FACT: This story began long before a wedding.
When I first began to flesh out the plot of this story, it became obvious there was a bigger story to be told. While I may have alluded to it before, this chapter really sets that story in motion. Turn back now, this will be your one and only warning. Drug use, intense scenes, and violence shall pop up unexpectantly.
FACT: This story began long before a wedding.
That night was a blur of names that Cassia never managed to properly match with the faces that surrounded her. Luckily, as the party guests became more intoxicated, they cared less about being identified correctly. Cassia was enjoying her night regardless. She chatted amicably, with those who stood close as she sipped from her bottle of water. Lights twinkled overhead, strung back and forth to create a web of small white orbs. They looked like the stars against black velvet; stars that would never actually be visible in the heart of the city. The night was oddly warm for November, which was fitting, as an outdoor party would be foolish otherwise.
Jon was nearby, throwing his head back in laughter at the grand tale a friend recalled of a particularly eventful summer night. At the first, Jon had been hesitant to leave Cassia’s side. His friends filled nearly every corner of the rooftop, friends he hadn’t spent time with in months. Unabashed, he wanted to flit about the small clusters of people spending time with each one, but he feared Cassia would feel out of place. Yet oddly, Cassia felt more like herself then she had in quite awhile. This night, surrounded by food, drinks, and people that were generally enjoying their lives was reminiscent of times she had spent with those she had considered her own friends.
The shrill ring that had always reminded Cassia of her little sister echoed from the inside of left pocket. Excusing herself from the conversation she was having with a pretty blonde that had identified herself as Danielle.
“Yes...” Cassia answered the call as she retired into a darkened corner of the party.
“Where are you, chica?” Sabrina chimed, her voice just a pitch too high. “It’s my first Thanksgiving. I thought you’d be home.” She whined.
Cassia rolled her eyes, “I didn’t even realize the date until this morning Bri.” She explained in all honesty. Her reminder of Thanksgiving came when Jon invited her to spend the holiday with his family.
“You’ll just catch a flight in the morning, won’t you?” Sabrina more or less ordered. Cassia shook her head, although she knew her sister couldn’t not see her.
“I’m sorry Bri. I’m spending tomorrow in Chicago with Jon.”
“Jon?” Sabrina whispered, dropping her voice knowing exactly what she would be implicating if anyone were to hear her, “Is this Vegas Jon?”
“I’d appreciate if you didn’t call him that.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to call him baby daddy Jon. That just wouldn’t be proper for a woman of my stature. I’m not sure I can say the same for you anymore.” She defended.
“Sabrina!” Cassia scolded.
“Fine, fine. Jon, then.” Sabrina complied although reluctance still evident in her voice. And as if he had heard his name resound from California Jon approached Cassia, his eyes smiling as he drew near.
“Look, Bri, I’ll see you at Christmas.” Cassia promised.
“You okay?” Jon mouthed to her silently as soon as he was close enough to be seen among the shadows. Cassia nodded as Sabrina began a longwinded rant circling around the fact that Cassia would surely be ruining the holiday for the entire family.
“Yes, yes, I know.” Cassia agreed. Sabrina was too involved in her own monologue to even register her comments, let alone her sarcasm, “My jealousy is out of control; I really can’t help my desperate desire to be the center of attention.”
Jon who had taken a few steps back towards the party turned back with a smirk. Cassia caught his backwards glance and her cheeks tinged pink. They both looked away shyly, overcome by the warmth that filled them, even on the tepid November night.
Sabrina’s rant ended with a gasp and the terrified mumbling of her husband’s name. Cassia quickly turned back to the shadows and Jon picked up pace again. The moment, like all others, had been fleeting.
“Is everything alright Bri?” Cassia asked. The tone that had crept over their conversation, since Sabrina’s abrupt pause, had Cassia feeling an uneasiness pound against her ribcage. On too many occasions she had used that same voice in relation to Ethan’s name and those nights involved some of her very worst memories.
Sabrina gulped in a large breath and hurried off the phone sharing an excuse of a casserole in the oven. It sounded domestic enough, but the true scene that lay before her began with gun she never remembered him purchasing.
Ethan had his long slender fingers wrapped around shiny silver revolver, the barrel pressed to his chiseled jaw as though he were deep in thought. He moved it ever so slightly from his earlobe to the corner of his mouth and back again. His broad shoulders were uneven, slumped almost, as he leaned his weight against the doorframe. “Well, is she coming?” His voice is guttural, leaving his throat in raspy wisps.
Sabrina shook her head, answering his question silently as she attempted to shrink into the wall behind her. His gaze seemed distant, out of sorts, his gaze pierced straight through her, hardly registering her presence. He allowed his lids to close slowly over his eyes and fluidly placed the gun down next to the crystal vase that had been a wedding present from Sabrina’s great aunt.
“I need to make a call.” He growled stomping toward the door, leaving Sabrina where he found her.
In Chicago, where it was just approaching 2 a.m., the rooftop party had calmed. The remaining group of friends surrounded a bonfire with small drums and guitars. Cassia was impressed with the amount of talent pooled in this one group. With her head place gently on Jon’s shoulder, she listened to the quiet song, it was haunting, yet spoke of good times shared. She felt lucky to be present, part of something so big and yet so personal.
Jon noticed as she submits to yet another involuntary yawn. “You’re tired.” He tells her.
“I’m fine.” She replied. Up here, where she had made a much better first impression, where they didn’t know her every secret, she felt at ease, she felt at peace, she felt relieved.
“Come on,” Jon coaxed, “Let’s get out of here.” She fought back another yawn before agreeing. Together they say a round of goodbyes, collect their hugs, get distracted, and do it all again before hailing a cab toward the suburbs. Cassia was asleep before they hit the highway.
This wasn’t the place he lived, at least not anymore. No, this dark and dingy garden apartment was only a ghost of where he used to call home. The room was as he remembered it. The furniture was older than he, stained and ripped with stuffing popping out of the seems, and seats that made you sink down to the springs when you sat down. The television was busted, the boot that had gone threw the screen still sitting amidst broken glass. The coffee table only had three legs, it had been set up on a cinder block and had scars from pounding fists and cigarette butts. The lights were off because they always flickered and the smell that filled the air was a damp mix of mold and urine. The scene was sickening. But now none of that mattered now. No, none of that mattered tonight. Tonight was the culmination of months of planning after all. Tonight was the first step to becoming an even richer man. It was here he had been ordered to wait. It was here he would receive further instruction.
Here he was known as Nash, but that wasn't his name. Nash was a sorry excuse for an identify brought in only to fill the empty spaces his conscious had once filled. And as he sat on the floor, his feet beneath him, his knees tucked under the coffee table Nash was on edge. He chewed at his nails and glared at the scrap of white paper that had been tacked to the door when he arrived. On it a name was written in tiny letters, it was a name that made his stomach churn.
His nostrils burned as he thought of the task that awaited him tonight. He fumbled in the dark for his prize. Releasing the rubber band restraint he had employed to keep it together like the pieces of a board game, he emptied the plastic bag onto the small pocket mirror. He unwrapped the sheets of gauze from around the razor blade and steadied his hand. Cutting the powder into fine crystals and then separated it into lines. As his drug of choice waited there for him in three perfect successions his phone rang just one generic tone.
He answered but did not speak knowing the caller cared very little for what he had to say.
“Change of plans.” a deep stolid voice announced.
It hadn’t been the message he was expecting.
“Skip to phase two.”
The longer the call was connected the harder it became to understand the voice through the static created purposefully.
“But sir,” Nash questioned hesitantly. His original orders had been clear, and he had spent months working out every tiny detail of the plan. It would be the perfect crime.
“There’s no turning back.” The growl sent a shiver down his arms, “It’s already begun”