Sea Star: 2005
In this story which was supposed to turn into an epic novel, I created a few characters after reading Gordon Korman’s Dive series, in which a bunch of teenagers from all different places join a scuba diving camp and find a sunken ship and have to battle against the evil bad adults that are supposed to be protecting them but instead decide to try and steal the credit for the shipwreck and get its treasure and also try and kill the kids/their mentor. For children’s books, they’re excellent, and have a nice frame story involving a historical event, so read them.
My characters here in 2005 are Cassandra “Cass” Cassarilla is the main protagonist of the story. She’s 14, a moody and impassioned tomboy with tan skin and tan-ish blond hair who loves to ride horses and helps run a recovery stable with her mom. After her dad’s death some years before (creepily, I wrote this story 4 years before my own dad died), she has an accident while show jumping which causes Star, her rehabilitated racehorse, to crush her leg and lose all his confidence in his recovery. Cass decides that in order to fully heal him, she must train Star to be a racehorse again–minus the previous abuse. Cass is a snarky, overly proud, jealous and pessimistic character who takes offense to anyone who tries to give her advice. She also owns a buckskin pony named Troy.
Jonathan Tyler “Ty” Howards III is the pretty boy and main love interest in the story–he’s an athletic surfer-looking 14-year-old stellar hockey player for the local hockey team. He’s not so smart but he is a loyal friend and that drives the witchy girls of his high school crazy–he’s not interested in any of them. He has a small crush on Cass but it often gets masked by the fact that his reasonable, down-to-earthiness results in blowup fights when Cass overreacts. Ty’s parents are rich and have a mansion and yearly black-tie parties. Ty’s mother is picky, outspoken, curt, and spoils Ty, much to his chagrin, until he learns to use it to his advantage. Despite his mother’s pleas that he find more ‘suitable’ friends (with money) and start dating, Ty wants to be a normal teenager. He gets knocked unconscious in the hockey game that starts the original story.
Alec Pisch is a button-cute, freckled boy the same age as his two best friends, though he’s known Cass significantly more years than Ty for unnamed reasons. He loves riding horses and has competed with Cass for years as well as helped her around her stable, though he doesn’t own any horses. Alec is a quiet jokester and is the most optimistic and cheerful of the group. He also trusts and sees the best in people, often to his downfall later, but it doesn’t stop him from being genuinely nice and outgoing, even to people he hates…just in case they decide to be nicer.
Alyssa Grantley is another rich, spoiled child from the nice side of Canada (for some reason I wanted this story to be in Easton, Ontario, a suburban setting where hockey and horseback riding is popular). She’s the Queen Bee of the high school freshmen–rude, nonchalant, and always in competition with Cass during shows. She’s quick to try and win Ty’s affections despite that he puts her down in a mannerly way, and quick to insult the fact that Cass, due to her injuries, was out of the showing world for a while. Alyssa also scorns the Cassarillas’ use of home remedies and emphasis on horse/human companionship as a means to train and rehabilitate. She prefers the traditional use of crop and submission.
In my story, my characters are all best friends (with the exception of Alyssa) and Cass and Alec decide to go to Ty’s hockey game for fun one night. Tragically, Ty hits his head during the game and has to go to the hospital where the kids are introduced to some suspicious characters. Later, Ty’s family hosts a dinner party and Cass and Alec go, despite Mrs. Howards’ clear repulsion of them as “not good enough.” She wants Ty to date Alyssa despite her ever-tormenting his friends. The next morning, Alec and Cass have a horse show and Ty attends. Soft romantic tensions build between Cass and Ty and Alec thinks it’s all hilarious. Cass beats Alyssa in show jumping, which Alyssa does not like–especially because Cass has been out of the show circuit for a time. Then, Cass decides that the three friends should go on a scuba diving trip because Mrs. Howards can easily be persuaded to lend the kids money. They fly down to Key West and Cass decides, without telling anyone, that one of her stablehands is bringing Star down so she can practice working with him on the racetrack. However, Ty gets angry and rebukes her for the decision to join a life-threatening sport and risk Star’s life for her pride. The two fight and Alec questions whether he ever saw romantic tendencies. Once they arrive at their hotel, Alyssa also shows up and Cass is even more angry, especially when Alyssa starts spending more and more time with Ty and Ty gladly returns her carefree attitude, needing a break from the melancholy Cass. The first scuba lesson goes well–but they discover that their instructor is none other than the mean doctor from the beginning of the story. Cass, meanwhile, spends more time with Alec and takes Star out at night under Ty’s nose, despite the fact that he may never talk to her again, in order to practice racing him and discovers that he’s almost record-breaking fast. Alec assists her in these midnight rides and Alyssa spies on them, using the information as blackmail. Cass feels unsettled but is relieved when Ty says he misses her and wants to go back to being friends again. Cass takes a day off to play sick in order to sneak Star to the racetrack, curious to see what the trainers think of his speed, and they recognize him as one of the more successful racehorses of the day before he dropped out due to his sudden tendencies to lose. Cass is angry when the trainers offer to buy him off her, because she explains his losing was due to abuse and loss of confidence.
…And that’s as far as it ever got, folks!
The day of the hockey game, Cassandra Cassirilla was up earlier than usual so that she could feed the horses and visit for a couple of minutes before breakfast. She loved being able to look out her kitchen window and see the stables becoming visible in the early morning mist while she made herself something to eat and listened to the horses awakening. Cass lived on anEquineRehabilitationCenterwith her mom and her best friend, Alec Pisch, lived just a few streets away. He had helped at the stables since he’d moved toEaston,Ontario, when they were both only four years old. A couple years later, Ty Howards joined their friendship and added a love for hockey-playing.
“Why, yes, oh that sounds fantastic, I’d love to…”
Cass rolled her eyes as her mom, Margaret Cassirilla, giggled hysterically on the phone with her boyfriend, Nicholas Roland. Cass’ dad had died in a car accident four years ago, and her mom was slowly adjusting. She had only just recently started dating again.
“Mom, the hockey game…” Cass began before tossing her cereal bowl in the kitchen sink. “Mom, you’re using the office phone…” She picked up her mom’s cell from the counter and handed it to her.
“Oh, thank you Cass, what was it you wanted?” Her mother seemed so flustered sometimes.
“I, uh, am going to the hockey game with Alec, Ty’s playing there,” Cass said for the third time that week, and rolled her eyes, grinning.
Sometimes it was funny when her mom couldn’t remember things. Cass was extremely good-natured about her mom dating, which was strange because Cass herself was headstrong and sometimes bitter. She had a sarcastic sense of humor and was single-minded in achieving her goals, but not so much that she would put herself in a bad position to get them.
Besides other things, Cass had grown up with horses and loved them since she could talk. When she was old enough, she and Alec began learning how to heal emotionally and physically scarred horses so that they could learn to trust again. It was difficult, sometimes dangerous work, yet Cass cared about the horses before herself, and she enjoyed sending horse by horse through the treatment and on its own way. There were always horses in the stables, but Cass only owned two; the buckskin ponyTroyand the beautiful bay thoroughbred Star.
Cass’ mom decided to keep Star after Cass’ terrible horseback riding accident, which would have left Cass crippled except that she was too determined to stay out of a wheelchair and too defiant to listen to the doctors. Cass was up and walking after only a few months when she shouldn’t have been able to walk at all. She showed a slight limp but that was normal to anyone who knew her, and sometimes she even made fun of it herself.
Looking at the clock, Cass sipped down some orange juice and ticked her fingers. “3…2…1…” Alec’s car pulled up in the Cassirilla’ driveway right on cue. Cass chugged down the rest of the orange juice and wiped her mouth before running outside to say hello.
“Hey Cass,” Alec waved, holding his riding helmet in one hand and his backpack in the other. “I was thinking before the game we could ride a bit, you know?”
“Sure,” Cass shrugged. She never could pass up an opportunity to ride with her best friend. “Do you want to practice for the show?”
Cass and Alec both were participating in a prestigious show in a few weeks, and Cass wanted to make sure she was ready. It would be her first horse show since her accident, and she’d be competing with some of the best riders in theOntarioarea.
Cass set up a few jumps in her riding ring and drew up a complicated pattern for Alec to follow while he tacked up Star for Cass and himself. “Alright Alec,” she grinned while he stared openmouthed at the course.
“Are you kidding? I have to memorize that?” Alec shook his head. “No way!”
“It’ll make the courses at the show look easy. Come on, Alec, you can do it!”
“Ok,” he grumbled, taking hold of the reins and mounting into the saddle.
Star gave a little snort, pulling his head high and pricking his ears in uncertainty. Star was found by Cass’ mom in terrible condition only a year ago. He was at one point one of the greatest racehorses on the eastern coast, but when he started losing he was sold into the hands of an abusive jockey and had the talent beaten out of him. Cass made it her job to help cure Star’s fears of racing and people and the bond the two of them shared was incredible. It was because of the bond that Star was officially hers, especially after the accident. Cass and Star were helping to heal each other.
“Hey boy,” she whispered and ran her hands over his ears. Star closed his eyes and blew into Cass’ face as a sign of friendship and respect. He relaxed as she stroked him and let his head sink down and his ears swivel. She gave one last pat and Alec gently eased Star into the ring, picking up a canter and sailing over the jumps Cass laid out for him.
Cass was pleased to see that Star was laid-back and cantering playfully, flying over the jumps out of joy. He was such a different horse that he had been when she had first seen him; his hair in clumps and his coat dusty, his legs covered with scars and bloody gashes from neglect…now he was shining and energetic as Alec jumped him. Cass had chosen Star’s name as a way to help him forget his old life.
“What do you want to name him?” Margaret had asked.
“He looks like a fallen star,” Cass had observed when she’d first seen him. “Beautiful but sad. Let’s call him Star. When the Stars Fall can be his registered name.”
“That sounds like a plan,” Margaret smiled.
“Hey you’re right!” Alec shouted as he landed the last jump. “That wasn’t too hard!”
“I told you,” Cass said mockingly, setting her helmet on her head and taking the reins as Alec dismounted. She trotted a few circles and then began cantering around the outside of the course, feeling the familiar rocking feeling as the warm breeze brushed her face. Then she set her sights on jumping the course. “Hey Alec,” she slowed Star to a walk and went over the fence. “Can you get the stopwatch for me?”
He did so while Cass trotted along the rail around the ring. “OK Cass,” he waved to her. “I got it.” He started the watch as Cass began the course. She jumped all ten without knocking a pole down and finished back at Alec’s spot on the fence. “That was…fifty six seconds,” he told her with a grin. “And no faults. Nice one Cass, I really think you have a chance at this show.”
Cass gripped the reins unsteadily. “I don’t know…I haven’t ridden in competition for such a long time…”
“Cass, you are amazing. Don’t doubt it, ever. Don’t look at the ground and think that it’s going to eat you. You are a good rider, and you’re going to do fine. Got it?”
Cass rolled her eyes and Alec made a face at her. They both started laughing and Cass’ mom called from the house.
“Hey you guys want lunch?”
“I’m starving, man,” Alec put a hand on his stomach. “Let’s go.” He led Star back into his stall after untacking him and they raced back to the house, Cass touched the door a split second before Alec.
“Got it!” she laughed. “What do want for lunch?”
“How about…tacos?” Alec licked his lips and rubbed his stomach. “Mmm…yummy.”
“How about pizza?” Cass replied, sitting at the table and picking up the phone.
Cass ordered a supreme pizza from downtown PizzaZorz. When it arrived, she sat with Alec, chatting about the upcoming show and the competition she’d have.Five o’clockrolled around much too quickly and Margaret drove the two to the hockey rink.
“Have fun,” she called. “I’m going out with Nick tonight so behave and call when the game gets out,” she waved and drove away.
“Ready?” Cass grinned. “Let’s go…”
Cheers sprang up as the two teenagers made their way across the bleachers at Easton, Ontario’s local ice rink.
Cass strode expertly across the metal benches while Alec blundered behind her, staring up at the rink’s scoreboard.
“Who’s winning?” Alec asked.
“The game didn’t start yet,” she replied, rolling her eyes as the Easton Eagles’ opponents, the Leauford Ligers, skated around the rink.
Alec was still staring up at the scoreboard, walking slower now, with his mouth hanging open. “I don’t get it!”
Cass gave her head a little toss and climbed the stairs of the bleachers, ignoring offers to aid her, and turned her attention back to Alec, head still cocked upwards towards the scoreboard.
He still doesn’t get the hang of this hockey thing, she thought with a little chuckle.
“Here,” she said kindly. “There’s three periods in hockey and the clock will count down from fifteen minutes to zero. At the end of all the periods, whoever has the most goals is the winner.”
“Oh.” Alec blushed and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry…”
“Look, there’s Ty!” Cass cried suddenly, pointing to the whirl of color.
Jonathan-Tyler Howards, nicknamed Ty, skated expertly around the freshly zambonied ice with the rest of his team. He waved to them and grinned, making a few popular girls watching swoon.
Sandy-haired Ty was admired by many but only had a few good friends, including Alec and Cass, much to the despair of Easton high, who had poor Ty up on an unwanted pedestal with no way for him to get down.
“Where?” Alec said in frustration, squinting at the hockey team.
“Right there,” she said, trying to point him out. “Number sixteen…defense.”
“Oh…Go Ty!” Alec shouted, clapping. He tried imitating Cass’s whistle but with no avail. “Forget it,” he mumbled. “Yeah Eagles!”
The ref blew the whistle and dropped the puck. In a moment the players were a blur again, skating at top speed, blue and gold jerseys in the mist of maroon and white. They passed the puck to their teammates and skated up the ice, only to lose it and then skate the other way, chasing the other team.
“Now I know why I never go to these things,” sighed Alec. “It makes me dizzy…back and forth…back and forth…”
“You’ll get used to it,” Cass responded impatiently, more focused on the game than what Alec was telling her.
The play continued and the two friends watched quietly, occasionally breaking the silence to cheer on their team or groan because of an opposing goal. The whistle was blown, stopping the play, and the ref pointed to an Eagles player.
“Oh man!” Alec cried, slapping a hand on his forehead. “It’s Ty! What’d he do?”
“Tripping,” Cass said immediately, a little smile playing at her lips as she watched Alec grew confused again.
“Tripping?” Alec thought a minute. “Wait…that’s like, a trip, right? Like…”
Cass ignored him, watching the stopped game. Ty looked furious, watching the clock from his own little prison cell. The penalty was released from him when the opposing team scored, but with a mere minute left in the period he was back in the box.
“That’s not fair, it’s not his fault,” Alec whined, and Cass had to agree. A big player, number twenty, had illegally hit Ty and he’d struck out in retaliation when there was nothing called, only having himself to blame as he spent even more time in the box. Sometime in the middle of his penalty, the horn sounded, the signal of the start of the second period.
The beginning was clean, but as the halfway point was reached and the Eagles were down seven-to-nothing, more severe penalties were called.
At the end of the second period, it happened, just after the sixth Eagles penalty was called. Ty was on defense, cautiously guarding his goalie, when Twenty, who’d checked Ty the period before, released a hard slapshot that Ty easily caught on his stick and passed up to his wing man, Kyle, while he followed behind. In an instant the puck was on an opposing teammate’s stick and Ty was trying to block it from reaching Twenty, who was next to him. The two were locked together in front of the net when the pass came. Determined not to lose it, Twenty glanced at Ty and threw his stick back at his throat as hard as possible. Everyone in the stands heard the crack as Ty fell back hard, hitting the back of his neck on the goal’s crossbar. Cass stood up, her hand over her mouth. Ty fell limply to the ice and did not move.
The coaches left the refs to take care of Twenty and hurried straight to Ty’s side. When he didn’t respond within a few minutes, the head coach pulled a cell phone out and mouthed quickly, bent over Ty and glancing down at his neck. He hung up and stood over Ty, releasing him from his heavy hockey gear and helmet, easing his head down onto the cold ice.
Cass watched the scene in a sort of daze as the ambulance pulled into the zamboni entrance and several doctors got out to pull Ty onto a stretcher. She stared at Ty’s lifeless form as he was loaded onto a stretcher and into the vehicle, as well as the solemn figures of his teammates kneeling wordlessly in respect. Without thinking, Cass jumped down from her spot in the bleachers and sprinted awkwardly to the ambulance. There was no need to listen to reason; her instincts took over.
I can’t let him go alone… With a small, staggering leap she was in the ambulance, pushing her way through equipment and doctors. Cass picked up Ty’s clammy, ashen hand and stroked it slowly in her own; trying to tell herself that it was merely a dream, all the while ignoring the angry arguing and shouts from the doctors.
He’s going to be alright, isn’t he? He’s got to wake up…
“You think this is funny, kid? Get outta here! We’ll take care of it!” A doctor impatiently shoved her out of the way and checked Ty’s pulse.
Let him be okay…let him wake up…it’s alright Ty, don’t be scared…
“He’s unconscious, we need to take…”
Cass’s eyes filled with tears. The ambulance sped out of the rink, but she barely noticed. All her senses were fixed on the boy in front of her. He was breathing but his pulse was faint and his skin had an unnatural gray pallor.
No…this isn’t Ty…this isn’t…
There was nothing at all to fill the empty silence except for her breathing and heartbeat. Cass turned away without a sound, distraught yet unable to let her tears come.
y opened his eyes for the first time since the accident, unaware of what happened to him. The first thing he felt was the splitting pain that was coming from the back of his head, then the bright light engulfed him. He had no idea where he was and no idea why he couldn’t remember anything. He felt sore all over and his head felt heavy and whatever he was wearing seemed extremely uncomfortable.
Am I dead? Panic arose in his throat and he felt the urge to cry. He was too young to die…
He was also much too dramatic.
Then pale forms of Alec and Cass came into focus, which were sitting beside him and watching him with indescribable expressions on both of their faces.
Finally, Ty spoke. “Uh…am I dead?” His voice was unusually dry and raspy and he coughed a few times after.
Cass’ gaze fixed on his face for a moment, then she stood up with a grin and wrapped him in a gentle hug. “Ty! You’re awake! We saw you at the game…that jerk checked you into the net and we saw you hurt your neck…then I went to the hospital with you in the ambulance and they said…but anyway…Ty! We thought…we thought…” She choked on her own words.
Ty couldn’t find anything to say that might comfort her, so he just sat awkwardly. “Uh, yeah. So, how long was I in the hospital?”
Alec came to the bedside, stuffing his hands in his pockets as if to say that Ty’s hospital gown and condition were contagious. “Six days, man. It was a kind of…surprise when you woke up. Your parents were here every day crying and stuff, it was freaky. You were so pale you looked…I dunno.”
Ty glanced bewilderedly from Alec to Cass. They were acting like he died and came back to life or something…Ty shook the thought from his mind.
It’s not funny…I could’ve died…right?
“You…you were in a coma,” Alec tried to hold his voice steady but his eyes watered. “They…the doctors, they said you wouldn’t get better.” He sniffed, wiped his nose, and kept talking as his voice shook. “We thought you were dead…even Cass cried a little.”
“Onto a brighter note…” Cass glared at Alec as he wiped his eyes dramatically. “You broke the coma yesterday for like a minute, asking about the game, who scored, were you winning, stuff like that.”
“Really? I don’t remember that.”
“Of course not, you were unconscious…anyway, you dropped back to sleep and woke up for the first time just now.” Cass paused for effect. “Well, yeah. So you’re okay now.”
“Hey…Cass? What time is it?” Ty couldn’t figure it out by staring out the window. The sunlight just gave him a splitting headache.
“It’s four p.m.”
Cass and Alec stood silently around Ty’s bedside for a few minutes until a doctor briskly strode in. When he saw that Ty was awake, he raised an eyebrow at the other two teenagers.
“Well, it seems our little hero is alive and well. Jonathan-Tyler, isn’t it? What a strange name for a fourteen-year old in this day and age. Jonathan-Tyler…Howards? My, my…”
Ty cleared his throat. “Yeah…no one really calls me Jonathan. It’s Ty, ok?”
The physician glared at him. “Don’t talk back to me, young man. Just because you woke up from a tragic accident and your fan club here needs impressing doesn’t mean…”
Cass matched the doctor’s glower and stepped in front of him. “We’re not a fan club and Ty’s accident wasn’t tragic…We’re his friends, obviously, if you were here when he came in you’d know that we’re here because we were worried about him…”
“Well he seems fine now, so if you’ll just excuse me…” he pushed her out of the way. “I have a few tests to run.” He turned to Ty and stuck a thermometer in his mouth, then jabbed a needle in his arm so quickly and ferociously that he jumped, muffling a cry and gagging on the thermometer at the same time.
Cass made a face at the doctor’s back and Alec had to throw a pretend coughing fit to keep himself from laughing out loud.
“What a creep, huh?” Ty laughed once the doctor had left. “That guy really didn’t want you guys here.”
Cass didn’t find it so funny. “Ty, I know a suspicious disposition when I see one, and that physician was definitely not…”
“There you go, speaking in big words no one understands,” Ty interrupted, chuckling. “I say the heck with it. He’s just a doctor, Cass. We’ve never seen the guy before. So what if he’s a little annoyed with you hanging around me? You’re just trying to make it seem like it’s a big mystery when it’s not. He’s just a doctor! Stop freaking out!”
Cass ignored his commentary and started lecturing him instead. “First, Ty, how many doctors do you meet that greet their patients with sarcasm and insult their visitors? Second, how did this guy know your name?”
“Maybe he saw my hospital bracelet…or my parents or something told him…there’s ways, Cass.”
“Ty, no one goes around calling you Jonathan-Tyler, and even if he did know for some reason, what your name was, I mean, how exactly would he have known your other, I mean like your middle name was Tyler? It’s just like; really weird…you don’t just give out your middle name…most of the time people are just like, yeah Jonathan Howards. That is what your…”
“Okay, I’m convinced, Cass,” Ty was grateful that she’d stopped talking, and sank down into his pillows.
Okay, so maybe Cass does see things that no one else notices, Ty thought, rolling his eyes.
Cass kept talking. “Did you see his I.D. badge? It’s fake; I can tell. That’s why I got up…it wasn’t to be all like, in his face…it was to see that I.D. up close.”
“Cass you can’t just be a doctor. You need a degree and stuff. I think it’s like a Ph.D.”
“Exactly. Which he has. He’s just not who he says he is.” Cass crossed her arms and gave the boys a look of utter superiority as they gaped at each other.
“See, this is why we always listen to Cass, man,” Alec said, punching Ty in the arm. “She’s always right!”
Ty pushed him off. “Okay, okay…” he groaned. “I admit it; I was wrong.” Then he gave his superstar grin and threw his hair back. “But that’s just this once!”
A few hours later, after the doctor had returned and stabbed Ty with another needle to take his blood, as well as given the teenagers a few livid looks, they discussed the situation yet again.
“We can stay here you know,” Cass said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Stay…here? At the hospital? Overnight?” Alec looked uncomfortable. “I dunno…”
“You don’t want a murderous doctor harming our precious Jonathan, do you?”
Cass laughed and brushed a stroke of hair off her shoulder, glancing back at Ty, who reached for the light hanging over his bed.
“You guys do that,” he said. “I’m going to sleep.”
“Good idea,” she said. “You look pretty tired.” She felt his forehead tenderly with one hand and with another, her own. “That’s good; you don’t have a temperature. You are a little pale, though.”
“Yes, Mom.” Ty yawned and turned over. Within a few minutes he was asleep.
Alec and Cass talked for another half hour, until they, too started getting drowsy. Slouching in their chairs, Cass and Alec tried to stay awake, but they just couldn’t. The last thing Alec remembered before he drifted off to sleep was that Cass was telling him something. “Alec, do you know…?”
Cass opened her eyes early the next the morning to a smiling nurse. She felt the side of her face, which had been resting on her arm as she slept.
Where am I?
Then she remembered the night before.
“Uh, yeah, well, sorry about this,” she told the nurse stupidly. “We were gonna leave and stuff, but, kind of fell asleep, you know…” A loud snore interrupted her. Alec was lying partially on Ty’s bed and partially on his chair. Stretched out, he reminded Cass of a cat. The sight made her giggle and then realized what she was there to do and jerked her attention back to the nurse. “I have a question,” she said finally. “There was a doctor in here, taking uh, care of Ty, that’s my friend who got knocked out in his hockey game…well, I was just wondering who he was. He’s a little, um, unusual. Who is he?”
The nurse flipped through her clipboard and ran her finger down a sheet of paper. “Oh, yes…Jonathan Howards?” She looked back at Cass. “That’s who’s written to be in this room. So who’s Ty?”
“That’s just his nickname. We were wondering because, well, he found out Ty’s other name. I mean it’s his middle name too…oh man, just forget it. Anyways, it’sTyler, and no one knows how he knew that. We’ve never met the guy before.”
“Well the doctor assigned would be Mr. Smith. Nobody knows his real name…that’s just what he’s called. He works for a top secret organization, but his, you know, ‘secret identity’ is a physician here atEastonLocalHospital.”
“Oh.” Cass thought for a minute, like she always did, and then looked up at the nurse again. “Well, um, is he prone to…sarcastic jokes and…no respect towards others?”
“Don’t worry about him, honey,” the nurse said, still smiling. “I know him personally. He’s got his contacts, so don’t be alarmed if he looks at you and recites your social security number. Well, I mean, of course no one’s supposed to know your social security…Anyway…He’s always stressed through work and moody sometimes, and if you’re working with him, it’s best not to be the most sensitive person out there. He has scarcely any heart, and the comments he makes aren’t supposed to offend, they’re just…him. Is that better?”
Cass raised a shoulder. “Yeah. Thanks for that. I thought he was some freaky stalker or something.”
Alec yawned and opened his eyes a moment later. “Feeky soccer? Is that some weird sport?” he asked deliriously, then spotted the nurse. “Wooooooah…” he said and whistled. Cass raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t notice. “Could I have your name?” he was clearly taken by the stunningly beautiful nurse.
She smiled at him. “Oh…of course. My name is Veronica.”
He was still gawking. “Veronica…” he drawled.
“Uh, yeah. This is my, ahem!” Cass elbowed Alec sharply in the ribs and cleared her throat, knocking him from heaven and back down to earth. “Yeah, this is Alec. My friend.”
“Hello, Veronica, how are you Veronica?” Alec smoothed his hair and puffed out his chest. “Yeah I was thinking…do you wanna hang out sometime? Like sometime soon?”
Veronica raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Aren’t you a little young for me, Alec?”
He tried to grin but next to Ty’s dazzling smile it was quite dull.
“I’m tall for my age. I’m almost fifteen.”
She laughed. “And I’m almost ten years older than you.”
Ty frowned from the many voices disturbing his dreams, but when he opened his eyes and saw the dazzling Veronica, he woke up immediately and his jaw dropped open. “Whoa!” he said, gazing at the model standing only inches away from his bed.
Veronica glanced from Ty to Alec and then back to Cass, who was glaring at the both of them and clenching her fists. “Well, I have a few other patients to take care of…so if you’ll excuse me…” and left hastily.
“Good job, idiots,” Cass said, rolling her eyes. “You’ve officially been inducted into the Hall of Fame for Guys who Fall for the Stupidest Girls. You can get pins and matching jackets.”
“What do they do? I wanna join,” Alec said dreamily.
Cass glared at him. “They sit and talk about the girls they’re infatuated with, that’s what,” she snapped and threw herself back into the chair she’d been sleeping on. “Get a life, honestly.”
Ty rested his head in his hand. “She’s not fat,” he said, still out of it. “She’s… gorgeous.”
“If she’s beautiful then I’m a whale,” Cass snorted.
Ty sighed. “Yeah…you are.”
She tried to hit him and he jerked out of the way, laughing.
Sea Star II: 2012 (Because I couldn’t think of a better name yet)
Now onto version II: a significantly enhanced, different version. The characters’ personalities ultimately stay the same, but there are some huge differences in plot and added characters. For example, Alyssa is cut out completely, Cass never has an accident and neither does Ty.
Cassandra “Cass” Henderson (15) owns Star, only horse because they had to sell Troy and others. Cass has always wanted to decorate a huge tree outside her house in christmas lights, but it belongs to her neighbors. Her mom owns a small white farmhouse in the “middle class” section of town in good old smallish town U.S.A. and a small number of acres of pasture for Star.
Alec Pisch (15)- pretty much the same.
Jonathan Tyler “Ty” Howards III (15) – the same.
All the kids grew up together except for when Ty went off to private school thanks to his controlling parents and expectations of greatness.
Karine- A beautiful, athletic dim bulb and ultimate love interest for Ty, Karine is a star soccer player at Hearst who was a member of the queen bees until her boyfriend began to abuse her and cheated on her for one of her other friends, who didn’t do anything to stop the nasty turn of events. At this point, Karine was getting close to Natalie anyway, who she ran track with. Karine is often called a “bubble head” by Natalie affectionately, but Karine doesn’t mind because she is insecure/pretending to be uberconfident and looks up to Natalie. Karine gets almost everything she wants due to looks and charm but cannot fare well in the academic or street-smart world. She is a tall, overpowering athletic model with creamy gold hair. Her fashion style falls under “soft” and “feminine”– she sports miniskirts with v-neck sweaters and pearl earrings or polos when she feels like being casual. She dresses well and with expensive taste–but still more athletically so than her queen bee counterparts.
Natalie- Calls herself Violet Octavia Romanovna, but that’s just her stage name. She’s an aspiring poet and Shakespeare enthusiast who doesn’t care for horses. When she isn’t trying to be dramatic, Natalie is a fierce track runner and is able to channel her emotion into her work instead of letting it run rampant. Small, dark haired, reminiscent of Juno’s appearance/style. She likes to pretend she’s not rich and her goal is to get out of the small town as quickly as possible and not get caught up in the web of housewives and gossip and murder. Like Cass, she’s very passionate, but in a very different manner. Natalie is more blunt and quirky while Cass is cold and collected.
So far, my plot has gotten about this far:
- Cass (15) invites Alec over to go riding in preparation for a regionals show (this is the opening)
- After practice on Star, the kids go inside to grab food and Cass’ mom tells her that she has a package from Hearst Ridge Academy (“The Hearse”), a private day school on the rich side of town. Cass opens the letter and finds she has been accepted. It puts a damper on the late summer afternoon as Alec realizes he is not going to see her as often.
- BACKGROUND about TY is given when introduced as one of the prodigal members of the youth hockey team at Hearst Ridge. He started attending during first year of high school. All the characters are currently beginning their second year of high school, so Ty will already have 1 year of experience once Cass begins to attend private school to have a chance at horseback riding on more advanced teams and getting into a great equestrian program in college.
- Cass’ mom can barely afford to keep the farmhouse and 2 horses plus send Cass to private school–puts strain on the family. (Cass’ Mom has boyfriend with 2 small children from previous marriage??–May change Cass’ personality slightly)
- Cass meets Natalie and Karine, then Anjali later. First friends.
- Cass’ life at Hearst
- The Mean Girls– Alicia, Brittany, Marissa Tiff (short for Tiffany, her middle name, but is always written/spoken as Tiff)–pick on Cass. Duh. Marissa Tiff is your typical mean, rich, queen bee– it’s fun to write those kinds of characters. Her cousin, 3 years younger, looks up to and copies her. Marissa’s aunt, Ashley’s mother, owns an expensive stable and give Cass a hard time about boarding Star–refuse her via manipulation.
- Cass is rude back, focuses on riding, etc. Struggles to stay close to Ty.
- Ashley goes missing.
- Plot thickens
- Character development
- Death is an important theme.
- NO SCUBA DIVING/HORSE RACING IN THIS ONE
Cass gritted her teeth and tugged paint-chipped oxers, flower boxes, crossrails and brick walls into her riding ring and drew up a complicated pattern on the whiteboard for Alec Pisch to follow while he worked in the stable, grooming and tacking Cass’ thoroughbred, Star.
“Alright Alec.” She grinned to herself. She looked up and saw Alec scratching Star’s cheek in the doorway of the stable.
He walked closer, loosely holding Star’s reins, and the horse loyally followed, nudging his elbow with a dark velvety nose.
Cass capped the red marker and stepped out of the way of the board. “Tada!”
“Are you kidding? I have to memorize that?” Alec shook his head. “No way!”
“It’ll make the courses at the show look easy,” Cass said, throwing her hands up. “If you can jump at this level you can totally win at regionals next weekend.”
“I don’t know…” Alec’s nose crumpled under a coating of splotchy freckles. Short brown hair peeked from under his riding helmet.
“Alec. Come on. You have to practice sometime. I said I’d coach you all summer.”
“Ok,” he grumbled. A smile worked its way across his dimpled face as he took hold of the reins and mounted into the saddle.
Cass stuck her tongue out at him and stroked Star’s black forelock, running her fingers through the coarse hair and kissing him right above his eye. Star sighed and pressed his muzzle against her shoulder.
“No sleeping, my good boy,” Cass smiled. “Time for work.” She patted his neck and pushed him away. “Take care of Alec.”
“Hey!” Alec said, easing the reins through his gloved fingers, but his grin widened.
Star gave a little snort, pulling his head high and pricking his ears in uncertainty.
“Relax your leg a little,” Cass said. “It makes him feel like you’re tensing up. Watch your hands, too.”
“I always forget,” Alec said, grinning again. “He’s so much better than he was last year. His mouth is so much softer.”
“Hey boy,” Cass whispered and ran her hands over his ears.
Star closed his eyes and blew into Cass’ face as a sign of friendship and respect.
“Last year we couldn’t even jump him,” Cass said, twisting her head around to look at Star’s glossy copper shoulders and rump. “You can’t even see the scars now.”
“He’ll be amazing because he’s trained without crop,” Alec said.
“I wish judges would reward a rider for not using a crop. But they won’t because it’s only based on personal preference.”
“I know,” Alec sighed.
Cass twirled a piece of grass between her fingertips and leaned her elbows on the fence, nodding as Alec entered the ring.
Alec saluted and walked Star along the rail for two laps, then eased Star into a comfortable, although energetic trot.
“Post with less urgency,” Cass said, waving her bit of grass like a pointer. “Squeeze your hands on the reins until he settles. Keep trotting him until he’s pacing himself.”
“Are you sure Star’s ready for this course?” Alec squeaked.
“Yeah,” Cass rolled her eyes. “You know that.”
“I know, but…say you’re wrong. Say he bolts.”
“He won’t. Star trusts you. He trusts you to know what’s best. To warm him up properly and stop him from rushing the jumps and handling him with force.”
Cass turned her head to watch Alec’s heels on Star’s sides. “More leg presence,” she noted.
“I can’t figure him out. He’s so sensitive, Cass.”
“You can do this Alec,” Cass smiled, gritting her teeth. “Slow him to a walk and then canter him. Do not let him look at the jumps. Canter around the ring until I say to stop.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Alec teased, saluting again. His cues were much softer this time and Cass had trouble seeing where his order to walk and transition to walk began.
“Your communication has improved,” Cass said. “Maybe you’ll get a girlfriend someday.”
“In your dreams, Henderson.”
Cass watched Alec canter around, fixed a jolty seat and quieted his hands, which, she noted, had a tendency to leap up and down as if he were a jockey or preparing for a jump. Finally, she instructed Alec to turn into the ring and, after circling Star twice to calm him, begin the course.
He reached the first jump late, due to Alec pulling the horse back, fearful they would approach too quickly. Star refused the jump, shaking his head and trying to turn off to the side before coming to an abrupt stop. Alec curled around to look at Cass, his mouth open in a dramatic grimace.
Keep going, she motioned with her hands, and Alec lifted his hands and nudged Star, circling him before approaching the jump again.
He hadn’t tugged on Star’s mouth or kicked him forward. These were all good signs. Star would have attempted to throw him off if that happened. The horse was anticipating punishment for the refusal, but Alec assured him that it was the rider’s misjudgment by talking smoothly, circling, and approaching again. The bond between horse and unfamiliar rider remained intact.
Star was laid-back and cantering playfully, flying over the jumps out of joy. For the most part. He was such a different horse than when she had first seen him; his mane in uneven, jagged clumps and his coat dull, his stomach drooping from lack of exercise, his ears back and head down due to lack of confidence and trust.
She still remembered the sign on the gate of a long driveway stretching into a sunny field and, looking at her mother, Margaret, before pointing. “Look!”
Margaret had glanced at her, then at the narrow road. “I’ll turn around,” she said. “And see what that’s about.”
While Margaret urged Cass to “wait in the car,” Cass stared at the creamy vanilla paint on their truck’s hood before leaning out the window, breathing horse, and slipping out the door past the handpainted wooden sign that said “Young Gelding 4 Sale by Owner, Inquire Within.” It looked like a child had written it. A child who didn’t know what “Inquire Within” meant.
When she heard voices, Cass turned.
“You might not want him,” the elderly woman insisted, shrugging with both hands. “He just turned…different and we can’t afford to keep him.”
“I work with damaged horses,” Cass heard her mom say slowly, annunciating since the woman had a hearing aid.
“Oh,” the woman said approvingly, nodding.
She crept into the barn and there was soon-to-be her Star, crowding the back corner of his stall. He looked lowly and sad. “Hey,” she whispered, but didn’t reach out for fear of scaring him.
“Hey you’re right!” Alec shouted as he landed the last jump. “That wasn’t too hard!”
“I told you,” Cass said, rolling her eyes. She set her helmet on her head and took the reins as Alec dismounted. She trotted a few circles and then began cantering around the outside of the course, feeling the familiar rocking feeling as the warm breeze brushed her face. Then she set her sights on the first jump.
“Don’t freeze!” Alec shouted.
It was something the two used to tell each other before every show, when Alec first started riding at Cass’ barn when they were in fourth grade. When Cass first attended a show with Alec, she soon realized he had a bad habit of letting his nerves control his entire body. When he was trying to warm up his mount, a gentle school pony named Sasha, his elbows bent at awkward angles, his legs clung to her sides like heavy weights, and his fists clenched the reins with unnecessary force. His jaw tightened and his calves tightened.
“You have an ice cube body,” Cass had said to him, holding the reins of his now-very-tense pony. “You’re scaring your Sasha.”
“What?” Alec had replied, rounding on her with huge moony eyes.
“Ice cube! Don’t freeze! You’re supposed to be calm and fluid and allow that calmness to flow to your pony.”
“Ha ha ha, I wanna see you make fun of that after you win!” Cass had grinned and let his reins go. “It works.”
A little ways away from them, a young girl with silky dark hair and clear blue eyes was trotting in a circle. Cass glanced at Alec and then glanced at the girl before stepping out of the way. Alec, still frozen accidentally walked into the circle.
“You’re in my way,” the girl pointed, pulling her dappled gray pony to a halt.
“Sorry,” Alec mumbled.
“Are you riding in the next class?”
“Do you show a lot?”
“Yeah. I’ve been here since I was five.”
“In this region?”
“Yeah, this region.” Cass watched Alec stare at
She sniffed and looked across the riding ring. “Oh. So you don’t belong to the Hearst Ridge riding club.”
“Oh—oh no. I don’t. I just ride at a barn.”
Cass approached the first jump. Star, already warmed up, casually fixed his ears on the target and sailed over it. Cass counted his strides, leaned forward as he took off, and regained her seat as she directed him where to canter next.
Finishing the final jump, Cass pulled up and rolled her eyes. Alec made a face at her. They both started laughing and Cass’ mom called from the house.
“Hey you guys want lunch?”
“I’m starving, man,” Alec put a hand on his stomach. “Let’s go.” He led Star back into his stall after untacking him and they raced back to the house.
Cass touched the door a split second before Alec.
“Got it!” she laughed. “What do want for lunch?”
“How about…wings?” Alec licked his lips and rubbed his stomach.
“How about pizza?” Cass replied, sitting at the table and picking up the phone.
“Oh yeah! Of course!” Alec sat at the table, his chin in his hands.
After ordering the usual from PizzaZorz–a large half-pepperoni-half-ultimate, Cass joined Alec at the table, shoving some bills and paperwork out of the way and throwing down paper plates and forks.
“Cass?” Cass’ mom called from the doorway. “There’s a letter for you on the table.”
“Oops,” Cass said, sifting through the letters before coming to a bulky envelope. Hearst Ridge Day School, read the white spiraling letters over New England fall scenery and a bell tower. She ripped it open and read:
It is our pleasure to inform you that you CASSANDRA B. HENDERSON have been accepted to Hearst Ridge Day School, preparing students for elite colleges and courseloads. Please pay the tuition fee of $4,500 (double check if realistic) this semester and be prepared to begin class promptly on August 26.
Horses may be boarded on campus grounds in the Gerald Rochester ’74 stables on the west side of campus…
Cass gulped. Then read through again. Then gulped. She put the letter on the table without looking Alec in the face.
“What?” He asked, snatching the envelope off the table. “Wait, you didn’t apply to–” he read the letter next, his face falling. “Oh. Maybe you did. Well, congratulations, Cass! You’ve earned this pizza.” Alec smiled and put the letter in front of her, patting it. “It’ll be great! I can’t wait to visit. Oh man, Hearst…”
Cass swallowed and sat down in the wooden chair, her body feeling strangely at odds with the seat’s hardness. She squirmed, uncomfortable. “Oh man is right,” she said. “This is going to be the beginning of the end.”
A FEW MONTHS LATER AFTER A FEW MORE PLOT POINTS…
Cass chewed on the end of her pen, thoughtfully exchanging her gaze from the stack of colorful college applications to the leaves of the oak tree just outside her window, leaves filtering warm September sunlight and rustling in the breeze.
During the time she’d lived in the little Virginia farmhouse, which was almost her entire life, Cass wondered if she could string Christmas lights through the branches that hung outside her window without bothering the neighbors, who pretty much owned the tree due to its position on the property line, and so even the branches that hung over Cass’ driveway, her mom reminded her, were untouchable.
Stretching, Cass’ toes touched her brown loafers under the desk and remembered she’d forgotten to move her uniform from its crumpled mess on her bed to the hangers. Unlike her friends and non-friends at Hearst Ridge day school, a prepatory academy a few miles away, Cass didn’t have the time or the assistance to wash the uniform every day or even every other day. Her mother advised her on a few tips for fitting in with her wealthier cohabitants: spray a little dewrinkler on the blouse, bleach out any stains with a remover pen, lay out socks and shoes and hang the uniform to air the pieces out. Laundry was done on Wednesdays and Sundays if needed, but there were only the two of them—and occasionally Cass’ grandpa.
Instead of moving the uniform, Cass stayed put.
It was only a stupid uniform and her mom wasn’t going to be around to see it lying neglected on her bed.
Cass’ first day at Hearst Ridge was uncomfortable, she reflected, but not altogether unsatisfactory. As she rounded upon the stone steps to the gated campus, she overheard a few girls calling it “The Hearse.” Cass, who stood at least a few inches taller than them, smiled in their direction, thinking that prep school girls maybe weren’t as stuffy and conceited and selfish as she had been brought up to understand. At least, they couldn’t be that bad if they enjoyed her type of humor.
“Why call it the Hearse?” Cass asked.
One of the girls glanced at Cass, then at her friend, then back at Cass. “Are you new here?” she said, flipping her long brown hair over her shoulder, revealing a pink pearl necklace and matching earrings.
“Yep.” Cass shifted the weight in her fake designer book bag to her other shoulder.
“Oh… Well it’s called the Hearse because school is where kids come to die,” the pink pearl earrings girl said.
Cass imagined a Hearse with a long train of kids following in solemn black dresses.
“It’s like the Gashlycrumb Tinies,” Cass said with a hearty laugh. “Where every student dies a different, school-related death. And their corpses remain in the school, hidden so nobody finds them!” She up her hands in claws for effect. “You know…like an Edward Gorey.”
“Mmm…yes I guess so,” the girl replied. “Well. We have to go.” She smiled and then hurried away with her friend.
Cass’ smile faded and she glared after them and stuck out her tongue.
Friendship failure. She hadn’t even gotten their names. Was it her crooked voice? Her controlled but still frizzy and wavy-at-the-ends caramel-light-brown hair? Her wide shoulders? It couldn’t be the clothes. Everyone sported the same uniform: a white collared blouse, purple tie and a purple plaid skirt that fell to just above the knee.
Thank God there were no knee-high socks.
There was, however an abundance of manicured nails in every shade of purple, pink, red and teal blue, straightened, silky new-haircut styled hair in perfectly colored honey blonde, auburn, dark brown, and black. With the school uniform they sported high heels in all colors and styles and heights. Wedges. Stilettos. Some wore expensive Sperry’s moccasin boat shoes. Some wore expensive ballet flats.
Cass sighed, remembering one day when her mom was driving her through town to a dress shop where she could get alterations. This particular store happened to be in the more affluent part of Groveshire, Virginia, and Cass gawked at the glamorous girls walking to their cars.
They looked older than 12, but her mother assured her that the girls with perfect hair and makeup, high heels and outfits fit for a country club were in fact only 11 or 12 years old.
“That’s disgusting,” Cass snapped. “Those parents are first-rate, low-class, prepubescent brainwashing imbeciles.”
“Cass, honey, you really shouldn’t judge them,” her mother said. “There’s nothing wrong with them dressing how they want. Just because it’s different from you.”
Cass didn’t say anything. She had heard her mom countless times use a few choice and colorful words for the plastic, smiling Groveshire girls. Instead of looking at the middle schoolers, she turned her gaze to the moss-grown rock fence that lined most of the properties in the rolling hills of Groveshire. Mansions sat atop the hill with small orchards surrounding the property, often with a gazebo or pool visible, but sometimes both.
Cass heard rumors that the Groveshire families sometimes owned several houses in different parts of the country or different countries, complete with boats and servants and three cars or more for each property.
That house there had a sign that said “The Lawrence’s.”
No, wait. It was the “Millawrence’s.”
The brick mansion had a spiraling black iron gate with a winding driveway that went far up the hill to its huge garage. It belonged to the Rothsingers.
There was a mansion for the Pertallines.
There was a really big house (not quite a mansion) for the Quitallises.
And a mansion for the Tilton family.
And a one for the DiValentis.
And one for the Montavets.
Of course there was one for the Hearsts.
And a tiny white farmhouse for Cassandra Henders, her mother and sometimes her grandfather. In their grungy backyard were a few acres of fields where they turned out their few horses, used in therapeutic riding classes that her mother taught.
They didn’t advertise their family name on their home like a piece of class art at a museum.
Cass didn’t own a single pair of purple brand-label wedges or a pair of jeans more than $40.
Here was Cass, joining the Hearst Ridge family at 15. What a joke.
Cass’ dad always said that life was a game of dice and cards.
The game went like this: a player rolled the dice, which had three “good” sides and three “bad” sides. The player would then choose from two stacks of cards: the “good” cards or the “bad” cards, depending on whatever side the dice landed on. The player read the card, and then life continued to move forward. The game board was shaped like a wheel. There were ways to get set back, such as depression or addiction or grief, but mainly the person kept moving forward no matter how many bad things happened.
The game could get quite involved. Cass’ dad loved to talk about it. The “bad” cards could be anything from dropping something on your toe or spilling your ice cream cone to finding out that someone had cancer.
Cass was always suspicious that her dad planned to make it into a real game, which she felt like she wouldn’t enjoy playing because it was too much like real life.
And real life was hard enough.
Around 7 p.m., Cass left her room and walked through the shady golden glen to the barn outside in the back to where she and her mother only kept two horses—the retired racehorse, Fallen Star, and the awkward large pony, Troy. Both served as mounts for the therapeutic riding lessons her mother taught.
Star and Troy were both rescues and required human companionship and kindness to overcome their abusive pasts. Horses, Cass learned when she was 9 and first met Star, were not very different from humans.
Cass got off the bus from public school one afternoon to see her mother lunging Star. Just a week before, he was hostile and didn’t let anyone touch him. The week before that, it was impossible to get near his stall door without a flurry of defensive kicking and squealing. Star was eager to show his power. To show he would not get hurt again.
Cass began to avoid the giant red animal in her barn. Its eyes and mane and tail and legs—all a deep black—reminded her of fire and smoke. It made her uneasy.
“Horses need someone to trust in order to live a happy life,” her mother said, flicking a lunge whip at Star’s powerful hindquarters. “They’re herd animals, Cass. You don’t really think they could just run off into the wild and survive, do you?”
Cass faltered. “They’re so big.”
“They’re big. But they’re not predators. Only a select few are cut out to be the herd leaders, and that’s who the rest of the herd turns to for protection and trust. In a companionship like this, the horse views the human as the powerful protector. When a human does something to upset this balance, the horse’s temperament immediately fails him. He is no longer the docile, kind animal that you once knew. But it can also be turned around—“ she took out a lump of sugar and stepped away from Star. His nostrils flaring, he broke from the trot to stare at her, his ears pricked. Cass’ mom spoke softly and held the sugar close to her body, looking at the horse’s chest rather than his eyes. “You can teach him that you’ll keep him safe. In the barn, on the trail, in the ring. Any accident or abuse greatly damages a horse.”
The great red horse dropped his nose to a comfortable level—no longer the tense, upright neck of fear—and flicked his ears back, walking steadily toward Cass’ mom before halting. Cass’ mom didn’t move.
“You have to come all the way to me, Star,” she murmured. “I won’t hurt you.”
And he did.