Friday, August 17, 2012

Cassidy May

Cassidy May knew her priorities.

Many people did, she found. They might pretend they didn't, or try not to think of it, but they knew, and she'd been taught to be honest with herself.

They were nearly always the same, too. The shared ones, anyway. Where you valued yourself varied with your self-worth, and there weren't any words for different kinds of friends, so those could go anywhere, but family was easy.

First, the children. Many people genuinely had trouble here, but Cassidy May didn't, because she had but one child. A beautiful child with hair as dark as night, whom she'd die or kill for.

Next, one's mate. This was an important term, and one Cassidy May couldn't find a perfect word for. One's spouse almost always counted, and one's boyfriend or girlfriend rarely did unless you were married in every way but the ceremonial one. The salt and pepper shakers were mates, because they weren't a whole thing without the other. That's what a mate was. And, though a mate would nearly always occupy this space, you would do more for a mate you had a child by.

Then came siblings. This was where people would start to balk at her. Those who weren't siblings would say siblings should come after parents, and those who had siblings but not mates would insist that siblings would always be more important. But those who had both tended to go quiet in the way that meant agreement.

Some cousins and some friends were siblings, in truth, and were sorted that way. It would be hard to choose between them, but the issue generally didn't come up--if only one sibling was in danger, you all fought for them. If more than one was, you fought for everyone. Siblings fought for each other.

Next came parents. It was easier than one might think to put parents after one's children, mate, and siblings, because your parents saw it as their grandchildren, their child's happiness, and their children. Cassidy May never asked, and they never said, but this is the highest place on the list that the parents would accept.

The rest got fuzzier. No etiquette, no demands. Friends didn't need to be family to be some of the most important things in the world to you. But, important as they were, they were still friends, and there was no familial duty to them. That was what a friend was, when they weren't family, too--you choose them, every step of the way, and they choose you. Cassidy May could imagine choosing to anger a family member for the sake of a friend, or even to cut off all contact. But when it came right down to life or death, she knew where she'd place herself.

Whatever else family might be, it wasn't a choice.

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