Some Kind of Wonderful-
Author's Note: Here's Ch. 8. Sorry for the delay, originally I planned on posting this yesterday but I had a bout with some 24 hour stomach bug...not very pleasant. This chapter is unfortunately another transition chapter but I think its pretty decent. I'd like to thank djkauf for the wonderful editing and DC Comics for their wonderful characters.
Once again, Faraday drove with us in the SUV. Like before, our small group didn’t do much talking, which was fine by me. I tried my best to keep myself preoccupied by looking out the window. There was a lot of stuff rolling around my head, the first and foremost among those things is what happens now. My life was completely turned upside down. I’d already decided a while ago---especially after her recent treatment---that I couldn’t go back into the city with my mother. We moved from my grandparent’s home a few months ago, my mother bought a two-bedroom apartment on the east side of the city. Even though she wouldn’t admit it, I think being in that house reminded her too much of what she missed. Part of that had to do with my grandfather. Even though they didn’t have the greatest relationship, my mother did love the man.
Me, I hated the city. I tried to talk my mother out of moving but she got pretty damn insistent upon it. The strangest thing was that it kinda came out of nowhere. One day we were talking about using some of my grandfather’s life insurance money to build an extension and the next thing I knew my Mom wanted to move out. I think she and grandma got into a fight. The morning that mom decided to move, she was in a particularly grumpy mood. Then we moved to the city, regardless of my complaints. I had to leave the few friends I had and move to a whole new school. The worst part, I was there only for about a week before Winter Break started, then Mom and I were off to Greece.
We pulled up to the college to drop Donna off first. She lived off campus but there was some work in the library my mother wanted her to do. No rest for the weary. Usually I’d get out of the cab and help her with her bags. But we weren’t in a cab and she had no bags---none of us did except Mom. But I got out of the SUV anyway, walking with her a little bit so Mom and Faraday couldn’t hear our conversation.
“You going to be ok, kiddo?”
I shrugged. “I can’t live with that woman anymore.”
She smiled weakly and nodded. “Are you sure?”
“She doesn’t care about me, she doesn’t even try. I can’t deal with that anymore. I’m going back to The Gates to live with grandma.”
She nodded. “I’ll come by in a couple of days to see how you’re doing.”
I teared up a bit and she hugged me. We hugged for a while. Since the change, we’d gotten real close. I know that sounds crazy, seeing how short a time it was but it was true. I used to be so attracted to her that I couldn’t look at her. She still was attractive but now there was something else. I felt this bond with her, this connection that wasn’t there before. Maybe this is what it felt like to have an older sister.
After she pulled away, I slowly trudged back to the vehicle. I slid in, not even looking at Mom. She didn’t look at me either. Neither one of us had anything to say to one another anyway. She was unwilling to see anything from my point of view. And I was tired of trying to explain things to her. So we were at an impasse, one that I was certain she didn’t want to help resolve. Which was fine by me because I was done trying to get her to see things that were clearly in front of her face!
Our apartment was only a few blocks from the school, in an apartment block that was usually meant for students. But my mother wanted something close so she didn’t have to go very far to get to class. She said it was bad enough that she had to take the bus to get to the museum every day. Our apartment wasn’t the best place to be---smack dab in the middle of two guys that belonged in a frat but my mother didn’t seem to complain. I suppose it wasn’t all bad though. A few weeks before we moved, my friend Connor moved into the city, too. He used to live next door with his father. Then his father---a journalist---got a new job and moved to San Francisco. Connor moved into the city to live with his college age cousin. The two of us were still friends because we lived so close but because he was such a football star, he got to go to the same school whereas I had to change to a city one.
We pulled up outside the brownstone block. Faraday got out before us, nodding to the driver as he did so. The driver got out too and we were told to stay put. The two of them walked up to the building and slipped inside. I’m not sure what the deal was but I’m sure they had their reasons. Me, I sat and watched the cars zip by. The city was too big and too cramped for me. I missed everything about my home. I missed my room; I missed the woods and the huge backyard. I missed waking up every morning to the smell of my grandmother’s cooking. I missed being able to talk to an adult and not be treated like I was some kind of diseased rodent.
“We’re going to need to get you enrolled into a new school,” said my mother, as if we’d been having a continuing conversation for the last few minutes.
I turned from the window. “What?”
“Well clearly they know who you are at the one you were in before; we’ll have to get you into another.”
“Mom, I was there for like five minutes.”
Truthfully, it was about a week. I’m not even sure why she bothered enrolling me---especially so close to Break. But if there was one thing about my mother that I actually liked it was her insistence that I get a good education on matter what. She made sure that I went to school every day even if I didn’t want too. Lazy people didn’t get into college, that’s what she always used to say to me if I wanted to stay home. When I was sick I had to be really sick---temp over one hundred---to get her to let me stay home and even then, I wasn’t off the hook. But I may have mentioned before, I’m not really big on school. I do all right but ever since grandpa passed, it’s just not the same.
“We’ll have to enroll you in Sacred Heart. I know someone on the Board; they can get you in there with no questions asked.”
Sacred Heart was a Catholic school for girls, it was known for its stuck up bitches. Connor dated a girl from there a couple of months ago and she was horrible to him. She only wanted to be with him to help her social standing. There was no way in hell I was going to let her stick me in that school. Besides, thinking about those tiny skirts made me shudder.
“Well you’re not going to public school” she said “not with your new gifts. You’ll be ostracized.”
I scoffed. “Since when do you care about how people treat me?”
She didn’t say anything. Of course, she wouldn’t say anything. That was typical Mom. When she spoke, it was a change of subject. Also typical Mom. “We can discuss this inside later.”
Inside? I shook my head. There was going to be no inside. “I’m not going into the apartment.”
“What are you talking about?”
I took a deep breath. This was it, no turning back now. “I’m not going in there because I’m not living there anymore.”
“What are you talking about?”
I took another breath. “I’m moving back in with grandma.”
She laughed. She actually laughed at me. “”Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not the ridiculous one around here, you are. You treat me like I’m some kind of thing the dog dragged in from the mud. You’ve never treated me like a son, not even when I was born. You say you’re my mother but you let your parents raise me. You’re not my parent, they are. You only tolerate me because grandpa told you to stop being an ass and take some responsibility.” My anger was starting to rise. “I’m sick and tired of this shit. I’m sick and tired of you and the way you treat me, the way you treat others. I can’t stand around anymore and take your shit.” The last bit I yelled. “I’M MOVING OUT AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO STOP ME!”
When I finished I swore I heard a crack of thunder somewhere. But the skies were clear. I shook the thought away; it was probably my imagination. My mother’s face was pale and I could see something in her eyes. They were starting to water up a bit but she turned her head away so I couldn’t see her cry. When she snapped back around, she was ready for a fight.
“How dare you speak to me that way?”
I scoffed. “I’ll speak to you with the respect you deserve which is none. Until you start showing me some I’m not going to show you any.”
“I won’t allow it,” she said, raising her voice. “You’re my so…child. I’m not going to let you run off like…I’m not going to let you do anything that I don’t approve of”
“What are you going to do ground me?” I laughed. “I’ll just rip the God damn door off. You can’t stop me. I’ve made up my mind. I’m moving in with grandma and that’s final.”
I punched my fist into the roof of the vehicle. There was a loud strain of flesh on metal. I pulled my hand away, leaving a fist imprint there. The part of the roof I punched was now bent upwards. I bit my lip. My mother stared at me. I saw the fear in her eyes, the shock. I was a little scared, too. Tears welled into the corners of my eyes and I wanted so much to cry into her lap. Instead, I turned away and she ignored me. A real mother would have tried to comfort but not this woman---not Helena Sandsmark. She turned her back on me, turned her back on her child when he…err…she needed her the most.
Faraday and the driver came back to the SUV. As soon as they got close, Faraday smiled.
“All clear ladies, you’re ok to go in.”
My mother opened the door of the SUV and slipped outside. She didn’t say anything to Faraday. She slammed the door shut and stormed toward our apartment---correct that... her apartment. She didn’t even turned back when she stormed up the steps and went inside. Good riddance. I couldn’t deal with her right now anyway. But then why was I crying. I reached up and wiped the tears from my cheek. I groaned. Stupid girl emotions.
“You’re not going in?”
I shook my head. “Take me to my grandmother’s”
Faraday nodded and got into the SUV. I didn’t look back either as the vehicle drove off. I was never going to look back at her.
My grandmother lives in a gated community north of Chicago; it was my home for the last sixteen years of my life. Well, home until very recently. The community is called Green Meadows but a lot of us locals---kid locals actually---we call it “Gateway City” or “The Gates”. It’s a stupid name, I’m not really sure who came up with it but I think it might have been Connor. Stupid names were his forte. He liked to give everything a stupid name. But I suppose that’s better than what everyone called him. Me, I was the “Lone Loser”, yeah whoever thought up that one was pretty smart---yeah right? Connor, because he was the football star---everyone called him “Super-boy”. You’d think he would have liked it too, but Connor is a strange guy like that.
The main entrance to the Gates was a large, well, gate. It had a GM on each side so when it opened the two of them split apart. There was a single guard booth and only one guard on duty at a time. I knew them all by heart, the guy on duty now was Frankie. He was a little older man with a potbelly and a balding head. He was a good guy though and may not have looked it but he was a sharpshooter when it came to that gun of his. At least that what he liked to tell people. One look at our SUV–with the dented fist imprint on the roof–caused him to raise an eyebrow when he came to the window.
“This is a gated community folks; you need permission from a home owner to enter.”
The driver rolled down his window. Faraday put on that charming smile of his and then flipped his badge. “Agent Faraday, Homeland Security. We’re expected.”
Frankie’s eyes got as big as saucers. I think it was probably the first time he’d seen a Fed up close and in person. His shock disappeared quickly though as he went to the computer and checked the list. It didn’t take him very long until he came back and nodded. He pushed the buzzer, the gates opened, parting the G and the M and we drove on inside. The Gates was a typical suburban community, with a layout that looked like several giant circles if viewed from above. There were two cul-de-sacs, grandma lived in the one that they called “West Court” I think they were trying to be fancy. I directed the driver, knowing how difficult this place could be if you didn’t know where you were going. Most of the houses were cookie cutter ranch homes, built sometime in the seventies. There were a few though---like grandma’s---that had been here before the community.
I guided the way from the backseat, pointing out when to take a left or a right. After several twisting turns, we finally arrived at the proper cul-de-sac. There were two ways to tell grandma’s house from everyone else’s. The first being that it was in the center of the cul-de-sac, right smack ahead. The other being that out of the seven houses on this cul-de-sac, here’s was the only one that looked like it had been there for a while. It was a huge Colonial with red brick and a covered porch. Off to the side was the detached garage, above which was a guest room that we generally used for storage. There were ten rooms in the house but I couldn’t remember the last time someone slept in all of them. There were five windows on top facing the road and five facing the back. It was a huge house, built sometime after the Revolutionary War or at least that’s what grandpa told me.
The house once belonged to one his ancestors, a senator I think. All the land around the home used to belong to his family at one time. But over the years---through one means or another---a lot of it had been sold. We still had a good chunk of it but not nearly as much as we should. My grandfather always used to say that all that land went to waste anyway. I had to agree with him. When I was younger there were only four other houses in the cul-de-sac, the two on either side were brand new in the last five or six years or so. Grandpa and I used to have to mow both sides, it took us hours---him on the driving mower, me with the push.
When we got into the driveway, I saw the front door open. I got a lump in my throat. Agent Faraday had called grandma ahead of time, told her what to expect. I didn’t talk to her---I was too nervous---but she said she’d be waiting for me. She was true to her word too. As soon as the SUV hit the end of the driveway, she stepped out onto the porch. My grandmother was in great condition for her age. She never had to work because of my grandfather’s family money and now that he was gone, ---she being his only living relative---she inherited the whole thing. So she was really well off which allowed her some of the finer things in life. For instance, she played golf every other day, went to aerobics classes on Thursdays and had swimming every other Saturday. Green Meadows catered well to the elderly. Not that I’d ever call grandma elderly.
“I’m not sure I can do this,” I said nervously, looking at the short white lady standing by my grandfather’s favorite chair.
“She understands everything,” said Faraday “in fact she said she’s excited to meet you and doesn’t care what you look like anymore. You’ll always be her grandchild.”
I smiled. That sounded like something grandma would say.
I nodded and grabbed the door handle, gently pushing the door open. I was still wearing the clothes Donna got for me at the airport in NYC---not having time to change. So I probably looked quite the sight stepping out of the SUV looking like I’d just gotten back from the Gym. As soon as I was fully out of the car, I could see the look on my grandma’s face. It was hard to read at first---her being hidden in the porch shade and all. I shivered, cursing myself for lack of jacket. It was cold in Greece but there hadn’t been any snow on the ground. Here it looked like a winter wonderland. I suppose that was typical for January but I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had this much snow on the ground.
My grandmother stepped off the porch---wearing a thick winter coat, clothes and Wellington boots. She crunched her way down the partially shoveled drive. I tensed my body, wondering what her reaction was going to be. Her face was still unreadable. When she got to me, she paused and looked up. My grandmother is just five foot and before I was about five or six inches taller but now, I was a giant to her. She stared up at me for a few seconds, probably taking it all in. Then she did something that made me instantly melt. She held her arms open and I was in them even before I knew it. I cried and she hugged me. She told me soothing things---how much she loved me---that kind of stuff.
After a few minutes hugging, she pulled away, wiping at tears of her own. She took my hands in hers, moving my arms apart as far as she could. “My you are a big one aren’t you? Might be useful around the house, what with a little thing like me” She winked and I smiled.
Right then and there, I knew everything was going to be all right.
I introduced Faraday to her. My grandmother hugged him too. She probably would have hugged the driver if he’d gotten out of the vehicle. My grandmother was a hugger.
“I want to thank you, Agent for protecting my girls out there,” She said this while clinging to my arm.
I felt nice and secure there.
“I was doing my job ma’am.”
He flashed her that smile and I felt my grandmother go weak at the knees. I wanted to roll my eyes but then I remembered the effect it had on me. The one that I wasn’t willing to admit. He was an attractive man and that’s all I’ll say about that.
“You gentlemen are welcome to come inside for a spot of cocoa?”
Faraday sighed. “As lovely as that sounds, Mrs. Kapatelis, I have to get back to the city. There’s a lot of paperwork I need to file and I have a video conference with the boss in a few hours.” Grandma sighed and nodded. Then Faraday turned to me. “I’d like to have a moment, Cassie, if you wouldn’t mind.”
My grandmother let go of my arm. It took me a second to realize I was Cassie. Then I followed him as he walked around to the other side of the SUV. He opened the passenger side door and took out yellow envelope. I had the one with my new life safely in my back pocket. This one didn’t look as bulky. He ripped the top then emptied the contents into his hand, there were only two things: a sleek black cell phone and a white chess piece, a Bishop I think.
He handed me the phone. “This is standard Government Issue, state-of-art, equipped with a scramble and a satellite uplink. There’s already a number preprogrammed in there. I want you to call that number whenever you are going to leave the house and one of my Agents will come and escort you.”
I frowned at that. I didn’t like the idea of being followed everywhere I went. “Am I that much of a threat?”
He shook his head. “On the contrary, Agent Chase is going to be there to protect you. Not only from yourself but others too. I have a feeling that we won’t be seeing the last of Andreas or whoever the hell he really was. She’ll tail you at a safe distance, most of the time you won’t even know she’s there.”
I nodded but I still didn’t like it. “What’s the chess piece for?”
He smiled, handing it to me. “This is in case you get into serious trouble. If something happens, something really bad I want you to put this in your bedroom window. It doesn’t matter where it’s placed, I’ll know it’s there and I’ll come.”
I nodded again, clutching both items as gently as I could. I didn’t want to break my new toys. He smiled and stuck out his hand. I switched the Bishop into my phone hand and shook it. His grip was surprisingly weak for a man of his caliber. Then again most men probably had a weak grip compared to me now. That brought a little smile to my face.
“You’ve been given a new lease on life, Cassandra Sandsmark, I wish you luck and hope that you and I never have to meet face to face ever again.”
I smiled. “Is that a good thing?”
He nodded. “It’s a very good thing.”
Then he turned and climbed into the SUV. He shut the door without saying another word. A few seconds later, the engine roared to life. I stepped back to keep them from running over my toes. They backed down the driveway, made a quick turn and were gone. I sighed and turned back to the house. This was my home, this was my life. I smiled at my grandmother as she waved from the porch.
Then I waved back.
“I’ll put you up in your Aunt Vanessa’s room,” said grandma as she led me down the second floor hallway.
The hall was kinda cramped but was long and narrow too. Like I said before, there were about ten rooms here, five in front and five in back. The front rooms were mainly bedrooms while the back were used for different things, my grandfather’s office being one of them. My bedroom---the one I used before we moved---was the first on the left. Aunt Vanessa’s room---her old one that is---was at the end of the hall. I’d never actually got to meet her. She was my mother’s younger sister and like Mom, she left home shortly after school. But whereas Mom went to college, Aunt Vanessa disappeared. Every once and a while throughout my childhood my grandparents used to get post cards from here, from one place or another. But in the last five years or so there was nothing. It was like she disappeared off the map, which grandma took pretty hard.
We stopped in front of Vanessa’s door; grandma pulled a key out of her pocket. She paused before unlocking it. I wonder when the last time she’d actually opened it. I put my hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. I felt the tension leave her and she put the key in the lock. She opened the door and it was like stepping into the eighties. The room was like a little time capsule, so clearly no one had been in here in a long time indeed. The carpet was a bland yellow green, the walls a really faded light pink. There was a vanity, a desk, a dresser and a large bed smack dab in the middle of the room. The bed was a canopy, covered with stuff animals. There were 80’s Rocker posters on the walls and a lava lamp in the corner. Everything was covered with an inch of dust.
My grandma frowned. “Clearly it needs a bit of cleaning.”
She walked through the room and went to the window, pulling it open. It was a bit cold for that but I guess it was the best way to air things out. I walked over to the bed and frowned. The bedspread was pink and all the stuffed animals seemed to be staring at me. It was kinda creepy but I guess I couldn’t complain. I was a girl now---a teenage girl. The room was in a desperate need of an upgrade but it would do for now.
Grandma turned from the window. “Right” she said, slapping her hands together, sending a cloud of dust filtering through the room. “Just a bit of cleaning and it should be fine.”
I bit my lip, afraid to ask. In the end though I had too. “Is there any way I can take some of this stuff out of here.”
She didn’t say anything for a second. Then she looked around the room, clearly noticing how out of date everything was. Then she smiled. “Of course you can sweetie. This stuff is ancient.”
Then she walked over and opened the closet. The clothes in there were a bit outdated too. But apparently retro was in, right? My grandma pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, tossing them on the bed. Then she went over to the dresser, taking out some underwear from the top drawer. Then she stopped and looked at me. She frowned, holding a bra in her hand.
“I think you might be a little bigger than her,” she said, putting the bra back.
I flushed in embarrassment. Then looked at the jeans. “Will those fit?”
Grandma looked at them. “How tall are you now dear?”
I flushed again. “Six three now.”
Her eyes opened wide. I think she was surprised at how tall I’d shot up. Hell, I was just as shocked. I figured I was tall, I thought about six three before but it was confirmed when they took my measurements at the FBI office. Six foot three and a hundred and seventy five pounds. Not that you could tell I weighed that much---or little---I’m not sure what a girl would think that was. Anyway, most of my body was lean muscle with very little fat. As I said before, I was prime for the WNBA.
“Well, you’ll have to wear your own underwear of course, but I think those jeans and that shirt should fit. Vanessa was about five ten I think. It’ll be all right to walk around here at least. Tomorrow you and I can do some shopping.”
I groaned. That was the moment I was dreading. Clothes shopping, I knew it was coming. But I thought maybe I could get away with just wearing the yoga clothes for a few days.
Grandma laughed. “Comes with the territory now, sweetheart.”
I huffed,dropping onto the corner of the bed. She came over, sat down next to me and gave me a big hug. We stayed like that for a few minutes. After that, I got dressed. My grandma didn’t leave like she usually used to when I was Charlie but then again we were both girls now. I tried to undress and dress as quickly as possible. I wasn’t quite ready to fully look at my naked body---well, half naked because I was wearing the sports bra and my old underwear. My grandma didn’t like the boy briefs---for one they looked ridiculous. She said we’d remedy all of that tomorrow. I groaned some more. The shirt was purple and a bit tight, especially around the chest area but it was good for now. The jeans were a bit tight, too and a bit short but like she said before we’d only be house today.
After dressing, the real work began.
My grandma left and a few minutes later came back with some boxes and cleaning supplies. Then the two of us set to work making the room presentable. We dusted, polished and scrubbed every surface. We took the posters off the walls, threw away all of Vanessa’s old makeup and then boxed up everything I wasn’t going to use. We ended up filling up three boxes with clothes, knick-knacks and stuffed animals. Sorry, Aunt V, but there was no way I was going to have those creepy things staring at me. After that, I stacked all three boxes and in one arm carried them to one of the spare rooms that we used for storage. My grandma’s mouth dropped open when she saw this feat of strength.
When I got into the room, she was sitting on the bed. The room looked a lot different. It was bared now, stripped of everything that was Vanessa. I smiled at grandma, wondering if we did the right thing. She smiled back as I walked over and sat down next to her. She didn’t say anything for a while. I reached over and grabbed her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
Then she turned to me, clearing her throat. “Darling, do you want to talk about it?”
I smiled. I guess I was expecting this. So I opened my mouth and told her the whole story, starting from the beginning and not leaving out a thing.
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