The other thing that was obvious at school on Monday morning was the conspicuous increase in security. And it wasn’t just the unarmed school security guards that patrolled the campus maintaining order; there was now also a visible police presence, with at least two uniformed officers standing guard around the hallways outside of the classrooms.
One of the officers carried several imprints on him, which Violet just assumed were occupational hazards. Fortunately, none of them were particularly offensive to her, and she could easily ignore them whenever he was nearby.
The grief counselors were back as well, which struck Violet as a little premature, since there was no evidence—not yet, at least—suggesting that Hailey McDonald wouldn’t be found and brought home unharmed.
The counselors made themselves available to those students who felt the need to unburden their fears and frustrations in a safe environment. But many of the kids at school also found them to be a convenient excuse to ditch class, since passes to see the counselors were being handed out like candy.
Violet had opted to keep her concerns to herself rather than visiting the counselors. And since Jay still wasn’t speaking to her, she really had no one to confide in.
He had dropped her off on Sunday evening, after their disastrous day at the mall, and had waited in the driveway just long enough to make sure she’d gotten safely inside. When Violet tried to call him later that night, he hadn’t even bothered answering the phone, and he didn’t respond to her e-mails. She didn’t press the matter. She knew he was mad, and just needed some time to get over it.
Her parents, however, surprised her when she’d arrived home by giving her a brand-new cell phone of her own.
Violet had been begging them for a phone since she was fourteen years old, citing the names of all the other kids her age who had already gotten one. Her parents had always refused, ignoring her Christmas and birthday requests for the phone and stating that there was no “good reason” for her to have one.
Apparently they’d changed their minds.
Violet should have been ecstatic with the cell phone, but somehow it didn’t hold the same appeal it once had. Now it felt more like a necessary tool for survival than the new toy she’d always hoped for. She’d shoved it away in her purse…right next to her can of pepper spray.
She made her way through her class schedule on Monday, trying to ignore the fact that Jay, who sat next to her in several of her classes, was still giving her the silent treatment. He sat impassively, staring forward and doing a good job of at least pretending to pay attention to the teachers, in an effort to avoid mistakenly making eye contact with Violet. She knew he was still furious with her.
She really didn’t mind that he was so upset since she felt as though she deserved it, at least to some extent. She’d acted like an idiot yesterday, she realized, recalling that she’d basically planned to confront a killer in a public restroom at the mall. So instead of letting it get to her, she pretended not to notice his intentional slights.
But something else happened Monday that caught Violet off guard.
After PE, her first-period class, she was surprised to find Grady waiting for her outside of the locker rooms. He walked with Violet to her second-period class. They made casual small talk, which was easy with Grady since they’d been friends for so long. And she liked that he didn’t seem to be pushing her, despite the fact that they were still planning to go to the dance together, to be anything more than that. Violet actually found herself enjoying his company and was glad that he’d decided to walk with her.
Jay didn’t look up as he passed them on his way into class, but Violet was sure that he hadn’t been clenching his fists until he’d spotted her and Grady together.
Still, considering that they were “just friends,” Violet was even more surprised when Grady was waiting for her, again, after each of her next two classes.
She’d planned on having lunch at her usual table, with the same friends she and Jay sat with almost every day. Grady usually sat at another table with a bunch of his jock friends, but today it was like he somehow sensed that Violet was going to be alone and he’d decided to tag along with her. Violet didn’t complain.
She carried her lunch tray to the table where Claire and Jules were already sitting. Grady sat down next to Violet…in the spot where Jay normally sat.
Jay’s absence was glaringly obvious.
Violet glanced as discreetly as she could around the cafeteria, wondering who Jay had decided to spend his lunch hour with, but he was nowhere to be seen. She was a little irritated with herself for the twinge of disappointment she felt at not seeing him, even from a distance.
“Hi, Grady,” Violet heard Chelsea say knowingly as she joined the group, squeezing in between Claire and Jules. Violet knew that the tone was meant more for her benefit than for Grady’s.
“Hey,” Grady said, nodding at the other girls at the table.
There were a few moments of awkward silence, made even more awkward by Chelsea’s not-so-subtle quizzical glances in Violet’s direction. Chelsea was about as understated as a jackhammer. Ultimately, though, it was Claire who made things worse when she asked where Jay was today.
Violet really didn’t want to tell them that Jay was mad at her, and it wasn’t like she could explain their fight to them anyway, so she made up some lame excuse about Jay needing to stay after class to get some work done. She had no idea if Jay would corroborate her stupid lie if he was asked, and for now she really didn’t care…as long as it kept anyone else from mentioning his absence from lunch again.