Chapter 19 - "How can he be so clueless?"

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The bell rang, cutting off the math teacher's words and rousing the bored students.

"Alright, don't forget homework is due tomorrow," Mr. Harris said.

Carter snapped her notebook shut. The volume in the classroom rose as students took up dropped conversations and footsteps pounded on the floor. Swinging her strap over her head, Carter moved to the door, riding the river of students. In the hallway she broke away, heading for the library.

She was just passing Mr. Philips' classroom when the sight of him talking to the janitor stopped her. It was the same janitor she had almost run into in the hallway. She backtracked and took a step closer. Mr. Philips was pointing to the ventilation shafts.

"...have them checked out," he said.

The janitor nodded and Mr. Philips clapped the man on the arm. The janitor turned as Mr. Philips noticed Carter standing in the doorway. He started at the sight of her, but quickly regained his composure. The janitor's face remained impassive as he disappeared around a corner.

"Was there something you needed, Carter?" Mr. Philips asked.

He looked down at his desk and started stacking papers.

"Essay due Friday?" she asked.

"Yes, three pages. Please stay within that amount this time."

Carter made her way to the library and pushed the heavy wooden door open just as the second bell sent students scurrying for their classrooms. Patty the librarian looked up from her desk and smiled at Carter. Her graying brown hair was neater than Carter had seen it and she wore contacts instead of her usual glasses. Resting against the desk, Carter gave her a teasing smile.

"I see things with Mr. Miller are going well," she said.

"What would ever make you think that?" Patty said.

Carter pointed at Patty's face.

"You're wearing contacts, and your shirt and skirt are new, because you wanted to look nice for your lunch date. And if you're having lunch date, and not waiting until after school, that means it's going very well, because you're openly telling the other staff you guys are dating."

Patty just looked at her with wide eyes. Carter continued.

"Do you know what the big surprise for this weekend is?" she asked.

Patty frowned.

"How did you about -"

"He had us do an in-class project, which means the homework load will be light over the weekend. That way he is free to take you out and do something time consuming."

Patty chuckled and shook her head.

"You are something different altogether," she said.

"Yeah, I know. Could you convince him to do something big next weekend as well? I don't really feel like doing homework."

Patty leaned back in her chair, laughing, the sound ringing in the silence of the library.

"No promises, but I'll see what I can do," she said.

With a nod, Carter walked away and found a table on the far side of the library, tossed her bag on top and pulled off her blazer, draping it over a chair. Pushing up her sleeves, she sank into a chair. Instead of pulling out her binder and notebooks, she tilted her chair back on two legs and rested her feet on the table. She closed her eyes, letting the quiet around her settle her active mind.

A few minutes later a familiar light laugh entered the library, followed by a subdued voice and a steady tread. The trio drew closer but Carter made no sign of noticing them. A finger prodded her shoulder and she snapped her hand out, catching the assailant's wrist.

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