He betrayed me by dying. Yet, here he stands in front of me. White, translucent ribbons fluttering in the air between us. Just barely shadowing his figure. Nathan Bane. My dead husband. My love. My torment. I know I'm dreaming. Neither of us is really here. I'm in bed in Portland. He's in a box under a pile of dirt in LA. A big, marble headstone marking his location. The mind can be such a cruel bastard. Why put myself through this? I want to turn away from him and wake up. Just cast it all aside. Instead, I step forward. The ribbons push in against me. Hug my body with a coldness that makes me ache. They smack against my face and cover my eyes. I shove them away. Push through them. They give way and disappear. I'm left standing directly in front of Nate. Unsure of how to react. His arms reach out towards me. I can't take it. I dodge the embrace, plant my foot, and swing at him. I put everything I can into the punch. I catch him in the jaw and watch him crumple to the ground.
Cassidy: You...you left me all alone!
He rubs his stubbled jaw while looking up at me. A strangely calm sadness fills his wonderful brown eyes. A soft smile playing at his lips. I fight to hold onto my anger as I feel the odd serenity that surrounds him pressing against me. Trying to invade my aching chest.
Nate: That's quite the greeting babe. You hit just like your brother.
My brother hit him when they first met. Merric could always be a bit overprotective. This Nate knows this only because I know this. It's not him. No matter how much I want it to be. My mind recognizes this fact. Unfortunately, my heart is foolish. Before I can stop myself, I am kneeling at his side. My eyes glassy with tears I'm only capable of in my dreams. His arms go around me. Hold me close against the lie that is his presence. I cry against his chest.
Nate: Shh...shhh...I know. It's okay Cass.
I look up through my sobbing. Have to swallow to regain some moisture in my throat. I spill my guts to a creation of my mind. I can't help myself. He doesn't just look and sound like Nate. He even smells like him. It's too much for me.
Cassidy: It's been so...so hard.
His smile reduces, but never leaves. His voice becomes even softer than it already was. One of his hands moves through my hair to comfort me.
Nate: I know it has. I'm sorry for that.
The caressing of my hair makes my body relax some. I look away from him. Can't look in his eyes right now.
Cassidy: I'm so lost without you.
He whispers into my ear soothingly. I can't understand the words, but they bring me comfort. I close my eyes and just enjoy being held by him.
Nate: Wait. Where are you going?
The concern in his voice snaps me out of my comfort. My eyes open immediately to see I'm no longer in his arms, but a few feet away.
Nate: Cass! Come back.
I watch in horror as the distance between us continues to increase. It doesn't stop. Soon all I can see is a dot. Then it blinks. It's gone. He's gone.
I throw myself forward. The movement in the dream snaps me awake. I bolt upright immediately. My eyes burn from tears that won't come. The tightness in my chest is searing. Like a hand made of flame grips my heart and squeezes. A layer of cold sweat covers my body. My breath heavy and unsteady. I can barely swallow. It's like I've lost him all over again. I bury my face in my hands. Crying without tears is like dry heaving. A whole lot of discomfort with no release. All I can think about is how sad he looked as I left. In my dream he wasn't ripped away from me. I was from him. I betrayed him by living.
My dreams have killed me. The one I woke up from a couple hours ago was the worst yet. Being so close to him and then being ripped away hollowed my insides. Now it's like my soul weighs me down. The pressure on my chest only makes the ache worse. It's a strange sensation for someone who feels numb. This earthly realm has become my prison. Separated from him by a body I barely feel connected to. I assume that's why I'm sitting on this bike right now. Staring down the road at what will either help me to feel alive, or will ungently usher me to the plot next to my husband. One option is as good as the other. Suicide may be a sin, but an accident sits just fine with the Lord. If he even smiles on me anymore. I have to wonder if I've been forsaken.
I'm parked on a flat area of road about twenty feet from a sharp drop. At the bottom of this hill carrying grade warnings for trucks is a tight turn. A turn I have no interest in making. I've hastily assembled a ramp on the guardrail. On the other side is a body of water. The name of it escapes me. Like so many things lately. I don't care what will happen to the bike or myself. I need this more than I need both of those things. Images of my dream flash through my brain. Taunting me. It's as if something scratches the back of my mind. Trying to burrow its way in. I see the ribbons. His face. His arms around me. The things I can never have again. I can clearly picture being torn away from him against my will. The sadness etched into his eyes as I abandon him. My eyes begin to burn again. Fuck it. I raise my foot to kickstart my engine when a voice stops me.
Voice: Keep at this and people'll be thinking you're gone in the head.
I know that voice. I'd recognize that slight Irish accent anywhere. I look over to my left to see her standing there in a long, tan jacket and combat boots. Her dark brown hair hangs freely. A black, gloved hand reaches up and grabs the cigar she has clenched between her teeth. My cousin, Nessa Bligh. I've known her my whole life, yet part of me has always been wary of her. There's always been a hint of danger to her that I could never put my finger on. I love her, but I'm less than thrilled to see her right now. When is my family going to take the hint? I don't want to be bothered.
Cassidy: I thought I ran everyone off.
Her grim expression definitely doesn't lighten from my words. Not much physical reaction at all.
Nessa: You won't be running us anywhere. Blood is the most important thing. You know that Cassidy.
I've heard that my whole life. I believed in it till...till Nathan died. Now I just want to be left alone.
Cassidy: Go away Nessa. I'm busy.
She walks closer to me. The opposite of what I want. Does no one respect your wishes anymore?
Nessa: Your anger is misplaced. Get off the bike. It's time we talked.
I'm not in the mood to listen to this shit.
Cassidy: If you don't mind, I'm having a private moment here.
Yeah, not doing that. I kickstart it and turn my head away from her. Time to do what I came here to do. I can't stop her from watching, but I sure as hell don't have to sit and yap with her. I manage to hear her words over the engine.
Nessa: I warned you missy.
Whatever. I rev the engine and take off. She twists and slams her left arm across me as I go forward. I fly off the motorcycle and land on the asphault flat on my back. The wind is knocked out of me. I don't see the bike crash, but I can hear metal scraping on the ground. The engine idles somewhere away from me. After a moment it shuts off. The silence after is broken by the sound of her boots coming towards me from that direction. I struggle to return air into my chest in a panicky series of gasps. Like a fish out of water. I look up and see her standing over me.
Nessa: Now, how about that talk?
My dreams are dead. No new ones were created after. Is there even a chance there will be new ones in the future? If I'm honest with myself, I can't be sure. My first instinct is to say no. Why emotionally invest in something so meaningless right now? It's a waste. Not the only waste on my mind right now. Nessa's appearance ruined a perfectly good opportunity to live. Or die. Why did she have to interfere? Couldn't she see I needed that? How else will I manage to climb out of this empty shell? I've found what I need. The world needs to leave me alone and let me delve into my own enlightened madness.
After I got my air she helped me to my feet. My bike was mostly fine. I rode it home as she followed. Now that we've pulled in the driveway, we head to the door. I reluctantly open it for her. I have no desire for guests, but apparently I don't have a choice. I shut the door behind us and drop my keys to the floor. Then my jacket and shoes. After flipping on a light, I lead her to the kitchen. She leans against the island across from me.
Cassidy: Want something to drink? I have coffee or water.
I have more than that, but I'm not exactly in the mood to play hostess. If she wants nice service, she can come back in twenty years. Her response to the simple question is more than merely dry. It's arid.
Nessa: A nice Irish girl like you is keeping some whiskey somewhere.
I open a cabinet and pull out a bottle of Bushmills. I hand it to her and watch her move over to the table. I grab an ashtray and start to walk her way, but am cut off by her voice again.
Nessa: This isn't proper drinking now is it?
Jesus. Her continuing demands are really starting to get under my skin. Whatever gets this over with. I open a cupboard and pull out two shot glasses. How's that for fucking proper Nessa?! I walk over and sit at the table with her. She pours us each a shot. I'm not interested in drinking with her.
Cassidy: Can we skip to the part where you tell me what you want?
She puts the shot in front of me with a small sigh.
Nessa: Your manners are in need of some work. Whiskey first little cousin.
At this point I have to wonder if she's ever going to tell me what she is doing here. I force my hand to take the shot glass. We raise them.
Nessa: Blood be thicker than even whiskey. Let it guide us in our endeavors, bury our sins, protect us from those wishing us harm,...
Cassidy: ...And destroy those that try.
We nod to each other before taking our shots. My family considers that a prayer. It's been used for years and runs back a few generations at least. We typically say it when we start drinking together. Like any Irish family before we sit down for discussion on an issue we get comfortable at a table, have a drink, and collect our thoughts. In many ways it's the opposite of American culture. Often it's after the shit hits the fan and things have fallen apart that you drink here. Being Irish/American, I guess we do both.
Nessa: Is this how you're intending to spend your life Cassidy?
Typical Nessa. After all the ceremony she is straight to the point. Though I hate the subject, I'm thankful that part of it hasn't changed.
Cassidy: It is what it is. I need this.
She studies me for a moment. Her eyes staring into mine till I'm completely uncomfortable. I don't look away though.
Nessa: Look, what happened to your fella is terrible. Hollywood casting you aside over it is truly diabolical. I'm not denying any of that, but this can't be all that is left of your life.
I wanted to interrupt her as soon as she started. What more is left for me? I'd love to retreat from all this completely. Break down. Fall apart. Then jump off the roof and see what happens. I'm not going to do any of that right now. I will not show that kind of weakness in front of her. In front of any of them. There's a reason I didn't attend the wake. Still, I'm angry she's here. That she brought it all up. That I have to talk about any of it. It's what I've been avoiding from everyone I know.
Cassidy: What am I supposed to do? Tell me. Let's hear the answer you've come up with in all your infinite wisdom.
Silence and staring once more. Like she's deciding how she wants to approach me. I can feel the tension in the room and I could care less.
Nessa: It's time you start pulling yourself together. There's important things that are still here.
Cassidy: Like what?
Nessa: Like family.
It's now I realize this is about more than my supposed well-being. Even through the haze of my own personal misery I can see it.
Cassidy: This isn't really what you're here to talk to me about. What's really going on?
She pours us each another shot. After downing it, she looks at me for a long moment. I can see there's something she's debating about, but only because I know her.
Nessa: Now is not the time. Not till you start getting yourself together.
The anger churning in my gut is far from sated by this ridiculous mystery. I stand fast and slam my shot glass down.
Cassidy: Just fucking tell me Nessa!
Her eyes narrow at me. Instead of saying anything she just motions for me to sit down with her hand. At first, I ignore her. I start to say something again, but something in the way she looks at me stops me cold. I can't place it. I'm not afraid. I just feel like I'm about to cross a line. A line I shouldn't. I pull my anger back in before sighing and returning to my seat. I guess picking a fight with her isn't going to get me what I want. Even with my high level of self-absorbtion over the past several months, I feel like I need to know what's actually happening. Family can be such a pain in the ass.
Cassidy: What's going on?
She just shakes her head.
Nessa: It's better left for another time.
With that, she just stands up and starts walking towards the door.
Nessa: I'll see myself out.
Then she leaves. She invaded my life. Stopped me from doing what I needed for myself. Demands to talk. Then barely says anything and walks out. Seriously? If that isn't bad enough, what she isn't saying is what's worse. Damn you Nessa. I didn't want any of this. I grab the bottle of whiskey and throw it at the floor with a loud grunt. It shatters into a big mess. Damn you.