Zee stewed in her next class period, Literacy. She’d been quiet all day, and she’d already suspected that Jacob already suspected that something was wrong, but now it was blatantly obvious. She thought about trying to hide it for the sake of people not worrying about her, but decided against it. The hollow, twisting feeling in her stomach was too intense to hide. So, there she sat, hunched over a slightly rumpled spiral notebook, drawing robot after robot, drone after drone. Her fingers clenched the pen so tightly and her hand applied so much pressure that the tip of her blue pen left indentations in ten of the pages underneath.
When Jacob entered the room and saw her tensed body and hair shielding her face, he knew his suspicions that something was up were correct. “You okay?” he asked, sliding into his seat beside her.
“Fine,” she said in response, automatically and without moving.
“You sure?” he asked, as she was clearly not fine. She looked up at him, surprised he’d pushed the issue.
“Well, not really,” she relented. “But there’s nothing you can do beside change the subject.”
“You need a distraction, huh?” He looked around. “Well, Gabriella and Pete are sitting together now,” he said, nodding in their direction. Zee looked where he gestured. “Apparently he decided he needed to sit closer to the whiteboard in order to see properly and conveniently got switched with the kid that sat next to Gabriella.”
“Second row seats, nice. I bet you a writing utensil that they’re holding hands under their desks right now,” Zee said, knowing full well that while she had enough fresh pens to earn her a small fortune in the middle school black market, Jacob was on his last mechanical pencil and halfway through his last piece of lead.
“You’re on,” Jacob said. “Sneak up behind them on opposite sides, look on three?”
Zee nodded, standing up. Together they walked quietly up the aisle, ignoring the strange looks from their classmates. When they were just behind the couple, Zee held up three fingers and counted down. As soon as her third finger went down, they both jumped into positions where they could see their friends’ hands together for a split second before they saw they had company and split apart.
Zee looked at Jacob and smiled for the first time all day. “I believe you owe me a writing utensil,” she said. He grudgingly handed it over and with no explanation to Gabriella and Pete whatsoever, they returned to their seats.
“Hey, Zee.” Jacob said after they sat down. “Can I borrow a pencil?”
She gave a short laugh. “Keep it for all I care,” she said, handing it over. Jacob took it, brushing her fingers with his warm hands.
“Wow, thanks,” he said. “How can I ever repay you?”
“Let’s just say you owe me one,” she said, looking back down to her drawings. .
“I can accept that,” he said with a short nod. “So, how did you know they were holding hands?”
Zee turned her head back towards him and her eyes looked up mysteriously. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “Just had a feeling.”
Jake gave her a look. “Since when have you acted only on feelings? You’ve been talking about murder since day one and look, you haven’t murdered anyone.”
“That you know of.”
“Don’t avoid the question.”
She sighed. “They were both only using the hands opposite each other, and Gabriella’s not left handed, so she wouldn’t naturally turn the pages of her book and hold her book both with her left hand.”
Jacob raised his eyebrows. “You got all that from here?”
“I’m observant.” Zee shrugged.
He shrugged back. “Okay.”
Before either one of them figured out what to say next, it was announced that the class would be spent passing out and organizing masses of papers from the entire school year. Typical end of the year chores. While their classmate volunteers threw paper after multicolored paper on their desks, Jacob and Zee chatted idly, trying to keep the stuff on their desks organized and separated from each others’.
Zee thought it might be accidental, or perhaps, coincidental, but she counted three more times her and Jacobs’ hands touched in the flurry of never-ending papers. At least twice of these were Zee’s fault.
Coincidental, she told herself, but the other voice in her head was betting differently.
All it could think was, He didn’t move away first.