Oak Island Chapter 2: Cassie gets some news

Oak Island Chapter 2: Cassie gets some news

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg
"

Cassie gets some news (Originally Tinder Island)

"


Chapter Two


I got back to work after my vacation. Being an accountant was not fascinating or glamorous. It paid well. I'd been sensible when I went to college. I studied business and accounting so that I would be able to make enough money to support myself. I never wanted to depend on anyone ever again.


The day after our return to Mantville, I made plans with Cheryl for the next week. We decided to try Avocado, the new vegetarian restaurant downtown. I was pleased with the prospect of adding another woman to my social circle. I had few female friends, none of them close friends.


We met at the Marion monument, across the street from Avocado. It was easy to pick Cheryl out in a crowd, with her red hair. She gave me a warm hug in greeting and we crossed the street to the restaurant. We were quickly seated upstairs, by the brass railing, looking down over the bar and lounge area. Dark wood and brass seemed to be the theme at the Avocado.


Once we were settled in with our entrées, Cheryl said, “So tell me about this Ezra guy. Where did you say you guys met?”


It's so cliché. We met at a wedding. Ezra knew the groom, I knew the bride. That was... two summers ago.” I thought back to that beautiful summer's day. "He overwhelmed me with his outrageous flirting." Ezra had paid me extravagant attention upon our introduction. Exactly one year later, I was surprised when Ezra greeted me with flowers and Champagne to celebrate the first anniversary of our meeting. He always remembered dates. I felt so loved and cared for when he lavished such attention on me.


He seemed pretty grouchy on Oak Island.” Cheryl had always spoken her mind and she had not changed.


You didn't see him at his best. He's not great with new people.”


Cheryl made a skeptical noise.


The waiter came to refill our iced tea and I was glad for the interruption.


Where did you meet Ted?” I asked, trying to get away from the topic of Ezra.


We were both on a flight to Charlotte, seated together. It's a strange place to meet someone, but I knew he was the guy right away.” She stirred her iced tea thoughtfully. “Do you believe in soulmates?”


Sometimes I had fantasies, but I didn't believe, not really. I tried to find a tactful way to say this. She watched my face and said, “You will. You just need to meet the right guy.”


Was Ezra the right guy? Did the right guy even exist? I had given up that idea long ago.


Maybe.”


***



Cheryl and I had lingered long over lunch and said goodbye at the monument. I decided to use the gift certificate Ezra gave me for Dragonfly Spa, another of his thoughtful gifts. It was a short walk to the spa and I enjoyed the lovely weather. In the reception area, I was tempted by the mani pedi services, but decided on a massage. I could take care of my own nails, but it is impossible to give yourself a massage. An hour later I emerged relaxed, energized and glowing.


Once home I lit the lavender aromatherapy candle I'd bought, snuggled into a comfy position on the couch and thoroughly enjoyed my new copy of Paris Vogue. Ezra found me this way when he got home from work.


Coming into the sun room, Ezra gave me a kiss.


You smell nice.”


I used that spa certificate today. Thank you.” I squeezed his hand.


What is that candle doing in here?” He picked it up and blew it out. “You'll catch the whole house on fire and we don't have renter's insurance.” He took the candle with him when he left the room.


My good mood deflated.


***


During dinner, Aunt Pam's ringtone sounded from the other room where I'd left my phone. I let my voicemail catch it because Ezra hated to interrupt meals.


You used this to cook the shrimp?” Ezra asked, raising his glass of white wine.


Yes, it's that white zinfandel you got at Martin's Wine Cellar last month.” Ezra loved the Wine Cellar. We always had more wine than we could drink in the house, stored in a handsome oak rack. “We should have some friends over. They can help us drink some of that wine.”


Mm, maybe next month. Work will be crazy until the third, getting that Bressler account tied up.”


Let's invite Cheryl and her husband.”


Who's Cheryl?”


She's the one with the red hair. She's a stylist and Ted is in retail, Crate and Barrel, I think.”


Ezra raise one eyebrow. “A hair dresser and a salesman?”


Inside, my mood fell further. Of course he would never invite them to a party here. “Maybe they could come for dinner one night?”


With that hair? I don't think so. We don't need some kind of failed artsy type in our lives.”


Well, Cheryl is going to be in my life, even if she's not good enough for you. I like Cheryl. And her husband too. They're nice people.”


Nice is overrated.”


My lunch conversation with Cheryl came back to me as I washed my face before bed. Cheryl had said I hadn't met the right guy yet, implying Ezra was not the one. If she was right, if soulmates did exist, I had to agree, Ezra was not the one. We did not click together like finely crafted components of some greater whole. He wasn't perfect, but I wasn't either. And there was no such thing as a perfect relationship. I accepted Ezra, warts and all. That was good enough. Wasn't it?


***


I didn't remember the missed call from Aunt Pam until the next afternoon. Curious, I went to voice mail.


Cassie, this is your aunt. We need to talk.” A very terse message for Aunt Pam.


This would have to wait, I couldn't deal with my family while at work. But it niggled at my brain the rest of the afternoon.


Feeling I needed to be prepared for anything, I sat down in the sun room before dialing.


Aunt Pam, this is Cassie,” I replied when she said hello.


She got right to the point. “Darling, your mother is doing poorly, according to the doctors. Very poorly.”


What's up?”


COPD. It's like emphysema, just a little different. From her smoking.”


I've heard of that. Isn't it treated with oxygen?”


She's pretty far along. So far along it will only get worse. All they can do is make her as comfortable as possible and extend her life a bit. It's terminal.”


I was glad I chose to sit down. Terminal. I didn't even know what to think about that, or feel. Apparently, I was upset because I started crying.


Listen, Cassie,“ Aunt Pam continued. “Listen, honey, we don't know how long she has, it may be months, or years.”


I continued crying, unable to speak.


They're going to make sure she is comfortable. She wants to see you.”


I'm sorry Aunt Pam, I need to go. I'll call you later.”


I couldn't think or make any sense of what I had just learned. I sat on the couch, my head in my hands, feeling all kinds of things I felt I couldn't handle. Anger, guilt, more anger, deep, deep hurt I had buried so successfully. What are you supposed to feel when you hate your mother and find out she's dying? The hurt from long ago was still there. Patiently waiting for me. Bumping into furniture, I groped my way to the bathroom, vision obscured by tears that would not stop. Still crying, I undressed and got into the shower, where I started sobbing. Eventually the water drumming on my skin broke through my runaway emotions. I calmed down. I still didn't know what to think, but the emotions were subsiding.


I dried off and got into an old t-shirt and leggings. It wasn't cold but I got out a blanket and took it to the couch. I wrapped myself up and looked blankly at the opposite wall, at the print Ezra had chosen to hang there. It was some brand of cubism, done in cold blues and grays. I eventually realized, I didn't like that print at all.


I got up and made some mint tea. I wanted to just go to bed, but Ezra would be home soon. Maybe we could order some Chinese. I didn't want to go out and I didn't want to cook. I got out the menu for Chinese Kitchen and was calmly reading it when Ezra walked in the door.


When I expressed my desire for Chinese, Ezra said, “We planned on pork chops tonight. Why do you want Chinese?”


I didn't really want anything at all, now that I thought about it. “I don't feel like cooking.”


Ezra looked at me without speaking. This was always the precursor to his abrupt decisions that couldn't be argued with.


My mother is dying.”


His expression changed and he gently guided me to the couch. He really did care about me. When I leaned against him, he held me tight.


***


I got ready for work the next day as usual. I was surprised when I got out of the shower that coffee was made and Ezra had set out my usual yogurt and cereal breakfast. He kissed me on the cheek.


You shouldn't go to work today, Cassie. Stay home, take some time off.”


He was being so sweet. But I couldn't imagine what I could do at home except feel big weird feelings I'd rather not feel.


I hugged him and said, “Thank you Ezra. Thank you for breakfast. Thank you for caring.”


Before I could start crying again, I broke free and said briskly, “I need to get to work, get some things done, do something familiar. Charley needs me to get those tax figures done.


***


Work passed quickly and at the end of the day I found I had folded up my emotions into something very small and put them away. As I drove home, I thought about calling Aunt Pam. I knew I should. I had practically hung up on her. Instead, I decided to call Cheryl. Cheryl was there, in high school. She saw how my mother was. She might understand.


I got home on autopilot. Ezra wouldn't be home for a couple of hours, so I was left with nothing but my own thoughts. One big thought: call Cheryl.


I got her voicemail. The message I left was vague. How could I summarize this?


The other big thought was Aunt Pam. Damn. I had to do it, might as well do it now.


Hi, Aunt Pam. I'm sorry �" “


Cassie, honey, are you OK? Are you alright?”


I'm OK. I'm sorry I sort of hung up on you.”


She wants to see you,” Aunt Pam said again. We were at the heart of the matter.


I don't know.” This was a statement of conditionality. Maybe I would but there had to be rules. My rules.


She's your mother. She wants to see you one last time.”


I don't know...” This was reluctance that might be persuaded.


It's the least you can do. Think of her.”


Maybe if she wanted me to care about her she should have treated me better.” I found myself boiling with anger, a clear identifiable emotion. I hung on to it.


Cassie, I know you have a better heart than this. It's her dying wish. Be kind.”


But I had run out of kindness.


No.”


Please think about it, sweetie. Don't make up your mind now. Think it over.”


I could give Aunt Pam that much.


I'll think. OK?”


Don't make any decisions right now. Just think.”


It was still an hour before Ezra would get home. The boiling anger was still there. I wanted something easy and clear, so I embraced it. It was much better than the wild, unidentifiable feelings of yesterday. I knew what to do with anger. I started cleaning the house.


The vegetable bins from the fridge were drying when Ezra got home. He found me on my knees, wiping down the interior of the fridge. Finished, I began returning the contents of the fridge to their places. I didn't pause in my work as I greeted him.


Cassie, are you alright?”


His solicitude in the morning had touched me. Now it just made me madder. I was irritated by everyone asking me if I was alright.


No,“ I said, with quiet rage. “No, I'm not alright.”


A small corner of my mind not consumed by fury noted Ezra flinching. I was scaring him. I didn't care.


Why does she think she can do this?” I said each word separately, with emphasis. I got up from my kneeling position. “I need to clean the shower now.”


Ezra was looking at me, shock and confusion showing on his face. I never got mad. I never responded inappropriately. I never asserted myself with him. I stalked into the bathroom and began grabbing the supplies I'd need out of the linen closet. Ezra followed.


Cassie, what--”


I cut him off. “You need to leave me alone right now.” I realized I was holding the Tilex in a threatening position, as if it were a weapon. I lowered it. “I need to clean the shower right now.” When I turned towards the shower and opened the curtain, Ezra left the doorway.


Half an hour later my rage had cooled. It was still bubbling in the pit of my stomach, but I could control myself now. I finished rinsing the tub. I had gotten bleach on my work clothes, on my blouse. In the bedroom I removed my clothes in a sort of stupor. I was very tired, so I put on my favorite sleep clothes, an old t-shirt of Ezra's and flannel pajama bottoms.


Ezra was on the phone when I entered the kitchen. As I watched, he said goodbye to whoever it was and touched the end call button.


I told Susan and John you weren't coming out with us tonight.”


I had forgotten about our plans to meet the couple for drinks and dinner.


I'm going to go now.” Ezra was quiet, tentative.


OK, that's a good idea. Please give them my apologies.”


He gently shut the door behind him as he left, as if afraid of setting me off again. I went to the sun room and turned on the TV. There was a “Charmed” marathon on Lifetime. That seemed fluffy enough to soothe me.


Things were coming to a predictable, dramatic peak on “Charmed” when Cheryl called. I muted the TV and reached for my phone.


I told her my news.


Oh, wow,” she said when I had finished. She didn't rush in with expressions of sympathy. “Are you doing OK?”


Her question didn't irritate me because I could tell she understood that I might be feeling something besides grief.


Yeah. I just scared Ezra by cleaning the bathroom like a crazy person.” That sounded weird when it came out. Cheryl laughed. I laughed too, remembering his expression when I aimed the Tilex at him. “I guess I am a crazy person right now.”


I did laundry when I broke up with Hal. I did so much laundry and just sat there, watching the clothes swish around.”


I didn't know who Hal was, but I was glad that she didn't seem to think I was out of my mind.


Listen,” she said. “We need to get together. Do you want to come over for lunch on Sunday? Saturday is my busiest day, or I'd ask you for tomorrow.”


That would be great.”


I was in bed when Ezra came home. He quietly began changing out of his clothes, with the bedroom light off. I sat up and said, “I'm sorry, Ezra. I'm sorry I scared you.”


He came to sit on the edge of the bed, next to my legs. “Are you better now?”


I nodded, closed my eyes. “Did you guys have a good time?”





© 2017 SweetNutmeg


Author's Note

SweetNutmeg
Any comments welcome, large or small.

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Reviews

Ezra is the kind of guy that worries me... great story you have me on the edge begging for more not want in it to end.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

Ezra is worrisome, you got that right. Thank you for reading and reviewing.
“He seemed pretty grouchy on Tinder.” Cheryl had always spoken her mind and she had not changed.

Here is where it is! I knew I had seen it.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

Oh thank you! It would have cost me a great deal of trouble to find that and I appreciate your help... read more
Isemay

3 Years Ago

How did I overlook the very first sentence? "Tinder Island was a nice break from the number crunchin.. read more
SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

How did I overlook the first sentence as well? Thanks for pointing that out. He drinks it at the Lab.. read more

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Added on April 25, 2017
Last Updated on October 15, 2017


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SweetNutmeg
SweetNutmeg

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