“I don’t know what to do,” Sabrina confided in Chaz. “I think my dad has lost his mind. I can clearly see that Natasha is a gold-digger, but he can’t see it. She’s even told me to find a new place to live and she made him agree to that. It’s absolutely absurd.”
“Holy moly,” Chaz said.
“They’ve given me a week!”
“You can live with my parents,” Chaz offered. “I’ve been staying on campus. You can have my room. They won’t mind.”
“No, I have to figure out a way to take care of myself,” Sabrina was quick to respond. “I’d give anything to talk to Danaé right now. I bet she’d put Natasha in her place. She was always amazing at that. Have you heard from her?”
“Not since she left for Brown. And, I really don’t expect to hear from her. I think she washed this place out of her memories, especially since her father was such a piece of work,” Chaz admitted. “What will you do then?”
“I don’t know yet, but first, I’ll talk to Cassidy Winters. She’s been like a mother to me since Alec left. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her these last couple of years.”
“It’s settled. You have to stay here, Sabrina,” Cassidy insisted. “There’s plenty of room in this big old house. We have several unused bedrooms, but you must stay in Alec’s room. Besides, I get lonely here all alone. Please, stay with me. Stay as long as you like. Continue your education while you live here. We’ll make it work.”
After Sabrina moved into the Carrollton Avenue home, Cassidy began to get out more. She went to the grocery store and attended to other errands, but she was worried about finances. It began to disturb her peace of mind.
When Cassidy had first inherited the home, it was mortgage free. Unknown to her, Buck had incurred a considerable debt to support his hedonistic lifestyle. After he died, his life insurance benefits from work were enough to pay off the debt. It also left enough for a small nest egg. Still, owning a home of that size incurred huge expenses. The savings was used up quickly.
Cassidy had no marketable skills, but even if she had been employable, no one would’ve hired her. The community had a long, harsh memory about Cassidy Winters. She was the widow of Buck Winters. She was the mother of the monster who killed him and got away with it. She couldn’t find a job no matter how hard she tried.
Alec had already added her as a dependent, which helped to support his mother throughout his military career. As a dependent, the military sent a monthly stipend that covered routine living expenses, such as utilities and groceries. Still, there was little left for spending money or extras.
“I honestly don’t know how to make ends meet,” Cassidy confided in Sabrina one evening. “Although it’s true that the money Alec sends covers most expenses, there is hardly anything left over after the bills are paid.”
“Cassidy, you are so gifted. You could teach classes on chakras, the auras, so many things that people are becoming interested in now. There is currently a metaphysical and spiritual boom. Have you ever considered that?” Sabrina encouraged.
“No, I really haven’t. Do you honestly think that’s an option?”
“Of course I do. You taught all of us so much while we were waiting for Alec’s trial. I know that others will be interested in those very concepts. Who better to teach them than you?”
“You might be right, Sabrina. I’ll need some pointers on how to run my own business. I mean, how do I get started? How do I attract students? How do I get the word out? There’s just so much I don’t know.”
“Don’t worry about a thing, Cassidy. I took some electives that will help me help you.”
“After everything that’s happened, do you think anyone will come? I’m not the most popular person in town,” Cassidy worried.
“I’ll post notices of your schedule on the campus bulletin boards. Fresh faces won’t know anything about our sordid pasts,” Sabrina teased with a grin. “You’ll be up and running in no time at all,”
Soon, Cassidy taught several classes three times a week. As word spread, and her popularity grew, she had to limit the number of students in each class. A while later, she taught three classes each day, three times a week.
“I’m so proud of you,” Sabrina acknowledged. “Now, everyone thinks of you as his or her personal ‘guru.’ Can you finally make ends meet?”
“Yes. It has really helped. It’s great to have work that gives you pleasure and sustenance. Thank you for all the help and encouragement, Sabrina.”
Most of the neighbors still maintained an obvious dislike for Cassidy Winters. They were none too happy to see a steady stream of visitors at the Carrollton Avenue home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On more than one occasion, someone called the police. However, since the homeowner had invited the orderly group into her home, nothing could be done. In spite of ongoing neighborly vindictiveness, Cassidy and her teaching sessions thrived.
As Cassidy Winters regained confidence, she became more receptive to more people and events. No longer downcast about community opinions, which had begun to die down a little, she went out more. With her current teaching schedule, she used Tuesdays and Thursdays for errands while Saturdays were reserved for visiting Catalina.
While at the grocery store one Tuesday morning, she heard a familiar voice calling to her, “Cassidy, is that really you?”
Surprised, she turned to see her old high school love, Zack Weaver. With trembling voice, she called out, “Zack, Zack Weaver? Where have you been all these years?”
“I’ll tell you all about it. Let’s go next door to the coffee shop and talk,” Zack replied. “Could we do that?”
Cassidy’s heart raced as she left the shopping cart with several items in it behind and followed Zack. After purchasing coffee, they sat at a back table facing each other. Neither said much at first. They only stared, looking deeply into each other’s eyes.
“After you married Buck Winters, I moved to Baton Rouge. I couldn’t bear to see you with him or any man, but especially Buck. I wanted to be close, but the everyday stuff got to me. After I read that Buck died, I moved back home.”
“But, but Zack,” Cassidy stammered. “That’s been several years now. Why haven’t I seen you sooner? I mean, New Orleans isn’t that big. Surely, we would’ve run into each other earlier…unless you’ve been avoiding me. Have you, Zack?”
“No, I wasn’t avoiding you. I simply wasn’t sure you’d want to see me so I stayed away from the Garden District and places near your home. I got a little place over on Delachaise Street so that I would be close, but not too close. Honestly, Cassidy, I wasn’t avoiding you. I was avoiding how I still feel about you. I knew that, if we were face-to-face again, those same old feelings would be there. If you didn’t feel the same way, then I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t handle that. I couldn’t accept losing you twice.”
“But, I do feel the same way, Zack,” Cassidy tenderly replied as she reached to take his hand.
“Then, marry me, Cassidy,” Zack said as his eyes pleaded with hers.
“I’ll never marry again, Zack…but I can promise to always love you. Is that enough? Can you live with that? Can we have a fulfilling relationship based on commitment, trust, and love?”
“Yes. I’ll take whatever I can get, Cassidy. Let’s start with dinner tonight. My place, any time after six o’clock. We’ve wasted enough time already. Will you come?”
“Yes,” Cassidy eagerly promised.