Chapter 23

Cass woke to the sound of thundering hoof beats in her head.  Someone was shaking her shoulder.  Suddenly a loud snap and then the sound of thup, thup, thup, as the window shade rolled over and over in the frame.  Sunshine filled the room.  “Ohhh,” she groaned.  “My head.”

“Ahh, does that hurt?  What a shame.  Hurry up, we’re running late.  The guys left already,” Kevin stood by the dresser watching her try to get out of bed.  She stumbled and then tripped over the throw rug.  He shook his head, he could remember a few times when he felt the same way.

Kevin heard Cass’s garbled; “Shit,” then the water come on in the bathroom.  “I’ll wait downstairs!”  He called as he left the room, leaving the door open.

Cass let the inviting water stream over her body, her head hurt, her eyes hurt, and her tongue felt double its normal size.  “I will never drink again,” as she tried to overcome the after effects of her over-indulgence from last night. 

Softly she went downstairs with her eyes almost shut, she had managed to get some aspirin from her medicine cabinet and get them down.  Walking to the kitchen, she grabbed a cup of coffee and sat. 

Annie beamed her a thousand watt smile and spoke good morning.  Annie’s voice grated across Cass’s ears.  “Oh,” she smiled, “Did you have a good time last night with Kevin and the guys?”

Her head nodded quickly up and down, “Good, now be a good girl and be quiet for a few minutes.”

The loud honk of a horn outside nearly made her fall out of her chair.  Annie laughed loudly, very loud.  Cass grunted as Annie grabbed her hand and led her out the door. 

The trip was long, it was made even longer by the fact that Kevin and Annie were chitchatting a mile a minute.  Kevin would ask questions, Annie would sign, Kevin would correct her about the signing, and then Annie would speak, roughly and at full volume. 

Cass shot him a glare from hell every time Annie spoke.  Kevin would smirk, his dimple tucked into his cheek.  “Asshole,” she mouthed at him.

Kevin laughed but since Annie didn’t see it, she didn’t know what was so funny.  Something was funny, Kevin was really laughing, Mommy looked liked she didn’t feel good.

They stopped at the court house and re-filed Annie’s birth certificate.  Cass tried to wait in the truck with no luck.  She needed to sign the paperwork too.  The older woman behind the counter looked at two adults standing before her.  A questioning of sorts as she stared at them.  Then she stamped the paperwork.  “Seven to ten days right?”  Kevin looked at her.

“No,  It’s official, here’s your copy.  It will be recorded right here and then moved along.”

“Cool,” Kevin gave her a broad smile.  A small tug on his sleeve made him look down.

“Why happy,” Annie signed.

Cass’s eyes narrowed at Kevin.  He looked down at Annie, “I’m happy because I can spend the day with you.”

“Me too,” Annie spoke back.

Cass dropped the glare she was shooting him after the woman cleared her throat.  Obviously, the little girl standing before her was the child on the birth certificate.

Their visit with Dr. White had begun; the wheels were being set in motion.  She had explained that Annie would need to undergo a psychological profile first.  Kevin fussed enough and it was being done as they sat in Dr. White’s office. 

“So are both of you ready for this?” she glanced from Cass to Kevin.

Kevin’s response was an eager yes.  Part of her job was to see if the parents were doing this for the right reasons.  Cass hadn’t answered.  Dr. White waited; then prompted, “Cass?”

“Not really, but I don’t have a choice,” she said softly.

“Cass, you have a choice, if you don’t want to do this you don’t have too,” Dr. White had seen parents react this way before, second thoughts stopped many a parent in their tracks. 

“Can we have a minute?”  Kevin was checking his emotions until the good Dr. White was out of the room.

“By all means.  I’ll go check on Annie.”  Dr. White excused herself from their presence and her office.

“Cass don’t do this to her…”  Kevin spoke in a non-threatening manner.  “We have issues, well you do… don’t take this opportunity from her, I’m begging you.”

Cass sat in her chair for a minute looking at the floor.  She had heard his words and the tone they were spoken with, ‘I have issues’, yes; I do, twirled around in her brain.   First, she heard anger and then a pleading.  A pleading for her own daughter that would give her something that wouldn’t make her so different from anyone else.  Her head was pounding from too much beer, too much emotions, and lack of food.  Turning her head to the side she fully expected to see him red-hot and angry with her.  Instead, she saw the beginning of tears in his eyes.  Closing her own eyes, her chin tremble slightly, “I don’t want her to be disappointed or to feel all the pain for nothing.  What if it doesn’t wok?”

“Neither do I Cass,” Kevin shot out of the chair.  He bent down on one knee and grabbed Cass’s hand.  Tenderly he caressed her hand, “Cass, we have to try for her sake.  We have problems between us but let’s not take it out on her.  Annie deserves a chance to hear if she can.  I bet if you ask her straight out she would want it.”

Cass’s head dropped, she felt ashamed; how could she not want to do this for Annie?  Annie might have the chance to hear a bird chirp or a dog bark.  Cass lifted her head to look at Kevin, “Or her Father sing.”

“What?”  Kevin didn’t understand what she said, she had spoken so softly.

“We’ll do it,” Cass swallowed hard.

“Are you sure, I mean one hundred percent sure?  Chase said he would take care of the ranch.  If need be, he could find someone to give him a hand.  We can stay at my place in L.A.  She’ll be fine, we’ll be with her every step of the way.”  Kevin was trying to accentuate the positives to her.  He had taken great pains to cover everything last night while she was out tying one on.

“Chase doesn’t need help, he barely practices beyond real estate.”  Cass laughed at the absurdity of it.  “Chase’s practice isn’t exactly busting at the seams.”

Kevin hid the smile as he looked at her, “He goes for quality not quantity.”    Then he broke out laughing once Cass started to do the same.  “Don’t pick on my lawyer.”  A knock at the door interrupted their silly moment.

 “Every thing is going well, she’s doing great.”  Going back to her desk, she sat down and flipped open a file.  “Well Cass?”

Cass nodded a yes to her, “It’s a go.”

“I’m glad you two could work it out.”  Dr. White called her assistant in to get the necessary paperwork filled out before they left.  She was trying to eliminate as many roadblocks as she could for the parents.  From what she had seen in the other room, Annie was the perfect candidate.

Dr. White, Kevin, and Cass, proceeded to go over the paperwork and timeline for the entire event.  They would be in California for eight weeks at least.  Annie had pre-admission testing with the best ear specialist in town.  They sat and waited as Dr. White made the calls that needed to be made to move things a little quicker for them.  A surgery date was set for two days after arrival which would be two days from today. 

Cass sat back in the chair, her mind blown.  As Dr. White gave Kevin each day, each date and each appointment, he scheduled everything in LA on another line.  Finally, Dr. White made her last call.  They waited for Kevin to finish.  Cass looked at her, “Do you always let your patients use your private line?”  Kevin was getting special treatment by Dr. White.

“Of course not, but he’s really trying Cass, for both of you. Hey, he’s a Backstreet Boy, maybe down the line we could get him to do a benefit for the clinic.”  Dr. White snapped the folder shut.  She smiled at Kevin who heard her and nodded vigorously as if he would.  “I’ll go get Annie.”

Cass waited as Kevin talked.  She bolted out her chair when he said, “Three reservations to Lexington, Kentucky.”

Cass shouted, “Oh no!  No you don’t.  We are not going there.  I’ll cancel it if you do this to us.”

“Never mind, make it for L.A. two days from today,” Kevin sighed into the phone. 

Cass had no idea who he was talking too and didn’t care. She was not going to be pushed into meeting the family, not now, and not anytime soon.  Now she was agitated as she paced the floor.

Kevin hung the phone up.  “It wouldn’t hurt for her to meet my...”  Kevin spoke as the door opened.

Cass’s mouth snapped shut; end of conversation was written all over her face.

Annie went to her mom and stood next to her, she signed, “Hungry.”

“Me too.  I think Kevin should take us to lunch.  We want to talk to you about something.”  Cass saw the eagerness in her little ones eyes.  She shook her head at her, “You don’t miss a thing, do you?”

Annie gave her an exaggerated nod from side to side.

“Come on Annie, let’s do lunch,” Kevin picked her up in one swoop and she giggled with delight. 

Standing up, Cass shook Dr. White’s hand; “Thank you and we’ll see you when we get back.”

Annie began to squirm, she saw what her mom had said, they were going somewhere.  Annie waited until they were almost done with lunch before she asked where they were going.  She was smart; she used her voice to ask and not her hands.

Cass looked at her suspiciously and then smiled.  She grabbed both of Annie’s hands in hers and then let them go.  She began to sign, “There is a place called California it’s by the ocean.  They have some doctors there that might be able to help you hear better.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Annie nodded a yes.

“You may be able to hear without hearing aids in your ears.  They would do an operation and put a hearing aid in your head to help you hear.  It will hurt, but the hurt will go away.”  Cass paused, “I want to know if you want to try this or not, it’s up to you.”

Kevin waited with baited breath, unsure; she was after all only five. 

“Yes,” Annie smiled.  “I want to hear,” she laughed.  “I want to hear Nick sing and Kevin!”

“Always Nick,” Kevin grumbled under his breath.

Cass snickered at the little show of jealousy.  “We have to go to California for a long time.  Chase said he would take care of the horses, the heard, and Ferdie.” 

Kevin’s head backed-up, “Ferdie?  What the hell is a Ferdie?”

“The bull,” Cass frowned.  “You haven’t figured that out yet, Ferdinand the bull, get it?”

Kevin leaned right into Annie’s face, “Are you playing with that beast?”

Annie was shocked as Kevin glared at her.  Her eyes grew wide.  She signed.  Kevin was yelling at her, she didn’t like it.

Cass translated for him, “Ferdie my friend.”

“That animal is not your friend, this isn’t a storybook and you’re not allowed near him.”  Kevin’s head was dizzy just from the thought of his little girl going near the nasty animal that had tried to mow Cass over so many years ago.

“Ferdie has mellowed, he’s gentle…”  Cass looked at Annie who was frowning.

“Oh sure, how in the world did you mellow that obnoxious animal?” Kevin didn’t waver he was pissed off that Cass would let her anywhere near the beast.  Really, a two ton bull was not a good playmate.

A self-satisfied smile curled Cass’s lips, “The same way we cure all obnoxious, stubborn males around here.  We castrate them.”

Kevin gulped, his Adam’s apple when from the top of his throat, and then slowly slid back to its place.  Something about the way Cass had said it made him feel a twinge in his own groin.  The way she was looking at him made him do a double take, the woman had evil thoughts on her mind, he could tell.  “Umm, I think we should go shopping.  You need some things for our trip.”  Kevin stood up but hunched himself slightly.

Cass grinned when on the way to the car; Kevin was adjusting himself.  She had planted a painful thought in his head.  Kevin looked at her; she had caught him.  “Shit,” he turned the other way when she started giggling.

They shopped all day; they ate dinner out, and shopped some more.  Kevin was enamored with the idea that they seemed like any other normal family.  He bought Cass a few new things even though she vehemently protested.  Kevin badgered her by saying that she might get to meet a few of Hollywood’s famous people.  It was enough to get her to say a weak, “Okay in that case.”

“Hey we leave in two days, I hope this works for you.”  Kevin tucked Annie in; she was sound asleep.  “I can’t make your mom understand that I wouldn’t take you a way from her.”  He kissed the top of Annie’s head.  “But I can give you anything you’ll ever need and lots of love.  I love kids, I always wanted one of my own.  You are it darlin’.”





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