FACT: Cassia was beginning to feel things she had never felt before.
Cassia woke up to the sound of laughter, female laughter floating throughout the house. It echoed up the staircase and down the hallway into the bedroom where she had been sleeping peacefully buried in the waves of a soft plush comforter. Curiosity pulled her out of bed to follow the sound of joyful conversation like the sound waves were visibly reverberating through the air.
Jon’s voice wasn’t audible until she reached the top of the staircase. He had deliberately confined his tone to a whisper, but not because he was telling any secrets. Despite the hushed tone, he sounded relaxed; he sounded almost serene. Cassia tiptoed down the stairs so as not to miss even one second, but not because she cared what he was saying. Though he tried his best more often then not he seemed just a bit uncomfortable when she was around. Now Cassia smiled to herself because he sounded happy.
Jon was mid-sentence when Cassia peered around the corner into the kitchen. He was standing at the counter a mug in his left hand. The petite frame of a woman was seated on the island counter. It was her laughter that had echoed upstairs.
In the seconds Cassia watched from the doorway the woman ran her neatly manicured fingernails through her long honey blonde hair. She brushed her fingertips across Jon’s forearm as he placed his mug down beside her. A stabbing pain nearly brought Cassia to her knees. While the pang had not been a truly physical ailment Cassia braced herself anyway. Her brow knotted and her mouth fell into an ‘O’ shape. She squeezed her hands into fists at her sides and envisioned Jon leaning in, kissing the woman who sat there laughing with him. Her throat filled tightened as guilt washed over her. She’d never admit that in those few seconds her world blurred green.
Jon caught Cassia’s eye soon after she stopped in the doorway. A smile spread across his face as he strode toward her. “G’morning Sunshine,” He cooed as he embraced her pressing his lips to her forehead, “Sleep well?”
Cassia nodded. The woman who had been sitting on the counter hopped down placing her own coffee mug on the counter beside Jon’s. She stayed a few paces away.
“This is Marie.” Jon introduced, “She takes care of Marley and Clover and Dylan while I’m on tour.” Cassia smiled she had been greeted very warmly by Jon’s pets when they had arrived home from the party the night before.
“You must be Cassie.” Marie concluded, “Jon, here, has not stopped talking about you.” Cassia shot him a playful sideways glance; his cheeks tinged pink as he kicked at the ground.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Cassia smiled. As Marie reluctantly shook Cassia’s hand, she filled will jealousy. She couldn’t believe that this was the girl who had caught the attention of Jon, the man she had been in love with for years. Cassia noticed the green flash in Marie’s gaze and recognized how foolish her own jealous had been.
Marie left soon after, with the instruction to return on Saturday when Jon and Cassia were back on the road. And in addition to the awkward start to the morning, Cassia was a mix of excitement and jumbled nerves in anticipation for meeting Jon’s family. Throughout the morning he assured her that they didn’t have to go. Each time he did she insisted it would have to happen eventually.
“They’re going to adore you!” Jon whispered just after ringing the doorbell. And in a fleeting moment, the door creaked open to reveal a slight woman with neat brown curls and a whose skin folded almost regally, telling tales of experience and wisdom.
“Jonathon! Cassia!” Mrs. Walker beamed wrapping them both into a hug, “Come in, Come in. We were just sitting down at the table. Oh, it’s so wonderful to meet you!”
“It’s nice to see you, son,” Mr. Walker clasped down on Jon’s shoulder before pulling him into a hug. “Welcome.” He smiled warmly at Cassia.
Cassia stood close at Jon’s side as they followed them into the formal dining room where the rest of the family sat. First he introduced his older brothers, Bill and Mike, as being way cooler than him, then their wives, Jennifer and Kristen (respectively). In Jennifer’s lap a small baby was cuddled. “That handsome little gremlin is my nephew Landon.” Jon smiled.
“Before we begin,” Mrs. Walker started, “I would just like to say that I am eternally grateful that we could all be together today. I’m thankful that all of my boys are happy, healthy, and successful in doing what they love. I am thankful for my wonderful husband and each year we have spent together. This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for Jenny, and Kristen, and Cassia, the three wonderful additions to our family. You are my daughters, girls; know that you are always loved. And I can’t forget about my perfect grandson, Landon, and the beautiful baby that will be joining us in a few months. I...”
Jon’s dad cleared his throat as another portion of her speech was started. She smiled and shook her head, “Alright, Alright, I know everyone’s hungry. Let’s eat.”
The Walker family welcomed Cassia to their table with open arms. The meal set before them was traditional and abundant. She had never before felt so immediately at home anywhere. She was thankful for that.
And once dinner was cleared, the leftovers put away, and the full bellies settled a football game was started in the backyard. Three men and their father paced the backyard running, cheering, throwing, and laughing.
“It’s a family tradition.” Mrs. Walker explained. “When they were younger, and it didn’t get so competitive, I would play.” She laughed.
“Mike ended up in the emergency room last Thanksgiving.” Kristen laughed, “He got six stitches in his forehead.”
“And Jon broke his ankle three years ago.” Jenny recalled, “He still swears Bill was at fault.”
“Boys can be so rough!” Mrs. Walker sighed, “We’ll have to keep an eye on Landon!”
The girls giggled and quickly moved their attention from the football game to Cassia.
“Have you picked out any names yet?” The questions began. Cassia answered a simple no.
“Do you know what you’re having?” Jenny asked. Again, Cassia shook her head no.
“How far along are you?” Kristen asked.
“15, almost 16 weeks.” Cassia answered.
“Oh how exciting!” They both squealed.
“You’re going to move here, oh won’t you?” Jenny asked. Cassia was hesitant to answer. “The babies will be so close in age, they’ll grow up together.” She continued to gush.
“Jon and I haven’t really talked about yet.” Cassia murmured. It was the most honest answer she could muster.
“Ladies, you’re going to wear the poor girl out!” Jon warned as he approached. He had hit the ground hard during the last play and was on the way into the house to retrieve a bottle of water.
“Jon, can you check on Landon while you’re inside, we set up a crib for him in your old room.”
Jon nodded as he continued toward the house. When a small whining cry erupted from the baby monitor at Jenny’s side Cassia insisted she would go inside and check on both of them.
When Cassia found Jon he was sitting on a twin bed surrounded by posters of bands she had only heard rumors of. A portable crib was set up in a corner near a stack of records. When Cassia peered inside it was empty. Landon was cradled in Jon’s arms; both of them were smiling.
“Cassie.” Jon smiled looking up at her his eyes brimming with hope, “I don’t think I’m afraid anymore.” She sat down beside him and ran her index finger down the baby’s cheek. He wrapped his tiny fingers around it and held on tightly.
“Jon, I’m really glad I came with you today.”
“Me too.” He replied kissing her forehead gently.
“Awwwwwwwww.” Jenny and Kristen cooed over the audio scene broadcasting over the baby monitor.