Family Matters

This is a sort of… deleted scene, if you will, to the short story available via subscription to this blog.  To see the summary for the full story and subscribe, click here


 

When Cassie’s cell phone jolted her awake at 5:55 a.m. that morning, fear  punched all the air from her lungs and gripped her heart like  iron vice.

Hands shaking and breathing rapid, Cassie groped for her phone on the bedside The bright glare of the screen nearly blinded her, and it took her a moment to focus ob the name on the caller ID. When she did, she didn’t want to believe it.

Her stomach catapulted up her into her throat and her forehead beaded with sweat. A small scream threatened to rip free from between her parted lips, but she managed to swallow it back.

Time slowed down. One word blinked up at her, its presence more alarming at such an hour than any could possibly be.

Lydia.

Fuck!

As her senses returned, she slammed her thumb on the ACCEPT button and raised the device to her ear. What had that bastard done now? Fighting to keep her composure, she whispered into the receiver, cringing as her voice cracked, “Lydia?”

“Cassie?” The older woman sounded relieved. “Oh, thank God!” Upon hearing the fear in her stepmother’s voice, Cassie shivered. For an instant, she was 15 again.  


She was in her room when the garage door slammed. Her ear buds jostled out of place, and she caught wind of a heated conversation unfolding just below her.  

“What the hell are these?” Lydia demanded.

What do they look like? They’re scotch bottles.”

Cassie’s senses peaked. Her father hadn’t gone on a drinking spree since his first wife Stephanie died of cancer ten years ago.

Cautiously as she could, she inched the door open and crept to the top of the stairs to peer over the railing. Her parents stood nose to nose in the living room and her stepmother held up a clear plastic bag. Her features were a blank mask as she shoved its contents at her husband. Cassie gulped. It was filled with empty alcohol bottles.  

“Johnny Walker, Vodka, Jack Daniels,” She ticked off each one of the brands as she pulled them from the bag. “Is this where Cassie’s college fund has been going?”

Her father said nothing, simply taking a swig of his beer and watching her through his bloodshot eyes.

“Frank!” She snatched the bottle from his hand, bending his wrist at an awkward angle and causing him to cry out in pain.

“Fuck! Give that back, you bitch!”

“No!” She tossed it atop the others and headed for the garage once more. “We talked about this! And if you can’t keep it up on your own, then I’m going to haul your ass back to those A.A. meetings myself! I will not let you waste our daughter’s college education fund on your loathsome addiction. Drinking like this is going to kill you some day, and I won’t let that happen.”

“Cassie is my daughter!  Not ours. Now come back here with my drinks, you selfish whore!”

  Cassie watched, horrified, as her father gripped Lydia’s shoulder, his nails digging deep into her flesh. She yelped as he spun her to face him, the alcohol bottles flying into the air and landing with a deafening crash.

“I’ll teach you to order me around,” Frank growled.

Cassie sprinted down the stairs just in time to see him pinning Lydia to the floor, He held the belt from his pants high above his head and brought it down repeatedly over every piece of bare skin he could find. The sickening crack that echoed through the house each time the leather contacted skin made Cassie’s stomach churn in disgust; her heart galloped so she thought it would beat right out of her chest. She wanted more than anything to help, but terror froze her to the floor. She’d never seen that look in her father’s eyes before. They gleamed with a murderous light, and his wolfish grin widened with each drop of blood he elicited from her frail body, until her stepmother was nothing more than a limp heap on the floor.   

“Get away from her!” Cassie leapt forward, shoving all of her body weight into his midsection as she attempted to sprint for the phone and call the cops, but he easily swatted her to the side with one swipe of his hand.


That had been five years ago. Cassie begged the older woman many times after that first incident to let her call the police, but Lydia was too afraid of what he would do if she tried to prosecute him in court. He wasn’t only a tyrant, but a powerful businessman as well.

They got by, and Cassie eventually got out on scholarship to college, though her mind was always on Lydia, still stuck in that damned house.

She pressed the speaker to her ear and listened. She heard no crashing glass, splitting wood, or booming shouts of her father’s alcohol induced temperaments. All good signs, but she knew better than to take a call like this lightly. “Where are you?” she demanded. “Are you okay? What did he do?”

“I… I’m fine, sweetie,” came the muffled, stuttered reply. “ A few bad bruises and some contusions, but I’m safe. The doctors are going to fix me up and then I’m staying at my sister’s for awhile, so don’t try reaching me at home.”

Cassie’s eyes narrowed and she gripped the phone a little tighter. “Why?” she hissed, her voice eerily calm despite the fury pulsing through her veins. It had to be serious if her stepmother was moving to Aunt Rhonda’s. She only ever saw her sister on holidays. “What. Did. He. Do?”

Lydia blinked at her stepdaughter’s harsh response. She didn’t have to see her steely expression to know it would be no use arguing. “He…” Her breath hitched and tears coursed down her dark cheeks. “He tried to… He tried to force himself on me,” she admitted, choking back a sob as it escaped her dried lips.

“He WHAT?” Cassie shrieked. Cruel as he was, she couldn’t fathom him doing anything like that.

“But I didn’t let him!” Lydia was quick to assure the distressed girl. “I called Rhonda, and then she phoned the police. I’m safe now, honey. I just needed… I needed you to know. When you come home for break next week, come to Rhonda’s. Your father… Your father will hopefully be in jail.”              

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