When still a child, Cassie had often listened to morning storms and heard the voices of the old gods in the rumble of the clouds. Mighty Zeus would speak with a growl that filled the air and echoed across the land; wise Athena replied with a quick and decisive retort, and finally bright Apollo whispered some last words to send them on their way before he brought the sun out again.
Older now, but she still listened sometimes. The storms told her secrets. Today they told her to say her truths and move on; there was no reason to stay longer in this place. The decision gave her strength. The city had worn her down with so many truths unsaid, so many hurtful secrets lingering in the shadows. She couldn't bring them all to light and she couldn't make the people believe her anyway.
She packed up her car with everything she owned and told the manager of the apartment building goodbye. The old woman was sorry to see her go; that was rare, really. She savored those words of farewell.
Then she drove across the city through the dozens of lights while everyone rushed to places they really didn't want to go. This would be the last day she went to the office with the rude woman who lorded over them all and the mousy girl who never talked back when the head of the firm hit on her.
Today would be a day of change. Cassie lived for these days, even though they came with pain, regrets and accusations. She already knew what would happen before she walked into the office and she smiled brightly anyway. The lies today would not be her own.
"This is my last day here," she announced, drawing silence in around her. "I'm leaving."
Then she went to her desk and went to work. Before long, Marie May rushed over, high heels tapping a staccato beat on the hard floor She put her hands on her trim waist and threw back dyed hair. "You can't go without two week's notice. I won't give you a good reference. This is --"
"Mr. Karlin's wife knows."
Marie May blinked and backed up a step with furtive glances right and left. "You can't know -- You little sneak. You damned little spy --"
"I never said anything to her. She's a hell of a lot smarter than you and her husband. This is the day of reckoning, Marie. She has already been to her lawyer. You'll be meeting him soon."
"You're lying, Cassie. You lie --" Marie May backed up again and then spun and hurried out of the office. Cassie caught mousy Ellen looking her way, her eyes gone wide and her face pale.
"Things are going to get better," Cassie said with a smile.
Ellen didn't believe her, of course.
Within the hour, Mr. Karlin had stormed into the room, his face thunderous with rage. People moved out of the way and Marie May pointed to Cassie. The man stalked over to the desk. "Come with me," he ordered.
"I don't think so," Cassie replied and startled him. No one ever said no to the boss. "You have nothing to say that I need to hear."
"Then I don't think you need to be at this desk."
She smiled brightly and stood. He took a hasty step back. "You're right."
Cassie picked up her purse and headed for the door. She wouldn't get paid for the last few days of work, but that hardly mattered. The others were so shocked to see her walking away that even Mr. Karlin didn't try to stop her. Stepping out into the bright light of a hot summer day was shocking, though. How long since she'd felt free to just move on? Time got lost after a while.
A woman got out of a car just beside hers. A man got out of the driver's side and gave a grim nod to the woman.
"Ask Ellen about what your husband does in the office," Cassie said.
The woman looked startled, but Cassie was already getting into her car and driving away.
Free. It was a cleaner break than some. She'd been at a dinner party once, a long, long time ago and warned the others of something dire. They hadn't listened. Everyone said she died with the rest, but what good is knowing things are going to happen if you can't walk out in time? She'd moved on and kept surviving against all odds. She had been moving on for a long time since those old days. Cassie had also learned that she could tell others the truth and it didn't matter if they believed her or not. Sometimes she could nudge things to go better than expected, but mostly things simply happened.
She made a stop at a cafe later that night. Even here she felt the old tension as she followed two teens to the register.
"If you go through with it, you're going to prison," she told them. They both looked at her, eyes narrowing in anger.
"You don't know what you're talking about," one said, his voice low and dangerous. His hand went to his pocket.
"You are going to prison," she said.
"You don't know what you're talking about. You're lying!"
It wasn't the first time she'd heard those words. She stared the two down and they cursed as they left. The woman at the register gave her an odd stare, more afraid of the crazy woman than of the boys who clearly were looking for trouble.
"There's a storm blowing in," Cassie said. "Be ready for it."
The woman nodded but she hadn't even really listened.
The storm stood off in the distance, the echo of voices soft on the wind. She turned towards the clouds and in a brief hint of lighting, she thought she saw the columned halls of home again. She hit the freeway and picked up speed, following an old, old dream.