A little story about the past of one of my novel characters, a character study if you will.
As she dumped the last box containing all of her belongings with the rest of her boxes and bags, Cassandra idly wondered if she could still refer to him as her “dead beat dad”.
The floor she walked on, the cozy walls of wood and plaster, with its fresh coat of paint, even the new roof that kept her dry even though it was drizzling outside had all been paid for by the money he had sent her over the years.
Oh, Cassandra had been unaware of it for most of her life. For some reason her mother had taken every dollar, every cent and every penny of every check her father had sent them and put it all away in an account, a special trust fund she had not been allowed to access until she turned 18. The account had become known to her only after her mother had died and less than a year ago, she had turned 18.
When she found the little house with its plot of land, way out in the woods, it had been on the market for a while, so there hadn’t been anyone to compete with. The only issues had been the additional money she had to spend to ensure the roof was sound and the house would remain warm and cozy, even in the winter time. Cassandra had some additional ideas of how to improve it even further, to make her even more independent, but for now…
She peeled off her rain jacket, kicked off her rain boots and curled up in the old, but comfy plush chair she had found at a yard sale. After the fire there had not been much left, but after the insurance payout, as well as the money from her father…Cassandra was building herself a new life, a life of freedom and independence.
Shivering a little, she abandoned the chair to get a fire started in the big fireplace that was the centerpiece of the main room. The fire crackled and spat merrily, spreading a comfortable warmth in the room, but Cassandra had to struggle to disband those memories of her mother’s death before she could truly enjoy it.
They had called her lucky, that she had made it out alive and the neighbors who rarely spoke to her before all hurried to offer up their condolences. Cassandra didn’t need their empty words and hollow gestures. Where had they been before, when her mother had been seeing shadows and hearing voices, trapping Cassandra in the apartment?
She dug through her large duffel bag and pulled out a bag of sweet rolls, stuffed with white chocolate and cranberries, a gift from the old couple than ran the little corner supermarket, the ones who had let her work for them to pay the bills, even though she was too young. They had been the only ones who seemed genuinely sad when she told them she was moving away. Half of their family lived across the country and the rest lived over in Boston, they saw neither of them all that often, so they had doted on Cassandra instead.
She curled up in the chair again and took a big bite out of one of the rolls, savoring the taste. When she had to go back into town, she would make sure to do her shopping at their little store, maybe stop by and chat with them, she thought. But she knew she would be okay without them too.
Cassandra leaned back listening to the rain patter on the newly shingled roof. She still remembered the guy who’d done that work for her. Though she had tried to do a lot of the prettying up of the house herself, she wanted the roof to be done by a proper craftsman. She did have enough money to pay one. Her father really must have been a well off guy, she had mused as she made the call to the number she found in the newspaper.
The roof guy had been pretty friendly, though puzzled about why a “little young lady” had decided to live way out there. He’d done a good job though, sweating through the late summer and fall, making sure it stayed dry during the winter, then finished the job after the snow had all melted. It was only when it was time for the last payment that things turned ugly. She was glad she had bought that gun after all, though they made her uncomfortable. Cassandra shuddered as she recalled the man’s sweaty palm on her thigh, moving up, the crash as the coffee mugs fell to the floor and that wave that rose up inside her that suggested she blow the guy’s brain’s out. The guy left the place pissed and alive, but she wasn’t afraid of him.
She didn’t need guys like that anymore now, Cassandra would take care of herself now.
But the truth of it was that she wasn’t really alone. Like her mother she had a voice in her head that wasn’t just some figment of her imagination, or the result of mental illness. The creature inside her would always be there, watching, a warm breath at the back of her neck, dark eyes that longed for the greenery of the forest outside. It whispered suggestions and offered aid, sometimes violently, when there was a threat.
Cassandra would always be afraid that there would be a day when the creature realized that it didn’t need to ask her permission anymore. But until then, she would savor her independence, even if it might be an illusion.