FACT: They weren’t alone anymore
Two phone calls had awakened Cassia the previous nights. Two phone calls just like the first she had received in the parking lot of a venue she couldn’t place the name of anymore. They tended to blur together after the first few weeks on tour. In a garbled mess of an almost robotic sounding voice she’d hear her name and the promise of danger in her near future. The first time she had played it off as a fluke, a prank from friends she had grown away from in the time since she had left California. It was easy to believe that Ethan and his friends were playing some immature prank than to think there was something foreboding about the warnings. Nevertheless, she tossed and turned on the couch in the back lounge, as the bus flew at 70 miles per hour down an unfamiliar highway somewhere that had blessed them with weather too sunny and warm for December.
When her phone’s ring pierced the silent air of 3 a.m. Cassia leapt up without the slightest hesitation. She released herself from what had become the dark coffin night by flipping the lights on. Her quick steps across the small space were hardly as quiet as she had intended them to be but she had made the decision not to take another of those phone calls in the uncertainty of the dark. Hardly settled on couch, with her feet tucked beneath her, she croaked out a shaky, “Hello.”
The private caller that displayed on the screen of her phone could have served a better warning to the shriek that would nearly rupture her eardrum in response to her greeting.
“Cassia! Oh dear Cassia!” The familiar voice of her mother rang loudly through the earpiece, “You answered, you’re there!”
As part of the Meyer family, Cassia was perfectly aware of the fact that Sabrina had only perfected the art of frantic bouts of crying from carefully observing their mother. Unfortunately, it was far easier to calm her sister’s sobbing. “Mom, I’m fine. What’s going on? What’s wrong? Is it Sabrina? What did Ethan do to her?” Cassia fired questions quickly in attempt to distract her mother from her own hysteria; it almost worked.
“Where are you? Tell me you’re safe. Tell me everything is okay.” Her mother demanded through the receiver, Cassia knew better than to disobey.
“Mother, I’m fine. I’m with Regina and some new friends, on a bit of a road trip. I should have let you know, I know, but it was a bit unexpected...it’s been a long couple of months.” Cassia tried to explain as briefly as she could.
“What was I supposed to think when you didn’t even bother to come home for Thanksgiving?” Her mother demanded, “Cassia, there are girls disappearing. Good girls, from good families. Vanishing completely. You remember Emily Montgomery and Veronica Wallace? Of course you do, they were friends of your in high school weren’t they? They both looked so beautiful at Sabrina’s wedding!” Her mother gushed.
“Emily and Veronica, they’re missing?” I asked sounding alarmed. Both girls I had known since childhood, we were in all the same ballet lessons, tennis lessons, probably even violin lessons at some point too. They were nice girls, if not a bit shallow.
“Cassia dear, Emily’s dead. They found her in a ditch on the side of the highway outside of Ventura. And poor Veronica, she hasn’t been seen for two days. They think it’s the same person, although it’s still too early to consider it a string of crimes, how horrendous is that? It’s all over the news; police officers are searching the neighborhood yard by yard. Please promise me you’ll be carefully dear? I worry about you out in the world all alone.”
“I’ll be fine Mom. I’ve got a ton of amazing people around me all the time...actually a wonderful security team. I’m safe here. Plus, I won’t talk to any strangers, and I won’t go out alone at night.”
“You’re sure you are okay Cassia. Everything’s fine? You’re happy? You’re healthy?”
“I’m wonderful.” Cassia smiled able to speak those words for the first time in her recent memory with complete honesty. “I’m happy. I’m healthy. Promise. I’m fine.”
Somewhere around the time Cassia was assuring her mother for the third time that she was indeed safe and with friends, Jon dragged his bare feet across the tile floor and paused in the doorway of the back lounge, “What are you doing out here?” He asked groggily.
“Mom, I have to go...I’ll see you really soon. I’ll be home for Christmas.” Cassia promised, “It’s late, get back to sleep.” Finally satisfied with the condition of her daughter, Cassia’s mother finally said a brief goodbye.
Cassia sighed a breath of relief, for the first time realizing this wasn’t the call she had been dreading since the sun went down hours before. Jon mimicked her heavy breath, as he sat down beside her on the couch.
“You weren’t in your bunk?” He spoke as if it were a question more than a statement.
“You went looking for me?” Cassia shot back with similar inquiry. Jon’s smirk was playful in reply.
“I haven’t been able to sleep the past couple of nights.” She admitted, prepared to tell only half of the truth for her restlessness. “The bunks are right over the axel, it gets too bumpy. The...baby settles down better out here.”
Cassia had trouble reading his facial expression. He looked either confused or tired, she can’t tell. “Here.” She demonstrated taking one of his hands in both of hers and placing it on the lower left side of the bump that had replaced her previously flat abdomen. “If you put pressure right here.” As she spoke she gently pressed his palm into her stomach. The tiny thump that fluttered at that place felt like a far stronger impact from inside than it did to Jon but the movement was unmistakable.
Jon pulled back his hand in surprise, “Does that happen a lot?”
“More and more every day.” Cassia replied, “It’s only been this strong since yesterday though.” Jon smiled replacing his hand to the spot she had guided it before. He took extra care not to pushed too roughly. Cassia leaned her head back to relax. Despite Jon’s endless support from the very second he found out he was going to be a father Cassia had felt alone in this endeavor. Jon had felt constricted by how little he could do besides just make sure Cassia was comfortable. Now they both felt a stronger connection, to each other, but more importantly to the family that they were creating.
“Are you looking forward to being home for awhile after the tour ends?” Cassia asked unsure if this was an appropriate time to discuss what would happen after the band played their last show in just two days. She figured it was a conversation that had been put off long enough.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to see much of Chicago,” He replied. Cassia was disappointed his answer gave her very little information of how he intended to spend the time off.
“Well, I’d hate to be the reason why you don’t get to spend time with everyone you love in Chicago, but if you’re interested, I have a doctor’s appointment on the 22nd. You’d still have time to make it home for the holidays.”
“I’ll be there, without a doubt.” Jon smiled and Cassia felt immediately relieved. She had felt so vulnerable and alone at her previous appointment. She often had to fight the urge to feel like discussing topics related to the pregnancy put an unnecessary burden on Jon. “Cassie, if there’s anything else you need, ever, just let me know.”
“I know, Jon, I know.” She replied in a grateful whisper. Her eyes fluttered closed and she learned a bit more of her body into Jon.
“You’re getting tired.” He observed, “I’ll let you sleep.”
Cassia murmured shifting down into a more comfortable position on the couch. Jon pulled the red cotton blanket that had fallen off her lap up to cover her bare shoulders. He stroked her hair a few times brushing it from her face. “Sweet dream Cassie” He cooed sweetly.
“You don’t have to leave.” She murmured when he hesitated at the door his hand floating above the light switch.
“Alright.” His cheeks growing flushed as he flicked off the light. He had only spent one night before lying beside her.
“It can get lonely on the road.” Cassia whispered as Jon settled down beside her on the couch.
“I know, Cassie,” Jon breathed the words quietly and close to her ear, “But you’re not alone anymore.”