Willow House (First of a Saga)

Cassie Brooks, a girl with a background. No one wants her, no one needs her. So when she joins Willow House, what will the inmates think of their new member?

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16. It's not my Fault.

I was escorted home to Willow with Ash in tow, by the paramedics. I dreaded walking into that house one more time. The grief I was about to get will be catastrophic. And I deserve it. Who goes running into the middle of a burning house to save a complete stranger? Me apparently. They’re going to take me away for sure. Put me in one of those padded cells for the mentally disturbed people. I cross my arms to hug myself but the movement makes me feel like I’m struggling against the restraints of a straight jacket. I was still dirty from head to toe from the soot and the smoke, and I was sure I hadn’t done any of my bumps and bruises any good. Teresa would be home. Great. I was doomed. My grieving will only prolong the time it takes to be beaten up once more. I know I’ll be beaten, because I don’t have any life left in me. The shocking memories brought up by the fire had taken all my tears. The scrabbling in that burning cottage had taken all my strength, and the pain I felt now, no adrenaline to cover it, would only break my very small pain threshold. Eleanor answered the door, her cheery overly acted tone made me want to puke. And so did the stinging on my face. I wanted to cry, but I had no tears left to shed. I felt Ash take his arm around me, to guide me in. I didn’t refuse; there was nothing flirty or fun about him now. He was serious and caring and I wanted someone to care. Because when you live a life of false care and love, sometimes the real stuff you can’t refuse. It made me think. Since arriving at Willow, not a single child was noticed for foster care or adoption. Adoption. It made me think of those cute little puppies you got from the rescue centre. But it made me think also of how we are all little pups in the pet shop window, how they can look through us and choose one over the other, discard the one with problems, the ones that don’t meet the specification. That makes me angry. I didn’t want another family and most likely wouldn’t be allowed one. They think I’m a murderer of my own parents and that’s what angers me the most. Or is it? No it isn’t. I could maybe live with the shame of the false truth, but to have to live with the painful image and cutting words of Liam. Now that may be the worst. The fact he thought I was a murderer, the fact he decided to discard the pup with scars. I managed to squeeze out the very last of my tears over this. I hung my head and awaited the punishment. That window and the drop below were becoming more and more of an option. No one would miss me would they? The pup with scars. Ash sat me down and I felt my whole body slump against him. I buried my face into his shoulder and his hand cupped the back of my head. Gripping my hair as I sobbed without tears. Mark just stood there arms crossed, frown printed on his face. Eleanor looked disappointed. As he began the rant of how I shouldn’t get involve in things like fires, the rest of the house members that were present slowly came to form a crowd on the stairs. No amount of shooing from Eleanor drove them off. Teresa had that straight composed face she held, she also held on tightly to Corey. Her little face reminded me of the little girl I had cradled in my arms only moments ago, Molly looked smug, happy and behind her sly smile I could almost see some sort of plot she had planned. I didn’t allow myself to make eye contact, so I looked over to little Charley, clutching Freddy, another reminder of the girl today, and bounced over to me. I wiped my tears and pulled on a smile. “Cassie need Freddy?” I took Freddy a second and gave him a big hug. Then I picked up Charley and sat him on my lap. Bouncing it so the little guy wobbled up and down. It made him giggle and I used my energy to concentrate on him. Mark sighed. “I wish you realised the consequences of what you do before you do things Cassie Brooks.” I passed Charley to Ash and stood up. “If I had stood by and done nothing, that girl would’ve died.” Mark just shook his head and began to walk away. “If you had been in a second longer, you both would’ve died.” I opened my mouth to argue but the energy I had left had gone. So I kept stum and headed up to my room, barging past Molly, not touching Teresa, and forgetting any plans of food. I slammed the door shut as I entered my room and then slid down to the floor to stop anyone from coming in after me. I pulled my knees into my chest and put my face in my hands.  Ages must have passed. I heard Ash try to come in once but he gave up. And there was no need for me to move. My legs, curled up to my chest, ached and my hands held what remained of my makeup. I got up and changed from the smoky school shirt, into one of my favourite checker tops. I shivered and realised I’d left the window open earlier. I had no idea what time it was, and crept to the window just in case. I checked my phone. 7:30. Well, not too late then. The glass was as cold as usual. I leaned over the edge to see the darkened drive of Willow House. I can almost remember the black car that was there when Liam left. And you aint suicidal either. I heard Ash’s words float through my head, they were the things he’d said to me, when Liam accused me of being a murderer and he was the only person who believed me. I closed the window and decided I was finally hungry. But instead of heading downstairs to the kitchen I ended up going the opposite way. The lights flickered and then went out. “Urgh.” I felt for the wall and came up trumps. Then the lights flashed on again. Strange. It was then that I saw Molly out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t fast enough to get out of her way, and ended up pinned against the wall. “Cassie Brooks.” I was about to have a sarcastic banter with her, starting with, ‘Yes that’s my name’, when I saw the penknife. My heart beat quickened and eyes widened as this maniac was on to me again. “So, you stole my boyfriend, gained friends when you really don’t deserve them and now, threatened and hurt Teresa.” She inspected the knife on purpose so I could see the blade. It dawned on me that, Teresa hurt me, but that didn’t matter now. She clasped her hand over my mouth. I’d have fought but I had no energy to do so. She held out my arm and placed the knife against my skin. I mumbled something into her hand. But it was no use, she pierced my skin and cut very close to my vein, as the deep ruby coloured blood escaped from the cut I started to struggle, because she wasn’t going to stop.  Too much drama for one soul today. I was hurting in so many ways and now I had an open wound the length of my arm. I bit into Molly’s palm. Hard. She yelped and pulled her hand away, jiggling the knife as she did so, it seemed to get closer and closer to my vein. I cringed at the sight of so much blood and clutched at the gaping wound. Molly looked like she was about to assault me again, but then she sped off towards her own room. I heard the faint noises of the inmates and Mark’s booming voice come from the stairway, it was only now that I realised I’d had been screaming since the moment I was free. I fell to my knees again and just tried to focus on stopping my arm from bleeding so badly. But it was no use. The wound seemed to leak out gallons at a time; I could hear the pump of my heart as it sent more blood to just drip out. I was losing a lot and I knew that if I lost anymore I would soon pass out. Luckily enough, Ash ran round the corner, closely followed my Mark and some wide eyed children. I gritted my teeth as Ash came to his knees beside me. He first saw the blood and then, this is my favourite top by the way, ripped at edge of my shirt. He went all serious like earlier and wrapped the cloth around my wound tight. Like a real paramedic. In fact if he had been wearing that ghastly white outfit they were wearing today, he may have passed as one. There was a lot more blood than he had expected and soon the cloth I had round my arm was soaked red. It was like some gory nightmare, one I was a part of. Ash took me in his arms like I was some limp doll. I wonder if this was how the girl felt when I had grappled with her today. But Ash didn’t have to regain grip like I had, he just lifted me up swiftly and ran down the stairs. It was all a blur as he ran, but I saw the worried and angry looks of Mark, Eleanor and little Charley, I’m guessing Teresa was in on the act and kept Corey far away. This was what she was planning. The thought ran through me, followed by another. This was the plan in those eyes. She wants you dead.  Dead. That’s a bit much isn’t it? Even for Molly. My head began to spin at the thoughts, but I’m guessing the blood loss was more the problem. I looked over Ash’s shoulder as he hauled me into the kitchen. A trail of my own dark blood was staining the carpets and gave Mark an incline of where Ash was taking me. Mark looked like he was angry. Very angry. Like it was my fault. Another thought through my half conscious brain; you have no proof... Shit, I’m right. I have no proof to protest that this wasn’t an act of self harm, that it was actually an act of assault by a fellow housemate. I felt my eyes rolling into the back of my head and I knew I had not long left. I was close enough, Ash would hear me. “It wasn’t me... It... It was...” I lost all life in myself and slumped against Ash.  ***** My bed quilts were the softest they’d ever felt before. I knew I could have lied here forever, but it was essential I got up. Tuesday right? Yeah that’s the day. The blind had not been pulled down that night and I could see the light shining through into my room. I was alone. But after yesterday... Yesterday. I should be dead. That’s what she wanted. My mind recollected the events of yesterday. Fight, fire, blood spilt... I looked down at my arm. Massive, thick bandage. They must have called an ambulance or something to deal with that. And they must have let me sleep the whole time. I looked down at my fully clothed self, my ripped shirt from where Ash had helped me. Ash, my saviour? He could be. He’s always been there, and I’m dumb enough to give him nothing in return. But Liam...Liam wasn’t the one who’s stuck by you, saved you and been your friend...I was right of course. Molly and Teresa are my definite enemies. There’s no question about that. I have no food in my system and I was tearing myself from the comfort of my bed to tip toe downstairs. I quietly made my way into the kitchen and found a plate of lonely toast on the table. I took it not caring if it was for someone else, I needed it more. Once my toast was but crumbs on a plate, I checked the time. No way would I make it to school now. I was alone then. Everyone else at school. That made me sad. I would have died for some company, someone to talk to. Someone... You mean Ash. I was right again, I can’t deny it. I’d have died to speak to him. Funny how fate plays though, as I thought of how much I’d love to be with that one person, he walks in. There, in casual wear, skipping school no doubt is Ash. I couldn’t contain the smile that crept onto my face when I saw him. I jumped up and flung myself into is arms. He caught me of course and he hugged me close to him. “Ow!” I stepped back and rubbed my arm. He kissed it better. “How are you beautiful?” I hated how he called me that. “It’s fine.” I hugged him again, my arms wrapping around his waist. I felt him stroke my hair and kiss the top of my head. “I wasn’t on about the cut, I was on about you.” I didn’t answer, just squeezed tighter till it hurt me to put any more pressure on my arm. We broke it up when he pulled me back. “Be ready for shit to hit the fan baby. They aren’t too happy bout’ what you did.” They think I did take an act of self harm. “Ash, I tried to tell you who did it, it wasn’t me!”  “Shh!” he pulled me in again. “I know Cassie, I know you wouldn’t but, your social worker, Carl is it? Isn’t so convinced and neither is Mark. Molly was telling-” I pushed him away. “Molly!?” He gave me a look.  “Yeaaah, Molly. What about it?” He didn’t understand. I went blank and let my arms drop. “Molly hurt me Ash. Molly did it.” His eyes widened. Then he got it. It was perfectly planned out. She knew I would be depressed, she knew I was weakened that day. She knew. And she did the job right. Or did she? She didn’t kill me, isn’t that what she’s planning? My head was hurting again and I had to sit down. I dragged my hand down my face and remembered the soreness on my cheek. I winced. And then as if irony was firing at me, I knocked my sore elbow. “OWWWWW!” I pulled an over dramatic upset face. Bottom lip pouted and all. Ash laughed lightly and then his smile dropped when Mark and Carl came into the kitchen.  We ended up in the office, but I don’t see how it would matter. No one else but me and Ash were here. “Cassie. We know you had a rough day yesterday.” Mark being the good cop in this situation. They’ve been practicing this speech, I could tell. Then Carl, playing bad cop. Slammed his hands on the desk closest to me. “But! That doesn’t mean you go ahead and cut yourself you stupid girl!” I was taken back. “Carl lets-” Mark began but Carl wasn’t having it. “No Mark! She doesn’t deserve the nice approach! You don’t hurt yourself Cassie! If I hear another snippet of this!” He pointed to me with one of his fat fingers. “Then you are out of here. No more niceties! It’ll be off to the junior detention camp for you!”  “No! You can’t do that it wasn’t her fault!” Ash piped up beside me. I grabbed his arm to pull him back. Carl sent him a disgraced look. “Don’t get involved boy.” Mark nodded in agreement. Eleanor didn’t know where to put herself. “But I didn’t! Carl I swear! It was-”  “Don’t try and wriggle out of it Cassie! You know what you’ve done. Deal with it.” “It’s not fair!” “Life isn’t fair kid.” Carl dismissed any argument I had to fight with. I let my head drop. My loose hanging hairs hide my face. “I know what I haven’t done. I know I didn’t do it, I’ve never done it, why will no one believe me?” It was a last minute whisper. A last chance. I kicked the chair back and stormed out. Ash most likely on my heels. Yes, he was soon by my side. “I believe you Cassie. Just know that I’ll always stand by your side.” It was deep words for a guy like Ash. Words that took courage to say. I stopped and kissed him gently on the cheek. “Thank you.” I smiled. And for once in a long time, it felt natural. There were no strings attached to this smile. But it didn’t last long. It dropped at the thought. The thought that if Molly was trying to kill me... Then she would have to try again. Time froze as I thought of coming along her in the darkened hallways at night. I shuddered and I felt Ash rub my shoulders. “You okay?” I shook my head. “We can’t talk here.” I grabbed his hand, thankful of someone to talk to, and ran upstairs. Into my room. I remembered how close I always was to Molly. I slammed the door as if the shut out the feeling. Ash looked up at me from worried eyes; he’d made himself comfortable on my bed. I stood before him, not sure how to say it. I found that maybe the outright way was easiest. “If Molly was trying to kill me last night... And she failed. Then... Won’t she try again?” Ash first thought I was being silly, and then he saw the seriousness in my face. “Molly’s not someone who gives up easily Ash, you’ve been here longer, you should know that.” His face changed, filled with knowing. “Yes. I see.”  He stood up and came closer to me. His chest a hands distance from mine, his face a lean away. “I won’t let her hurt you Cassie.” I looked away.  “You can’t promise that Ash. You can’t put yourself in danger too. You don’t know when she’ll come for me... I can’t risk losing you too...” He hung his head. Then when he looked up again, I saw the determination in his face. He pushed past me. “Ash?” He opened my door and headed next door. To Molly’s room. “Ash!” I followed him. “Shh!” I stopped and he pulled me into the dark room. He started searching through the drawers and under her pillow. “What are you looking for?”I whispered in case someone heard us. He looked at me as if I was dumb. I shrugged my shoulders and even in the dark I’m sure I saw him roll his eyes. “The knife idiot.” Oh. I joined in helping him search. Nothing. “Where is it!?” I ran my hand through my hair. “She must have it on her all the time.” His speech slowed as realisation hit. “So... All this time...”  “She’s been armed.” “And we were all oblivious.” “Yep.” Ash didn’t sound too pleased and I knew for sure I wasn’t. All this time she could’ve attacked me, yet she chooses the right time to do so. I heard the creak of footsteps on the staircase. Me and Ash both turned to each other. Where could we hide? Molly’s room was right next to the top of the staircase. I ran behind the door and sure enough, Ash couldn’t find anywhere else so joined me behind the door. But it was going to be a tight fit. In the end, Ash had my waist in his arms and my whole body squished against him. It looked like he was enjoying it. I just frowned the whole time. Once the steps had passed far enough, I tried to wiggle out of Ash’s arms. But he just pulled me closer to him and placed a finger on my lips when I tried to moan. I pushed his finger away and started to push myself away. I heard the steps again and instantly jumped back close to Ash. I could see the glimmer or white teeth in the darkness. He pulled even tighter and I could feel his breath on my neck. “Shh.” I held my own breath as the creaks went back down the stair case. I sighed with relief when the last step was over. Ash turned me to face him and in the dark of Molly’s room, he lifted my chin up to kiss me. I allowed him for a second then pulled back. I felt selfish but it didn’t feel right to kiss him, especially here. We tip toed out, careful for people on the stairs watching us and sneaked into my room again. It was such a relief to lie on my bed again. “So we now know Molly has always had her knife on her person.” I fiddled with my shirt, the one ripped at the edge, whilst watching Ash pace my carpet. “Well, almost. We know she has it with her. It may be in her bag, anywhere. But we now know to make an extra special effort to avoid her.” I bit my bottom lip. “Hmm.”  “Hmm?” Ash placed his hands either side of my face. I looked him up and down. He was quite literally hovering over me. At least, it looked like it from this angle. He bent his elbows so he was closer to me, like we were just moments ago. Then he crashed on the bed to one side. He started tickling me and I couldn’t help but squirm and giggle, very loudly if I may say, before fighting him off. I had to grab his hands to stop his fingers wiggling. He took it the wrong way of course. He wrapped his fingers over mine and assumed the hand hold. I didn’t want to fight him, because it felt good to be held, but some part of me knew I should push away. Ash must have realised what I was about to do, and wrapped a hand around my waist, to pull my whole body closer. I ended up on top of him somehow, my legs either side of him. His hands ran up the sides of them. I lay against his chest and listened to his heartbeat as his hands traced the curvature of my body. I couldn’t deny that I loved the feeling of his hands on my body, and as selfish and wrong as it was, I wanted him to be mine. What would Liam think to that? Stop thinking about Liam, and think about Ash! My mind literally screamed at me. I closed my eyes and snuggled into his chest. His warm hands continued to move along my body, making me shiver with pleasure. I looked up, unable to sleep, into his eyes. Eyes that were trusting and faithful. He ran his hands to my neck and then up to my face, to cup it in his hands. He leaned me down, guiding me to his lips, I had no energy to stop him, and so I let him lead me. My lips on his, a kiss so deep, yet so gentle. I fell into him and my hands found their place around his neck, his hands went back down to my waist, to hunch me up closer to him, my hair cascading around us like a waterfall, sealing us into secrecy. He rolled me over when I came up to breathe, and when he was on top of me, he still pushed me to him. I felt my hands move from his neck, down to his chest, he was so warm. I had no idea what I was doing till I was at the last button on his shirt. I had led the way now, he thought I wanted this. And maybe I do, but I was so unsure. It was no use though, Ash was now unbuttoning the ripped checked top I wore, ripped from my drama, and now ripped from my cold body. I was so glad the door was shut. It didn’t take Ash long to reach my belt of my jeans, and soon he had that undone as well, all this whilst kissing me passionately. He shimmied me out of my jeans and flung them to the foot of the bed along with my top. I was now half naked and the chills were coursing through my body. I decided that if he could do it to me, then it was unfair for me not to. As I scurried away under the quilts to warm my cold body, he took off his undone shirt and joined me. My body yearned to curl up against him for the heat but I forced myself to lie straight against him and allowed my hands to unbuckle his own belt, he didn’t hesitate when he found what I was doing and he smiled through the kiss. So now we were both half naked. Great. I was glad in some respects for the heat I got from Ash’s body. That was the main reason I cuddled so close. Because to tell the truth, a large part of me still thought this was wrong. Ash deepened the kiss and intensified everything. I felt his warm hands on my mostly bare body and I enjoyed the warmth, a wave of fear washed over me as I felt him try to slip under my bra. I pushed away from him, out of breath and scared. He looked hurt and confused, maybe I’d let him go too far. “C’mon baby.” His sleepy voice just made him so much more desirable and sexy. I let myself lay against him again. And tried for as long as I could not to push him away. His hands instantly slipped back under my bra, undoing the strap. I clasped at it and fastened it with ease. “No. Ash. No.” My breathlessness made it hard to speak. “Please?” He was trying to seduce me as he whispered in my ear. “No.” He sighed.  “No fun.” “What?” “No fun.” He crossed his arms and I felt cold again. I sighed and tried to snuggle next to him. I pouted and looked up at him with doggy eyes. I ran my hand slowly up his chest. He was really warm! I wanted to use him as a blanket. I shivered. He pulled me back into his arms. “Cassie.” He stroked my face with his hand. I let my face follow him. “Yes?”  I shuffled closer.  “Why won’t you let me love you?” My mouth opened and I tried to form words but failed to speak. I didn’t know what to do, so I kissed him. Me. I did it. I lay on top of him again, pulled the covers over my back to keep me away from the cold and let his hands run up my body again. He was shyer this time, but the old Ash didn’t take long to resurface. He undid my bra again and I forced myself not to stop him as he moved further down my body.

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