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Chapter 36 - Jane

The day of the Trivia Master championship round is a little like the last day before a long break. Everyone just goes through the motions and kills time while we wait for the thing to start. And even the teachers who want to keep their classes on track struggle to do it. I mean, good luck keeping anyone’s attention when there are people stomping around the building all day. It starts before noon when the Jameson people show up to start setting up their equipment. The parents and other curious types start trickling in after lunch, and by one o’clock the place is packed. And that’s on a normal year.

A lot of the people on staff want to call the day early, maybe run the match at 1:30 and then let everyone out, but the administrators insist that they have to follow the rules for dismissal. After this year, I bet they reconsider. There were people parking illegally in the student and staff lots starting around eleven, jamming up the streets and blocking everyone in. There were strangers milling around on campus for hours before the round started up, some of them people from miles and miles away who heard about the insanity that was going down and wanted to see it in person. I hear some of them tried to sneak into the building and break into the auditorium just to get a guaranteed seat. Shit, if you’re gonna deal with that kind of nonsense, just bump up the match by an hour or two and call it a day. Let’s not pretend that anyone’s learning anything with all of this going on.

But we’re stuck with it, and that meant that I was stuck with fourth period trig. Mr. Pregler was late as usual, which was all right because so was everyone else. The ones who didn’t just skip out in the madness were all downstairs gaping at the crowd. I went ahead and let myself in to the class via the usual method and left my things inside. On the way out, I bumped into Duncan Washington.

“Oh...afternoon, Duncan. Looking for peace and quiet?”

“Yeah. Only a few people showed up to class, so I figured I could take some time...” Duncan stared at me. “...How did you get in there? Don’t they lock those doors?”

“Yeah.” I held up my old ID. “The inside locks in this building kinda suck.”

“How do you know how to do that?”

“Well, a girl’s gotta have a job.” I laughed. “Seriously, someone from the class showed us how to do it. When Mr. Pregler’s late, we have a little fun with him. Get in, move things around...you know.”

“Never would have thought of that one.” Duncan leaned against the lockers. “So...hell of a match you girls had on Wednesday. For a second there, I thought you had Paul’s ass.”

Really wish he’d picked a different phrase. “I guess, but it was always gonna be close. No sure things this year.”

“No shit.”

“Your man Trevor’s still in it. That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, but it would be better if I was up there with him.”

I shook my head. “I don’t envy him. I’ll tell you, having spent some time in front of all those people, it’s a lot better being in the crowd than being on stage. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life. No one does.”

“Yeah. Plus the backstabbing.”

“Yeah.” I almost told him what had gone down with Isabel, but I bit my tongue. “...I’ve heard stories about that.”

“Yeah, it’s a shitty situation.” Duncan gathered up his things. “You’re watching the match, right?”

“Isn’t everyone?”

“Cool.” Duncan looked up and down the hall. “Looks like I’m cutting by default. Think I’ll go find Trevor.”

“I’m sure he needs the company.”

“You wanna come with? No one’s turning up to class.”

“Eh...” I’ve never willingly skipped a class, not even on skip day. But what the hell is life for, anyway? No one stays a parent’s dream forever. “...I should go find Isabel. She’s probably down in the crowd, taking pictures of herself with everyone.”

“She can’t be that shallow.”

“Well, one way to find out...” I pulled out my phone. “...And she is. Maybe there’s still time to talk her into staying for the match.”

“Well, I’m taking off.”

“All right. See you this afternoon, maybe.”

“Yeah, see you. Oh, don’t you need your stuff?”

“Shit, that’s right.” I pulled out my ID and reached for the doorknob. From the corner of my eye, I could see Duncan, watching with a goofy smile. “You need something?”

“Can I watch you do that?”

“Still not in the mood for an audience, thanks.”

I let myself back into the room, hid a few things on Mr. Pregler’s desk (because if you’re going to break one rule, why not go for two?) and made my way out to the common area. Well, I tried to. God, what a mess – there had to be fifty out–of–towners out there, perfect strangers coming to watch the oncoming trainwreck. And that’s even without the Jameson people and the media guys and the scouts and parents and siblings and extended families. Imagine, all this nonsense over some stupid little small town high school trivia contest.

I really do hope Paul wins. He deserves it.

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