He didn't know her at all. But did she know him?
| TWENTY YEARS LATER
Word Count: 966
It had been twenty years, she realized as she slipped the key into the lock. Twenty years since she left this place, this house. His house. Oh, she had been back for visits, short visits, and every single time she approached that door she felt the same icy shiver invade her heart and spread through her veins. Why had she thought this time would be different?
Cassie was the oldest of three girls born to James and Lorena Threadgill. She was a big girl, had always been big, even as a child. Tall, with big bones and dark hair, she was completely different than her sisters. She always stood out, never fit in. Corina and Cathy were petite and large blue eyes shone out of their magnificent faces. When they were little, blonde manes floated as they flew into the air, out of Daddy's arms. They would squeal and laugh when his giant hands grabbed them back and folded them into him, one and then the other. Rakish little imps, just like him. Cassie was too big to throw. Later, they were athletes, just like him. Cassie liked to huddle in a corner, writing her heart out.
"I am not going there," Cassie thought. "It doesn't matter anymore." She glanced at her watch. She had arrived early, of course, and the girls would be late. They were always late, just like Mom. "Some things never changed," she chuckled.
Opening the door, Cassie stood in the doorway for a moment and breathed in her childhood. She knew this house inside and out. She had grown up here, had learned to love here, had her heart broken here. Her mother had died here, in a rented bed in that corner.
"Not a thing has changed," she murmured as she stepped inside. "Not one thing."
Cassie's relationship with her father had always been strained. She knew he loved her, had never doubted it, but she never thought he liked her. He had never been truly comfortable with her, nor she with him, and she had always searched for a reason. When she was twelve, she convinced herself it was because Mama got pregnant and he had been forced to marry her. Of course, the math didn't work out - Cassie had arrived eleven months after their wedding. When she was in high school, she decided the reason was because she was so much like her mother. Cassie was every bit as much like her mother as Corina and Cathy were like him. The traits that disturbed him about her mother disturbed him about her, too. By the time she married and left their home, Cassie had determined it was her father's jealousy. She and Mama had a bond neither shared.
Regardless of the cause, Cassie had long ago given up on the hope anything would change. That didn't matter now anyway. Daddy was lying in a hospital bed no one could say he would vacate, and he had asked his girls to find some papers he needed. "They're in my bottom dresser drawer," he said, "somewhere in the stack of old stuff."
Looking down at her watch, Cassie decided to get started. "It will be time to be back at the hospital before the girls even show up," she thought, moving down the hallway to his bedroom. Feeling like an intruder, she took a deep breath and opened the drawer. Inside were two stacks of paper in varying sizes and shapes. She removed the larger stack, which immediately slipped out of her hands, spreading all over the floor. "Dammit," she cried. "Why am I always so clumsy when I'm here?" She could never please him because she could never do anything right.
As she moved across the floor on her hands and knees, her eyes fell on something that looked oddly familiar. Moving toward it, she recognized a card she had made him when she was ten. Grasping at others, she was shocked to find every card and poem she had ever written him. Every. Single. One. She had always believed he thought her writing was stupid. He seemed to not understand the love that had gone into it, what it meant to her. She thought he had never understood her. But here they all were - he had kept everything!
"All these years, all the bad feelings," Cassie said, "I'm not sure I ever knew him. Could I have been wrong?" Quickly picking up the remaining papers, Cassie grabbed what she was sent to get and hurried out the door. "The girls can just meet me there," she thought.
Driving to the hospital, Cassie's heart swelled until she wondered if her body could contain it. She parked the car, ran through the front doors, took the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator, and burst into her father's room. "I found them, Daddy," she cried, waving his papers, "along with so much more!" After collecting herself, she told him she had found the cards and poems he had kept. "I never thought you liked my writing," she said, brushing away tears.
"Of course I liked your writing, darlin'," James said. "I've always been proud of you, and I just knew you'd become a writer someday. I was always surprised you didn't." Life had held Cassie hostage over the years, and she had given up on her youthful dream - until now.
"He did believe in me," Cassie told her sisters later. "All the years I thought he didn't understand me, would never be proud of me. I was wrong. We've wasted so much time, Daddy and me." They all cried and hugged, then Cassie headed back to the hotel. Once in her room, she opened her computer bag, got out her computer, turned it on, and started writing.