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Dani

When Caitlyn tells me to come, I come. I keep my head down and follow her silently out of the greenhouse. Her arm is wrapped around me. It's warm like a blanket. She lets me lean against her, and when I bury my face in her shoulder she only holds me tighter. I sneak a glance back at Cam as she closes the door behind us. He is standing still in his place, caught in a cloud of dejection. He doesn't come after me.

Caitlyn walks me down the path and we sit down at the most isolated seat we can find. She rubs my back comfortingly and I let out a sigh. A stubborn tear trickles down my cheek. Caitlyn gives me a small smile. "Want to talk about it?"

I rub my eyes in an attempt to cut off the flow. "It's just kind of a lot to take in."

She nods silently.

"You really knew about Lola and Cam all along?"

"Maybe not all along, but for a long time. Yes."

"And you didn't talk to Lola about it?"

She shakes her head. "No. Like I said, it's none of my business if she wants to have separate friends. Besides, I've never been good at emotional conversations. For me it was easier to just check in, make sure she was okay and leave her to it."

It seems unusual that Caitlyn would be unconcerned about her lifelong best friend going behind her back like that, but perhaps her somewhat selfish and indifferent nature had something to do with it. Lola hadn't stopped being her friend and was still happy to help her out in any way, so it's possible that Caitlyn let it slide as it was no real inconvenience to her. Still, the whole ordeal is difficult to get my head around. "So you thought Lola was acting strangely? I never noticed anything."

Caitlyn looks to the sky in thought. "They weren't big changes, but I noticed. She still claimed to love making up little schemes with us and our constant weekend shopping trips, but sometimes she would clam up for no reason. She'd often seem reluctant to make fun of anyone, even when they'd done something to deserve it. And she never let me see her phone. Sometimes I wondered if she was secretly in love with him."

"Right. So why didn't you intervene as soon as you saw Cam taking me to the quarry if you think he had something to do with Lola's...you know?"

She sighs. "Look, as much as I know I'm the Queen Bitch around here, I'm not particularly good at confrontation. That's kind of why I tend to get you girls to help me out when I have a problem, or make it something snappy where I don't have to talk about my serious feelings. I didn't particularly like it, but I decided to watch for a bit before I said anything. I didn't want to say anything that would drive you away. But eventually, I just had to. I'm sorry."

"You think Cam had something to do with what happened to Lola?"

"Not directly. I don't think he killed her or anything like that. The police seemed pretty sure that it was a suicide, and they're the ones with the qualifications and access to the evidence. But Cam always seemed skeptical of popular people like you and I. That day when I asked to look at his science work, he looked at me like I was a dead rat and told me to leave him alone. I think he liked the idea of finding weaknesses in us popular girls and driving us apart to bring us down. He probably made Lola feel guilty for being who she was, and only realised what he'd done after she was found in the water. Why else would he be so fixated on finding another explanation?"

I can't help but admit that her logic makes sense. Cam never seemed to even consider Lola taking her own life as a possible option. I always assumed it was because he was too grief-stricken and shocked to believe it, or that he knew things about her that would make it seem suspicious. I suspected that Cam felt some sort of natural survivor's guilt, but never that he felt solely responsible for what happened and was trying to direct suspicion away from himself. But the more I think about it, the more it seems possible. The thought is unpleasant. Cam is a good guy. He cared about Lola. He wouldn't have harmed her. Right?

I force myself out of my intrusive thoughts. "So why do you think he came to me?"

Caitlyn shrugs. "Simple. You were the next of the trio to show a weakness. We both know you're seen as much more sensitive than me. Of course you would have latched onto him and his idealistic visions of Lola's secret life. All he had to do was tell you I was a she-devil enough times until you started to believe it. Then, boom, we're gone. One of us is dead. One of us is brainwashed, and one of us is left lost and alone."

I rub my aching temples with another sigh. "This is a lot. I literally just agreed to dating him about ten minutes ago."

Caitlyn pats me on the back again. "It's alright. We all make mistakes, and I'm sure he came off as very charming. You can just tell him that you changed your mind, and we can try and carry on and be happy together like old times."

Something Caitlyn said earlier has resonated with me more than the rest. "Do you really think Lola was in love with Cam?"

"I guess I'll never really know. She seemed to spend a lot of time with him, and she'd always look at her phone and smile, making sure I couldn't see the screen. It made me suspect that she was."

There is a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. "And do you think Cam loved her back?"

She hesitates. "I don't really know him well enough to be sure. But the fact that he's gone after you so soon after Lola's death makes me think that he could have been stringing her along as part of his plan to split us up, and that he might now be doing the same to you."

Another tear escapes me. Caitlyn pulls me into a tight hug as the bell shrieks through the formerly quiet atmosphere. I try to stop, but it's impossible now that the floodgates are open. I sob into Caitlyn's shirt. "I'm sorry."

She holds me close and speaks soothingly into my ear. "It's alright. You couldn't have known. The important thing is that you know now, and we know that we can stick together through anything."

It's difficult to believe that Cam could really be so cold, but Caitlyn's reasoning seems to make a lot of sense. "I don't know what to think anymore."

She slowly lets go of me and stands up, offering me her hand to pull me up. "I know. It's okay. Just remember that you've got me, okay? Come on, let's go and sign ourselves out. There's only one period to go, we can forge notes from our parents about appointments or something."

Caitlyn gives me a smile as she helps me up. We retrieve our bags and head out through the office. She turns on the radio as she drives me home. We don't speak, but the silence is comfortable - almost peaceful. She drops me outside my house and gives me a little wave as she drives off. 

I trudge through the front door and up to my room, thankful that nobody else is home at this time of day. I drag myself to my bed and collapse on top of my covers. Somehow, everything just got even more complicated.

It took me a while to even tolerate Cam, let alone trust him. But for some reason, I had a good feeling about him. I always felt like he was telling the truth, and it was refreshing to find that we shared the same type of grief so closely. But now, it's difficult to ignore Caitlyn's warning. Cam acts strangely, there's no doubt about that. Now that the suggestion has been planted it my mind, the thought of him being cold and calculating in a campaign against popularity doesn't seem so far-fetched. 

What if Lola really was in love with him? Am I the bad guy now for kissing my best friend's crush? Should I have steered clear of any sort of romance for much longer after Lola left me? There needs to me a rulebook about these things, because I feel as though I'm slowly going insane.

I need to talk to Cam. He might be cold and calculating, but he's the key player in my whirlwind of emotions. I can feel my thoughts being muddled around in my head like a game of Jenga that's about to topple over. I need to sort this out before it comes crashing down. I take out my phone and send him a quick message, praying that he checks it before the end of class. The sickness in my gut won't subside until I start getting some answers.

Dani: I think we need to cancel the dating thing. Talk soon?

I throw my phone onto the end of my bed and bury my face in my pillow.

This has got to be rock bottom.

Surely it can only get better from here.





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