I’ve just finished writing “The Mansion’s Family,” and I know you’ve been reading along the whole time. Now that you’ve finished it, I have an “Acapella Angels” bonus scene for you. You know now that the story didn’t end exactly when I stopped writing.
“You have to go! Get to the cave! I’ll be there soon!”
“I’m not going without you!”
She tried to answer, but her voice wouldn’t work. Something was wrong. She couldn’t move. She tried to speak, tried to cry out, but shock had stolen the breath from her lungs.
Nathaniel’s voice sounded distant. Hadn’t he been beside her only moments before? Dizziness overwhelmed her, and she collapsed, facedown on the ground. She tasted blood in her mouth, and through blurred vision, saw one of Jerome’s people drop to the ground beside her. A bloody knife was still clutched in his hand.
In her mind, everything clicked into place. That knife was buried in her back only a moment before, and now she was dying.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. She wanted so badly to see her babies again, to hear their voices, to watch them grow…
No! I promised I’d come back…
She crawled forward, not knowing what she was struggling toward. There was no way out, and no one to save her.
It all took place in mere moments. Cassandra’s eyes darkened. Nathaniel’s hands were upon her, sending currents of healing magic into her body, but it was useless. She was gone.
And yet, she wasn’t. Part of her, the magical core of her being, was holding on. There was a way out. She’d opened the door, primed her soul, and now, she had a choice.
She’d promised her sister she would never turn dark. Danielle… She missed her so much. She could be with her, and so very soon… But she’d made other promises as well, and she’d break them all if she let herself die.
She was so angry. To die now, when her twins were only a few weeks old, when her life had more meaning than it ever had… It was all too terribly wrong. Her world was crumbling, and she had failed. Nathaniel had only come here because she pushed him away. How could she let herself be distracted by him? How could she let go, after all those promises she made?
Her path was chosen. She let the magic do its work, let the darkness take hold. She lifted out of her body, lighter than air. At last, her dream of flying had come true…
She had to get to the cave. She had to see her babies. And Travis. She had to make sure they’d all go together.
Despair overwhelmed him. He’d always thought losing Cassandra would be the end of his world, and now he was literally watching his world fall apart. He began to cry, slowly sinking to the ground. The earth trembled, lights flashed, and voices cried out all around him, but he was oblivious to all of it. The burning went deeper, until pain was all he knew. Cassandra was gone, and he was sinking into the dark.
“Cassandra…” he whispered. “What would you do if I said I really can’t live without you?”
I’m certain I’d say you must, Travis.
He opened his eyes. He didn’t know if he’d imagined that voice or not, but he was sure it was exactly what Cassandra would say.
Everything hurt as he forced himself to stand, but nothing was worse than the pain of losing her… No, one thing was: the thought of letting her down, of failing her and their babies, when he was all they had left…
Ellie and Savannah. His tiny twin babies, so perfect, so special, and now, all that remained of Cassandra. He kept their faces burned into his mind as he hurried toward the cave, and at last, inside.
It was quieter inside the cave, but there were people ahead of him. In the distance, he saw Amber, with two tiny bundles in her arms. Flashes of light kept stealing more and more people away, obscuring his vision.
“Amber!” he tried to cry out to her, but she vanished. It doesn’t matter, he thought, I’m right behind them…
At the end of the cave, his feet lifted off the ground in another flash of light. He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing he’d see his children when he opened them again.
His feet hit the ground hard, followed by the rest of him. He lay under a canopy of green trees, dazed. The sound of a creek wasn’t far off, but other than that, it was quiet. Far too quiet.
No one else was here. As he stood to look around, he realized the shadow cave was nowhere in sight. “Amber!” he called. “Amber!” He stumbled toward the sound of running water. Adrenaline kept the worst of the pain at bay, but he was aware he’d lost a lot of blood. A voice in the distance kept him moving. “Amber!” His vision was getting blurry. “Ellie! Savannah! Amber!” He didn’t know what he was shouting anymore. He might have even called for Cassandra a few times. But he stumbled on until he couldn’t stand any longer. He collapsed by the creek. The last thing he was aware of before darkness took him was a woman’s voice, shouting, “Oh my god!”
She asked so many questions, but he couldn't begin to explain. Yet she still brought him inside, cleaned him up, and insisted he stay and rest. She thought he had amnesia. He played along. She wouldn't believe the truth even if he could tell her. Even if it wasn't too painful to say out loud.
Her name was Susan. As Travis didn't want to tell his story, he let her tell him hers. She liked living out here, in the country where things were quiet and peaceful, but she was lonely, and told him he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted. He didn't know what to do. He didn't want to take advantage of her hospitality, but he had nowhere else to go. Instead, he offered to help her with whatever chores she needed done, and helped her tend to her house and garden. She talked happily with him the whole time, sometimes trying to recover details of his past, but he always brought the conversation back to her.
After recovering from his injuries, he tried to leave. He searched for Amber, for his daughters, and for a place of his own. When he returned to Susan, she expressed her worry for him, and to his surprise, offered to help. His amnesia story became more believable when she discovered he couldn't do basic things like drive a car. She helped him learn, then set to the next task of helping him find a job.
"I don't remember much about the way people normally act," he said, "but I don't think most people would just take in a stranger who fell into their backyard."
"True," she shrugged. "But mostly because they're afraid. I had nothing to fear from you. And you're not the first to fall into my backyard. I believe there's some magic in this land."
"Really? I didn't think magic existed in this world."
"In this world?" she smiled. "You know, Travis, most people think I'm strange."
There you go, Dawn. Pretty sure you know the rest of the story by then. The two lost weirdoes gave each other what they needed, and eventually fell in love.