To Have and To Hold
By Michaela Bray
Date: October 2, 2020
Ch. 11

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Townsend alighted from her white sedan and smiled cheerfully at the dour face that greeted her at the door. She grabbed a few books from the backseat and kissed the weathered cheek despite its gloomy frown. More than twelve years had passed since Anna came to live with their family and helped her then newly widowed father raise young Cassandra.

Many things had happened since then and Barry Townsend eventually remarried. Sarah Townsend was a lovely, practical woman that kept the house running like a well-oiled machine.

“Where’s everybody?” she asked the housekeeper.

“They’re out at the back.” Anna gave one of her mother’s vases a quick swipe and straightened it a little. “The twins just arrived.”

Casey’s eyes lit up at the mention of her twin brothers, Jon and James. When Sarah had brought her twin sons from her previous marriage into the family, nobody could have been happier but the young girl who had only wished for siblings her entire life.

“I’ll go out back, then,” she murmured excitedly, setting her books on an antique side table in the living room. She had not seen Jon and James since they went to university together. They had promised to come back often and visit as often as they can, especially on special occasions, like their parents’ anniversary.

“Your mother insists on doing everything ourselves,” Anna pointed out sourly, “Why couldn’t she just hire caterers for celebrations? It’s how other rich folks do it.”

Casey smiled at the housekeeper’s rant. Anna had been with the family for twelve years and had singlehandedly kept house and raised her for four years. She could understand the older woman feeling a bit miffed with another authoritative female presence in the house.

“Oh, Anna,” she smiled at the housekeeper. “It’s not really fair to keep spending all our money when we could use it to help others right? Imagine, all that money we saved over the year by keeping things small and simple and to ourselves, we could help a lot of people in Mom’s charity that way. And besides, we have not always been this rich.”

She watched the older face brighten up at the mention of saving and sighed inwardly. There was nothing Anna hated more than living beyond one’s means. Casey was very familiar with the story of how the young Anna had to scrape through life because her father had gambled away what little they had after her mother died.

She smiled brightly when she heard two decidedly masculine voices talking animatedly about dorms and classes, punctuated with short bursts of the familiar and heartwarming sound of their mother’s laughter. She could not wait to tell them her news but felt that she should let the twins have the spotlight for now.

“Oh my, is that Casey-bell?” James exclaimed, using their nickname for her, before lifting her up and twirling her around. “Look how she’s grown!”

She laughed and slapped at his arm carefully. “Let me down, you brute! How dare you make jokes about my stature!”

Jonathan raised a dark eyebrow and grinned mischievously. “Well, she has grown wider.”

She put her hands on her hips the moment James set her down and aimed her sternest glare at her brothers. “Now, that’s hardly any way to greet your one and only sister. I can’t decide which one is worse.”

Sarah Townsend laughed at the antics of her children. “I agree, boys. Ladies are to be treated delicately and your sister is not exempt from that rule.”

“Lady?” Jon exclaimed, seemingly aghast. “But she’s a munchkin!”

The family erupted into a burst of laughter. They were still in stitches by the time Barry found them in the garden, mostly from the twins’ tales of university. His eyes fell on the youngest member of their family and softened imperceptibly. Casey would be going to university soon, too. He wasn’t quite sure he was about ready to let his only daughter go so far from home.

“Hi, Daddy,” Casey greeted him with a kiss on his cheek. “How was your day?”

“Nothing much, pumpkin.” Barry Townsend affectionately ruffled her blonde hair before kissing his wife’s cheek. “I’ll be away for a few days next week, though.”

Sarah nodded her head in acknowledgement. Her husband owned one of the biggest construction companies in the area and was slowly and successfully expanding the business. The new mall in another town had been taking up much of his free time but he made a conscious effort to still spend time with his family and it made her love him all the more.

“I better get dinner started.” She stood up and smoothed the front of her skirt. She looked at Casey and smiled. “You can go and freshen up, dear. As for the lot of you,” she gave the three men of the house a warning glance, “you had better be clean when you show up for dinner.”

“Yes, ma’am!” the twins chorused.

Casey managed to get her books into her desk with little effort. She took off her navy pants and carefully folded it before placing it in the hamper. She picked out a simple white skirt from the closet, where it was hanging with her white shorts and skirts, all arranged according to length. She gave her shoulder-length blonde hair a quick brush and put on a navy blue hairband with a little bow. She picked up a tube of light pink lipstick and applied a light coat over her lips and stepped back to admire her reflection.

What she saw was hardly noteworthy. Her hair was a light golden color that hung just a little past her shoulders without an evidence of a wave or curl. Her green eyes, which she got from her late mother, were slightly slanted beneath neatly trimmed eyebrows. Her nose was small and her lips a delicate little rosebud.

Everything about her was small and dainty from her slender shoulders to the tips of her tiny feet. The adolescent years had blessed her with a bit of a bosom and little flair of the hips but not much more in the height department.

A quick glance at the timepiece on her desk told her she still had some time to work on her scrapbook before dinner so she took out her supplies from the shelf. The dean of admissions from her chosen university had just signed her college admission letter and the excitement of it was going straight into her little book of memories. She smiled softly to herself and began to carefully pencil in the layout of her page.

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