By the time she found a parking spot in the student lot, there were only two die-hard “Jay fans” left waiting for them. Or rather, for him, Violet corrected herself again.
She couldn’t help but wonder how many others had already given up their watchful post in favor of not visiting the attendance office before school started today.
Violet decided not to wait around to watch the flirt-fest begin. She was already half running, with her backpack slung over her shoulder, as she bolted from her car. “See you in second period!” she yelled back to Jay, consciously deciding that this was better anyway. The last thing she wanted to do right now was to watch him with the two girls, who practically assaulted him as he got out of the car.
She dashed through the door to her first class just as the bell sounded.
Made it! she congratulated herself. Three days down and no tardy slips.
Just one hundred and seventy-seven to go.
By the time second period rolled around, Violet was already convincing herself that whatever it was she thought she’d been feeling, whatever plagued her ill-advised subconscious, was just an illusion of some sort. It was all smoke and mirrors. A trick of the mind.
And then he sauntered in and fell into the chair beside her, his new size making his desk look like something from a doll-house. Violet half expected the chair to buckle beneath him.
“Hey, Vi. Glad to see you decided to stay at school after all.” He punched her in the arm playfully.
Her heart somersaulted painfully.
Violet sighed. “Ha-ha,” she retorted without a trace of humor.
Jay’s brow furrowed, but before he could ask her what was wrong, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “I almost forgot. Check it out.” He held out the paper so she could grab it from him.
She unfolded it and tried to smooth it out a little so she could read it. As it turned out she didn’t need to bother; she would have been able to read the unmistakably feminine handwriting if the paper had been on fire.
It was a phone number. For Jay. From Elisabeth Adams, only the most popular girl in the school. She was the odds-on favorite to be Homecoming Queen this year, and most likely Prom Queen too. She was tan, blonde, pretty, and a senior. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she also had the shiny, straight hair that Violet could only dream of.
Violet tried not to look too deer-in-the-headlights when she glanced back at him. “Wow” was all she could think of.
“I know.” Jay seemed as surprised as she was but still managed to appear pretty impressed with himself all the same. “She must have slid it into my locker while I was in first period.”
“You gonna call her?” Violet was careful not to sound petulant, but she certainly felt that way. She just wanted to be his friend again, to not care about whether he called this girl or not. She wanted to listen to the gory details and ask him probing questions that would eventually have them off on some random tangent and laughing at their own stupid, private jokes. But somehow, she just couldn’t.
She felt deflated as she handed the note back to him.
The bell, and then the teacher, interrupted before Jay could answer her not-so-innocent question. Jay took the note and stuffed it into his binder as trig class got under way.
Violet tried to concentrate on sines and cosines as she took notes on everything the teacher wrote on the white-board in the front of the classroom, but she heard nothing. She couldn’t stop thinking about how she was going to get over this…this thing she had for her very best friend in the whole world.
And she had to get over it…soon. Because if she didn’t, if she couldn’t stop feeling so viral toward him, eventually it would infect their friendship, and there would be nothing she could do to stop it. She knew she couldn’t let that happen.
He was Jay. He was the best person she’d ever known, and she couldn’t imagine losing him.
She allowed herself to look his way, pretending she was glancing at the clock on the wall above the door. He was meticulously lost in the lesson, taking notes well beyond the scope of what was written on the board.
She was grateful that at least one of them was listening, because she knew he was going to have to explain it all to her later.
And he would, without ever knowing that he was the reason she hadn’t heard a word of the lesson.
Violet avoided Jay at lunch—a first for her—opting instead to linger in her third-period English class under the pretext of finishing up some homework—homework that wasn’t actually due until the beginning of the next week. She managed to put off leaving the classroom for almost twenty minutes.
Then she wandered to the bathroom, not really the kind of place anyone wanted to “hang out,” by any stretch of the imagination. But she took her time, washing her hands, redoing her ponytail, which didn’t really improve the second time around, and then washing her hands again.
Other girls—some she knew and some she didn’t—came and went while she was in there, primping and gossiping as they stood in front of the mirrors.
Violet took her cue from them and even put on lip gloss, which she almost never did. She had to dig into the bottom of her backpack just to find some.
When Chelsea walked in, Violet was actually relieved to see someone she could talk to, even if it was only for a few minutes.
“Where have you been?” Chelsea accused in her usual blunt tone. “Jay’s been looking for you everywhere.” She perched in front of the mirror and began the familiar ritual of preening, starting at her hair and working her way down.