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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Twelve

Part 1

On Friday night I sat with Jon at dinner—inside this time. A blustery snow shower earlier in the day had given way to a cold, still evening, and the new drifts gleamed white outside the windows. It would’ve been romantic—if we weren’t surrounded by hundreds of cavorting kids and if I weren’t more nervous than a hen in a fox’s den.

Oh, and then there was that small possibility that Jon could still be the bad guy.

The big sting was going to go down that night, provided I could catch Marshall dealing at the party. I felt like I was hovering on the brink of something huge. Tonight was my night. I was either going to fall flat on my face or go home a hero. I just hoped it would be the latter.

“So, what’re you gonna do tonight?” Jon asked, pushing his empty plate away.

My heart thumped. Was he asking because he wanted to do something with me? If so, life was really, really iniquitous.

“Why?” I asked, delaying the inevitable. How was I going to explain to Jon that I was going to be living large with a group of people he couldn’t stand? I had a feeling I was in for an earful.

“My dad sent me a couple of new DVDs. I thought you could come by. If you want,” Jon said as if it were no big deal that he was asking me to hang out alone in his room on a Friday night. Probably in the dark. . .

Ugh! That sounded soooooo good!

“And I’ve been hoarding those chocolate chip cookies they’ve been giving us for dessert. I’ve got a couple dozen stashed in my refrigerator,” Jon added.

Wow. He really knew the way to a girl’s heart. Those cookies were like heaven on a baking sheet.

I took a deep breath. Jon wasn’t going to like what I was about to say, but I had to be candid with him. What was the point of lying? This time tomorrow I was out of here anyway.

And you’re never going to see this guy again, I thought, feeling lower than low.

“Actually, I was going to go to that party in the gym,” I said, averting my eyes.

Jon snorted a laugh and looked at me like he was waiting for the punch line. I watched his face change as he realized I was telling the truth.

“Wait. You’re serious? Why the hell would you want to go to that?” he asked vehemently.

I blinked. I knew he didn’t like Marshall, but I thought he would throw a few gibes my way, not get all worked up. I didn’t believe my announcement constituted such a terrible offense.

“It sounds like fun,” I said, lifting one shoulder and hoping my mellow attitude would mollify him. “You should come with.”

“Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen,” Jon said, sitting back hard in his seat. “Those guys are superficial, idiotic losers with nothing better to do on a Friday night than get drunk and talk about how cool they think they are for getting away with it.”

“They can’t all be that bad,” I said. “Why do you have to be so hidebound about them?”

“I’m not being hidebound. They are all that bad,” Jon said, scowling. “Trust me. You haven’t been here as long as I have. And the more you hang out with them, the more likely it is that you’ll turn in to one of them. Everyone else has.”

Well, that was a disconcerting thing to say.

“Wow. I’m glad you have so much confidence in my character,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Whatever, if you’d rather hang out with them, I can’t stop you,” Jon said, getting up from the table.

Suddenly I realized that he wasn’t so much upset that I was hanging out with Marshall and his friends, but that I wasn’t hanging out with him. I couldn’t believe it. Our feelings were mutual. Jon liked me! He really liked me!

Giddy with glee, I got up and followed Jon out of the room, wanting to reassure him that if I had my own way I would be hanging out with him in his room every damn night of the week, but how could I? What was my excuse going to be? It wasn’t as if I could tell him the truth.

Jon shoved through the door of the cafeteria and I heard myself shout his name. He stopped, sighed and turned around, fixing me with his piercing green eyes.

Okay . . . now what?

“Um . . . listen,” I said, stepping closer to him. “How about a compromise? I’ll go to the party for an hour or two and then we can watch the movies.”

“We’re banned from each other’s rooms after eleven on weekends,” Jon said. As if either one of us cared about rules. I could tell I had already conciliated him. Now he was just trying to be difficult.

“I don’t think I’m supposed to be in the gym at midnight either,” I reminded him.

Jon sighed again and eyed me like he was trying to decide whether my desire to be with him was genuine. It was. It so was.

Of course, the only problem was there was a good possibility that I wouldn’t be able to come to his room that night because I’d be enmeshed in police business. There was also a distinct possibility that my mother might show up at his room tonight instead of me, to question him about his deliveries.

But at that moment I choose to ignore those possibilities. I chose to believe in the illusion of me and Jon, alone in his room potentially sitting side by side on his bed while the TV screen flickered in front of us. As long as that was possible there was also the possibility of a kiss.

What can I say? My hormones got the best of me. It was impossible to be rational with him looking at me like that.

Besides, maybe it would all work out. Maybe everything would go smoothly, Jon would be exonerated when Marshall confessed to everything, and I could still squeeze in a date before breakfast.

Yeah, right.

“Okay,” he said finally, cracking a smile. “I’ll try to stay awake for you.”

“Thanks,” I said. “And I’ll get there as early as I can.”

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