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21. Family Tradition

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“So when are you going to let me read it?”

I laughed despite myself, shuffling my papers into an orderly pile and laying my arm across them as I was accustomed when Cassie came around.

“When it’s complete, you noisy brat.”

She sat down next to me, trying to sneak a few words from the sheets under my spreading fingertips. I had a habit of writing at night, trying to avoid her constant inquiry. She’d grown from a curious and headstrong child into a diligent and determined teenager, much like myself. I cursed the gods, though I knew I’d have been disappointed with anything less.

There was so much I wanted to tell her, infinite things to explain, but I knew that she needed to learn in her own time. Her own way. I could not interfere. As her mother, I naturally wanted to protect her from every sling and arrow in the world, but I couldn’t shelter her that much. She would hurt and she would bleed and I would be there to help her off the ground, but only once she asked for it. And she had to figure that out on her own.

Caine supported my beliefs to a point. He supported her a tiny bit more than I did, his nurturing genes slightly stronger. At the same time, he was fiercely protective, glaring down any young man daring to get within two feet of her. I found myself laughing at his paternal urges, knowing that he just wanted the very best for her. I couldn’t disagree, though I knew she would break her fair share of hearts if we let her.

She was constantly curious about everything, asking infinite questions and doing hours of haphazard research. She was becoming the artist I never was, talented in any medium she wished to work in. I was pleased with her ambition.

Miss Cassandra Wolfe would see great promise in the world, I was sure. She would achieve great and numerous things, things her parents had only dreamed of. She would have a life devoid of violence and beatings. She would live a peaceful suburban adolescence and carry on her schooling at a local college before deciding her course of fate. And we would watch with equally eager eyes, to learn what our great endeavor had resulted in.

I tucked the pages away, much to her frustration yet again. There were parts I didn’t want her to know, parts I’d sooner forget if I could. I assumed I’d let her know the truth when she settled down herself, if she still felt the need to know. Which I was hoping she’d have outgrown by then. It’s not that I liked hiding the truth from her, but I didn’t want her to set impossible expectations for her own life by judging it against mine. I didn’t want her to feel she needed to be any stronger than she already was.

Her life needed to be her own, not merely an extension of my failures.

And such was the mindset with which my daughter was raised. The graduated high school with flying colors, all manner of honors connected to her name. She continued to community college, as planned, to make sure she was certain in her career choice.

She wanted to be a photographer.

I was pleased with her choice of arts, and her media of choice was all the more impressive. Photographs had a way of capturing souls, true enough, but there was validity to them that I had to respect. They proved, without a doubt, that someone had existed in the world. It made them more than a memory, more than a story, something real and tangible. I severely respected that, even when caught in the crosshairs of her camera unexpectedly. Her images would record our new life, our pleasant endings, showing that anything truly is possible with enough devotion to a dream.

Or enough blood.

Her great ambitions, her noble works, would cancel out the darker deeds of my youth, and the balance of life would be restored. Perhaps when she was older, I would show her the photography bug she’d inherited from me, introduce her to distant ancestors from a time best left in the dust. Perhaps they were best left where they were – distant memories of a time long since dead. I shook off my indecision, turning to face her.

“Come on, I’ll teach you a new song.”

She fell into step behind me, allowing her frustration to fade. She didn’t possess the rage that I did, which I was thankful for. Disappointment never bothered her for longer than two minutes, which was a wonderful change from my unrelenting anger that got me into more trouble than it was worth. She sat down across from me, the ever-vigilant pupil, always eager for something more. I made sure my guitar was in tune, plucking the strings carefully, then strumming a few times to let the sound roll out. I reached back into my memories and played something I could barely remember, when I was barely older than she was now.

Caine’s steps were even and clear, stopping slowly as the familiar tune crept into his mind. I heard him run off to grab his own guitar, knowing he would before I started playing. He came and sat next to me, tuning up and joining in.

“So are you guys going to teach me or what?” Cass said with a laugh, watching as we both tried to one up each other for a few more minutes.

“I’m sorry, we get carried away from time to time,” I laughed with Caine, who was still playing despite my pause. He seemed pleased with himself.

“I didn’t think you’d remembered it.” He played the rest of the song solo, and I joined back in suddenly, watching as Cassandra started to pluck her way through it, imitating my finger movements. She was a quick learner.

“You think I could forget the song we played when we met?”

He laughed again, changing octaves, but keeping pace nonetheless. I slowed down to help Cass’s eye catch on to the pattern, showing her the way, and returned to the regular pace to keep things in unison. By the end of an hour, we had an entirely new piece with three parts, all entirely uniquely dependent on each other.

Such was the state of things then, and how they’d remain from thereafter. All three separate parts of a whole, but entirely dependent.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If I could go back and change anything in my life, any single moment, any solitary idea, would I? What did I wish I knew then that I know now?

Everything. Anything. Nothing.

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you make it still standing. Even crawling counts for something, but only if you don’t look back.

And I don’t know about you, but the only story I’ve ever heard about looking back resulted in a pillar of salt, and that doesn’t seem like a great way to go to me.

I’ve always been into the show, into the lights and fanfare, red, blue and yellow. And part of me always will be. But that’s beside the point.

Would I change anything?

Perhaps.

But would you trust me if I told you?

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