But now, with Hailey McDonald still out there somewhere, Violet felt a sense of responsibility that far outweighed any fear—real or imagined—of her own potential sensory discomforts. She might just be the only person who could find this guy, and she wasn’t about to ignore that possibility.
If she was going to find out what Brooke’s echo was, she would have to go to the cemetery where Brooke was buried.
The concept was simple enough, but actually pulling it off was another thing altogether. Her parents practically had her on maximum-security lockdown. She felt like she was doing hard time. And with the absence of Jay as her guardian and protector, they didn’t seem to be inclined to let Violet out of their sight for more than five minutes at a time.
Jay would have been the perfect accomplice, except for the annoying fact that he refused to speak to her. That, and after her little stunt at the mall, there was no way she was going to convince him to help her again. She was more afraid that if he knew what she was still planning to do, he would try to stop her…even if it meant ratting her out to her parents.
Violet had gone around and around with ideas of how she could sneak away for an afternoon, discarding each one in turn as she realized that if she got caught in a lie—even one of omission—she would probably never see the light of day again.
Okay, maybe a little dramatic, but not completely implausible.
When the answer finally came to her, she felt a little dense for not thinking of it sooner. It was the perfect excuse, and no one, not even her parents, would know the truth. Even her companion would be oblivious to his role in her deceit. It was foolproof.
She dialed Grady from her brand-new cell phone, the first useful purpose it had served since she’d gotten it.
He answered his phone on the first ring, his voice enthusiastic. Violet cringed a little. After they exchanged some small talk, she plunged right into her plan.
She laid out her words carefully, following the script she’d prepared in her head before placing the call.
“Anyway, I was calling because with everything that’s been going on, I haven’t even had a chance to visit Brooke’s grave yet, and I feel terrible about it,” Violet explained as sincerely as she could.
“Man, I didn’t even know you guys were friends.”
“Yeah. We played softball and soccer together when we were younger, and even though we didn’t see each other much, I was still devastated when I heard…you know…” She tried to sound broken up, like she couldn’t finish her sentence. She wished she were one of those girls who could cry on command, just for dramatic effect. “Do you think…would you mind…taking me? So I don’t have to go alone…?” Her voice trailed off, and she waited for his answer.
She nailed it perfectly, from form to execution. And even with the high degree of difficulty, she had to give herself a perfect 10 for her performance. Jay would have seen right through it, but Grady was clueless.
“When do you want to go?” he asked.
“Can you be here in an hour?”
She probably could have told him to be there in two minutes, and he would have been there in one.
When Violet hung up, she was surprised that she didn’t feel even the slightest hint of guilt over her deceit, and she wondered if she would have felt differently if it had been Jay she’d lied to.
The next part of her plan was a little trickier. She had to convince her parents to let her go.
Her dad was still at work, but her mom was in her studio. Violet wandered across the lawn to the small shed that had been converted into an art studio, and when she pushed the door open she was assaulted by the familiar linen-y scent of canvas and the more vaporous fumes of paint thinner.
Her mom smiled in greeting as she was cleaning brushes in an old Mason jar filled with the caustic cleaners. “What’s up, Vi?”
Violet hesitated, and her first real pang of guilt battered at her conscience. But there was no turning back now, she decided, and she forged ahead anyway. “Grady Spencer called and asked if I could go to the cemetery with him.”
Her mom’s eyebrows rose at the unusual request, and she stopped stirring the brushes, wiping her hands on her paint-smeared smock. She seemed concerned, and Violet knew why. This wasn’t something Violet would normally ask.
Violet plunged into her rehearsed explanation. “I guess he was friends with the girl that was killed, the one from Bonney Lake. He wants to take flowers to her grave but he doesn’t want to go alone.” She could scarcely believe she’d said that without flinching. “I didn’t think it would be a big deal, especially since he’ll be with me, so I told him I would.” She forced herself to appear as relaxed as she could manage at the moment, while her heart hammered nervously against her rib cage. “It’s okay, isn’t it?”
Maggie Ambrose studied her daughter thoughtfully. “Are you sure, Violet?”
Violet nodded and held her breath as she looked at her mom warily, watching for any signs of what she might be thinking. For a moment, she thought she saw a fleeting look of skepticism, and she wondered if maybe she’d laid it on a little too thick.
Finally, though, her mom went back to cleaning her brushes and shrugged. “I suppose it’s fine. As long as you two stay together.” She gave Violet a look that said she was serious. “I mean it, Violet Marie…stay together. And be careful.”
“We will, Mom. Thanks.” She ran up and gave her mom a quick kiss on the cheek, surprising them both a little. Violet hadn’t done that in ages, and she couldn’t help thinking that the impulsive action was brought on by her own burning sense of shame at having flat-out lied to her mother. Maybe the affectionate gesture made her feel a little less remorse for what she was about to do.