The following is the third section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here.
“This is not a date,” Cassandra said for the hundredth time. To emphasize the point, she used her hands. She began by waving her hands out in front towards Alisha in a “Get out of here” fashion. She followed that with brushing her right hand casually through her hair (“It’s such a little deal, see how little I care about messing up my hair” was the thought behind the motion). It was all too casual… She paused, let out a fake sigh and then sprinted back to the closet. “Where is that damn black dress?”
“You mean the low-cut one?” Alisha asked from the doorway.
“Yes!” Cassandra quickly turned to face Alisha.
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is. I bought it in London on the flight over.”
“I bought that two years ago when I was in Paris.”
“Paris? Paris? You were in Paris for five minutes. And that was just to pick up that new girl.”
“I still had time to shop.”
“Uh huh.” Alisha leaned against the doorframe. She crossed her arms. She stared at Cassandra.
Cassandra stared at her.
She stared back at Cassandra.
“SO WHERE THE HELL IS IT?” Cassandra screamed.
Alisha jumped. “The dry cleaners.”
Cassandra threw up her arms in frustration and turned back to her closet.
“And is he really a low-cut kind of guy? You look fine,” Alisha tried to reassure. “Why don’t you just wear what you’re wearing?”
Cassandra glared at her.
“Okay, wear something else, see if I care.”
Cassandra grabbed an armful of her clothing in the closet and threw it all on the couch. “Worthless, worthless. God, why do you allow me to buy such crap?”
“Why don’t you wear that blue dress?”
Cassandra frantically turned back to the closet.” Which one?”
“The one you wore to Monty’s party.”
“But that was just last month. He was there and saw me.” (Cassandra didn’t bring up the fact that she actually knocked him down that night… Well, a lot had happened since then).
“I don’t remember seeing him there,” Alisha said matter-of-factly.
Cassandra turned around to face Alisha… The expression on Cassandra’s face instantly made Alisha think: Oh shit. “Did you have any drinks that night?” Cassandra asked.
“Well, I might have had a few,” Alisha replied awkwardly,
“A few? Then you can remember what they were.”
“I don’t know, Cassandra, it was a month ago! Maybe a martini and…”
“You were drunk!” Cassandra threw up her hands again (this time even more dramatically) and turned back to the couch full of dresses. “So you are of no help to me.”
Alisha was annoyed. There is so much abuse a friend will take before walking away. Of course, Alisha was the kind of friend that would make sure to get in one last dig on the way out. “I thought it was not a date,” she said as she walked away from the room without a backwards glance.
Cassandra chased after her. She leaned out her door and called after her. “I’m not nervous. I’m not. I’m not excited at all. It’s not a date! It’s not a date, Alisha! Do you hear me, Alisha? I said it’s not a date.” She smiled to herself (assured Alisha heard her) and turned back to her clothes.
Then… right then…. Air escaped her. Cassandra was overcome with a fear. She couldn’t do this. She wasn’t ready for this! What was she thinking agreeing to this? She had just come back to “civilization;” she wasn’t ready to be an active part in it. As if she could just be “normal,” abandon her history so completely. The party was one thing and she didn’t even stay there long, but this was all just too much. He is a reverend, her mind screamed. She suddenly had trouble breathing. The air was not returning to her.
“Alisha,” she softly said. She had never had asthma. Is this what it was like? She needed air. She needed to get outside and have a deep breath of warm, clean, fresh, beautiful air… And yet, she was able to make her next exclamation good and loud. “ALISHA!”
That one she heard. Alisha sighed and walked back to the room. “Yes?” Alisha stared dumbfounded. “Are you okay?”
Cassandra was pale. She was sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked like she was going to pass out. “I… I… “
“Do you want some water?” Alisha walked forward.
“I can’t do this, Alisha. I’m not ready. I mean, he is such a sweet man. I could never hope to… I mean, him and me… It’s just… Alisha I can’t… What if he finds out, I… He deserves better… I’m not ready…”
Alisha sat on the bed next to Cassandra and took her hand. “Cassandra, he likes you and if you like him, what’s wrong with that? When you’re ready you can tell him about your past. And if he doesn’t understand, well then, fuck him.”
“Alisha,” Cassandra looked at her, “he’s a reverend. I can’t… I mean, I would go to Hell for that I’m pretty sure.”
“No,” Alisha laughed. “I didn’t mean fuck as in fuck. I meant, like, let him go. If he doesn’t see you for the real you and judges you by your past, well, he isn’t worth it.”
“Alisha, we aren’t good people. I’ve done bad things and…”
“Cassandra, you did what you had to to survive. You’ve been given a second chance to start over in life. Jonathan is a great guy…. And, remember, it’s not a date.” Alisha ran her hand through Cassandra’s hair. The color was starting to slowly return to Cassandra’s face. “Now you need to get dressed, so I’m going to go…”
Cassandra grabbed Alisha’s arm hard (Ow!). “Come with us.”
“Cassandra, you’re hurting me, let go.”
“Come with us.” Cassandra squeezed harder.
Alisha tried to get away, but couldn’t. The grip was too hard. “I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Follow us then.”
“And if I need you, I’ll signal and you can be my excuse to leave.”
“That’s such a bad idea.”
“I’ll give you a hundred dollars.”
“I can’t do it, it wouldn’t be right… I mean, what if he sees me and…”
“A thousand!” Cassandra interrupted.
“Sure.” They shook hands quickly and Alisha walked out. “Wear the blue dress, Cassandra!” she called as she walked away down the stairs.
“This isn’t a date, Cassandra explained to the Reverend as they walked towards his car.
“Oh, I know,” he smiled, “We’re just two friends spending time together.” He held the door open for her.
“Good,” she stated (Does he think this is a game?), “I’m glad we agree on this point.”
“Because I’m not even interested in dating you,” Jonathan said slyly.
She turned to him intrigued and confused. Can a man of God make an evil, twisted joke like that? There has to be some kind of rule out there about that, right? I hope he’s joking… What am I saying? I’m not ready for anything? Certainly nothing romantic. A friendship would be nice. A real friendship, yes nothing more. Nothing, nothing more.
He started the car.
He started it again.
He looked over at her with an awkward smile. “Reverend salary.” He tried another time and this time with success. He exhaled a sigh; he could relax now. Now he could go back to being cool… or a close facsimile.
He pulled the car away from her house and down the street. Something caught his eye through his rearview mirror. “Oh, is Alisha going out tonight?”
“No!’ Cassandra said a little stronger than she had hoped. Breathe, now speak slowly and maybe he won’t notice that you just yelled at him. “I don’t believe so Mr. Reverend, she told me she was planning to stay in and read a book.”
“Not the Good Book, but a book, yes.”
“I know there are other books, thank you. That certainly looks like her in the red car behind us. And I think it came out of your driveway.” He took a left. “And it just took a left behind us too.”
God, Alisha is going to blow everything. Change the subject! “So where are we going to dinner?”
“The Barclay’s Dining House,” Jonathan said.
Cassandra turned to look at him. “Isn’t that a little expensive?”
“Well, I figure I need to pay you back for all those times you let me read in your gazebo.”
“But I wasn’t even living in the house then.”
“Yes,” He held up a finger as if he was giving a speech and this was a point he wanted an invisible audience to take a careful note on. “But it was still your house, your property, your land, your quaint gazebo.”
“But I insist, Reverend…”
“Call me Jonathan, please.”
“But I insist, Reverend Jonathan…”
For some reason, it didn’t feel right for her to call him only by his first name. What am I so nervous about? He was around her age, he was just another male and it’s not as if she hadn’t seen a lot of them in her past… Don’t think about that! It’s the past, let it go. You’re here now. Move on… Move… She smiled to herself and looked out the window at the passing landscape. The beach was beautiful that night. It was always beautiful, calming. “Okay, Jonathan,” she said. It felt strangely nice to say his name.
“See, that wasn’t so bad,” He looked away from the road to her. “But be careful, who you say it in front of. There are some people I like having some authority over.” He winked and turned back to the road.
She giggled and then covered her mouth with her hand. She was almost embarrassed. When was the last time I giggled?
He smiled to himself. He finally made her laugh. Three phone calls and two conversations later, he finally broke through. She intrigued him. Yes, intrigue was a good word for it. Ever since the first moment he met her, there was something different about her. And even though their conversations were heated debates that seemed to be nothing more than a collection of bait and switch, he couldn’t get her out of his mind… He took a right…. If he told his mother, he was sure she would have been very happy… Of course, if you asked him openly, he would also agree that it wasn’t a date. Much easier to deal with the circumstance if the feelings were held at bay… Or at least, the illusion that they were being held at bay.
He stopped the car at a red light. The red car with the hooded Alisha-lookalike in the shades was still behind then. He decided to test his theory. He quickly looked back at her and waved.
She waved back. She quickly stopped and pretended to look in another direction.
Jonathan turned to Cassandra with a triumphant look on his face. She was following them.
Cassandra smiled at him pleasantly, but the second the light turned green and the car pushed forward, she turned to look back at Alisha. It was a powerful glare that traveled from that passenger seat to the car behind. In fear Alisha slowed her car to almost a complete halt (There was honking behind her).
Jonathan took another right and they were suddenly out of Alisha’s line of vision.
Alisha had blown her cover and since she had no idea where they were going she had lost them… Cassandra was going to kill her when she got home… Well, maybe not kill, but it definitely was going to hurt whatever she decided on.
“This isn’t a date,” Cassandra explained to the Hostess. The Hostess (Maggie) didn’t know how to respond. She had worked for four years in the restaurant and that was the first time she ever had gotten that response for saying nothing more than, “Your table is ready.” Maggie looked at Cassandra in her blue dress and then over at the Reverend in his nice black suit. She knew exactly what was going on. “Are you sure this isn’t a date?”
“No,” they both said… Pause. They looked at each other. “I mean, yes,” they said together.
“Not a date,” Jonathan said. Cassandra pretended to whistle and look around at the other patrons waiting to be seated.
“I don’t know about that,” the Hostess said with a slightly evil smile, “the Reverend is wearing his good suit today.”
Cassandra quickly looked over at him. His good suit? This is his good suit? She thought it was nice, but for it to be classified as his good suit seemed a little sad… and yet, she felt she had the upper hand since he wore it for her. She smiled and made a light snickering noise.
Jonathan blushed. “Thanks, Maggie.”
Maggie grabbed two menus, said, “Always like to help,” and led them to their table, but she couldn’t end it there. After helping them sit down, she leaned into Jonathan’s ear and said in an obviously poor attempt to whisper. “She’s very pretty.”
Jonathan blushed again.
Maggie laughed under her breath and walked away leaving them at the table.
“It’s a nice suit,” Cassandra lied awkwardly.
“It’s not my good suit,” Jonathan lied in return, just as awkwardly, “I do have another one.”
“Really, I do.”
“I’m not doubting.”
“It’s flashy with gold buttons and stuff.”
“Well…” Jonathan was about to describe a suit that would make Willy Wonka proud, when suddenly he saw the waiter. “Oh, no.”
To describe the waiter as walking up to their table would not do it justice. He had a walk that leaned a little to the right and gave the perception that he was trying to accent every muscle in his arms and chest. Facially, it looked like he was squinting at something. “How you two doing tonight?” he said with a bad New Orleans accent.
Jonathan looked up at him and then proceeded to moan, “Not again.”
“What’s wrong?” Cassandra asked Jonathan.
Jonathan looked a little upset. “Why didn’t you warn me, Rick? You got the part, didn’t you?”
“Who is Rick,” the waiter said. “My name is Stanley and I will be your waiter tonight… Hey, that is some bird you have with you tonight Rev. What nest did you find her in?”
All Cassandra could get out was “What…” before Jonathan quickly began to explain the situation. “Rick here is a method actor and he likes to become his character…”
“Who is this Rick fella, you keep bringing up?” Rick asked annoyed.
“And it turns out he got the part of Stanley in Streetcar Named Desire.”
Cassandra looked up at Rick. He smiled a twisted smile back at her. She looked over at Jonathan. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Hey, are you two going to order or what? I have other hungry people than yous two to take care of,” Rick said.
“Your accent is slipping, Rick. You sound a little Brooklyn. Give us a minute, Rick,” Jonathan said. He made sure to emphasis the name ‘Rick’ strongly.
Rick gave him a scolding look and sauntered away.
Jonathan turned to Cassandra. “I’m sorry, if I thought he had the part, I wouldn’t have come here.”
“I thought for sure it would go to Goodwin.”
“Does Rick do this every time he gets a part?”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. He put the napkin over his lap. “You should have seen him when he got the male lead in Sound of Music… Painful, he kept confusing customers with either singing children or Nazis… Good production, though.” Jonathan turned his attention to his menu.
Cassandra was about to ask him if there was anything he would recommend when she got the sneaking suspicion someone was looking at her. She glanced back. It was Alisha! She looked a fright. She looked like she had been running frantically from restaurant to restaurant down the main strip of the town (which is what she was doing) and was tired. She was panting and she had to lean against the wall from stopping herself from collapsing. When she noticed Cassandra’s eye contact, she gave a small salute and collapsed in a chair in the waiting area.
Cassandra turned quickly back to the Reverend and held up her menu in such a way that he wouldn’t see directly behind her into the waiting area. “Is there anything you would recommend?” Cassandra asked as force-relaxed as possible.
“Well, they are known for their meatballs and spaghetti, but…”
“That sounds great. Order for me when Stanley, I mean, Rick gets back.” Cassandra got up quickly.
“Where are you going?”
Cassandra thought quickly. “I’m going to go get us some wine.” She picked up the two glasses of water on the table. “We don’t want water.” She then scurried away. “I’ll bring back wine.”
“What are you doing here?” Cassandra asked Alisha.
“You told me,” she panted out… or at least tried to since Cassandra was still talking.
“This is not how you hide out. You couldn’t stand out more here.”
Alisha took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but you said to follow…”
“You can’t stay here.”
“Do you want me to go home?” Alisha asked while in her mind she frantically thought, please say yes.
“No,” Cassandra stated. “You’re going to meet up with us outside the movie theater.”
Cassandra leaned in and pointed. “I can’t do everything for you. Earn your money. If you want you can just follow us there when we leave. Whatever. I don’t care. Work it out for yourself. Now I’m going to go get some damn wine.”
Cassandra returned with wine. Jonathan was going to make a joke about turning water into wine as a nice trick, but decided against it. It would have been a lame (and inappropriate) joke and tonight, he wanted to forget for a few hours he was a reverend, a symbol in this town. However, all of his best jokes worked around him being a reverend. If he lost his faith, most of his best lines would disappear along with it! He sipped his wine and kicked himself for not having a back-up line prepared before she came back. The moment was gone.
Cassandra was staring at another table now. It was only occupied by an old man. An old man who was wearing a cape. “Who is that?” Cassandra whispered.
“Who do you mean?”
“The man in the black cape,” She nodded her head in the direction of the table.
Jonathan looked at at the gentleman in question. The old man was in the process of taking his fake fanged teeth out of his mouth so he could drink a glass of water. Jonathan snickered as a part of his mind felt relief in the fact that he had found an interesting point of conversation. “That is Vampire Hooper.”
“Well, actually he is Mr. Terry Hooper, but he likes to think he is a vampire.”
“Why does he think he is a vampire?” Cassandra whispered.
Jonathan leaned forward. “Well, back when he was young, he was in a torrid affair…”
“Him? Torrid?” It was hard for Cassandra to picture a woman ripping the clothes off of such a thin, small-built man. She tried to hold back a mean giggle, but couldn’t help it.
Jonathan smiled in return and continued, “Anyway, during one of their encounters she bit his neck and drew blood. Now Mr. Hooper is a very superstitious man and it instantly clicks with him that something is wrong. Instead of thinking it was only a playful bite, he believes it was something more. And since that moment, he has been donning the cape and fake teeth… Terry is not the brightest man.”
Cassandra looked casually back at the man and back at Jonathan. “Get out of here.”
“No, I’m serious,” Jonathan said. “This is a very superstitious island. If anything it has too many legends and such nonsense, unfortunately,” Jonathan paused. “Actually, let me correct myself, it’s unfortunate that so many people here believe their folklore… Well, it gives me good business, so can I really complain?” He laughed lightly at his own joke.
“Example?” He had caught Cassandra’s attention with this line of discussion.
So the good Reverend let out a fake sigh and began to think back on some more of the dark tales he had heard. “Well, we have a lot to choose from. The fact that the citizens will only celebrate Halloween a week early out of fear… Oh, the glowing grave… And then there is the matter of the lost pirate treasure.”
That caught Cassandra’s attention! She put down her fork and leaned forward. “Pirate treasure?”
“Yes, the treasure of Captain 2-Finger McGillis. If you stick around long enough, you should hear more than enough about it. The town is mad for that yarn.”
“And this treasure is lost?”
“Yes, old 2-Finger’s treasure. Some have spent their lives looking for it.” he sighed again and twirled a strand of spaghetti on the edge of his fork. “But some swear that a chest filled with doubloons and jewels is buried someplace on this island.”
Cassandra picked up her fork and began eating again, but she did so slowly. To Jonathan it looked she was thinking deeply about this story. “Sounds silly,” she said between chewing.
“It is,” Jonathan laughed. He watched her eat. Even this was fascinating to him. Just the way she worked the fork. He corrected himself. He had to stop staring at her so much. He didn’t want her to think he was mad. “I can show you one of our legends after the movie if you want?”
From any other man who wasn’t a reverend, Cassandra might not have known how to take that question. But since he was a religious man, Cassandra safely said, “Neat.”
“We can walk,” Jonathan said as they left the restaurant.
“Are you sure?” Cassandra asked. She looked around. Some place behind her she knew Alisha was about. Someplace probably in a car waiting to move.
“Sure,” Jonathan pointed a block down. “It’s right there.”
Monty’s Movie House was less than a block away. And as they began to walk Cassandra wished there was a way she could tell Alisha that fact. But there was no way, since Alisha was now painfully and obviously slowly driving a car about 20 feet behind them. Driving as slowly as they walked. Maybe on another night she could have gotten away with such a driving pace, but not on a Friday, and not so near the Royal Carlton Island High School.
It didn’t take long for the other cars to start beeping.
“What is that noise?” Jonathan looked back. He made eye contact again. “Oh, isn’t that your friend Alisha?”
“It can’t be,” Cassandra laughed. “She’s at home.” Cassandra faked smiled. She looked back at Alisha as well. Eye contact. Move on! Can’t you read my eyes? Drive, baby, drive! However, she said aloud, “Yes, it might be her.”
Alisha shrugged confused.
“Is she having car problems?” Jonathan tried to hold back a grin.
“No, she’s just a careful driver,” Cassandra moved her right arm in a snapping motion. A clear reference to get the hell moving. Alisha could read that! She took off!
Speeding around a corner!
A cop car pulled out from an alley and followed after her with sirens going. Cassandra instinctively rubbed her forehead.
“I thought you said she was a safe driver.”
“It wasn’t her then, was it?” Cassandra replied way too quickly.
They were sitting in the theater. Cassandra was again confused by the direction Jonathan was taking the conversation. Some of the people around her couldn’t help but listen. The previews had not started and as conversations go, this was quite interesting.
“See, you’re assuming, I want to save you.”
“But technically, isn’t it your job to save souls?”
He shrugged comically. “Oh, if you want to be technical, yes, it is my job but you’re forgetting three important points.”
“1. I’m not on the clock right now.”
“2. If I saved everyone there would be no one left. I need at least a few sinners out there to keep my flock in line. The only way to define good is to have a bad to base it on.”
Cassandra really couldn’t figure this man out. He always seemed a step ahead of her. She hoped that she would be able to catch up in the conversation soon. “And three?”
“Well, 3, I’m not sure if I want to save you yet.”
The old couple behind them began whispering to each other. Jonathan quickly looked back. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Idle.”
“Hello, Reverend,“ Mrs. Idle said. Her husband just nodded.
Jonathan turned his attention back to Cassandra.
All she could think of to say after all that was “What?”
“Well think of all the good people that have died since our lord was born. That’s a lot of people. Do you really think Heaven has enough room for all of them? Heaven’s no!… Excuse the pun, but I’m more picky about who I want to send up.”
Cassandra could not get the upper hand in this conversation. It was obvious to her now that Jonathan was working off well-rehearsed and tried-and-true lines. She paused for a few seconds until she could think of something. “That’s alright, I was hoping for one of those deathbed conversions anyway.”
“Oh those… Those never stick.”
“Think about it! A lifetime of sin and utter badness wiped away in the last minute? By that point, God already has the book closed and is waiting to show you the elevator towards the basement.”
“Then why do they tell people on their deathbed God heard them and it’s going to be okay, smarty pants?” She thought the ‘smarty pants’ was a nice touch to the sentence.
He didn’t notice it. “It’s all PR. Public Relations. How jerky would we look if we said, ‘Pfff, sorry, you are way too late! Get real!’ No, better to play along. Makes everyone happy. Oh, look the previews are starting.”
As the previews began, Cassandra could hear the mumbled sound of Alisha working her way to a seat in the back. It was obvious she was taking a few toes with her as she moved her way down the aisle.
Alisha hated the movie. She hated movies about girl not liking guy, guy not liking girl, girl starts to see a different side of guy but guy is still a jerk so she leaves and then guy realizes he actually likes her so he chases after her (chances are she is about to make a decision she is sure she will regret) and, bam!, she sees him. She starts to cry like a little girl at finding out that true love was right in front of her the entire time and they kiss and everyone is happy.
Alisha hated the illusion. Life isn’t like that. That was something she definitely learned in Amsterdam. She knew about attraction and its important. Oh, the guy may chase after the girl, but he will still be an ass. And just because he suddenly realizes he has feelings chances are they are more rooted in everyone’s fear of loneliness as compared to the actual movement of some heartbeats… But tell that to Hollywood; go ahead and try. Even before her life took a dark turn she was convinced most romantic-comedies probably would end in divorce if it was real life.
Alisha could quickly come up with a dozen stories she had seen play out to show how real love worked. Women rarely “realize” feelings. They are either there in the beginning or not! You can’t convince a girl to love you if the initial attraction isn’t there. Sorry, but it’s a fact. The first shock of lust is more important than most guys know… or care to know. It all can hinge on it…
So when the credits began to roll, Alisha decided she had done more than enough for her friend. She wanted a drink. She wanted to go back to their damn cottage and have a damn drink while wrapped in a damn quilt.
However, something happened Alisha didn’t expect. The second poor Alisha stood up and started heading towards the aisle, the lights sprang up and a booming voice spoke through the speaker system. “Where are you going?”
Alisha stopped. Everyone was staring at her. She looked at Cassandra. Cassandra had a look of bewilderment and anger on her face… At the moment, bewilderment was winning the fight but later Alisha was sure anger would win out.
Alisha looked around trying to find the source of the voice and asked, “Excuse me?”
“I asked where you’re going?” the booming voice sounded again.
Alisha spoke slowly. She kept wondering if this was really a trick question. “The movie is over.”
“Aren’t you staying for the discussion group?”
Alisha looked back at Cassandra. “Discussion group?” she mouthed in question. Cassandra shrugged her shoulders…. Alisha turned back to the booming voice. “What do you mean ‘discussion group’?”
Cassandra leaned into the Reverend’s ear. “What’s going on?”
“This is Mr. Monty’s theater,” the Reverend replied. “He’s nuts about films, so if he has watched a film with an audience usually he likes to have a discussion about it afterwards.”
“And you’re saying people stay around for it?”
The Reverend shrugged his shoulders. Cassandra looked around the theater. Mr. Monty must’ve had a camera in there someplace. Of course, there were few places on the island that Mr. Monty didn’t have a camera. As the major landowner on the island, Mr. Monty could get away with a lot more than most would try. As he explained to Cassandra at his party three weeks earlier, the island and its people were his soap opera. Of course, Alisha didn’t know any of this and frankly from the look of it to Cassandra, she didn’t care.
“Nah, I’m going to go,” Alisha said and started walking to the door.
“What?” The booming voice demanded. It was clear that the mind behind that voice wasn’t used to someone being so defiant.
“I said I’m going.”
“I will ban you from my theater.”
“Well, if you keep showing movies like that, I don’t think I’ll mind too much.”
“Well, well…” Mr. Monty fumbled to try and think of something to say. This was all new territory and both he and the audience that were used to his control were nervous. “We’ll just have a discussion without you.”
Alisha stopped at the door. She turned back. “You expect all these people to stay?”
“Ah, yes,” Mr. Monty stated.
Alisha sighed. “Ok, let’s see some hands. Who wants to stay and discuss the finer points of this picture?”
A few hands began going up.
Alisha laughed. “Come on, you really want to stay and take part in an enforced discussion group about this film?”
The few hands went down.
Alisha smiled triumphantly. “Now if you don’t mind, Mr. Voice, we’re all going to go.”
“What? You can’t!” Mr. Monty said annoyed. His voice cracked. “This is my theater.”
No one in the theater moved. Alisha clapped her hands loudly. “Come on, people! You can move. Get up! Get up! Rise up! Take on the man!”
Slowly, slowly, people got up and began to move toward the door. Some of the older residents tried to cover their faces as they left. Maybe in their opinion it was better to not be on Mr. Monty’s bad side. Alisha throughout all this held the door open and smiled to the people as they left.
Cassandra and Jonathan walked past Alisha as well. Jonathan smiled. After they past, Alisha could hear Jonathan whisper to Cassandra, “I think that was Alisha.”
The theater was empty.
“And another thing, magic voice,” Alisha said obnoxiously. “You should really update the sound equipment in here.”
Mr. Monty was too stunned to reply.
“Actually, he does have some interesting thoughts in regards to Citizen Kane,” Jonathan said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets. They were walking down the street. “It’s not everyday you get to see a minor revolution in this town. Hopefully, this will help the town stand up to Mr. Monty a little more. He does take too many privileges here and our mayor and anti-mayor haven’t had the guts to say anything to him yet. Alisha is going to reach hero status by the time the paper comes out tomorrow. Granted, it will probably be the only article in there, but it will be read.”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m having fun,” Jonathan said.
Cassandra looked at him. Is that sarcasm? No, he truly sounds like he’s serious. For some reason, the thought that a man enjoyed spending a real date with her was shocking, truly shocking. “Yes,” was all she could think of to say.
“I didn’t even have to use my list of questions,” He said smartly.
“List of questions?” Cassandra was intrigued. “Can I hear them?”
“Oh, I don’t think you would be interested.”
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “Pretty standard stuff actually. Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? Favorite musical group?”
“Oh,” Cassandra said. “For some reason I thought it would be more strange and out of the ordinary than that.”
“Yeah… So did you want to see that weird grave?”
It didn’t feel right to Cassandra to be walking around a graveyard at night. It especially didn’t feel right to be walking around a graveyard at midnight.
Jonathan only laughed. “If there was a problem with being here don’t you think I would be the one to know?”
She looked back at this confident strange man. What is it about him? She had seen men throughout her life and all of them she could figure out, understand. But not him. He was a great mystery. And it was that mystery that intrigued her.
Well, it definitely was that mystery that made her follow him into this graveyard.
She stumbled. He grabbed her hand to stop her from falling over. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“What was that?” She said looking down expecting to see a wayward stick or rock.
“Looks like Mrs. Byrne,” Jonathan said.
“I tripped over a grave?” Cassandra looked stunned at the man holding her arm.
“I’m sure she didn’t mind,” Jonathan said with a tug on her arm. “Come on, we’re almost there.”
Cassandra had trouble seeing anything. Where was that moon? The only light seemed to be coming from Jonathan’s flashlight and the glowing haze they were aiming for… Glowing haze?
“Is that it?” Cassandra asked in a whisper. She clutched his arm again.
“Yes,” Jonathan said. Is that excitement in his voice? “Isn’t it eerie?”
They crossed over a small hill and on the other side… There it was. The glowing grave. A tombstone that glowed bright blue. Not like a lightbulb, more like a blur. That was a good description. It emitted a blur of blue. A soft glow. Cassandra had not seen anything like it before in her life. “How long has it been like this?”
“Ever since I can remember,” Jonathan replied.
“But how does it do that?” she asked.
“Well, then you get back into the folklore. (As he spoke she moved closer to the tombstone to read it). Some say it’s because he is stuck in his coffin and the glow is the glow of his soul- his spirit stuck in the coffin and not being able to go to heaven. Others say it’s the blue flames of hell where he is roasting… I guess which choice you make is based pretty much on whether you think Mr. Weathers there deserves to go to Heaven or not.”
“What do you think?” Cassandra asked. She softly reached out to touch the tombstone, touch the words, touch the name… Jonathan grabbed her hand, pulling it back.
“Well, I’m not really a romantic, but I think it glows because Mr. Weathers owned two nuclear power plants.” He let go of her hand. “He moved her in retirement.”
“Thanks,” she replied.
“Well, if you touched it, who knows what could have happened? We can’t have you having three-headed children or something.”
Children? She raced through her mind to find some kind of a fitting reply. What is the proper response to a joke like that? Should I just laugh and let it go? She decided on that… She laughed. It sounded awkward.
“Thanks,” Jonathan said. He leaned back against a cement cross. “But it wasn’t that good of a joke.” Jonathan watched her studying the tombstone… ashes to ashes… He softly sighed to himself… When did this change happen in him regarding death? Has he gone to too many funerals? Attended too many burials? Spoken too often to widows or family as they wept? All those words he had said of comfort and yet when alone staring at a symbol of death he only brushed it off. He should talk to someone about this someday. He quickly promised himself that later in the week he would call the deacon for a talk. Well, maybe not. That was assuming the deacon wouldn’t take the opportunity to tell his gossiping wife about the conversation afterwards. Maybe he should just deal with it himself? When did death get boring to him?
“It’s like his soul is screaming to stay remembered,” Cassandra said, surprising him.
“Maybe,” Jonathan sat next to her on the ground. “I still think the power plants play a part in it. But I’ve always been a cynical person.”
“I didn’t know reverends were allowed to be cynical.”
He smiled and looked at her. (She brushed some hair out from in front of her face… He loved how she did that and wished she would do it again… it would be too odd to ask though, too odd indeed). “Well, we’re allowed to be cynical from time to time, but we save up the cynical energy, like interest in a bank. If we did it all the time, we would be sarcastic in our sermons and that wouldn’t go over well.”
“I can’t see you doing that,” Cassandra made eye contact with him.
“You believe, I can tell.”
For some reason, that sentence touched Jonathan. Why did he need validation on that? He was the reverend of the only church on the island… And yet… Yet, it was like she read that in him. Did she? He couldn’t tell. But all in all, it still made him smile…
She smiled sweetly in return. “By the way… Casablanca. Friends. The Beatles.”
Jonathan nodded. “Good stuff.”
Cassandra really wished he didn’t walk her to her door. For a minute during the ride home she dreamed of an opportunity to jump out. Maybe she could make it her door before he realized what she did? Maybe then he would forget about her and she would forget about this night? Why did it have to be so strangely nice? Why did she actually like him? Why did she even go on this date?
That was the question, right there: Why did she even agree to go on the date? She knew that this was a bad idea from the start, but she grinned and said yes! What was she, a teenager again? Did she think she could just start over in her life? Date a reverend, for Christ’s sake! Life doesn’t work out like that. She was lucky to have her money and the place on the beach. Why should she tempt fate and try to hope for more?
She was setting herself up. Just like Mr. Monty said at his party, she was setting herself up and she didn’t need more threats on her peace and retirement.
This was all so stupid.
There were a thousand times she could have left this evening. Walked away and pretended like it never happened. A thousand moments she could have ruined things; a thousand moments she could have accepted her life and went back to her little house and gazebo on the beach… Why did she stay?
Frankly, the answer was she kind of liked him.
No kind of about it.
In the back of her mind, she was telling herself this was going to end badly… There could be no other way. Sooner or later, he would see her for who she was. This was not a movie, this was reality. There was no way he would just accept her for who she was now. She had too great a sin to get by and he was a reverend! He would never throw his job on the line for love. Love? Had it come to that? She brushed that point out of her mind.
Jonathan was a great guy, no question about that, but to have the power to see beyond her past? That would be a miracle and the world wasn’t that kind. She knew that. She had seen the worst the world had to offer. She saw it and charged it and made money off it. She bathed in its sins. She was living off of the profits of it, every day. The idea that there was another side to everything was unheard of. This was how things were. She knew it. She was going to be this. A hermit, watching the waves lap the sand, drinking lemonade and counting down the days… Away from the taunts, the johns, and the harsh side of reality.
If she was quiet, she was safe. Quiet. Quiet, like the waves lapping the shore.
“Are you ok?” Jonathan asked.
She was woken back up to the now. How long had they been standing outside her door? “What? Oh, I’m sorry. I was thinking of something.”
“I could see that,” he replied. “Your eyes got all misty-like.”
She softly laughed under her breath. God, I sound too much like a teenager. He reached up and ran a few fingers through her hair. It felt good… Too good…. She allowed her eyes to close in peace for only a second, until she realized what was happening. She grabbed his hand. “No.”
“Are you ok?” he asked. He dropped his hand to his side.
“Yeah.” What do I do? What do I do? He is a nice guy, he doesn’t deserve a mess like me. “I just don’t think this is a good idea.”
“My hand touching your hair is a bad idea?” He raised his right eyebrow in a playful manner.
This was not going to be easy. Or maybe he was not going to let this be easy. Seemed like something he would do… And suddenly, she couldn’t take it anymore. She was going to cry…. Oh, God, I’m going to cry. She couldn’t even remember the last time she cried. She never cried in Amsterdam after her mother abandoned her and began her life there, and that was so many years ago. She just never cried; it wasn’t her nature. She was stronger, stronger than all that… but if she was going to cry, she was not going to let Jonathan see her do it.
“Are you alright?” Jonathan asked concerned.
Oh, God! It was on her face. He can tell something is wrong! She couldn’t speak. She wouldn’t dare or it would start. And then it wouldn’t stop. And if this flood was going to come, it wasn’t going to be here. No! Not here! It wouldn’t be in front of him. Not him. But it was going to come. There was nothing stopping the flood building in her. Nothing stopping it now. So with all her strength and self-control working as hard as they possibly could muster, she said simply, “Sorry” and ran into the house…
…Passed a confused Alisha who was sitting on the couch wrapped in a quilt with a book…
…Up the stairs and into her rooms…
…And then a lock turned…
…And it was there that Cassandra wept.