Vows

Vows

As he thought back to what happened, Blake felt a surge of guilt rushing through him, but he attempted to stifle it as best he could. It was his fault, he knew that, but dwelling on it wouldn’t help the situation. Fights happen all the time, and it was pointless to play the blame game. The late autumn rain was blurring his windshield, but he didn’t think much of it: the bar was only a few minutes away. Blake liked to call it his bar, going there practically every day after work. His wife considered him an alcoholic, but he completely disagreed. He believed it was only natural to desire a scotch after a long day of work. It was one of the reason they were fighting that morning, but that wasn’t going to stop him from getting a drink that night.

            Walking the few yards from the parking lot to the bar was quite frustrating because of the rain, and he was soaking wet as he entered. Walking toward his usual spot, he noticed a flash of blonde hair and turned around to see a beautiful woman leaving the bar with a man that looked slightly familiar. But he didn’t think much of it, and went to sit down, ordering a scotch. After a few sips, he took out his phone, considering whether or not he should call Cassie. After a few moments of hesitation, he put his phone back in his pocket, deciding it was best not to call her from the bar; he didn’t want to intentionally aggravate her. After all, he loved her more than anyone else in the entire world, and he never wanted to hurt her. But he had no idea how hard marriage would be. There were too many days where he would think back to when they first met, and compare how he felt towards her back then to how he felt now: it was a foolish comparison, because he would always end up feeling as if their relationship had lost something essential in the years that they had been together.

            Just as he finished his scotch and ordered another, a woman sat next to him. He gave her a quick glance, then doubled back in shock. It was Cassie, except she didn’t look like herself at all: she was wearing an elegant red cocktail dress, sparkling jewelry, and makeup. Blake couldn’t recall the last time he had seen her in makeup, much less wearing a gorgeous dress and luxurious jewelry. Her short black hair was in curls, and she was smiling a seductive smile at no one in particular. After staring at her in absolute silence, Blake finally spoke up.

            “What are you doing here, sweetheart? What are you wearing?” he asked, still surprised by her presence.

            “Why don’t you mind your own business, stranger,” she said, smirking.

            Blake was baffled by the situation. What was she doing here, and why was she acting so strangely?

            “What are you up to, Cass?”

            “How do you know my name?” she asked, still smirking.

            “Umm… it’s Blake? Your husband?”

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about, mister.”

            Slowly, he was picking up on what was going on. Maybe this was some kind of game that Cassie wanted to try out, to help out with their marital problems—sex with a supposed stranger. It was a fantasy that Blake had mentioned before in passing, but he never thought Cassie would actually agree to go through with it.

            “I’m sorry,” Blake said, grinning widely, “why don’t we start over? I’m Blake.”

            Cassie looked at him doubtfully for a second, then offered her hand for him to kiss, saying, “Cassandra, nice to meet you. Just know, I finish what I start.”

            “Glad to hear that, so do I,” Blake replied, practically giddy with excitement.

            “So, what’s a man like you doing here?”

            “Why, waiting for a girl like you to appear, of course.”

            “Oh, you’re too much.”

            “Am I? Because I’m quite certain I’m looking at the most beautiful woman in this entire establishment.”

            Cassie stared sweetly at Blake for a while, then leaned in and whispered suggestively, “Look, we both know where this is headed, so why don’t we just skip to the fun part?”

            Blake didn’t waste any time, taking her by the hand and saying, “Come with me.”

            The two ran through the rain to the car, laughing the whole time. Cassie’s hair was still looking glamorous as they entered the car and took off. The drive to their house was a short one, and once they were inside, the carnal something that had been lacking between them was lit up by the events of that night. The two didn’t make it upstairs, settling for the couch. It was passionate, it was sensual, it was fiery. Once it was over, Blake held Cassie tightly, a feeling of ecstasy lingering in him from head to toe.

            “That was amazing,” he said. “It felt like… the first time. Why can’t we go back to this? Back to how it was in the beginning? I’m gonna be honest… for a while now I’ve been feeling like there’s something missing between us… a spark… or something. But tonight, I feel like it’s back, and it’s such a relief, to feel like I know you again, the girl I met all those years ago… I want it to stay. Don’t you?”

            Cassie didn’t reply to his question, simply mumbling, “I have to go.” After hastily putting on her clothes, Cassie was out the door, leaving Blake dumbfounded. Why would she leave her own house, and this late at night? Was it something he said?

            Before he could think more of it, a woman came quaking down the stairs. Turning his head to see who it was, Blake felt his elation vanish, replaced by a sickening combination of dread and confusion. Standing before him was Cassie, with a blotchy face and an ugly bun, wearing the same lazy outfit she had on that morning, staring at him with fury blazing in her eyes.

            “Who the fuck was that bitch?! How could you?! You knew I was home! Were you just trying to hurt me? Or are you just too drunk to realize that you fucking cheated on your wife! Jesus Christ, you’re a sick man! I’m your wife! Did you just happen to forget that?! Did you just happen to forget your wedding vows, promising you wanted me and only me for the rest of your life?! What the fuck, Blake?! God, I knew you could be cruel, but I never thought you would stoop this low.”

            Quite literally speechless, Blake stared at her helplessly as she began to sob. He had no idea what was going on, and he couldn’t put into words the disarray he felt roaring inside his head.

            “I feel… broken,” Cassie murmured in between sobs. And then, as quickly as she came down the stairs, she bolted back up them, and disappeared from Blake’s sight. He heard a door slam, and was about to chase after her, but feeling suddenly nauseous, he ran instead to the bathroom and threw up.

            He was absolutely stupefied by the situation. How could Cassie be two places at once? How could she be two people at once? He knew he wouldn’t get answers without talking to Cassie, so he flushed, wiped his mouth, and ran upstairs. After checking every room upstairs, he was baffled to notice that Cassie was gone. Running downstairs, he screamed out Cassie’s name again and again. He checked the basement, the study, the kitchen, unable to find her anywhere. Finally, he checked the sunroom, and noticed from the window that she was standing in the backyard.

            As he walked outside, Blake was nonplussed to note that the rain had stopped, and furthermore, there was a Summer heat thick in the air; the garden was in full bloom. He wandered up to Cassie, who was now kneeling by the flowerbed, which was filled with a diverse spectrum of different flowers. She picked a ruby red rose, and stood up, turning to face him.

            “Here,” she said, handing him the flower, “isn’t it pretty?”

            Blake was back to being speechless. Why was Cass so calm all of a sudden?

            “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she sighed, her arms gesturing the beautiful scenery around her. “Remember how we met? In college, onstage, the first rehearsal: I was playing Hippolyta, and you were playing Theseus. The first words you ever spoke to me were ‘what are you wearing?’, and I told you to mind your own business. You called me Cass, and I asked you how you knew my name. And remember what you said? You said you were my future husband. You were talking about the play of course, but I’ll always remember that…”

            “Cass, baby,” Blake started, practically pleading, “tell me what’s going on. What happened earlier? How were you… just please, tell me what’s going on.”

            Cassie had turned back around to admire the flowers, and she responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, mister.”

            “Please, Cassie. I’m confused, and… disoriented. I just want to know what’s happening.”

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about, mister,” she repeated in an eerily similar tone.

            Before Blake could say anything else, Cassie disappeared with a flicker, as did the flowerbed, which was suddenly empty. It was raining again, and the warmth he felt just a second ago was gone.

            By this point, Blake was terrified. The only thing he could think of doing was to run away, from all the uncertain madness of the past hour that had his head reeling. He sprinted toward nowhere in particular, though he feared his feet were leading him somewhere. His vision was hazy in the pouring rain, but he could make out a running figure out in front of him that he worried was Cassie. He didn’t want to see her after everything that had happened, but he knew she was the only one who could explain the mess of that night. And so he chased after her, calling out to her, but she neither responded nor turned around. Suddenly the figure turned into a thicket and disappeared into the woods. He followed her into the dark of the forest and screamed after her. Eventually he saw her outline, standing still, facing away from him. As he finally caught up with her, he touched her shoulder to get her attention, and she turned viciously, smacking his hand off of her.

            “Why the hell did you have to chase after me?” she said through gritted teeth, “I needed time to be by myself, why do you always do this? Whenever I need you around, you’re nowhere to be found, but when I want to be left alone, you cling to me like some… child.”

            “I hate unresolved conflicts, you know that.”

            “Yeah, well you only hate conflict when it involves your mistakes. You end up blaming me for the fact that you don’t know how to process guilt.”

            “I just want this fight to be over, please!”

            “Well it’s not that simple! You’ve just revealed after years of marriage that you don’t feel the way you used to about me, this isn’t something that just goes away!”

            “I was trying to be honest, I want to fix this!”

            “No you don’t, you just want to feel like it isn’t you fault. Well guess what, it is. You’re too romantic, you never understood what marriage is about, what long-term commitment means. It means being there, supporting and loving, through the good and the bad. Did you not understand what those vows meant? Of course you didn’t, you’re too naive. All I wanted from our relationship was to love and to be loved, but all you cared about was that feeling of being in love. All you ever wanted was the build-up, but I just wanted to settle down. And I think you knew that, but you just decided to ignore it until it blew up in your face. Well here we are, and what do you have to say for yourself? That you don’t feel the same anymore. Where the fuck does that leave me, Blake?! I’ve given you my all, I’ve tried time and time again to reach out to you, but you never reciprocate, you never give anything back.”

            “You want more than I can give…”

            “That’s bullshit. No, the problem here is you never finish what you start. That’s the difference between us, I was always in it for the long haul, but you just wanted to live in the present. You’re such a coward, commitment isn’t something that’s meant to be feared. It’s something to be thankful for. But of course, you were never grateful to have me, you’ve always taken me for granted.”

            “Wait a second,” Blake said, feeling dizzy, “We’ve had this conversation before.” He grabbed onto a tree, his vision blurring. “We’ve had this conversation before!” he cried out in panic, feeling nauseous. “I feel like my mind is playing on repeat… and it’s driving me crazy.”

            As he looked up at Cassie, she was nowhere to be found. Feeling a new surge of dread course through him, he vomited on the root of the tree, and began running again, screaming out Cassie’s name. He faintly remembered where he was, having been there before, and a feeling of uneasy foreboding drowned his thoughts as he vaguely recalled where he was going. Finally finding an opening out of the forest, he ran out into an open field where he saw Cassie, who walked up to him, a sweet smile of solace decorating her face.

            “Why if it isn’t my paramore!” she said lovingly, “You found me, my little hideaway. A place of death that make me feel most alive.”

            As Blake looked around, he realized he was in a graveyard, surrounded by hundreds of graves.

            “Such hallowed ground, and such a dear reminder of our hallowed vows: till death do us part,” she said, her voice strangely hollow, her finger pointing at a something behind Blake.

Fearing he knew what she pointed at, he didn’t want to turn around. But eventually, he couldn’t help himself, and he turned to see a gravestone marked Cassandra Shelbie Farrell, loving and loyal wife. An involuntary cry of desperation sprang forth from Blake’s lips as he fell to his knees, grabbing his hair in devastation.

“No, no, no, no, no, NO!!! NO THIS ISN’T REAL!! This isn’t real, this isn’t real, it can’t be real. No, no, no IT CAN’T!! IT CAN’T BE REAL!!”

“IT’S YOUR FAULT!” screamed out a suddenly savage Cassie. “YOU RUINED EVERYTHING WHEN YOU BROKE OUR VOWS!! Sleeping with that blonde bitch!! How could you betray me like that?!”

And suddenly it all came back to Blake: the blonde woman he saw with that man earlier that night, it was him walking out of the bar with her. She had reminded him so much of Cassie, how they first met, their first time. And like a drunk idiot he had forgotten his wife would be home that night, and he fucked her on the couch. He remembered so distinctly the flash of blonde hair as she ran out of the house that night. And after Cassie screamed at him, she had run up to the bathroom and slit her wrists. He recalled the horror of kicking open that bathroom door and witnessing the woman she loved more than anything in the entire world lying on the bathroom floor, slowly dying, a pool of blood surrounding each of her delicate wrists. The ambulance didn’t make it on time.

Ever since that day, memories of her had lingered on repeat; all the different times and places he shared with her were haunted by biting remembrance, looped endlessly to remind him that it was his fault. And it was. He had broken their vows, he had broken their relationship, their marriage, everything they had… He had broken her.

As he crumpled up in front of her grave, sobbing uncontrollably, a hundred memories of Cassie surrounded him, every one of them screaming at him over and over and over again: “IT’S YOUR FAULT! IT’S YOUR FAULT! IT’S YOUR FAULT!”

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