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.
Outside, the street was abandoned. Mostly retired folks lived in this neighborhood. No kids. Kassandra strolled to the corner where the bus was supposed to pick up. The morning mist rolled in from the ocean, chilling her knees through the holes in the jeans.
Arroyo Grove High School was the only show in town, which meant a couple hundred kids who’d all known each other since kindergarten. Yeah, this was going to be a killer junior year. She might as well be a freshman again.
Kassandra checked the watch clipped to the purse: 7:22. The bus was supposed to pick up at 7:20. Had it already come? Walking was out of the question. She didn’t even know which direction to go. A breeze picked up and Kassandra hugged herself to keep warm.
An engine gunned in the distance as a yellow bus chugged down the road. At least it wasn’t a short bus. Now, her mission was simple—avoid awkwardness at all costs. No tripping and don’t getting trapped in the back.
The bus hissed to a stop and the doors cranked open. A heavyset woman with a short haircut sat behind the wheel. The bus was about three-quarters full—mostly single kids taking up a whole seat. The only open spots were near the back.
Kassandra trudged down the aisle. A few riders flicked gazes up, though most seemed to be in an early morning daze.
The bus lurched forward as Driver Lady stepped on the gas. Kassandra’s arms flew out to grab the seats, but too late. She stumbled to the floor, purse sailing down the aisle. A slew of giggles erupted. One boy shouted out, “Nice one.”
As Kassandra stood, her jeans pulled away from a sticky goop splattered across the floor. This morning was going so well.
Someone slapped her arm. It was a brunette girl with square rimmed glasses. “The driver always does that. You have to pick a spot in a hurry.”
“Thanks.” Kassandra clenched the seat tops as the bus swung around a turn. The girl looked harmless. Kassandra could probably scoot into the same seat. But the escaped purse was still sliding along the floor in the back.
“I need to grab my purse.”
The girl shrugged, propped a knee against the seat and dove into a paperback book, folded nearly in half.
Kassandra teetered along the aisle and located the crocheted bag under the last seat. She debated trekking back to Book Girl, but that risked another fall and giggles from the bus riders. Maybe the girl was just being polite. She was busy reading and probably didn’t want some stranger butting in.
Driver Lady’s gaze flashed in the rear view mirror. “Sit down back there,” she barked.
Kassandra plopped onto the nearest seat. A giant rip covered most of the vinyl. Someone had gouged out chunks of yellow foam, leaving a deep crevice. A hint of silver metal peeked through.
Kassandra reviewed the scorecard so far—tripped and stuck in the back. At least she was consistently lame. Yanking the spiral out of her purse, she pressed it flat. White creases from the constant folding and unfolding spread like roots along the red cover.
The spiral stored all the snippets of poetry she loved, mostly lines from Romantics like Keats, Byron or Wordsworth. Scribbled notes and mind dumps inhabited the margins. On one page, she discovered part of Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known
What a joy it’d be to fade away. Just toss the past and move on. Mom took the idea to extremes. If something reminded her of Dad, she sold it, gave it away, or trashed it. Kassandra chuckled. The only thing Mom couldn’t toss out was her. At least not legally.
The bus swerved into the school parking lot. Kassandra placed a hand on the window to keep from sliding into the foam pit. Everyone grabbed their backpacks and jackets. She jammed the notebook into the purse, but spotted a flash of gold peeking from behind some wadded up tissues. She reached for the mystery object.The Tarot cards from the psychic shop. Except they were on the table in the kitchen. Kassandra had seen them. Something unraveled in her brain and one thought floated to the surface—I must be going crazy.