I had been sitting in the lobby, a stack of papers in my hand for roughly 20 minutes when I heard the screeching of tires as a car pulled up to the hospital. Do not have to see the car to know who that is. My eyes floated towards the entrance where Samuel had burst through the double doors, his eyes searching the room frantically.
After a few seconds, he spotted me, rushing over towards my spot in the back. Once Samuel reached me, he stopped in his tracks, his eyes fixated on me. It’s like he didn’t know how to approach me, much less handle the mess that sat before him.
Samuel gestured his head towards the paperwork in my hand. “I’m surprised they’re letting you walk out with them.”
“Yeah, well I may have said some not so nice words to them to bully them into letting me bring the paperwork home.” I deadpanned, causing Samuel to chuckle. My eyes were still cast downward when he grabbed my hand and pulled me out of my seat. Samuel tucked a finger underneath my chin and brought my eyes to meet his. After looking down at me for a few moments, he leaned forward to lightly kiss my forehead.
“Let’s get you home.” We began walking out of the hospital with me tucked carefully into his side. I do not remember much of the ride. All I do remember is staring out the window the entire ride all while Samuel would glance at me out of the corner of his eye. Caution and worry marred his features, which broke my heart a little further. Samuel wanted to do something to make my pain go away but knew there was nothing he could do.
After some time, I noticed the car had pulled to a stop. Looking up, I saw my house. Without my mother, it did not feel like home anymore. I would never walk into the house to see my mother in the kitchen baking some random good for Samuel. I would never see her sitting on the couch every night to watch the newest episodes of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. I would never see my mother again.
I was brought out of my thoughts when I felt Samuel’s hand rest on my shoulder, the tips of his fingers moving in a slow, comforting circle. “You don’t have to be here Cass. My place is only next door.”
“I know.” I exited his vehicle, shutting the door harder than normal. A ragged sigh escaped my lips as I walked around the car to face the house. No matter how prepared I felt for this situation, I knew it would hit me the moment I crossed the threshold.
I did not wait for Samuel as I quickly walked up the pathway and up to the front door. With shaky hands, I put my keys in and unlocked the door. The heavy door creaked as it slowly pushed itself open. A sad smile graced my lips as I thought about the door. I always told my mother we needed to fix the door, but she would just laugh and say, ‘It gave the place character’.
My feet dragged me towards the living room, gravitating me towards the couch. Tears pricked in my eyes as pictures of my mom and me at various points in life caught my attention. I kicked off my shoes, tucking my feet underneath me as I grabbed a photo off the side table.
It was my mother and me at my high school graduation right after I had received my diploma. My mother wanted to take some photos outside, but I was steadfast against it. I had been in a blazing hot arena with hundreds of other people. My face beat red and sweat was pouring down my face. My hair was even a matted mess from being underneath the cap for so long. Needless to say, my mother won out and we took the photo.
The front door closed as I heard Samuel shuffle into the living room. “Do you need anything?”
“I could use some coffee. Then again, I might need something a little stronger than coffee.”
“Fair enough. I have to stop off at the station, see how things are going with Ethan. I’ve also got to stop off at home and grab some stuff. Are you going to be ok?”
“What’s the worst that can happen? Bursting into tears and cry myself to sleep?” My hand felt cold against the glass of the frame as I continued looking at the picture of my mother and me. Now that I think about it, this was one of the last photos taken of my mother when she was not sick. She started showing symptoms shortly afterward, but like most mothers, she insisted it was just a cold she couldn’t kick and refused to go to the doctors. Maybe if she would have gone in sooner, she would still be here.
“I’ll be back at soon as I can. Call me if you need anything.” I don’t know if Samuel was waiting for a response, but there were a few moments of silence before I heard him sigh and exit the house.
And just like that the silence that I once looked forward to at the end of the day was deafening. The only thing that could be heard was birds chirping outside. I turned the TV on just so I did not have to deal with the silence. As I tried getting myself lost in whatever bullshit reality show was on, the house phone chirped to life on the coffee. I’m surprised the things still charged considering my mind’s been elsewhere lately.
“Yeah- “I answered, sniffling in an attempt to stop the tears from flowing.
“I see you’re doing the same shit I’ve been trying to do for the past hour.” Hazel remained emotionless as she too sniffled.
“Yeah, and it’s doing jack shit.” We both shared a small chuckle before I cleared my throat. “Michael sent me the video. Ethan was the guy pacing outside Crenshaw’s house before the murder.”
“Oh, so your personal stalker is possibly a murderer! That’s great Cassie!” A sarcastic edge crept into Hazel’s voice. “What are the cops going to do about it?”
“They brought Ethan in for questioning, Samuel just went to check-in at the station, so I’ll probably find out when he gets back.” I’m hoping Hazel just slides past the fact that Samuel was at my house.
“Hazel, I think we should- back off the private investigation of the murder thing. With Ethan being as close to me as he is- “
“I’m sure your personal bodyguard would be willing to protect you.” I found myself narrowing my eyes at Hazel’s comments before continuing.
“It’s not just that. Haze- my mother was in the hospital dying and I was out not only trying to solve this murder in the process! I got Sam’s partner killed because I couldn’t keep my nose out of this shit!” A fresh set of tears began making its way down my face. “I should have been with Mom before she died.”
“Hey,” Hazel spoke sternly, her voice taking a hard, but caring tone. “Cass, what happened to your mother is not your fault. You had no way of knowing that she would die. The doctor’s themselves were shocked this happened this quickly. You’ve got to stop blaming yourself for what happened, otherwise it’s just going to eat you away.”
She sighed deeply, letting out a shaky breath in the process. “If you want to stop this, then we’ll stop.”
“Thank you. I should go. Try and see if I can get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day with the funeral arrangements, meeting with the owner of the building for the shop- Fuck” I rubbed a hand across my face.
“I’ll go with you to help you out. She was a second mom to me.” There was a long pause before Hazel spoke up again. “Cassandra?”
“I know I’ve had my reservations about him in the past and if anyone ever asks me, I will deny I said anything but- Samuel is a good guy. He’s a good guy for you. I know he cares a lot about you.” With Hazel, hung up the phone, leaving me completely speechless.