How did things end up this way babe? We used to be so good together…so much in love. That’s what all our friends used to say, when they weren’t laughing at us for holding hands and cuddling every chance we got. Do you even remember that now…how much they used to say that they wanted to find what we had? I am beginning to disgust myself now. I always thought I was worth more than this. I find myself fascinated by the light reflecting off the clearish brown liquid in my glass, as if it holds the answers I so desperately seek. I am on the verge of drunkenness…I have to be to get my courage up for what must be done. I cannot live without you.

Did you know that I never really believed in love until I looked into your eyes? As clichéd as it sounds, I remember the first time I saw you as if it were yesterday. You were walking into my dorm and although you were with a few others, all I saw was you. Someone must have said something funny because you smiled and your face lit up. I swear it brightened the room. I think I said hello, and the bluest eyes that I had ever seen rewarded me by turning in my direction. I fell in love with you a little bit that day…I just didn’t realize it until later.

I saw you in a few common classes after that and little by little, we became very close friends. There were others that I would hang out with, but I found myself wanting to spend every waking moment with you…only you. I thought you would have freaked if you found out I was gay…but it didn’t even phase you. I honestly think you were more curious than upset. We were sitting on your bed, in your room, and you were busily telling me about some guy or the other. I wasn’t really paying attention…I just loved to see the way your lips moved.

“Cassie? Cassidy, are you listening to me?”

“Um…what? Oh, of course I am.”

“Then what did I just say?”

“Something about some guy?” I was going out on a limb here.

“Oh for heaven’s sake! Don’t you even care that one of the hottest guys on campus was practically drooling over you?”
“Not particularly.”

“I can’t believe you…anyone else would be in tailspin right now and you’re acting as if I just told you what time it is.”

“I honestly don’t care Beth. Brad just isn’t my type.” Or my gender…now his sister on the other hand…

“I don’t get it. I’ve known you for months now and I haven’t seen you go out on a single date. You don’t like dating?”

Well, I guess I had to bite the bullet sometime. Might as well get this over with so she could throw me out and I could make it back to my room before bedtime.

“I like dating just fine…I just don’t like boys.”

“Come again?”

“I don’t like boys…I like girls. I’m gay.”

“Oh…ohhhh…okay. That’s cool.” Then she started to laugh. I thought she had finally lost it.

“Um…isn’t this supposed to be the part where you throw me out? And just what is so funny?”

“The look on your face…it was just so priceless.”

“Why do I get the feeling that I’m missing something here?”

“You are…I already knew, silly. I overheard one of your exes talking to her friends. Apparently you, my dear, are very…um…talented.”

I had the good grace to blush then and you went into even louder fits of laughter.

“If you already knew, why were you going on and on about Brad?”

“’Cause I like to watch you squirm.”

I was relieved to say the least, but I didn’t really enjoy myself that night…not when you spent it asking all sorts of questions about my supposed ‘talents’ and I spent it trying not to blush. Even though you were so accepting of me…of my lifestyle…I never expected you to want to be a part of it. Even when I realized that what I felt for you went way beyond just friendship, I never expected that you could feel the same way too. Maybe I should have seen it before, but I was convinced that a woman like you would never fall for a woman like me. You were beautiful; I was average. You were confident; I was awkward. Why would you ever want me?

Do you remember that night out on Lakeview Bridge? It had been a perfect day. You had spent the night in my room and when I woke up, your head was buried in my neck…I could feel your breath on my skin. You woke up and I thought I saw something flicker in your eyes…but then it was gone. It must have been my imagination. We spent the rest of the day together…walking in the park, having an impromptu picnic, just taking…and in the evening you said that you wanted to see the sunset from the bridge. I held your hand as we stood; awed by brilliant oranges and pinks…and when I turned to you again, I knew that this wasn’t my imagination. You kissed me for the first time that night and I knew that my heart would belong to you alone from that moment on.

We were so good together…I thought it would last forever. That’s why I stood up for you. That’s why I got into so many arguments with my sister. She thought you would hurt me…that you would leave once the novelty wore off. I knew better. You wouldn’t hurt me. You couldn’t. That’s what you always said…that you would die before you would ever hurt me. I believed you. I believed in our future when we moved in together. It almost seemed that fate had conspired to find us our own place and the first night we spent there together, I knew that I had found a home.

It didn’t last though, did it? Maybe we were just too different. Maybe the novelty did wear off. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough for you; after all you still hid me. You hid me from your family. You hid me from your co-workers. You hid me from everyone who didn’t know about us in college. But it made you happy so I played along. I convinced myself that I couldn’t ask you to give up so much for me. I thought that eventually you’d want to. That was before you met someone who could be to you all the things that I couldn’t.

I had met Steven a few times at the office. He seemed like a nice guy and certainly you though so. You always said that you never knew guys like him existed. It didn’t bother me. I was happy that you had found a friend. How much more naïve could I have been? I might as well have given him a key to our bedroom from the start. You started blowing me off for him. You’d stay at the office and have lunch with him, instead of meeting me. It hurt at first but I just couldn’t see what I didn’t want to. I should have suspected, and maybe subconsciously I did, but I still had faith in you. And then you came to me and told me that he had asked you out.

We had a long talk then… and you cried …and I cried. I heard all about your feelings for him. I heard you say that you were so confused because you loved me and you knew that I was the one to make you happy…but he treated you so well. I tried to be understanding. I told you that I would be there for you, no matter what. I let you go. And a part of me died inside. I have been dying little by little ever since. Every time you tell me you still love me…and then tell him the same thing when he calls. Every time you kiss me when you get home…and I know where your lips have been. Do you remember the first time I saw his marks on you? You actually wore a t-shirt to bed. Did you really think that I wouldn’t notice?

Did you really think that I wouldn’t know when you started sleeping with him? Did you really think that the whispered conversations wouldn’t raise my suspicions? Did he know that I had been where he was now…fucking you? Of course he didn’t. He thought that he was your first. He thought that I was just your friend…your best friend. That’s why he couldn’t understand why I didn’t want him at our place…after all, I had no right to be so demanding. Is that why you took him there anyway, when you knew I wasn’t supposed to be home? Is that why I walked in on you, and he made a clumsy attempt to hide to cover his embarrassment? How stupid did you think I was? You should have cleaned up better babe…never leave reminders when you’re cheating on your partner. How did it feel to betray my trust?

I couldn’t talk to anyone. Sierra would have either killed you or demanded that I leave then and there…and Jesse would have told Sierra. Anna was my rock then. I know she thinks that I don’t know how she feels about me, but I’ve seen the way she looks at me. Maybe in another life; maybe of you hadn’t come along…but my heart always belonged to you…and I’m not the cheating kind. Still, it was to her that I went when I got tired of spending my nights alone. It was on her shoulder that I cried when I couldn’t take being used anymore. It was in her bed that I slept when I couldn’t get the image of him being inside you…of you telling him to fuck you harder…out of my mind. Does he know how wild you are in bed, babe? I’m sure he does. Do you dig your nails into his back hard enough to leave scars in the morning? I’m sure he enjoys every minute of it.

Still, I could have lived through all the pain. I could have dulled the anguish with alcohol. Anna thinks that she made me stop, and I did for a while…but not after last night. Foolish me…I still had hope, even after all the betrayals. Then you told me that you didn’t think it would work between us. You told me it felt right with him in a way that it never had with us. You told me that you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him…but you still loved me. You told me that he might be the one for you…but he still wasn’t me. Then you left. You don’t get it do you? I’m already alone.

You were it for me. You were supposed to be the one who never left…the one who was different from everybody else. You promised, and now you’ve broken that promise. You took every want and every need that I had, and you made it less than yours…and his. You made him your world as you watched mine crumble. You knew of all the betrayals in my past…and you chose to become one of them. I cannot live with this pain. I will not live with this pain.

I am no condition to drive and for an instant I am worried that I might get myself killed. Then the irony of that statement hit me, considering what I was about to do, and I utter a humorless chuckle. I leave the note on the kitchen table and I start locking up. I have one more thing to do before I leave. I have to call Anna and let her know that there was nothing more she could have done…that I would be eternally grateful for everything that she had tried to do. I do not want her to hurt any more than she has to. Maybe I would have been better off had I allowed myself to love her. I hang up the phone and get into my car. I know that the bridge would be practically deserted this time of day…it was a view for lovers at sunset. It seemed appropriate somehow that the story should end where it began.

It really is a beautiful view…the trees; the lake in the distance…everything. I look down from the railing where I am perched into the river below. It isn’t raging, by any stretch of the word, but the fall should more than do what needs to be done. I was never good at judging distances, but this is high enough. It is time…too much thinking has already been done. I stand and steady myself. In the distance I think I hear a voice calling my name but it must be my imagination. No one knows I am here. I take a deep breath…and then I jump. As I am falling, I have a moment to think how much like flying this is. It is a wonderful feeling…flying and accepting my fate. I hit the water and there is a momentary pain, but it is gone in an instant and I know only blackness….

~~~~~~~~~~

I must be dead. Then why does my head hurt so much? Why can’t I open my eyes? And where is that voice coming from?

Those are the thoughts in my head as I struggle towards wakefulness. I feel as though I am still in the water…sluggish and heavy…but the fog in my brain is clearing a little and I am able to recognize the voice as Anna’s. Unless she has followed me in my fate, which I sincerely hope is not the case, I’m not dead. What is she saying? She is telling me that she loves me and she is crying. It is the first time that I have heard her say it, and I cannot bear to be the reason for her tears. She stands to go and I know that I need to make her hear me. It takes all the energy that I have but I finally manage to open my eyes.

“An…Anna?”

She spins around and I can see the joy and relief in her eyes, as well as a little bit of fear. She doesn’t know if I have heard her. I’m not going to give up her secrets just yet so I pretend that I didn’t, as I am wracked by a coughing fit. It hurts to breathe. My entire body hurts and I can’t move one of my legs. I realize that it is in a cast. Just how much damage have I taken?

“It hurts.”

“I know it does baby. Let me get you something for the pain.”

“Wait….don’t go yet.” I don’t want to be alone…not yet. I’m still not sure whether or not I am glad to be alive.

“I’m not going anywhere. Are you okay for a while?”

“I’ll live…thanks to you.” Somehow I knew that Anna was the one who saved me. It just seemed right. I vaguely remember the voice from the bridge. It must have been hers.

“I am so mad at you right now. How could you do something so stupid?”

“I had my reasons.” Another bout of coughing cuts off anything else.

“I know what your reasons were. I read the note. Don’t you dare think that you have nothing to live for ever again, do you hear me? You have me…you’ll always have me.”

“It…it was just so hard.” And it was, but for the first time, I feet some shame. I was so consumed with my own pain that I didn’t stop to consider what my actions would have meant to everyone else.

“I know angel…I know…but we’re here for you now, okay?”

“Is Beth outside?” I don’t want to ask…I don’t think that I’m up to seeing her, or letting her see me. I know I have to. We have to get this over and done with. I needed to move on…to start healing, or at least trying to.

“Yes, she is. Would you like me to send her in for a little while?”

“I suppose we need to get this over with.” A pause. “She’s going to leave, isn’t she?” I already know the answer but hope can be an insidious little insect.

“I don’t know, sweetie. Do you really want her to stay?”

“Not out of guilt.”

“She loves you Cass.”

“Yeah, just not enough.”

“We’ll deal with it…whatever happens, we’ll deal with it, okay?” I know she means it. It gives me courage.

“Yes ma’am.”

She dims the lights a little before she leaves and as I lie here, I feet a stirring in my stomach that has nothing to do with my injuries. I am nervous. I am afraid. I know that I am going to ask her to stay and, deep down, I know that she won’t. I hear the door open once again and I steel myself.

“Cassidy?” She sounds unsure of herself, as if she is afraid that her voice will make me bolt…not that I can go anywhere in this cast. My throat refuses to work.

“Cassie, honey?”

“Hey.”

“I guess it’s a silly question but how are you feeling?”

“Like I almost died…but I guess that’s a fair representation.” It is a silly question, but I feel compelled to answer.

“Do you remember anything about what happened?”

“I remember everything Beth.” I don’t want to. I don’t want to remember what I had done or the pain that drove me there. She takes my hand and all I feet is that pain…that ache in my heart, coupled with a few more physical aches. I see the tears that come to her eyes and I wish I could wipe them away. God, I am still in love with her.

“I’m so sorry baby. I never meant to do this to you.”

“I did this to myself Beth. I let the pain get the better of me.” It’s true. I did this. I could have walked away. I could have handled things differently.

“No. I did this. Let me be the one to take responsibility for once. I decided that I wanted something else, but I wanted to keep what I had too. That was wrong of me. You deserve so much more than that.”

“But I want you.” It is my eyes that the tears come to this time, partly because it is true, and partly because it isn’t. I do want her…I always did, but I can’t fight any more.

“I know, but you deserve someone who wouldn’t even have to think about it. Their choice would already be made. You deserve someone who would always put your needs first, no matter what. I can’t give you the life you need, but you knew that already, didn’t you?”

I do. I can’t spend the rest of my life being though of a just her ‘best friend’. I need to be with someone who can give me to me as much as I can give to them. It isn’t Beth’s fault, and I can’t force her to live a life that will make her unhappy. I can’t go out with her the way he can. I can’t give her a ‘real’ marriage. I can’t be him.

“I don’t want to be alone.”

“You will never be alone. I want to be a part of your life…for as long as you’ll have me. I’m always going to be your friend and your shoulder to cry on. Don’t forget, you still have Sierra and Jesse…and Anna.” There is something in her eyes when she says Anna’s name and it puzzles me a bit. Does she know about my best friend’s feelings for me? Is she trying to tell me something?

“What are you talking about Beth?”

“We all love you Cassie…even me. I know you don’t believe that and I haven’t given you any reason to. I have broken all my promises to you. I have hurt you more than anyone else in your life…and I know that was a big task. I can’t expect you to ever trust me again. I can only hope that one day you’ll forgive me. And the thing that breaks my heart the most is that I can’t be the one to be there for you. I can’t be the one to hold you and make it better because I’m the one who put you here. I can’t help you heal.”

“I know.”

“But there’s someone who can…and she’s right outside. She can be there for you, if you let her. I know that I have no right to ask anything of you but I’m asking you this; promise me that you won’t shut her out.”

“I can’t be with anyone else right now Beth. I can’t even think about that.”

“I’m not asking you to. I’m just asking you to let her in. She’s going to be there for you in any way you need. Just let her.”

Suddenly, I am very tired. I don’t know whether it’s the drugs are kicking in or the fact that I am emotionally drained, but at least I am starting to feel that things will be okay…eventually. It still hurts, but that will ease in time. She is right…I have to move on with my life. I have to take some time for myself, to find myself, and when the time is right I might be able to love again. I drift to sleep with those thoughts and when I open my eyes again, Anna is with me.

I hear about Sierra’s little temper tantrum later, when she comes in with sore knuckles and tries to hide them. I don’t know if she is going to hug me or hit me…thankfully she just hugs me. I get the feeling that Jesse has something to do with her not trying to finish what I had started. We talk. I think this is the first real heart-to-heart conversation that I have ever had with my sister. It is the silver lining on a very dark cloud.

Well, one of the at least. The other is Anna and I. She offers to take me in when I am discharged from the hospital but Sierra would have none of it. I don’t think she wants to let me out of her sight again. It is a good thing too. I don’t think either of us could handle Anna having to bathe me. As it is, Jesse makes light of the fact that she can get to see the two hottest sisters in town naked anytime she wants to. It does wonders for my ego, but I’ll never tell Sierra that. She would not be amused.

Anna comes by practically everyday, and she stays over at my place when I am finally able to walk on my own. She takes me to the hospital for my physical therapy appointments. She encourages me when the depression sets in. She is always there for me…and little by little I start to let her it. It feels right being with her. I miss her company when she isn’t around. I know it’s selfish but I want her around me all the time.

Sierra, Jesse and Beth are conspiring to get us together. To say that they are obvious about it would be an understatement. They are always dropping hints and coming up with lame excuses when we are all supposed to go out together so it ends up being just Anna and me. We both know what they’re trying to do and we frequently laugh about it, but I know the time isn’t right yet. But I think it will be soon.

It is almost a year to the day since my ‘accident’. That’s how everyone refers to it now, as though I accidentally propelled myself off a bridge. We are at Anna’s place, in here living room to be exact. We are full and content to just rest against each other. Her eyes are closed and I know that she thinks I am exploring her remote but the fact is that I am nervous. Having her so close is doing the strangest things to me. I can smell the shampoo in her hair and she is wearing my favorite perfume. It feels so good being in her arms…it feels so right. I finally feel that I was able to really trust again and it is all because of her. I nuzzle her hair and whisper a ‘thank you’. She must have been dozing of because she seems startled.

“Hmm? What was that babe?”

“I said that I just wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

“For saving my life…for everything.” Don’t you know how much you’ve done for me?

She tries to say something…to deny it, but I rest a finger on her lips…her very soft lips. I need to get this out before my courage escapes me.

“You saved me Anna…not just that night. You saved me from myself so many times. You’ve always been there for me and I don’t know how I would have gone on if it hadn’t been for you.”

I move to kiss her on the cheek and my senses are overwhelmed by her scent. I hear a small gasp escape her and I draw back. I look into her eyes. I need to be sure that this is what she wants. All I see reflected there is a love so strong that I feel tears coming to my eyes. How could I have not seen it all those years before? I kiss her, on the lips, and my heart leaps to my throat. I feel like I can’t breathe…I want her so much. I draw back again and almost instantly her lips are on mine again. She opens her mouth to me, and I taste her tongue for the first time. I let her feel mine. It isn’t enough. I need more. I need naked skin on skin.

She must have heard my thought s because she pushes me down into the couch and starts kissing a trail down my neck. She nips me here and there and I know that I will be sporting her marks in the morning. I don’t care, as long as they’re hers. My trembling fingers slide up her back and I feel her arch slightly into the touch. I capture an ear and a low moan escapes her. She is lying practically on top of me and our legs are intertwined. She slides down and starts unbuttoning my shirt with her teeth. It is the most erotic sight I have ever seen. The cold air is quickly replaced by the heat of her mouth and I know the meaning of pleasure. I need her…now. Our passions grow and when she reaches into my jeans…I am so very wet for her.

We make love everywhere…and I do mean everywhere. I am never going to be able to eat at that table again. And when it is finally over, we are both too drained to move, but it is an exquisitely beautiful feeling. She holds me and I sleep better than I have in a very, very long time. When I open my eyes the next morning, she is right there beside me and I know that this was where I belong. I am a little surprised when she asks me to move in, but I am not going to let her slip out of my grasp. I say yes and I have been saying yes to her ever since.

~~~~~~~~~~

Five years have passed since the night I almost ended it all. I thank God each day that I didn’t. I have so much to live for now. My sister and I are closer than we have ever been. Beth and I have managed to mend all our fences as well, and we are actually very good friends. We have been there for each other through many things throughout the years. I am still not close to Steven and I doubt that I’ll ever be. He reminds me too much of a time when I hated who I had become. Still, we tolerate each other, for Beth’s sake…and her children. They are little angels. I hope my own child comes out half a sweet as they are. If she takes after Anna, she will be. And why shouldn’t she? After all, she is my darling’s biological child. I’m just a giant incubator. It always makes Anna laugh when I say that. I wonder if she’ll be laughing at the delivery when I’m in agony and I refuse to ever let her touch me again. It warms my heart to know that a piece of Anna is growing inside me.

We all live fairly close to each other and I am glad for that. This is my family and families should stick together. At the moment, we are all at Beth’s house and I am starting to feel a little tired. Beth’s kids love me, for some inexplicable reason, and while I am usually up to spending hours and hours with them, the pregnancy has put a strain on me. Anna is, as usual, my shadow. I love her to death but if she doesn’t leave me alone for two seconds, I’m going to lose it. I know that if roles were reversed, I would be worse so I cut her some slack. Sierra and Jesse are off talking and I know something that my sister doesn’t, but that’s Jesse’s secret…although it won’t be a secret for long.

I am happy. For the first time in my life, I am truly happy. I still see sadness in Beth’s eyes sometimes, especially when Anna’s hand is on my stomach, and I know she is thinking of all those conversations we had about having children of our own. But she has her husband, she has her children, and she still has me. She still has all of us…and things had to happen the way they did. We each had to find our own place…and mine is here. I look around…at Anna… at Sierra… at Beth… at everyone, and I know that I have everything and everyone I need right here. I have found my perfect world.

The End