I was a little relieved to hear that my dad was talking to Aaron outside when I came down the stairs with my mother. There was just something about the intensity of his eyes that made me uncomfortable. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but their voices seemed lighter than they had a few minutes ago when the stranger had first arrived.
My mom led me into the living room, and I followed as if I'd never been to this particular part of our home before, each step feeling a bit like a death sentence. Dr. Sanderson unfolded himself from my mother's recliner as we approached, and I had a hard time taking in how someone so large could occupy the same space as my dainty mother.
"Cassidy, honey, this is Dr. Sanderson."
He extended his large hand to me, and I let it envelop mine. There was something hauntingly familiar about his green eyes. It was like I'd seen them before, frequently, and while I was certain I would remember meeting him, I couldn't place him. I smiled, though, finally feeling comfortable.
"Hey, there, kid," he said, his voice even more of a boom than my father's. "You can call me Elliott." His smile was friendly, and I was instantly put at ease.
"Why don't you have a seat, honey? I've got to go check on the turkey." My mom patted my arm reassuringly, but I was perfectly fine sitting here with this man I'd just met, though if she'd said she was leaving me alone with Aaron, I might've latched on to her like a joey and refused to budge.
"How are you?" he asked as we both sat. He reclaimed Mom's chair, and I sat adjacent to him on the couch. "Been a hectic day, huh?"
"I guess you could say that." I had no problem whatsoever staring contently into his eyes as we spoke.
"Well, I'm here to let you know that your sister, Cadence, is perfectly fine. She's a little upset right now, but she'll be better soon. There's no reason to worry about your sister, Cadence."
Each word was calm and carefully measured, and there was just something about his tone that set me at ease completely. A flood of relief washed over me, and I found myself repeating what he'd just said. "Cadence is perfectly fine. There's no reason to worry about my sister, Cadence."
"That's right," he nodded. "And I wanted to tell you about the accident with Drew as well. I was at the hospital when she came in. I am a doctor, so it's perfectly acceptable that I would be there. Drew fell while rock climbing, and she cut her neck on a rock. Drew died. It's very sad that she died, and we will miss her. But these things happen."
I listened intently to every word that he said and nodded along. "Drew died. It's sad, but these things happen." A wave of tranquility spread throughout my mind, filling up every space, and spreading through my body.
"That's right." Elliott nodded, that small, reassuring smile still on his face. "There's no reason for you to continue to ask questions about what happened with your sister or Drew. You understand everything now. You understand that your sister will have a new job and new work associates, and that's perfectly acceptable. There's no reason to ask any more questions about your sister or her new job."
My head bobbed up and down like a cork floating on rough seas. "My sister has a new job. There's no reason to ask any more questions."
Elliott sat back in his chair, exhaling deeply, a satisfied smile on his face. I smiled, too. Everything was back to normal, and it was Thanksgiving. "Thank you," I said, and I'm sure if I could see my face, I'd be embarrassed at the sappiness of my expression.
"No problem, lil girl," he said. He leaned forward and patted me on the knee, and I felt like we were long lost BFFs. It didn't matter that he was a grown adult man with hands bigger than my head or that I had no idea where he'd come from. Nor did it matter that my parents were keeping information from me and my sister was gone. Elliott had made everything clear.
I didn't hear my mom enter the room until she started talking. "All done?" she asked.
Normally, I would've jumped at the sudden sound of an unexpected voice behind me, but I felt pretty mellow. I just smiled as Elliott pulled himself from the chair. "All done." His smile had somehow morphed into something a little more mischievous, but I felt perfectly content not asking him what that look was supposed to mean. After all, he was looking at my mom, not me.
"I think I'll be heading out," he said, and my mom beamed at him like she might if he'd just stopped by to drop off the cure to cancerif she happened to have cancer.
"Okay," my mom said, walking alongside him to the door. "It was lovely to finally meet you."
"You, too," he said, shaking her hand, and I wondered how long ago my mom had heard about him but hadn't met him, and from whom, but then I remembered that it didn't matter and there was no need to ask questions.
Elliott stepped outside, and a few minutes later, my dad opened the door, calling, "Have a safe trip!"
I wanted to rush to the door to tell Elliott to have a safe trip, too, but I didn't know where he was going, and I had no idea why I felt compelled to go and tell him to be careful, so I sat on the couch, smiling like an idiot.
"You okay, Cass?" my dad asked.
I looked up at him, still grinning like a Cheshire cat. "I'm fine, Dad."
"Hmmm," he said, shrugging his shoulders. He looked at my mom, and she shrugged, too. "I wonder if the football game is on yet." He stepped over to his recliner and picked up the remote. My mom headed back toward the kitchen, and the scent of baking turkey wafted through the air. I could go help her, but I didn't really feel like bothering. I could also go call Lucy and tell her what I'd just found out. Turns out she was rightDrew really did fall and cut her neck open. It really was too bad, but these things happen.
I continued to stare at the wall as my dad muttered something about the game not being on yet. I was happy to finally have some answers. There was no reason to continue to worry about my sister. In fact, I felt silly for ever worrying about her in the first place. Shaking my head, I grabbed a throw pillow and made myself comfortable on the couch, pulling my stockinged feet up and tucking them behind me as I closed my eyes and drifted into oblivion.