Chapter 25: Jacky (3)

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Jacky looked for Ryan after his last class. He'd already gone to his locker and gotten his books, a tiny bit thankful that Ryan hadn't been around to "help," then became worried when the halls began to clear out and still no Ryan.

He was just about to text him when he caught sight of that blond head.

Instead of coming from the math wing, where Jacky knew Ryan had Trigonometry, Ryan was coming from the direction of the band room and the auditorium and the front of the building. That downturned head, the slow shuffle, and Jacky knew Ryan had gone down to guidance. When, though? Jacky had seen him at lunch, so it was after that, at least.

"Hey," Jacky said.

"Hey," said Ryan.

Jacky struggled with the instinct to put his arm around Ryan. There were still a few students in the hallways, and while none of them were Ryan's friends, everyone knew who Ryan was, and word would get around. Jacky still didn't know where Ryan stood with that. Plus, Ryan had his hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket.

So Jacky resigned himself to waiting until they were on the sidewalks beyond the school, and casually tried to slip his fingers into the crook of Ryan's elbow.

Ryan shrugged him off and stepped away.

"What's wrong?" Jacky asked. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Ryan's flat tone said something very different.

Jacky glanced around; there were cars coming, so maybe Ryan just didn't want to be seen. "Okay," he said.

After a few minutes of walking silently side by side, Jacky said, "I texted Monica about the funeral but she never texted me back. Do you know if she's home sick or what?"

Ryan shook his head.

Jacky gave up trying to talk to Ryan after that. He was eager to get home so he and Ryan could curl up on the couch or something. The knowledge of it being Ryan's last night at Jacky's house sat heavy in his stomach. He didn't want Ryan to go, and he was sure it was Ryan's anxiety about going to the group home that was making him so quiet and moody.

At home, however, an unfamiliar car sat in the driveway – a silver Volkswagen Jetta. When they got closer, the driver's side door opened and Monica got out. "Hi," she called.

She wasn't the worst person who could have shown up uninvited, Jacky knew. Then a woman who could only be Monica's mother got out of the passenger side.

"Hi," Jacky said uncertainly when Ryan gave no reaction.

Mrs. Johnston greeted Ryan and hugged him. "Oh, honey, how are you doing?"

"I'm fine," Ryan said woodenly from behind her head of poofy blonde hair.

"You weren't in school," Jacky said to Monica. It wasn't exactly an accusation.

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