My name is Cassidy Connor and my parents hate me. Well, they can go to hell. After yet another fight with my manipulative lawyer father and bible thumping mother, I disappear onto Hollywood Blvd among the other street kids. Or so I thought. The cops pick me up for a BS crime I didn’t commit, and Dad announces the only way I can avoid charges is to “voluntarily” admit myself into Oak Dale, a psych ward for crazy teens. I don’t belong there—my parents are the real nutjobs—but it’s not like I have a choice.
At Oak Dale, everyone is going on about the kid who just killed himself trying to escape. How could they dump me in a place like this? I’m thrown in with my anorexic roommate, Erin; foster care system victim, Gina; and pyromaniac Tony. Guess he likes to light ‘em up. All of us are unwanted baggage, here against our will.
She pushed open the door to her room and shuffled over to her bed. It was time to get ready for class, and she really didn’t feel like it. It seemed wrong to be doing school work now that it was summer. But her teacher had told her there was no rest for the wicked. How true.
Erin, her anorexic roommate, lay under the blankets taking another nap. Seemed like lately she slept all the time. Cassidy had gotten her to take a few bites of food since their talk. But Erin was going to need to do that every day if she were ever to get her energy back.
Cass changed her shirt, grabbed her books and looked over at the sleeping girl. A tender feeling arose inside her. That poor girl had been through some serious crap.
“Wake up lazy—.” She almost said bones, but stopped. “Butt.”
Erin didn’t even stir. Cass walked over to her bed and leaned over her. She was so out. So … still.
Cassidy froze. “Erin?” She reached down, grasped her friend’s shoulders and shook. Erin’s body gave no resistance; it rattled like a weightless, dried leaf.
“Oh my God, oh my God!” Cassidy gasped, her heart racing. Her mind blanked out. What was happening? Erin didn’t seem to be breathing, and Cassidy couldn’t remember what to do for that. She’d seen a life guard at the beach do mouth to mouth once, but first the guy had checked for breathing.
Cassidy pressed her cheek to Erin’s lips—slight breath. Relief flowed down her insides like warm water. “You’re alive. You’re alive.” With trembling hands, Cassidy turned Erin onto her back. Yes. There was a slight rise and fall of her sunken chest. “Please be okay. Dammit why won’t you eat!”
Erin’s brows twitched. Her pale face was all angles and chasms. Cassidy shook her again. “Erin?” No response.
Erin lay corpselike on the bed, her collar bones and ribs trying to erupt through her yellowing skin. Panic rose from Cass’s stomach. “Erin! Wake up now! Get up! Talk to me!”
Cass leaped from the bed and ran to the door, throwing it open. “Help! Something’s wrong with her!” Her screams echoed down the cold, gray hallway.
She heard answering shouts and feet running. In a daze, Cassidy backed away from the door and dropped onto her bed, staring across the room at her motionless friend.
“Please, God. Please,” she whispered.
Ellen, the nurse, and a few other staff burst into the room. They surrounded Erin’s bed. They couldn’t get her to respond either. The urgency in the room rose. As the moments passed, Cassidy felt a chilling blackness surround her.
More people came. Cassidy watched as if through smoke as Erin was lifted onto a stretcher and taken away. A thought came into her head that rang with truth. Erin was dying. Cassidy stared at the empty bed with the rumpled bedding for several minutes, in a trance.
Slowly she lay back onto her mattress and stared at the ceiling as hot tears ran down her face and into her hair and ears. Cassidy turned onto her side, pulled her knees up to her chest and cried until she fell asleep.
About the Authors
Serita Stevens is an award-winning author and screenwriter with over 30 published books and short stories. Her titles include the bestseller Book of Poisons (Writer’s Digest Books), The Forensic Nurse (St. Martin’s Press), the prequel for the TV series, Cagney and Lacey, and The Transylvania Art Heist: The Chas Allen Story (2015). Stevens holds a Master’s Degree in Communications and Writing from Antioch University in London, England and has taught at UCLA, USC, and Loyola Marymount University, among others. She is an active member of Women in Film. www.seritastevens.com
Jo Schaffer is an author, speaker, and blogger who studied Arts and British literature in London, England. She is a founding member of Writers Cubed, a non-profit organization formed to promote literacy, and co-creator of Teen Author Boot Camp (TABC), the largest teen author conference in the United States. Internationally recognized authors who have presented at TABC include James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Ally Condie (Matched). Jo is also involved in independent film. www.joschaffer.com
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to reading this book!
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