CHAPTER 1 - Cassie
“Thanks, Mom! You can drop me off here.” I pointed to the sidewalk just right across from Belinay’s house. It was huge, but it wasn’t like those fancy mansions you’d see planted on the big hills. There was a staircase leading to the french doors. On each side were long, spiraled guardrails, probably because someone might slip and fall on the pavement when it rains. I was rummaging through my sleeping bag, double-checking I had all of my things. Phone, clothes, headphones, charger, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, towel… all set!
“Honey,” my mom said. “Do you have your phone?”
“You asked me this hours ago! Of course, I wouldn’t forget my phone or anything else!” My mom looked at me with unsure eyes but nodded. If you knew her, she was obsessed with making sure that everything was perfect, and if one thing went wrong, she would explode. It reminded me of a time when I got lost at Disneyland when I was five. I was pulling onto my mom’s shirt, asking if I could go to the big kids’ roller coaster where my brother and dad were. She disagreed. Little old me couldn’t accept defeat, so that’s when I started building a “mischievous plan” that was sure I wouldn’t get caught. When my mom looked away, I quietly tip-toed, looping around the people that went in the perpendicular direction. I could see my goal, just a couple of feet away from me. But then, I started looking around. My mom wasn’t in sight. My heart began to race. My mind turned blank. I cried out for Mom or anyone really, but there was no answer. The other tourists passing me looked as if they were getting bigger by the second, almost to the size of a tower. Up and up they went, reaching the blue sky. Their shadows covered me, I couldn't breathe. I screamed and screamed, but no one answered my call for help. Then, I heard someone say my name. Repeatedly. I turned my head from left to right, searching for who it was, when I saw my mom break through the crowd and hug me tightly. After that day, I decided that I would never make my mom worry again.
Nine years later, I’m still listening to my five-year-old self, living up to that same rule. I waved goodbye to my mom and hopped out of her gray minivan, which pulls out of the sidewalk and drives away. Walking up the stairs, I ring the doorbell and wait. And wait. And wait. Soon enough, it’s been ten minutes and I tap my foot impatiently on the pavement. I ring again. Nothing. What’s taking so long?
“CASSIE!” I whirl my head around to see Rae running up and hiding behind one of the posts supporting the balcony next to Belinay’s sitting window. The window was bordered by a white sill. On the top of the balcony was a black fence, with a crisscross pattern. “Just stand there and act like you don’t know me!”
“But I know you thou-”
“Shush!” Rae glared back at me with her blue eyes, which to me was simply terrifying whenever she did that. I sometimes think back on how rare it was to have both red hair and blue eyes, and how rare it was that Rae got the gene. “Don’t say anything! Keep ringing that doorbell!” I did the ok signal at her and remained silent. Out of nowhere, Belinay and Lynn come up to me.
“Hi, Cassie!” Lynn smiled. I had to turn my head all the way up to see Lynn’s face. Her black curly hair moved in the wind. She was the tallest, oldest, and the mom of the friend group. Every day was a challenge for me to not make my neck sore when I try to talk to her. On her left, Belinay waved to me, then started breathing heavily. She also had red hair like Rae, but her eyes were green.
“Hi! I was waiting outside for like ten minutes, what were you exactly doing? And why is Rae hiding behind the big post over there?” But as I said those words, the two girls stomped towards the post and pulled her out.
“So,” Rae touched the tip of her fingers back and forth as they brought her to the front door. “We’ve got nothing against each other, right?”
Lynn sighed. “Now, don’t go pouring water on our shoes when you say it’s dirty next time, ok?” Rae nodded relentlessly, so they let go of her.
“Well, let’s go inside!” Belinay exclaimed. “I’ve got a lot of things for us to do!”