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’s heartbeat resonated, vibrating even her skin. And yet she wasn’t able to move.
“Hey, what’s the rush Seattle girl?” Lindsay sauntered over, heels clacking on the linoleum floor. “I saw what you did to Marco.”
The other two girls fanned out to either side. Left Girl was chubby, wearing the same designer clothes as Lindsay, but the shirt rode up on her plump belly. Right Girl was lanky with chicken legs, short cropped brown hair, and thick eyebrows.
Kassandra finally spit out words. “I didn’t do anything. He’s the one who took my card.”
Did she actually say “my?” Kassandra was already thinking of the Tarot cards as hers.
“Let’s see them.” Left Girl yanked the purse away.
Kassandra clutched for it, but Left Girl held it out of reach.
“Dump it, Alexxa.” Lindsay smirked.
Alexxa flipped over the purse. Everything tumbled out: the red spiral notebook, coins left over from the Retro shopping, lip screen. The Tarot cards fell out too, but instead of scattering, they landed in a neat pile on the floor.
Lindsay scooped up the deck, glanced at the top card and then tossed it over one shoulder. Kassandra cringed, waiting for something to happen, but it drifted to the floor harmlessly.
“Look at this.” Lindsay flipped over Death showing the skeleton dancing above the three severed heads. “Wow. You are such a little death freak.”
Okay, now Kassandra wanted a card to trigger. One causing a rash or something.
Lindsay sifted through the deck—jeweled nails clicking lightly on the paper—and displayed cards marked The Devil and The Tower to the other girls.
“This is so twisted.”
A throbbing grew in Kassandra’s temples. One hand darted for the deck, but Alexxa shoved her back.
“Easy, Seattle.” Lindsay grinned, showing off a set of perfectly polished teeth. “I’ll tell you when I’m done.”
“Come on.” Right Girl fidgeted. “We’re supposed to be going to the bathroom.”
Lindsay ignored the comment and instead flicked out another card showing a lion with a blank area next to it, as though something had been scrubbed away.
“What do you think?” Lindsay showed off the card.
“Cute.” Alexxa tugged her shirt over her belly.
“Can we go?” Right Girl twisted her legs together.
“I think I’ll keep this one.” Lindsay slid the card into the Coach bag. “You don’t mind, do you Kassandra?”
Hell yes she did, but the thought remained trapped in Kassandra’s mind.
Lindsay tossed the rest of the cards and they clattered to the floor. Her gaze traveled up and down Kassandra’s body. “You should really check out a mirror before you come to school. You look like something my dog chews on.” Both girls giggled and the trio swept down the hall.
A sinking feeling filled Kassandra’s chest as she viewed the scattered remnants of the purse. Tears built up, but she held them in. No crying. Not here. Kneeling down, her skin touched the bare linoleum through the ripped jeans. Scooping together the stray coins and lip screen, she dumped them in the purse. When Kassandra had bought the crocheted bag, it was all kinds of hip. Now the frayed stitching barely held the straps on.
Her fingers brushed the red spiral notebook. It lay open, one sheet dangling by the last sprocket hole. She slid the book across the floor. Scribbled lines from Romantic poets meandered across the page. What good were these? Just words written by a bunch of guys who’d never met the likes of Lindsay Barker. Or felt passing kids stab them with their eyes.
With a sudden jerk, the page flew out of the spiral. It came out too easily. The second sheet popped as the sprockets ripped free. She wrenched out more—three and four sheets at a time. All those hours of writing and words, torn out in seconds. Finally done, notebook papers littered the floor. A hole occupied the center of the spiral. Her body quivered as tears dribbled down, nothing to stop them now. Kassandra bunched up the discarded pages along with the husk of the notebook, stuffing everything into the potato sack bag.
There it was, lying on the hallway tile: a pushpin. A shiver rippled through her, fingers closing around the plastic grip. The metal point was sharp. She needed this to get back in control. A glance behind showed no sign of Lindsay or the other girls. Except, they could return any second.
Kassandra reached for the Tarot cards, but then stopped. Why bother? They’d only zap into her purse or locker again. Even the one Lindsay snagged would find its way back. Yet her hand worked on its own, gathering the cards into one pile. A few of the blanks were face up: two of coins, Wheel of Fortune, seven of coins. Kassandra paused. The seven of coins wasn’t supposed to be blank. It was the same one she’d tried to activate in the library. Except now the seven gambling guys had vanished. The table too. Only the title and the border stayed behind.
Lindsay triggered a card.
Kassandra couldn’t wait to see what happened this time. Maybe her clothes would fall off again or she’d sprout hair all over her body. Wait. Didn’t the seven of coins have a positive meaning? Money and riches? Kassandra glanced at the blank card. So not fair. Lindsay didn’t deserve good luck.
Arroyo Grove High School featured an outdoor lunch area, as if the kids needed to absorb more sunlight like plants. Coming from a rainy climate like Seattle, Kassandra thought this ridiculous. An overhang jutted out, but this hardly covered half the tables. What did they do when it rained? Cancel lunch?
Lindsay and her entourage settled at a table in full sunlight, each member donning brand name sunglasses. Kassandra slinked around the fringe tables, wanting to be close enough to overhear the conversation but still able to blend into the crowd. Of course the plan didn’t work out. The only empty seat was a table on the outskirts. There might as well have been a neon arrow pointing to her—social outcast, right here. Plus, Lindsay’s table was so far away, Kassandra couldn’t hear them over the lunch chitchat.
The clique passed the Tarot card around, each girl giggling. Alexxa was the last one to ogle it, snorting out a laugh and setting it on the table. Kassandra turned her attention to Lindsay. Waiting. And waiting. They just kept jabbering and giggling like a reality TV show with no editing. Wouldn’t they have run out of things to say by now? Something fluttered to the ground. It was the card Lindsay had taken. No one in the group seemed to notice.
Eventually students cleared out, heading to sixth period. Lindsay and the socialites abandoned the table, traveling in a pack to better intimidate weaker students. Kassandra looked away, staring at the sack lunch Auntie Jo made. When the area cleared out, she dashed over to the table and peered underneath. A beat up Coke can and a spork. No card. She kicked the can away, just to be sure it wasn’t concealing anything.
They couldn’t have picked it up. Then another thought pinged. The card went back to the deck again. Kassandra yanked open the purse, but her fingers tangled up in all the ripped spiral pages. Flipping the purse, she dumped everything on the table. The pages spilled out along with money. Tons of it. All twenty dollar bills.
Her eyes devoured the cash. Picking a rumpled twenty up, it smelled like dirt and grease. Maybe this belonged to the guys gambling at the table.
A tingling feeling scampered along her skin. There was something wrong with this. The money couldn’t be real. Any second Andrew Jackson would turn his head just like Dad did on the Death card. Still, she counted through the pile of cash. Twice. There were thirty-five twenty dollar bills. Seven-hundred dollars.
Kassandra giggled. She was freakin’ loaded.