It's All About Cassie

by happyhugo

Tags: Ma/Fa, Romantic,

Desc: : Brian and Jean, two college, kids make a mistake during a wild night of parting. They never should have married and their lives diverge. Cassie is the only thing that holds them together. Twelve years old and her transition from girl to woman brings things to a head.

Story has change in points of view

Brian Reagan

I live on the original Reagan family farm in Vermont where I was born. I have a wife, Jean, and a daughter, Cassie. I also have some problems in my life that I have been unable to do much about. You see, Jean lives in Boston and Cassie, my twelve-year-old, lives with her. Jean visits me about once a month and I have Cassie for most school vacations. It is just not enough. I would say our marriage is a marriage of inconvenience. I abhor the city andJean feels the same way about the laid back lifestyle I enjoy so much.

We met while we were in college. I majored in writing and journalism and Jean was taking courses in fabric design and home decorating. I made a lot of mistakes while I was there. Hey, a farm boy had a lot of catching up to do. I guess I appeared a little slow to the other students, as I was off the farm and unsure of myself. I had to experience all of the delights that being away from the responsibility of farm life had to offer. Experience them for myself and decide whether I liked them or not. My peers there knew how to drink and hold their liquor. I didn't at first, but I learned--the hard way.

I suppose I would be considered a hunk. I was large framed and definitely filled out from all the hard work that farming entails. I had the gift of seeing something and being able to describe it so people could visualize what I saw. Grampa had lost his sight when I was young and he used to make me sit with him. Then he would make me tell him what I saw. I was his eyes to the world he still lived in but had been lost to the darkness. Writing came easy for me, and I breezed through my courses in the top two percent of my class.

Girls--I had a whole pasture full of them when I got to college. Maybe I didn't speak too well, but I sure could write a love note. Sex--hell I knew all about that, living on the farm with cows and bulls and other animals. And I considered that I was always in control. I plowed my way through a bevy of beauties and had a lot of fun doing it. Jean caught my eye the last year before I received my degree. She kept me at arms length for longer than I wanted, but I turned on the charm with the notes and letters I posted everywhere for her to read. She succumbed at a frat party. Once the dam was broken she was insatiable.

Two mistakes: One, I assumed that she was on the pill and two, I neglected to watch how inebriated I was one night. I had always withdrawn before climax with every other woman whether they said it was safe or not. Morning found Jean and I in bitter dispute with recriminations toward the other for having unsafe sex. I never doubted that I was Jean's first and only partner, so a month later Jean became Mrs. Brian Reagan. Cassandra Eileen arrived on time nine months after the mistake I made with Jean.

Mom and Dad welcomed Jean as I knew they would. Her family, well that was different. I have never been able to change their mind about me either. One brother and one sister was all I had and they had left me to take up the farm when they moved away. That's okay, this was where I wanted to be. Jean, I give her credit, she tried to make it work. We had our own little house, but I knew she wasn't happy. I would come in from the barn after cleaning stables and she would be sitting pouring over home magazines with the tears running down her cheeks.

Dad was killed during the first snowfall coming down out of the woods when the tractor skidded and rolled over on him. Mom caught the flu in February and died a week before Cassie was five years old. A month later Jean gave me an ultimatum. Move to Boston to a studio that her parents had provided for her or stay here by myself. She was taking Cassie with her of course. That just about broke my heart to think she was taking my adorable little girl from me.

Ten days later they were gone. Cassie was enrolled in kindergarten in a big city school. Cassie cried with a broken heart on the phone to me every night. I sent my cattle to auction. A Realtor listed our little house and two hundred acres of the farm, barns included. This place had been in the family since revolutionary days. I kept one hundred acres and the original farmhouse so that my sister and brother wouldn't lose all of their roots and could come home to visit occasionally. This would be a place to come and remember their parents from days long gone. Some day I hoped Jean and Cassie would come home. I was afraid it was just a hope.

Things completed at home, I arrived in Boston just before Cassie got out of her first year of school. Jean was a fresh face on the home decorating scene and with her parents to open the door for her, she was swamped with clients. I was like a fifth wheel. There wasn't any job I looked at that appealed to me at all. Jean was busy working long days and even some nights. Some days before Cassie got out of school I just walked around looking the city over. God, I was homesick! There was nothing I saw that would compare to my home in Vermont. Two days after Cassie finished kindergarten I said, "Cassie let's go home. Maybe we need a pony to keep us company. What do you say?"

"Daddy, I don't even need a pony. I want to go home. Don't even tell Mommy 'cause she'll try and stop us."

I knew there would be hell to pay, but I'd handle that when and after I reached home with Cassie. I did leave a note telling Jean that I was taking Cassie, because we were both homesick. I took a few clothes and called a taxi. God, it was expensive to garage a car in the city, especially when you had to call a cab just to get to your car. An hour later we were headed north toward home. Cassie slept most of the way until we arrived in Brattleboro. When we turned onto our road, she was bouncing up and down with joy.

Cassie had not been home since I had sold the cattle. There were no calves to feed and she missed them. The first thing I did was go to the neighbors and get Trixie, the little dog that we bought soon after Cassie was born. I don't know who was the most excited over the reunion, Cassie or Trixie. I wished Jean could have seen this.

Cassie and Trixie ran through the house. "I wish Mommy was here like she used to be and I miss her. Do you think she will ever come home again?"

"I don't know, Honey, but we're here now. I'm sure we will see Mommy soon." How was this going to play out? There was going to be more pain and broken hearts ahead before this was resolved. I was sure of that.

Cassie went right off to sleep in her own bed. She looked so happy as she slipped into slumber. I knew the call from Jean would be coming and I awaited it with trepidation. It was nearly eleven p.m. when it came through. "What the hell do you think you are doing? I can have you charged with kidnapping and I just might do that too."

"Hello to you too, Jean." Jean wasn't even civil which peeved me, although expected. "Cassie begged me to bring her home, so I did. You could come home too, you know. The city is no fit place to live. You know if you get too nasty I can have you charged with abandonment. You were the one that left me, remember?"

I waited for her response which wasn't forthcoming. I softened my stance by saying, "Cassie misses you, you know, and I miss you too. Why don't you come home?" I didn't want to beg and yet wanted to let her know I still loved her.

There was silence while Jean thought this over. Maybe she missed me some too. Then she said, "I'll borrow Mom's car and drive up this weekend and we will talk about it then. Okay?" I didn't hold out much hope that things would change for the better.

The next morning Cassie was up and out the door talking to Trixie about all the things she missed. I called to her and we went down to the diner for breakfast. Suzy, the waitress, made much of my little girl, and was informed by Cassie that she was home to stay. Suzy looked at me and I shrugged as if to say, "I don't know."

I made the days as much fun as I could for Cassie. The evenings didn't go as well. I had taken up writing for I needed income, but I never hesitated to stop and pay attention to my little one. Cassie missed her mom. I could see her weighing the idea of being home with me or being with her mother in the city. I guess I made out okay, but it bothered me all the same.

Jean wasn't belligerent at all when she pulled in early Saturday morning. Cassie ran to her for hugs and kisses. I think Jean was worried that I would try to turn Cassie against her. She should have known better, because I wouldn't think of doing that. When she mentioned this to me later, I just said, "Jean, you don't know me very well and it hurts to think you think so ill of me."

Jean approached me when we had time alone out of Cassie's hearing. "Brian, I know you hate it in the city, but what are you going to do? You can't live off what you sold the cattle and the farm for. I'm not going to give you any money. Besides, I'm not going to let Cassie live here. She needs to be in the city where the advantages are better."

"Better? Christ, you can't even breathe in Boston. What about crime? Do you think she is safer there than here? Your stubbornness in leaving is killing us all. That's the only crime here. There's not a damn thing for me to do in the city. I'm trying my hand at writing and I can't do it there. What do you want, a divorce? You can have it in a minute, but Cassie stays here where her heritage is. There have been Reagans here for two hundred years and Cassie is a Reagan."

"Ha, you think so. We'll see about that. The mother always gets to keep the child."

"Maybe, but remember that this is Vermont and Vermont judges look at what is best for the child."

Jean and I went round and round. It took most of the weekend before we reached a compromise of sorts. Cassie wasn't going to be happy, but she still would have a father and mother, albeit part time. We came up with the solution of Cassie staying on the farm with me on all the school holidays. Jean would guarantee that she would have one weekend a month with me by providing transportation both ways. I would pick Cassie up in the city one weekend and return her. That was the compromise. Now we had to see if it would work.

Cassie readily agreed to this when we explained the details. All she could think of was being home all summer. The return to the city was so far distant in the future--why should she even think about it?

It did work pretty well. Jean kept faith and I went out of my way to do everything expected of me. Jean and I did love each other, so some months we saw each other most weekends. She would travel to Vermont or I would go down to Boston and stay over. Cassie got used to the routine and it became a way of life for her.

My writing progressed and I sold my first book sixteen months after Jean and I compromised. I went and signed on with an agent who understood my situation. I did a lot of magazine articles and worked on a new book. My stories kept getting more and more involved. My brother, who worked as a CIA agent, came and stayed one summer. I picked his brain and was able to produce a thriller that made the best seller's list--for a whole thirteen weeks. Jean never seemed interested in what I was doing. When she came I put my writing away. Wouldn't it have been nice if we could have sat down and discussed a plot or a character?

Women, well I was entirely faithful to Jean. I never questioned whether Jean was faithful to me and she never gave me reason to suspect otherwise. We had sex most every time we passed Cassie back and forth to each other. Still it wasn't like having a woman to sleep with every night. This was just the way our life was and we accepted it.

Jean's business was a success. She had a gay guy that helped her in the studio and several people she employed on an "as needed basis." Jean was a colorful person. She loved fabrics and colors. I never knew how she would be dressed when I met her. One time she might be dressed as a Bohemian, the next as a Gypsy or as a Goth. Once she was wearing a three piece striped business suit. She also loved scarves--colorful scarves.

Cassie and I always ate at The Chelsea Royal Diner when she was home with me, and I ate there most days when I was by myself. Suzy, our usual waitress, doted on Cassie. Jean always made breakfast when she stayed over so she wasn't known at the diner at all. The regulars in the diner probably would have cut her dead if she had appeared there. I never discussed my living arrangements with Jean but rumors fed the gossip. I was the White Knight, and Jean was the slut that abandoned her husband and child. This was the way others saw our situation. hr The little cottage where Jean and I started housekeeping, the barns and the land were purchased by a farmer down the road from me. He had no use for the house and very little for the barns. He sold the house and it changed hands several times over the next few years. Eventually it was bought by a woman named Mrs. Grace Griswald. I was trying to be neighborly and I went across the road to introduce myself. My efforts were rebuffed quite strongly.

At first glance I thought she could be attractive, even though she dressed in subdued baggy clothes. She wore her hair in a bun and I never saw any make-up applied. She met me while standing behind a locked screen door. "What do you want?" she demanded as I stood there.

I explained that I was from the big house across the road. Before I finished explaining that I had helped build the house and had lived in it for five years, she broke in with, "I don't care what you did. You're just like every man. You come sniffing around here before I even have my bags unpacked. As far as that goes, you can trundle back across the road and please don't bother me again." Gees, what a bitch! She needn't worry. I wouldn't ever bother her.

Cassie came home that weekend and was excited when I told her we had a neighbor across the road in our old cottage. I warned her that the woman wasn't very friendly, but Cassie thought everybody loved her so she skipped across to make a new friend. My ten-year-old girl came back shortly and said, "You were right, she isn't very nice." Cassie then retreated to her room and I could hear her sniffling.

That night, almost dark, I went over and knocked. I could hear her moving around, but she didn't open her door. I said loud enough so I was sure she heard me, "Hey there Gracie, you bitch. You must be proud to think you were able to totally destroy a ten-year-old child that just wanted to be a friend." I swore to myself that I would never forgive her for the way she treated Cassie.

The next time I saw "Gracie the Bitch," which was my name for her, she was sitting in the diner. The diner had booths and on each end of the seating area were two individual tables. If you didn't eat at the counter, you could eat alone at one of these tiny tables. She was sitting there with a laptop open and typing while eating. I ignored her that day and every day when we chanced to be breakfasting at the same time.

One morning soon after, Cassie was with me at the diner. I went ahead to pay my chit when I finished while Cassie downed her orange juice. I saw Mrs. Griswald say something to Cassie as she passed by her table. Cassie paused when spoken to and I saw her nod her head to something that was said. Cassie then came running to me and we left. For two years I ignored the bitch.

Grace was usually there every morning at breakfast time. Suzy informed me that if the diner wasn't busy Grace sat and worked at her computer all morning. Never friendly, she would speak, but always gave the impression that she wanted to be left alone. After a time that is how most of the regulars treated her. No one knew what she was typing, as she kept the monitor facing away.

Cassie didn't disobey me. The only thing I said to Cassie about the neighbor was the one warning I had given her on the first day. Over time the two would speak across the road and then occasionally Cassie would venture over and they would talk. I was curious, but never concerned. Cassie volunteered that the lady had apologized. She was not mean, just sad, Cassie told me. Oh well, her problem.

Oftentimes as Cassie got older, Jean would put her on the bus and charge the driver to watch out for the little girl until she reached Brattleboro. The ticket agent would keep an eye on her until I arrived to pick her up if I wasn't there already. This was only when Cassie was coming north as I didn't trust the Boston terminal. I was always the one to drive Cassie to the city.

The year that Cassie was twelve, Jean and I had been into this living apart for seven years. I noticed during this summer vacation that Jean didn't come home as often. From September until Thanksgiving she came up only once. This meant that I only had sex once in all that time. Friday night before Thanksgiving Jean called and said she had to go to Atlanta with a client. She had to leave Saturday morning and would be gone all week. Cassie couldn't stay alone the three school days so Jean was taking her out of school and sending her by bus to me in the morning.

"Why can't Cassie stay with your folks?" I was informed that Cassie absolutely refused to go to them.

I was glad to think I was having my little girl for some extra days, although I had looked for some intimate interludes that involved Jean over the holiday. Business was business, I supposed, but it seemed to interfere more often lately.

I went down for a late breakfast at the diner as I wouldn't be picking Cassie up until eleven at the bus depot. I hung around the diner, bantering with Suzy. I ordered the Thanksgiving dinner for Cassie and I. It was to be picked up in the morning on that day. Gracie sat in the corner typing and I ignored her as always. In fact I had ignored her so much she was just never there in my mind. Suzy kicked me out of the diner to go get my daughter in case the bus was early. That I laughed at. The bus had never been early in all the times that I had been picking her up.

I started across the diner parking lot and my life turned to hell! The last thought I had was, "What is going to happen to Cassie?"

Grace Griswald

I was typing on my laptop as usual. Suzy had just refilled my coffee cup when she exclaimed, "Oh my God! Brian just got run down in the parking lot." I looked out and my neighbor was lying half under an old clunker of a vehicle. An old man was slowly getting out. He appeared to be eighty or more. An old lady was shouting at him and asking what happened. Suzy called 911. It didn't take long for the EMTs to arrive. It appeared that Brian had a broken leg and a concussion. He was being transported to the hospital. The old man was wringing his hands and his wife was still shouting at him about killing that poor man.

Suzy and I suddenly thought of Brian's daughter who by now would be waiting in the bus depot. "Suzy, I'll go get her and tell her what happened. She knows who I am. She will need someone to get her and she will trust me."

I left as fast as I could, down the avenue and up I-91 to the bus station. I wheeled in, parked and opened the door. Cassie sat on a wooden bench. She was white as a sheet and doubled over in pain. Not only that she looked scared. Relieved to see me she said, "Where's my dad? I need my dad!"

The ticket agent came over and asked if I knew Miss Reagan. I assured him I did, and Cassie confirmed that I was her neighbor. He then said, "I'm glad someone is here to get her. I think she is sick."

He went back to the ticket booth. I sat down by Cassie and asked, "What's the matter? Where do you hurt?"

Cassie leaned as close as she could and whispered, "I'm bleeding! I'm afraid somebody will see! I've got awful stomach cramps! Daddy didn't come and I didn't know what to do! Where is he anyway? He always picks me up."

Under the present situation I could see why this little girl that was about to become a woman was traumatized. I hugged her and whispered, "Don't worry, I'll fix you up. Is this the first time this has happened to you?" Cassie nodded.

I hustled Cassie out after assuring the ticket agent that I would see that she got taken care of. Cassie wouldn't get in the car to sit down until I put some papers under her. As soon we got in the car, I broke the news that her father had been injured in an accident. He was in the hospital, but would be all right. (I didn't know this but was hoping so for the little girl's sake.)

"Which do you want to take care of first? Your cramps or do you want to see your father?" It was time for this little person to start making her own decisions.

"Can you fix me up so he doesn't know? I'd be horrified if he knew!"

"Right decision, wrong reason. He knows all about these things. This has happened to women since the beginning of time. He'll just want you to be taken care of. He'll also be a little bit proud of you. Daddys are always that way, I don't know why, but they are."

I stopped at the drugstore for the necessary supplies and took her home with me to show her how to care for herself. Where was her mother at a time like this? Cassie needed her mom, not a neighbor and definitely not her father. Cassie wanted a shower, so I took the opportunity to call the hospital to find what Brian's condition was.

I had to explain that I was his daughter's baby-sitter and I didn't want to come to the hospital with his daughter if he wasn't going to recover. I finally contacted someone who would admit that he was recuperating nicely. He would have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. He would be coming home on Monday for sure. It would be possible for his daughter to visit in another hour or so when he was fully aware.

"Would you tell him that Cassie will be in shortly? There was a mix-up and he must be concerned that she is okay too. Thank you."

Cassie came out of the shower and I showed her how to take care of this new problem that would be with her for the next thirty years or so. I gave her some mild cramp pills and told her that it took time to regulate the dosage. If she was lucky she might not need them every time. This really is a curse on women. Life just isn't fair!

Brian was awake when we arrived. I stayed out in the corridor while Cassie entered to greet her wounded father. Brian had been worried about Cassie from the moment he had regained consciousness. When the nurse told him that Cassie would be in to visit with her baby-sitter, he was puzzled. He had never employed anyone to take care of his daughter since Jean had moved to Boston.

Cassie came out and pulled me into the hospital room. Brian stared at me. Was he going to blast me like he did two years ago? I couldn't blame him, because I had been so nasty on our first meeting. I found that he was above that. "Thank you so much. You can't imagine how worried I was. She was on my mind just as I was hit. The last thought I had, in fact."

"Daddy, I have to tell you something. Mrs. Griswald saved me from a fate worse than death." Cassie whispered in his ear. "I'm having my first period." Cassie's face was very red, but I thought that the measure of a man was shown when his daughter trusted him to be able to tell something like this without shame. I couldn't have told my father anything like this.

To change the subject so Cassie didn't become flustered, I asked how Brian was. "Well, my leg is fractured in two places. They are clean breaks though, but the muscles are pretty bruised, but I should be all right."

"How about the injury to your head?"

"I took a hard bump when I hit the ground. That's okay, the doctor just wants to make sure that my brain doesn't have any swelling develop. They can tell by monitoring me closely tonight.

"Good! Now, I have a favor to ask. Can I take Cassie and keep her with me until you can come home? I think she would like that as she is having to get comfortable with this new thing that is happening to her. I take it that her mother isn't available this week?"

Brian answered the last question first. "No, business interfered. As far as Cassie staying with you, I would appreciate it and thank you for being so kind. I am laying here feeling pretty small at the moment. Truth to tell, I wanted to apologize for my behavior after the first time we met. I've wanted to do that for a long time. Would you accept that?"

"Apology accepted. You had a right to say what you did. Cassie accepted my apology, but I didn't know how to approach you. Maybe we both were a little bit stubborn. Shall we put that first meeting behind us? I'd like to very much." We both were smiling at this exchange.

"Enough said."

Cassie was looking pleased. Her father's action against this person whom she had come to know was something she couldn't understand. To have him apologize for it raised him in her esteem.

We left to go up the street to Burger King. We also promised to be in to visit before he went to sleep for the night. I was charmed by Cassie. She had the gift of mimicry and I got to know about her mother when she did a parody on her. She also did one on her father as he blatantly ignored my presence in the diner. "Can you do one on me?"

Cassie's face got red, so I knew she had one in mind. We were sitting and eating at the fast food outlet when I asked. She had me down pat. She mimicked me sitting, and typing on my computer. She mimicked my being curious about the Reagans eating a couple of booths away. And my glancing at them every few strokes. She caught me perfectly. I hope I wasn't as obvious as she made me out to be. Cassie is so sweet!

Cassie

I am so worried. Daddy is in the hospital with a broken leg and Mommy is off doing her thing. Actually Mom is doing more than her thing with her new friend. I don't think he is a client. He is nice enough and I have met him several times. I have heard Mom talking on the phone and she talks different with him than she does Dad. She is always saying, "Oh Alfred, you're so sweet, or, Alfred, you really think I look like a movie star, or, Alfred, you shouldn't say that. That's naughty. You'd think Mom was a teenager the way she carries on. She never talks to Dad that way.

I like Mrs. Griswald. I wish Daddy and her liked each other better. Living across the road so close you would think they could be friends. They did speak today. They had to 'cause she saved me from a fate of the worst kind. Why do I have to do this thing every month? It isn't fair. I wish I was a boy! Daddy was kind of nice to her. He never said anything bad about her, but I knew he hated her.

I guess I am going to stay with her tonight. I hope she lets me have Trixie sleep with me. Trixie is old, but I just love it when she snuggles against me. I wonder where Mom is tonight. I just hate it when I need her and she isn't around. Why couldn't this thing have happened when she was here. Thank God for Mrs. Griswald. I wonder if she would get mad if I called her Gracie. I then would have a Trixie and a Gracie. She didn't get mad when I showed how I saw her at the diner. She has such a happy laugh. I wish she laughed more often. I hope Daddy is going to be okay. I wonder how Daddy is going to drive the car with a cast on. Maybe Mrs. Griswald will drive us until I have to go back to Boston.

Mom will have to come and get me. I'm going to ask her about Alfred. I could show Daddy how Mom talks on the phone to him. That would be a laugh. Mom probably would be mad though. I guess I better forget that.

Grace Griswald

"Wake up Cassie, you've been daydreaming. How are your cramps? Better? Good, maybe you will be one of the lucky ones and not be troubled with them. Let's go visit your father before he goes to sleep. I bet the nurses are going to keep waking him up. They do that when someone gets hit in the head."

Brian was waiting for Cassie when we reached his room. We discussed Cassie staying with me. He was a little hesitant and finally said that Trixie always stayed with Cassie in bed. No problem. I loved Trixie. I even gave her a treat when she snuck over to see me. Cassie promised they both would be good.

Trixie was nervous staying in a different house, but was ecstatic when I dug out her puppy bed from the shed. After all the dog had spent the first five years of its life here. Morning found us at the diner in the booth that Cassie and her father sat in usually. Cassie was the center of attention, her father being run down right outside the door and everything. Suzy told us that the reason that Brian got hit was because the man's wife distracted him by shouting in his ear. The man turned to tell her to shut up just as Brian stepped off the ramp. The man had unknowingly cut right into Brian.

Cassie spoke up just as we were leaving. "Did Daddy order enough food for Thanksgiving, if I invite Mrs. Griswald?"

I wondered how Brian would react to this idea of his daughter's. He was okay with it and agreed that it was nice of Cassie to think of me. He wanted Cassie to call her Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary to tell them about his injuries. Cassie had called her grandparents, so they could tell her mother what had happened to her Dad. They claimed not knowing how to get in touch with their daughter Jean. Cassie just told them that she had her father's cell phone and to call when they heard from her. It seemed odd to me that Brian's wife was cut off so effectively from her only child. Or actually Cassie was cut off from her mother.

I had watched Brian from across the road and at the diner for the last two years. As time went on, I hated myself because I had turned him away in the beginning. I was just so down on men because of how my husband had treated me. I could see that this man lived for his daughter and he adored her. I hadn't met his wife, but I saw her when she arrived. He seemed to care for her and I knew they slept together as husband and wife.

I do know one thing, if my husband had been like Brian, I wouldn't be here only for a weekend. I would be with him all the time. I was slowly making a life for myself and I guess what had happened in the past locked me into what the future was holding for me. Just sometimes I dreamed that the future would brighten and I could find someone--if not Brian--someone like him.

I took on the job of chauffeur for the Reagans--father and daughter. Thanksgiving morning I picked up the boxed dinner at the diner. It was a pleasant meal, but I couldn't fill in for the missing wife and mother. I felt so sad for this sweet person and decided to open up myself a little to make her a little happier.

"Mr. Reagan, I'm going across to the other house for a minute and get a present for Cassie. She needs cheering up." I said this while Cassie was in the bathroom. I knew this trip across the road was going to change my life forever. I needed a change. I was sick of being an almost recluse. I guess if I could make one lonely person happy, it would be worth it.

I returned before Cassie realized I had been absent. "Cassie, do you ever read any Teena Tunball books?"

"Oh I just love them. I have two of my own. My Mom got them at a book sale and sent away for autographs for me. I've read some others from the library. I just love them!"

Brian asked, "Who is Teena Tunball?"

Cassie burst out with, "She's the best teenage detective ever! She solves all kind of problems for people and then writes about them. She even saved the country from the terrorists one time."

I was hoping now that Cassie knew this was fiction, so I asked. "You do know that this is all fiction, don't you? In fact Teena herself is a made-up name."

"Oh I know that. It is fun to think that someone, especially a teenager, could be so smart and do those things."

I said, "Well, I have one copy here that you haven't read yet. Would you like it?" This was my newest book and hadn't been distributed yet.

"Oh, please may I have it. I'd love you forever!"

I handed it to her and she thumbed through it quickly, checking to see if her favorite characters were in this edition. They were. "Daddy, will you send and get it autographed for me? Please. Please." Brian was grinning as he couldn't refuse her anything.

I said, "I can get it signed for you, and you can even have a Teena Tunball pen that it is autographed with."

"Okay, but can I read it first? It takes so long for the book to come back."

I took the book from her and she looked on in horror as I quickly scrawled a few words and a signature in the front of the book. I handed it back with the pen for a keepsake. She looked intensely at what I had written. To Cassie Reagan who watched me write this book while eating breakfast in The Chelsea Royal Diner. Signed on this Thanksgiving Day. All my love, Teena Tunball

Tears of happiness started flowing as the realization hit her that she had met--she actually knew Teena Tunball. Brian was the one that was the most flabbergasted. He didn't know me as an author, but was still recognized as one by his daughter. A famous one in the young set at that.

"So you are a famous author? An idol even. Who would have thought it? What does that make me, I wonder. You'll have to tell me your story sometime."

When he said this, I couldn't stop the look of pain that flashed across my face. He saw it and quickly said, "I guess I don't need to know your story if the telling of it makes you unhappy. I wasn't thinking when I suggested it. I apologize for prying and being so insensitive."

"Thank you." I didn't say I would or wouldn't tell my story. The thank you was for the apology.

Brian Reagan

The phone rang as Grace and Cassie cleared the table. I hobbled to the living room as I knew it was from Jean. "What's this about you having an accident? Mother must have got something wrong. She said Cassie was kind of snippy. I wish they liked each other better." I didn't tell my wife that if her mother approved of me Cassie might, just might, warm up to her grandmother. I didn't say it. I wanted no fights on Thanksgiving.

I told Jean I had been injured Saturday morning. I heard, "You picked up Cassie all right didn't you?"

"No, I didn't. I was in the hospital with a concussion and a broken leg. Broken in two places I remind you."

"Who picked up Cassie then?"

"The waitress at the diner discussed it with a patron so she was picked up okay. The lady went and convinced the ticket agent to let Cassie go with her. The lady brought her to see me in the hospital. This is the least of Cassie's problems. She started her first period on the bus. Didn't you prepare our daughter for the onset of her menstrual cycle? How come you didn't leave us a way to get in touch with you if a crisis arose? What kind of a mother are you? Even when you are there it sounds like Cassie gets ignored an awful lot. What's the idea of leaving her alone just about every evening?"

I didn't get an answer. Jean spoke, "Is Cassie right there? Let me speak to her."

I eavesdropped on this end of the conversation as Cassie told her mother about the trauma she endured before Mrs. Griswald came for her at the bus depot. Who was Mrs. Griswald? She was the lady who took care of her and bought her what she needed. She taught her how to take care of herself when this happened every month. Cassie said she was fine now, thank you.

Cassie was laying a guilt trip on her mother. She was doing it better than I could have. I sure loved my daughter!

Cassie abruptly gave the phone back to me. "How are you going to get Cassie back to Boston?" Jean barked at me.

"I'm not. In fact, I can't. I have a broken leg, remember. I want to ask you why it was so important for you to leave town so Cassie had to lose three days of school. Tell me that," I demanded. "I think it might be a good idea if I took Cassie out of Boston and put her in school here. Where are you anyway? Are you still in Atlanta?"

I got a feeble, "No, I'm on a cruise ship. I'm talking to you by radio phone. The ship is going to be a day late docking. Cassie will just have to lose another day of school. I'll be up to get her as soon as I get back. We'll talk then. Bye."

I didn't have a chance to say good-bye. All I could do now was wait. Wait and wonder what was going on. Cassie kept asking when her mom was coming. I said not until Monday.

Monday it was. A taxi pulled into the yard and Jean got out. No luggage or anything with her. I opened the door. She looked at my leg that was trussed up in the cast. Then she glanced at the bruise on the side of my head. No hug or kiss for me either, as she pushed past me into the room. I hobbled after her as fast as my crutches would allow. Cassie ran to her mother and they both exclaimed how much they had missed each other.

Jean clasped Cassie by both hands and asked how, you know what was. "Oh, I'm fine. Mrs. Griswald took care of me. She is so nice. We have a secret and I want to tell you about it after you finish talking to Daddy. He said he needed to be alone with you for a few minutes."

I knew this was going to be bad so I said to Cassie, "Why don't you go visit Mrs. Griswald? I promise I will call just as soon as your mother and I finish so you can tell her your secret. Okay?"

"Okay Daddy. Bye Mom."

"Who is this Mrs. Griswald?"

"She is the lady that lives in our old house. She has been a godsend to Cassie."

"I thought you hated her. You've said you did for the last two years."

"Well, I needed someone to fill in as a mother to Cassie. She volunteered, so we are speaking now." Jean was just keeping me from the problem between us by talking about Mrs. Griswald. "Jean, I need to know how come you went on a cruise without telling me. You are my wife. You even lied about it by saying you were going to Atlanta to meet a client. What the hell gives?"

"Brian, we need to talk about me and you. Neither one of us is happy. I think it is time for us to decide where our life is going. We are only in our middle thirties. If we split up now, we could both find someone to be together with all the time. Don't you agree that it has been a burden shuttling Cassie back and forth from Boston to here?"

"How long have you been sleeping around? Was this cruise like a honeymoon cruise for you and your lover? Tell me about it. Don't you think your husband should know? We had an agreement where we would think of Cassie before ourselves. I've lived up to my end of the bargain. Damn it Jean, it has to always be about you doesn't it?"

"No, it's not all about me. We haven't loved each other for years, we've just been existing. It's time I had some happiness before I get too old. You should feel the same way."

"Thanks a lot. I've given up half my life for you so you could be where you have wanted to be. What about my life? You're apparently off with one of your lovers on a boat somewhere. What about Cassie? What are your plans for her?'

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Ma/Fa / Romantic /