This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.
The bell ended the class’s collective misery. Kassandra hustled into the hall, shoving the Death card into one pocket. She knew better than to go waving around a picture of a dancing skeleton and severed heads.
Stepping into the nearest bathroom, one foot skated a few inches on the glossy linoleum. No danger of falling, just her pulse shooting into the stratosphere. A yellow sign warned about the slippery floor. Maybe they could have put it closer to the entrance.
As Kassandra tiptoed to a stall and latched the door, the crisp scent of bleach and urine assaulted her nose. Fishing out the Death card, she stared at Dad’s head, willing it to move. Nothing changed. It stayed put, just like the illustrations in every textbook she’d ever read. Maybe she’d seen it wrong before. The eyes must have always looked forward. She rubbed her temple.
The door to the bathroom banged open, letting in the bustle of hallway traffic. Then the sound of shoes skidding on the slick floor.
“Whoa! What retard decided to wax the floors on the first day?” Kassandra recognized the voice. There was a clacking sound as a group of girls shuffled toward the sink.
“The janitor probably wants to see you break your neck,” a different girl said.
Kassandra peeked through the crack in the stall door and caught a flash of red hair: Lindsay surrounded by members of her flock.
“Oh my God, who was the charity case you were partnered with?” The first girl flicked out a tube of lipstick.
“At least you didn’t smell her.” Lindsay adjusted her bangs. “Like burnt cigarettes.”
Slinking onto the toilet, Kassandra hauled both legs up on the seat. Now they couldn’t see her.
“And those jeans.” Lindsay took the lipstick from the other girl. “They must have been from Goodwill.”
Kassandra traced her fingers along the holes at the knees, still sticky from the tumble on the bus floor.
“She’s all into death, too. Went on about this poem, Ode to a Nightingale, which is totally depressing. I read it once.”
The first girl nodded. “So Emo.”
Kassandra’ s stomach hitched up. What was with Lindsay? Had everything in class been an act? Kassandra wanted to shout in the girl’s face, but bursting from a toilet and screaming would do nothing for a high school reputation. Except label Kassandra as a loony.
Lindsay turned to face the first girl. “Diana, how do I look?”
The girls trotted carefully across the slick linoleum and out of the bathroom.
Nothing was different here. This school was just as shallow and two-faced as Seattle. Tears rose up, stinging and hot. Her hands dove into the purse. There had to be something. The house key? Nope. Too dull. Needle. Kassandra snorted. Why would she have that in her purse? Wait. Maybe if there was a paperclip at the bottom somewhere.
At home, things would be simple. Reach into the purple Doc Martens and retrieve the rolled up sock with the straight razor hidden inside. She glanced down. Although the netting of the fishnet gloves almost completely covered her arm, the white scars underneath always seemed to glow. There was no way for Kassandra to escape them.
Something sharp poked her thumb. Groping around, she located the pushpin left over from art class last year, and pulled it out. Along with it came the gold patterned deck, scattering all over the floor. One card faced up, half buried under the pile.
Tugging it free, Kassandra saw an image of two gold coins and a half naked woman—legs tastefully crossed and curled hair covering the breasts. A heap of clothes lay on the ground. Then the illustration faded. The girl. The coins. Everything. Only the border remained and the words at the bottom: two of coins.
What the heck! This was no trick of her imagination. Flipping the card over showed the same gold star pattern. Then turning it back… Still blank.
Kassandra stuffed everything back in her purse and exited the bathroom. The hall outside was desolate. The bell must have rung already, but being tardy took second place to vanishing pictures. Maybe Dad’s head didn’t move. But the illustration fading away was no joke.
Kassandra rounded the corner and heard cackling erupt from one of the classrooms. The door flew open and Lindsay stood there, eyes wide with shock. Something looked odd about the girl’s clothes. One of the shirt sleeves had vanished and patches dotted her jeans as through gobbled up by giant denim-eating moths.
Lindsay turned and glared at Kassandra as students crowded the door to gawk. The teacher tried to maintain control, but even he couldn’t avoid ogling.
Lindsay stormed past, clipping Kassandra’s shoulder in the process. Something drifted to the floor. It looked like a pink napkin or a scarf. Leaning down, she saw the other shirt sleeve. The fabric on the ground began to unravel like a mob of wriggling worms. In moments, nothing remained but pink thread.
Kassandra flipped through the Tarot deck until finding the two of coins. It was still blank, but the illustration had shown a woman losing her clothes. Did the cards do something to Lindsay?
A glance down the hall showed scraps of denim and more pink thread trailing along the linoleum.
Or maybe Kassandra had triggered something.