C H A P T E R     T W E N T Y - T W O
LITTLE BY LITTLE*

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      The county didn’t come on Monday like they were supposed to. They decided to come the next day, Tuesday. A lady named Linda was Cassandra’s social worker. She talked with Cassandra for a little while during lunch. Linda told her they had a foster home ready for her.

      “The foster home is great. The woman you’ll be living with, Ms. Tingle, has three younger foster children.” Linda tried to make it sound good.

      “I want to go home.” Cassandra insisted.

      “I’m sorry but you’re too young to live by yourself and your father’s will didn’t leave any instructions for where you were to go.”

      “I don’t care I just want to go home.” Cassandra wasn’t listening much. She was too upset.

      “I know sweetie.” Linda sympathized. “Here, I brought you some cloths to wear. I’ll be out in the hall waiting for you.” Linda laid the clothes on the edge of Cassandra’s bed.

      “I want my own clothes.” Cassandra demanded.

      “When you get stronger we can take you over to your house and grab a few things but for today were just going to wear what I brought and get you to the Tingles place.” Linda left the room. She hated to see this. A broken child wanting nothing more then to go home. The only place she felt comfortable. She had to dismiss her emotions and be a rock.

      Cassandra followed Linda’s instructions, wiping the tears in her eyes and getting dressed. She peered out of the room shyly when she was done. Linda caught view of her from where she was standing with Marge.

      “Cassandra I’ll be right there, hold on one second.” Linda voiced.

      Cassandra just continued to stare around. She picked at the clothes she was wearing, an uncomfortably too small pair of blue jeans and an over-sized blue tee-shirt with the words Great Land across the chest. She could tell they had been worn before. The smell of someone else was inbeded in the threads. The perfume they held made her sick with a headache.

      Linda came up to her placing her hand on Cassandra’s shoulder. Cassandra flinched away from her touch and stepped away. Linda took her hand back and placed it in her pocket.

      “Come on I’ll drive you.” Linda started to walk off.

      “I really, really, really don’t want to go.” Cassandra spoke.

      “I’m sorry sweetie, we have to go. I know this is really hard and you just want it back to how it was but you can’t go back in time. Come on, follow me.” Linda lead the way to her red mustang car. “Its pretty close to your house. Maybe ten, fifteen minutes away.” Linda didn’t want to tell Cassandra that her house was no longer her house anymore. It was the governments now since Dale didn’t leave it in his will for her. Linda didn’t think it was wise to tell her quite yet.

      Cassandra sulked the whole way to the Tingle household. She kept her gaze out the window taking note of where they were going.

      Linda stopped in front of a one-level house. It was painted a dull yellow with white trim. The home looked small from the outside. Cassandra wondered with three other kids and Ms. Tingle living there if she would have to share a room.

      “Here we are.” Linda hoped out of the car and walked around to met Cassandra who as halfway out herself. “They have been waiting your arrival.” Linda smiled.

       ‘Just great.’ Cassandra thought to herself. All she wanted to do is lock herself in her own room and sulk in her misery. She reluctantly followed Linda up to the front door. She watched as Linda pushed the door bell and looked to the door.

      The door slowly opened to show a small child. She looked to be around the age of nine. “Are you Cassandra?” She looked right at Cassandra with hopeful eyes.

      Cassandra looked down at her and nodded.

      “Well come in. My names Holly.” Holly grabbed onto Cassandra’s hand and pulled her into the house. Linda walked in after her. Holly dragged them into the kitchen area where a woman stood at the sink and two other kids sat at a oval shaped table to the side.

      “Helen, Cassandra’s here with Linda.” Holly announced letting go of Cassandra’s hand and skipping over to the sink tugging at the woman’s shirt.

      The woman turned her head and smiled. She shut off the running water, turned her whole body and walked towards Cassandra. “Its nice to meet you.” She smiled brightly. “We’ve all been waiting for you.”

      Cassandra’s eyes took interest in the linoleum floor . She took a quick peek at the children around the table and her eyes fell back to the floor.

      “I’m Ms. Tingle but you can call me Helen, everyone else does.” Helen wiped her hands on her shirt and pants. “We just got done with a late lunch. How about we have one of the girls show you your room? Brandy, will you?”

      “Sure Helen.” Another one of the girls stood from the table. She was short with a round figure. Her short hair, cut just above her chin swung in her face as she jumped from off her chair. “Its this way.” Brandy pointed out the kitchen door.

      Cassandra looked to Linda and Linda smiled. “We can all get to know each other later on.” Cassandra followed Brandy through a hall, all the way down and to the right.

      “You get your own room.” Brandy stated as she stood in the middle of the room. “You’re lucky.” She added.

      Cassandra stood in the doorway and gaped at the room. It was nothing like her own. Blue walls, light blue carpet, single bed, and a dresser.

      “Lucky, huh?” Cassandra mocked walking in and taking an uncomfortable seat on her new bed.

      “Yeah, this used to be my room but now I have to share with Holly.” Brandy informed.

      “I’m sorry.” Cassandra looked at her hands. Now she felt like even more of an intruder.

      “Hey, its cool. Now I have someone I can talk to when I can’t get to sleep.” Brandy giggled. “It’s more fun actually. We stay up really late and play. Helen doesn’t know so keep it quite.” Brandy instructed.

      Cassandra couldn’t help but smirk at the little girl. She nodded instead.

      “Well, now that you know where your sleeping, you have to meet Brad.” Brandy jumped in the air and spun around. “Come on.”

      Cassandra trailed behind Brandy back into the kitchen.

      “Hey, Cassandra. You like your room?” Helen asked.

      Cassandra nodded. She looked around for Linda but she was nowhere in sight.

      “Linda had to take off.”

      “Oh,” Cassandra began. “she said that she was going to take me to my house to get my stuff.”

       “Yeah, she told me when you get a little stronger you can go. She’ll call.” Helen reported. “Now,” Helen took a breath. “let me introduce you to everyone. I’m Helen Tingle, but you already knew that. This is Holly, she answered the door for you. Brandy is the one that pointed you to your room, and this is Brad.” Helen gestured to a skinny boy that stood to her side. His hair was shaved in a crew cut and his overly skinny arms hung to his sides. Cassandra looked to his face. His eyes were sunken and his cheeks were hollowed. Cassandra gave him a reassuring half smile.

      Everyone seemed nice. It wouldn’t be that bad other than dealing with her fathers death and Isaac’s departure.

*****

       Isaac went to school and came straight home at two thirty. He met his mother in the hallway while he was walking to his room.

       “Hey, hon.” Mrs. Hanson greeted her son.

       “Hi.” Isaac continued walking.

       “Are you hungry?” She asked him.

       “Not really.”

       “Well, why don’t you come with me anyway and help me make some kind of snack?”

       “All right.” Isaac wasn’t in the mood to argue. He turned on his heels and followed his mother into the kitchen where he sat at the table. He stared down at the plastic place mat not paying attention to his surroundings. Mrs. Hanson watched him as she bustled around the kitchen making sandwiches. She made one for Isaac, her husband and herself.

       Isaac hadn’t even noticed his mother leaving the room to hand his father his dinner and a beer. She soon returned and placed a sandwich in front of him and sat besides him with her own.

       “Thanks.” Isaac poked at the bread.

       “Uh huh.” She looked at him confused. He wasn’t one to pick at food. “Is something the matter?” She asked.

       Isaac shrugged his shoulders.

       “Does it have to do with Cassandra?”

       Isaac shook his head up and down. “Yeah.” He breathed. “Her father died.”

       “Oh that’s awful. Did he shoot himself?” Mrs. Hanson commented.

       “Huh?” Isaac was confused. “Why would you think he shot himself?”

       “Well, I just assumed. The other day at the bar he was mumbling something about ‘I’ll shoot both of us before he can have her’. I didn’t know who or what he was talking about at the time. What a shame.”

       “Mom, he didn’t kill himself. He was in a car accident.”

       “Well, that’s terrible but he was probably drunk. That mans life line was the bottle since his wife died. Unfortunately it was bound to happen sooner or later. He was always smashed when he left the bar.”

       “Wait, what do you mean he was mumbling something about shooting himself?”

       “Why do you want to know so bad?” Mrs. Hanson asked.

       “Because,” Isaac paused. “Because I think he was talking about me and Cassandra.”

       Mrs. Hanson looked at Isaac with question. She searched his eyes. “That’s all he said. ‘He can’t have her. I’ll kill us both before he can have her.’ Why would he say it about you?”

       “He didn’t like me. He hated me. He told Cassandra that we were’nt allowed to see each other but we did anyway.”

       Mrs. Hanson opened her mouth to say something but Isaac wasn’t finished quite yet. “Then he started to drink again and he began beating her like he did when she was little. He beat her and she wasn’t doing anything to stop it. She said that he would stop but he didn’t.”

       “Seems he got what he deserved.” Mrs. Hanson bit into her dinner.

       “She loved him.”

       “But still-”

       “And before they left for Oklahoma City Dale apologized to her. Said he was sorry and that he stopped drinking. But dads done that too, so many times. I know that it can’t happen over night like that.”

       Mrs. Hanson nodded her head.

       “Do you think that maybe he was going to get rid of them both like he said at the bar?” Isaac mind was racing with thoughts.

       “I don’t know.” Mrs. Hanson thought for a moment. “Why would her own father do something like that to her?”

       “Its not him. The alcohol makes him crazy.” Isaac stood up.

       “Where are you going?” Mrs. Hanson watched her son head to the door.

       “Out. I’ll be back later.” Isaac left the house.

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[Chapter 23] [Index] [My Stories]
[Green Eggs And Hanson]


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© 1999 Alana Gustafson