When he finished burying her, he reached for a loose pile of leaves that he’d left nearby and he layered the exposed terrain with them, making the scene look as natural as possible. Not that it would be necessary way out here.
He stood up and shook the soil from his hands and clothes, using the back of his sleeves to wipe the sweat and dirt from his face before gathering the bag and folding it into a meticulously tight roll, which he tucked beneath his right arm. He reached out in the darkness and put his hand against the trunk of a tree to his left, a guide he used to calculate his way back, and he began to follow his premeditated path back toward his car.
Once he was safely inside, he surveyed the area as best he could, and satisfied that he’d gone completely unnoticed, he started his engine.
As he pulled away from his hiding place amid the overgrown brush and trees, he checked his face for any grimy remnants in the mirror before turning out onto the main road. He waited for some sense of relief to catch up with him, some feeling of accomplishment of a job well done…some sense of achievement…of conclusiveness.
But it never came. Instead all he felt was a restless stirring coming from deep within him.
He wouldn’t be able to wait this time. The familiar feelings were coming faster and faster after each girl, the impatience to find another…to start the hunt again.
He was insatiable, he decided. Unquenchable. Ravenous for the chase.
Soon, he assured himself. Soon.
BY FRIDAY, DAY FIVE OF JAY’S EVASION OF VIOLET, she was starting to feel abandoned for good. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have other friends, but it just so happened that he was her favorite one. Besides, it was hard seeing him all day long, sitting so close to him in classes and passing him in the hallways, unable to talk to him. She supposed she could try, but the idea that he might give her the silent treatment in return was devastating to Violet, and she wasn’t quite willing to set herself up for that kind of rejection.
Story of my life, she thought miserably. She was never willing to put herself out there.
She bit into her apple just as Chelsea was sitting down beside her at the lunch table.
“Where’s new-Jay?” Chelsea asked, unable to let the joke die. She’d been singing that same ol’ song for the past week, and every time she did, it bugged Violet a little bit more. That was probably why Chelsea hadn’t given it up yet; she could probably smell Violet’s irritation.
Instead of correcting Chelsea, yet again, Violet looked around the cafeteria and realized that Grady was nowhere to be seen. That was a first, at least in the space of the past five days, and Violet found it strange that she hadn’t even noticed his absence.
Violet shrugged in answer to Chelsea’s question.
She felt a mild pang of sadness for Grady, who had been running around in circles in an effort just to be near her. But more than any regret she had over Grady’s misplaced affections, she was grateful for the moment of peace.
At least it had been peaceful…until Chelsea sat down.
It wasn’t long before Jules and Claire were joining them.
“Where’s new-Jay?” Jules asked, and then she and Chelsea exchanged a look and started cracking up at their own joke.
Even Claire, who was generally so serious about everything, giggled a little.
Violet rolled her eyes. “How long did it take you geniuses to plan that little gem?” she accused her friends, which only made them laugh harder. She shook her head. “You two are idiots,” she said, biting into her apple again and deciding to ignore them.
“Which is it, Violet?” Claire asked. “Are they geniuses or idiots?”
Chelsea leaned into Jules now, laughing so hard at their stupid joke that no sound was even coming out of her mouth anymore.
Violet looked from Chelsea to Jules and then back to Claire. “Idiots,” she stated flatly.
There was another long moment as the Two Stooges struggled to regain their composure.
“Come on, Vi. If we can’t joke about new-Jay, who can we joke about?” Chelsea asked, finally getting herself under control. She used a paper napkin to dab at her watering eyes.
“Joke about whatever you want,” Violet stated as blandly as possible. “It’s not your fault you’re not funny.”
“Oh, I’m funny all right. I’m freakin’ hilarious. You’re the one who’s lost her sense of humor,” Chelsea lobbed back at her.
Violet was about to argue the point with Chelsea, but her comeback got lost in her throat when she saw Jay walking in.
“Oh, look, there’s old-Jay,” Claire said nonchalantly. “And he’s with Lissie Adams.”
Violet had seen that too.
They walked in like they were old friends. Jay was smiling down at Lissie while he carried his tray of food. Lissie was walking as close to him as she could get and still maintain her balance. Lissie’s best friend, a girl who had spent her entire high school career being socially eclipsed by Lissie’s über-popularity, seemed content to be trailing behind the two of them. As a couple, Jay and Lissie looked like they’d been clipped from the pages of a Hollywood gossip magazine, with their faultless good looks and their perfect smiles. Lissie even had her own entourage. The only thing missing was the red carpet.
But they weren’t a couple, Violet argued to herself, were they?
Violet’s chest suddenly felt heavy, crushed beneath the weight of her own unanswered questions. What if they were a couple now? What if her stupid stunt at the mall last weekend had pushed Jay far enough away that he’d replaced her with Lissie? Had that really been less than a week ago?