Luke Seems to Know What Kassandra is Thinking

Chapter 15

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.

Drawing nearer to class, Kassandra’s pace accelerated. Every step brought thoughts of bolting for the nearest exit. But she couldn’t abandon Luke. Walking next to him felt great.

They rounded the corner and the door to Honor’s English loomed. Kassandra halted. The squeak of Ms. Beehive’s marker on the whiteboard penetrated all the way into the hall. Luke stepped forward, gripping the door handle. “It’s only high school.” 

Easy for him to say. He’d probably blink and have twenty friends.

Luke opened the door and strolled inside. Ms. Beehive paused, the marker hovering above the board. Rather than head straight to the teacher, he stepped to the side to allow Kassandra to enter. Now Lindsay and her flock had an unobstructed view. Thankfully, the socialites seemed fixated on Luke. At least Mr. Good Looks could act as a distraction. Kassandra slid into the room, dropped the tardy slip on the desk, and hauled butt to the back of the class.

Lindsay muttered, “Daddy’s girl,” just loud enough to hear.

Kassandra faltered, almost nosediving into a row of chairs. Tears built up, ready to gush. She plopped in the chair and kept her head down. Just breathe. Survive this class. 

Ms. Beehive introduced Luke. Kassandra heard some desks scooting and looked up to see Lindsay clearing a spot next to her. She banished a minion to a farther orbit to make room. Shocker.

Luke strolled down the aisle and stopped at the seat. Then winked. Not at Lindsay, but at Kassandra. She instantly looked down. What was the point in watching? Luke would get sucked into the cinnamon-scented vortex soon enough.

Ms. Beehive resumed the lesson. Kassandra tried to focus on taking notes, but instead imagined Lindsay leaning in, maybe even letting her hair brush his shoulder.

A chair screeched across the linoleum loud enough for even Ms. Beehive to stop lecturing. Oh God—it was Luke. He headed straight for Kassandra. Scanning the class showed Book Girl in attendance, so no empty seats back here. Luke stopped right in front of Kassandra’s desk. 

He leaned next to The Browless One. “Would you mind if I sat here?”

The Browless One glared at Kassandra, as if she had something to do with this. Then he bundled up his things and scuttled over to the only seats left, those ringing the social elite. Lindsay winced when the boy sat one chair over. 

Luke plunked down in the now empty seat.

“Are we ready?” Ms. Beehive folded her arms.

“Certainly.” Luke grinned.

Ms. Beehive continued the lesson.

Luke tilted his head to speak softly. “The view’s better from back here, don’t you think?”

Kassandra nodded, but didn’t dare look up. She didn’t want to encounter the laser beams of pure hate, sure to be emanating from Lindsay. 

The bell rang and the class exploded into activity. Kassandra shoved the notes into her purse. She needed to beat Lindsay to the hall. Maybe Auntie Jo had called. Luke grabbed her arm. “You said you’re new to this school. Where from?”

“Um.” How did she blow off a guy who was kind of cute? “Seattle.”

“Really?” He tossed a beaten up binder into his backpack. “I think I have you beat though.”

“I didn’t know it was a contest.”

Luke raised one eyebrow. “Of course. Everything is.” He whispered one word: “England.”

This stopped Kassandra. The boy didn’t have the slightest accent.

Luke held up one hand in defense. “Yeah, I know. I don’t sound like the Brit type. But I’m well traveled. Haven’t been back there in years.” He slung his backpack over one shoulder. The torn strap hung on by only a few threads. 

“Now, you wouldn’t know where I could find this class?” He showed a schedule with all the same classes as Kassandra’s, down to the crappy P.E. and shower just before lunch.

“I guess we’re going to the same place.”

“Lucky me.”

She frowned. Why would this guy want to spend time with her when someone like Lindsay Barker was throwing herself at him? With absolute despicable timing, Lindsay sauntered over, complete with the usual entourage. Diana was back too. This was so much fun. Kassandra wanted to charge into the halls, screaming.

“You know,” Lindsay leaned toward Luke, “you really shouldn’t associate with girls like Kassandra. I Googled her name and you won’t believe what popped up.” She flipped her bangs so they grazed her perfect eyelashes. “Let’s just say this girl will leave you hanging.”

A fluttering sensation started up in Kassandra’s stomach like she might retch. 

“Good one.” Marco high-fived Diana. Apparently he was fully recovered from yesterday’s fit of extreme boredom.

“Leslie, right?” Luke scrunched his face up, thinking.

“Lindsay.” She sounded miffed.

He waved a hand to brush off the difference. “Why are you so keen on me? Word is you’re going out with some guy named Marco.”

Diana spun on Lindsay. Her gaze burned hot enough to melt lead.

“What?” Lindsay glanced from Diana to Luke. “Who told you that?”

“Hey, I’m new here. Don’t really know everyone’s name.” Luke readjusted the strap of his backpack. “But I heard you two were making out the end of last semester.”

Diana shoved Marco. “You told me you were just tutoring.”

Marco held up his hands to fend off a punch. “It’s not true babe.”

“He’s right. You know I wouldn’t…” Lindsay said.

Diana cut her off. “I knew you were a sneaky bitch, but keep your paws off my boyfriend.”

Luke tugged Kassandra toward the exit. In moments, they escaped into the hall.

“How’d you know about that?” she asked.

“I’m good at reading people. They can say a lot without speaking a word.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” He turned and gave Kassandra a look. “What you have to say is fascinating.”

“Okay? Do I want to know?” 

“Well, first off, you look like you could use a friend.”

Great, so now she gave off the desperate vibe. “Just because I’m new here, doesn’t mean I haven’t met anyone.”

Luke shrugged. “I’m just saying… it’s good to have someone to talk to, you know.” He pointed down the hall. “Is it this way? I don’t want to be late.”

Kassandra shook her head and indicated the other direction. Then they were walking. Together. To math class.

What just happened? One moment her life sucked and then Luke appeared. It felt like a movie with the credits about to roll any second.

She bit her lip. This was only one period. They’d chat and Luke would discover the real, and totally boring Kassandra Troy. Then he’d be off for someone new. Maybe not Lindsay—burned that bridge. But he was handsome, so it wouldn’t be hard. 

Kassandra’s hand slipped into her purse to grab some lip screen, but brushed up against the Tarot cards instead. The last card, the one where the image went all disappearing act in the bathroom, that was the Magician. She glanced at Luke. Was he something conjured up by the deck? He seemed a lot less supernatural than all the other cards. Cuter too.

Luke reached down and grasped Kassandra’s hand. A tingle scampered up her arm. Then this god-awful smile sprang to life. She couldn’t help it. Maybe he wouldn’t get bored. Maybe she didn’t care. Kassandra could enjoy this ride as long as it lasted.

Coping With “Thirteen Reasons Why”

I just finished reading “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. And when I say “just finished” I mean minutes ago. I burned through the last forty pages. Breathless.

I loved the book.

More than just a typical reader would. As a school teacher, I’ve run across kids who needed similar help (not the same, thankfully). I find that school, and teaching, is a mixed bag of learning, friendship, and therapy.

First, let me give you a freeway version of the story (no spoilers, I promise). The novel follows the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who has committed suicide. We hear her words though audiotapes she left for the thirteen people connected with her suicide. Intercut with this is the first person narration of Clay. He’s listening because he’s on the tapes, somewhere. He spends the novel trying to figure out what he did to push a girl over the edge.

Every year (every year, at least since I ran across my first case of a girl cutting) I talk to the students about coping mechanisms. How to unload all that stress and anger that builds up inside. And it does. It’s like shaking up a can of soda. If you don’t know how to release the pressure, it will explode. Trust me, I know.

As I guy, mostly this comes out with hitting things. I’ve dented two car roofs (both mine) and hit the floor so hard it actually shook the house. I don’t think those were the best therapies, but they were better than the alternatives.

Basically, you need a way to get those inner demons out. Hannah (from the novel) had the right idea with poetry. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against her. Journaling also works. This is essentially what Hannah did with her tapes. It was too late when she worked through her emotions. It’s something you need to start with.

Art is another one. I recall, as a disaffected teen, I attacked a painting with so much force, that I broke the paint brush. (Seeing a trend here?) Once, a poet visited my class (this is fast forwarding to when I was a teacher) and she told the kids something I will never forget. Poems don’t have to be about sadness or joy. Any emotion will do. Anger in fact. She encouraged my class to get angry with their muse.

Essentially, I think I became a writer as a coping mechanism. A way to pour out all the ick that lived inside. I’ve dealt with double dealing friends and some nasty gossip. I simply gave that stuff for my characters to deal with. A bit nasty on my part, but hey, it let me heal. Then I could talk to those people again and not be filled with hate.

The only thing about Jay Asher’s book that bugged me was the parents. Where were they? He had Hannah offer an excuse about the business failing, but I needed to see it more. Why? Because I want to believe that they could have helped. You see I have a little daughter. And when she struggles with her teen years, I hope I can be there for her. I know it’s possible, probably even likely, that suicidal teens don’t confide in their parents. But as a reader (and a father) I would have hoped Asher would have addressed it. Maybe he did. (I haven’t finished with the questions at the end, so maybe he addressed it there.)

I guess I feel like Clay sometimes. As a kid (I know I’m jumping around here) I had a friend who’s father killed himself. One day, at friend’s house, he just broke down, crying. Hell, I had no clue what to do. I was something like thirteen or fourteen. But I listened to him. Especially because the others in our group wouldn’t. He survived the rest of high school without any further incident. So I’m glad I did something. At the very least, I didn’t turn away.

If you ever have someone open up to you, don’t push them away. Listen. Be there for them. Do something that they can’t.

Tim Kane