Stagecraft Chapter Nine
Hannah double checked her phone. Yep, I don’t have to be there today. Awesome. She thought of the long nap she would take when she got home from school. Her duvet and pillows beckoned. I could sleep on this gross cafeteria floor. I’m so exhausted. But I got lucky. For once, I don’t have to be in that music room or the dance studio for hours after dismissal. Hannah closed her eyes for a moment.
“Hannah! Look!” Greg tapped her and pointed to the cafeteria doors.
Another grand entrance. If Skylar Clarke was upset, people were interested. Cynthia wrapped her arms around the most powerful girl in school. People in the lunch line stared. This was quickly turning into a scene. I guess someone has met with the detectives. Time to amp up the grief.
“I know, Skylar. It’s so hard.” Cynthia cooed, still shaken by her own interaction with the detectives. Later on, Skylar divulged that the police asked a lot about classmates, about the theatre kids.
“They seemed hot to know if Zoe had enemies. Girls jealous of her talent,” Cynthia agreed.
“They know people were envious. I mean, Zoe could sing like an angel,” Greg’s eyes misted over.
Starting to weep, Cynthia’s tiny back heaved with grief and fear. I’ll just wait patiently while she finishes. Hannah tried to think of something encouraging to say. Cynthia continued, reveling in the concern of her friends. Okay, this is getting old. I need this intel but giving Cynthia Wolcott the spotlight for any amount of time is feat of strength. And just look at Skylar. Skylar’s face turned from feigned grief to feigned concern to barely hidden impatience.
Hannah made her way to the vending machines.
“Is Cynthia okay?”
Startled, Hannah pushed the wrong keys and got potato chips instead of a protein bar. She turned in a huff to see Brody. “No, she’s not. The police talked to her during English yesterday. She’s pretty messed up.”
Hannah took a deep breath. You’ve been giving me the silent treatment for days. She’s your twin. Ask her yourself! She wanted to scream. Brody’s big brown eyes softened despite Hannah’s attitude.
“Here,” Hannah handed him the chips, “I pressed the wrong button and got these.”
Brody smiled, put money in the machine, and chose the protein bar. When it dropped the bottom, he reached for it but stared at Hannah the whole time, “Almost every day you get this bar. You need some serious protein to get through Connors’ class, right?”
Hannah giggled girlishly despite herself. Brody knows about my protein bar. She started back to her table.
“Thanks,” he called.
“For being there, you know, for my sister. She’s real torn up about this stuff.”
Hannah’s gut churned. She put the protein bar in her bag and never touched it.
* * *
“Are we boring you, Hannah?” Ms. Connors looked over her glasses. Skylar, of course, was sitting with perfect posture and taking notes dutifully. But Hannah had the afternoon yawns.
“No, Ms. Connors. Just tired,” Hannah replied, steadying herself as the quiet panic that only Ms. Connors could produce filled her body again. The chem teacher muttered something to herself. Something about musical season. Something about students caring more about afterschool activities than academics.
The lecture went on. Skylar moved her notebook so that Hannah could copy what she missed.
I wish we could go back. Hannah pretended for a few moments that chemistry was still the biggest stressor in her life and that she and Sky were the truest, best friends. But the luxurious moment of fiction was interrupted when the office secretary appeared at the classroom door.
“Ahem, sorry to interrupt, Ms. Connors. Hannah Cross is needed,” Ms. Murray announced.
Hannah blinked. It’s my turn. Of course, it’s my turn. I was the last of my friends to be questioned. It has to be my turn. As she gathered her books, a folder with all her chemistry work dropped to the floor. Lab reports, notes, quizzes, Scantrons spread out under the surrounding tables. Skylar bent down to help. Hannah caught her eye—her face unperturbed. I envy you. You really think you aren’t culpable.
As Hannah and Ms.
Murray walked down the corridor, Ms. Murray was silent and conscientious. The
office secretary was likely instructed not
to talk to the
suspects students. Hannah lagged a few paces behind,
still zippering her bag, hands shaking. Foot falls and muffled discussions from
behind classroom doors were the only sounds that attended them. Soon they would
reach the English-lounge-turned-interrogation-room. I have about four minutes to convince myself that I didn’t do it…that
I’m shocked and saddened and angry about what someone else did to my friends.
All the auditions I’ve done, and this is the biggest one. I guess we’re about
to find out how good my acting really is.
Just before the secretary opened the door, she nodded lovingly at Hannah, “It’s alright, sweetie. They just want to ask a few questions. Most kids have been in there…only…fifteen minutes.”
Hannah forced a smile. Annamarie Murray broke protocol by talking to me. Another uninvited “perk” of mom working at Whispering Hills.
The room smelled stale. Burnt coffee and inexpensive cologne and clothes steeped in cigarette smoke. It’s just the English lounge. It’s just the English lounge. Where mom works. Unconvinced, all Hannah could see was an interrogation room. The two detectives stood across from her. Their arms folded. With eyes that have seen too much.
The good-looking detective stood at the other end of the room. Hannah guessed thirties. He wore a nondescript gray suit, but his tie betrayed a wealthy upbringing. It was a butter yellow Hermes. Same one Brooks Clarke wore to the school’s centennial. This guy probably grew up in Whispering Hills. Maybe even went to this school. This is a stepping stone job for him…just another stair to climb on his way to US Attorney or something. His cheeks pulled in as he swallowed. He rubbed his jaw and examined the small video camera perched on a tripod. He wouldn’t say much the whole time.
The other detective sat right across from Hannah. He was older. Maybe early fifties. His large shoulders pulled the material on his shirt taut. His immaculately white smile shone brilliantly against his dark skin. He had a little gray hair, just on the sides. A gold band on his left ring finger and a college ring on his right. Hannah stared at the onyx inlaid with gold on his college ring. John Jay. The College of Criminal Justice.
“Hi Hannah. I’m Detective Terrell Jones and this is Detective John Barry,” Detective Jones gestured to the camera and Detective Barry turned it on. “We’ll be recording this conversation. We’ve done the same with your classmates,” his baritone voice had no emotion. Hannah knew it immediately—this guy was economic with his words, but when he spoke, people listened.
It’s okay to be nervous. Everyone was nervous. Cynthia was a mess. Greg probably treated it like an audition for a crime procedural on network TV. The only person who isn’t nervous is Skylar. But she’s a sociopath.
Hannah nodded meekly and tried to ignore the scallop of sweat under her arms. She noticed dampness on Detective Barry’s shirt too. Beads of sweat formed on Detective Jones’ head. It was hot in the room. All of a sudden, everything was heat. The questions didn’t even start yet and I feel like I’m being boiled alive. The red light from the camera seared her face. Get a grip. Get. A. Grip.
“Please state your name for the record,” Detective Jones began.
“And your grade?”
Hannah coughed involuntarily, “Sorry. I’m a senior. Twelfth grade.” They think I’m lying already.
“Thank you.” Detective Jones looked at this partner. He knows, Hannah thought. Detective Jones turned to his partner again, “Can we crack that window?”
“Yeah, it’s hot in here.” Detective Barry worked on the ancient window lock. He fiddled with the blinds first. It took him a minute to get them gliding right.
“Are you warm, Hannah?”
“It’s always hot in certain rooms here. The heat in the building doesn’t distribute right. So, some rooms are freezing and some are really hot,” Hannah continued because he seemed interested, “Sometimes this room is freezing. This is my mom’s office. That’s her space heater.”
Stop talking! What am I doing!
“Your mother works here?”
“Yes, she’s the English chairperson.” Actually, maybe the faculty connection will make me look less guilty. I’m not a person who could be involved in a fatal car crash. Right?
They conversed for a few minutes…
What’s it like to have mom at school?
Did you ever have her for English class?
Does your mom oversee the musical production too?
It was somewhat pleasant. The room remained sweltering hot. There was no March wind swirling through the trees and through the cracked windows. Besides, any air that came through was immediately thawed by the beastly radiator that sat directly beneath the opening.
Then Detective Jones started talking about the musical…
What parts has Hannah played in the past?
When did she start performing?
Did she want to study theatre in college?
Detective Barry interjected rudely, “Do you think you’re any good? I mean, do you enjoy it? That’s what matters right?”
Hannah pondered the first question but only answered the latter, “Yeah, I love it. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Then she had a brief moment of clarity. She interrupted Detective Jones before he could start his next question. Answer like Skylar. Look directly at Detective Barry. Action! “And yes, I’m pretty good. Not nearly as good as Zoe. She had a beautiful voice. We all miss her during rehearsals this year.”
It was sincere. Hannah felt her heart calm with the honesty. Yes, I am really good. A good singer, an excellent dancer, and a better actress than most. And yes, Zoe was better. And yes, most of the cast missed Zoe anchoring the production this year.
Instead, her performance gave the detectives the perfect segue into discussion of Zoe.
And her coma.
And dead Will Bartlett.
“Speaking of Zoe Kellogg—did you know her well?” Detective Jones’ voice was smooth and effortless.
God, it’s hot in here. Hannah felt her chest tighten. She was too busy running through the symptoms of a heart attack to come up with an answer.
“Hannah? You okay? Did you hear my question?” Detective Jones asked almost sweetly.
The other one moved to the corner behind her.
“Sorry,” Hannah began, “yes, I knew Zoe but not very well.”
“Really? I would think you were friends. Same year at school. Both in the theatre program. I have your schedule here and it looks like you had several classes together too.”
He has my schedule?
“Umm, I guess. Yes, we were friends,” she stuttered.
Detective Barry had enough. He moved in and forcefully put both hands on the table, “Were you friends or not? Like if she wakes up tomorrow, would Zoe Kellogg say you two are friends? It’s not a hard question.”
Hannah’s ribs closed in on her frantic heart. Detective Jones gave Detective Barry a look. “Sorry, Hannah. We have a lot of interviews to get through. We are just getting the lay of the land. You know, ruling out kids who had nothing to do with the accident.”
Hannah felt her face redden. “Of course, I had nothing to do with it.”
Barry continued, “Just to clarify, are you friends with Zoe?”
“Good friends? Best friends?”
Jones moved on, “Okay then. And were you friends with Will Bartlett? I see your locker was next to his.”
They know so much. How do they know so much? How the hell did I not realize the police would know so much? The room was boiling now. And dry. Her throat was dry. Hannah thought she answered but apparently nothing came out.
He tried again, “Hannah, the truck driver we talked to said that the suspect’s car was a dark SUV. The SUV fled scene. Do you know anyone with a dark SUV?”
“Yeah, y-y-yeah, I guess.”
Detective Jones prodded, “The truck driver said the SUV was probably a BMW X5 or a–”
“Lots of people have SUVs here,” Hannah interrupted. She didn’t even realize words were exiting her mouth.
“Yes, I would imagine,” Detective Jones replied stoically.
“There are a lot of rich kids here. Lots of people have their own car. Lots of them are SUVs.”
Both hands still on the table, Detective Barry leaned in, “Rich kids like Zoe Kellogg and Will Bartlett?”
“Uhh, that’s not what I meant.”
“I mean, you don’t have your own car. Do you, Hannah?” Barry’s eyes looked small and black, like marbles.
Jones cut in, “Hannah, do you know the difference between involuntary vehicular manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon?”
The room started spinning. Assault with a deadly weapon? What were they talking about? Are those tears on my cheeks? Oh God. No, don’t cry. Don’t cry!
“Are feeling alright?” Detective Barry’s voice the other corner now.
He’s all over the place. How can he be in two places at once? Hannah stared at the table, focusing on the grooves of the wood. “Yes, I’m okay. It’s just hot in here,” she managed.
Detective Jones responded, “We’re almost done. Just a few more questions. We know you have to get back to class.”
“It seems a lot of your friends go to theatre camp during the summers. Do you go to…” he flipped through a notepad, “Camp in the Round? It’s upstate. Looks like a Greg Tate, a Cynthia Wolcott, a Sarah Young, and a Skylar Clarke also have attended.”
Why were they asking about camp? Hannah’s head pounded. What did camp have to do with the accident? “Umm, yeah. I went this summer. Just for a week. Most of my friends go for the month of July though.”
Detective Barry made his point again, “Why only a week? Why not the whole month like your friends?”
“I usually work during the summer. It’s an expensive camp. I got a scholarship to go this past summer. My mom can’t afford to send me for a whole month,” Hannah explained. Each sentence dug deeper into the narrative Detective Barry was writing. He thinks I did this out of spite. He thinks I did this because everyone is rich and I’m jealous of them. He thinks I’m the poor kid at the rich school who snapped. Forgetting that she actually did commit the crime, Hannah burned with anger. That’s not who I am. Screw him.
Then the words came out before Hannah could measure their value. “I know what you’re trying to say—that I’m guilty because I’m poor. You’re trying to make it sound like I’m jealous, so I did something awful. Well, that’s not true,” Hannah cried violently now.
A few awkward moments passed before Detective Jones pushed a box of tissues across the table. He sighed, “Try to calm down. Detective Barry didn’t say that. We are just trying to get all the details straight. Just doing our jobs.”
The door swung open and slammed into the bookcase. All three turned to see who was interrupting.
“Oh! So sorry. I’m so sorry. Please continue. The sheet said you were done by 2:15 today,” Gillian Cross squeaked and held up a memo.
Detective Barry rolled his eyes and sighed. Detective Jones half-stood up, “Yes, ma’am. We are almost done. If you could just…”
“I just need to grab my laptop. So sorry,” Gillian made no moves to leave. This was her office. She needed her laptop. Investigation be damned. Hannah almost laughed out loud at her mother’s oblivion.
Detective Barry raised his voice, “Ma’am. Please leave. This is official police work. We will let you know when we are done.”
Gillian bristled at the scolding. “Yes, I’m leaving now. Please do let me know when you’re done with your official police work as this is officially my office.” Without waiting for a reply, she shut the door hard.
Hannah looked from one detective to the other. She crinkled her nose, “Sorry. That’s my mom.”
Detective Jones stacked his notes and folders. “Turn off the camera. We’re done. You can go.”
* * *
“This is already a harrowing experience for our students. Can you be sure you’re not making it worse?” A stern male voice echoed from inside the dean’s office. Hannah waited outside the closed door. Her mother told her to wait down the hall, but Hannah had inched closer to the office, dying to hear the adults argue without the burden of student presence. Inside Dean Feldman’s little hobbit hole were Mr. Samuels, Gillian Cross, both detectives, and the dean himself who played referee.
“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t catch your name.” That was Detective Barry. Such a douche.
“My name is Aaron Samuels. I’m the director.” Well, douche meet double douche.
“Of what?” Detective Barry’s tone dripped with sarcasm. . Touché douché.
“The musical!” Mr. Samuels met his tone. If Hannah wasn’t the cause of all conflict, she be lapping up this epic pissing contest. These detectives had a job to do. But many adults at school figured the accident was just that—a horrible accident. Mr. Samuels considered the “investigation” a word to put air quotes around almost every time he mentioned it.
Gillian’s tone was an attempt at reconciliation, “Your work is very important, detectives. But I must say, it was ridiculously warm in that room. A student could have fainted.”
“Perhaps the police could continue their work at the station? Ask parents to bring the students?” Dean Feldman offered. It was no secret that the faculty’s patience with the detectives was wearing thin. The constant interruptions. The students coming back to class a mess. And no clear answers. No arrests. Everyone just wanted to move on. A police presence was a reminder of the tragedy and the school was beginning to resent them.
Then Mr. Samuels broke in. Angry, dramatic, and never going to hide it. “And are we getting anywhere? Is this investigative work yielding any results beyond disruption of learning? These kids are fragile right now. They need counseling not questioning. They are not the enemies,” he was yelling by the end of his monologue. His voice came closer to the door, so Hannah backed up considerably.
Samuels opened the door with a flourish. And scene.
Detective Jones wasn’t having it and followed him out, “Sir, this is investigation is bigger than your music class. A student is dead. Another lies in a hospital bed. Help us. Don’t hinder us.”
Both men spied Hannah waiting in the hallway and stopped the confrontation right then and there.
Later that evening, Mr. Samuels came over to play house. Gillian picked up some Panera Bread and the four gathered around the small butcher block island in the kitchen. Aaron attempted some small talk with Ricky—a pathetic show for Gillian.
Well Mr. Samuels, you can’t even fake interest in sports. Hannah shook her head as she listened to Aaron try to relate theatre to Ricky’s hockey team. Ricky moved to the dining room table to deal with loathsome algebra homework. Gillian flitted back and forth to check him. After finishing half her sandwich, Hannah formulated a reason to get away. They are talking about money. Can I just leave? Or do I need to give an excuse? I could always claim more homework.
“I heard they are freezing the pay scale this coming year,” Aaron groaned. He continued through slurps of his tomato basil bisque, “I know the economy is tough, but can’t they find the money to give us a cost-of-living raise?”
Gillian sighed, “It won’t change for another few years. I heard from the financial director…or Joan’s assistant rather—and you didn’t hear this from me—that 22% of the students are in arrears by months. Months!” She looked over Ricky’s shoulder and nodded her head. Like my English teacher mom actually knows if my brother is doing the equation correctly. The paper might as well be written in Chinese.
Despite herself, Hannah chimed in, “I know Sabine’s dad lost his job. He worked for AIG. She was crying at lunch the other day and Skylar said so. Sabine might leave the school.”
“Hannah, are you going to eat more of that?” Mom gestured at her sandwich.
“I’m not hungry.”
“You should eat some more, Hannah. After the stressful day you had…”
“I’ll get it,” Ricky shot up. Anything to get away from word problems.
Hannah started the kettle for tea and noticed Aaron still eyeing her sandwich, “You can have it. Really, I’m just not in the mood.” Why did you just get soup? It’s not like you have to wear the lycra and sequins and tights you chose for costumes.
Aaron nodded gratefully and quickly grabbed the untouched half. But then his face went blank.
“Hi Hannah,” Skylar stood at the opening of the kitchen. “Hi, Ms. Cross. Hey Mr. Samuels,” she grinned kittenishly.
Unable to rally, Hannah blurted out, “What are you doing here?”
Gillian’s mouth hung open, as far as she knew Skylar and Hannah were great pals. Why the hostility?
Skylar didn’t flinch, “How are you? I heard you got questioned today. I came over because, well, I figured you wouldn’t remember to do our chemistry lab. I thought I’d come help.”
Gillian handed Hannah a cup of tea then started assembling one for Skylar who continued to chat effortlessly with both adults. Like the tea kettle next to her, Hannah simmered. Look how Mr. Samuels looks at her. Peeling off clothes with each furtive glance. All the Call Boards with Skylar’s name listed for a private lesson with Mr. Samuels flashed before her memory too. They are sleeping together. This asshole is sleeping with Skylar AND my mother.
“Honey, are you okay?” Gillian asked gingerly.
Hannah snapped out of the bad dream, “Yeah, it’s that…that darn chem lab.”
“Colleen is tough. But she gets great results. You’ll ace the exam in June,” Gillian smiled at everyone at once.
In their tight kitchen it was hard for four people to get around. Hannah watched Skylar get to her tea. Her chest brushed up against Mr. Samuels’ back as she squeezed between him and the fridge. He shuddered.
When the two got into Hannah’s bedroom, Skylar wondered, “So when do you think Samuels will propose to your mom?”
All the muscles in Skylar’s face worked in unison to give the sweetest expression. “You heard me,” she repeated. “Your mom looks so happy. I think they will totally get married.”
She rifled through her backpack for the chem notes. What if I accused her of sleeping with Samuels? I could watch her contort and squirm at the revelation. The part when she knows I know. An anger like spoiled meat bubbled up in Hannah’s gut. I have the words. Just speak them.
A white fear struck Hannah. What about my mom? The humiliation. If I don’t say it aloud, it is still just speculation, Hannah breathed slowly. She knew the truth. But until you speak the truth, what you know can remain imaginary.
“Here’s the chem notes. Nancy let me use the copy machine. Little snot nose gave me shit but I told her it was for you and that you were questioned by the police today.”
“I’m surprised Nancy let you…even so,” Hannah tried to make nice. Put it from your mind. But the truth was they’d been distant from each other since the accident. Hannah was hurt that Skylar moved on without her. The lead in the play. Probably even a new boyfriend Hannah didn’t know about.
For those first few awkward minutes, Nancy Altman provided common ground. She was a hopeless nerd, the stereotypical hall monitor. She was the “Sarah Young” of the Student Council. Whispering Hills had the most ridiculous Student Council too. Every year the school would let ten seniors run for student body president. The nine who didn’t win would all be vice presidents. But each got a different role, usually something that parent volunteers or office staff didn’t want to do. In fact, Greg’s crush was VP of the Balloon Store. That’s right. He was the vice president of selling balloons. Nancy Altman was the VP of Photocopies. She had her own code for the office Xerox machine. They didn’t want students wasting paper. Crazy how a school with a helipad had to worry about copier paper and toner. Nancy took her job very seriously.
In fact, Nancy was a catalyst in Hannah’s friendship with Skylar. Being the teacher’s kid at her new school meant Hannah was a ball of anxiety those first few days of freshman year. Nancy took the liberty of explaining that if Hannah didn’t return some forms to my homeroom teacher she would get an automatic detention. Hannah could still smell the starch on Nancy’s crisp uniform shirt.
Skylar leaned in, freshman but fully a woman, “Nancy, stop making everyone as neurotic as you.” Then she picked up a pencil off the floor, “I think it’s yours. A wonder how it fell out of your clenched ass.”
Nancy muttered something about detentions. Skylar turned her body to Hannah, “Hi, I’m Skylar Clarke. You’re Hannah Cross, right? You’re Mrs. Cross’s daughter.”
And that’s how the friendship started. And Skylar’s introduction, while poised and warm, might as well have said, “Hi, I run this school because I have more money than God. You’re a peon whose mom’s salary is about the same as the cost of my watch, right?”
But what would you have done? Attach yourself to the diligent nobody Nancy? Or become friends with Skylar Clarke? The choice was simple. High School is disturbingly similar to prison. You associate with strength and you’re strong. Associate with weakness and it’s going to be a long four years.
Hannah looked through the chemistry notes. Wow, Skylar actually took good notes. Hannah felt relieved and oddly thankful. Skylar cracked the bedroom door open and listened to the downstairs noises for a few seconds. “Good, Ricky is still down there with them. We would hear him coming up, right?”
“Yeah,” Hannah replied, “Ricky isn’t exactly soft-footed.”
“Okay, good,” Skylar closed the door and ran her hands along the seam. As she turned, Skylar looked like an actress in a noir film—half gravity, half glamour.
“My dad is lawyering up.”
“What? Why?” Hannah exclaimed, too loud. She stupidly looked around the room for confirmation that no one downstairs heard.
“The police have a warrant to search the Rover,” her mouth turned down in a pout. She looked more like a girl whose favorite Uggs had a stain than a girl whose just been involved in vehicular manslaughter.
Hannah panicked, “You said that there’s no dent. You said that the car looks fine. I saw the Rover.”
Skylar threw her hand up, “I’ve already sat through one lecture about this tonight. My dad didn’t even have the decency to tell me himself. He stood there silently as Trina relayed the whole thing. Apparently, the police paid her a visit this morning—interrupted her private yoga lesson. Gag me.”
She went on. If there was anyone Skylar hated more than Zoe Kellogg, it was her father’s new wife. “And do you know she was wearing my grandmother’s pearls? Those are supposed to go to me or Bethany,” Skylar fumed, totally derailed from her purpose.
Hannah smirked as she thought of Katrina Torres-Clarke twirling pearls and drinking some Sauvignon Blanc as she explained the morning’s happenings to Skylar.
“So, I had to stand there, getting lectured, by Trina of all people. But I guess my dad let her take the lead on this one. Seeing as she probably has some experience with law enforcement,” Skylar cocked an eyebrow.
“You didn’t say
that to her, did you?”
“Not exactly like that,” Skylar replied, a little meekly this time. “My dad would have flipped out if I said that.”
Well, now at least I know why Skylar is here. It’s not the chem notes. And it’s not to talk about the investigation. Hannah sat on the bed, her vitriol for Skylar tempered briefly by pity. Skylar came over because she mouthed off to her stepmother and her dad took Trina’s side. Besides musical theatre, this was all they really had in common—shitty dads. Hannah’s dad never showed up and when he did he was only half there. So, she half-loved him. Skylar watched her dad wait for his wife to die. But all the while Brooks Clarke courted some young upstart at his company, licking the wounds of his loveless marriage. His devotion to the first Mrs. Clarke—the real Mrs. Clarke—was a lie.
Skylar plopped down next to Hannah and rehashed the story. When she was finally exorcised, she cooed, “I know this Zoe stuff is hard for you, Hannah, but think of how shit will affect your mom if it gets out.” She looked pointedly at business card on Hannah’s desk. Hannah gasped. The detective’s card. The one I took from rehearsal.
“What will get out? I swear I didn’t tell the police anything.” Could Skylar see into my heart? Did she know that I took that card a few weeks back? Does she know why I took the card? They had been distant. Hannah wondered if this was her friend sitting next to her or an abuser grooming prey. Or both. It’s probably always been both.
“I know you would never say anything. It just hit me about your mom though. She would lose her job.”
Surrounded by the glow of Skylar’s expert gaslighting, Hannah thought of her mom too. I need to be better the next time I talk to the police. If there is a next time…
I need to protect my mom. Hannah saw it clearly now: protecting Skylar was protecting her mom. A sense of purpose set in as Skylar continued.
The police will search the Range Rover tomorrow. The only information they had from the truck driver who witnessed the accident was “dark SUV.” Skylar began weaving the silky latticework of manipulation. The same threads she braided around Hannah since ninth grade.
But it will be all right, Skylar affirmed. And Hannah believed her.
There was no dent on the SUV. And Hannah believed her.
Derrick fixed it. Why did Hannah think Skylar was hanging around with him in the first place? Skylar gave a rhetorical giggle. And Hannah giggled too. How silly she felt now. That late night she stalked Skylar. Of course, she isn’t close to Derrick. Not the way Skylar is close to me.
“When they come tomorrow, I’ll nail the interview. Just like I did this morning,” Skylar laughed. And Hannah laughed too.
“I think I’ll be just fine,” Skylar sighed smugly.
And the whole time Hannah heard “we” in Skylar’s sultry low voice. And the whole time Skylar said “I” with a confidence that comes from being raised with money and opportunity and power.
Too bad Hannah didn’t notice. Too charmed by the most powerful girl at school. Too relieved that her best friend was back. We just need to get through this.
Skylar left soon after that. She offered a ride to Mr. Samuels. “I can take you,” she purred.
Gillian immediately took off her coat, grateful for the favor. She had papers to grade. Skylar could bring Aaron to the train station.
Copyright ©️ 2019 Kristin Sample All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written consent of the author.
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- September 2019
- April 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- December 2016
- June 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- October 2015
- July 2015
- May 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- March 2013
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- August 2011
- December 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008