i stared at the ugly vase that i brought in college as a dare from sarah. we always did some stupid bullsh*t when it came to dares — it made us feel, alive. it was a weird rush, feeling that adrenaline of being caught, of being bad. it was tall and round and this ugly yellow colored.
she called it the diarrhea vase — where flowers go to die, because i always was absolutely no green thumb and flowers died instantly in my presence.
there was constant chaos in my home, but oscar sat on my lap, ensuring that i just stayed put while cas went into full cop mode. he began by calling a few friends as well as his sergeant; i honestly couldn’t tell you what happened. i just kept seeing those three words: I SEE YOU.
my eyes captured the red of the letter so vividly that i could see it like a photo in front of my face, hanging on the wall or above the tv. a vibration brought me back to the present, seeing a text from sarah; cassius must have told her about what happened. opening the text, i see the words that i try to comprehend.
custody? a custody battle for the kids? i thought about my best friend, about justin and pip — but then i thought of daniel and william. i thought about the kids, about the nights they allowed me to be there. to remind them that their aunt was still there, no matter where mommy went.
unable to take much of reality, i set my phone back down and began to put oscar behind the ears. his white fur shred onto my dark leggings that i wore from my workout. “miss —“
“rachael, call me rachael, “ i said to the police officer who came to sit down in front of me. “my name is-“
“hey, no not him,” said cassius as he looked to the detective and back toward his boss.
“honey sit down,” i said to him, my voice calm while cas’ wavered. i was surprised to hear the break in his voice; normally i was the chaotic one. “what were you saying?” i asked the officer as i grabbed cas’ hand, holding it tight as he sat next to me.
his eyes never left my form as i sat next to him, talking through next steps as to what exactly this even was. “should i be concerned?” i asked, after speaking about corey’s recent release and him leaving the state — which he had every right to do.
“i’ll contact his PO and see if he has a forwarding address; to be successful, they have to have something lined up,” said the officer before standing up. i followed suit as did cassius until everyone stood around the coffee table.
“well, thank you,” i said as i pushed my hands against my hands from my back, trying to stretch the tightness there. i knew i was stalling; i was stalling the fear, the could be’s. i was waiting until i was alone; until i could be alone. but the problem was, cassius was never going to let me out of his sight now.
as he walked the officers to the door, i stood up, setting oscar down on the couch and began to stretch my arms over my head. the relief of tight muscles felt good for only a moment before the sour stomach sunk in.
something was going on; i wasn’t sure what and neither was cassius, but something was up. as cas walked back toward the living room, the house clearing out, he stood at the doorframe of the entrance to the open living room, staring at me. “do we need to talk about it?”
“i don’t think so,” i said, honestly; unsure of my feelings, i didn’t know really how else to respond. “do you need to talk?”
“i just wanted to check where your head was,” he said, his voice a tone i knew all too well. the girlfriend is crazy, but i love her no matter what, tone. i knew he just wanted to make sure i was never back to that darkness that had been there before.
too many close calls.
walking toward him, i wrapped my stretched arms around his small waist and tugged him closer. “you don’t need to worry,” i said to him with a small smile, looking up at him as my forehead touched his.
a scoff left his lips as he smiled, “you trip over your own foot. i’m constantly worried.”
well, f***, he wasn’t wrong. “listen, i didn’t ask for a co-sign on my lack of balance and stoner-isms,” my sass was in full swing; my hands resting lightly on his hips. he was thick and broad; a unit to be dealt with.
and i knew that if i ever needed him, that cassius i knew when i first met him — the one who was a drunk, who tried to fight everyone — the one who gambled away everything, but somehow still made it back to work the next day; the one who would do anything necessary to protect would reveal himself. he’d calmed over the years, but with this new information about corey — i knew sore subjects were likely to surface.
truth was: corey was plague to us all. i tried to keep corey out of it as much as i could, but due to his knowledge of corey pre us dating, along with what he found out — cassius had been dragged through it. it didn’t help his suspension from the streets either because corey was everywhere. he was the weird homeless guy on the corner that watched you, he was the weird feeling you get with your back to the back of the shower, like something is there. he’s the chill down my spine every morning. the recurring nightmare i can’t shake.
“i love you,” he said finally, in a whisper, “and i can’t lose you. oscar and i can’t lose you.” my brown eyes met his hazel ones, glitter of green throughout his eyes. “you won’t,” i reminded him. “i’m right here.” as i spoke, i felt his hands tighten around my waist as i pulled him closer, reaching up and running my fingers through his buzz cut along the back of his tense neck.
his traps, large, and tight through even his tshirt. i began to scratch his back, to feel as he melted into me, humming softly. i wonder about the things corey did and the things you do and you’re nothing a like; but i’m still terrified.
i can’t explain it. you’ll leave; eventually. i know you will.
but you’re still here. you’re holding me.
you’re telling me you want to marry me but that we dont have to if i dont want to because of my beliefs of marriage. he’s saying i can be rachael nicole with him rather than be him.
i don’t understand his words because they dont exist. no one is actually this way; the way i know is control, is pain, is nothing else to say.
it’s emptiness and autopilot, like the tesla’s that park themselves. i am that turned off from the world, but you. . . you’ve turned on the light. i’m unsure how, but you’ve turned on the light and started the flicker.
it isn’t much, but it’s enough for you.
it’s enough for me, which only helps the flames grow.
that night, cassius and i make love well into the early morning hours. his kisses stained against my bare skin for the world to know that i am his through my soul; made of his own just as eve to adam.
but as two people rather than one entity. and for just a second, i believe that this can be real. that cassius can love me. can handle it.
but as we leave the house to look at the message on my house, we both realized that the message is now gone. no trace of the red paint that haunts my dreams. no trace of a single thing — had i dreamed it? i looked to cas who looked at me, looking back toward the house. “okay, did you see something on this wall or was i sleep walking again?” he finally asked.