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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Eleven

Part 2

The next day the unusually warm weather continued. When I saw Jon eating his lunch outside again, alone, I decided to take the initiative and join him. Danielle was still being exaggeratedly cold toward me, and I had no idea how to act whenever I was around David. I needed a respite from both of them, and the last thing I wanted to do was hang out at Marshall’s table after he had attacked me the night before. Jon was pretty much all I had left.

He looked up when the door opened and, happily, didn’t seem put off by my presence. I sat down across from him and smiled.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he responded.

The more time I spent with him, the more inured I became to his characteristic silence. I decided that if he wanted to sit there and enjoy the placid afternoon, that was fine by me. I wasn’t going to try to elicit anything from him. I just wanted to have a peaceful, stress-free lunch. This detective was on break.

“I have to ask you something,” Jon said, surprising me as I dug into my salad.

“Okay,” I said, ignoring my heart, which had skipped a beat when he spoke.

Please don’t tell me he’s onto me, too!

“How is it that you can sit with David and Danielle one day, the Conenites another day and then come out here and sit with me?” he asked.

“Is that illegal?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

Jon shrugged. “Just improbable.”

I munched on my quite palatable chicken Caesar salad and turned over a response in my mind. “Well, I guess I’ve never been able to yoke myself to one group,” I said finally. “It’s not that I think I’m above it, it’s just that I never totally fit in anywhere.”

Jon nodded and a slight smile played about his quite luscious lips. “Yeah, I can see that,” he said.

I felt a skitter run through my heart as he looked at me, and I knew I could take his comment as a compliment.

And just like that, the vitriolic Jon was gone again. He made the metamorphosis into the Jon from the ski lodge—the open, solicitous, even jolly Jon that I found it so easy to talk to. This guy was an enigma—which was exactly why I liked him.

He also seemed to have forgotten or at least forgiven my questions about his job and was willing to move on—thank goodness.

“So, how’re your applications coming?” I asked, zipping up my jacket. It wasn’t that warm.

“Good. I’m sending a bunch of them out today,” Jon said. “I’m just psyched to start getting responses.”

“You seem sanguine about the whole process,” I commented.

Jon lifted one shoulder and bit into his hamburger. “I guess I kind of am,” he said. “I think I have senioritis. I’m starting to believe that anywhere will be better than here.”

“I remember what that’s like,” I said with a laugh.

Jon’s brow furrowed at this comment and I backtracked. “I mean, I can relate,” I said. “Sorry. My brain’s a little slow on the uptake today.”

“I know the feeling,” Jon replied. “I have an English essay due that’s kicking my ass. I haven’t left the library in days. I just hope all this work is worth it.”

“Trust me, it will be,” I asserted, wishing suddenly that I could talk to Jon without pretense. That I could just tell him who I was and talk to him all about Stanford and how stupendous it was to be there among all those revered professors and erudite scholars. I could just see Jon fitting in perfectly on the Stanford campus—on any campus. I hated that I couldn’t allay his fears.

“You seem pretty sure about that,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I can tell you’re the collegiate type,” I said. “I bet you’ll flourish wherever you go.”

Jon smiled the rare smile, and it sent my heart fluttering inside my chest. Damn, he was cute. And smart. And I swear he was looking at me as if he were thinking the exact same things about me.

Okay, you’ve got to subjugate your feelings right now, I thought. This is an undercover investigation, not The Dating Game.

The bell rang, ending lunch, and just like that, I was snapped back to my senses. I couldn’t nurture the burgeoning feelings I had for this guy. He was still a suspect—one of only two. What did I think I was doing?

But it’s not him. It can’t be, I thought as Jon picked up my tray and tossed my trash for me. Once I got to know him he seemed so ingenuous. All he wanted was to get on with his life, just like every other high school senior in the world. I didn’t see him messing it all up to make a quick buck selling drugs. In my heart he definitely was vindicated.

Of course, in my mind I knew I couldn’t tell my mom he was no longer a suspect. She would ask me why, and then I would have to say it was a gut instinct and she would know I had a crush on him. That would not go over well. I was going to have to find irrefutable proof that Marshall was the dealer. And I was also going to have to prove that if Jon was delivering the goods to Marshall, he was totally unaware of what he was doing.

I had a lot of work to do.

“Where’re you headed?” I asked as we walked back into the cafeteria. A few kids were walking outside to enjoy the fresh air, while some still sat at their tables to chat their way through the short break period.

“I was gonna go hang out with Michael and Tek,” Jon said, causing my stomach to turn. “Wanna come?”

“Nah,” I said, clutching the strap on my backpack. “I’m gonna go to the library and work on my paper.”

“Okay,” Jon said, smiling before he turned on his heel. “See ya later.”

As he walked away I had to sit down at the nearest table before my knees went out from under me. I had almost forgotten about my conversation with Michael and Tek the night before. Clearly they had yet to tell Jon that I was asking about him in connection to drugs, or he would have either brought it up or given me the cold shoulder. But they would probably bring it up now. If Jon was the dealer (and I was convinced he wasn’t), then he would definitely know I was up to something. If he wasn’t the dealer and he was as clean as Michael and Tek claimed, then he was probably going to be insulted.

Suddenly I felt as if the world was pressing in on me from all sides. I felt like I was doing everything wrong. It was time to get my priorities straight.

Okay, you can’t worry about what Jon thinks of you, I told myself, taking a deep breath. The primary goal here is to bring the drug dealer to justice. Do that, and then you can worry about your love life.

I had to figure something out soon before everyone figured out I was a mole.

Luckily, the monthly party in the gym was coming up in a couple of days. All I could do was hope that Marshall wouldn’t freeze me out after our little altercation in his room. If there was ever a perfect forum for drug dealing, this party was going to be it.

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