Chapter title: Catharsis
Chapter summary: Casey finally accepts the reality of her parents' deaths.
Publish date: February 1, 2006
Note: So sorry for the delay! With the holidays and stage managing a show, I had close to no time to work on this chapter. And I had a bit of writers block. I never planned on waiting nearly two months! Thanks for your patience. And because it's my birthday and I'm feeling generous, I give you the final chapter in this series.
Night was falling quickly, and with it the chill of evening. Casey sat on the roof ledge, her legs dangling in the air ten stories up. Her capri pajama pants and ¾-sleeve t-shirt did absolutely nothing to protect her from the cold. Her ass and thighs were growing numb from the cold stone of the ledge. Yet, she sat there, shivering and cold to the bone, and refused to go inside. She felt so miserable. It was as though she was drowning, and she didn't know which way was up. No matter what she did, she couldn't break the surface. She just didn't know what to do anymore.
The cut on her arm wasn't very deep, but every time she released pressure, blood would bubble to the surface. After several minutes she just gave up, knowing it would eventually stop. She kept staring at the cut, almost willing it to work the same magic it held when she was a teenager. When nothing happened, she took a swig of the vodka then set it next down next to her, her right hand resting on the bottle.
She really hadn't ever planned on jumping. Her inability to feel anything but anger and bitterness was starting to get to her. She just felt so dead, so empty, that perhaps sitting on the edge of the building would bring her back to herself. So far, it wasn't working. She surveyed the city and wondered how people who had been hurt as badly as herself were able to bounce back, to put it behind them, to move on with their lives. Her past, what she had been through, was so deep rooted in her soul she didn't think she'd ever be able to let it go completely. She drank again from the bottle, trying to chase away these thoughts, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She leaned forward, partially on a dare to herself, and observed the world below her – a world that didn't know she existed, much less care about the emotional torture she was experiencing. She stayed like that for a minute or two until vertigo set in. She sat back up and closed her eyes, waiting for her mind to stop spinning. She heard the door to the roof slam closed and Olivia calling out for her.
Without turning to face the detective, Casey gave a half-hearted wave with her free hand. She heard the crunch of gravel as Olivia approached and she took another drink. Olivia sat beside her on the ledge, her feet firmly planted on the roof side. She leaned over and gently removed the alcohol from Casey's grip.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, her eyes blazing. She reached for the bottle as it was taken away but she was too cold and distraught to make a real effort. "Hey!" she protested weakly as Olivia poured the contents onto the rooftop.
Olivia set the bottle by her feet, and then turned to study Casey, who shifted uncomfortably under the detective's gaze. Olivia tentatively took Casey's arm to inspect the cut, but Casey yanked her arm back. "Don't," she whispered.
"Just…don't. I'm fine."
"You know, you've been saying that so much the past few days, it barely sounds like a word anymore."
"What do you want me to tell you, Olivia? That I'm not fine? Okay, then. I'm not fine. I'm the furthest thing from fine. Happy?" She said, angry tears glistening in her eyes. She rolled up her sleeves and portrayed her fresh cut along with the fine lines of healed cuts and faded scars. "You want to fix me? Go ahead. Fix me."
They stared at each other for several seconds before Casey yanked her sleeves back down. In her mind, Olivia's silence equaled apathy. She turned her head away and fought back tears.
Olivia was quiet for a few moments. "I wasn't going to ask you why."
Slowly, Casey turned and gave her the tiniest smile of gratitude. She swung her legs over to the other side of the ledge. Once her feet were on an actual surface instead of hanging in the air, Olivia let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding.
"Why are you up here?"
Casey looked at Olivia then back down at her feet. "I don't know." She shrugged and shook her head. "I don't know."
"Talk to me, Casey."
"Why, what's the point? Talking isn't going to change anything. I can talk all you want but when I'm done my parents will still be dead and I will have still been abused." She crossed her arms in front of her in an effort to warm herself up and walked away from the ledge. She didn't want this confrontation, not now. But Olivia ignored these cues and approached Casey, gently taking her elbow and turning her around to face her.
"You're right. But holding it in won't change anything either. Talking is better than holding it all inside of you. This poison, it's potent, and it will eat you up if you don't spit it out."
The hostility switch flipped on. "Whatever." She tried to turn away but Olivia pulled her back.
"I can see how much this is destroying you."
"This isn't destroying me. They destroyed me!" Casey yanked her arm out of Olivia's grip and turned away once again. She dug her nails into her arms to keep herself in control and vainly hoped Olivia would just go away. Of course, that didn't happen.
"Why are you trying so hard to be so strong?"
All of a sudden, something inside of her just snapped. Anger poured out of her. She couldn't believe what she was saying. She wasn't even thinking – the words just flew out of her mouth and she couldn't control what she said. She started to pace around in a tiny circle.
"My whole life I've been on the receiving end of hate and anger and million other things. My parents didn't love me for who I was. And no matter how hard I tried, I could be who they wanted me to be. They wanted me to be Jake, and that was impossible. They loved him more in his six years of life than they loved me all twenty-eight years of mine!"
"Casey, don't be –" Olivia began before Casey cut her off.
"Don't tell me I'm being irrational! I'm not being fucking irrational!" she yelled, throwing up her hands and taking a somewhat menacing step toward the detective. "My whole fucking life I tried to be the best at everything and that was never good enough. I tried so hard to please them and what was the point? It never worked. Everything I did they rejected. Nothing I did could make them love me like they loved Jake. Just because I wasn't a fucking boy. They blamed me for his death – for anything and everything that went wrong. I know they wished I was the one who died. And sometimes I wish it was me too. All I ever wanted was their acceptance and I thought if I could just do what they wanted, what they expected of me, then they'd stop hurting me. But they were never proud of me, they never loved me. I was just something they kept around because they felt obligated. They never took the time to know me. They just shoved me in a closet or told me I was too fat to be loved by anyone. They kept telling me I was worthless, and after awhile, I believed them. You can only break down someone's self-esteem so low before they start to destroy themselves. They had shown so much goodness to complete strangers. Why couldn't they have shown just a little bit to me? I never understood what it was, what I did, that made them hate me so passionately. God, I wish it was me. I wish I had died in that accident. Then they'd get their fucking wish and be rid of me for good. They wouldn't be in such agonizing grief. I hate them. I fucking hate them!" she lunged at Olivia and started pounding at her shoulders. Olivia let her; Casey wasn't hitting hard enough to hurt. After several punches, Olivia gently grabbed Casey's fists, but Casey screamed and flung her hands away as if she were burned.
"Don't touch me!" Casey shied away from Olivia. Right now she was in such a rage that she needed to throw something, anything. She eyed the empty vodka bottle and headed towards it. She grabbed it by the neck, lifted it over her head, and brought it down as hard as she could. She slammed it against the ground, shards of glass flying up and cutting her face. She kept going until the only intact piece was the neck in her hand, which she threw against the side of the ledge. When it shattered, all the anger went out of her and she came back down to reality. Her body was finally starting to object to the cold and she began to shiver uncontrollably. She wrapped her arms around her body and stared out at the city lights, which soon became blurry from her tears.
Olivia stepped up and put her coat around Casey's shoulders, rubbing her shoulders to help warm her up. "Let's get you inside."
Casey only nodded. She was afraid if she spoke, her body would give out on her, that she would fall to the floor and not have the strength to get up. She felt out of control of her body, and she could barely walk, as it were. She allowed herself to be led back down to Olivia's apartment and collapsed on the couch, bringing her knees to her chest and trying to take up as little room as possible. Olivia draped a blanket around her shoulders and then left her for a few minutes. She came back with a box of Kleenex and some stuff to clean the cut and knelt down in front of her friend. She took Casey's arm and began to clean the cut. She worked silently and with a motherly gentleness. Tears burned in Casey's eyes as she tried to remember a single time her own mother doctored her cuts and bruises. An instance like that was so rare she was sure it was actually nonexistent. She couldn't understand why this was so hard on her, why she had convinced herself to be so strong.
"Casey." Olivia's voice brought her back to reality. She avoided the detective's gaze – the powerful, penetrating concern Olivia held in her eyes. Casey looked down at her hands and played with the fringe of the blanket. A hand touched her chin and she lifted her eyes to meet Olivia's. That was all it took, that one glance. And there went her armor, the shield she had used her whole life – irreparable. Her eyes filled with tears and she looked away. Olivia got off the floor sat next to her and tried to get Casey to confide in her, to face her demons instead of hide from them.
Finally, Casey turned back to Olivia, her eyes clouded with unshed tears. "Do you know what it's like to grow up hating yourself? To know that even others can't stand to look at you?" she asked, her voice barely audible.
Tears sprang to Olivia's eyes – her own wounds were still fresh – but pushed them back. "Yeah. Yeah, I do." She could see the façade start to crumble. She brushed Casey's hair out of her eyes.
"I hate myself. I just wish I could get away from me."
"Oh, Casey," Olivia said, unable to keep the pity out of her voice. She reached for the younger woman's hand and squeezed. "It's okay to cry, you know."
Casey stared at Olivia and slowly, she allowed herself to feel the pain she had kept bottled up over the past few days. Her shoulders started to shake and she covered her mouth with one hand in an attempt to stifle her sobs. Soon her whole body was practically convulsing. Olivia gently pulled Casey's hand away – a gesture to let her know she didn't have to hold it in any longer – and rubbed her back. After a few deep, shuddering breaths, she finally felt safe enough to let it all out. Olivia wrapped her arms around Casey, who leaned in, appreciating the solidity and strength the detective possessed.
Hot tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn't believe her parents were gone forever. That was what was hardest to accept. Over the years she had grown so used to their criticism that instead of feeling relieved, she felt herself missing it. And with this new information she learned today – her parents were proud of her – the ache in her heart seemed even more unmanageable. Her parents were just now starting to see her as an adult, someone to brag about, and most importantly, their daughter. But now they are dead, and just like that, Casey's hopes of ever having a "normal" relationship with her parents was gone. That's what she mourned the most. She had never been on good terms with her parents, even before Jake was born, and now she'd never know if they loved her, or how much they loved her, if they were proud of her, or if they blamed her for her brother's death. All these uncertainties only brought forth another wave of tears. Her stomach was starting to hurt from crying but she couldn't seem to stop. She hugged her legs to her chest and rested her head on her knees, her sobs muffled in the cocoon she created. Olivia's arms were now around her folded body, holding her tightly, as if protecting her.
After several minutes, Casey's sobs had subsided, but the tears were still falling. She wiped her eyes and nose as best she could with the Kleenex. "You know, I kind of thought they'd live forever. I really can't believe they're gone," she whispered. She took a deep breath, trying to keep her composure. "They're gone. They're dead. I can say it a million times and the pain will never go away. I keep thinking it will get easier to say, easier to accept, but it doesn't."
Olivia rested one hand on Casey's arm and rubbed her back with the other. "Losing someone you love – regardless of how they treated you – is never easy. It's so hard at first, I know, but it will get better. It does get better. The hurt and pain subside a little each day, but it never goes away completely. I always used to wonder if my mom loved me for reasons very similar to yours. But I think because I miss her and I still get sad when I think about her, I know that she did love me, otherwise I wouldn't feel this way. Now, I'm not trying to tell you how to think or feel, but I think that deep down you feel the same way."
Casey gave an almost imperceptible nod. She stared off into space until her shoulders started to shake again. She covered Olivia's hand with her own and rested her head on the detective's shoulder.
When the wave of tears was over, Casey was exhausted. The day had been long and the rush of emotions had started to take a toll on her body. She accepted Olivia's offer of Tylenol PM.
"Sleep in my bed tonight. I'll take the couch. It'll be more comfortable," Olivia said, offering her guest the medicine and a glass of water.
"I can't kick you out of your bed," Casey protested weakly.
"You aren't kicking me out. I'm offering."
Casey relented and started to retreat into the bedroom. At the door, she paused, and turned back to Olivia. "Olivia? I – I… I would have jumped tonight, if you and Elliot hadn't been so wonderful the past few days. Thank you."
Olivia gave her an understanding smile and nod, and they held each others' gaze for a few seconds.
"Good night. And thank you again." Before Olivia could respond, Casey disappeared into the bedroom. The road ahead was going to be long and difficult, but she knew it would be easier with her friends' support.
Thank you, loyal readers. This story, at the second chapter, ended up being nothing like I planned on writing, but I'm glad, because I'm pretty happy with this one. As of now, this is the last chapter because I can't think of anything to follow it.