Viola was feeling paranoid after meeting with Tina earlier that day – even the regular paranoia of high school had become amplified. She even had a hard time keeping her mind clear and her thoughts organized, and so had gone from class to class all day in a sort of a haze. At lunchtime, she was been able to chat and hang out with her friends Mohini, who everyone called Moonie, and Jennifer. They shared a table with a larger group of sophomore girls, most of whom Viola made a point not to talk to. Mostly, there was conversation of cute boys, the latest TV shows, what people did over the summer, and, on the occasion that one particularly shy girl spoke up, cats.
“Hey,” Moonie said after she and Jen finished talking about their summers. Moonie put her hand on Viola’s shoulder as she continued, “What’s up? You’ve been quiet all day.” Viola had run into Moonie that morning when she, along with Nick and Video, had gathered around the latter’s lockers. All three of them had managed to get lockers in the same area, along with their other friends Sara and Patrick. Viola had feigned ignorance when they told her it was a secret, but she’d known for months that Patrick had found out that, for a small fee, one could choose where one’s locker would be. It was all a bit silly – seeing as she didn’t really give a hot damn where her locker was. In fact, it had been Nick who had wound up paying for their lockers to be near each other.
“Yeah, spit it out,” Jen added, “Whatever your drama is, it’s better than sitting here quietly staring at the ceiling.” Jen was a sarcastic girl who tended to hide behind humor rather than talk about her emotions or personal problems. Still, it was fairly well known that her home life was not great – though she was clearly close to her older sister Laurie, who was a senior this year. They drove to school together and were regularly spotted hanging around the Lakeland Mall on the South side of town.
“Um,” Viola said, and she almost told them everything that Tina had told her. But she stopped herself. Tina had told her everything that had happened in confidence, so Viola couldn’t go around sharing the information with everyone, much less the gossip-prone Moonie. “It’s a thing I’m doing for someone at school, so I can’t really tell you about it.”
“Bull,” Jen replied, poking her cafeteria-bought macaroni and cheese nonchalantly as she spoke. “We helped you break into that lawyer’s office last spring, so you kinda have to share your latest case with us.”
“Yeah,” Moonie added, seeming on the verge of saying something more. She remained silent, though, and Jen and Viola exchanged a glance and a snicker at their friend’s awkwardness. Mohini was called Moonie because she was generally spaced out on a prescription for the ADD that she supposedly suffered. Unfortunately, she had been one of the first kids in their school to receive that title and the treatment for it. Moone had once been an incredibly energetic and curious person, until the day she showed up at a school an obedient and sedate student on a new mediation. To this day, despite various drug adjustments, Moonie had never really bounced back, and continued to earn her nickname almost every day.
“Okaaaay, Moonie,” Jen said, returning her attention to Viola, “but if you’re not going to share that information willingly, then I’m afraid I will have to use other means to get it from you.” Jen looked to either side of her, feigning a fear of being spotted, and then began to sing ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ by Brittney Spears. This was, in fact, Viola’s most-hated song in her entire life – not least because it seemed to make hitting women okay. Still, she took Jen’s singing in good fun and pretended to be angry, leaning down and glaring at her friend from across their lunch table.
“Oh, gods, the pain! The pain! I cannot stand it much longer,” Viola said, putting her hands to her head. Lunch time was almost over – so even though she was making a joke, she was also hoping to stall just enough that she could go to 6th period and escape her friends’ prodding. With the ringing of the bell that signaled the end of lunch, Sadie smiled in the midst of her joking response to Jen and Moonie’s questions. “Ah, crap, it’s time for learning again.”
“Ugh, I hate learning – especially the misogynist bullshit that Mr. Rupert dishes out in History,” Jen responded as she stood up from their table, mimicking her history teacher’s almost-British accent. All three of them mocked the man regularly, largely because the most British thing about him were his three-piece suits, which he’d probably bought at a Warehouse O’ Suits store in a strip mall. “You know, last year, he had the nerve to tell my class that women played little to no important role in World War II?”
“But that raises the question, why are you still in his class this year?” Viola said as they walked out of the cafeteria. She herself had little occasion to be irritated by the man after finishing her first-year Honors History course with him. For the rest of her time at Argo, her History teachers would likely be all strong, intelligent women – from Ms. Smythe who taught the next two years to Sister Rita, a short but imposing nun who taught the A.P. History course at their school. “I mean, you could have done SOME of the homework last year,” Viola continued, smirking at Jen, who scowled back at her. Jen claimed that busy work was not worth doing, so she had spent much of last year not turning work in only to fail half of her classes. Her parents, who ran a local supermarket, had not been happy; their dreams for their daughter included neither summer school nor Jen’s anarchist dreams of joining a commune on the West coast some day.
“Whatever, see you in seventh period?” Jen asked, turning to walk away but only doing so slowly, shuffling off backwards so that she could face Moonie and Viola.
“Yeah,” they both replied, neither terribly excited for their next classes. Viola was headed to Honors Geometry, where she would have to interact with Video and a bunch of juniors, along with one or two other sophomores who’d managed to test into Algebra II in their first year. Moonie, meanwhile, had to go to Auto Shop with Nick, though Viola was unsure whether her boyfriend and Mohini had ever actually hung out before. “See ya!” Viola called, while Moonie waved, and the three friends headed for their respective class rooms.
Viola hoped that Nick would have fun in Auto Shop. He had picked up the class at the last minute because he’d thought it would be fun to learn how to take care of his car himself. Viola, meanwhile, had made him promise to pass along some of the skills he would learn – so she too could gain from his one somewhat frivolous class. Her own schedule was so predetermined to help her get into the best university possible that she would rarely have the space for any fun classes. She’d had to fight to get Drawing II as her seventh period class, mostly with her guidance counselor, Ms. Wise, whose trademark retort to any argument for any art classes was ‘I’m wise to you – I know you just want more time to work on your homework.’ But it was Viola’s plan to stay in Drawing through Senior year, whether or not Wise was up for it.
Viola sighed as she walked up the stairs and down the hall to her Geometry classroom. Despite her desire to run home, and even her paranoia after talking to Tina, she brightened up when she opened the door to Mr. Hephner’s room. Although he was ‘Heph’ to most of the students, as he was both lower level math instructor and soccer coach, Vi always thought of him as Mr. Hephner. He encouraged his students to be a bit relaxed in class but still would not take any shit, something that Viola appreciated. Of all the teachers at Argo High, this was probably her favorite, and definitely one of the least biased towards the wealthier kids in school. Mr. Hephner himself lived in a not-so-great area of town, something that the other teachers, some of whom lived in massive suburban mansions, probably held over him.
“All right, Viola, are you coming or going?” he said, noticing Viola standing in the doorway, deciding where to sit. She could join Video in the back left corner, by the windows, or sit in the front row with a couple bored-looking juniors. She looked up at Mr. Hepher and smiled – the two of them enjoyed a friendship of sorts, in that she respected him and always had the answer for questions in class while he respected her studiousness and quick intelligence.
“Sorry, Mr. Hephner. Staying, just taking a minute to be indecisive,” she replied, trying and failing to think of any witty yet respectful retorts. The sad thing about her admiration for Mr. Hephner and enjoyment of math was that she generally lost any ability to form coherent sentences in the classroom. In fact, the reason she did not always raise her hand was that, although she could generally always write equations and whatnot on the board, she was usually spellbound with fear that she would fuck it up. Viola quickly took her seat next to Video, with one of the best views of Argo High’s green front yard and the park across the street.
“No worries, Ms. Hawkins, the bell –“ he said, the bell signaling the beginning of the period ringing shrilly – “has only just sounded. Okay, let’s get the semester started with some introductions and then some basic review questions. That’s right, kids, take out your pencils, your paper, and your state I.D.s.” Mr. Hephner turned to the chalk board and started writing down numbers, likely for the set of review problems that he’d be handing out. He turned back to the class, only a few of them actually reaching into pockets or purses to pull out their driver’s licenses or permits, and added “Though you’ll only need that last one if you have trouble remembering how to spell your first name.”
“Would you just make out with him already?” Video whispered, snickering, as Mr. Hephner asked another student, closer to the front, to hand out the review sheets while he began handing out notecards on which they should write their names, class levels, and other stuff. Viola glared at her friend, sneering in disgust. Truth be told, she had been worried last year that she might have a crush on her math teacher, but she’d slowly realized that she actually just appreciated Mr. Hephner’s teaching style. More than anything, she respected Mr. Hephner because he was able to balance respect for his students with leading them in learning – something that not everyone could make work.
“Not every male-female relationship is sexual,” Viola replied in a whisper, pulling her pencil out of her pocket, her notebook out of her small backpack, and then ripping a blank sheet of lined paper from it.
“Uh-huh,” Video said sarcastically, smiling even as Viola turned to glare at her. She almost got mad at her friend for poking fun, but decided not to be hurt by the joke, as it was just that – a silly joke with no truth behind it. The two friends shared a laugh at the ridiculousness of the joke before their math teacher called them out on talking in class, and asked everyone to record some basic information about their experience with geometry and math on the provided notecards.
Between doing the geometry problems and sharing whispered jokes with Video, the class did not feel very long to Viola, and she had almost forgotten about what Tina had told her when the bell rang.
“Well, I’m off to Calydon Community College for my modern film class. Neener,” Video said, smiling, as she packed up her own notebook and stood. Vid had managed to work out attending introductory film studies classes at the college this year, seeing as she was in the highest possible courses for a sophomore at Argo and still had a spare seventh period. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she’d be leaving after sixth period for her seminar, while Tuesday and Thursday, she’d just have an ordinary, old study hall. It brought Video no end of glee, something she was not shy about sharing. “Enjoy Drawing II,” Vid said as Viola stood, packing up her own stuff. They shared a quick hug and then Video was off, rushing to get on the road.
“See you tomorrow, Mr. Hephner,” Viola said as she passed his desk on the way out, and he replied in kind. She stopped in the doorway, and turned to face him again, remembering that she’d forgotten to talk with her math teacher about tutoring Joseph Zielinski. “Oh, I almost forgot,” she added, her words causing Mr. Hephner to stop erasing the board and face her, “I talked to Joseph Zielinski about tutoring him this semester. We’ve set up a time and everything, so I was just wondering what I need to give you, or if I should let you know how things are going, or whatever.”
“Sure, let’s do this,” Mr. Hephner replied, “You can let me know how Mr. Zielinski is doing every Monday – the basics, you know. Whether he’s doing his homework, if he’s letting you help him, etc. And as long as Ms. Wise in the guidance office lets me know that you guys are staying on task, and as long as you do the research paper we discussed, you’ll get your credit for Honors Geometry.” She had gone to Mr. Hephner last spring, annoyed that Honors Geometry had been cancelled for the fall – as there had only been she and three or four other students enrolled. He’d explained that, although the class itself was cancelled, she could do some extra tutoring and a research paper on geometric theorems to get the ‘Honors’ credit.
“Sounds great, have a good rest of your day,” Viola said, turning to leave.
“Ms. Hawkins, hang on a second,” Mr. Hephner said, rifling through some papers on his desk as she turned back to face him. “I’ve got some extra exercises and a brief guide for tutoring algebra, just in case it’s helpful. I’m not sure if you know Mr. Zielinski, but I suspect you’ll need some extra help. He can be a bit…”
“Difficult, yeah, I know,” Viola added, smiling. She knew that she probably shouldn’t be discussing a fellow student with her math teacher, even if he was her favorite, so she cut the discussion short, even as she reached out for the papers. “Thank you for the extra help, and for the opportunity to beef up my curriculum a bit,” she said, taking the papers in her hand, “And don’t worry about me. I can handle Z, if anybody can.”
“I admire your spunk, Ms. Hawkins. But, quite seriously, if he gets out of hand, or gives you any guff, you let Ms. Wise or another faculty member know. Okay?” Mr. Hephner said, looking as though he was honestly worried for her. Somehow, Z’s reputation for being a dick had reached the faculty, not that it surprised Viola – the guy was just as likely to cuss out a teacher as to treat his fellow students like crap. He was a bully and a spoiled brat, through and through.
“You got it,” Viola replied, filing this adverse reaction to Joseph Zielinski away in her mind. Still, it bothered her a little, even as she turned to walk out the door. What made him dangerous in the mind of a Geometry teacher, who was far more athletic and likely stronger than Z? What had he done to deserve the reputation? With the bell ringing for the start of seventh period, and a stream of students rushing in behind her, Viola began walking out the door and said, “See you, Mr. Hephner.”
“See you, Ms. Hawkins,” he said, even as he began telling his Basic Algebra II class to take their seats. Moonie and Jen waved from one corner, while Tina eyed Viola from another. But Viola barely had time enough to note these facts before she rushed out the door, running down the hall in hopes of getting to the art room before the late bell rang in a few minutes.
It took Nick just ten minutes to get Viola to talk about what Tina had told her. Even though she’d been planning to share the information with him, she had been a bit angry with herself for not holding out longer. Even more, Viola supposed that she worried that being with him would make her somehow weaker, more compliant, or otherwise less herself. But she set those thoughts and worries aside for the moment, focusing on getting a bit of advice from her best bud and boyfriend.
“Okay, so first off, you have to promise not to say a word to anyone,” she said, trying to sound as serious as possible. This was one of the most serious things she’d ever been asked to look into, and, though she did not like to admit it to herself, Viola was barely qualified to deal with the ‘cases’ that she normally handled. Tracking down a blackmailer and preventing him or her from harassing Tina was going to be far from easy – and she guessed she’d most likely have to ask her mom for help at some point soon. “This is extremely serious, Nicky, so you have to swear you won’t share the information, even without names attached,” Viola said, staring Nick in his bright green eyes.
They were leaning and talking across the space between their easels – their Drawing II class was supposed to be doing some rough still-lifes of an assemblage of fruits. But everyone knew it was just a way to kill time on their first day. Even the infamous Joseph Zelinski, who was sitting on the other side of the classroom, glancing Viola’s direction every once in a while. ‘Why did he have to take this class?’ Viola thought, remembering how she and Nick had planned even last year to take Drawing together for the rest of high school. Nick was not the brightest kid around, and he figured he would probably only be able to keep on the Honors track for math and maybe history, so art had provided a haven for the two friends.
“I said, I swear, Sadie. I pinky swear, I pledge an oath on my heart of hearts and everyone that I’ve ever loved. I’ll never say a word, but,” Nick said, staring back at his girlfriend even as her thoughts wandered. “I just gotta say, and I’m saying this despite myself, if it’s so very secret, why not just tell me after school?”
Viola looked at Nick, who was looking at her with raised eyebrows and a bit of doubt. She did not care for the nickname that he’d invented for her, even though both Nick and Video were trying to get her used to it. As soon as the pair had realized that her middle name was Sade, they’d started trying to persuade her that Sadie was an awesome nickname, especially for a girl detective, as they liked to call her. But she disagreed – she felt that the name was too cloying, too simple.
“Well, how about I just use code words instead?” Viola replied, turning, grabbing a piece of note paper, and quickly writing, ‘stealing of a scarf = rape’ and ‘return the scarf = report the crime.’ She realized even as she slipped the paper to Nick that the code was a poor one, and that she’d probably have to spell some things out despite herself. But she had to talk to someone about it. There was one very important detail that was bothering her. “All right, here goes.”
“Okay, I’m ready, maybe,” Nick replied, looking upset after reading the code words. He was clearly concerned, adding, “But if things get tough, I will set aside my curiosity in due respect for your mysterious client.”
“So,” Sadie started, nodding at Nick, “At a party this summer, my client was involved in the stealing of a scarf. She kept it secret, but then recently decided to come forward. She just,” Viola said, feeling the need to pause. This was wrong – the words were too easy, too simple to convey the crime, the treachery, the cruelty, the violation of one’s trust in the world. But she kept on, not knowing how else to try to communicate about something so horrible without talking bluntly and honestly about it, something she was not at all comfortable doing. “She had to come forward, you know?”
“Okay,” Nick said, nodding, his brow furrowed. “Yeah, I – I think I can understand that.”
“She received a note from someone telling her not to. They called her a stupid bitch and much worse besides, and then implied that they were watching her day and night. And should she try anything, should she come forward about what happened, they would make sure that she regretted it.” Here, she paused again, and looked away from Nick. “They said they’d make sure that, even if she did tell anyone, they would never believe her. They promised to ruin her.”
“I can see why you took the case,” Nick said, reaching over and putting his hand on top of her own, where it rested on her knee. “You don’t have to tell me anything else. This is something really, really personal. And honestly, I don’t know that I’m…mature? I don’t think I’m old enough to understand it. To help you out, I guess.”
“That’s not what I need to tell you,” Viola replied, glancing over at Z, who was staring at her now. She wondered if it was him, if he was the one who had assaulted Tina so horribly, if he’d committed this act of wretched violence. Tina had told Viola how she felt, had sobbed as quietly as she could manage, whispering that she didn’t trust anyone anymore. That she wasn’t even sure that she could tell her mother or father, that she thought for sure they would just think she was a little slut. She admitted to telling one of her best friends about that night, but they had recused her, saying that it had probably been her fault for wearing suggestive clothing. As if the way a person dressed meant that they were asking for violence against them. Viola had advised Tina to ignore the friend and talk to her mom or to a counselor about it – Mrs. Jones had seemed kind from a distance, and a counselor, at the very least, would be supportive and have to keep their mouth shut.
“Okay, go ahead, Vi,” Nick said, scooting his chair closer. Viola looked up at the clock and saw that the time had rushed past, that they only really had about 15 minutes before the class day ended. So, she’d only have to deal with this a bit longer – after school, she would see her mom, and there, in the presence of Valeria Vega Castillo, Viola knew that things would start to make a little bit more sense. Still, she hoped she had done the right thing in taking this on, in trying to help a potential friend in need.
“I think I was there when it happened,” Viola said, almost in a whisper. “I don’t even know if it was the same party, but I stopped by one of Christian LeBeau’s parties early on, so that Vidisha could try to meet that boy who was in Gym with us last year.”
“Marty Finch,” Nick said, “I remember that night – I was super sick and stayed home.”
“Yeah,” Viola replied, continuing. “I remember seeing Tina from afar, just for a moment, lying on a bed in Christian’s sister’s room, dazed but with someone else I couldn’t see. I figured she was okay, that she was safe. I mean,” she said, turning to look at Nick even as tears started to come into her eyes, “I assumed, you know, that she was safe. Because she was in a friend’s house, that she belonged there. I mean, she was surrounded by goddamned cartoony stuffed animals. How – how could someone do that? There? Then? Why?”
“Maybe she deserved it,” Z said from behind Viola, who was crying a little now. She turned to see Joseph Zielinski there, pouting and looking as self-involved as always. Viola stood and walked even closer to him, pressing her chest up against his, despite his having a few inches on her in height.
“What did you say?” Viola asked, trying to calm herself down, even though she felt like her face was turning red with heat. There was no way he could know what she was talking about, not really. Not unless he’d overheard her talking to Tina. Not unless he’d done it himself. Or been there, watching, savoring it. “What did you just say to me?”
“Whoa, now, sparkplug,” Z said, not backing up but looking a bit afraid despite himself, “I just said that maybe your friend deserved to have her scarf stolen. I mean, not that it’s any place of mine, but it sounds very much to me like she’s a thief and a tattle tail to boot. Trying to pin the blame on someone else doesn’t sound very fair.”
Viola looked at him then, this bully and seeming nemesis, and saw him differently. Instead of an egotistical young man, she saw him as a self-involved and sneering youth, incapable of understanding what she was talking about. He’d overheard a little bit of what they’d been talking about as he’d been walking to the supply area, most likely. She was overreacting, letting herself assume that the person who had done this to Tina was standing in front of her. So that there was someone to shout at, someone to blame, someone besides herself.
“Ms. Hawkins? Viola? Is everything all right back here?” Mr. Hayes asked, walking over and now standing beside Viola. She could feel the tears of fury in her eyes, and she wiped them away with her hand, pulling herself together.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. Z just butted into a very personal conversation without realizing it,” she said, turning away from Zielinski and back to Nick. Her boyfriend was already behind her, with a pained smile and comforting hug.
“Uh, sorry – I guess you weren’t talking about what I thought you were,” Z said, walking past Sadie and over to the supply area, where he picked up another sheet of paper and some charcoal. As he walked back to his own easel, she sat back at hers, telling Mr. Hayes that everything was fine and assuring Nick that she was okay, that she had just gotten overwhelmed.
‘Which is the truth,’ she thought, picking up a piece of charcoal and trying to draw an eggplant. ‘This case is a bit too much for me.’ Viola thought about what her mother had told her about doing detective work, about how sometimes a case could hit too close to home. When her Aunt Rowena, her father’s sister, had wanted someone to track her husband’s financial holdings, Valeria Vega Castillo had recommended a few other people who would be better at the case than herself. She had told both Leo and Viola that she would never work with their family, after that, though Leo had seemed a little miffed by the whole thing.
‘What if I was there?’ Viola asked herself again, unable to hear the bell until Nick put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. She turned to him, and he leaned down to hug her again.
“Just breathe, okay?” he said, continuing, “You can talk to your mom about it – she’s a gol-darned professional at these kinds of things. If anyone can help you figure out what to do – even if it means dropping the case or whatever – she can.” Nick stood again, and Viola put her supplies away, laying her drawing on top of the pile of others that the class had put on Mr. Hayes’ desk. He waved goodbye, while she and Nick reached out for each other’s hands and walked into the hallway, hands held between them.
They were halfway down the hall and on their way to their lockers, dodging fellow students and weaving through the crowds of the end of the school day, when they ran into Video. She was full of energy from her college film class, something that Viola thanked the gods for, as she herself did not want to talk about much of anything for a while. It turned out that they’d been let out quite early on the first day, mostly because, as the instructor had put it, they didn’t have much to talk about. Still, Video was excited by their first readings and even by the minimal discussion they’d had about film theory and the viewings they would be having throughout the semester.
“So, anyway, I was gonna go home and get started on some of the readings and stuff we’ve already been assigned,” Video said, turning to look mischieviously at her friends. “But I’m sure the Hawkins would understand if we took over the television for a while and watched impossibly complex Bollywood films. Tezaab anyone?”
“Oh, gods yes. With sundaes. And just a skoch of laziness,” Viola added, pleased that her friends were feeling just as done with the day as she was. Viola would have to talk to her mom about what she could possibly do for Tina – maybe Valeria could even take over the case.
“Sounds good to me,” Nick replied, adding, “I’ll catch up with you guys in a sec. I have to talk to Patrick about taking a martial arts class with me this weekend.” Before Viola could get a word in, he was off, moving speedily ahead of her and Video to catch up with their sometime-friend Pat. She was personally not much of a fan of the guy, who was a bit too much of an extrovert for her taste. Viola preferred calmer people for friends, though she had to admit that she herself, at her worst, could definitely come across as a spaz.
“Well, that’s weird,” Vidisha said once they’d gotten to their lockers. They both opened their individual lockers and began shifting books into bags or, in Sadie’s case, from her bag, into the locker, and vice versa. “I didn’t know that Nick was into martial arts, much less wuss-ass Patrick.”
“Yeah, I dunno,” Viola replied, less than intrigued by Nick’s strangeness. She didn’t think it that odd that her boyfriend would be into karate or some such thing – he enjoyed hiking, biking, and other physical exercise, so long as it had a point. As he often said, ‘Exercise for its own sake is a bit dull, but exercise for a goal, like honing your reflexes or getting some groceries, that’s actually fun, and useful to boot.’
“I’m sure they’re just bored, or want to bond in the way that only guys can,” Viola said, turning to look at Video as she finished, “you know, by getting physical and then bearing their inner turmoil to each other.”
“I can just imagine,” Video said, “’Oh Patty, you don’t understand what it is to be in love with Sadie Hawkins.” She put her arm dramatically over her head as she said this to emphasize the melodrama. Video then returned to organizing her bag, looking in Viola’s direction with a raised eyebrow to say, “Boys are such pussies.”
“Hey now,” Viola replied, though she hardly took her eyes away from the books she was moving about, “don’t disrespect the pussy, the cat nor the body part.” Then, stopping to think a moment, she added, “And no one ever said anything about love with me and him. I mean, for god’s sake, we’re in high school – it’s not like it’s the end of the world.”
“Speaking of which,” Video replied, “you saw the Buffy finale, right? I mean, I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I cannot WAIT for that show to start up again. Leastwise because Xander is a hottie.”
“Liar,” Viola said, zipping up her bag and checking her wrist watch. Her mother would be pulling in to the parking lot to pick her up at any minute. “I think we both know that you think that old British man is the hottest thing since chop suey,” she added, zipping up her backpack, shutting and locking her locker, and then turning to Vid. “Now, come home with me and help me lament that my free time is officially over until winter break,” she said, reaching out and tugging gently on her friend’s arm. Video, for her part, half-smiled, and quickly zipped up her bag.
“There, that’s all my back can bear – if I need to, can I borrow your History book?” she asked, since she and Viola were taking most of the same classes this year. Viola nodded, knowing right then that they would probably spend most of the late afternoon and early evening studying together, rather than goofing off at all. They might fit in a lemonade and some down time, maybe even an episode of The Simpsons, but then it would be time for Viola and Video to give into their schoolwork. Vid zipped up her own backpack, which was a black Jansport with patches from various state parks on it, and then slammed her locker shut. “All right, let’s jet.”
“By the way, shouldn’t you have packed your bag before going to the film class? I mean, it’s like a 15-minute drive, right?” Viola asked as they walked, having already been surprised to find Video after school.
“Ugh, whatever. I just didn’t want to carry anything there and look even lamer than I already do to the college kids. Plus,” she said, pausing to hold up her finger to help make her point, “they leave the doors unlocked until at least 5 o’clock. So, it’s really not a problem.”
On their way out the door, Nick finally managed to catch up – albeit with a significantly lighter bag than either Viola or Video had. “Hey, ladies,” he said, and they both smirked at him as he put his arm around each of his two best friends, though both then brushed his arms away, smirking all the more.
“Okay, okay – I get it. I just wanted to say, see you tomorrow,” Nick said, “Me and Patrick are gonna hang out tonight, if that’s all right with you guys.” If Viola had been honest, she would have said that she was hoping they could all hang out that evening – but she knew how important her own independence was, and so she nodded in agreement. It also helped that she and Video could get in some solid friend time in the midst of she and Nick having finally gotten together – it would hopefully soften the annoyingness.
“Sure,” Video replied, “but only if you tell me what you two gal-pals are really doing. I mean, what are you two going to knit this time? A kilt? Some doilies?” Video was making fun of Nick for something that had happened last Christmas, when he had learned to knit from his uncle, mainly so that he could make Viola, Patrick, and Video some rather sad-looking scarves. They’d all tried to be grateful, but eventually all three had ended up making fun of the poorly knitted things. Video would not let the memory of his attempting to learn what she called ‘an old woman’s sport’ and instead used it as her go-to means of mocking Nick.
“Ah, whatever, you’re just jealous,” he said, then, turning to Viola, he added, “But just in case, what say I drop by your dad’s place in a few hours. My uncle said I can use the wagon.” Nick’s Uncle Mike, which was short for Mikail, had adopted him after Nick’s parents had died in a car accident somewhere in Southern France. Both Mikail and Nick’s mother were originally from Turkey, but she had married Nick’s father, an American living in France named William Howell, after meeting him during a trip abroad. Nick had only been about four years old when they’d passed, so when Mikail had been offered a job in the US shortly thereafter, he hadn’t felt too bad about taking Nick with him to Calydon, Michigan. So, for as long as Viola had known him, Nick Howell had been Nick who lived just a few blocks from the high school – he walked home and back each day, rather than driving the short distance.
“Wait, I’m sorry, Uncle Mike trusts you now? Since when?” Video asked, even as Viola thought about how strange it would be to not have parents in any proper sense. She knew that Mike and Nick were quite close – how could they not be? But she still sometimes imagined what it would have been like for her to grow up with her dad’s brother Joe, a farmer with a gruff attitude and appearance to match, or her aunt Rowena, a strange woman who dressed like an old gippy and believed everything new age she could read.
“Since last week – he just up and decided that, as he put it, ‘a young man in America should be able to drive a car’ – though he also said it would be good for me to have a car sometimes in case of emergency,” he said, turning to Viola. “So, that sound good to you? Me coming over later?” Nick seemed oddly hesitant about it, but she chocked his strangeness up to having to blow his girlfriend and their good friend off to hang out with his one and only close man-friend.
“Sure,” she replied, still walking towards the door as Nick struggled to stay in step with she and Video. They were almost to the front entrance, which was crowded with kids trying to get out the front door. Most were rushing off to the school buses at the West side of the parking lot, but older students were hurrying to their cars and trucks in hopes of getting away from school all the faster. “See you then, dear Nicholas,” Viola said, turning and kissing him quickly, and a bit sloppily, since they were walking still. He laughed a bit, and then reached out, putting his hands on her shoulders to stop her.
“See you then, Sadie Hawkins, girl detective,” Nick said, even as he pecked her on the cheek in return. He was off in a rush, then, before she could say goodbye a few more times – something that she was sure Video would start mocking sooner than she would like. Viola turned to her friend, then, and they interlaced their arms, walking out of the school a bit gracefully, even in the midst of many other students shoving and rustling their way through the exits.
“Okay, I have to admit,” Video said, half whispering in Viola’s ear, “You two do make a cute couple.” Viola felt her face turn red, and she was almost disturbed by how much her friend’s approval mattered to her. Instead of saying anything about it, though, she just smiled, kept walking, and then, when her mother’s car was in view, pointed it out and waved an enthusiastic wave. Viola was happy, ready to take on the case that Tina had brought to her, even if it meant having her mom take over. As she walked closer to her mother’s car, dodging other students and their vehicles, Viola realized that she was also happy that she had finally decided to date Nick; even if it ended poorly, so far, things were going ridiculously well.
In the back of her mind, as she pulled her arm away to open the back door to her mother’s car and jump in with Video following quickly behind her, Viola made a note. Seeing as things generally went to shit when one least expected, she should probably get ready for something bad to happen. Because if there was one thing she had learned in life, it was that good things generally come with bad things, too.