"Do you really think she'd go to the cops if he hadn't?"
"Maybe she just wants attention."
"No way." The faucet cut off, and I heard paper towels being yanked from the dispenser. "She and Sophie were best friends. And now everyone knows? Why go through all that for a lie?"
I froze. They were talking about Emily.
"What did he get booked for?" the first girl asked.
"Sexual assault. Or second-degree rape, I don't know which."
"I can't believe he actually got arrested," the other girl said.
"At the A-Frame!" her friend replied. "Meghan said when the cops pulled up, people were running in all directions. Everyone thought it was a beer bust."
"Not hardly." I heard a backpack pocket unzip. "Have you seen Sophie?"
"Nope. I don't think she came today," the other girl said. "Shit. Would you?"
They were leaving now, their heels clicking across the floor, so I didn't get to hear the response to this. Instead, I stood in the stall, one hand on the wall beside me, where someone had written /smc i hate this place in blue ballpoint pen. I dropped my hand, then put down the toilet seat and sat, trying to piece together what I'd just heard.
Emily had gone to the cops. Emily had pressed charges. Emily had told.
This realization was so big I just sat there, hands locked in my lap, stunned. Will had been arrested. People knew about this. Ever since Saturday night, I'd assumed Emily, like me, had stayed silent and scared, sucked this story in and held it there. But she hadn't.
As the afternoon wore on and I actually started listening to the people around me, I got the rest of the story. I heard that Emily was supposed to get a ride from the A-Frame to the party with Sophie, but she'd gotten held up, so Will offered to drive her instead. That he'd parked on the street and then, depending on who you believed, either jumped on her or was surprised when she made a move on him. That a woman walking her dog past saw something happening and threatened to call the cops if they didn't move on. That this was how Emily had gotten out of the car and, after getting a ride home, told her mom everything. That she'd spent Saturday morning at the police station, filing charges. That when the cops came for Will on Saturday night, he cried when the cops cuffed him. That Will's dad bailed him out within hours, then hired him the best lawyer in town. That Sophie was telling everyone that Emily had always been hot for Will, and when he wasn't interested, she cried rape. And that while Sophie was not at school today, Emily was.
I didn't see her until just after final bell. I was pulling a notebook out of my locker when I felt a sudden, strange hush fall over the normal end-of-the-day commotion. It didn't get entirely quiet, just quieter. When I turned my head, I saw her coming down the hallway toward me. She wasn't cowering or alone. She had two girls with her, one on either side, both of them people she'd been friends with before Sophie. I'd just assumed that I had no one after what had happened, that everyone would just accept Sophie's side of the story. It hadn't even occurred to me that somebody would believe mine.
For the next few days, what happened between Emily and Will remained the hot topic, although I was doing my best not to pay attention to it. At times, though, this was impossible, like the day I was in my English class, doing some last-minute cramming before a midterm, and Jessica Norfolk and Tabitha
Johnson, who sat behind me, started talking about Will.
"What I heard," said Jessica, who was junior class treasurer and not, I thought, the gossip type, "is that he's done it before."
"Really?" Tabitha replied. She'd sat behind me all year and always clicked her pen, which drove me nuts. She was doing it now.
"Yeah. There were rumors when he was at Perkins Day, apparently. You know, girls who said similar stuff had happened to them."
"But nobody ever had him arrested."
"Well, no," Jessica said. "But it means that it could be, you know, a pattern."
Tabitha, still clicking her pen, sighed through her teeth. "God," she said. "Poor Sophie."
"I know. Can you imagine dating someone and then this?"
A lot of these conversations I'd overheard came back to Sophie, which wasn't surprising. She and Will were one of those couples people knew about, if only for their frequently public dramatics. So it was odd she wasn't at school that first day. If Emily surprised me, though, Sophie did, too. Not only by not showing up, but by how she acted when she finally did.
She didn't station herself in the courtyard to make it clear she was unaffected by what had happened. Or confront Emily in public, as she had me. In fact, the first time I saw her she was alone, walking down the hallway with her cell phone pressed to her ear. At lunch, when I glanced out the library window, she wasn't on her bench—which was populated instead by some sophomore girls I didn't even know—but sitting on the curb by the turnaround, waiting for a ride. As for
Emily, she was sitting at a picnic table, drinking a bottled water and eating some potato chips, surrounded by people.
So Sophie was alone. I was alone. And Owen was alone, or so I was assuming. Occasionally before or after school, I'd catch a glimpse of him, towering over everyone else as he cut across a pathway or disappeared around a corner. Sometimes when I saw him, all I wanted to do was tell him everything. The thought would crash over me like a wave, sudden and unexpected. In the next moment, though, I'd already be telling myself that he probably didn't even want to hear it, now. Watching him walking across the courtyard with no expression, earphones on, it was like he was receding, back, back, to the person he'd been to me before all this. Just a mystery, a boy I didn't know at all, one more face in the crowd.
If school was stressful, home was not much better. At least not for me. For everyone else in my family, however, things were just great. My mother, next to me, was at this moment pushing her cart through the bounty that was the Mayor's Market produce department, so happy the entire family was finally getting together. While Kirsten had talked about coming for Thanksgiving, she'd opted instead to stay in the city, ostensibly to work some extra shifts and catch up on schoolwork. Later, though, she'd mentioned eating a turkey dinner with Brian, her TA; however, in very non-Kirsten fashion, she hadn't offered more details. Now she was finally coming home early for Christmas, and my mom was going all out.
"We're doing two kinds of potatoes," Mom said to me, gesturing for me to pull a couple of plastic bags from the dis-penser. "I'm doing my creamed casserole, and Whitney's doing some kind of roasted potatoes with olive oil."