There was something mildly creepy about the pale, washed-out bathrooms at this theater. They were usually empty while the movies were running in the multiplex, and the cold, ghostly lighting cast an almost menacing pallor across the small, white, hexagonal tiles of the floors. The fluorescent tubing even made an ominous humming sound that echoed against the walls around her. She was actually kind of glad that Jay was waiting outside the door.
Violet hurried in and out of the stall, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she washed her hands. Even in this lighting, she had to admit that she didn’t look too terrible. She’d never really thought of herself as pretty, but she knew she wasn’t unattractive either. She never wanted to be one of those girls who looked for flaws, picking themselves apart with unjust criticisms.
She turned on the air dryer hanging on the wall, but got impatient with how long it was taking and finally dried her hands on her jeans as she went back out to where Jay was waiting for her, still leaning casually against the wall.
She didn’t stop to wait for him, and he had to rush to keep up with her. “What took you so long?” he whispered as they looked for their seats in the dark again.
She didn’t respond to his question; she was still annoyed that he thought she needed an escort just to go to the restroom. But once they were sitting, Jay reached out and took her hand once more.
Violet didn’t complain about it. She liked it too much to complain.
His hands were strong and so much larger than hers now. His skin felt thicker—tougher—than her own, and the contrast was exhilarating. Just his touch made her feel warm all over.
She was disappointed when the movie came to an end, even though he showed no signs of releasing his grip on her hand. And she was more than a little embarrassed to realize that she’d barely paid attention to the show at all. She’d had other, more interesting, things on her mind. She desperately hoped that Jay didn’t ask her any questions about the movie she was supposed to have watched.
They saw Amanda’s little group on their way out to the parking lot, but this time Jay barely acknowledged them, simply nodding his head in their direction as they passed. Violet was aware of the looks exchanged by the three girls as they made it clear that they’d noticed he was holding her hand.
Jay must have seen it too, because he gave her hand a quick, reassuring squeeze.
It made Violet curious about all the times that she thought Jay was completely clueless about the attention he’d been getting from the girls at school. She wondered if he was more aware than he let on about how much interest he’d stirred in the female population at White River High.
And then her blood ran cold as another thought occurred to her. If he wasn’t entirely ignorant about what he was doing to the other girls, what did he know about her own thoughts and fantasies? Could he possibly suspect how she really felt about him? Was she as transparent as Amanda and the other girls at school had been?
That would be terrible! Violet thought miserably. She was going to have to be more careful around him and stop obsessing over him like one of his little groupies.
She decided that, from this point on, despite the fact it was something she desperately wanted, she couldn’t risk ruining what they had. Their friendship, which had been a part of her life for almost as long as she could remember, was far too important to her to do anything that might jeopardize it.
She pulled her hand away from his, feeling suddenly decisive and strong. But it turned out to be less a show of resolve than she’d meant it to be, considering that they’d reached the car and she would have had to let go anyway. Jay opened the passenger-side door, and she slid inside.
She looked down at her hand, which was still warm from his touch, and she could already feel herself missing the contact with him. She didn’t entirely understand the sense of loss she felt about something that she’d never really had in the first place.
Besides, Violet thought, she had more important things to worry about right now.
She needed to find the killer, to stop him before he could hurt anyone else.
How was she ever going to do that if she was too busy crushing on her best friend?
SUNDAY, VIOLET AND JAY SPENT MOST OF THE DAY at the local mall. They wandered in and out of the stores, had lunch at the food court, and even spent some time playing video games in the arcade, which, as it turned out, was more for Jay’s benefit than for hers. She was so terrible at all of the games she tried that she’d spent ten dollars in less than ten minutes. Jay was still on his first two quarters by the time she was finished.
She decided that she couldn’t afford to spend too much time in the arcade.
Violet stood beside the game Jay was playing—very well, she had to admit—and she looked around her. The electronic sounds of the games were almost deafening, especially to someone who was so hyper-aware of her senses. But Violet already knew that the man she was looking for wasn’t here. It would have been easy for her to spot the radiant imprint she was looking for, especially in the dark confines of the arcade.
She looked back to the video game monitor and tried to feign interest in what was happening on the screen, but soon she was bored, and she decided she would rather wait for Jay in the mall. He didn’t look up from what he was doing long enough to notice that she was leaving.
She left the sensory overload of the arcade behind her as she stepped into the wide-open space of the atrium. They’d already had lunch, and Violet had no desire to eat again, so instead she started to wander the storefronts near the food court.