St. Jude

By: Grace Ashley

The parking lot felt stagnant as Jude walked across empty yellow lines. The air was weighted with the cold, heavy enough that it almost seemed like the cloud of her breath dispersed down rather than up. The lights flickered above her head with a steady, fly-like buzz. This was a time for rotting, and Jude was holding desperately to staying ripe.

She let her eyes scan the dark lot. Even with the lights, nothing seemed to be lit. This darkness was one of substance, viscous and clawed. There was no moon, and even the stars seemed to lean away from the lot as Jude’s eyes caught what—who—she was here for. She sighed deeply at the drunken heap in front of her and watched her breath sink down, down, down, placing her hands in the pockets of her coat. Jude was tired and had a paper to write tonight that needed to get done by her first class in the morning, and instead of doing that she was going to have to drag Cas home again. She would not be able to look his mother in the eyes, just like she couldn’t every single time this happened before, and Jude did not know if she could keep up with the ache of her chest every time she saw him like this. Her feet began to move forward. She was so tired.

Jude took him in as she walked, making sure to make as much noise as possible. After she had approached him quietly once, as if he was some injured deer who needed soft gentleness to heal, she had been subsequently rewarded with his scream and a fall directly onto her ass. He was more of a vulture, she knew now.

This Cas was nothing like the gentle boy she had grown up with. There was less of him, somehow. Soft blond curls were shorn close to his skull. His face was bruised and sore and empty as he rested his head on the yellow concrete parking slab. Jude could not see a bottle on him, but she knew that there was one at some point because he reeked of alcohol. Standing over Cas now, her breath still sinking in front of her, she kicked his foot. Brown eyes opened just a sliver.

“St. Jude,” he slurred with a lazy smile. “You’ve come for another lost cause.”

Cas laughed loosely as if he had made the funniest joke of the century. Jude did not find it funny at all. She just looked at him, unsmiling, but he was too lost in whatever kind of stupor he was in tonight. Jude wondered if it was vodka or his father’s whiskey. It was more likely to be the first option; Cas wouldn’t touch anything of his father’s unless he was stupid drunk, which she did not think he was tonight. Almost, but not quite.

You are not a lost cause, Jude thought to herself desperately, not yet. Please, not yet.

She does not say this out loud, instead repeating it over and over in her head like a prayer. Still oblivious to her mood, Cas laughs a little bit more and his grin made his face seem like it used to be. Open, maybe. Content.

“I’m not a saint, Cas,” Jude sighs, “but you are drunk and it is time to go home.” He sat up—or at least tried to, seeing that his spatial awareness was not exactly up to par, and it took him nearly five tries—and he rubbed at his eyes. Cas hissed at the contact as he was met with bruises from whatever fights he had gotten into the past couple of days, and he brought his hands down to look at them. Taking in split knuckles and dried blood, Jude opened her mouth to say something about how stupid or impulsive he was, but her eyes moved to his face and she froze. Cas looked so tired. This was the kind of tired that was bone-deep and marrow rich, an endless supply of nutrients and unhappiness to keep exhaustion going strong. This went past just a lack of sleep. Jude had to close her eyes to maintain her balance as dread pressed on her, adding to the stagnant, heavy air of the parking lot.

“I hope you’re a saint, Jude,” he whispered messily to himself. “I am in need of saving, and I think that some divine intervention is required to get the job done.”

Jude kept her eyes closed. Cas kept his eyes open. What a pair they were: two deadly bacteriain this festering lot. Sometimes, Cas thinks that Jude was what ruined him, but that is only when he remembers her soft hands on his face, which is to say all the time. He knows that she is not to blame, not really—the thought is selfish and childish—but that did not stop his bitterness at the thought of his cold, untouched cheek. He knew that it was his fault, not hers. No—it was his father’s, for dying without letting Cas say that he was sorry for breaking his favorite St. Peter figurine. That one that reminded him of Cas to begin with, keys to heaven in hand. The irony didn’t escape him, even in his drunken state.

“Upon this stone, I build my church of misery,” Cas mumbled incoherently. “Thanks for that, dad. What a fucking gift.”

He closed his eyes now, brows furrowed as Cas tried to push away the thoughts and Jude tried to understand what he said, but he was too drunk to do anything but float in his bad memories. Cas put the heels of his hands back to his eyes and pressed hard, not caring about the pain of his bruises. He was so tired of  this.

When will I wake up?, Cas asks himself, chest beginning to heave.

When will I wake up?

When will I wake up?

When will I wake up?

Eyes now open, Jude watched Cas as he sobbed. There was a stinging in her eyes, and she blinked furiously to banish it. She would not cry for him anymore. There are rivers less full than the one she carved over him, and he does not deserve it anymore. Not when he has given up so fully. She looked away from him and scanned the lot for his car, but it was empty. Did he walk here? His house is miles away. Jude did not want to think of him walking along the busy roads to get here, precariously balancing on the edge of the sidewalk as he always did when he was drunk, but she did anyway. A tear slipped down her cheek and she wiped it away roughly. She moved over to his side in two steps, pulling his hands away from his face. Cas didn’t fight her. He only looked into her eyes, strands of dark brown hair partially obscuring them. Jude did not put her hand to his cheek, but Cas wishes that she would.

 “Come on, Cas. Your mom is worried sick about you.I am worried sick about you. Let’s get you home.”

His eyes shuttered. “I’m so tired, St. Jude. Why are sins so heavy?” he asked, slurring the words.

I don’t know, Jude wants to say, but I will carry them if you let me. Please let me help you, Cas. Let me take you home and hold you until you forget what grief is.

But she did not say this. She is not a saint. She is tired and he is tired and they have both forgotten what it means to be awake.

So she just said, “Let’s go, Cassian.” There was no sympathy in her words, no love or kindness. Just a supreme emptiness. She watched a wall go up behind his eyes.

“Fuck off, Jude.”

Cas had meant to say it with venom, but it was flat and broken instead. Jude sighed and grabbed his arm to pull him up. He was always so much bigger than her, even when they were kids, so pulling him up was a battle of balance and strength that she was determined to win. Cas let her do all of this. He wished she was St. Jude. But she was not and never would be. The air was cold and stagnant as they walked to Jude’s car. The lights flickered and the stars leaned desperately away from the scene as the clouds of their breath sank down into the rot.