“Did you see the rags she’s wearing?” A soft female voice rang through the girl’s bathroom.
“I know!” Another answered; vicious giggles.
Cassie stood hunched on the toilet seat. She’d hid in the stall the moment she’d heard the bathroom door open. The girls gossiped and giggled; tears ran down Cassie’s cheek. They were talking about her. The details fit: her second-hand rumpled clothing and the pathetic state of her shoes.
“I mean, you’d think she would try harder,” the cruel voice ran a dagger through her heart.
“Ugh, even her name is stupid: Cassiopeia. More like Cassiopig!” The laughter thundered through the bathroom.
Cassie stifled a sob. It hurt her deep because it was all true. Though she tried, it wasn’t her fault her curly hair stood up in a halo around her head and always looked windswept. Not even Mom had gotten it to behave. Dad did the best he could with his limp and minimum-wage job. He took extra shifts just so they could have a decent meal once a week, not the cheap ramen stuff.
Cassie closed her eyes and pictured her mother’s face, fearful she would one day forget it. She wished with all her might she were somewhere else, away from the school, the town and these people.
Cassie sniffed, John Carter wished himself on Mars, so why can’t I?
The sounds of the school faded. When the trill of birds filled her ears, Cassie, heart thumping in her chest, opened her eyes.
Soft grass tickled her back and neck as bright sunshine warmed her skin. Cassie sat up and gazed around her. She smiled as she recognized the place. She and Mom used to hike this meadow with its dilapidated church and ancient graveyard where Cassie and Dad had spread Mom’s ashes under the cover of night. Mom had said they’d buried her ancestors there, but the headstones were so weather-beaten most of the names had faded back into the rock.
“All but one,” she’d said, “your great-great-great grandma Cassandra. They hanged her as a witch and buried her in an unmarked grave somewhere in the meadow, not on hallowed ground.”
Cassie beamed at the memory of her mother’s voice; she could almost hear it in the soft breeze blowing from the cemetery.
“Legend says she jumped from place to place. She would disappear and presto, appear somewhere else.”