Chapter 11

Kevin walked in the door this time.  The place hadn’t changed much as he glanced around.  The walls were still filled with pictures and it had the same homey feel and smell it had five years ago.  He looked around the room and didn’t see her.  Cass grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him in the kitchen. 

Cass could see that Kevin was more than a little scared of this.  Most of it he had brought on himself thanks to Abe.  “I want to make one thing clear to you before she comes down here.  I hate you, I cannot stand you.  I don’t know why Abe did what he did but if he were alive I would kill him.”  Cass’s voice was hard and cold, not too much unlike her eyes.  He could remember when her eyes blazed with passion and it was passion for him. 

Snagging her by the waist as she turned, he looked into her eyes, “I need to explain what I meant that day.”

Cass jerked away from him, “No you don’t, you have already said how you felt.  So help me God if you do one thing to hurt her I will kill you.”  She left him standing there by himself.

Kevin stepped back from the tone and the force in which the words were delivered.  Cass was serious and didn’t hold back.  She did indeed hate him.  The words that she had handed him distressed him deeply; he never wanted to cause any kind of pain to another person.

Kevin retuned to the parlor to find Cass missing and the guys sitting and talking.  A.J. was more than relaxed in this house.  It left Kevin with a feeling, a tinge of jealousy perhaps.  Cass came down the stairs holding a small waif’s hand. 

Kevin stood back in awe of the sight.  As angry as Cass was just a few minutes ago, none of it showed now.  Gently Cass led her around the room and introduced each person.  Nick gave a grin and she smiled back.  Brian had the sense to move forward on the couch and get on her level.  Offering his hand, she readily accepted and shook it.

A.J. reach down and gave her hug.  Kevin felt another stab of envy; he was so easy going with kids.  Howie was warm but quiet as always, being somewhat shy at introductions.  Annie gently nodded her head.

Cass stopped in front of Kevin and both adults stiffened like boards.  A.J. shook his head as he watched the Mexican standoff, both of them running on pure fear of each other.  Afraid of each other, afraid for her, and Kevin just scared out of his wits.

Cass bent down and cradled Annie’s hands in hers, “Annie this is Kevin.”

The others watched as the little girls eyes traveled all the way up Kevin’s legs and torso to land on his face.  She gasped and backed up when the big man frowned at her.

“Kevin…,” Brian warned.  He knew Kevin just was thinking about what was taking place not truly wanting to frighten her. 

Immediately Kevin bent down and smiled.  He offered his hand and she took it, timidly.  “I’m sorry I was thinking, not frowning.  Sometimes I do that.”  She shook his hand and nodded as smile broke over her face.

Cass sighed with relief at getting that part over with.  “Let’s eat shall we.”

They gathered in the kitchen and took their places.  Brian said a brief blessing.  Kevin found it hard to pull his eyes off of the little girl.  She hadn’t spoken and only stared open and boldly at people.  In a way it made him nervous.  He felt like she was assessing whether or not they were worth her time.  Of course, the realization that she was only five set in and he knew it was a ridiculous thought.

The conversation was light-hearted and warming during the meal.  Kevin watched and every now and then he would catch a glimpse of her trying to peek at him.  He would smile every time, just so he didn’t upset her in any way.

Brian was the most observant and didn’t miss much.  After several minutes of light conversation while eating dessert he began to see a pattern.  Annie would tug on her mom to get her attention.  Cass would turn and look at her.  Brian couldn’t figure out if was mother’s intuition or just a set pattern between the two.  Cass knew what she wanted without her asking.

Occasionally A.J. would look to Brian and then lower his head or turn to converse with someone else. 

Brian watched the interplay between the two, something wasn’t right.  A.J. knew what it was and he wasn’t telling.  He doubted that Cass would have told him, but then it seemed as though A.J. could reason with Cass better than anyone.  He managed to get Cass not to shoot Kevin and to get them invited to dinner.  “A.J. can I use your cell, I need to call Leighanne, mine’s dead.”

Clearing his throat, A.J. rubbed his goatee.  “Yeah but It’s out in the van.”

“Fine I’ll go get it,” Brian excused himself from the table.

Picking up his plate, A.J. set it in the sink.  “Oh I have the lock on, I’ll be right back.”  A.J. swiftly left the room.

Brian waited in the van, he knew A.J. would come out.  Very shortly after him.  He was well aware that the rest might even join him.  Brian never let his phone run down.  That was his only contact with his wife and kids. 

Nick and Howie both caught it but let it slide.  Uneasiness settled in the kitchen.  Annie looked at her mom.  “Tired huh,” she smiled.

The smiling head nodded up and down, “We’re eating pretty late tonight.  Let me put you to bed.  Say goodnight and maybe they will come again.”

A green-eyed angel turned to Kevin and blew him a kiss.  Nick watched Kevin, at that point if a feather hit him he would fall out of the chair.  Kevin knew the game well, he caught it and place on his heart, promptly returning one to her.  She pretended to snatch it from the air and patted her heart.

Brian and A.J. fluttered in.  Brian bent down to Annie’s level, he had seen this go on so many times from the stage that he knew it by heart.  The boys were one of the few that tried to involve all of their fans.  Quickly before Cass could do anything about it, Brian signed.  ‘I love you’.  A glorious smile lit up her face.  She brought her hands up in the air only to be captured by Cass’s, “No Annie, no more.”

Cass’s voice cracked as she swiftly pulled Annie behind her, “Thank you so much Brian.”

Cass wasn’t even given the opportunity to assess the aftermath.  She bolted from the room with her daughter in tow.  She cried all the way up the stairs.  Once Annie was settled she spent a few minutes trying to make clear to her daughter that she wasn’t responsible for the onslaught of emotions. 

Annie sixth sense went into high gear, knowing her mommy was upset.  She wasn’t expecting any explanations for what happened. 

Cass clasped the hearing aids that she had forgotten to put in, “No, it’s not your fault, I’m not upset because of your hearing.”  Slowly rubbing her fingers over the one purple and one pink hearing aid as they rested in her hand.  “I know these aren’t working very well but I’m going to get you new ones real soon, as soon as we get the next set to lot.  I promise.”

Annie nodded in response.  She hated them, they hummed all the time and they were too small.  They made her ears hurt.  She lowered her little lashes and then opened them.  She spoke in a garbled tone that only someone close to her could understand.  “Sorry mommie, they hurt.”

“I know and that’s okay,” Cass bit on her lip to stop the tears.  Cass loved to hear her voice but she rarely talked.  The kids at school had picked on her badly and now she felt ashamed of how she sounded.  Cass wanted so much to send her to a place where she could blossom and not be squashed or broken by the meanness of childhood.  “Go to sleep,” she kissed her head and went out the door. 

Closing the door, Cass leaned back on it, her arms behind her back still holding the knob.  Now she had to go downstairs and face them.  She was angry over what Brian had done, but at least now Kevin knew and he could walk away.  Tomorrow’s appointment for the three of them could be cancelled.

With an unsteady gait, Cass returned to the downstairs.  She saw Kevin standing at the door with his coat on.  Her back was to him.  A catty grin crossed her face, her voice full of venom, “Now why doesn’t that surprise me.  Sorry Music Man, when you make a MISTAKE, it’s a big one.”

A glance of fear crossed Nick’s face and then the rest of them.  They watched the massive shoulders tighten with anger.  His left hand was making a frantic fist and jerking movement.  Kevin spun around and threw her coat at her, “Put it on, we’re going for a walk.”

Cass swallowed quickly she could see the anger and hurt in his face.  His eyes were blazing, his jaw was tight and tense.  A vein protruded from the side of his neck.  Stepping to the side, he opened the door.  “I’m waiting,” he gritted between his clenched teeth.

“Walk yourself,” Cass turned and walked away.  Her head was yanked back by her hair and she yelled in pain.  She could feel herself being dragged out of the door, the only thing she could focus on was the ceiling above her.  The harder he pulled the more she resisted.  She wanted nothing to do with him, ever. 

The rush of cold air hit her inflamed skin, chilling her and her ire.  “Okay,” she yelled.  Her hair turned free.  She moved to put her coat on.  Cass opened her mouth to speak only to be silenced by a finger.  Grabbing her hand he jerked her towards the barn. 

Hurling the door open, he entered dragging her with him.  Pulling the door shut he paced the open space like a pent up animal.  He just wanted to scream, not because his daughter had a disability but because again because he was the last to know.

“How dare you,” Cass spoke with indignation.

Kevin was in her face, poking his finger in her chest, almost knocking her to the ground.  “How dare I?  How dare I!”

Cass grabbed the hand that was jabbing at her.  It was painful and hurting.  She had had enough hurt.  “Stop please you’re hurting me."

Kevin jerked his hand away from hers like he had been scorched.  Closing his eyes he pinched the bridge of his nose.  Trying unsuccessfully to pinch back the tears forming in his eyes.

“Kevin why don’t we just forget about tomorrow, go home, go back to your life.”  Cass saw the tears of embarrassment and humiliation he had about the news.

Kevin wiped the tears from his face, “Why Cass, why didn’t you tell me?”

“What was I supposed to do Kevin, you called me a Mistake.  Was I supposed to call your house and say excuse me is your husband home this his mistake.”  Jamming her hands in her coat pocket she rocked on her boots.  It still hurt even after all this time. 

Slumping his shoulders forward he weighed her words.  If he had known maybe his life would have been different after all these years, better.  But Cass had a valid point.  “Before we go any further I need to explain those words that I said that day.  Cass they weren’t intended to hurt.  What I was trying to say was that I was wrong for sleeping with you as a married man.  My marriage had always been rocky it wasn’t a secret.  I felt bad because you weren’t a one night stand.  It was different somehow.  If I was single I may have never left this place.”

Cass didn’t say a word, he couldn’t excuse way five years of pain with such a simple explanation, “Whatever.”

Kevin understood that after all these years she may never accept or understand his thinking.   ‘Too much water under the bridge,’ he said to himself.  “Was Annie born deaf?”

“Annie is not deaf Kevin, she’s hearing impaired, severely.  She wears hearing aids for now.”

Kevin placed a boot on the stall, as he began stroking the horse, “Why doesn’t she talk.”

Cass’s eyes burned from the saltiness of her tears, that was the one thing she couldn’t protect her from.  “Because the kids at school tease her and make fun of her, now she just won’t do it.”

Hearing a sniffled he turned and looked at her.  Slowly he walked over to her, wrapping his arms around her, he hugged and rocked her gently from side to side.  “I’m sorry Cass, I’m so sorry.”

She didn’t pull away, she stayed in his comforting embrace and let the tears fall.  It felt good to dump this out of her.

Noticing she didn’t pull away, he wiped a piece saturated of hair from her face.  “Cass is she mine?”

“Yes,” she whispered as her head rested on his shoulder.

“Thank you, she’s beautiful,” Kevin’s heart was pounding madly.  That feeling came only at the spectacular points in his life.  The Grammy’s being one of them, he was full of pride and blissfully happy.

“We’ll figure it out, slowly and surely.”  Wiping her face with the sleeve from his jacket.  “Come on it’s been along night.  We can’t figure everything out in one night.”

Cass emotions were playing on her.  She felt comforted for the first time in long time but wary.  Mindlessly she followed him unaware that he was actually holding her hand as they walked back into the house.

“We had better hit the road,” A.J. smiled as he watched the two of them walk back through the door.

“You don’t have to, you could stay here if you would like,” Cass spoke quietly and non-confrontational.

“Are you sure Cass?” came from the door.  Gary was back from his date.

“Yes I’m sure,” as she went up the stairs.





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