Chapter 22: Ryan/Jacky

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So many people. As soon as Ryan stepped into the school building, he knew he'd made a mistake. A worse mistake than being alone all day at the Jennings' house? He did his best to smile at all the friends who he hadn't even trusted to talk to about his mother's illness. Of course, no one expected him to smile, so that part wasn't too bad. "I can't believe you're back at school," said Alex. "You could take off a week, easy."

"I'd rather stay busy," Ryan said. "Not think about it."

That was true. A little bit true. He had hoped he could just walk into school and be mostly invisible, like usual. He could pretend nothing had happened. But everyone knew.

He didn't know where Jacky had gone. When he looked around, he saw Jacky talking to Cody Mitchell by the lockers, laughing, and then he wished he hadn't looked. Suddenly he just wanted to go to the guidance counselor's office and cry.

"You okay?" Monica asked.

Never had he been so grateful for Monica's clinginess. "Um," he said, and it was all he had to say, because his voice wobbled and Monica took charge.

"Okay, guys," Monica announced. "Ryan needs to go down to the office to clear some stuff up."

The crowd – there was a crowd around him – parted, but even when he'd gotten through the thick of people, he didn't see Jacky again.

The crowd – there was a crowd around him – parted, but even when he'd gotten through the thick of people, he didn't see Jacky again

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When Ryan didn't show up to English class second period, Jacky freaked out a little. He had purposely rushed from Computer Science so he might have a chance to check in with Ryan before Mr. Dugan started class. Instead he sat at his desk tapping his feet nervously, staring at Ryan's empty desk. When Monica sauntered in just before the bell, Jacky could have launched himself over his fellow classmates and throttled her.

The bell rang; still no sign of Ryan. So Jacky slipped his phone out of his pocket and hid it under his desk and texted Ryan.

where are you?

And then he texted Monica.

do you know where Ryan is?

Of course she wasn't going to answer a text in the middle of class. Jacky exhaled and put his phone away before Mr. Dugan saw it and confiscated it.

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