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 Tarot cards sat on the table, so close Kassandra could reach out and snatch them. In a moment they’d zap back on their own. That was the plan. She stared at the pattern on the back. The ink was worn in places from hours of hands fidgeting over them. She needed to look away for this to work, but how could she stop thinking about the cursed things?
Luke focused all his attention on Gabriel. He wasn’t even turned toward the table anymore. Kassandra couldn’t wait any more. She reached for the deck, fingers grazing the edge of the top card. A hand slammed down.
One corner of Luke’s mouth shot up in a wicked grin. “Clever.” He scooped the deck off the table and fanned the cards out in one hand.
Gabriel lunged forward, but Luke brandished The Hanged Man card. “Care for a return visit, brother?”
Gabriel halted, his whole body slumping at the sight of that single card.
“That’s right. My brother is so predictable. When you dig deep enough, you’ll find a coward lurking inside.” Luke held out a hand. “My card please.”
Kassandra still clutched The Magician.
An engine revved outside as Mom pulled into the driveway. Luke glanced out the door, clicking the edges of the cards with one fingernail. “Where should I send Mommy?”
“No!” Kassandra shouted.
He snapped his fingers. “The card.”
She glanced outside and then at Gabriel. “Stop her.” He nodded and dashed out.
“He will only buy you time.”
Kassandra chewed her lip. He was right. Eventually Luke would get to Mom.
“You’ve run away from your destiny long enough.” He slid the Hanged Man back into the deck. “For years I’ve chased these cards. Never have I come so close. Don’t you see? You were meant to bring the deck to me.”
“No. That not true.” A tingle inched along Kassandra’s skin, spreading goosebumps.
“You yearn for one thing, yet never attain it.” He stepped forward and she picked up the scent of oranges. “What do you most desire?”
Luke patted the deck. “He’s here. Waiting for you.”
Kassandra stroked The Magician card. What if Luke really could save Dad? Shouldn’t she let him help? Her body tensed. It felt like standing at the edge of a cliff, ready to dive off. With both hands, she held the card out toward Luke. The illustration showed an empty hole chiseled from the stained glass—the silhouette of a man ready to be filled.
Luke grasped the card and tugged, but her fingers wouldn’t release. Kassandra’s heartbeat rocketed. The card was empty.
Luke pulled, but she yanked the card back.
“Give it to me!” A scowl erupted on his face.
“No. I’m going to put you back where you belong.”
Kassandra scanned the table for the razor. It worked to free Gabriel. Maybe those memories could trigger this card.
Luke plucked one of the cups and dropped it over the razor, hiding it from view, chuckling. “Face the truth. You put me in there and you kill your last hope of ever bringing Daddy back.”
She ran a finger along the edge of the card, feeling the nicks and dents. Such a flimsy thing. It reminded her of the paper doll girl. The illustration of Ezabell had seemed so real at first. But the eyes were totally flat. Soulless. Kassandra pictured Dad’s face. How the skin around his eyes wrinkled when smiling. The smell of sawdust. That’s who he was. She needed Dad all the way back. Or not at all. Tears trickled down her cheeks.
“Let me help you.” Luke reached out a hand.
Kassandra’s eyes opened. Luke’s face was calm—no sneering grin or arched eyebrow. He truly believed. She shivered, the card shaking in her grip.
“You know I will bring him back to you.” Luke held out his hand as if to hold hers. “I promise you.”
She shook her head, hiccupping as the sobbing took control. “Dad is dead.” Kassandra squeezed The Magician card, warping the paper. “We had our time together.”
An image filled Kassandra’s mind—dinner at the old house in Seattle. Her, Mom, and Dad. Everyone laughing. She couldn’t even remember why. Dad took Mom’s hand and kissed it, and then turned toward Kassandra, winking.
She smiled. Tears streamed down her face and splattered on the card. The stained glass sparkled.
Luke’s body stiffened, legs segmenting into triangles and rectangles of glass. Each panel mimicked the color of his clothes. The process sounded like a windowpane gradually cracking. He let out a wail of pain as the crystallizing panels of glass spread up his body. The last to go was his face. Cheeks, lips and nose transformed into geometric shapes of colored glass. Then his eyes flattened into two copper-colored irises ringed with lead. He became a frozen mosaic of multicolored glass, his face an expression of astonishment.
Luke had been so sure of himself. He never imagined he could fail.
Minute fissures crackled up the glass, zigzagging through Luke’s body. One by one, segments split and tumbled to the floor, shattering on impact. The crash of glass was almost continual—more and more shards piled up. They left behind an empty scaffolding of lead. Then this too crumbled to dust.
Kassandra leaned down, holding The Magician card out. It acted like a magnet and the shattered glass flew toward the paper. She almost dropped it, afraid one would slice into her fingers but the bits of glass miniaturized, darting into the illustration. One by one, the pieces filled in the empty silhouette—forming an image of Luke Rykell.
The last chunk of glass held his eyes. They seemed to plead with her. Kassandra knew what he wanted. More than anything. But it was a thing no one could have. Kassandra brought the card closer and the eyes jiggled a moment before being sucked up. The illustration was complete. Luke was gone.