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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Nine

Part 2

On the way back to Hereford I sat in the passenger seat of Jon’s Jeep Wrangler. Tek and Michael had passed out in the back and were snoring up a storm. Every once in a while one of them would let out a particularly loud snort and Jon and I would exchange an amused glance. I couldn’t seem to curb the urge to smile. We were acting as if we were old friends.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to make friends, and I’d been an ineffectual detective all day. I’d yet to extricate one piece of useful information from Jon, and we were only about ten minutes from campus. If I was ever going to act, the time was now.

“So, what’s it like working in the post office?” I asked, breaking the relative silence.

“It’s okay.”

He was back to talking in phrases.

“It must be pretty cool, I mean, seeing what everyone’s getting before they do,” I said. “Knowing who’s sending them mail and packages . . . .”

Jon gave me a look that caused my mouth to snap shut. I had never known anyone so accomplished in the art of tacit messages.

“What?” I asked innocently, trying to keep the mood light.

“I’m not really interested in other people’s business,” he said flatly.

Abort mission! Abort mission! my mind screamed. I felt like he was scolding me. Had he realized I was fishing for information? Was I that transparent? If so, this was definitely not the job for me.

“Sorry,” I said. But I could tell it was too little too late. I watched him transmute into his old, closed-off self. I tried to put my finger on my transgression, but it wasn’t easy. All I’d done was asked about his job. Why was that such a problem?

It’s obviously a sore point with him, I thought, looking out the window as the scenery flew by. You suspected that something was going on there, and now you know for sure.

After a few minutes of silence, we arrived at the school. Jon brought the Jeep to a screeching stop in front of the girl’s dormitory and waited for me to get out.

“Do you need help?” he asked.

“No, thanks,” I said as I unbuckled my seatbelt. “Listen, I’m sorry if I said something wrong . . . .”

I was desperate to make amends, feeling that if I didn’t do it now I would efface all the progress we’d made today. To my relief he cracked a small smile. “No. It’s okay. I’m just . . . tired. I want to get back to the dorm.”

“Okay. Well, thanks for including me. It was fun,” I said as I stepped out of the car. I pulled my snowboard from the back of the Jeep and walked around to the window.

“See you around,” I said.

“Yeah. See ya.” Then he peeled out, kicking up snow and slush in his wake.

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