Updated: Jul 12, 2018
A child covered in blood was not what I needed to come home that tonight. My plan was to go home after another failed date, change into my sweats, and enjoy a bottle of Beringer and the leftover food I barely touched because I could not wait for the date to end. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get back into the theatrics that was getting dressed up to maybe connect with a complete stranger. It was a cycle I was over.
After trudging up the stairs, I see her there. This little girl was like a creature out of a horror movie. She was dressed adorably in her dungarees, lavender sweater, and white bow in her hair. However, it was the blood that clearly stole the show. It stained her clothing and dyed her deep brown curls a crimson color.
“Hey there. Are you okay?” I approached her with caution. She watched me walk towards her slowly. She seemed perplexed by my hesitation. Clearly this little girl was not aware that she was the embodiment of a horror movie plot.
“Are you by yourself?”
She nods. I walk a little closer. One step at a time.
“Wh—Where are your parents?” For a fleeting moment, I considered that there was a possibility she had murdered them Carrie style. That’s ridiculous, I thought. But so is this.
Without a word, she fishes something out of her pocket. It was hard to not look on in horror as she reaches out a bloody hand, holding a folded piece of paper out for me.
“Jaime?” She finally spoke. I look left to right, hoping that this was some kind of shit prank. Nervously, I take the paper from her, quickly unravel it to read:
Her name is Cassiopeia. This was not what we planned for her but the stars have decided. You will find yourself terrified but the strings of fate will do their part to keep you together.
X & B
“The fuck?” I say. I quickly cover my mouth, forgetting that I’m in the presence of innocent ears. But now I can’t help but laugh at myself. Then, I feel a small, sticky, warm hand take my own. I looked down at a set of confident honey colored eyes. What am I supposed to do? I squat down to her level. We are now eye to eye. I feel uneasy but I have to do something.
“Do you want to come in and get cleaned up?”
“Yes, please.” She was so calm I could not help but feel like this little girl had a power in her I could not explain.
“Is it Cassiopeia?”
“Yes. That’s correct, but you can call me Cassie.” She smiles. I tried to smile back, but it’s hard to ignore the caked blood in her dimples. I look around, hoping someone will appear to take this off my hands.
Still holding her hand, I stand up, shove the letter into my purse, and fish out my keys. I take a deep breath as I turn the key in the lock, and open the door. As soon as we’re in, she makes a beeline for the bathroom, as if she’s done this a million times. Before I can ask if she needs help, I hear the door close and the sound of running water coming from the bathroom.
Immediately, I’m on the phone with the nearest precinct and they’re useless. Clueless even. There was also no urgency whatsoever. Maybe a child showing up at your front door covered in what might be the blood of her parents was a frequent occurrence.
“Cassiopeia? What kind of name—“ the officer was chuckling.
“Look ma’am it’s probably just your neighbor’s kid playing a joke. Just give it an hour or two. She will probably run home.”
“What? Do you hear yourself? You want me to keep a stranger’s child? In. My. Home? You know what? I’ll figure this out.” And with a grunt I hung up. I did not know how I was going to figure this out. I run my fingers through my hair and rub my temple. I can feel the anxiety creeping up on me. Soon the full weight will be on my chest and I won’t be able to move. I take a deep breath, and as I do so, my nose is filled with a calming lavender aroma coming from the bathroom.
Following the scent, I find myself outside the bathroom door. I knock and call out, “Cassie?”
“Come in,” she says brightly.
I open the door and Cassie is in the tub, playing with the water, as any child would. The blood is washed away and all that is left is soft earth colored skin. She doesn’t look up at me.
As I approach the tub, I prepare myself for the garish sight of bloody water, but I am greeted by something more magnificent. The water is a deep blue, the color of the night sky, and it shimmered, as if there were stars in her sky. I watch her tap one of the brighter bigger stars and it glides across the water’s surface stopping in front of me, only to disappear. She finally looks up at me and smiles. Her eyes are so wide and inquiring. It was if the world was a mystery to her, and she was eager to discover it. This sense of wonder was infectious, I can’t help but smile back.
Storge. In ancient Greek culture they determined that there was more than one kind of love a person can feel. Storge was a familial love. Normally shared between parent and child. I think that first night sparked that love. This intriguing little girl had wandered into my life for a reason. Maybe it was to give me something I had been missing. Maybe I was just being selfish.
I don’t want to blink because I’m not sure what I’m seeing. I sit at the edge of tub, watching a twirling galaxy.
“Cassie, how did you do this?” My question was quiet but still full of awe.
“Magic,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
“I see that.”
I watch her carefully. I’ve met witches before. How they keep finding me, I don’t know. However, what I do know is that their magic never ceases to amaze. Now, I can’t help but wonder how a girl so young became a witch. I look at her clothes on the floor and wonder if it happened tonight, but I look back at her, and she is so calm. This isn’t how it happens. However, tonight’s events begin to make sense. With a sigh, I pick up her clothes and toss them into the laundry basket. They will be tomorrow’s problem.
The next day, I stayed home and let my office know that I’d be working from home. While in the middle of attempting to make Cassie breakfast, there’s a knock at my door. I put down the bowl of pancake batter and wipe my hands off on my sweatpants. Cassie, who had busied herself, playing with my houseplants didn’t seem to notice. Nervously, I open the door. On the other side was a young and spritely looking delivery guy with a large envelope addressed to me. I sign for the package and quickly close and lock the door before he can finish saying, “Have a good day.”
I walk back over to the couch, picking up my cup of coffee from the kitchen counter, on the way. I set the coffee down on the coffee table, as I settle into the couch. Cassie joins me, she’s wearing my old University of Central Florida sweater as a dress. With her, she brings a potted orchid she brought back to life. I look over at the windowsill where my sad collection of house plants had come back to life.
The envelope holds an assortment of important documents, but one specific document, and the most important, was the birth certificate. I’m not surprised when I read:
This Certifies that Cassiopeia Hart was born to Mother Jaime Hart.
There was no father named.
A cynical laugh escapes me. I had been done helping witches for ten years now and now I’m supposed to play mother to one. I don’t know the first thing about raising a child. I look over at Cassie and our eyes meet. I look away immediately and make my way to the kitchen. I open the cabinet door nearest the refrigerator and pull out a pill bottle. My hands are shaking as I let one pill fall into the palm of my hand.
“What’s that?” Cassie calls from the living room.
“Just something to help me focus.” I wasn’t about to explain to her what an antidepressant was.
“So, are you officially my mom now?” I try not to laugh at this notion. She might have just lost her parents.
“I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“That’s what this paper says.”
That’s when I knew what I had to do. I walk back over to the couch and I empty out every last piece of paper in the envelope out onto the coffee table. I sift through the papers, looking for a name. Someone to tie this girl to. Someone who can take her off my hands.
“Bellamy said she’d take care of everything.” I stop, to look up at her.
“Bellamy?” Now I knew who “B” was. I hadn’t heard that name in years.
“One of mommy’s friends.” I wanted to ask her who her mother was, but I didn’t want to open that wound, but another thought comes to mind.
“Do I know your mom?” Plenty of my friends had children. A few of them had daughters. But I didn’t know a Cassiopeia. I didn’t know anyone who had a kid her age.
“You do, her name is Célia.”
“Célia…” The feeling came at me like a wave. I was back in Lille, France. I remember her perfume, her smile, and then a terrible sickness falls over me. She was dead.
“She’s not dead.”
“Can you read my thoughts?”
“No. But I can read your emotions. My mother has told me a lot about you.”
I take a deep breath.
“How old are you?”
She nods and goes back to the plant in her lap, she strokes the leaves and two new flowers bloom slowly. As I watch her work her magic, I think about how long Célia had been missing. I knew how long she’d been missing. Last night was the ten year anniversary of when she disappeared. After five years of searching I had to accept that she was gone. Possibly killed. I was left with no answers. A familiar pain worked its way into my heart.
“You’ve always been important to her.”
“Are you sure you can’t read minds?” I feel flustered. I’m not sure what to think. Then, I wonder what Célia could have possibly said to her. How much did she share? Hopefully not too much, a lot of what we spent our free time doing was not family friendly.
“No. But your face is like an open book.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You are easy to read.” She said while enunciating each word.
I release a hearty laugh.
“So, you’re Célia’s kid. I see it. You have her eyes.” Célia had this ability to charm with her own warm eyes. It’s no surprise her daughter had the same skill. But in a different way.
We were silent for a moment. Cassie had clearly been through a traumatic event. What was she feeling? What was she going through? I look up at her and she is quietly looking out the window behind us. I move closer to her side of the couch and take one of her small hands into my own.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
“Okay, I guess. What did mom’s letter say?” Here voice was muffled. She had buried her face into the couch, avoiding eye contact.
I shifted and turned my attention back to the mess I had made on the coffee table. I hadn’t noticed it before but I saw it now. The blue cardstock stood out. Clear as day. I pull it out and I can’t help but admire the delicate hand painted peonies I had seen so many times before. It was Célia’s trademark. My heart felt like it was dancing. She knew how much I loved these. I wanted her to be here now. I wanted to ask her so much. Starting with why she left, but it obviously had so much to do with the child who was sitting right next to me. A child that was conceived around the same time she had disappeared. I open the card to a letter that fills every inch of blank space.
I feel like I need to begin this with an apology, but you deserve so much more than that and I want to give it to you when I see you again. But first, I need your help.
You knew about my gifts and you accepted and loved them, you accepted my world even when you could not be a part of it. Since disappearing that world has grown more dangerous for us. Cassiopeia needs a safe place, a home, until things calm down. I don’t know how long it will be but when it’s time, when it’s safe, I’ll reach out to you again. Bellamy and Xena (Her mother was a big fan of the show) will stay in touch and give you further instructions from here. They were reluctant when I told them what my plan was for my daughter but I gave them no choice. So, forgive them if their feathers seem ruffled at first. You know how intense Bellamy can be.
Because I know nothing gets past you, there is no father involved, it’s just me. I know you might have so many questions that I wish we could answer but for now, you’re safer not knowing. Ma fleur, mon coeur, I am turning to you, not just because I know that you can do this but because there is no one else I trust more on this earth.
I couldn’t explain what I was feeling. It was something crossed with envy and sorrow. However, whatever I’m feeling towards Célia, I can’t let it affect Cassie. I close the card and set it down gently.
“What did mommy say?”
“That you’re going to be spending some time with me.”
“Is she going to join us?”
“I don’t know.”
“I want us to be a family.”
“I don’t know about all of that. I hate to break it to you, but I’d make for a terrible mom.”
She laughs. I wish I were only kidding.
“I guess we’re kind of like a family, but not really.” I struggle with the words. As I take her in for the first time, not covered in blood, I recognize something in her face. She seems familiar. Her full lips and round cheeks, her soft curls. The only thing that truly belonged to Célia, were her eyes. An impossible thought crosses my mind. I shake my head and laugh. A few loose curls fall into my eyes.
“You look like you could be mine. That’s probably why your mom chose me. I wonder what mess she’s gotten herself into?”
I reach for the cold cup of coffee on the coffee table.
“They killed her sisters.” She spoke so softly. The cup had barely touched my lips before I set it back down.
“But wait, your mother doesn’t have siblings.”
“They were family, like you and me.”
I assume she means adopted family. I try to imagine what Cassie has witnessed but it is more than my imagination can handle.
I wasn’t sure what would come next, but she needed my help, and I wasn’t going to leave a kid out in the cold. Especially one that has Célia’s blood running through her veins, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for this. Not wanting to dwell on this anymore I get off the couch.
“Want to help me finish making pancakes?”
“Yes please,” she says with a little too much excitement. The plant in her lap goes tumbling down, but I catch it before it crashes.