RTN 25

After a rather long and unpleasant night in the police station, I provided Detective Tanner with all of the information I’d learned over the past few months. He was able to find Aj’s body and connect the final missing pieces surrounding Jennie’s murder. Everything was pinned rightfully on my mother and Eddie, her accomplice. The case was closed a week later.

26

In the official report, Mom’s nasty fall was labeled an accident but Amy and I knew otherwise. There was an unspoken understanding between us…she’d really came through for me and I’d always be in her debt. I have plans to buy that girl an engagement ring before she wisens up and gets away.

27

Once I was no longer considered a suspect, I was able to go back home to Oasis Springs and visit the place were Jenny was put to rest. I left flowers on her grave and never returned…because I knew she wasn’t there.

She stayed with me just like she said she would. I thought it was going to be a bit morbid having her around since she was basically just waiting for me to die but I was wrong. Her presence in our home was not only comforting to me but Lizzie too. We’re the only ones who can see her which I think makes our bond even more special.

28

The very best part of it all is that we’re really doing it. We’re living out Jennie’s dream and we’re all under the same roof just like she always wanted.

The three Clay sisters…together forever.

The End.

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RTN 24

“The blackouts!” I abruptly blurted out. “They were because of you, weren’t they?” Jennie gave me a sheepish grin. “I just wanted to steer for a bit.” She shrugged. “And maybe protect you from some things…like Eddie. I’m not saying you couldn’t handle him yourself or anything but it felt like something I needed to do.” I nodded my head like I understood but then I thought about how impossible the whole situation was. “How are you even here, Jennie?” I asked in bewilderment. “You can’t tell me you don’t believe in the afterlife now…not after all of this.” She chuckled.

23

“But why haven’t you moved on yet?” Her easy smile disappeared. “Did you really think I’d leave without you? I would never.” Her expression was solemn. “I think I’ll just hang around until we can go into the great beyond together. Whenever that day comes.” She added with a small smile. “I’ll wait for as long as I have to. It’s me and you sis…always.”

“Cassie!” Amy’s voice startled us both.

25

“Oh, I’m glad you’re okay!” She cupped my cheek tenderly. “I could hear you arguing with your mother but then there was that horrible scream…and I got scared. I called the cops.” It couldn’t be helped…once I was in the safety of Amy’s arms, the tears began to stream down my face. “What in the world happened out here? And where is your mom?”

24

I walked to the railing and pointed down. Amy looked over it and inhaled sharply. “I don’t even know what to say.” She murmured. “Did she fall?” I shook my head slowly. “I pushed her.” I admitted. “She confessed to killing Jennie and Aj. She would’ve killed me too if she’d gotten a chance.” I shuddered. “It wasn’t an accident. Not this time. I wanted her to die.” Amy gave me a hard stare. In the distance we could hear sirens approaching. “You’re wrong.” Amy remarked. “She fell. I saw it with my own eyes.” I opened my mouth in surprise. “Amy, I can’t let you do tha-”

“Shh.” She put her finger to my lips. “When the police get here, let me do most of the talking, okay? We’re going to get through this. Everything is going to be just fine.”

RTN 23

My mother’s nails dug into my neck as she gripped me tighter and tighter. I tried to shove her off of me but she was surprisingly strong. As I continued struggling to pry her fingers away one by one, I became lightheaded and my eyesight grew dim. It was how all of my previous blackouts began…but this time it felt a bit different. “Not now!” I wheezed pleadingly. Suddenly, like an answered prayer, I was back in control. Then I noticed a form had materialized next to Mom. “Jennie!” I choked out while staring at her. Mom jumped and released me from her grasp. Her face twisted in fury when she assumed she’d been duped. “I can’t believe I fell for that!”

20

“She can’t see me.” Jennie wiggled her fingers in front of our mother’s face. “She doesn’t want to. You should ask her about Aj, Cass.” She crossed her arms and glared at Mom while she leaned against the railing. “He said he’d watch over you while you slept and when you woke up he was missing, right? He never would’ve just left you alone at that camp, Cass. Not on his own.”

21

“What happened to Aj, Mom?” She appeared to be taken aback by my question. “Who?” She muttered with a raised brow. Jennie rolled her eyes and snorted. “Really? She’s going to play stupid? I saw her do it! She killed him!” Her eyes flashed in anger. “Jennie’s boyfriend. What did you do to him? For once in your life, just tell the truth!” I shouted at her. “That loser should’ve kept his mouth shut.” She finally admitted. “He’s the one that lead you back to Eddie and me. I just wanted to know what he told you. But he wouldn’t talk. Not even when I threatened him.” She smirked. “She’s evil.” Jennie whispered into my ear. “The sad thing is that I want to hate her…so badly. But she’s still our mother.”

“Mom…” I took a step closer to her. “Jennie has a message for you.” My mother’s eyes widened in disbelief. “She wants you to know that she forgives you.”

“But I don’t.” With one hard shove, my mother went over the balcony and screamed all the way down to the cemented street below.

22

“It’s okay, Cass. You did nothing wrong. She didn’t deserve to live…not after all she’s done.” Jennie put her ghostly pale arms around me. I could barely feel her but still, it was a comforting gesture. “It’s finally over. She can’t hurt anyone ever again.”

RTN 22

After Mom and Lizzie both went to bed, I stayed up with Amy for a while. “Lizzie is a pretty great kid.” Amy mentioned casually. “Yeah, she’s the best.” I agreed. “Maybe we should consider having one of our own.” She reached for my hand and held it tightly. “R-really?” I stammered. “Well yeah…not right now of course but one day.” She grinned at me. “What do you think?”

I didn’t get a chance to reply because there was a loud scraping noise right outside of our window. “What was that?” Amy jumped up and peeked through the curtains. “It’s your mom…she’s on the balcony.” I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Guess I need to go check on her.”

“Oh alright…but come back to bed soon.” Amy teased in a husky voice.

16

“Hey Mom. It’s chilly out here…let’s go in.” I stood in the doorway and peered into the darkness. My mother’s face was eerily illuminated by the porch light and she seemed to be lost in deep thought. “I’m fine.” She finally murmured. “But you should come on out. We need to have a talk.” I sat next to her and pulled my nightgown over my knees. “I’ve been meaning to ask…how are you doing? I was so sorry to hear about Eddie. I didn’t mean to run off and leave you to deal with that mess on your own but something came up…and I had to get out of town as soon as possible.” I bit my lip and hoped that she would believe me. “Cassandra.” She narrowed her gaze at me. “Just stop talking. I know it was you.” She hissed. “You killed him.”

17

I stood and raked my fingers through my hair while I paced back and forth on the small balcony. “But you don’t understand. He attacked me!” I cried. “I don’t believe you! He was a damn good man. And now he’s gone.” She let out a strangled cry. “You’re going to pay for it. Just like Jennie did.” I stared at her with wide eyes. “He’s the one who killed Jennie, Mom! How can you defend him?”

“No…it was me.”

18

“What?” I gaped at her. “I was so angry. She kept making up these stories about Eddie coming in her room at night and making her do things. What a disgusting lie!” She screamed. “He wasn’t like that! I just snapped and grabbed Eddie’s hunting knife from the coffee table…and I killed her. He helped me dispose of her body.”

“You’re a monster!”

“That makes two of us.” She sneered as she lunged at me and wrapped her hands around my throat.

RTN 21

Mom and Lizzie arrived right on time the next afternoon. “Come on in!” I ushered them inside excitedly. “There’s snacks in the kitchen if either of you are hungry. Oh! That reminds me…I need to make some lemonade too! And how was the trip here? I hope traffic wasn’t too bad.” Before anyone could complain about my ceaseless chatter, I turned my attention to my little sister. “Wow, look at you! You’ve gotten taller since summer. I’ve missed you so much!” I bent down and gave her a big smooch on the cheek.

13

“Eww, gross.” She wiped her face with the sleeve of her shirt then smirked at me. “Gross?” I faked being appalled. “Since when are you too big for kisses?” Lizzie lifted her brows and shrugged. “Since I started middle school this fall, duh.” She remarked. “So…what happened to your hair, Cassie?” I ran my fingers through my short locks. “I thought it was time for a change. Do you like it?” She thought for a moment then shrugged again. “I liked it long…but this is okay too.” I chuckled and pinched her cheek just to annoy her. “Well good, I’m glad you approve.”

When I finally sat down after making sure everyone else had refreshments and was comfortable, I became very aware of Amy’s leg resting next to mine…it was shaking. She was clearly still nervous about our announcement.

14

I cleared my throat suddenly. “There’s something we need to tell you both.” I smiled at Amy and held her hand. “We’re in a relationship…together and it’s serious. We don’t know what’s in store for our future but we’d like to find out and well…we just wanted to let you know.” Mom pursed her lips then nodded her head and Lizzie simply mumbled, “That’s cool.” It was good enough for me. “See…that wasn’t so bad.” I whispered and nudged Amy with my shoulder. “I’m tired.” Lizzie yawned loudly. “Can I go to bed?”

15

“Is this my room?” Lizzie looked around the guest room in wonder. “When you’re here it is!” I grinned at her. “Cassie…can I come live with you. Mom is super weird.” Lizzie sighed in frustration when I laughed. “I’m not joking.” She pouted. “I know she misses Eddie a lot but it’s not just that…she’s different now. She talks to herself and sometimes it kinda scary.” I put my arm around her shoulders. “That’s pretty normal, I think. But if you really want to stay with us then let me talk to her. She’s probably going to say no but maybe she’ll at least let you come for your winter break. Then maybe again in the Spring? Baby steps, you know?” I tucked her in and ruffled her hair. “Sweet dreams, kiddo.”

RTN 20

“Jennie, I just can’t believe it…we finally made it.” I let out a content sigh as I took in the view from the balcony of the small apartment I now shared with Amy. It’d been three months since we left our old lives behind and came to the city. We didn’t have a penny to our names when we first arrived but luckily Amy had a cousin in San Myshuno who let us stay with her for a while. Then about a month ago, she gladly sublet her flat to us while she went traveling abroad. Amy found work as a hostess in a hip vegan restaurant and I freelanced for a fashion magazine…just like Jennie said I would. It seemed like everything was falling into place.

Rena kept us up to date on everything that happened back in Oasis Springs. Detective Tanner did eventually figure out that Jennie was murdered by Eddie but the person who killed Eddie was never found. Sid was true to his word and never sold me out. Unfortunately I was still considered a suspect or else we could’ve gone back home…if we really wanted to. I didn’t though. I’d already spent so much of my time back there merely existing and it wasn’t until recently that I started living again.

10

“It’s getting cold.” Amy stepped outside and rubbed her shoulders for warmth. “Right on time for Christmas.” I smiled. “I haven’t seen snow since I was a child. It’s going to be great!” I exclaimed cheerfully. “I love how your eyes twinkle when you get all fired up about something.” She chuckled and wrapped her arms around me which caused the butterflies in my stomach to stir. We didn’t put a label on it but we were pretty serious about each other. It was still new to me and different…and honestly, kinda perfect.

11

“What are you doing out here anyways?” She brushed her lips against my ear. “Just thinking.” I relaxed and rested my head against hers. “Come think inside where it’s nice and warm. I’ll put on some coffee and we can cuddle in front of the fireplace.” She winked at me. “Sold.” I laughed and followed her in.

12

“So are you excited about tomorrow?” She asked once we got comfortable on the couch. “A bit. But more than that, I’m nervous.” I admitted. “Don’t be! Lizzie and your mom can’t wait to see you after all this time. I’m so glad you finally talked to them.” She pat my leg. “Me too. And I’m glad Mom didn’t send the police after me when I called.” I smirked. “She actually sounded really happy to hear from me.”

“What’s bothering you then?” Amy reached for my hand. “Are you having second thoughts…telling them about us?” She appeared concerned. “Of course not! You’re already like family to them. This will just make them love you even more. There’s nothing to worry about.” I yawned and stretched my legs across her lap. “Maybe we’re just overthinking it. It’s going to be a great visit.”

RTN 19

“Cassie…we’ve been looking everywhere for you. We have to talk.” I whirled around and frowned at my friends. “Did you two know about this?” I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes at them. “No!” Rena gasped. “Of course not. I would’ve said something…after I stomped his ass into the ground.” She added. “I had a feeling.” Amy admitted. “I knew he was no good.” She shot Sid a dirty look. “But that’s not why we’re here. There’s been a development…with Jennie’s case.” She bit her lip nervously. My heart began to pound loudly in my chest. “Spit it out, Amy. What’s going on?”

“Her body was found last night…near your house. Eddie’s too! I didn’t even know that he was dead. I can’t believe someone killed him!” She exclaimed. “I can.” I muttered quietly. “You’re wanted for questioning by the police…it’s been all over the news.” She gazed at me with pity. “Cassie, I’m afraid that they’re going to try to pin both murders on you. We know that you’re innocent though…we’re here for you.” She squeezed my hand to comfort me.

7

“I’m far from innocent.” I made eye contact with Sid. “Your secret is safe with me. I might be a fool when it comes to relationships.” He laughed dryly. “But I’d never turn you in.” Amy raised a brow. “Turn you in? For what?” I took a deep breath and spilled my guts. “Eddie confessed to killing Jennie then he attacked me…and while I was fighting him off, he was stabbed with his own knife. It was self-defense.” I insisted. “Sid helped me dispose of his body and when that detective came sniffing around a few days later, I got scared and ran away from home. And here we are.” My friends stared back at me in utter shock.

8

“Maybe this is it though.” I rambled on. “It’s the end of the road for me. I’ve been going nowhere my whole life. I should turn myself in and just pray that everyone believes my story. But if I end up having to do hard time then to hell with it…I have nothing else to live for anyways.” Amy grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “That’s not true and you know it! Lizzie will always need you! And your mom. Your friends. Me.” She stroked my cheek then briefly pressed her warm lips against mine.

9

When the kiss was over, I was totally speechless. “We don’t have time to talk about it right now anyways.” Amy winked at me knowingly. “We need to get you out of here.” She looked at Rena. “Are you coming with us?” Rena shook her head sadly. “I can’t. I’m sorry.” Amy hugged her tightly. “I understand. Wish us the best.” Sid nodded his head towards me, his face still red from where I’d smacked him earlier. “Good luck, Cass.”

“Thanks.” I mumbled. “I’ll need it.” With a final wave to everyone we were leaving behind, Amy took me by the hand and lead me away. To a new life.

RTN 18

I woke up all alone the next morning and in the same chair at that. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept so soundlessly. I rubbed my eyes and called Aj’s name. He’d promised to watch over me during the night but now he was nowhere to be found. “So much for chivalry.” I muttered under my breath as I threw another log into the fire.

“Hello!” I shouted. “Where is everyone?” The campground was eerily silent.

1

Then I heard rustling from one of the tents nearby. I walked over to it and gently shook it. “Hey, sorry to intrude but have you seen Aj?” I asked. “No, but we’ll help you find him.” A muffled voice replied. A few moments later, a giggling couple climbed out, straightening their clothes in the process. I gasped in shock when I saw who it was. “Sid?” I croaked. “I can’t believe this.”

“Uh…Cass?” The color drained from his face. “What are you doing here?”

2

“Me? I spent the night here. You had to walk right past me to get to this trollop’s tent to begin with.” I shook my head in disgust. The girl with him covered her mouth. “Ohhh…is this her? The crazy girlfriend?” She wrinkled her nose at me. “Well this awkward.” She said with a smirk. “You’re not helping, Skye.” Sid snapped at her. “How could you do this to me, Sid? We’ve been together for nearly five years…doesn’t that mean anything to you?” I cried.

3

“Cass…I didn’t mean for you to find out like this. I’m so sorry.” He refused to meet my eyes. “Things change though. I’ve been wanting to break up with you for awhile now but after Jennie disappeared…you were so needy. But you’re better now…right?”

That was right about the time my fist connected with his jaw.

RTN 17

I didn’t really have a lot of choice in places to go. I couldn’t drag my friends into my mess…it wouldn’t be fair and Sid had already done so much for me. I couldn’t burden him any longer. So I made my way to the homeless camp that Sid took me to a few days ago.

At least while I was there I’d be able to rest before I figured out my next move. It wouldn’t be long before Tanner found some clue as to what really happened to Eddie. I was actually debating on turning myself in. But what would happen to me? Would I go to jail? It was self defense…I think. I’d blacked out and lost maybe five minutes.

19

I approached the group of people surrounding the fire pit and recognized Jennie’s former lover. “Hey Aj.” I greeted him with a wave. “Cassie! It’s good to see you.” He smiled at me. “But what are you doing here again so soon?” I frowned and looked down at my feet. “Um…well I think I’m in trouble.” I whispered. “Do you think it’d be okay if I stayed here for a few days?” He gave me a look of concern. “Of course. Is there anything I can help you with?” I shook my head. “No. The less people involved, the better.”

20

While I warmed myself by the fire, I thought about Jennie. I didn’t get the answers I so desperately needed but maybe there was nothing else I could do. Myable I should just run away to a new town and change my name. I could disappear…just like she did.

It was beginning to sound really appealing.

21

I snapped out of my thoughts when Aj brought me a plate of food. After eating, I began to feel drowsy. I stifled a big yawn. “I’ll watch over you while get some rest.” Aj offered. “Are you sure? I’m so tired.” He nodded and reached over to pat my leg. “Don’t worry. You’re safe here.” He reassured me. With my belly full and my body warm from the fire, I fell fast asleep…and dreamed of the city.

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