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Unknown (The Secret Life of Cassie Martin #1)
Author:L.A. Kirk

Unknown (The Secret Life of Cassie Martin #1)

L.A. Kirk


Bang! Bang! Bang! My door rattles from the pounding coming from the other side.

“Cassandra! It’s time to get up. You have thirty minutes to get ready, or we’ll be late,” Simon yells through the door.

Ugh. I roll over, glance at my clock, and blink several times to clear my vision. Five in the morning mocks me. Last night, I laid in bed and stared at the glow in the dark stars on my ceiling for hours. Now that movement’s required, I regret not making myself go to sleep earlier. My brain function wakes up after nine o’clock, but with the lack of sleep that might be P.M. and not A.M.

Why did I agree to be shipped off to Camp Odysseus after only four months of living with my newest foster family? Granted, they limited my options to camp or spending the summer working at Simon’s store. My foster parents, Simon and Jeannie, seem nice enough. Bouncing between homes for the last three years provides me with tremendous respect for how I’m treated by foster parents. Both Simon and Jeannie leave me with space to be myself, so when they told me about this camp, the need to accept their request weighed heavily on me. After my time with them—which I can only describe as a normal life—they decided to ship me off to Camp Odysseus for gifted children. Based on how people treat me most of the time, a camp for troubled teens sounds more accurate.

I haven’t always been the best foster child, but since reviewing my path up to this moment hinders my ability to be on time, I drag myself out of bed. I’m going, regardless of the place or reason. I might be a total screw up, but I hate being late. My bag sits by my bedroom door, already packed except for what I need this morning.

The hardwood floors chill my feet as I rush down the hall to the bathroom and shower quickly, trying to be quiet so I don’t wake the twins.

After I get out, I towel dry my hair, then flip my head upside down to gather my wet hair into a loose bun on top of my head. Slightly curly, brown tendrils fall around my cheeks and neck, but as long as my hair stays out of my eyes, I’m good.

One of these days, I’ll cut it all off, which would make showering faster, and I wouldn’t have to worry about pulling it up. There might be scissors under the counter. My mind wanders into all sorts of strange places from a single word or idea, and I force myself focus instead of searching for sharp objects.

Wiping condensation from the mirror, I check my face as I brush my teeth. Blessed with clear skin eliminated one of the typical teen harassment options for me, but kids being picked on because of their acne irritates me. Last year, a freshman picked on one of the girls from his class, so my foot connected with his knee, knocking him into his locker and breaking his nose. The principal suspended me for a week, and I moved back to the orphanage until they found Simon and Jeannie to take me in.

This morning, my eyes appear too bright. The red around them from lack of sleep mocks me as much as the alarm clock numbers. The cornflower blue stands out against the crimson. Because of the stark contrast with my dark-brown hair, my eyes receive a lot of attention. I tend to avoid eye contact. The less people who notice me, the better. Putting on dark eye shadow causes them stand out more, so I go without makeup, which allows me to go unnoticed most of the time.

After I finish in the bathroom and dress in jeans and a navy blue t-shirt, I pack my bathroom supplies into my bag. Simon checked the bag last night to make sure I didn’t have any contraband in there. Little does he know I added a secret compartment to the suitcase. He hasn’t been with me long enough to know some of my tricks. There are some things a girl cannot live without.

As I make my way downstairs, dragging the suitcase quietly behind, I contemplate running away. I have everything I need to make it on my own. In a month, I’ll turn eighteenth. I may be small, but if necessary, I can pass for an adult until then. My fake ID rests in the hidden suitcase compartment. No one will miss me. Simon and Jeannie might be upset, but they’ve been foster parents for years, they’re used to kids coming and going from their home. It won’t take long for them to move on. They’ll be more upset I left on their watch than that I left at all.

Before I convince myself to make it to the door, Jeannie’s smiling face greets me at the bottom of the stairs. I sometimes wonder if she takes drugs because happiness drips from her. She doesn’t have any drug usage signs that I’ve noticed, though, so she’s probably just one of those annoyingly happy people.

“Good morning, Cassandra. I made you an egg and cheese bagel to eat on the way. Would you like a bottle of water or a glass of orange juice to go with it?” she chirps like one of those birds that wakes me up too early to be legal.

“Cassie,” I tell her for the millionth time. I hate being called Cassandra. “I’ll take water. Thank you.”

She nods as she glides away, and Simon walks up to take her place.

“Here. Let me take your bag for you.” Simon has the bag out of my hands before I can protest. There goes my escape plan.

I meander out to the van with Simon, somewhat surprised to find the driveway still dark, the only illumination coming from the streetlights. No one should be up this early. At least summer came early this year, so it’s nice out. Jeannie plans to stay behind to watch the twins, Sam and Dean. My four-year-old foster brothers have no reason to be awake this early to go anywhere. While I would never admit it to Simon or Jeannie, I’m going to miss Sam and Dean. I told them goodbye last night before they went to bed and promised them I’d return.

Before I can climb into the front seat, Jeannie comes running from the house. She hands me a bagel sandwich wrapped in paper towels and a bottle of water before she pulls me into a tight hug. “This will be great for you. I know you’re scared, but I promise you’ll have a great time.”

“Thanks, Jeannie.” I want to tell her I’m not scared, but I don’t. I am scared.

Jeannie walks over to hug Simon next. She whispers something in his ear I can’t make out, but it earns her a smile and a quick peck on the cheek. Afterward, Simon climbs into the driver’s seat.

Juggling my breakfast, I climb into the passenger side, set the water bottle in the cup holder on my side, and buckle in for the long drive.

Simon turns to me as he pulls out of the driveway. “I know you think we’re abandoning you, that you’re being pushed off onto someone else, but that’s not what we’re doing. This place is designed to strengthen your innate abilities. I’ve watched you for the last few months. I know you read faster than anyone I’ve ever met. You also seem to retain what you’ve read. This place will help you with that. There will be kids like you there.”