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.
Mom’s eyes shot open. A middle aged Romeo gawked from the bathroom door, shirt half-unbuttoned and hair combed forward to cover a balding spot.
Kassandra pushed off a carpet reeking of smoke and Cheetos. Surging forward, she wrapped Mom up in a hug. “You’re safe.”
Mom tentatively returned the embrace. “How did you get here?” She pulled away and glanced down. “What happened to you?”
Kassandra checked out the state her wardrobe: a shirt shredded on one side by the lion and flecked with blood on the other, pants caked with mud and grime, and the once red Converse now stained black.
She looked away and spied the iPhone laying on the dresser. Mom had just set it down and would have forgotten it in a matter of seconds. Then the card stashed inside… Would it have zapped over to Luke?
Mom shook her head and eyebrows bunched in confusion. “Did you follow me here?”
Comb Over Romeo’s face twisted into a mixture of surprise and annoyance. Obviously he had a different evening in mind. Something that didn’t involve a family reunion.
“I wasn’t following you. Please.” The muscles in Kassandra’s neck bunched up. “I could care less who you slum around with.”
Mom stiffened. “Kassandra Jean Troy. You will not speak to me that way.”
“How am I supposed to speak to you? You’re never around.” Why was she getting sucked into this? It was stupid. Kassandra leaned against the dresser. Stuffing one hand behind her, she groped until finding the phone.
“Louise,” Comb Over said from the bathroom. “Maybe she should leave.”
“I’ll handle this, Sam. Give me a minute.” The man grimaced as if tasting sour milk. He stomped into the bathroom, closing the door.
Mom sighed. “You and I have to talk. I’ve put this off for too long.”
“Uh huh.” Kassandra edged toward the door.
Mom bit the corner of her lip. “I don’t know where to start with you. Am I that bad of a mother?” She stepped forward, brushing a blond hair out of Kassandra’s face. Mom’s gaze scanned down and then focused on the scars, naked to the world without the gloves to hide them.
“I have to go.” Kassandra tried to move, but Mom clamped down on her wrist.
“Did you do this to yourself? How long has it been going on?” Mom’s jaw clenched, tears welling up. She let go and quickly wiped them away. “I should have kept an eye on you. I wasn’t looking. Too concerned with how to make a living. How to sell the damned house.” Mom waved her hands in spastic arcs as though batting invisible flies.
Keeping the phone out of view, Kassandra peeled away the rubber protective case. It was empty, nothing but the slick surface of the iPhone. Her legs went weak. Did it already zap away? Panicked, she looked all around the room, finally seeing the card on the carpet. The Tarot deck was being sneaky. It wanted to ditch Kassandra. The cards knew they were close to being free. She squatted and grabbed The Magician. Gabriel now held the wand and stood in front of the table. He was even dressed in the goofy red outfit. It looked so weird to see him in the card. He resembled his brother too much.
“Is that a Tarot card?” Mom asked. Kassandra shoved the card behind her back, but Mom stepped closer. “What has Joanna been teaching you?”
Kassandra shook her head. It was way too much to even attempt to explain.
Mom reached onto the dresser and grabbed her purse. “We’re going. Right now.”
“I most certainly can.” Mom pulled keys out.
This was not happening. If Mom got anywhere near Luke, he’d suck her into the deck like Auntie Jo.
Kassandra snatched the keys and barreled into the hall. Mom shouted from behind, but Kassandra ignored it and hurtled around a corner, nearly colliding with the front door. Flinging it open, she dashed out to the driveway where Mom’s Nissan was parked. Kassandra considered the keys, but she didn’t know the first thing about driving.
Mom appeared at the front door, screaming something. The Nissan sat bumper to bumper with Comb Over’s truck. Perfect. Mom wouldn’t be able to take his car either. Kassandra chucked the keys into the neighbor’s bushes and then sprinted down the street.
Her lungs huffed in and out. Thoughts about Mom and Dad and cutting all churned together. She had to clear her head. Focus on Luke. No, wait. Kassandra faltered, almost tripping. She should keep her mind mixed up. That way Luke wouldn’t how to read her thoughts. Kassandra began running again.
She was coming to save Dad. And Auntie Jo. Even Lindsay. Everyone Luke had ever imprisoned in the Tarot deck.