A Different Blue Page 27

My eyes were dry, but my chest heaved in an effort to hold back a sharp, dry cry that rattled around my heart and clogged my throat with guilt.

“I didn't know!” I begged my conscience for acquittal. Mason had snapped that picture of me without my knowledge, and his brother had gotten hold of it.

“I didn't know!” I said desperately, and this time my voice echoed in the filthy bathroom where I cowered. I looked around at the soiled clothes, the drooping shower curtain, the rancid toilet and the crud-lined sink. What was I doing here? What had I done? I chose to be here! And I had chosen to be in that situation with Mason. I hadn't known about the picture. But I wasn't innocent, either.

My actions had set off a chain of events. A mixed up girl, hungry for affection, makes a terrible choice. Was I talking about Graciela or myself? I faced myself in the mirror and immediately looked away. My actions, as inadvertent as they may have been, had triggered Graciela's choice and. in turn, Manny's response. Manny, who had seemed to love the whole world and, even more impressive, to like himself. I'm nobody. Who are you?

“I'm Manny,” he had said, as if that should have been enough. And why wasn't it? Because despite all the good intentioned urging to just be yourself, how was being yourself even possible if you didn't know who the hell YOU were? Manny seemed to have known, but he was as susceptible as we all are to the influences of a world where people act without thought, live without consciousness, and judge without understanding.

I grabbed my purse and headed back through the bedroom. Should I demand Mason's phone and delete the picture, threatening to go to the police? Should I throw things and cry and tell him he was a sick bastard and I never wanted to see him again? Would it do any good? The cat was already out of the bag, so to speak. The picture was in the wind. And maybe that was justice.

I strode through the living room and shrugged into my jacket. Colby belched out a happy hello and Brandon seemed uncomfortable. Mason was silent as I headed for the door. He had to have known what I had heard.

“Don't go, Blue,” he said as I walked out. But he didn't come after me.

Chapter Nine

My truck was alone in the sea of striped black top. The lights in the parking lot made little pools of orange on the ground, and I walked to my truck, grateful that the night was almost over. My feet hurt. The high-heeled boots that made my legs look so long pinched my toes and had me hobbling the last few steps. I dug my keys out of my purse and unlocked the door. It screeched loudly as I swung it open, making me jump a little, although I'd heard it squeak a thousand times before. I slid inside the cab, pulled the door shut, and shoved the keys into the ignition.

Click, click, click, click.

“Oh no! Not now, please not now!” I wailed. I tried again. Just the series of fast little clicks. The lights wouldn't even turn on. The battery was dead. I said a very unladylike word and beat on the steering wheel, making the horn bleep for mercy. I considered sleeping in the front seat. Home was miles away, and I was wearing impossibly high, ridiculous shoes. It would take me hours to walk home. Cheryl was at work, so she couldn't come get me. But if I stayed put I would be faced with the same dilemma in the morning, and I could be stuck walking home with raccoon makeup and bedhead in broad daylight.

Mason would come and get me. He would probably answer on the first ring. I shoved the thought from my head. I wasn't calling Mason Bates ever again. That left me with only one option. I climbed out of my truck and began walking, my anger fueling my steps. I cut across the parking lot and rounded the school in the direction of home – opposite the direction I had come. A car I hadn't noticed when I'd arrived was parked in the teacher's lot, closer to the school and the entrance doors. It was the silver Subaru I had seen Mr. Wilson driving around town. If it was his, and he was in the school, he would give me a ride – or even better, jump start my truck. I had cables. Maybe he had left his keys in it, and I could just quickly “borrow” his car, drive it over to my truck, give it a jump, and bring his car back without him ever knowing it.

I tested the driver's side door hopefully. No luck. I tested all the doors, just to be sure. I could pound on the door to the school, the one closest to where he was parked. But his room was up the stairs and down the hall on the second floor. The likelihood of him hearing me knocking was pretty slim. But I knew a way into the school. My dremel had broken last summer and for about a month I hadn't had the money to replace it. But the wood-shop room in the school had a nice one that I'd made good use of many times. I'd taken a metal file to the lock on the shop exit door, filing it down just enough that any key would open the door. If no one had discovered it in the seven months since then, I would be able to get in. I might get in trouble, but I could just say the door was unlocked. I doubted Wilson would tattle anyway.

My streak of bad luck took a small vacation because my car keys easily turned the lock on the shop room door. I was in. I crept through the familiar passageways. The smell of the school – disinfectant, school lunch, and cheap cologne – was oddly comforting. I wondered how I would approach Wilson without scaring the crap out of him. As I neared the stairs leading to the second floor I heard something that made me stop abruptly. I listened, and my heart thudded like a drum, making it hard to determine what the sound was. I held my breath and strained to hear. Violins? Weird. Hitchcock's Psycho flashed through my mind. “REE! REE! REE! REE!” I shivered. Violins were creepy.

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