Cariad Cassidy


Cariad stood looking out her window as the sun rose over the lush trees, drawing the quiet around her like a cloak.

How long had she been here now? Long enough that she had to stop and think in order to come up with the answer: 7 years.

Wildside. A word whispered in her ear by a friend at a time when she needed to hear the right word. A word that had come to mean home.

She’d had many homes in many places, lived through a wide and varied range of life experiences, and had the photos, the t-shirts, and the memories to prove it—as well as a few scars and nightmares. All in all, though, she had always bounced back. Wildside had helped her do that when she first came here and now it was her refuge and her way of giving back.

The way the sun was rising over the trees made her think of the mythical phoenix—the creature that rose from the fire and ashes to live again. She liked that image very much because she believed it was true: one could burn to the ground and still rise to live again. You just had to want it enough to push past the pain. You had to gather your strength and make that first move to stand up—and you were on your way. She smiled and turned for a moment to look at the small hand-painted wooden sign hanging over her desk. It had Japanese symbols on it and she knew what they meant.

“Fall down seven times; stand up eight.”

She turned back to the window, watching the bright orb continue its climb. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the sweet fresh air, centering herself. She had a feeling it would be a busy day…that some new visitors would be arriving. She would need to be focused today, as one could never tell exactly what guests might need.

Turning away from the window, she went to her closet and picked out some black pants and a lovely deep blue blouse. She dressed simply, but there was an underlying elegance to her clothing. Because she might be found in the lobby greeting guests, or in a private spot giving instruction or lending an ear, or even helping out in the kitchen, she didn’t wear anything too fussy.

Over the years she’d been here, she’d taken on a number of roles. She considered herself a jack-of-many-trades. She often filled in as needed at the front desk, helped to keep the general areas neat and tidy, cooked a meal now and then. Her real job, however, was as a coach of sorts. She had knowledge and experience in a number of areas that were often of import to those who came to Wildside—areas that were somewhat outside the mainstream. Sometimes guests asked directly to be taught or guided or shown things; other times, she could sense what was needed and had to find ways to make the guests aware without overstepping. Most of the time, things went fairly well. Occasionally, however, something would blow up—and these were the times she appreciated Wildside most of all. She could pull back, find her peace again, reset…and then be ready for the next adventure.

She took a quick look in the mirror now that she was dressed, brushed, made up…and she smiled. Time to head over and see if the coffee was on in the main building. If not, she’d see to it.

After all, that was why she was here.
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