They let me out of the hospital within a few days. Hazel visited me every day for several hours, updating me on what was going on outside of the hospital. The owner of the bookstore space had contacted her and gave her his condolences. He also informed Hazel that my mother had stipulated in her lease that if anything were to happen to her, the lease would automatically transfer over to me. That is one less thing to worry about.
While I was in the hospital, Samuel kept his word and called every day to see how things were for me in the hospital but nothing past that. Part of me was angry but I knew I really had no right to be. He was being punished for doing his job, which he loved! Part of him is probably pissed at me since I was the reason he went to my place. I would not blame him if he were.
After getting out, the first thing Hazel and I did was make the arrangements for the cremation. I wanted to have a small funeral, but it was my mother’s wish to be cremated. In her words, ‘Why take up space for something that will further prosper the community with a rotting corpse?’ In a compromise, Hazel and I decided to have a small memorial in honor for her at the house. We promised ourselves that we would not spend the night mourning, which is what my mom would have wanted. Which is why we decided to spend the evening drinking my mother’s favorite white wine all while watching her favorite game shows.
There was something I realized while I was in the hospital. I had to stop throwing myself the pity party that I was heading to. Sure, I lost my mother and I was pretty sure that I was going to lose the only guy I have ever truly cared about, but I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. I needed to move on. I told my mom I was going to make sure I was happy. This is for her.
So, as soon as I did not feel like a piece of shit, I started looking for apartments. It took several long nights off scouring the internet, but I found one. It was a studio apartment a few miles outside of town. Close enough that traveling to the store every day will not be a pain but far enough away to start a new. I also decided to go back to school and finish my degree. With the business, I would have to do online classes, but it was a start.
It was the night of the memorial and Hazel and I were curled up on the couch, watching Wheel of Fortune with our glasses of wine in hand. We had just ordered pizza and were waiting for it to be delivered.
“Oh, come on, how could you not get it?!” Hazel yelled at the TV contestants; her face contorted in frustration.
“Ever think maybe it’s just stage fright? They are being taped live for national television after all?”
“Yeah, or maybe they’re all just dumbasses! How could John NOT know its Pretzels dipped in Mustard!”
A full-bodied laugh escaped me as tears appeared in my eyes. “What if he’s never dipped his pretzels in Mustard?!”
“Well, that’s his problem!” When the TV turned to commercial, Hazel turned her body on the couch towards me. “Is it true- you’re looking at an apartment tomorrow?”
“It is indeed.” A silence lulled between us for a few moments before Hazel cleared her throat.
“Though I would be lying if I say I am not going to miss you, but I understand. I cannot blame you. I want you to be happy Cassandra and if this is what it’s going to take, then I’m not going to stand in your way.” By the smirk growing on her face, I knew there was a but coming. “But- somehow I don’t think Samuel will be too thrilled about you leaving.”
“Somehow I don’t think he would care Hazel. I blew it with him, Hazel. I lied to his face and got his partner killed. I’d hate me if I were him.” I got up from the couch to refill my wine glass, hoping it would be enough to diffuse the conversation.
“Have you asked him if he hates you?”
“No, but based on the way he hasn’t come to see me since the day I got admitted to the hospital, I would say he hates me.” I grabbed the bottle of wine before heading back to the living room. “Hazel I fucked up. Majorly. I cannot and should not expect him to come back after it. It’s time I move on.”
Third Person, The next Day
Samuel had been standing outside of Cassandra’s place for several minutes now, his eyes cast towards the door. He had been trying to work up the courage to knock on the door since he arrived. It took several days, but he was cleared to go back to work. In that time, he kept his distance from Cassandra. He couldn’t face not only the possibility of losing his job but losing her as well. Samuel knew that he was being unfair to her and he hated it. She did not deserve this.
Sighing, he raised his hand to knock on the door. Before his knuckles could connect with the wood, the door swung open, revealing Hazel on the other side of the door.
“Is Cassandra here? I want to talk to her.”
Hazel rolled her eyes before crossing her arms over her chest. “Now you want to talk to her. Hate to tell you this but you are a little late. She went to check an apartment out the next town over.”
Samuel could not help but stare at her with wide eyes. “Wow. She uh- wasn’t kidding when she said she was going to move.”
“What do you expect Sam? She doesn’t think she has anything left for her here.”
“She has you, Hazel.”
“I think we both know she’s not talking about me.” She pointed out to him. Sighing, Hazel ran a hand through her hair as she uncrossed her arms. “She thinks you hate her after what she did.”
At first, Samuel was confused. Why would Cassandra think that she hated by me? Then the day of the incident flashed in his memory. The harsh, hurtful words that he said to her played in his mind.
“Look, Samuel- whether I like you or not doesn’t change the fact that you’re a good guy for her.” Hazel felt around in her pockets until she pulled out a slip of paper. After glancing at it briefly, she handed the slip over to him.
“That’s the address of the apartment she’s checking out. Convince her that there’s something left for her here,” Hazel paused for a few seconds before continuing.