When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)
I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.
Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.
I laid awake that night unable to sleep. My mind kept drifting to the kiss with Zach. How had I even allowed that to happen and why did I let it start in the first place? I looked at the clock that sat in my room and saw it was five in the morning. I sighed and got up, pulled on my bathrobe and walked out of my room. I walked quietly down the stairs and to the back door.
I stepped outside into the early morning, walked down the path that led to a small pond that was set in the garden among all the flowers and trees. In my time here, I had come to love this garden. I once got lost in it and had never felt so alive, but it wasn’t mine to love and live in. I sighed and sat on the bench near the pond and watched as the fish swam around. I rubbed my arms, not realizing it was so cold outside this early in the morning.
I suddenly felt a coat wrap around my shoulders and looked up to see Rogue with a sleepy look on his face. “I was getting ready for the day and I heard the door close. You okay, kid?”
I just shook my head and pulled my knees to my chest. “No, Rouge, I’m not okay. I don’t know how to feel about what’s going on right now.”
He sat down next to me and slid his hands into his pockets.
“You mean with the kiss?” I looked at him, sort of surprised that he knew. “Philip saw while going to clean the study, that, and Zach was mumbling to himself after you ran to your room.”
I looked down and messed with my necklace some.
“Zach’s a good guy, Cassie; your running away is worrying him.”
I shook my head. “He knows why I ran.”
I heard Rouge scoff and get up and start pacing. “Cassie, he doesn’t understand why you don’t show emotion. He thinks you were abused and that’s why.”
I looked at him, confused. How could Zach not know about servants not showing emotions? I figured Zach knew with how I snapped at him and quickly walked away. But I also remember the look of complete shock on his face as well.
I got up. “Do you know if he’s awake yet?”
“He’ll be up in another hour to go out to work this morning, why?”
I nodded my head and started back for the house. He needed to understand and I had to tell him.
I walked back inside and walked upstairs to his room. I stood outside his door, and I could hear him moving around, probably getting ready for work. I bit my lip and went to knock on the door, but I quickly pulled my hand back. What would telling him change? I thought as I stood there. Nothing, it would change nothing. I would still be a servant and he would still be my owner and I would have no free will to do as I please. But just as I was about to walk away, Zach’s door swung open to reveal him standing with his button up wide open. “Cassie? What’s wrong?”
I couldn’t say anything but I noticed the light scar that ran from his stomach to his waist. I figured it came from either missing a hit from the end of his father’s belt or from a knife fight in his youth.
“Cassandra, is there something wrong?”
I looked up at his face to see worry and shook my head. “Uh, no, I just wanted to talk with you about last night.”
He looked down and cleared his throat before looking back up at me with his piercing green eyes. “I’m sorry about that, Cassie. I shouldn’t have kissed you. I hope you wish to stay here.”
I looked at him, a little shocked, “No, that’s not it, Zach.” I sighed and rubbed my forehead. “I should be sorry though; I should not have kissed you without your…”
I quickly kissed him, my hands settling against his cheeks. I could tell he was shocked at first, but he soon started kissing me back and pulling me closer by the waist. He deepened the kiss, asking for permission, and I granted him just that. I wasn’t exactly an expert at kissing so I gave him control and I quickly picked up the tricks he used.
I pulled away, needing air, but he just started lightly kissing my neck up and down. I closed my eyes and lightly tangled my fingers in his hair.
“Zach.” I lightly pushed him away, not wanting anything more to happen.
He looked at me slightly confused. “What’s wrong?”
I smiled lightly and ran my hand over his cheek. “Let’s just leave it at kissing for right now.”
He nodded his head and hugged me close to him. I had never felt this way with someone. I felt safe and loved and cared for here; I didn’t think I ever wanted to leave the Addison house. I stepped away from him. “You should finish getting ready for work.”
He nodded his head and kissed my forehead before returning to his room and closing the door. I smiled lightly when I got back to my room to get ready for the day.
One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”
A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.
My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.
Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.
A beautiful thought of wisdom born,
A crack in the Great King’s head,
A beauty born with brilliance and strategy.
Even with great powers, jealousy still appears.
The creator of the deadly spider, an animal made out of spite,
An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort,
A sword at her hip for war is always possible.
Intellect over rage, for with blind rage
No one truly learns.
Little white snowflake falling from the sky,
Little white sparkles falling on the curls.
White flakes hanging from the lashes,
Light blue eyes watching the gray clouds go by.
Watching the little white snowflakes falling all around,
One, Two, Three, time to fall down.
All the little white snowflakes acting as a bed,
Nice, soft, and very cold.
Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.
I nodded my head and looked down at my feet. Zach was teaching me how to dance since I had forgotten how to in the last nine years. In the last hour I had stepped on his foot eight times, tripped over my own feet ten times, and caused Zach to trip three times. I knew I used to always be a klutz, especially while growing up, but I never thought it would come back to haunt me. I was counting in my head as Zach and I danced around the room, making sure not to trip or step on him. Phillip and Rogue had decided watching us was more fun than spending time outside on their day off.
I looked at him, finally getting the simplest of all dance steps down.
“Okay, I’m going to spin you out, then pull you back in, okay?”
I nodded my head just as he spun me out then pulled me back in so my back was to his chest. His arms were lying over mine, and our hands were at my waist. I could hear him hum as he swayed us from side to side, turning in circles. He twirled me till I was facing him again, setting us in the beginning position.
Zach looked into my eyes while he slowly leaned in. I closed my eyes and waited for whatever he would do. I felt him move away, causing me to open my eyes to see him looking conflicted.
“Um, that’s good for today Cassie. Why don’t you go enjoy the rest of your day off?”
I nodded my head and walked out, leaving him there confused by what had just happened.
I sat outside on the garden swing that sat among dozens of flowers. The place made me feel like I was in another world. I kept thinking about how Zach seemed to have almost kissed me. I had been kissed before but it was because another servant was going to be requested for a night’s activity and needed help learning to kiss. I messed with my heart locket while thinking of why in the world he would want to kiss me.
I sighed and simply swung while watching the clouds. I closed my eyes as a breeze picked up, blowing my hair away from my face. I heard the click of a camera going off and looked over to see Zach holding a camera.
“Sorry, you just reminded me of…” He shook his head, throwing the thought away. “Never mind.”
I nodded my head and looked back down at my feet. I had decided to change into shorts and a loose tank top after practicing with Zach for Wednesday’s event.
I noticed Zach had also changed into something more comfortable to be outside in. “So, how did you learn so much about photography, Miss Richards?” Zach asked as he sat down next to me, looking over the photos he had taken.
“Um, at my last house, I didn’t finish school even though I was so bright, so as a gift they sent me to finish off my senior year of high school. Then they paid for me to do some classes at the community college a few miles from the house they lived in.”
He nodded his head and set his camera down on the ground carefully. “I went all the way to Virginia for my classes. My father sent me away saying it was for my own good.”
I could see the emotion flash across his face; he hadn’t wanted to leave New York to take classes that he could easily take here. From the stories John and Philip had told me, I’d learned that Mr. Addison wasn’t a kind man, even to his wife and children. Philip had told me the Addisons had five children including Zach. I took Zach’s hand to show him he should keep going on.
He looked at my hand then back at me. “He really sent me away because I was attached to my youngest sister and he was worried I would care more about her than taking over the family business. See, she was sick. She had a heart defect, and the doctors couldn’t even figure out what was wrong. For the first three years of her life, I was the one that sat with her at night to make sure everything was alright. I was the big brother.” He sighed and shook his head. “My father sent me away and the first month I was gone and no one was watching her closely enough. Her heart failed.”
I looked down, almost worried about showing the pain and sadness I felt for him. I couldn’t do that, so all I said was, “I’m sorry.”
I looked up and noticed he just shrugged. “It was five years ago and you have no reason to say sorry. You didn’t even know her.”
I decided it was time I left and headed back in for the day. I got up and turned to him. “I think I’ll go back…” I could see the pain in his eyes, like no one had listened to how losing his baby sister had made him feel, as if he was forced to not feel, just like me. So I sat back down.
“Why don’t you tell me what she was like?” I smiled lightly, hoping it showed I really did want to know. In return, he smiled back and started telling me about how energetic she was, even with her condition.
I was curled up in Zach’s lap, by his request, while he read me Greek Myths, something I usually read to myself. But after talking with Zach about his little sister – who I found out was named Lizzie – I realized how much he missed reading to someone. It was our time in his study anyway, so I didn’t mind. In a way, it actually felt good to have him read to me.
“… So as the seasons changed, the Greeks knew Persephone was home safe away from Hades and his evil of the underworld, and so spring was given and the harvest could continue once again…”
I curled up to Zach more. Of all the myths, the ‘Rape of Persephone,’ as it was called, made me feel even more lost because I didn’t have a mother to help me out of trouble. Mine had left me on the front steps of an orphanage to fight for my life. I felt his free arm wrap around me more and hold me against his chest. I looked up at him and met his green eyes. The fire next to us lit his dark eyes only slightly but it was enough to make them seem almost as magical as the garden outside.
“Cassie…” He slowly leaned in more. I watched him before feeling his lips cover mine. I closed my eyes and slowly leaned into him more, pressing my lips against his.
I could hear the book fall as he tangled his fingers into my hair, holding me close against him. The feeling that came over me was one I’d never felt before, and it felt incredible. Till I realized something and pulled away. I looked at him as my heart began to speed up and his hands laid lightly over my cheeks. I quickly got up and went up to my room, ignoring the feeling in the pit of my stomach that what I just did was wrong. And I don’t mean the kiss, but running away from him after.
July 21st 12:40 am – I took Rocky for a walk late tonight to clear my head. He was whining at the door, so I had to take him out before it made me angry. Yesterday, all I could write about was how lonely and misanthropic I felt. What a dichotomy, huh? Hating people but feeling lonely…It’s a catch-22 if I’ve ever seen one. My luck may be turning around. I saw a girl tonight out with her friends. I couldn’t help but notice her. The way her dress sparkled, hips swaying with confidence as she walked…her poise and grace outshone every member of her group. She saw Rocky and asked to pet him. Of course I said yes. How could I deny a woman like her? I asked for her number, but I think she was playing hard to get. I followed her home, keeping my distance to make sure she got there safely. She only lives 10 minutes away from me. Maybe I’ll go check on her tomorrow night, and make sure she hasn’t changed her mind about us.
July 21st 3:00 p.m. — My psychologist told me this bullshit would help. What kind of grown man keeps a record of his every move? Whatever. Maybe if she reads what I write she can kill this monster inside my brain. I can’t stop thinking about that girl yesterday. She was so perfect. Small but not sickly, long straight blonde hair – my perfect type. I just can’t stop thinking about her. I think I’ll go visit her tonight.
July 22nd 1:00 a.m. – I tried to go to her house and knock on her door, but no one was home. I guess I’ll try tomorrow. Maybe I’ll see her around town since she is so close. I guess then it’ll be fate. I just can’t stop thinking about her. I think we’re in love.
July 23rd Midnight – I saw her again tonight while I was at my favorite bar. What is she doing out on a Sunday night drinking? I’m sitting in my car outside Admiral’s Arms on Spencer Street, the usual. I’ve never seen her here before. She must have come here to see me…. I’ll follow her home to make sure she gets there safe. You never know what could happen at night in a place like this.
July 23rd 10:00 a.m. – I don’t remember a lot from last night. I remember following the pretty woman home from the bar. I was only trying to make sure she got home safe since her friends ditched her. She started running, like she was afraid of something. I didn’t want her to get hurt so I just grabbed her and put her in my car. The rest is a blur. Fuck, why can’t I remember? What if she gave me her number? What if she agreed to go on a date with me? I keep fucking up. I have a psychologist appointment at 4 today; maybe she can help me make sense of this.
July 23rd 12 p.m. – She’s downstairs. I don’t know what happened tonight, but I CAN’T go back to the hospital again. They’ll take my dog away from me.
Pros: I have my dream girl. I have my dog. I have a sound proof basement. I have friends willing to help me when I need them. I am starting to have more feelings than a few months ago.
Cons: The girl I am in love with is in my basement. I have a lot of blood to clean up.
My psychologist told me, whenever I feel myself panicking, take my medication and make a list of pros and cons. If the pros outweigh the cons, I have nothing to worry about. I’ll wash up before my appointment and explain everything. Hopefully they’ll understand.
I woke up sweating profusely, believing I was in my own bathroom because of the recognizable smell of mold. I’m sure you know the smell: semi-sweet with undertones of the burning dust that molests your nose as you light your heater during the first frost of the winter. My first racing thought–‘Why am I naked in my bathroom?’ Second–‘How did I get home last night?’ Both thoughts happened simultaneously, more quickly than one can blink.
Realizing the unfamiliarity of the cold, rough concrete floor, I stumbled over objects lying in complete disarray on the floor, trying to gain a sense of my new environment.
“Where in the fuck am I?” I murmured, trying to gain some spatial awareness in the pitch blackness of a windowless room.
Suffocated by the lack of moonlight, sunlight, and streetlights, I frantically looked for the surrounding walls like a frightened rat lost in a maze. If I could just find a wall, I could feel along the corners to a door.
“FUCK,” I bellowed as the warm throbbing pain traveled from the heel of my foot to my brain.
My adrenaline propelled me forward. I forgot the nail in my foot, as anyone would when fighting for their life. Finally, my hand slammed against a lackluster, irregular panel of wood that felt like it’d been purchased from a discount furniture store sale, deemed unusable by any reasonable standard. I followed along the grooves and crevices, staying aware of my hand placement and doing my best to dodge the unknown objects on the floor.
Consumed by the nothingness around me, I felt dissociative. My only resolution was to get out. I found the corner of the adjacent wall and carefully turned to find a cold metal panel. I felt that I could finally breathe because I had found a door, my holy grail.
Nothing. No holes, no lock, only metal and small rivets to connect each panel. I started to spin uncontrollably, losing all sense of balance and clarity. I slammed my petite, bony knees too hard against the floor, but I didn’t care. I had nothing else to do but breathe. Just as I was about to collapse, I immediately heard noises in front of me—maybe, hopefully, human. The nails clicking against the floor suggested a dog overdue for a grooming, but I could not reason with myself as to where I was.
After a moment of excruciating silence, I was relieved by the jingle of an overcrowded keyring. ‘Thank God,’ my heart whispered to itself as I sighed, wiping the sweat from my neck. My hands pressed hard against the jagged floor, hoisting myself up onto the balls of my feet. As I heard the lock on the other side shake, I stumbled backward over a stool, slamming to the ground. I lay there, helpless, as a fluorescent tube light flickered, attempting to light the room. Between the strobing, I saw a six-foot-something figure appear. The figure developed into the distinct form of a man with a scraggly mountain-man beard. He shuffled the now visible sharp metal instruments with each step of his old, tattered New Balance sneakers. My eyes glanced about my prison.
I was surrounded by various-sized pliers, scalpels—some rusty and some pristine—scattered nails, three gas cans, the tipped over stool, a stained, torn mattress, Bic lighters, and other random tools unfamiliar to any average 20-year-old woman. Rattled by the horror scene unfolding before me, I crab-walked backward, unaware and uncaring of the things behind me. The man now hovered above me, and he stared down my soul, into my core. Darkness surrounded both of us as I heard the metal door slam shut, reverberating through me as if I were a ghost.