Cassie had wanted to strike out, to knock her down, to wipe that superior attitude off her face and grind it into the ground. She would have loved to let loose and get into one of the fights they’d had as children. When she’d been bigger than her younger sister, when she’d always prevailed, when she could make Allie with one look go running to their mother.
“Maybe I’d just better go,” Cassie said woodenly. “I wanted you to understand why I made the suggestions I did to the script, but you’re not interested. It’s just making things worse, so forget it.”
“You made those changes to prove a point. Because you hate me.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“You’ve always hated me. Been jealous as hell and regretted the day you suggested, no, begged me to come down here. But then I took you up on the dare, started auditioning for parts against you and blew you out of the water! Dad saw it the minute I took my first screen test and he dropped all of his interest in you because of me. I was his chance to revive his own career as a producer.” Her smile was almost evil. “Until I ditched him. Just like he dumped us.”
Cassie’s heart was pounding in her ears. “This is ridiculous,” she whispered, all the while knowing Allie wasn’t completely off the mark as far as her original intentions of getting Allie to come to California. Cassie had begged her to come, then regretted it when Allie’s celebrity had skyrocketed. But over time Cassie had mellowed, accepted that Allie was the better actress, the true star in the family. She didn’t want the argument to escalate, so she tried to back down. As rain pummeled the windows, Cassie used every device she’d learned from years in therapy to walk away before things got worse. She backed up a step, mentally counted to ten, then said, “I’m outta here,” and headed for the entry hall and her jacket.
“Sure,” Allie mocked. “Run away. That’s what you’re good at.”
Cassie fought the urge to bite back. This was childish. Stupid. Like all their dumb sibling stuff. She jammed her arms into the jacket’s sleeves.
“You’re absolutely pathetic,” Allie charged.
“I guess we’re even,” she stated flatly. “Because I wish you weren’t my sister, either.”
At that last salvo, Allie hurried after her, standing only inches from her as Cassie cinched the jacket’s belt tightly around her waist. “Get out and don’t come back.”
“You’ve been a pain in the ass forever, Allie.” Reaching for the door handle, she made the colossal mistake of adding, “I wish you’d never been born!”
Slap! Allie’s palm struck.
Pain exploded in Cassie’s head as it spun.
She stumbled back a step, recoiling in shock.
“Bitch!” Allie cried, her features twisted.
Anger pulsed red inside Cassie’s head. Every muscle in her body bunched. Without thinking she struck back, pushing her sister so hard Allie stumbled backward into the living room, her calves colliding with the edge of the coffee table, her feet coming out from under her. She’d landed on the floor, her head glancing off the arm of the sofa, her legs sprawled.
“Shit!” Allie cried. “You’re a freak. A fucking freak!” Frantically she scooted into a sitting position and rubbed the knot that was forming on the side of her head. “Something’s seriously wrong with you!”
The words rang far too true and they’d stung.
That instant Cassie’s rage ebbed.
Allie caught the change and realized she’d hit her mark, deep into the soft center of Cassie’s insecurities. “You need help. Serious help,” Allie charged. “I mean it. You should see a shrink. I mean a real psychiatrist, not Dr. Feel Good or whatever her name is. She’s not helping. In fact, I think you’re worse from seeing her!”
Pulling herself to her feet, Allie held on to the back of the couch for support, keeping the piece of furniture between them. “Do yourself and Mom and Trent and the whole damned world a favor, Cassie. Commit yourself! Or have the state do it! You’ve never been right since that creep nearly killed you!”
Allie’s anger had dissipated and she was shaking. Pleading. She’d wounded Cassie, yes, intended to hurt her, but she’d also made a painfully true point.
Cassie had backed away and wondered at her sister’s deep-seated hatred of her. Somehow she’d left. Cassie didn’t remember much about the drive home. Had she gone straight back to her hotel room? Or had she driven aimlessly around the rain-washed streets of Portland before returning to her suite and flinging herself onto her bed? Had she returned to Allie’s apartment? Lost track of time? Done something unthinkable, something she’d regret for the rest of her life? No! She couldn’t have. Yet, she shuddered. All she really recalled was that she’d woken up hours later with a serious migraine that had nearly kept her from the shoot.
She’d arrived on set to find out that Allie’s assistant, Cherise, had called Little Bea and claimed illness. Lucinda Rinaldi had stepped into Allie’s costume for the reshooting of that final, fateful scene. It appeared that Cassie had been the last person to see her sister before Allie had fallen off the face of the earth.
“Where are you?” Cassie whispered now, leaning against the slick tiles of the tiny shower stall. Not for the first time she wondered if she were somehow at fault, at least partially. The fight. Allie hitting her head. Emotional and physical trauma that she, Cassie, had inflicted. The black hole of missing hours.
And now this. The not knowing.
She started to cry, tears mingling with the drizzle running from the showerhead over her body. Just like the guilt. Always the guilt. The truth was that she loved her sister and yes, there was envy and pain involved, even jealousy and anger, but she still remembered the scared little girl Allie had once been, the nerdy kid who’d been so shy. The girl Cassie had felt an intense need to protect. Before everything had gone so far downhill. God, what had happened to them? Angrily she swiped the salty drops away and pulled herself together. She was no use to herself or Allie or anyone by falling into a billion pieces.
Drawing a breath, she washed her hair and lathered and rinsed her body, scrubbing hard as if the very act could scour away any remaining bits of self-loathing and doubts. Once she was finished, she stepped out of the tile and glass enclosure and realized she hadn’t brought a towel with her.
Dripping, she padded to the hall closet, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her. She found a bath sheet and wrapped herself in the thick terry cloth before returning to the bathroom and swiping at the fogged-over mirror.