Once inside, I attempted to scrub myself clean. It took ages, but I was finally able to get most of the sugar out of my hair. The green wasn’t going anywhere for a long time, and I lamented the loss of my white blonde colour. I was told a long time after the incident by a person who had overheard the planning that at least four pounds of sugar had been mixed into each bucket of ice water, along with at least three bottles of food dye. This accounted for the fact that I was still sticky after a long shower, and pale green.
But now I was rattling around my house, angry and upset. What had happened? Why had these people picked today, and how had they known it was my birthday? I had told nobody, not even MJ, when we went on that one walk. Hell, I myself had forgotten until seeing the calendar.
The scene played out in my mind again, and I realised an important detail. When I had fallen over, I had muttered the words ‘Happy birthday to me’. I must have been overheard by somebody, who passed the information on. Either way, I wasn’t going back. Ever.
I was brushing my wet – but clean – hair, when I heard it. The loud knock on my front door. The sweatshirt and flannel pants I was wearing were perfectly acceptable, and so I headed down. The security gate was locked, and so I wrenched the front door open. I so did not want to see any people right now. Especially not the person on the other side of the door. “Cassandra.”
MJ looked like he had just run a marathon. His dark hair was dishevelled, and his blue eyes were a little wild. “I got here as soon as I heard…”
My expression must have been what stopped him. “Cass.” One of his hands lifted, like he wanted to touch my face, but then it stopped. “Cass, I didn’t know.”
My eyes dropped to the floor. “How could you have known? You weren’t here.”
MJ shifted on his feet, drawing my eyes back up to his face. He ran a shaking hand down the lower half of his face. “I should have been. I wasn’t supposed to be gone. But last night, we got back late. And I overslept.” His face crumpled a little. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry too.” So much hurt washed through me. I was sorry for being so inept. I was sorry for unwittingly bringing MJ into this. I was sorry that nobody but this one person cared. And I was sorry for what I was about to say. “I’m sorry, Michael. You need to go. I’m not in a good space right now. I might never be. It’s too late for me.”
I shut the door before he could reply. It was all I could do.