Kasin's Real, I Promise
Author: Kassandra

Chapter 15
Some bumbling drunk.

After practice I shower in the locker room; James thought it would amuse the rest of the team if I took a little dip in the pool, so now I have to wash the chlorine out of my hair. I’ve made plans with Cassidie and I intend to just go in the clothes I’ve got.

After toweling off in the stall, I put on my fresh undergarments, my red tee shirt, and Ash’s pants. I should really be getting those back to him soon. I attack my mane with a wide-toothed comb and some detangler I bought at CVS for $3. My hair is no match for quality plastic and cheap elixir from a spray bottle. As soon as I secure my wet bathing suit in a plastic bag and find my glasses, I grab my car keys and head out into the mild May night. I send a text message to Cassidie telling her I’m on my way.

Driving at night has always made me nervous. The thick clouds hanging in the sky make it even darker out than it needs to be at 8 o’clock at night. My old Honda hums rhythmically as I make my way down the straight, flat road at a leisurely 35 mph, even though I should be driving at 50. I like to drive slowly when I’ve got the road to myself; why be in a rush? My bright headlights fall upon a figure staggering along the road with something in its hand. I identify the figure to be male with blue glass bottle. I scoff; it’s just some bumbling drunk tottering home from a rough night at the bar. My smile is wiped clean off my face as I slam on my brakes and come to a screeching halt.

 

***

 

I am alone in my closet.

I stand here for a moment and take in all of my drawings. Lucas still haunts me, his cruel smile mocking me from the confines of the white paper. His malicious black eyes bore into me; I think I captured him a little too well. The picture I drew of Dad and I hangs right next to my good old pal Lucas. My kid self looks way too happy on top of my father’s shoulders. I still remember his joyful laughter as he yelled, “Careful, Ash, if you don’t hold on you’ll float away like a big balloon!”

I fashion a little pistol out of my index finger and thumb and blow his stupid brains out.

“Dick,” I spit before going back into my room and slamming the door.

He’s coming home today from Texas, so the house needs to be cleaned. I groan in anguish; I despise chores. I grab 30 Seconds to Mars’ album A Beautiful Lie and pop it into my stereo. I do own an iPod, but there’s something about having the actual CDs that I love.

Attack blares from the expensive speakers at top volume. I like my music loud.

My Droid vibrates in my pocket and I open a message Dad sent me.

New Message: Dad

Hey, just got to the airport now, plane takes off in a couple of hours. I expect the both yourself and the house to be nice and neat when I come home, we have a guest tonight. See you at about seven.

I don’t reply to his message – I never do. I just throw my phone onto my bed and start cleaning.

 

I open my eyes and hear my dad and his “guest” enter the house. I glance at the clock: 6:49, just two hours after I stopped cleaning my very disorganized house. Looks like I got my maximum hours of sleep for the night. I roll out of bed and slip into a pair of dark blue jeans and a deep violet button up shirt. I run my hands through my hair for a second and give myself a reassuring nod in the mirror. I look “neat”, I guess.

As I descend the stairs, little pieces of my dad’s guest slowly become visible to me. A pair of low gray heels, killer legs, black pencil skirt with a gray button up, short brown hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. She turns around and I see her predictably pretty face.

“Ash!” my dad bellows amiably. “I’ve missed you, son!” I force a wan smile and hug him awkwardly for the sake of our guest. “I got you a little something in Texas.” He pulls out a little box with a bow on it and hands it to me. I pull the ribbon away and open it. Inside sits a silver pocket watch, ticking away softly. I pull it out of the box. “Turn it over,” he instructs gently. I do so and see Ashton Sawyer Cressley etched into the shiny surface. I am forced by courtesy to hug him again and thank him. He claps me loudly on the back and introduces me to his “friend”. “Ash, this is my new girlfriend, Nichole. She works with me.”

Anger flares inside of me. Dad likes to tell me things at the last possible second so I have no time to react.

Nichole smiles sweetly and shakes my hand. “Your father has told me so much about you! Although he never mentioned what a handsome young man you are. I can see where you get it from.”

 “Actually, I look more like my mother than my father,” I inform her curtly.

Her smile disappears. “Oh… uhm… I’m-”

“Ash, why don’t you take our bags upstairs while I start on dinner, huh?” dad interrupts.

His brown eyes burn with hostility – I know that look. The look that says you’d better behave yourself. I grab their suitcases and haul them up to my dad’s room. I place Nichole’s bag gently on the floor and carelessly throw my dad’s on its side.

I amble down the stairs again, I can hear my dad and Nichole talking in hushed tones. I stop and eavesdrop.

“Are you sure, Paul?”

“Yes, you’re not doing anything wrong, honey. Trust me, if he was normal, he would love you.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s had… problems ever since his mother passed; he’s always drinking, and smoking weed every day. I’ve done everything in my power to help him, but he’s just so hard-headed and belligerent.”

My face reddens in fury. I’ll show that bastard hard-headed and belligerent.

I continue down the stairs and take a calming breath. No, Ash. Keep your cool, he’s not worth it. Just get through the night. I walk into the kitchen and start setting the table, haphazardly answering Nichole’s questions. How’s school? How are my friends? Any lucky ladies in the picture? Do I play any sports? Good. Good. No. Soccer. I entertain her stupid questions for a while longer until finally dinner is done. My dad made spaghetti, my least favorite food in the world. I sigh inaudibly and take my usual seat. To my absolute horror, Dad moves the silverware I set for Nichole over to my mom’s spot. No one has sat in that spot since she died. I look at him in absolute disgust and he just looks back at me, his brown eyes cold and calculating and distant.

Nichole plops down unceremoniously and I die a little bit inside. “I’m starving,” she announces heartily. Dad serves her a heap of spaghetti and moves over to my side of the table. As he leans over to scoop some onto my plate, he quickly mutters, “That’s what you get,” into my ear. I stare emptily at my mound of noodles. Breathe.

 

After an unbearable dinner of fake smiles and so obviously forced laughs, I wash our dishes. While Nichole is in the upstairs bathroom showering, Dad approaches me. I glower at him. “Just get away from me. I can’t believe you, Dad.”

You can’t believe me? It should be the other way around.”

Incredulity sweeps my body. “What the hell did I do?”

“I saw a pair of jeans upstairs in your hamper. Girl’s jeans.”

You were in my room? “They belong to my friend Rose; she fell and hurt her knee, so I gave her a pair of my sweatpants and I figured I’d wash her pants for her. What’s the big deal?”

“What did I tell you about bringing people over without my permission?”

I turn off the water, furious now. “Your permission?! Dad, you’re never home! I might as well be living by myself, why do I need your permission to have friends over? That’s like me asking Uncle Rick if I can have friends over, it makes no sense.”

“It’s nothing like that because I am the head of this household, not Rick.”

“You’re never here! How can you be head of a household when you basically don’t live here?!”

“Ash, I am your father, you better treat me with some respect-”

“Let’s get something straight here, Paul, no matter how many stereos or laptops or pocket watches you buy me, it will never make you a father.”

Nichole walks into the kitchen, saying, “Paul, we should get some sleep if we want to be nice and rested for tomorrow morning.”

I look at her and then back to him. For the first time of the whole night, he is at a loss for words. “Tomorrow morning?” I ask slowly.

Nichole looks at my dad sheepishly. I don’t think she was supposed to say that. Dad says quietly, “I’m being called in to Nevada tomorrow morning at six for another business trip. I was… going to wait until I was at the airport to tell you…”

“Dad, you literally just got back. You’re not really leaving again are you?”

He says nothing.

“Are you serious?”

“I put a thousand dollars into your account for anything you might need and I paid all the bills, so you should be fine while I’m gone.”

“A thousand dollars? How long are you going to be gone this time?”

He doesn’t look at me. “A month.”

My throat runs dry. A month. My dad is some important executive of AIG, which requires him to travel often, but even an insurance executive shouldn’t be gone for a month.

“Why are you going to be gone so long? The most you’ve ever been gone is 2 weeks.”

Dad looks at Nichole. Nichole looks at me. I glare at Dad. My cat Tippy meows in hunger from across the room. “This isn’t just a business trip, is it?”

Dad sighs. “No, Ash. It’s not. We are going to the convention, and then I’m using my vacation time.”

My face heats and black spots dance around in my vision. I’m losing it. “You are a sad sick fuck, you know that Dad?”

Nichole and Dad are shocked by my accusation.

“You come home from your grand old adventures in Texas or Colorado or Nebraska or Maine and you always come back with some elaborate, expensive bullshit gift and think that it can serve as a cushion for the next time you leave me to fend for myself and the stupid cat, but really, I don’t give a shit about your gifts, because I know it just means there’s more bad news to come. You think some stupid pocket watch makes the fact that you’re spending a month on vacation any less disgusting? I can’t even look at you!”

“Now, Ash, I know-”

No! You don’t know anything! You can’t sit there and tell me you know how I feel, because you don’t! You don’t even know the most basic, trivial knowledge about your own son.”

“Now that’s a lie.”

“What’s my favorite color?” I challenge.

“Blue,” he says confidently.

“Red, asshole. What position do I play of the field?”

“Center,” he says uncertainly.

Forward. You’re looking really dumb here, Dad. One last chance; what’s my favorite song?”

He huffs impatiently. “Ash, how am I possibly supposed to know that? You have an entire bookcase of music in your room.”

Tears of fury prick in my eyes. I blink them back in irritation. “‘You are my sunshine’; The one that Mom used to sing when I was little.”

He scowls down at the floor in shame and Nichole looks really uncomfortable.

“Marnie would be repulsed at what you’ve become,” I snarl.

He looks up at me and his fist lashes out at my face. Nichole screams in horror as pain explodes in my mouth. I stagger backwards and howl in agony. He hit me. My dad hit me.

I look up at him as my blood trickles past my lips. The taste is revolting. Tears pool in his wide eyes. They are no longer cold and calculating and distant. Now I see remorse and a deep self-hatred. My own eyes sting in disbelief. My dad just hit me.

I spit into the sink and rip open the fridge. Behind the water, milk, orange juice and soda I’ve got a rather large bottle of Skyy Vodka. I’ll need this.

Dad starts to speak but I can’t hear him. I don’t want to hear him.

He sees the bottle when I close the fridge and tries to wrestle it out of my hands.

Bad idea, Daddy.

With all the force I can muster I push him off of me and he goes sprawling over a chair and straight onto the kitchen floor. Nichole screams again and tends to him to see if he is hurt. I roll my eyes and take a huge swig of the sweet forgetfulness. It burns my mouth and throat on the way down. I grimace and tear out the door, slamming it as hard as I can behind me. I’m taking a walk, and I’m going to get good and drunk so Dad won’t exist.

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been walking, but I don’t even know where I am at this point. The cut on my lip is completely numb now, as is the rest of me. Cars zip by as a giant blur of light and sound and wind. My bottle is getting heavier and heavier it seems, but in reality I know it’s getting lighter and lighter. My feet shuffle across the pavement with difficulty. The whole world spins and I feel like I weigh two hundred tons. I see bright, bright headlights in the distance. As they get closer, my eyes start to shut. I hear a screeching noise and I squint through my eyelashes. A black Honda Civic comes to an abrupt halt. I keep walking; everything other than my bottle and my feet is irrelevant. I hear a door open and someone jumps out. I just keep walking. Everything else is irrelevant.

Someone grabs me by the shoulders and turns me around.

It’s my Rose.

She is definitely relevant.

Her long hair is wet and messy, her brown doe’s eyes wide with concern. God, even drunk out of my mind she is still so heartbreakingly beautiful.

“Ash! What’s going on?!” She yells. Her voice is so loud, it hurts my head.

 

***

 

I shake him again and repeat myself. His green eyes are bloodshot and half closed. His bottom lip is cut and spotted with dried blood. He grips a vodka bottle as if it will save his life. I can feel tears trying to slip out into my eyes.

“Rose, I… I feel like shit.”

“Yeah, you look like shit too,” I inform him bluntly.

“Oh… how rude of me. Do you want some?”

He waves the bottle in my face. I take it out of his hand with difficulty.

“Hey! What are you doing?” he slurs, staggering backward. I throw the bottle over the guard rail and usher him to the car.

“What the fuck, I was still drinking that,” he complains. I help him into the passenger’s seat and start driving to his house.

“Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you home. You could have been hit, Ash!”

“Ow, don’t yell like that! I can’t go home, my Dad’s there.”

“I don’t care, Ash, you’re going home.”

I ignore his feeble protests all the way to his home, preoccupied with my own inability to think. Disbelief keeps washing over me, preventing me from forming complete thoughts. Why did he… How did he… When… His dad?... Why didn’t…

I sigh heavily and try to clear my mind. Ash prattles on about something irrelevant next to me.

“Ash,” I interrupt. “What happened?”

We pull into his driveway and he sits with his eyes closed. I have no patience at this point. I jump out of the car and pull open his door. “Let’s go Ash.” I tug him out and walk him inside.

The house is silent, not a soul to be found. “I thought you said your dad was here,” I question.

He looks confused as well. “He was.” He looks around the house and I follow after hanging my keys on an empty wall hook. In the kitchen I see an overturned chair with a little puddle of blood on the floor. A little over to the left I see more blood spotting the tiles. For the third time I ask what happened. Ash sighs and kicks off his shoes. “My dad and I got into a little spat,” he begins as he slowly makes his way up the stairs. I trail him closely in case he falls.

“He hit me and I got really pissed, so I grabbed the bottle. Then he tried to take it from me, so–”

He opens his door. “I pushed him off of me and he fell over the chair and must have smacked his head or something. He was with his stupid Barbie girlfriend,” Ash makes an exaggeratedly sickened expression.

“So where is he now?” I ask.

He stops and looks at his bed. I see a little piece of paper sitting atop it. I bring it to my face and read it out loud with difficulty without my glasses.

Ash, I know I messed up, and I am so sorry I hit you. I took the liberty of spending the night at a motel. You don’t need to see my face when you get home. I’m sorry Ash. I just ca

I hope you can forgive me, but I really can’t come home. I need time to think and to reconsider the thng things I’ve said and done. I love you and I am so sorry for the way things went tonight.

Ash looks moodily at the ground and rips the note from my hands. He crumples it up and throws it at the wall.

“What’s the story with you guys?” I ask gently. I can sense that this is something deeper than just tonight. Ash huffs in frustration. “I can’t tell you, Rose!” he yells suddenly. I flinch and carefully ask, “Why not?”

He runs his fingers roughly through his hair. “Because, Rose, I just can’t.”

I put my hand on his arm, which he quickly draws away before walking to the other side of the room.

“Ash, you can trust me,” is all I can say.

For a while he is silent, facing away from me. Suddenly, he begins.  

“Paul used to be home all the time. He used to be father of the fucking year until that whole thing with my mom and Lucas happened. Then he became depressed and he started going out to the bar all the time and getting drunk, leaving my uncle to take care of my sister and I.”

Sister?

“So he used to come home trashed, yelling about things that made no sense. Mostly it was just my mother’s name he yelled, Alison. Now you see where I get my excellent way of dealing with problems from. He used to tell me how much of a mistake I was, that I didn’t deserve to be sad over my mother, that I didn’t deserve her. I was fucking ten, Rose. Things got a little better throughout my early teen years, but then he got promoted to his awesome executive position when I was sixteen, and he started taking every chance he got to travel away from home, leaving me to take care of Marnie. Now he was only around for a few weeks out of the month, we barely saw him. And then she got really sick.”

Ash’s voice wavers and I slowly walk around him to face him. He turns away from me again.

“She had to go to the hospital, and be put on all these kinds of machines. They had to put her on life support.” Although his speech is slow and lethargic from drunkenness, his vocabulary seems to be completely unaffected. I suppose he’s gotten quite used to being intoxicated.

“I went to see her every day, from the earliest visiting hours to the latest. Then, my dad…” Ash trails off. I can feel warm tears rolling down my face. Don’t say it. Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.

“He pulled the plug on my sister,” he chokes out. My chest throbs and a wave of despair sweeps over me. My heart goes out to this boy, so beautiful and broken. He weeps softly next to me and I can’t stop myself from turning him towards me and wrapping him up in my arms. He bows his head and his hot tears drip onto my skin. I cry for him and Marnie and Alison, and even Paul. He squeezes my waist with his strong, quivering arms and I squeeze him back, my shoulders bucking up and down. My stomach turns over and over when I think of the immense pain Ash has endured throughout his life. And no matter how tight I hold him or how many tears I cry for him, I can never make it any better.

He pulls away and cups my face firmly. He pushes his forehead into mine and stares directly, and I mean directly into my eyes. “Rose, I want – no – I need you to promise me something, okay?” His eyes are unfocused and glazed over and he doesn’t seem like himself.

“Anything,” I whisper.

He strokes the side of my face kind of roughly and blurts out, “You can’t leave me, Rose. Everyone leaves me, I can’t lose you. You’re the only one that understands. You’re the only one I can talk to.”

I hug him again and bury my face into his neck. “I won’t, I promise. God, I promise, Ash. I’ll always be here.”

We stay like this for a long time, until both of us have stopped crying. Then we sit on his bed and say nothing, because nothing more needs to be said. We just sit, his arms wrapped around his knees and my head resting on his shoulder. Not too much time passes until Ash passes out next to me. I lie inches away from him and swear to myself that I won’t fall asleep in case he needs me.

 

WEDESDAY

I open my eyes and see the sunlight streaming in through the window. I sit up and push my hair out of my face. I hear Ash groan from below me. I look over the side of the bed and see him lying face down on the floor. I lean down. “Ash. Ash.” I shake his shoulder.

“Huh? What?” He lifts his head to look at me. His eyes are very dark underneath and his charcoal-colored hair is disheveled from sleep. “Oh, hey Rose.” His voice is cracked and ragged, but he’s sober. That’s the way I like it.

He sits up slowly and puts his hands over his eyes. “Shit. Wasn’t I sleeping on that side?”

I blush. “Uhm, yeah, I think so. I’m kind of a crazy sleeper…”

“Fuck!” he hisses. “It’s so fucking bright in here. Fuck!”

“You think it’s a little light in here, Ash?” I ask sarcastically. I get up and close his blinds, trying to make it as dark as possible in the room. He scratches his head. “I guess that’ll do. God, I hate getting a hangover. It’s so shitty.”

I pat the top of his head a little too rough, probably feeling to him like his brain is rattling around in his head. “Well then maybe you shouldn’t drink, idiot.”

He swats unsuccessfully at my hand. “My head hurts so bad.”

“How’s your lip feeling there, tiger?”

He touches his tongue to his bottom lip where it is split. “Huh, it doesn’t hurt too bad. Probably because the alcohol numbed it.”

I nod and he gets a weird look on his face. “Next time I’ll be more careful while coming down the stairs.”

I look at him. “What?”

“That’s how I got this; I fell down the stairs and bit it. Hurt like a bitch.”

No it’s not…

Ash gives me a suspicious look. “Why are you looking at me weird?”

He’s lying to me…

“No reason, maybe because you’re weird.”

He gets up and wobbles towards the door. “Want some coffee?”

The word alone makes me salivate. “That would be excellent.”

We head downstairs and I sit at the kitchen table, talking to Ash about random stuff. He pours me some coffee and puts some cream in his own cup.

“How many creamers do you want?”

“Oh none, I take it black.”

  He looks at me over his shoulder. “Serious?”

I nod.

“Right on,” he comments.

As he hands me my cup, I carefully ask, “So, any word from your dad?”

My question takes him off-guard. He hesitates before speaking.

“No, he’s still in Texas.”

“Ash, do you remember anything from last night?”

He pauses before taking a sip of his coffee. “I remember you picking me up from the side of the road, bringing me home…” he pauses, really trying hard to remember. “Then we went to sleep…” he murmurs. With a horrified expression on his face, he says quickly, “What did I say?”

My eyes linger on his cut lip. “You told me everything.”

Anger flares in his green eyes. “Define everything.”

“I know about Marnie and your mom and… your dad-”

“Shut up! Just shut up!” he snaps. I recoil as if he had slapped me. Tears rush to my eyes. I turn away from him so he doesn’t see my sadness, my hurt.

He quickly walks in front of me, his face stricken with remorse. I blink rapidly to rid myself of the tears but that just makes them roll right down my face. He lifts his hand to my face, and rather than wipe my tears away, he traces them. Something about the gesture is so beautiful that when he apologizes softly I can’t seem to muster enough breath for a reply at the moment. I close my eyes, making more tears fall. He places a warm hand gently, so gently on my cheek. I keep my eyes closed. I can’t look at him.

“Hey,” he whispers, urging me to open my eyes.

I keep them closed.

“Look at me,” he murmurs huskily as his other hand tenderly moves away the little wisps of hair that stick to my teary face.

I force my eyelids to open and reveal my bloodshot eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he says again. I feel a strong urge to lean forward and kiss him, an urge that’s almost too strong. I turn away from him quickly and walk back over to the table, not saying a word.

Ash sighs but doesn’t move. He knows he was wrong, and my heart still aches at the fact that he had to be wasted to be comfortable enough to open up to me. Why does that bother me so much, though?

“Are you mad?” he murmurs softly from right behind me.

I whirl around and manage to keep my composure despite his heartbreakingly detached expression. I don’t like this Ash. He doesn’t want to open up, then the next moment he’s all sentimental, and then he’s closed off again. God, this boy’s giving me whiplash.

“Why did you get so angry when you found out that you told me all of that?” I ask him slowly, unable to look him in the eye. He sighs again, deeper this time, and tries to hug me.

To my surprise and his, I push him roughly away from me. He stumbles back, no doubt in pain from a headache.

“Don’t touch me,” I try to growl, but it comes out as a whisper. His face remains neutral as I say, with more authority, “I asked you a question, Ash. Just answer it.”

He bites his lip and winces as his tooth makes contact with the raw wound. I sit and wait patiently. Finally he says, “Just leave.”

“I’m not leaving, Ash, I promised you that last night. Even if you don’t remember-”

He cuts me off. “Please, Rose. I need to be alone right now.”

I look hopefully for any signs of the vulnerability I’ve seen tiny fragments of throughout the past few days, but I come up with nothing. His walls are cemented up and I don’t think they’re coming down any time soon. Anger flickers inside of me – a defense mechanism I’ve had since I was little. It’s easier to feel anger than hurt. Is that what Ash does?

“You know what Ash? We can’t have one nice conversation without it turning to shit,” I inform him bitterly as I quietly make my way to the front door. I grab my keys from their hook and say over my shoulder, “You should probably read the note you threw at the wall… It’s from your dad. Might explain why he’s not here.”

I exit the house and enter the scorching hot, late spring day.

 

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