See Part 1



A Sweet Surrender

{Part V}

By Katia N. Ruiz

Copyright 1999


Ashleigh could see the bags under Cassidy’s eyes as she sipped on her tea. Cassidy sat across from her, her eyes eloquently revealing her despair. She was silent, seemingly empty inside, her only movements being those of bringing herself to the small café and of sipping from her cup the hard liquor that Ashleigh had been trying to prevent her from drinking. She had an idea of what had happened, getting the story from Andrea herself, who sounded as bad as Cassidy looked.

It had been over a month since they’d last seen one another, and the pain was palpable.

Ashleigh wondered why Cassidy had not told Andrea the truth of her feelings when she had the chance, and called her friend on it. Cassidy just shrugged and didn’t say much more. She seemed to have given up hope on life. She wasn’t working, she wasn’t writing, and Joel was becoming worried about her. He even called Ashleigh, whom he knew to be her doctor, to find out "what could possibly be wrong with Cassidy."

George had called Ashleigh too on behalf of herself and Gretchen; they’d both had dinner only once during that month with Cassidy, who had seemed to them empty inside. Robie was very worried, Cassidy would cry in her arms when they spent time together, had completely shut down in every way they’d had connections. She never smiled any more. She was in a complete emotional shutdown. She was much thinner, was obviously not eating much and drinking more, and was not worrying about her health, which still needed care.

Cassidy took a deep breath and sat back on her chair, fingering the glass of alcohol with her strong fingers, her watery eyes fastened onto the shiny exterior of the glass. "I have to go." She finally said in a hoarse lifeless voice. "I promised my friend Josua I’d go see him today."

Ashleigh felt her heart shiver at the sight of her friend, who was basically going backwards in time to the emotional mess she was ten years before. "I want to speak with you, Cassidy." Ashleigh said pleadingly, trying to pry through the wall Cassidy had built for herself. "I miss you."

Cassidy’s practically emotionless expression didn’t change, but her shoulders slouched. "There’s nothing to speak about," She said shortly, and stood up from her chair abruptly. She fished into her pocket and threw a bill onto the tabletop, walking away from the table without another word.

She was gone by the time Ashleigh reached the street, trying to stop her. Ashleigh felt her heart ache, felt the tears coming to her eyes as she thought of what Cassidy was capable of doing to herself. She pulled her cellular out of her jacket pocket and dialed.

She left a message on Cassidy’s machine, hoping that she was at least checking the messages. "Listen, you left, and didn’t even let me tell you that George and Gretchen asked me to let you know to meet us at Crystal Bar next Friday night, we’ll be there at about ten. They were celebrating Gretchen’s victory in the courts last week. You better be there, or I’ll go find you at your place."

Andrea had withdrawn from Jeffrey, would hardly let him touch her, and he instantly knew something had changed in her. He already suspected what it was, and was already planning his revenge. Not on Andrea, but on Cassidy. Something told him she had changed his beautiful lover, had completely locked her doors to him. He demanded to know if they’d made love, and Andrea didn’t have the sense to admit or deny anything.

She’d taken time off work, asking for a week or so, finding that her emotions were getting the better of her, and that she couldn’t concentrate on her lessons. The school gladly gave her the time she needed, sensing her addlebrained anguish. She’d break down in tears in the middle of a class, was coming in with dark bags under her eyes, and couldn’t keep her hands still long enough to even write on the blackboards. The school was afraid she was having a nervous breakdown, and welcomed the opportunity for her to be able to deal with her problems. They valued her talent with the students and hoped that she could relax and come back the same Andrea she was before.

Jeffrey, on the other hand, demanded and demanded to know now what was happening to her, why she was withdrawing from him in that way. She refused to even look at him, pleading for him to give her time, to leave her be for a while.

She didn’t know how to deal with the knowledge that she was helplessly in love with Cassidy, and that Cassidy had all but told her she didn’t feel the same way.


Josua Maldonado was a cocaine addict.

An accountant, miraculously successful, dependent on his drug to give him the energy he needed to pass the day without flipping out at the office. He was meticulously neat when it came to his work, careful not to show his dependence on the drug. No one could ever say he didn’t do his job, didn’t perform higher than their standards. His office stash of cocaine was maintained in his suitcase; a small pocket mirror, a small sharp razor blade, a half piece of a drinking straw, and the most important of all, the tiny bag with the white clumps of powder.

He would lock himself into a stool in the restroom, pull out his supply, and proceed to chop at it with the blade on the mirror, until it was only powder, then he would separate the mound into lines and snort up about three, sometimes more.

He was handsome, in a pretty boy sort of way. Along with delicate, yet strong, features, a large muscular body, and cute brown eyes, he had the perfect disarming smile. He dressed in all the latest fashions, and got his supply from the clothes salesman himself.

Cassidy was his friend, knew him since high school, in fact. He’d been addicted almost since graduation, and she’d been trying to stop him, trying to convince him to get himself into a rehabilitation program. Of course, he good-naturedly spurned her advice, and never lost his temper with anyone, no matter how much people insulted his addiction. He’d just shrug them off and go and run a couple of lines for comfort.

But along with trying to stop him, Cassidy often went to see him because he listened. As high as he may be, as busy as he was, he always had time for her; always maintained that she was the best friend he could have just for the fact that she worried about him.

Today, she went to just sit and be companionable, to just sit in silence and listen to the music that they both liked so much. He opened the door at her ringing the doorbell, and exclaimed at her: "Girl, you look like shit!" He was hyper, his hands were shaking, and he obviously needed his treatment; he kept sniffing, and his thick upper lip twitched just slightly.

Cassidy shrugged, she could always use brutal honesty, and whom better than from Josua Maldonado. She strode past him and flopped onto the couch, her hands deep into her light jean jacket’s pockets. She wasn’t dressed like her usual self, and that’s what Josua noticed the second he saw her. She didn’t look bad, not at all, but she seemed roughed. She wore black baggy sweats, a gray T-shirt, and white sneakers. She’d let her thick mane of hair hang loose and free, covering her face as she stared down at her lap. "Mind if I keep you company?" She asked quietly, not caring if he said no. She would stay anyway.

But of course, Josua would never say no to Cassidy, his good buddy. "Of course I don’t mind, honey." He said, and sat on the couch next to her. He reached under the couch, where he hid some of his stash and other equipment, and placed it on the coffee table.

Cassidy watched almost blankly as he pulled open the little bag with the white chunky powder, poured it onto the mirror, proceeded to chop it into dust, and separated it into six lines. He reached down again, and pulled out a little box, placing it on the coffee table also, and opened it. He retrieved another piece of his endless supply of cut up straws. He ran two lines in quick succession, and sighed as he placed the down the mirror and closed his eyes. He inhaled deeply, feeling the rush go through him and settle into a mellow haze on his body.

He smiled lazily, and turned to look at Cassidy. "Talk to me." He said softly, very slowly. Cassidy shook her head, and stared down at the floor. Josua reached for the mirror, and pushed it towards Cassidy. "Do it." He said slowly, his words running together and slurring. Cassidy turned her face away and shook her head no. "Come on," He insisted. "It relaxes me, and you look like you need some relaxation." Cassidy shook her head again. "Look, do it only this time." He said gently, in a motherly tone. "If you don’t like, it never has to happen again. It’ll help you talk to me, it’ll allow you to open up." He pushed it further towards her, tempting her with his gently manipulating words.

Cassidy stared down at the mirror held so close to her face, expressionless eyes studying the little mirror with its white snowy contents. She lifted her hand, took the mirror in her hands, and grabbed the little straw handed to her. She eyed him curiously, and he nodded encouragingly. "Come on, it wont hurt you, babe. Trust me." He said softly. Cassidy looked down at the powdery mirror again, and shrugged, lifting it towards her face and placing the straw inside her nostril and against a line.

She inhaled slowly, and felt a flash of sudden energy move up from her nostril and into her body. She felt her eyes roll and shook her head quickly, blinking rapidly. Josua nudged her hand holding the mirror. "Do another one, come on." He said slowly. She did, and gasped at the feeling, tasting the drug on her tongue. It was like a dissolved aspirin, the taste on her tongue. She licked her lower lip, then her upper, standing up from the couch unsteadily. Josua took the hand mirror away from her, watching her walk around rubbing her nose. She stopped by the radio, and flipped the little switch, pumping up the volume.

Hard rock, Josua’s type of music, came on, and she moved her head into the rhythm. She dizzily eyed the mirror in Josua’s hand, and moved towards him, taking it from his hand. He watched her pull another line, and then another, swaying at the feeling. He took the mirror from her hand and placed it on the coffee table. She moved away from him, pressing on a nostril, sucking in deeply. Through a haze, she walked through the apartment. It was true; the drug made her feel so much better, so much more energetic. So high. She felt as if she were flying amongst the clouds, and began to spin around the room with her arms outstretched.

For now, she was in another world, in another dimension. A place where she wouldn’t have to think about her problems, her depression. A feeling of dizzying bliss overtook her, and she gave herself to it.

She woke up in her own apartment the next morning. She was on her bed, completely dressed, still holding her keys in her fist. A terrible headache greeted her, and she groaned, burying her face into the pillow, hiding from the blare of the sunlight coming in through the opened shades. Struggling up onto her hands and knees, she wondered idly how she could have possibly gotten home by herself. She could remember snorting so much cocaine, running around the apartment through a dizzy haze, and then nothing. Nothing at all.

She sat down, and heard the occasional bleep from her answering machine; the beep that indicated that there were messages waiting. She stood up unsteadily, swaying slightly. Stumbling into the living room, she went towards her machine and pressed the button. It was a message from Ashleigh. She said: Listen, you left and didn’t even let me tell you that George and Gretchen asked me to let you know to meet us at Crystal Bar next Friday night, we’ll be there at about ten. They’re celebrating Gretchen’s victory in the courts last week. You better be there, or I’ll go find you at your place.


It was next Friday. Crystal Bar was a medium sized location in the middle of the city. Its patrons were lesbians from other towns who would come in and dance or drink the night away with the sensuous and sometimes fast music. Its dance floor was in the center of the location, while the bar was all the way in the back; the high stools and tables were all around the wood dance floor. Track lights surrounded the hard wood dance floor; some lighting was around the domed mirrored ceiling. Tonight, the place was full; many were friends of Gretchen, others were admirers. All celebrated her victory in court.

Not that this was a first win for her, everyone knew she’d won all her previous cases. It was that this was her first case in Hate Crimes. Usually, she’d done crimes against women in general, rapes, murder, etc. This case she worked on was a hate crime against her client, a young prominent lesbian woman who was beaten severely by three eighteen year old female high school students upon dropping off her girlfriend at work and kissing her openly. The three young women should have been in school, but instead, were walking around in the streets.

They claimed to be disgusted and distraught when they saw this display of ‘unnatural behavior,’ as their lawyer described with oh, so much feeling. Of course, Gretchen countered that because what someone does with their business does not agree with their morals or opinions, they do not deserve to receive the treatment that her client received. Plus she threw in many more arguments, all plausible. In the end, each girl got four years in jail, plus probation afterward for two years. The slightest indiscretion would send them back to jail.

So now Gretchen was dancing away with George, both looking sexy in their attire. Gretchen wearing a tight black dress that hugged her rounded seductive curves very attractively. George wore loose black slacks; a white shirt tucked snugly in, opened all the way down to mid belly. Her black hair was a little longer, curling back attractively. Ashleigh was there too, dancing with a particularly attractive young woman, one of many already there; looking gallant in brown slacks and V-neck sweater that complimented her long, lithe body. Robie stood in the back, a glass of Sex on the Beach in her slender hand; she wore a short red-silk slip of a dress that clung to her slim body perfectly.

She was silently worried, waiting for Cassidy to arrive, her eyes shifting to the entrance from time to time. After the song ended and another one began, Ashleigh made her way to her, and noticed her worried frown. "Are you okay?" She asked, close to her ear. Robie nodded, and looked up to meet her eyes. She was very aware of Ashleigh’s attractiveness. "Just a little worried about Cassidy and Andrea. Neither one has showed up yet." She said, looking into Ashleigh’s eyes. Ashleigh hadn’t noticed Robie’s discomfort, and nodded. "You were the one who called Andrea, right?" She asked.

Robie nodded, and caught sight of Andrea coming in through the doors, looking around the bar and catching her wave. Ashleigh caught sight of her and smiled as she jostled her way gingerly through the crowd. Andrea was beautiful with her long hair parted to the side, some falling over her smooth forehead. She wore black feminine slacks and a white soft V-neck shirt that hugged her breasts. Her makeup was applied softly, only a touch of blush and a light covering of lipstick. Both Ashleigh and Robie stared, entranced by her beauty, thinking that Cassidy could be incredibly stupid sometimes.

Andrea smiled at them, her eyes wandering over the crowd of women. She was looking for Cassidy, and frowned softly when she didn’t see her. "Cassidy here?" She asked over the music.

"Not yet." Robie answered, and both caught sight of Cassidy striding through the doors.

Andrea’s breath caught in her throat as Cassidy’s eyes met hers. Cassidy seemed flustered to see her there, and stood immobile, staring. Ashleigh couldn’t mistake the look of intense love and desire going through Andrea’s features and she followed her gaze, seeing the same look take over Cassidy’s expression. Ashleigh gestured Cassidy over when she realized Cassidy was rooted to the spot she stood on. Cassidy, looking down, made her way through the crowd of women, catching the eye of many of them.

When she stood in front of them, she studiously avoided any more eye contact with Andrea. After greeting Ashleigh and Robie with hugs and kisses, she stood awkwardly staring at the floor in front of her. Andrea took in her clothes, a brown gap sweater, and black slacks and loafers, and a stronger surge of desire overwhelmed her. "Hi," Andrea finally said, wanting to reach out and run her fingers through her hair, which was loose over her straight shoulders. "How are you?" She asked, moving closer, looking up at her face, and trying to force eye contact.

Finally, Cassidy looked up; meeting her eyes bravely, she shrugged. She said unconvincingly: "Okay, I guess." She said. She realized Robie and Ashleigh had moved away, and looked around.

"They’re dancing." Andrea said, and lifted her hand to touch Cassidy’s face softly.

Cassidy trembled and closed her eyes, feeling the soft fingers touching her hot skin. She turned her face to press her lips against the silky skin of Andrea’s palm. Andrea’s breath caught as her smooth lips pressed against her palm. Her body igniting with a wave of passion. But then Cassidy stepped back and shoved her aching hands into her pockets again. She was fighting the urge to take Andrea into her arms. She loved her so much it hurt, and it killed her.

Andrea stared at her, aching to kiss her.

And then Gretchen and George were upon them, happy to see them. Hugs and kisses were traded all around. George offered Cassidy a drink, and both women made their way to the bar. While they waited for their drinks, George turned to Cassidy and stared at her intently. Cassidy kept her face studiously expressionless. "So how are you, mate?" George asked lightly, trying not to let her concern show through.

Cassidy leaned closer. "I’m okay." She said.

George didn’t believe her for one second; she could see the weight loss, the extremely somber expression, and the depression. She was still so beautiful, though, despite the absent smile, and the thinness. Cassidy’s Scotch and George’s White Russian arrived. Cassidy downed her Scotch in one gulp, grimacing slightly, and gestured to the bartender for another one. George was astounded, and didn’t know what to think. They walked back to their friends, not talking.

Gretchen took the glass away from Cassidy, and pulled her towards the dance floor, winking at George. Cassidy didn’t resist, and wrapped her arms around Gretchen’s waist, pulling her comfortably close; she didn’t want to look into her eyes. "Cassidy," Gretchen said into her ear as they moved to the music. "You can’t lie to me. How are you?"

Cassidy knew she couldn’t lie to Gretchen, who knew her so well. So she didn’t answer, closing her eyes tightly and burying her face into Gretchen’s shoulder. Gretchen cradled her head with a hand, feeling tears come to her eyes, and sighing: "Oh, Cassidy, what are you doing to yourself, honey?"

Cassidy shook her head and pulled back as the song ended. They returned to their crowd, and they began chatting. A young nubile thing, of about twenty-two, prettily blonde and luscious, flanked Gretchen’s side, never taking her eyes off Cassidy. Andrea noticed, and a flash of jealousy flashed through her. She moved up close to Cassidy, slipping her hand through hers. Cassidy looked down at her with a confused expression, and Andrea whispered in her ear: "Dance with me."

Cassidy was silent, but didn’t resist when Andrea pulled Cassidy to the dance floor as a romantic song began blaring from the huge speakers. Everyone noticed the jealousy that flashed through Andrea, and glanced at each other with tiny smiles; the young woman asked Gretchen if that was Cassidy’s lover; Gretchen didn’t answer.

Andrea wrapped her arms around Cassidy’s neck, and pressed her body close to hers. She felt Cassidy’s warm breath brushing against her forehead grow uneven, and pulled her even closer to herself. Cassidy slowly, and reluctantly, wrapped her arms around Andrea’s small waist. Their bodies molded, melting together. They swayed slowly, sensuously to the music; their hips rocked together, creating body memory of their torrid lovemaking. Andrea gasped as a flash of heat began between her legs, and seemed to run through her. Her arms around Cassidy's neck tightened reflexively.

Their cheeks pressed together; they lost themselves in the heat of their dance, their bodies reacting to one another with flashes of heat and wetness. Andrea ran her fingers through Cassidy’s hair; she cupped her head, pulling back and pulling Cassidy’s parted lips to her own. She kissed her fully, her mouth opening against hers. She felt Cassidy respond to her then, opening her own mouth and brushing her tongue against hers. Andrea groaned deep in her throat, and she heard Cassidy moan too. Cassidy insinuated a thigh between Andrea’s legs, and moaned when Andrea kissed her throat passionately, moaning slightly against her skin, breathing hard.

Everything and everyone around them disappeared, their passion instantly ignited. The music was their guide, their passion. Something in Cassidy broke and she pulled away with a sob. Andy moved up to her again, seeing all the emotions going through her features. Running a trembling hand over her tearing eyes, Cassidy shuddered. She broke away when Andy touched her cheek softly. Shaking her head, she backed away slowly, not meeting her pleading eyes.

She left the bar in a hurry, and Andrea followed to stop her. But when she got outside, she looked up and down the street, and couldn’t find her anywhere. She ran back inside, to retrieve her jacket. Gretchen stopped her with a hand on her arm. "Where did she go?’ She demanded with a worried expression.

Andrea wanted to be on her way, she wanted to find Cassidy as soon as possible; she had seemed so terribly upset. "I don’t know, Gretchen." She said. "I’m going to go find her." She pulled away, not hearing Gretchen’s reply.


Cassidy knocked on Josua’s door, shoving her hands into her pockets nervously. She heard a sound from inside, and the door swung open. Josua was a little surprised at her presence, but he didn’t hesitate to invite her in. The apartment was dark; the TV was now on mute, the images of Charlie’s Angels moving around in the screen. Cassidy walked to the couch and flopped down onto it. Josua flopped down next to her, and looked at her sideways. "What’s up?" He asked in friendly concern, noticing her distress.

She'd been over to his apartment almost every night for the past two weeks, running lines with him, running away from the world.

Cassidy glanced at him briefly, then looked down at her lap again. "Too many things." She said quietly, shaking her head slowly. She looked at him again, and met his eyes. "Got some more of that stuff?" She asked with an expressionless voice, her face unreadable. Josua stared at her for a long moment, and she stood abruptly. She made for the little bar behind the couch. She reached for the Johnny Walker, uncapping the bottle and gulping directly from it. She grimaced, shivering slightly as the hot liquid washed down her throat.

She drank one mouthful after another, until the brand new bottle was halfway empty. In the meantime, Josua had fixed the white rocks into powder and then neatly separated them into lines. He pulled out the piece of straw from his little box kit, and handed it to Cassidy along with the mirror covered with seven lines of the white poison.

Quickly, she inhaled a line, feeling the high rush to her head almost instantly. It felt stronger because of the alcohol already pumping through her. She inhaled another line, and the sharp bitter taste invaded her tongue. She breathed in deeply, closing her eyes. Her heart beat erratically, but she ignored it. Another thin line and she was ready to shoot through the roof. She liked this too much. Sensing that Cassidy wasn't about to share, Josua was getting some more ready for himself on another mirror he had, and was unaware that Cassidy was consuming too much of the cocaine, and too fast.

By the time all the lines were inhaled, the coke-induced energy was running through her system at an unnatural pace. Her hands were trembling, her eyes blinking rapidly and narrowing. She stood up unsteadily, and grabbing the bottle of scotch, stumbled towards the door. She couldn’t think, her heart beat wildly, her head felt like it was floating. She gulped the Scotch carelessly. The bottle dropped from her hands, it shattered on the floor. She turned to Josua and stared uncomprehendingly at him, he was lying back on the couch, relaxing after running a couple of lines, eyes closed and a smile on his lips. He didn’t notice when she stumbled out the door.



Andrea was so worried; she stood pacing in front of Cassidy’s building. She’d been knocking on her door for the past hour and a half, and decided to wait out front until Cassidy returned; she had left her own key that last day they’d been together. She kept running nervous hands through her hair; she was so worried and scared. She’d seen the way Cassidy looked after not seeing her all that time, and it was not good. She knew Cassidy was doing something unhealthy, and she wanted to stop her. But she didn’t know where to find her.

Andrea leaned against her car, staring up at the building. She tried to see any sign of movement inside Cassidy’s window, thinking that maybe Cassidy was trying to avoid her. But no, there was nothing. She stood helplessly outside, feeling tears filling her eyes. She wondered why Cassidy was doing this to her, to herself, when they could just fall into each other’s arms and be happy together. She loved Cassidy so much, was so in love with her. She was suffering. She didn’t care if Cassidy didn’t feel the same way towards her; she’d be willing to try to win her heart in any way she could.

A movement caught her eye to her left, and she turned her eyes to the source. Cassidy. Stumbling up the block, trying to hold her own self up with a hand grabbing at fences, her feet dragged one after the other; her body leaned heavily against the fences. She was struggling noisily for breath, her eyelids fluttering, eyes rolling; she held a hand to her chest, grasping her shirt tightly, pulling at it. Andrea could see the sweat gathered thickly all over her forehead, could see the struggle to stay upright. A struggle that she was loosing.

"Cassidy!" Andrea cried out as she ran to her side, and noticed with dismay the white powder lingering around her nostrils. "Oh God, no!"

"Andy…" Cassidy whispered brokenly. Then her eyes rolled in their sockets, and she tipped forward, falling to the cement, face forward with a loud thud.

"Cassidy!" Andrea screamed, shaking her by the shoulder. She flipped her over and was horrified to see that the area around her lips was blue, a sign that she was already not breathing. With a cry, Andrea reached into her purse for her cellular and dialed 9-1-1.


Within minutes, an ambulance was there; the paramedics were working over Cassidy. They’d resuscitated her and were now readying her for a quick transportation to the hospital.

Andrea sat nearby, sobbing desperately into the shoulder of a female neighbor of Cassidy’s.


Ashleigh, Robie, Gretchen and George sat having a very early breakfast in a nearby restaurant. Gretchen was telling them what she’d seen in the bar, when Cassidy had run out on Andrea. They’d been there, waiting to hear from Andrea about Cassidy. Robie stared at the table pensively, while the others talked quietly. Around a mouthful of egg sandwich, George said with finality: "Let’s go to Cassidy’s place, we’re wasting time here."

Ashleigh agreed and all four women stood up, while at the same time George signaled for the ticket. The ring of Ashleigh’s cellular telephone jarred them momentarily. Crisply, Ashleigh answered. "We have one of your patients here, Doctor Simmons." A nurse at her hospital replied after introducing herself. "Not in very good condition, ma’am. Critical."

"Name?" Ashleigh demanded, dread a bad feeling at the pit of her full stomach. She was already striding out of the restaurant, Robie and Gretchen following; George remained behind to pay the bill.

The nurse remained impersonal; the sound of shuffling papers annoying as she looked for the name. "The name is Cassidy Monsignor." She finally answered.

Ashleigh’s step faltered, and she tried to remain matter of fact. "Give me details." She ordered, her voice thick, unlocking the doors to her black Saab quickly, climbing in.

The nurse reported, reading from the papers: "Overdose on Cocaine, was brought in after a pulmonary arrest…"

Ashleigh closed her eyes against the anxiety the report conjured, one hand gripping the steering wheel tightly. Gretchen and Robie knew something was up, and they didn’t allow her to close her door yet. George had joined them and demanded to know what was going on. As the nurse finished her report, Ashleigh said: "Ill be there in ten minutes." And hung up, looking up at her friends with expressionless eyes. "Get in." She instructed softly.

"What is it?" Gretchen demanded, while at the same time all of them were climbing into the black Saab, George in the front and the rest in the back.

Ashleigh started the car, and drove quickly out of the restaurant’s parking lot. She remained quiet, concentrating on the road. "Ashleigh," George said softly. "Tell us what’s going on. Is it Cassidy?"

Ashleigh nodded slowly, and bit her lower lip. "She’s in the hospital again." She said wearily, shaking her head slowly, hearing Gretchen’s breath catch from behind her. "Overdosed on coke."

A sudden outburst from George startled them all; she pounded on the headboard wildly, cursing. Suddenly, she stopped, staring out the windshield. "Damn it!" She yelled, pounding again on the headboard. "Is she alive?" She asked, suddenly calm, slouching on her seat.

Ashleigh nodded yes as she made a right on that last street before the hospital. "Pulmonary arrest." She replied. "She’s in critical condition."

"Who found her?" Gretchen asked quietly.

Ashleigh searched the rearview mirror for Robie, who seemed at a loss of words and close to tears. She sighed. "I don’t know." She said. She pulled into the emergency room parking lot, and stopped the car, glancing at George. "Park it, will you?" She said, and didn’t wait for an answer, jumping out and running towards the entrance. She caught sight of Andrea as she ran up towards the entrance to the restricted area of the emergency area.

Andrea saw her with tearful, red-rimmed eyes, and stood up from the chair she was huddling on. She stared after her as Ashleigh acknowledged her with a perfunctory nod. She strode in through the heavy double doors to the emergency room. The head doctor of the emergency room, a stocky gray haired man in his forties, greeted her, already knowing that she was coming in. He pulled her towards the area Cassidy was in as she donned the scrubs. "How’s she holding up, Marco?" She demanded.

"Stable now, Ashleigh, but very critical." He replied; his voice was expressionless. "I know she’s a personal friend of yours, and that you’re her doctor as well, but you need to be practical. Okay?" Ashleigh nodded. "Because you see, we did some blood work, and this woman consumed enough cocaine for about three people. It must have been in the process of about one hour or less. Whoever provided her with this poison, must have wanted her dead or been in a high of his or her own, to let her consume so much."

Ashleigh nodded as he guided her to the compartment in which they’d accommodated Cassidy. Ashleigh sighed at the sight of her friend, who looked worse now than when she’d been there the last time. She had respiratory help, a thick tube taped to her cheek and going in through her mouth; it guided the oxygen into her lungs from its connection to a machine, making her weakened lungs inhale and exhale. An IV line ran from her right arm, connected to a bag of feed for her system; another was connected to her other wrist, a solution to clean the filth in her blood. Ashleigh stepped up close to the stretcher, and looked her friend and patient over.

Cassidy was so thin, so pale and bluish. Ashleigh knew that she’d had a close call, and that she was still close. Cassidy’s chest rose and fell shallowly, letting her know that her lungs were weak, and that they weren’t responding on their own, that the machine was necessary. "Any brain damage?" She asked evenly.

Doctor Marco Estevez sighed. "None that we can see yet." He said softly. "But we can’t say, at least until she wakes. She hadn’t been breathing for about two minutes by the time the paramedics arrived; it took them another couple of minutes to bring her lungs around to at least draw in some oxygen. They assisted her all the way here."

"Who called in for the ambulance?" Ashleigh asked, touching Cassidy’s forehead softly. It was cold and clammy.

"A young woman sitting outside. I thought you’d know her, since she was the one who gave us all the information about you being her doctor." Marco Estevez replied calmly.

Ashleigh nodded, staring at Cassidy’s beautiful still face. "Well," She said slowly, trying to control her voice. "I guess there’s nothing for me to do right now." She looked at him with a grateful expression. "I’d like to see tonight’s chart, and I’ll take over her care from here." She extended her hand for a shake and he shook it. "Thanks, Marco, I really appreciate your help."

He smiled at her reassuringly. "She’ll come out of this one, Ashleigh. Don’t worry." He said.

Ashleigh nodded, and went to the nurse’s desk, where she was handed new green scrubs and her stethoscope from her locker. "Thank you," She said briskly.

After changing, she returned to the waiting room, where she found Gretchen, George, and Robie flanking Andrea’s side. Andrea was shaking her head, tears ran down her cheeks, her eyes were closed tightly. Robie caught sight of Ashleigh from the corner of her eye, and half turned to face her, demanding with her eyes. Ashleigh’s somber expression scared her, and she shook her head, whispering: "No."

Ashleigh smiled reassuringly. "No," She said firmly. "She’s alive, don’t worry. And I’m doing my best to keep it that way." She reached out and squeezed Robie’s shoulder gently. She continued to Andrea’s side, sitting beside her when George moved from the seat. Andrea looked at her with pleading eyes. Ashleigh wrapped her arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "It seems you keep finding yourself in situations with Cassidy that require a hospital." She whispered gently, smiling sympathetically.

Andrea nodded slowly, sobbing softly. "Ashleigh, she’s killing me!" She rocked herself slowly, her arms wrapped around herself. George kneeled in front of her, taking her hands and squeezing softly. Andrea gasped as more tears ran down her cheeks. "Why is she doing this to herself? Why?"

Ashleigh tried to hold back tears of frustration. "I don’t know." She said softly, holding Andrea tightly. "I really can’t explain Cassidy, Andrea. But I promise this; she will go to psychiatrist once she comes out of here. I’m not letting her out of this hospital unless she complies, and that will be that."

George stood up abruptly, her movements suddenly harsh and angry. "Ashleigh," She said softly. "May I speak with you?"

Ashleigh stood up, letting Robie take her place, and walked a few feet away with George. Gretchen followed, and George took her hand. George said: "The question we have to ask is who gave her this poison."

Ashleigh could see her strain for control by the way her jaw clenched and unclenched tightly. She nodded, and glanced at Gretchen. Gretchen was nodding her agreement, one arm twining around her lover's. Ashleigh sighed. "I have an idea as to who might have provided her with the drug." She said softly.

George's eyes hardened. "Who?" She demanded, clenching her fist.

Ashleigh looked down. "She has a friend, named Josua, he… ah," She hesitated. "He's a heavy coke addict, really into it. She's been trying to get him to stop for years. And you know she hasn't been exactly herself lately, she might not have refused if offered enough." She was pensive, and slipped her hands deep into the pockets of her pant scrubs.

George made eye contact with Gretchen, then looked back at Ashleigh. "Where does he live?" She demanded of her.

Ashleigh took a deep breath. "He lives on Monroe Street, a couple of blocks down from Cassidy's apartment. His building is Hastings Courts." She said, not wanting to know what George's intention was.

George nodded. "What apartment?" She asked.

"I don’t know." Ashleigh shrugged. "His name is Josua Maldonado."

George's lips pursed. "Perfect." She said. She reached into her jacket pocket for her pen, taking a paper from Ashleigh's pad. She wrote down a number. "This is my beeper number, Ashleigh. Beep me if anything. I'm taking your car." She handed her the paper, and walked to the exit, Gretchen with her.

Continued in part VI

 Return to the Academy

Katia N. Ruiz