her go. Beth, how is Cassie?”
With Jesse’s touch, I felt the anger draining out of me…not enough to stop wanting to kill Beth, but enough to make me put her down and allow myself to be led to a chair. I couldn’t afford to let the anger go…I would go crazy if I had to face my fear. My heart fell at the next words I heard.
“I’m afraid she isn’t doing so well.”
“Just take your time and tell us what happened, Beth.” My Jesse, always getting to the heart of the matter.
“I…um…I don’t really know.” Beth hung her head in shame. I got the feeling she knew what I was thinking…it was her duty to know.
“Beth, I don’t understand.”
I felt my anger working its way to the surface again. All I wanted to do was to hold Cassidy and take her pain away. I felt a restraining hand on my thigh and wondered, as I had so many times, what I could have done to deserve someone as understanding as Jesse. But even so, I had to ask the question that had been at the tip of my tongue since I read that note.
“How long, Beth? How long have you been screwing around on my sister?”
A few months now, she said, and I found myself desperately wishing this was some sort of bizarre nightmare. I listened to her explanations. I listened to her trying to justify what she had done, my hands clenching into fists. I listened to her tell me how hard it would have been to stay with Cassidy; how much everyone wanted different things for her; how much she would have had to give up. Cassidy was crazy about her. What about the secrecy she allowed herself to live in because Beth wasn’t ready to be open about their relationship? Did she really think that it was easier for Cassie just because our parents were dead?
“She’d do it for you.” I wanted to remind her that Cassie would have given up her life for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to say those words.
And she did know. I never had anything personal against Beth before, I just didn’t think it was a good idea for my sister to get involved with someone who had never thought about being in a relationship with a woman before. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my sister’s judgment but I knew that she had been taken advantage of before and I vowed that I would never let it happen again. Cassie swore up and down that this was what she wanted and, after more arguments than I could count, I finally gave in. Now, I couldn’t help thinking that I should have fought harder, even though what was left of my rationale mind told me that I could have lost Cassidy had I done that. Still, maybe she would have been better off hating me than lying in this hospital bed.
“Beth? She’s awake. She’s asking for you.”
“How is she, Anna? Tell me the truth.”
I had been lost in my own thoughts and I hadn’t even noticed Anna coming back. I felt more than just butterflies in my stomach at the sight of her. My throat was so dry that it felt as though I had swallowed glass, and there was little comfort when Jesse took my hand. She would be just as devastated as I if anything happened to Cassidy.
“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. 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.”
I was so relieved that I felt like I could cry but I wouldn’t let anyone see me like that, only Jesse. I barely felt Jesse leave my side to go to Beth, who was now in tears. I almost missed Anna telling Beth that she should go in. I didn’t want Cassidy to see her now…hell, I didn’t want Cassie to see her ever. I started to protest, but Jesse cut me off. She seemed to think that it was a good idea and I was too tired of feeling to argue. But something in me was stirring…anger…guilt…insanity…who knows?
“If she ever does anything to hurt Cassie like that again, I’m going to fucking kill her.”
It wasn’t just a threat…it was a promise and I could tell by the look in Jesse’s eyes that she believed 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…” I couldn’t go on. My voice started to crack and I knew I was on the verge of breaking down…in public no less. I just let Jesse hold me and drew what comfort I could from her. We sat like that for a while with Jesse holding me and talking to Anna. I heard little bits and pieces of their conversation but I was too lost in my own thoughts to care. There were so many questions swimming around in my head, mostly for Anna, but I didn’t think either one of us could face the answers…not tonight.
After a while, we heard the door to Cassidy’s room open, and Beth emerged. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and I didn’t know whether that was a good sign or a bad one. Somehow, she looked more at peace than I had seen her all evening. She walked up to us slowly and I could tell that she had something to say. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear it.
“I’m leaving her.”
I looked at Jesse and I could see disbelief on her face, but it was tempered, almost as if a part of her had been expecting it. I looked at Anna and I saw the strangest mixture of anger and hope in her eyes.
“You’re doing what?” I’m not even sure which of us asked the question.
“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.”
You selfish bitch! You just want to be free to fuck whichever guy is your flavor of the month. She loved you…she loves you still. She would die without you. And knowing all that…knowing that you have a chance, a second chance to make her happy…you’re going to walk away? You’re going to just leave her there to pick up the pieces? I couldn’t control myself anymore. I punched her out.
There was a lot of healing to be done after that day…and a lot of forgiveness. But some good did come out of it. Cassidy and I have never been closer and, even though I would never admit it, I am looking forward to becoming an aunt, even if I can’t be a daddy just yet. I never thought that would happen…just as I never thought I would see my sister smile again. Anna’s love, with a little push from Jesse and I, seems to have worked miracles. Now we all live close by, even Beth, and while I still look at her warily sometimes, I know that Jesse is right when she says Cassidy would never have found happiness if Beth hadn’t left her all those years ago.
So I have forgiven her, just as I know everyone else already has. We are at her house now and I find myself hanging back and looking around. I see Anna holding Cassidy’s hand and asking if she’s okay for the millionth time. I see Beth calling her son to her and telling him to leave Cassidy alone. I see my Jesse walking towards me. I look around and I know that I have everyone and everything I need right here…my family, my perfect world.