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The whole drive, Mom was yapping at me, trying to make me explain. What could I say? I was innocent, but no one in their right minds would believe that. True, it was almost as if I’d stolen something, and framed someone…but not really. Helen, the most popular girl in the school, started it. The weird guy who called himself Apollo and had the phone number of 1-800-GREEKGD got me embroiled in the whole fiasco. I don’t know who to pin all of the blame on, but one thing I know: it wasn’t me. And now, when I get to that new place, oh, what did they call it, yeah, Olympia, Washington, the teachers will ask me all sorts of questions like the usual who-what-where-when-why they ask you when you get expelled from a school district.
They say seeing is believing. Good one. People don’t believe what’s going on under their big, fat, bulbous noses until it’s too late. And as for those who see and believe, they’re respected about as much as the wilted cauliflower in the lunch line. Such is my life.
It all began when my best friend Helen lost her mind.
Helen flounced into school one day, dizzier than a dodo bird and about as respectable as a flamingo in curlers and a hairnet. She was smiling greater than I’d ever seen her smile before, chatting with her sister Penelope. Oblivious to all the attention (an easy task for her, for everyone always stared at Helen Sparta), she rushed up to me and shouted in my ear, her voice still as melodious as a songbird’s trill, “Guess what, Cass! Paris asked me out yesterday!” I lifted an eyebrow.
“You kidding? Heaven knows you’ve already got the most popular boy in the school, Menelaus HiKing, falling for you. What the heck do you think you’re doing? You know you don’t want to make him mad. He’s like a bulldog - he sinks his teeth into something, he’s never going to let go.”
I hoped she would just laugh - just call it a joke. No. What was I thinking? She replied with, “But haven’t you seen Paris? He’s sooooo cute! And he’s rich, too. His father owns a shipping company. He says that I’m so pretty, he’d use my face to advertise his company, and that I was so beautiful, my face could sink a thousand of his ships and he wouldn’t even care!”
“Menelaus will, though. He’ll be furious. They don’t call him ‘Meany’laus for nothing!”
“Who cares about Menelaus? Menelaus, shmenelaus. Paris will protect me.” I raised my eyebrows, incredulous. “You know what, Cass, I can’t believe you’re siding with him over this!” Before I could reply that I was just concerned for her, late bell rang and we had to run our separate ways. Just another normal day at Troy High.
. . .
“Cass? Cass? Cassandra Seer! Athens, Georgia to Cassandra Seer! Come in, please!”
“What?” I snapped out of my dazed excursion into la-la land. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Hera, I’m here.”
“Yes, I got that. What’s the answer to question two?” I gave it. “Thank you, now please pay attention in the future!” All of Helen’s (and previously my) friends snickered. As I looked down, embarrassed, I heard whispers diffusing (see, I do pay attention in science!) throughout the room.
“Is it true Helen’s dating Paris?”
“How does Menelaus feel?”
“I can’t believe it!” Hector and Achilles, two best friends, were getting into a fight.
“Poor Menelaus! He’s been wronged!” Achilles ranted.
“Nah, Paris is cool,” Hector glared at Achilles.
“You crazy? Paris is as cool as a pot of boiling water!”
“You saying he’s hot?”
“You’re impossible!” Achilles gave Hector a look that would have made the preschool teacher give him timeout.
“Ditto!” They ignored each other for the rest of math.
. . .
By lunchtime, the whole school was divided in two. News apparently spreads fast when it involves the most popular couple in school. On one side of the great atrium was Paris, looking pretty pale compared to the big hulking mass that was Menelaus. Surrounding him were Hector and his other friends. Helen and her girls gossiped like a flock of birds on the tables next to them, preening, doing their nails, and combing hair. I was excluded.
On the other side was Menelaus, his brother Agamemnon HiKing (the school president), Achilles Titanson, and that weird kid from tech everyone calls “Odd” Ysseus Ithaca. He looked bored, but I didn’t blame him. He really didn’t fit in with the popular crowd. The school had pretty much split in two. There would be WAR!
When I got home, I felt sick. All of my previous friends had deserted me, because they thought I had sided with “Meany”laus. I had spent lunch in a state of solitude; after I finished, I read my science book, pretending it didn’t matter. Pretending I didn’t care. But I did, and it hurt.
Also, Helen and I had a project due next Monday, four days from now. I had planned to start Friday, use the weekend to tie up the last loose ends. Helen probably wouldn’t ever speak to me again, so I would flunk English. No chance I could write a story by myself.
I sat down on my bed and cried, tears dripping down my face and ruining my mascara. I stared at the mirror, seeing something moving. My cell phone, a gift from Helen. I picked it up.
“Hey, is this Cassandra Seer?”
“Who the heck are you?”
“Don’t worry about school. You know, these things have happened before, and they turned out just dandy.”
“Whatever.” I was about to hang up. “Who are you, anyway?”
“Apollo, god of prophecy.” I hung up.
The next day, I called him back. School had just been too awful. I remember that his number was 1-800-GREEKGD.
“What happens?” I asked. He told me. He also told me that I needed to find “Odd” Ysseus. Good thing he was my science partner.
When I told my “friend” Helen, she didn’t believe me. That’s under-exaggerating. This is how the confrontation went.
“Cass, I can’t believe you betrayed me!”
“Fool, I can’t believe you’re being so stupid!”
“You dare to call ME stupid?” Tears like diamonds rolled down from her angry green eyes, making her look helpless. Another trick, like always.
“Yes. I do,” I stated angrily.
“Fine. I always knew you hated me. We’ve been friends ever since preschool, but I always knew you just wanted to be popular.”
“Liar! I wanted to be your friend because I thought you were nice! Guess I was wrong.”
“Like always,” she sneered quietly, unwilling to provoke the teacher’s wrath. Then, her face underwent a dramatic change. The tears disappeared. She stopped glaring and smiled, showing teeth like pearls. Simpering up to me, placing her perfectly manicured hand on my desk, she asked in a voice so sweet it would make a cat sick, “What was that you wanted to ask me, dearie? You can still be popular! I’ll still be your friend.”
Her earrings dangled enticingly, little red roses. Like her. Both the beauty, and the thorns. But I’d had enough of her manipulations, her lies.
“Oh, never mind.” Let her deal with her own problems. Then I had to talk to Ysseus. First, I stole a glance at his notebook, filled with words I couldn’t read. He saw my glance.
“A poem. I’ll read it to you, if you want.
That’s all we are.
Playthings of some greater being.
No one believes in gods anymore, but
Are we not ourselves?
Gods of all that which we create,
Gods to those who trust us?
Like my gears, all alive.
Big gear doesn’t turn with little gear, use medium gear to even it out
And one day, if
All of the pieces have played their part,
The game is won,
The life over, all over
The chess set of life depleted, all pieces captured or lost,
A new god steps up
To create again -
To create a horse, the Trojan Horse, to break down walls,
break down barriers.
If Penelope could only see, my life would be made,
Like gears in machines.
They call me odd. “Odd” Ysseus,
But what would they call me if they only knew
I could create something
To shake the foundations of the school, cause an uproar, start a war?
Nothing. Foolish Helen’s already done that.
But I’ll build a horse, so realistic, you’d expect it to
And we’ll see who’s odd now,
After Troy falls.”
He looked at me, and I told him everything. Here, at least, was someone I could trust. So I asked him what I was sure he had in mind.
“Will you use the Trojan Horse to break into Paris’s house on Sunday? Helen’s having a picnic there, and this is a way to get her back and make the school normal.” He agreed, and we made plans.
That night, I rummaged in my closet to find a black sweat suit and ski mask. I crept as silently as I could out of the house, running down familiar streets that glowed like shadows in the darkness, racing my beating heart until I arrived, panting, at the camera store, Mr. Click It’s. Ysseus was there, waiting for me. We snuck in together, and took pictures of their most valuable camera. Then we tiptoed out, amazed at our good luck.
Ysseus was to build a working model of the camera. I was to convince the store to hide theirs for three days and file a police report, saying it was stolen. Then Paris would be blamed for the crime and go to jail, and Helen would regain her senses. I would need to keep quiet about all of this, until the whole issue was resolved. I would have felt bad about it, but for once, I had no scruples. Apollo had told me that “Paris was a thief. Little things, to be sure, but things nonetheless. A stick of gum, a pack of erasers, a girl’s heart…it all added up. He was like a weasel - kind of cute, but hoarding things. When he revealed his true colors, Helen would wonder what she ever saw in him. She would run back to Menelaus, who would reject her, trying to revenge himself for all of the hurt she had dealt him.” Poor Helen - she hadn’t yet figured out that a lot of the school was out to get her. Some were angry for their friend’s sake, some just disliked her, but all girls were jealous of her. Her and her beauty.
Helen is, well, drop dead gorgeous. Her eyes are as big as does, her lips perfectly lipsticked, teeth to make a toothpaste model mad. When she laughed, it was like the tinkling of bells - soft, airy, without substance. Her elfin face contrasted perfectly with her softly flowing golden hair, making her look as if she was Miss America. With a figure to rival a gymnast, she always thought she was the best. But now, now that I have the chance, I see she’s like her laugh, airy, empty. She’s the diamonds she flaunts, beautiful, shimmering, but with a heart as cold as stone.
So I had no bad feelings about getting them both in trouble.
None at all.
“Please good sir, can you keep this in the back room, and file a police report that says it was stolen or missing?” I asked Mr. ClickIt himself.
“No.” I didn’t think so. I’d try ‘sweet little girl’ next.
“Pretty please, with a cherry on top, sir?”
“NO!” ‘Dedicated schoolgirl’ attempt now.
“It’s really important, for a science project.”
“Pity.” ‘Girl with a really rich family?’
“It’s like, $25 important.”
Greed filled his eyes. “Pity.” Ooh, good. I should stick with the ‘rich girl’ approach.
“Just for three days?”
“Just for three days, and the police report, too.”
We shook hands, and money would be exchanged. Paris would be caught, and all would be well.
Finally. And Ysseus was done, too.
But we were much too slow! Already, Hector and Achilles had gotten into a fist fight because Patroclus had been arrested, thanks to Hector. Achilles had visited his friend every day, but Ysseus told me it did no good. Achilles was partially insane! Next thing I had heard, Hector, too, was in jail and Achilles was in the mental hospital. I would be next to go there, probably, like the weirdo that I was. Apollo’s voice echoed in my head. You, Cassandra, will know all, be believed by none, and watch that which you love fail. Cheerful, eh? The Trojan War had begun, but it was far from over.
“Are we there yet?” I grumbled, tired of hiding in the back legs of Ysseus’s horse.
“No, we just passed the gate. Shut up. Do you remember the plan?”
“How could I not? I walk up to them and distract them while you place your fake-“
“Don’t call it fake! It works just fine!”
“-camera in Paris’s house someplace, then we call the police and Paris gets in trouble, Helen goes back to Menelaus, and I study for the science test Thursday. What could I forget?”
“Sorry, I’m nervous. You ready? 'Cuz guess what. We’re here, Cass. Good luck.”
“We’re in the stables?”
“Did you figure out how I’m supposed to get out?”
“Through the top. There’s a handle and joystick there - once I’m out, you ride it over to where they are. Press between the ears and it disappears. Press it again and it reappears. Got it?”
“Got it.” And with that, I climbed out of the big brown contraption Ysseus called Troy Boy.
The smells of the stable assaulted me. Everything was messy, stinky, and damp. As Ysseus clambered out of the horse, his dark brown hair plastered to his forehead with sweat, he gave me a thumbs-up.
“I don’t intend to. Don’t get caught.”
“I won’t.” Grinning, he raced out of the building. In a few seconds, I could no longer see him. It was up to me, now.
Riding a horse is harder than it seems, especially when it’s metal and you have to steer it with one of those joysticks you use in Mario Cart Wii. I’d been riding for several minutes now, and I began to feel sick. The sky had turned a beautiful shade of azure, cloudless, but somehow foreboding. Every step Troy Boy took felt like another step closer to disaster. I finally made it up the hill. Tying Troy Boy to a tree, pushing the button between his ears, I began to walk towards my destiny.
As I approached one step nearer to my destiny, Apollo’s voice echoed in my head. You will die. You will die. Suddenly, I felt kind of bad about what I was about to do. Helen was my best friend. Menelaus was a bully anyway. Was what I was doing the right thing? Too late now. Ysseus was counting on me. I took a couple of steps up the hill when I heard crying. This could be bad.
Good thing that Ysseus had given me a video-chat camera thingy in case I ran into trouble. He could hear everything if something went wrong. I pushed the button and turned to face my destiny.
Destiny sucks. Apollo was right. It was planned out. But not by the Greek gods. More like the gods Ysseus thought about, gods that stepped up and took responsibility when no one else would. These gods went by the names of Agamemnon HiKing and Paris Royal.
They were both sitting up on that hill, reclining in those soccer folding chairs that they sell at Costco for $10.50. Helen was standing, ranting about something I couldn’t make out until I got closer. Then I heard it, loud and clear.
“You meanies! I can’t believe you planned this all! Why?”
“We were bored,” Agamemnon smiled quietly. “Why else? As president, I could do whatever I wanted. And I wanted entertainment. So Paris and I told the student council to pick sides, to avenge my poor stupid brother.”
“Paris! You never loved me?” wailed Helen. If she weren’t such a drama queen, I’d pity her.
Paris grinned, showing teeth long and pointed. “Oh, no. No, no, no. Who could ever love you?”
Helen crumbled, tears (real this time) flowing from her red eyes. I went to go help her, when I heard my name. This was bad. I was glad that Ysseus was listening - that way he would be safe.
“Cass was right! I should never have left Menelaus! Also, did you guys know how many people you got in trouble? Why would you ever do something that mean?”
“They did not concern us,” laughed Agamemnon. “Why should we care? And as for Cass, we planned a clever trap for her and that boy Ysseus. They will come try to frame Paris here, and will instead get caught by the police for it. I called Cass and said I was Apollo, god of prophecy. I told her what would happen. She went to go help you. Isn’t that hilarious?” So funny. He could be the next Bill Cosby.
I told Ysseus to contact the police, and tell them everything. Then I could get them arrested. He understood, quickly dialing the number on his cell. As for me, I poked the center of my flower in my headband, activating the hidden video camera Ysseus put there. I have to say, that boy is crazy about technology. Then I went to spring the trap. I stepped out onto the top of the hill.
“Hi, Paris. Hi, Agamemnon. How are you doing today?” I grinned. I had to keep them busy until the police arrived.
“Hey Cass,” Paris smiled slyly at me. “I think you’ll really enjoy prison. Don’t you?” I turned my head innocently, all the while praying I would survive.
“You planned this?”
“Of course, all of it. I even stole the things that I then planted in the other people’s houses.”
“Of course! Who else would be smart enough to do that?”
“Oh, no one. Except for the police.”
“Who you will soon be joining.”
The police were here. One of them looked me in the eye, glaring. “Are you Cassandra Seer?” I nodded. “I have a warrant for your arrest.”
“Yes, officer. I understand that. I would like for you to arrest these two boys, also.”
“Evidence?” Agamemnon, Paris, and the policeman snickered.
“Of course.” I handed them the camera.
After they took a quick peek at the camera, I was off the hook. The police were still pretty mad at the whole pretend-to-steal-a-camera thing, though. They gave me two choices - do 100 hours of community service, or leave the county. I chose to leave. Mom always said she wanted to live in Olympia, Washington, anyhow. I stopped protesting, and we moved. The policeman did say I could move back later, like in a year or so. And I will. I’ll come back. I’m not in trouble. I’m a hero, in fact. The legend was changed. The seer did save Troy. And she was believed. She survived, to live another day.
Ysseus will wait for me to come back.
Helen will become a better person.
I will return.
And Troy Boy will be put in the Smithsonian.
Life is good.
Of course, then I didn’t know about Spider High. When I started, all was well until my new best friend, Arachne, went crazy. She believed that she was better than Mrs. Athena, the art teacher, at weaving, and boasted to her frequently.
And even after that, it took me too long to get back. Twenty years, in fact. It’s not that I’m paranoid, but that seemed pretty long. Right?
Kind of like an odyssey.