Deandre and Angel loved being parents. Deandre still had to focus a lot on training for his career but every time he was home, he was present. He was in the moment with Angel and Cassiel. He loved feeding and cuddling his baby girl but he wanted him to know comfort. Deandre knew Angel’s upbringing was rough financially and he didn’t want his daughter to live like that.
Angel continued painting. She was quite a master. She no longer sold her paintings at the flea market but instead at local art galleries. Deandre had given her the idea to find an agent and once she did, her profits skyrocketed. Angel used her joy from Cassiel to inspire her artwork. Often she would paint with Cassiel right next to her, cooing away.
Deandre joined a local gym group and started receiving extra help to get in top shape. If he wanted to be a professional athlete, he was going to have to work hard on his strength. He met a couple of good friends who also loved working out and shared the same goal. They wanted to work hard but understood when Deandre needed family time.
Because Angel’s job allowed her to stay home, she was starting to feel a little stir crazy.
“Deandre! I NEED to go out. I haven’t seen another person’s face since Cassiel was born.”
Luckily Deandre had heard of this party happening downtown. He told Angel to put on her party dress and he got a cab. The young couple still knew how to have a blast, dancing and talking until late in the night. They tipped the babysitter extra when they got home.
“Thanks for taking me out Deandre, I needed it.”
Angel kissed Deandre on the nose as they laid in bed. Angel thought about how lucky she was to have the best guy by her side.
Deandre went to the gym with his close friend, Marcus.
“I think I’ve reached my peak, Marcus. I don’t think there’s anything you or the other guys can teach me. I couldn’t have gotten here without you, though. Thanks.”
“No problem! Don’t feel like you have to stop talking or hanging out though. You can come by my place anytime.”
“Wait, THE Marcus Flex doesn’t live at the gym? I want to see your house! Let’s go.”
“Holy cow, Marcus! This is an insane place. I bet Cas would love this game.”
“Heck yeah, man! You should bring her over sometime. How old is she now anyways?”
Cassiel Power was a smart eight year old. She was quite squeamish to her mother’s delight. She didn’t like messes or gross TV shows. She was neat and organized and loved doing homework. She found games of chess or playing with her science lab kit more interesting than video games.
“CAS! WHAT IS THAT SMELL IN YOUR ROOM?!”
“NOTHING, MOM! The llama just got sick!”
“WE DO NOT HAVE A LLAMA. IT BETTER BE CLEANED UP BY THE TIME YOUR DAD GETS HOME!”
Cas has cleaned up her smell but Angel still needed a break. When Deandre got home, Angel gave him a quick hug, shoved Cassiel in his path, and told them to go out. Deandre took Cassiel to the park hoping she’d find a friend to play with. Cassiel had never brought a friend home from school nor had she even talked about her other classmates. She talked about her teachers and her assignments but Deandre had no idea who she sat by or played with.
When they got to the park, Cassiel ran to the chess tables immediately. “Daddy, daddy. Come play with me! I learned how with Mr. Scott. I bet I can beat you.”
Deandre was intrigued. He was pretty confident in his chess skills and decided to make a wager. “Okay, I’ll play with you but if I win, you have to go play with the other kids on the playground for a whole hour. If you win, we’ll have ice cream when we get home.”
“I don’t like other kids. They’re so annoying. Good thing I’m going to whoop your butt!”, Cassiel teased. They started to play. For a while, Deandre seemed to have the upper hand until ten minutes later when Cas had swept his pieces off the board in a few brutal moves and took him in a checkmate.
“Yay! Ice cream! Ice cream!”, Cassiel cheered. Deandre just stared open-mouthed.
The next day, Angel decided to have a little talk with her daughter.
“I heard you and Daddy had a fun little bet last night. What did you get out of?”, she asked.
“I didn’t have to go play with all the babies.”
“They’re not babies, Cas. They’re your age. Some may be a bit older. Why don’t you want to play with them? What about school? Don’t you play with your classmates?”
“No. I play with the teachers. The kids are annoying and dumb. They just want to make jokes and play make believe.”
“Teachers? What do you play with the teachers?
“Chess with Mr. Scott. Ms. Renae and I play Yahtzee. Sometimes we play an educational game that Mrs. Conners made up.”
“Well, I think you should try to find a friend that’s your age. Promise me you’ll try to find at least one.”
“Ugh. Okay, Mom! Now can I have some peace and quiet, PLEASE?”
Angel went to her canvas. She didn’t know quite what to think. Cassiel excelled in school and was very friendly to Deandre’s and her friends. She didn’t seem abnormal but is having no friends normal? Is being okay with having no friends normal? Angel wanted to talk to Deandre. Cassiel was just so different than her as a child, maybe she was just thinking too much into it.
After taking a shower to get all her paint off, Angel decided she’d try something. She called Cassiel into the kitchen and started reading her a story. The story was about a kitten who didn’t play with any of his siblings in the litter. Throughout the story, he adventures alone and makes up excuses to be alone. The kittens all grow into cats and his siblings start disappearing, running off to have families of their own. At the end of the story, the cat is all alone but he isn’t happy. He misses his siblings and wishes he had played with them more when they were younger.
“So Cas,” Angel asked after she had read the book, “why do you think the cat regrets being alone when he was a kitten?”
“Probably because he wasn’t preparing himself for the complexities of single adulthood. Instead he was playing in the grass or sleeping.”
“Um..no. What’s another reason you can think of?”, Angel bit at her lip.
“He wasn’t building a home?” Cassiel guessed. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll be ready when I’m an adult. I’m a great student! I’ll be able to get a job!”
Angel sighed. Her daughter just didn’t want friends. There is nothing wrong with that and Angel would just have to let it be. She loved her daughter, no matter what.
Cassiel took her mom’s lesson (or what she thought it was) to heart. Her mom didn’t want her to be unprepared. Cassiel heard her mom talk about how painting saved her when her parents died early. Angel didn’t have to rely on a desk job that didn’t understand her situation. Cassiel decided to try to work on her creativity. She liked her mom’s art and some of the art she saw in her textbooks, maybe she could design something worthy of admiration. She asked her mom if she had her old activity table and traded in her potions lab for a box of paints. “It’s time become the next Monet!”
A few weeks ago, Angel was having trouble sleeping. She decided to just get up and get a headstart on breakfast. She was so distracted thinking about Deandre and money and Cassiel. She didn’t notice the oil-soaked toast slip into the open flame. Suddenly the pan lit up in flames!
The flames jumped from the pan to Angel’s sleeves. Angel was on fire! “Oh god! OW! OW! HOT! HOT! OOOOOOOWWWWWWW!”.
Angel waved her arms back and forth which only made the flames bigger. She looked like an amateur fire dancer. A fire dancer that was scared out of their minds. “EEK!”, Angel continued to yell.
Deandre burst out of the bedroom and grabbed their emergency fire extinguisher. He pointed the hose at Angel and shot foam all over the kitchen. Angel wiped the foam from her face and started crying. Deandre caressed her hair, afraid to hold her body in case of burns. He called Marcus to watch Cassiel but not wake her and he took Angel to the hospital. Luckily, her sleeves had caught most of the damage and a few weeks of ointment on her arms would heal any burns left. She wouldn’t have any scars. Angel took a break from cooking for the next few months. Cassiel didn’t complain (until Deandre cooked a rubbery taco casserole). They decided not to tell Cassiel about the fire.
Deandre was trying really hard at work and finally got one day! He was bumped up from the water boy to a personal trainer! He was getting closer and closer to being on the field.
It was Cassiel’s big birthday. The next year, she’d be in high school. Away from all the immature kids and silly homework assignments (little does she know, right?). She made her wish that high school would actually be hard and blew out the candles. What would she be like once the candles went out?