Cass sat on the porch swing watching the storm roll in. She could hear the thunder roll through the sky and then she watched the lines of lighting strike. Storms were wonderful in her eyes, so breathtaking and beautiful to watch. Mindlessly she rocked in the big porch swing wrapped up in the quilt from her bed. The creak of the chains muffled by the wind.
She came out here to clear her mind; the last few days had gone by at a quick clip. Her hands were now healed to the point that she could at least use them. Smiling to herself in the darkness every so often as she rocked. Her mind wandered over the last few days. Gary had caught the wayward mare; who had snagged her reins on some brush. Cass had even managed to finesse her way upstairs without anyone noticing anything was wrong, accept for Judge Bailey.
Cass watched Bailey glance to her hands, which were behind her back and then to her face. Leaning back in his chair he looked out the old screen porch door. Cass dropped her eyes and made her way upstairs quietly. Once she was far enough away from all of them, she called A.J. to the bottom of the stairs.
A.J. appeared immediately, she asked him to come up with her, while she fought the tears. Quietly she entered her bedroom and he followed. “Shut the door please,” she said softly.
Quickly closing the door, A.J. cocked his head to one side. “What’s wrong Cass?”
“I need your help, please don’t say anything.” She walked into the bathroom and held her arm out, “Hold my sleeve please.”
A.J. went to grab the cuff of the jean jacket, as he did so her hand turned up. “Shit Cass what the hell happened?” A.J. carefully pulled on the sleeve as she slid her arm out.
“Kevin is an arrogant son of bitch, know it all...,” she mumbled as she winced in pain.
“We know that Cass, but Kevin didn’t do this to you. Did he?” A.J. began digging through the medicine cabinet for anything that would help. As he did, he began to take note of the room he was in. The bathroom was painted pink and decorated in a very feminine way. A slight smile crossed his lips as he pulled a drawer open containing tampons and pads. Quickly he closed it and shot a look at Cass.
Cass smiled, “Grow up you fool.”
A.J. laughed loudly, “I didn’t know you were such a girly girl. Who would have known?”
Cass frowned at him, “I’ll have you know that I am all woman Alexander James McLean and don’t you forget it. Just because I work like a man, doesn’t make me a man.” Her hands were shaking as she dipped them in the warm water to try and clean the dirt off. She winced as the stinging crept up her arms.
A glance to the shower rod confirmed Cass’s words. The bar was covered with lace and satin undergarments.
Washing her hands lightly and then drying them she fumbled with the buttons on her shirt. A.J. stood looking at her. Briefly, he watched her try to maneuver the small discs. His hands cautiously went to the front of the shirt and he managed to free them from the buttonholes.
“Thank you,” Cass whispered as she stood in front of him in her bra and jeans.
“Anything for you,” he smiled as he kissed her cheek.
The bathroom door flung open and two stunned faces looked at the man gawking back at them. “What the hell are you doing in here?”
Cass clamped her jaws shut as she pushed Kevin’s body with hers. She shoved him to her bedroom door.
Kevin was still in awe of what he saw in front of him. Cass was standing in front of A.J. in her bra and jeans. He shook his head back in forth, I know we just had this conversation on the way back here, he fumed to himself.
Cass gave him a jostle out the bedroom door and then slammed the door. “Ignore him Alex,” Cass spoke calmly.
“Maybe I should go,” A.J. whispered as he looked at the door with a pinched expression on his face. Somehow, he knew he was just caught in the middle of something that was most likely not even his fault, but knowing Kevin it would be.
Cass rummaged through a dresser while A.J. took a seat on the bed. Grabbing a nightgown, she went into the bathroom. Coming back out she looked at A.J. with a defeated frown.
“Ahh, Cass what happened between you and Kevin tonight?” A.J. asked. His hands busy as she turned her back to him. He unhooked the eyelets to the bra she wore and she went back into the bathroom. Coming back out just a few minutes later dressed in an old flannel gown.
“Quite a difference from what’s hanging in there,” A.J. grinned.
Sitting on the bed, Cass fumbled with some gauze and tape. Shrugging, A.J. joined in trying to offer her some help. She still hadn’t answered his question.
“He has a lot of nerve, that’s what Alex,” as she held the square over her palm.
A.J. giggled, “We know that Cass, that doesn’t tell me a whole lot.”
Cass and A.J. worked at trying to cover what they could. “He told me you were off limits... again.”
A.J. stood up and walked out the door. Turning back to Cass, “I’ll be right back.”
Cass was wrapping the last piece of tape around her finger when she heard the shouting. She practically flew down the stairs. The only thing she saw were Kevin and A.J. sprawled out on the living room floor, facing each other. Annie was standing between them crying and yelling at the same time. She began shouting at A.J. who looked somewhat put out for being dressed down by five year old. Kevin was rubbing his jaw but smiling at the same time. Annie stood in front of A. J. with her arms on her hips and her eyebrows arched. A.J. didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the miniature Richardson.
Nick was the one who started laughing first, “Oh my God, that is scary as hell!”
“It sure is,” A.J. muttered as he looked at her. “If she has those brows...”
The fear that they were going to tell her made her shift into her protective mode. “SHUT UP! ALL OF YOU!” Cass grabbed Annie’s hand and took her back upstairs with her.
“You idiots,” Brian gave them a passing glance as he headed upstairs. He had seen the fear in Cass’s eyes.
Judge Bailey and Gary sat in their seats, not paying much attention to any of it. Bailey was the first to speak. “Well Kevin, how does it feel to look in a mirror?”
Both A.J. and Kevin struggled to their feet. A.J. glared at Kevin, “You had no right to say that to her.”
“I have every right and you know it!” Kevin was going to defend himself to the end. “That is my kid, not yours and don’t you forget it!”
“I’m not talking about Annie, I’m talking about what you said to Cass, Kevin,” A.J. had decided that Kevin was not going to get away with this again. He now understood that he had unexplored feelings about Cass that he wanted to have the opportunity to pursue them.
Kevin closed his eyes and clenched his jaws together. When he opened his eyes, his expression was set and angered. “I have every right. I need to make things right with both of them and you’re getting in my way.”
A.J. lunged only to be held off by Nick and Brian. “Maybe with Annie but Cass is done with you. Get it through your thick, stubborn, skull. She doesn’t want you man, she hates you!” A.J. stormed out the front door.
“Now gentlemen if you are done jockeying for position over my sister, I suggest you pack your bags and leave. We don’t fight in this house.” Gary was pissed, he had seen enough and wasn’t going to stand for any more of it.
“I’m not leaving!” Kevin yelled and stomped up the stairs.
Judge Bailey started to laugh and talk as all eyes settled on him. “It’s amazing that two ill tempered people managed to create something so sweet.”
Nick began to grin, “Yep, we didn’t even think they liked each other.”
“Like had nothing to do with it,” Howie smirked.
Gary frowned at the three of them.
“I have something for Annie, Gary, would you go get her please?” Judge walked out the door.
By the time Judge returned to the house, Annie was waiting with a wide-eyed look. Taking a seat on the couch, he motioned her over. “This is from Abe Annie. He wanted you to have it.”
Annie grabbed the big book and opened it. Gary began to step closer until Judge shot him a look and uttered for him to stay put.
Quietly she turned the pages and studied the contents. Everyone could see pictures in the book. She pointed to Nick and then to the book. “Yes I believe so,” he smiled.
“You and Pa,” she signed and then pointed to the book, then to the Judge.
“Yep that’s me and Pa, playing checkers.”
“Thank you,” she kissed him on the cheek as she closed the book. She went upstairs with a smile on her face, hugging her gift to her chest.
“What did you give her?” Gary questioned him.
“Just some pictures, Abe asked me to do it,” Judge answered as he walked out the door and smiled. “Abe was a smart man, you know that Gary.”
As the door closed, Gary groaned. Turning his eyes to the ceiling, “Old man, Cass is going to haunt you if you don’t stop messing with her from the grave.”
A hand brushed against Cass’s shoulder, she jumped. Her trip down memory lane halted as she was brought back to the present. Tipping her head back, she sighed. “What?”
“Can we talk?” A.J. stood there, smiling at her.
“Sure,” Cass sighed. She moved her feet so he could join her.
“It’s cold out here,” A.J. watched the sky as he rubbed his arm.
Cass smiled at the slight man sitting next to her. Opening her arms, she opened the quilt. “You forgot your jacket, here cover up with me, the wind is cold.”
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