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.
Kassandra scanned the garage, searching for other exits. Something not obvious. The door to the living room. The garage door. They kept catching her attention. Almost mocking her. Maybe Dad was right. There was no way out.
Then her gaze slid along the workbench and latched onto the box of razors. Every muscle tensed. It was the box. The one where she found her razor. Kassandra imagined plucking a new blade out and sliding off her glove. Exactly what she needed right now.
Dad wasn’t looking. He stood by the garage door, running a hand over the recent dent. Kassandra edged over to the workbench, but when she reached for the box, the nightingale hopped over. It pecked at the cardboard lid and then cocked its head sideways. She slid the box away from the bird.
“What do you have there?”
A quiver shot through Kassandra. Dad couldn’t see her with this. She jerked her hands away, abandoning the box.
Dad came up to the workbench. Tugging at the fishnet gloves, her gaze lingered on the razors. She prayed he wouldn’t notice them.
The nightingale provided the distraction. It waddled down the workbench and tapped at a cylindrical tube of long matches Dad had used to light the barbecue. Why was it pecking things? Was the bird hungry or something?
The nightingale hopped up and down. It clicked its beak against the plastic organizer attached to wall. This had multiple bins, each filled with screws, bolts, nails, whatever. When Kassandra snapped it open, the bird dipped its head into one of the compartments. It emerged with a metal washer, dropping it on the workbench with a clink.
“What? You can’t eat any of those things.” Just her luck. She got stuck with the world’s dumbest bird. Kassandra grabbed the matches and the washer and set them next to the box of razors.
“Do those mean something to you?”
“No. It’s just a bunch of random junk.”
Clunk. The bird knocked over a coffee cup. Pencils, sharpies and a pair of scissors spilled out onto the workbench.
Kassandra balled her hands into fists. “If you going to make a mess…” She headed over to clean the stuff up, but then the bird pecked at the cup. Recognition flickered in her brain. Taking the cup, Kassandra set it by the other objects—matches, washer, box of blades—forming a rough line. They seemed familiar, but what was the connection?
The nightingale nudged the washer out of line, scooting it forward. Then it hopped over to the other side and pecked at the box. Kassandra opened it up and saw the stack of razors inside. A twinge of doubt settled inside her chest. She brushed it aside and took one out. The nightingale snatched the razor blade in its beak. It scuttled forward and dropped it. Now the four items formed a crude square. Kassandra tilted her head. Where had she seen this before? A shiver rushed through her. Auntie Jo.
“These are all symbols for the suits in a Tarot deck.”
She grabbed his arm and pointed at the washer. “This represents coins and the coffee cup is for cups, obviously. That would make the razor blade a sword.” Kassandra pulled a long match from the cardboard tube. “So this would be a staff.”
She smiled. The nightingale agreed. The four items looked just like the symbols Auntie Jo had pointed out on the border of the cards. Kassandra snatched them all up. “Get me one of those sharpies.”
As Dad headed over to the mess of pens and pencils, she found a clean spot on the garage floor. “I’m going to draw a big Tarot card.”
Kassandra grabbed the pen from Dad and held it over the concrete, but hesitated. The sharpie wasn’t one of the symbols. Maybe she shouldn’t use it. Setting the pen to the side, she inspected the four items, finally selecting the razor blade.
Puh-twee-too. The bird hopped up and down on the workbench. Razor blade was a winner.
Dad knelt down next to her. Their knees touched, sparking a memory. She’d been ten and the bike chain had popped off. Dad worked with her for almost an hour to hook it back on, offering advice the whole time. By the end, grease coated her fingers, but the chain had been fixed. Kassandra glanced over at him. No advice this time. It was all on her. The only way to save him was to figure this out.
She placed the razor’s edge against the floor and scratched a thin line, the blade skittering along the concrete. Kassandra looked at her arm, the white scars only barely visible through the fishnet fabric.
Repositioning the blade, she started another line. Her fingers shook. This was only concrete, she reminded herself. Not skin. Yet the sensation of cutting grew stronger through the third and fourth lines. Bits of white dust coated the blade. But it might as well have been blood. She needed the razor. Just this once. It would get her back in control.
Tears welled up, threatening to gush.
Dad leaned closer. “Kassie?”
“Nothing.” She wrapped her fingers around the razor, hiding it from view.
“Yeah, we’re stuck in our old garage with a creepy meadow outside.”
Concern washed over Dad’s face. Kassandra ignored it and grabbed the cup, setting it in the lower right corner, just the way it had appeared in the border of the Tarot card. Dad watched as she set out the washer and finally the match.
“What happened to the razor?”
Kassandra shrugged but didn’t say anything.
“You just had it.” He searched around.
“I must have put it down someplace.” She clenched her fist until the blade pressed into the palm.
He frowned. “Show me your hand.”
A tremor traveled through her arms. She couldn’t keep it hidden anymore. This was Dad. She curled her fingers back, revealing the razor.
“Why did you hide it?”
“It’s just…” Kassandra fiddled with the elastic band of the glove. The metal blade rested against the black fishnet of her palm. Why should she give it up? It was hers.
“Let me see your arms.”
Kassandra froze in place. The scars peeked out from beneath the fabric. Instead of being white the way they usually were, the raised flesh appeared yellow. Nooses. Each one like the rope he used.
Dad tugged one glove down, revealing bare skin. “Oh, Kassie, what happened to you?”
“Don’t look at me like that!” She jerked back. “You’re the one who left me all alone.”
“Honey… I’m sorry.” He kept staring.
The dam broke and tears flooded out. Kassandra slapped at her cheeks, trying to wipe them away, but they kept coming.
“It’s all right.”
“No, it’s not. I’m so screwed up now.”
Dad moved forward. At first she shoved him away, but he surrounded her with those massive arms. Kassandra surrendered and let his warmth press against her.
“I don’t want to live without you anymore.”
He released her. “Give me the razor.”
With her glove slid off, it felt like she was in her room again. Alone.
“Give it to me,” he said, invoking his Dad voice.
Kassandra handed over the razor, but eyed the box on the counter. She could always snake another when he wasn’t looking. Kassandra glanced away, tensing her shoulders. No, she couldn’t keep thinking this way. This had to stop.
He held up the razor. “This only makes more pain. For you and everyone around you.” Dad glanced at the rest of her, searching for more evidence of cutting.
An ache jabbed at Kassandra’s chest. “So killing yourself is okay, but not my cutting?”
“That’s not what I said…”
“No. I get it. My scars make you uncomfortable. What about me?” She jammed a finger at the rafters. “I had to find you like that. Every time I even see a piece of yellow rope, it makes me want to gag.” Kassandra thrust out her arms. “Look at these. They’re ugly and gross. It’s how I feel on the inside.”
Dad looked away and seemed to shrink. “What I did to your mother and you… It was so selfish. I know that now.” He lowered his head. “I wanted the pain to go away. I didn’t even consider what it would do to you. How it would make you suffer.”
He turned back. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry won’t fix anything.”
Dad glanced at the scars again and winced. Kassandra tugged the glove back into place. She didn’t want his pity.
“Kassie…” Dad started.
The ache in her heart grew. But she found she couldn’t look at him. Not now.
Kassandra turned instead to the floor with the scratched out rectangle. Sweat beaded along her forehead and neck. She was the only one who could fix this. The match, washer, and cup were all in place. Only one corner was empty.
“Give me the razor.” She reached her hand out.
Dad’s hand twitched back.
“I need it to finish the design.”
He hesitated, but then passed the blade over.
Kassandra set it on the final corner. A thin crack split the concrete directly below the razor. The floor rumbled. Fractures appeared in the concrete, each fanning out from the four items.
They both scrambled away as the floor shuddered, causing the razor to hop. From somewhere below, stone ground against stone. The cracks united, forming a rectangle along the scratched out lines. A slab of concrete swung inward on rusted hinges. The washer, match, cup and razor all dropped into the hole. The instant they disappeared, the shaking stopped.
Kassandra’s breathing rushed in to fill the silence. Edging closer to the rectangular door, she peered in. “This is it. The way out.”
Dad eyed the black void in the floor. “You need to get back home. Help your mom.”
“I know. We’ll both save her.” She dusted off her jeans. “Come on.”
“I’m not going.”
“You need to come.” Kassandra stared at him. “It’s what the Tarot cards are for. They’re meant to save you.”
Dad glanced toward the rafters. A yellow rope dangled down, the end forming a noose. Had it appeared because he looked for it?
“This is where I belong.”
She grabbed his hand. “You need to be at home, with me and Mom.”
He pulled away, eyes glinting with something fierce. “You have to get to Mom. Protect her from that man.” Dad glanced at the garage door. “Promise me.”
“I will.” Kassandra nodded quickly. “But we can do it together.”
“I have to stay.”
She stiffened. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Dad needed to return with her. Change everything back to the way it was. A shiver rippled through Kassandra. “I’ll come back for you.”
He shook his head. “I don’t want you to.” Pain edged his voice. “There are some choices you just can’t undo.”
Kassandra rushed forward. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. Why couldn’t she stay here forever? Things would be so much simpler.
Finally, Dad broke the hug and stepped away. “Go.”
She turned toward the hole. There wasn’t a trace of anything in there—only blackness. Maybe it led out. Or maybe it went deeper into the Tarot cards.
Kassandra turned toward Dad. “I will come back.” Before he could respond, she took a deep breath and jumped in.