FACT: They were both too scared to admit they were terrified.
Oh, and I believe someone asked about the pronunciation of Cassia name. I really don't know if I am even using the correct pronunciation but I to me, her name has always been said "Cass-see-yah" because it could easily be shortened to both Cass and Cassie without losing too much of it's original pronunciation. Hope that helps. :)
FACT: They were both too scared to admit they were terrified.
Cassia’s phone sat on the table in front of her. Every time its screen faded to darkness she would run her fingers over the keys to illuminate it once more. It was easier to keep track of the time that way, and with no other company than the sun still fighting to stay below the horizon it made her feel a bit less alone.
Her travel companions, while asleep just on the other side of the bus, seemed worlds away as Cassia traced the rim of her water glass repeatedly. It had be the reason she had gotten out of bed so early to begin with, to quench her thirst. The glass had been empty for exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes but she couldn’t rouse a desire to get back into bed.
In the few seconds it took to walk from the counter to the table with the glass of water Cassia’s attention had become fixated on the road that zipped past the window as they barreled down the highway. Her heartstrings retched at the mangled remains of a raccoon, opossum, armadillo, or whatever animal was native to this part of the country. Flattened on the road flattened and humiliate for all to see, they hadn’t even seen the end coming. Cassia feared that her end was too near and so she sat tracing a finger around the rim of her water glass for an hour and forty-seven minutes.
The screen on her phone read 5:07 AM when Dean, the band’s bus driver called to ask if she wanted any company. Without much of a comprehensible verbal answer she joined him near the front of the bus. Dean was a man surely approaching 40, with a distinctively round mid-section and one circular patch of missing hair at the crown of his head. On early mornings, when driving long stretches between cities became tiresome, Dean would entertain whoever was available with stories of his life. And just like the handful of mornings Cassia had patiently listened to long winded tales of a suburban childhood, wild adventure touring with a variety of bands, and now life with the family he had established in North Carolina she encouraged him to pen a memoir.
“I don’t like books,” Dean told her with a hearty chuckle, “I’d rather wait for the movie.”
Cassia shook her head and silently continued to study a photograph of two little girls smiling despite the fact that their adult teeth were only just buds protruding from their gums. ‘Jillian and Jenny: Age 8’ was written in loopy cursive letters on the back of the photo. The set of identical princesses that often starred in Dean’s stories had just celebrated their birthday. While Dean’s story continued ahead with full steam Cassia’s head tilted lazily to the side, squinting her eyes, she attempted to both ease her fatigue and for the first time try to visualize the child she would be looking at in eight years.
Ashamed she couldn’t move past the indistinguishable ultrasound blur that was the only true visual she had to go on Cassia quickly excused herself to return to bed. The sun was still losing its battle with the horizon when she met Jon heading in the opposite direction.
“You’re up early!” He said cheerfully. Cassia hung her head to avoid meeting his gaze. When she didn’t return his smirk Jon gingerly touched her arm, “Is everything okay?”
“I’m fine. Still tired I guess.” She assured him rubbing her forehead to prove her statement were true. There was no need to worry him with the fact her heart broke over road kill but she still couldn’t envision herself having a child. Tear sent stinging threats at the back of her eyes so she rubbed at her eyes again. Surely, she was already the worst mother on the planet.
“Just relax.” Jon cooed as he brushed hair out of her face. His voice was soothing and calm, to sentiments he had perfected in the art of conversing with Cassia. While he didn’t know much of who she was without the influence increased hormone, from what he could gather from conversations with Regina she hadn’t been herself for quite sometime. “You’ve got the day off anyway.” He told her sweetly.
Cassia knotted her brow, “Why? There’s a show tonight.” While she appreciated Jon’s support, insisting she take the day off because she was a bit fatigued was a bit extreme.
“I want to show you around Chicago.” Jon said a proud smile spreading across his face, “Just the two of us, if you’re up for it I mean...”
“I thought sightseeing was tomorrow,” She questioned, “It’s an off day.”
“Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.” He explained.
Cassia parted her lips to speak but closed them into a pout when she realized he was right. She felt as though only an impartial member of the audience when the tears that had been threatening her eyes before broke free with a sob. “Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.” She repeated unsteadily.
Jon had become a pro at diffusing her mood swings into nothing more than passing moments. When he walked away from her she felt abandoned but he never strayed far. In the kitchen, just a few feet away from where they stood, he retrieved a box of tissues. Cassia followed as he took a seat on the couch just behind them and he dabbed her eyes.
“I’m sorry.” She cried although she wasn’t really sure what she was apologizing for. Jon simply nodded in reply. It would be a minute or two before her shallow breaths became steady again.
“I know you’d probably much rather spend the holiday with your own family...but I’d really like it if you’d consider spending it with me.”
“You’re going to cook?” She laughed. They were both caught off balance when the bus came to an abrupt halt.
“I’ll have you know I’m quite the chef,” He smiled, “But since I almost started a fire trying to deep fry a turkey a few years back I’m not allow to cook Thanksgiving dinner. My mom’s stuffing is incredible though.”
“Thanksgiving with your family?” Cassia gulped, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Rest Stop. 15 minutes.” Dean called to the pair as he trotted down the steps of the bus.
“Then you’ll just spend Thanksgiving alone? On the bus?” He asked in disbelief.
“If that’s my only other choice.”
“Suit yourself.” Jon replied quickly pulling up the zipper on his hoodie and following Dean off of the bus. He hadn’t really ever considered the idea that she would say no. He had thought she would have at least some desire to meet his family. As the cool Midwestern air welcoming him home pricking his nose and cheeks like tiny needles he contemplated whether or not he had Cassia figured out at all. He was beginning to question if he were foolish to think their situation could ever lead to something more than it was.
“Jon!” Cassia called from the doorway of the bus. He caught her voice in the wind on his back. His choice not to turn back was an attempt to stay calm, let this mood past like so many others did.
Cassia jogged a few paces forward, “Jonathon!” She called again. He turned on his heels to face her but made no movement to close the distance between them. “I’m scared.” She shouted across the November morning. Their steps brought them together hesitantly.
“It’s alright.” Jon lied, “If you don’t want to meet them yet...”
“That’s not what I meant.” Cassia tried to explain. Her words got lost in the last wisps of darkness, on the icy back of the breeze, and in breaths that snuck up on her. “I’m not afraid of meeting your family. I...I just don’t think I’m ready for rest of this.”
“Cassie, it’s going to be okay.”
“But I’m going to be responsible for someone else’s life. I can’t even take care of a goldfish. A baby! I don’t think I can...” Once she found her words it was hard to stop them again.
“You won’t be alone in this.” He assured her, “Ever.”
Cassia mustered any part of a smile she could manage but the crease across her forehead told Jon her fear had not subsided.
“Cassie. I’m scared too.”
In a motion that calmed all of their worries for even just a split second Cassia laid her head on his shoulder. For the first time she felt capable, she felt protected, and Jon, he finally saw hope that she would trust him (that she would love him). They were going to be okay.