Becoming Cassie

April 20, 2010
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The day when I decided who I was started out as a good day. The cutest boy in our class, had asked me out to the dance. I didn’t even consider what happened to me, what happened to Cassandra. That name tastes strange in my mouth, like the water at someone else’s house. But when this story started, my sister’s name was Cassandra, and we still had the Thursday Club.

The Thursday Club was having its last meeting of the summer. My sister Cassandra, my friend Eileen and I met every Thursday at my house to hang out with each other. We never, ever missed the Thursday Club. That Thursday appeared no different. I was a sixth grader; I thought my sister was my best friend. My world was perfect, and I thought it would never change.

Cassandra and I waited in my room as we did every week; Cassandra twisting one of her chocolate curls around her finger with impatience. Then Eileen bounded in, her long violet skirt swishing around her ankles. We did what we did every week, laughing and talking. We read C. S. Lewis to each other, not caring that we were probably the nerdiest 6th and 7th graders on our block. At least, Eileen and I didn’t care. If Cassandra did, I was too wrapped up in the familiar magic of that summer and the Thursday Club to notice.

School started the next week, with the usual new supplies and nervous kids smiling at each other. On Wednesday afternoon, Cassandra floated in to the house, her face glowing like sunshine. I still didn’t notice anything.

“Mom? Can I go to Maddy’s house tomorrow afternoon?”
Cassandra leaned on the banister, looking up the stairs to my mother’s office like an allegory of hope.

I felt my brow furrow in angry surprise as I heard my mother holler down her consent.

“But Cassandra! Tomorrow’s Thursday!”

“Oh yeah. Um, sorry, Ivy, but Madison’s having an ice cream party for all the kids in our class. I can’t not go. I’ll have to skip the Thursday Club this time.”

“You can’t skip to the Thursday Club!”

“Sorry, Ivy. You know how it is.”

But I didn’t know how it was. And as I looked in Cassandra’s face, I could tell she wasn’t really sorry. I peered closer; desperately searching for some trace of remorse, and that was when I noticed the difference. Her eyes were ringed with black and overshadowed by blue. She was wearing lip gloss.

“Cassandra? Your face looks different.”

“Oh, Ivy. It’s just makeup. Everyone wears it. And, uh, most people at school call me Cassie now, so if you could . . .”

“Okay, whatever. Cassie.”

My nonchalance didn’t convey the confusion I was feeling. Cassie? Who was Cassie? My sister’s name was Cassandra, and always had been. Cassandra was proud of her name; it sounded like a queen. Cassandra read Narnia books and made mocha chocolate chip cookies with Eileen and me. This ‘Cassie’ who wore makeup and went to ice cream parties wasn’t my sister. I felt like crying, or running away from this strange girl, but instead I walked into the kitchen and called Eileen on the telephone. As I convinced Eileen that Cassandra would come next week, and our world would be complete again, my attempts to convince myself didn't quite take hold.

The next day Cassie came home and left like a warm day in March. Eileen and I only saw her whisk through the front door to dump her backpack in the front hallway. Then she was gone, off to her ice cream party.

“Did something happen to her face?” Eileen looked curious as she played with a wrinkle in her floor-length blue skirt. I was still too disbelieving and ashamed to talk about it. My sister had been abducted and replaced by someone who wasn’t interested in being my friend.

The next Thursday Cassie went to Madison’s house again. She came home with blue fingernails and a best-friends necklace.

“You missed the Thursday Club again.” I said, accusation written all over my face.

“Oh, Ivy.”

Each Wednesday came with a new excuse from Cassie about how she wouldn’t be home the next day. And each week, Cassie floated farther and farther away from me. One Thursday evening, after Eileen went home, Cassie barged into our family room and twirled around.

“Well? What do you think?”
Her hair had been cut. Her long, beautiful, curly hair was gone. It was replaced by softly floating, layered, highlighted locks that only came down to her shoulders. Stick straight.

“Cassie! You look beautiful!” My mother never forgot to use my sisters chosen nickname.

I stared for a very long moment with my mouth open, and then I ran upstairs to my room and slammed the door.

What on earth was happening? Cassandra had never missed the Thursday club, and now she was acting like skipping it was a weekly necessity. I hated Cassie’s new haircut. I hated Cassie’s new personality. She was starting to have luminosity, a glow. An aura that told you she was perfect and popular. And what I really hated was that, deep down inside, I wanted to have that glow too.
The rest of the school year passed without Cassie coming to one meeting. The summer was the same way. It was just Eileen and me, doing what we usually did. We never talked about Cassie, but her absence hung over our meetings like a cloud.
Eileen responded to Cassie’s changing by emphasizing her staying the same. She had always been kind of quiet, but that summer she became more and more artsy. Flamboyant. Unique. She flaunted her difference, wearing her customary long skirts with elegance and grace. She wrote beautiful poems and read them out loud to me, not in the least embarrassed.
I, however, took a different path. I toned myself down. I wanted to read Nicholas Sparks instead of C. S. Lewis, because we were, after all, practically teenagers. I flat-ironed my hair and used Cassie’s mascara. I could feel myself slipping down the path my sister had beaten, and though I wanted to try to stop myself, I didn’t. That summer I was the one who changed.
The first week of school, I discovered that the ice cream party-throwing Madison had a sister in my class. Coincidentally, Eileen was in the class I was not in. So I hung out with Madison’s sister, and inevitably got invited to an ice cream party on a Thursday afternoon. I hesitated for a moment, thinking of Eileen. And then I thought of Cassie, and her wild popularity this year. I went to the party.
That year I obtained the same glow, a radiance of wearing the right clothes and saying the right things and listening to the right music. It was Cassie’s glow, and now it was mine too. I had triumphed, won a guilty victory, leaving Eileen behind. I felt bad, but every Wednesday, when I picked up the phone to call Eileen with a new alibi, I thought of how everyone liked me, boys included, and how I was the golden girl. And then I would call Eileen with confidence to explain why we couldn’t have the Thursday Club.
The moment of decision came on a Wednesday in April. We were having a dance the next day because there was no school Friday, and the cutest boy in the class asked me to be his date. Madison’s sister was thrilled for me, and Cassie had promised to do my hair and makeup.
But that afternoon I found a note in my locker.

Dear Ivy,

I miss you. We never see each other anymore, and we haven’t had the Thursday Club since school started. Are you mad at me? What’s going on? I need to talk to you. Not on the phone. Please, please, please let’s have the Thursday Club tomorrow. We can have it at my house, at 5:00. Please come, Ivy.


P.S. If you can’t come, there’s no need to call me.

I didn’t think about the note. I stuffed it in my backpack before I had time to process the words penned across the paper. I chatted with Madison’s sister for the last five minutes of the day, and then bolted for the door as soon as the bell rang.
I slunk into the back seat of the car as Cassie bounced into the front, telling Mom about her day. I sighed loudly.
“What’s up?” asked Cassie.
“You know how I have that dance on Thursday? Eileen really wants to have the Thursday club. She’s really upset. I don’t know what to do.”
“Oh, Ivy. Don’t be so silly.”
She didn’t need to state her opinion. I already knew that she thought I would go to the dance. She returned to talking to Mom.
I tuned out her rapid chatter as I slipped Eileen’s note out of my backpack. I tried to reread the note as its full meaning hit me, but Eileen’s graceful letters broke free and swam away before my eyes.
I needed to decide. I needed to know what I would do, who I would choose. The fact that I had a choice didn’t actually surprise me. But I felt like I had already chosen, that I had already become the girl with five best friends and the name-brand tee shirts. My indecision about the dance just seemed obligatory, a going-through-the-motions that pretended like I might still choose Eileen and Narnia and mocha cookies. But to whom was I pretending? Eileen couldn’t know what I was thinking. Cassie already assumed I would choose the dance. And pretending to myself was just silly. I wouldn’t do that. Right?
A familiar feeling rose inside me, a feeling I had when Cassandra became Cassie. I felt like crying, I felt like running away. I wanted things to stay the same. I wanted to simultaneously exist in two different worlds, but I already knew which world I was more a part of.
I went from Cassandra to Cassie.

I left Eileen behind.

I made the Thursday Club disappear.

I went to the dance.

Now we’re in high school. Eileen has found her own friends, but she’s hardly popular. I, on the other hand, am.
I have a perfect boyfriend, and Madison’s sister and I are considered inseparable. Cassie and her friends hang out with me sometimes, and to them I’m “Cassie’s cute little sister”.
Maybe Eileen and I would still be friends if Cassie had stayed Cassandra one more year. If I hadn’t gone to the ice cream party, or the dance. If instead of a club we just hung out with each other. If a million things hadn’t happened. Maybe I would have been artsy like her, or she would have been popular like me. Did I wish that had happened?
I don’t know.

But now I have Cassie’s glow, I’ve become her miniature.

And it’s too late to change myself now.

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jb4eva said...
May 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I loved this so much.  It made me cry.  It's so sad how Ivy became just like Cassandra in the end. She should have stayed true to herself.

this is really sad (in a good way)

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