I called C.
I told him what had happened that morning. He had been in his dingy hideout.
“Oh babe, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. My mother had no right to do that. You’re right. It’s too hard all of us living together. You know, I really want to help them, but…I tried. I did my best and sometimes things just don’t work out. This will be better babe. I’ll find a job closer to San Diego. We can get a place over there. It’ll work out, babe. Don’t worry. I’ll pack your things and the boys things and I’ll drive to your mom’s house. I’m so sorry babe.”
My doubts over the relationship grew daily. What do I do? I had been so hopeful about it. It all seemed like it would work out so well. This was going to be my happily ever after. How did it all go so pear-shaped? I don’t know. God help me please? Is this man supposed to be in my life? Lord, if this man isn’t supposed to be in my life, please show me. Show me God.
I had started talking to God a little bit again. I wasn’t ready to fully let him in, but I knew that I needed guidance. I was making a mess of everything.
His whispers still followed me.
C came to my mom’s with our things.
“We can stay here babe. I’ll set up my computer here and I’ll start looking for jobs first thing tomorrow.” More promises. My confidence was waning.
We set up beds for the boys in my little brothers room. My mom still had two children at home. My half siblings, Gaetano and Izzabella.
There was a small family room just off from the living room. We put a blow up mattress on the floor in there for me to stay in, and C when he was there as well.
What a day. I welcomed sleep, but I tossed and turned. Battling my demons. The memories. Dean. Chasing me. Running after me. Me, terrified, running away. I knew it would never end. I knew he would never die.
Christmas was a few days away.
“Babe, there are some excellent job opportunities in Texas. I mean the economy in Austin is just booming. I have filled out some applications, but I really think I should make a trip down there to interview for some of these jobs in person.”
Texas? Am I supposed to move to Texas with this man?
“Um, like now? Before Christmas?”
“Yeah, babe, if I leave tomorrow then I can be gone and come back before christmas. I can stay with my friends in Austin. I just need money for gas.”
“Oh. How much do you need?”
“I don’t know, probably $800 should be enough.”
All I had was $800. I didn’t know what to do. So I gave it to him. “Okay. Yeah. Alright.”
That night we decorated the Christmas tree at my mother’s house. I still hadn’t spoken to my dad, my step mom, or my sister. It had been months. It was agony. My family torn apart. Dean dead. I’m sleeping on an air mattress. God help me. This is bad.
We were all spending time together doing Christmas-y stuff. C was no where to be found. I went and found him playing video games in the bedroom.
“You should come out, we’re having fun. We’re decorating and watching movies.”
“Not right now babe.” He was in an alternate reality where he was saving the planet from certain destruction.
What? This man doesn’t even want to spend time with me? Does he even love me? Does he even love himself?
All night he stayed in that room. All alone. Captivated by a screen.
This is not what I want.
The next day he left for Texas.
Anxiety was my constant companion. Nausea came with her. Heart beat. Heart beat. Pause. BOOM. Flood. It felt like a drug. I need some wine.
I skyped with Sue and Karen. It was so lovely to see them. They seemed a million miles away. It felt like years since I’d seen them. I tried to keep my composure, but my efforts failed. “I’m trying…I’m trying to do the right thing. I don’t know. We might move to Texas. I’m not sure. I really want to do the right thing.” I was fighting a losing battle against tears.
Karen did most of the talking. They were emotional as well.
“Cassi, we just want you to know. We are so happy that Dean married you. We have no expectation of you at all. We just love you.”
Her words were honey from heaven. Love. I feel loved. They really love me. In spite of everything. Wow. The tears streamed. Karen showed me the love of Jesus. Thank you Jesus. You don’t judge me. You aren’t mad at me. You love me, Lord. You love me. All I could do was cry tears of awe of the profound love of God. I had been feeling so much shame and condemnation over my decisions. So judged by people. By Christians. By people who I thought were my friends. Other’s thoughts, opinions and labels as bags that I’d willingly chosen to carry. Karen’s words were that of unconditional love. This unconditional and undeserved love gave me wings. And cleared my mind. They gave me wisdom to know what to do and the strength to actually do it. This love. This love empowered me. Love and grace gave me power over my sin. I felt strength flood my heart. Not like the ferocious waves of grief. This was different. This was a river of life flowing into my parched soul.
My mom sat down with me.
“Cassi, are you giving him money?”
I squirmed in my seat. Well, yes I am giving him money, but…well, how do I excuse that?
“Listen to me. That stops NOW. If this man is for real and he wants to take care of you, then you sit back and see if he can do that. You don’t give him one more cent.”
She looked intently into my eyes.
“Cassi. Not one more cent, you hear me? You watch how fast this relationship comes to an end when you stop. You just watch.”
I felt good about that decision. It seemed right. It was put to the test sooner than I thought. He called that afternoon.
“Babe, I need some money.”
“Oh, you do? What do you need money for?” He blew through that fast.
“For gas, to get back to California.”
“Oh. What happened to the $800 I gave you?”
“That’s all gone babe. I just need it okay? Can you put a deposit into my account?”
I paused. Courage. Be strong, Cassi. “Um, no. No I can’t.”
“What?” He sounded hurt. “Why? How am I supposed to get back?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to figure that out.”
I hung up. I smiled. Wow. That actually felt really good. I can be strong. Being strong feels good.
C got back Christmas morning. He was looking less and less appealing. He looked dark. Empty. Angry. What was he so angry about? God, please help me. Show me what to do God. Show me, Lord.
A couple of days after New Years, I woke up. C was asleep next to me. We were on the air mattress in my mother’s house. As I stirred, he woke up.
“Good morning.” I smiled at him.
“Morning.” He yawned. He looked bored.
“I’m gonna go have a shower. Do you wanna come?”
“No babe. You go. I think I’ll try to go back to sleep.”
I walked down the hall into the bathroom trying not to be disappointed. The house was empty. Mom must have taken the kids to the park or something.
I didn’t turn on the light. The light coming in from under the door was just enough. I ran the hot water and breathed in the steam. I got in. Finding therapy in the heat and sound. I hung my head under the water. Jesus. Help me, Jesus. The tears came. God I need you. God help me. I pray for this man, Lord. Show me what to do. If this is not the man you have for me, then show me what to do. Help God. I leaned me forehead against the tiles. The hot water gliding down the nape of my neck and down my back. I soaked in the moment. The quiet. The hot. The dark. The solace. God I need you. Help me Jesus. After a long time adrift in a sea of thought and prayer, I turned the water off. Grabbed my towel, and dried off. I wrapped my hair in one towel, and wrapped another around me. Opened the door and walked down the hall. I went into the family room that was my ‘bedroom’ with the air mattress and C’s computer. He was sitting at the computer. I looked up at him sitting there. He didn’t look back. Not noticing I had walked in. His computer screen caught my attention. What are those pictures of? It looked like something odd. He was scrolling down. Slowly. Carefully. Studying the images. What is that? Intense panic surged through me.
He clicked on one and a video started. It filled up the screen. A woman got up. My heart was pounding so hard it was jolting my whole body. She had no clothes on. C pulled down his shorts and started to play with himself. Oh my God. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. I was horrified. Mortified. I can’t watch anymore. Lord. Oh my Lord. I took a step forward and touched his shoulder. My stomach, sick.
He swung around, shocked and startled. He got up.
“Cassi! Oh shit!” He started mumbling. He started apologizing and excusing. I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t look at him. He reached out to touch me and I shuddered. I finally saw him. I finally saw him for the man he really was. Depraved. Perverted. Disgusting. Completely given over to evil. What’s worse is he preferred that image on a screen to a woman in the flesh. Me. I wasn’t satisfactory. I felt complete betrayal.
And then, the spell was broken. In that instant. Any love I thought I had for him was gone. The illusion was shattered.
I sat down numbly.
He was looking at me. Grabbing my shoulders. Shaking me. Making promises. Making vows. Giving excuses, saying sorry. Talking. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. In fact, I think that’s all he ever really did, was talk. And look at porn. And drink. And smoke weed. How could I be so stupid? How could I be so blind? I was amazed at my own naïveté. How could I possibly think I could change this man? How could I love this man? How could I want him to be a father figure to my children? He’s not a role model. He’s weak. He’s a sick, weak, pathetic man. My dad was right. Everyone was right. He was nothing compared to Dean. He wasn’t half the man Dean was. He wasn’t a shadow of the man Dean was.