Unfortunately that person turned out to be Chelsea. Chelsea, of all people, along with Claire, who happened to walk up at that very inopportune instant.
“Well, well, well,” Chelsea said in an oh-so-innocent voice. “Look what we have here, Claire-bear. It’s old-Jay and Violet.” The unconcealed smile was embedded deep in her voice. “Only, and correct me if I’m wrong, this looks a little more than friendly, don’t you think?”
“I never kiss my friends like that,” Claire replied, blank-faced and serious, oblivious to sarcasm.
Jay’s answer was to pull Violet closer, wrapping his arm around her waist. Violet cringed.
Chelsea cocked her head at Claire. “I was just trying to make a point.”
Claire looked confused. “What point?”
“Seriously, Claire? That Violet and Jay are dating now.” She glanced away from poor confused Claire and flashed a gloating look to the couple in front of her. “It’s about time, by the way. I think everyone will thank you for putting us all out of our misery. I, for one, was completely fed up with watching you two lovesick puppies pining over each other. Seriously, it was disgusting.”
She grabbed Claire by the sleeve of her snug, body-hugging hoodie and led her down the hallway, toward their first-period class. Violet watched in stunned silence, processing everything that Chelsea had said to them, as Claire bounded along in Chelsea’s commanding wake.
Jay decided that it was his turn to gloat. “You pined for me?” he asked, stupid grin and all.
Violet hit him on the arm. “Shut up!” She shook her head. “I’m pretty sure she was talking about you anyway.”
Chelsea’s lack of surprise over the spreading news that Violet and Jay were dating was almost exactly the same as everyone else’s, only most people had the decency to keep their knowing comments to themselves. Apparently Violet was the only one who hadn’t seen it coming, and that included Jay, who claimed that they—as a couple—had been inevitable.
The only thing that took some of the attention off the new Jay-Violet pairing was the fact that most of their classmates were talking about Hailey McDonald’s death and Mackenzie Sherwin’s disappearance. But the biggest news of the day, the buzz at school that overshadowed almost everything else, revolved around the capture of the man responsible for killing so many girls.
That didn’t mean no one noticed Violet and Jay. They definitely got their fair share of attention. But it wasn’t until lunchtime that Violet became acutely, and uncomfortably, aware of just how much notice they were getting.
Grady had made it easy on her, steering clear at every possible meeting point. Violet wasn’t sure whether he was avoiding her or, more likely, Jay. But where he had previously been wagging his tail and waiting for her, now he was noticeably absent. And thankfully so.
But Lissie Adams had no such qualms about remaining in the background, unnoticed. Unlike Grady, who had everything to be ashamed of, Lissie was obviously pissed off that she’d been cast aside by Jay. And it was easy enough to decipher that she blamed Violet.
Violet was sitting at her usual lunch table with Claire and Jules. Chelsea and Jay hadn’t shown up yet, and Violet was being bombarded by questions from Claire about how she and Jay had hooked up. She wanted details, every last juicy one of them. Violet did her best to redirect the conversation, which wasn’t particularly hard when she was talking to Claire, who was infinitely more interested in talking about herself than anyone else. But unfortunately Jules wasn’t about to let Violet off the hook so easily, and instead of letting Claire be sidetracked by Violet’s deflections, she kept steering Claire back on topic.
“So, Violet, is Jay a good kisser?” Jules asked.
“Yeah,” Claire sighed dreamily. “I bet he’s a good kisser. Is he?”
Violet glared at Jules, who was having a hard time chewing her mouthful of sandwich while she laughed.
“What’d I miss?” Chelsea asked as she sat down next to Jules, practically pushing Claire out of her way. Claire barely noticed.
Jules answered for them. “Violet was just going to tell us if Jay is a good kisser.” She grinned at Violet with bread stuck all in her teeth.
“I think I’d like to hear the answer to that question.” The voice from behind Violet felt like dull razor blades scratching down her spine.
Violet closed her eyes, trying to decide how she should handle this. She finally plastered on her best fake smile and stood up to face Lissie Adams, and her little lapdog “best friend,” who was always tagging along behind her. Lissie was glaring at Violet.
“Hi, Lissie,” Violet sighed, for lack of anything more intelligent to say, as she waited to see what the older girl wanted from her.
She didn’t have to wait long. Lissie’s perfectly perky mask had been cracked, and she was practically seething venom at Violet. “Do you think you’re better than me? Because you’re not. And just because you managed to convince Jay to go to Homecoming with you, by doing God-knows-what, that doesn’t make you any better than you were last week.”
Chelsea stood up from her seat. “Screw you, Lissie. You want to say something to my friend, then you’re saying it to me too. You can either get your liposuctioned ass outta here, or we can take this outside.”
Violet put up her hand to stop Chelsea before things went too far. “It’s okay, Chels, she can say whatever she wants.” And then she looked back at Lissie, who was still glaring at Violet like she wanted to strangle her. “I didn’t set out to steal your date, Lissie. It’s just…” She paused, trying to get the words right. “It’s complicated with Jay and me.” That wasn’t exactly as smooth as she’d hoped for. “Anyway, I’m sorry if I messed up Homecoming for you, but you can’t really think this is my fault.”