C A S S A D E E
The sun was shining over the mountains in the distance, snow coating everything around in a blanket of ice. It was really bright, I noticed, as I got up and pulled the blinds shut a little more. It was too bright for my eyes, and I wasn’t awake enough for my eyes to have adjusted. I walked over to my closet and pulled out an oversized sweater and a pair of ripped skinny jeans, with a pair of leggings to go underneath. I pulled out my snow boots and carried everything to the bathroom.
I started the shower and let the water warm up, thankful for the warmth of the heater. The weather was the only thing I wasn’t completely in love with about the sleepy Alaskan city.
I walked to the mirror and pulled my hair out of the bun I’d put it into sleep and ran my brush through my hair and brushed my teeth, taking a moment to look over myself in the mirror. When the shower started to steam, I pulled my sleeping shirt over my head and tossed it into the dirty clothes hamper. I pulled off my underwear and got in under the scalding water, letting it chase any additional chill away.
I started shampooing my hair, scrubbing at my scalp, and ensuring that I got all of the hairspray out of my hair. I sighed deeply in relief, the warmth of the water letting me completely forget about the chill outside. I rinsed my hair out after I was satisfied with my scrubbing and began conditioning.
I let the conditioner sit for a moment while I started washing myself with my loofah. Once I was clean, I rinsed the conditioner from my hair and grabbed my face wash. Now would be a really bad time to have a breakout, given that tonight my girlfriends and I are going out to the only bar in the city. Hanks.
Hanks was a little bar that I’d bartended at when I was eighteen, just until I had enough credits in college to begin working in a daycare. It was hard to balance working at a bar, going to classes to get my ECE, and I was planning on going back and getting my CDA. It was a lot harder than I’d initially thought to get a job as a daycare worker, and while I fully understood why, it made it really difficult to get my certifications. My Early Childhood Education certificate was difficult to obtain with little money, but the Childhood Development Associates’ degree was going to be a little bit harder than just difficult.
I wasn’t looking forward to working three jobs, but once it’s over with and I have my associates, I can open my own daycare and work from home. The only daycare in town was immensely overworked, there were only two daycare workers, me and the woman who owned the daycare and operated it. We were there every day from open to close, except for Saturday and Sunday. I wasn’t opposed to working all the time at all, it gave me something to do and I completely adore working with the kids. It’s just unnecessarily difficult because both of us have twenty-five toddlers to look after.
If a classroom of teenagers with twenty-five students is a lot to handle, imagine if half of them couldn’t talk, and didn’t know how to use the restroom. Now, add in toys and fights over who should get to play with them. To couple that up, I should just mention that if one child wakes up crying it can cause a chain reaction of squeals that echo off of the old stone walls.
I stood in the shower for a moment, until I heard the bathroom door push open with a squeak. After a second of silence, my dog General stuck his head into the shower and cocked his head to the side, letting out an irritated huff at me.
Must be breakfast time, I thought to myself, reaching forward and turning off the water. I stepped out of the shower and onto the mat. General ran over to the towel shelf and grabbed me a towel, dropping it at my feet and giving me an almost goofy look. His head was cocked to the side a little bit, his mouth open wide and his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. I giggled a little bit. “Good boy,” I said, picking up the towel and carefully hiding it from him while I grabbed the one I planned to actually use.
General was a service dog to old man Crever, back before he died. Crever was a vet from the second world war, he was blind and missing an arm. If anyone needed something to hand them towels when getting out of a shower it was Crever. I knew that General was trying to help me, so I never got onto him for dirtying towels. I always hid them ingeniously and then put them in the laundry later. All of my towels are the same light lilac purple, but to him, they were just a dull grey I assumed. He’d never know the difference, and it made him happy to help.
I dried off and put on my bra, clasping it behind me. I pulled on my underwear and pants, zipping them up. I then pulled my sweater over my head and stopped at the mirror to brush my hair a final time before going downstairs to feed General and start breakfast. I grabbed the dog food and poured him some into his bowl. I sat it down in front of him and he sat there for a moment, looking up at me before digging in. I laughed a little bit and started brewing coffee.
My coffee machine went off just in time for General to finish eating. I poured myself a cup of coffee and poured my creamer and sugar in, waiting until he was finished drinking to go over to the door and open it up. “Go on, Gen. Don’t go too far, it’s cold,” I said, and he cocked his head as if he understood me, and trotted out of the back door into the fenced-in back yard.
When I took General, my ex-boyfriend had fenced in my entire backyard, stating that now that he’s retired he should have somewhere to play without fear of getting lost. It was the only thing I actually agreed with Darien on. I shuddered at the thought of his name and took a large gulp of my coffee.
I started working on making a cinnamon apple pie, the tiny little ones that you can eat in one sitting. Once it was done I put it in the oven for ten minutes and went to my living room cutting on the television and letting the news play in the background. I went and poked my head out the still opened door, seeing General running in the snow, his thick black fur standing out amidst the completely snow-covered ground. He was playing with the snow, I giggled as I watched him jump straight up in the air after a falling snowflake.
It was cute. I was glad that I got to be General’s forever home, even if he had a silly name. I’d thought about changing it after spending some time with him and realizing that he was the last dog I pictured to be named General. He was way, way too playful to have suck a serious name. I guess that he never really had a puppy stage, as he was always working. I frowned a little, going and picking up one of General’s tennis balls and throwing it out to him. His head perked up and he immediately ran after the ball. I knew that’d keep him occupied for a while.
I grabbed my pie out of the fridge and drizzled a little bit of cream on the top of it, eating it slowly as I drank my coffee. Once I was done, I washed the dishes and placed them in the drainer to dry. I poured myself another cup of coffee and got started on making my lunch. I made a ham sandwich, grabbed a bag of sun chips and a cup of pineapple chunks in a plastic container. I tossed a spoon into the bag and zipped it up. Okay. Ready to go. I stuck my head out and called General. He came running up to me with his tennis ball in his mouth, his fur slightly damp from the snow. Once he came in, he shook off his fur and a flurry of half-melted snowflakes littered the floor.
He turned around and started licking them. I just giggled and let him, it’s only water, right? I walked to the front door and grabbed my jacket and scarf, zipping it up and wrapping the scarf around my neck. I pulled on a toboggan over my slightly damp hair and grabbed my keys. I turned around to say goodbye to General before I walked out the door, leaving him alone for a few hours. The dog walker would be by at two to feed him lunch and walk him. Then I’ll get home around six.
The brisk morning air assaulted my skin, making goosebumps rush over my skin. I hurriedly ran to my Honda and unlocked it with the key fob, hopping in and cranking the heat up to max. The drive to the daycare wasn’t long or incredibly difficult, I could easily drive with one hand and scan through the channels, looking for something to listen to. When I found nothing, I switched over to my CD and let it start playing.
I sang along to Patsy Cline, knew every word to every song she’d ever sung. I swear, somehow I was meant to be born in the fifties. I loved all of the music, the television and radio shows. I had a turntable and hundreds of old records in my family room.
Once I pulled up at the daycare, I put the car in park and headed into the building behind Bernice. She was an older woman, who had lived here all of her life. She was extremely kind, was talkative, and relatable. She reminded me a lot of my mother in some ways, and my grandmother in other ways. It was a nice, comforting feeling.
It was eight o’clock when the first child was dropped off, it was Turner, a little brunette boy with two front teeth and a beautiful smile. He clapped when he saw me and started reaching out to me. I smiled and grabbed him, placing him on my hip and talking to his mother Tawnya a little bit. She was going through it right now and wanted to know if I could babysit Turner for three hours next Saturday, it was the only day she could get off work to drive to Anchorage, the nearest city with specialists.
I had told her I didn’t know why that’d be a problem and told her to just call me before dropping him off. I made a mental note to cancel plans with Jennifer that day, I’d have to stay home with him.
It was well known around here that if you require childcare on the weekends for important stuff, I’d watch your children. I didn’t charge much, just because I made a decent wage working for Bernice. I figure that paying it forward will pay off in the end. Maybe.
By noon, twenty more kids were here, and they were all playing with various toys. Some were playing together, others were coloring(mainly the older kids, we had a couple of homeschooled kids that were here during their parents’ workday and then do school in the evening), and some were taking their naps. I was cleaning off the table to give them all a snack, cut green grapes. Some of the kids were still taking bottles, so their snack would be their bottles. I set up the table and put the feeding chairs in a row beside the seat I’d be in. Thankfully, only one of the kids here was too young to feed themselves, so I could just keep an eye on the others.
I laid out fifteen paper plates with a small portion of cut grapes on the table in front of seats, I then put out one plate of buttered noodles for the autistic child we had, John. He was the sweetest child ever, but all he would eat is mashed potatoes, rice, peanut butter, and buttered noodles. His mother brought him food from home, so it wasn’t a huge problem. I gave all sixteen seats in total a cup of diluted apple juice. I then grabbed the prepared bottles out of the freezer, putting them in a large bowl of hot water, and prepared the one formula bottle, before turning the water to as hot as possible and letting it heat the bottles. I then grabbed the kids and put them in their seats and got busy making sure no one was choking.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by, and I was on my way home to get ready to go to the bar. I was decidedly less excited about going after having spent the day chasing children. I wasn’t going to let it get me down, instead, I took a quick shower and shaved my legs. I got out and grabbed a black sequence dress, pulling it on and fixing the shoulders. Underneath it, I pulled on some black tights and put on my heels. I curled my hair and put on some light makeup. I put on some hoop earrings and went out to the living room to see General laying out on the couch belly up. I cracked a smile, grabbed my jacket, and walked as fast as I could out to my car. It was freezing outside, but I welcomed the feeling tonight.
The cold air made me more awake, something I desperately needed. I was tired beyond belief, I’d had to stay at work two hours late to wait on Mellissa Todd to come to pick up Brix because she got stuck at work in Anchorage. When I pulled into Hanks, Jennifer, Maria, and Shawna were sitting in Jennifer’s car. I waved and they got out at the same time as I did and we hurried into the bar together, escaping the chill.
Hank’s was warm, notoriously so. I found comfort in the warm bar, going to sit down at the familiar bar and ordering a whiskey sour. “You look so good!” Jennifer said, downing a shot of tequila.
“Girl please, you look fantastic,” I said automatically, taking a drink of my whiskey sour. I wasn’t going to go all out tonight like they apparently were. It only takes a little alcohol for me to have a good time.
“No, you look so much happier after the breakup,” Shawna explained, sipping on a margarita. “At first you were all sad and stuff, which I understand. You dated Darien for a long time. But, now that you’re over him you’re so much happier.”
“I am happier,” I admitted, finishing my drink off. “He was...” I trailed off, thinking about the night that made me say no more. I tried not to think about it, honestly. Darien was better-left way far behind me. He had decided after we broke up to move to Washington state, and I hadn’t even wanted him to stay.
“He was a controlling, manipulative, cheating, hot-headed bastard,” Maria said. Maria, always a light-drinker, got wasted way too easily. When she got even a little alcohol in her system, her accent was thick. I wasn’t even sure where the accent would’ve come from because she had grown up here. It just made Maria unique. Everything about Maria was unique, though. Her long black hair was naturally wavy, her breasts were large, and she had long legs. The deep golden brown eyes, flecks of color popping out in a beautiful and luminescent way.
“Amen to that,” The bartender, Luca said, putting four shots down on the counter. Whiskey, I could tell. My favorite. “Drink up ladies, this round is on that gentleman over there.” He said, motioning towards the guy. I glanced up, meeting eyes with someone I hadn’t met before. He was gorgeous, and the fact that he was staring at me with a cocky little smile on his face made me blush. I lowered my eyes and took the shot, downing it in one go. We all slammed our glasses down on the bar at one time. I laughed and little.
I was really glad that I had done this. I wasn’t able to do it when Darien and I were together. He didn’t like my friends, and the feeling was mutual--they hated him.
“Cass, girl, that guy who bought us drinks is totally sending you sex eyes,” Jennifer said seemingly completely forgetting what a whisper was supposed to be, and I blushed and jabbed her in the side with my elbow. “Ow!” She hissed.
“Jeez, he’s hot,” Maria said wistfully.
“Oh yeah,” Shawna agreed. “I say if anyone should rebound Darien it’s that hunk right there.”
“Cass go say hi!” Jennifer said and started trying to push me towards him. I hesitated, looking over them.
“I am going to look like a total idiot,” I said, and they shook their heads at me.
“Tell him to thank you for the drinks, it’ll break the ice.” Maria offered with a friendly smile. “Just be confident.”
I had enough alcohol in me to steel my courage, and I let them usher me towards the guy. I walked up to him and played with my curly hair a little nervously. “Thank you for the drinks,” I said.
“Oh, no problem.” He said, turning around on the barstool to look me in the eyes. In the dimly lit bar, I could make out how utterly handsome he was. His dark brown hair was cut short, he had a five o’clock shadow and the deepest blue eyes I’d ever seen. He was ruggedly handsome, slightly tanned, and wearing a black tee-shirt that made his muscles completely visible under it. He had on a pair of jeans, probably designer. “Would you like to sit with me?” He asked.
“Ummm...” I hummed, glancing at my friends who were shaking their heads adamantly, saying yes. I nodded, sitting down. He immediately called Luca over, and I ordered myself a whiskey sour. Once the drink was in front of me, I took a sip, and glance over at him. “Are you new to town?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just moved here a few weeks ago.” He said, turning his whole body to face me. “It’s nice out here.”
“It is, I love it here,” I said and shrugged. “It can be boring, no one hardly ever moves to town. Anchorage is the place most people live, here.” I said. He nodded his head, giving me his full attention, and I found myself flushing under it.
After a bit of small talk, some flirting, and a few shots of whiskey, I found myself inviting him to come home with me. I was nervous, I hadn’t slept with anyone since Darien. It seemed a little rushed, maybe, but I couldn’t really be bothered with caring. I didn’t know what it was about him, but it just made me feel... safe. I wasn’t a reckless person, there aren’t any strangers here... but him.
I shouldn’t have invited him in, I really shouldn’t have. But, I did.