A drop of blood flowed down Cassidy's finger to the second knuckle from her fingertip, then fell down to the soil and vanished. Cassie watched her hands and the thin layer of red that coated them. The blood had already started to dry. As she watched, she heard people talking, and knew they were speaking English, but she couldn't find the strength to understand them just yet. She didn't even notice that other girl intruding on this sacred moment and asking for whatever it was she wanted.
They talked about Warren. They voted on whether to bury him. It wasn't until Cassie heard the sound of the ground being scraped and scooped next to her that she finally turned away from her hands and blinked. She looked at Maria, an act which nearly finished off her composure.
Maria looked like a completely different person. The goofy smile that captured her frenetic spirit died with Warren. In its place there stood a tortured rictus pulling the corners of her mouth down and exposing her teeth. Her cheeks glistened with the trails of tears leading down to her chin, her cheeks and nose flushed bright red, and clear mucus trickled from her nostrils. Cassie tried to think of the last time Maria had looked like this, and realized that she couldn't. She'd never seen Maria cry, not even when Zach dumped her. Nothing could get her down, ever!
If Maria's cheerful disposition couldn't even survive this... Jesus.
And so Cassie began to take on that exact same expression herself. Her vision blurred, causing her to blink. She felt hot tears flow from her eyes, then an irritation in her nose caused her to sniffle. Left with little other choice, she reached down with her red hands and started helping Maria with the digging process. By then Maria was mostly finished, having gotten the easy part out of the way. Cassie kept on going with her fresh hands, taking out rocks and pebbles as quickly as she could. She managed to get another six inches out of the whole grave, but it was bitter work. She got out of there with her fingers aching and throbbing, and upon closer inspection, fresh blood - her blood - covered a scratch running down the side of her right middle finger.
All the while, she tried to focus, tried to recall what everybody said. Nik said yes. Fiona said no. Dustin said nothing, retching instead. And Jessica also said no, but three votes beat two, and even if it didn't, these girls weren't going to listen to the naysayers anyway.
She remembered what Jessica said. She tried to sugarcoat it with all of the concerned inflections and insipid platitudes about not wanting to be the bad guy, but her point remained. Warren wasn't special. Warren was a liability now. Warren didn't deserve to be buried.
Bull. Fucking. Shit.
In a haze of anger, Cassidy retrieved her javelin and thrust it at Jessica, impaling her stomach on its sharp point. Blood flowed down the shaft of it in far greater quantities than she'd gotten from Warren, making not only her hands red but her forearms, too. She didn't look so much like an artist now. She looked feral. She looked rabid. She looked ready to bite.
"Take it back, shithead!" she said, staring into Jessica's terrified eyes as the taller girl struggled to stammer out an apology. It proved inaudible and unintelligible, which only made Cassie angrier, causing her to twist the javelin. Jessica made another sound that resembled a shrieking badger, unable to articulate anything because of the pain.
"I SAID TAKE IT BACK!" Cassie said.
Except she didn't. She didn't do any of that. Her javelin sat on the ground, too far away for her to reach it without giving the others plenty of time to react to her. Instead of hurting Jessica, she just gave her a stony, pointed glare and moved to Warren's body. She kneeled over it and let out a single sob before collecting herself again.
"Warren, I'm sorry about everything,"
she said, eyes closed. Flashes of her failed audition ran through her mind: the opening to Anesthesia, the pick slipping out of her hand, sitting on the couch watching with slackened jaw as the band performed a perfect cover of an Aerosmith song.
"When you beat me back then and got accepted as Blank Nation's bass... I couldn't be happy for you. I just couldn't." She hung her head as Maria enthusiastically congratulated her, looking back up only when that same girl, that same girl with raw fingers and a reddened face, gave her a pat on the back. They talked, and Maria tried her best to cheer Cassie up.
"There was just too much attraction for me in the idea of being in a band. I'd never gotten the opportunity before, and I came so close to doing it that day. It was only because of... of..." Cassie was inconsolable that day, though. She only half-heard Maria's words. She was too busy looking at Winston and Zach and Warren shooting the shit and discussing songs to notice. "-because of a freak accident that you beat me out, I thought!
"I couldn't let it go. I wanted to be a part of the band so badly. That's why I made so much artwork for it, Warren." Days later, Cassie looked far more cheerful, skillfully wielding a paintbrush and applying black paint over the pencilled outline of her brainchild, the band's logo. She painted a fakey fake country with four borders. To the east stood a perfectly straight line, tilted to the west. In the north, she painted a similarly angled border with a few kinks in it. Afterwards, she moved onto the western border, a more organic, wavy line, denoting a river. Lastly, she closed the country with a coastline that zigged and zagged in the south, painted a little star right above it, then in the center she wrote "BLANK NATION" in the font she'd seen in a Rand-McNally Atlas. "I kept painting and painting and put it on the flyers and shit, but at the end of the day, when Blank Nation was onstage... I wasn't with them. I was just another fan.
"I'm sorry, Warren. It wasn't your fault. And now I know..." Sniff. "I know that you were the better bassist anyway. We could have a thousand bass battles and you would win nine-to-one, at least. I'm not that good with the bass. I'm not that good with anything. Every time I get going, I get bored and focus on something else. I didn't have your dedication!"
She swallowed the snot that gathered at the back of her throat and reached under Warren's body, lifting him in both arms with great difficulty. "I wish I could have been honest with you while you were alive. I'm sorry." She lowered him into the grave as gently as she could; it turned out to just barely be big enough for him.
She tried to think of something else to say, but couldn't. Her monologue just petered out on her. It was up to Maria to finish it all.