Detention. Of course detention. I, in particular, got double detention. Emily hyperventilated at first, and then she just cried. She cried from the time we went with Ms. Darton to the office, saying, “But I was telling her not to, Ms. Darton.” When we got back to English class, where Ms. Darton whispered with the teacher and they both kept looking at me. Emily kept crying and Adam didn’t say anything to anyone, probably because he always had detention anyway. You could tell he thought about saying something to Emily— maybe something about how it isn’t the end of the known world if you get detention—but then I guess he thought better of it.
Once your name was called, you had to wait in the hall. I could see outside the classroom windows where the school buses were lined up. I tried to remember to breathe. To figure out what was going on. Because I had to find a way to call Phoebe again.
Emily was in front of me. Her face was red, and her eyes looked terrible, but she’d finally stopped crying. We started walking.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I whispered to Emily, because the teacher was way ahead of us, and there’s no way he could hear. And I felt bad. I didn’t mean her to get detention too.
“I know you think I’m stupid for caring,” she said. “But some of us get in trouble when things go wrong, OK? Some of us have dads who care?” And OK, maybe she didn’t know that my dad was dead. But that didn’t change the reality that she was a total jerk.
“Shut up,” I said. “You’re a jerk.”
“You’re a jerk!” The teacher called, “Quiet down!” Emily glared at me, like everything was my fault.
So I tried to think of a plan, especially one that had nothing to do with her, even though every stupid plan I made seemed to make things worse. Adam was somewhere in the line, just like he was every day. I decided all I had to do was find a phone. I had to find my mother. I had to call Phoebe. We went around one corner, and then another. And so when we went around a third, I just didn’t.
The rest of them kept walking, and moving further and further away from me. I flattened myself against the painted cinderblock wall—as if that would help someone not see me—and listened as the sound of the rest of them faded away. Then I was standing there with my heart pounding. It was cold, and weirdly buzzy in the quiet. I had probably just gotten into more trouble, because if you get detention for skipping class, what do you get for skipping detention? I shut my eyes tight. I couldn’t think about that. I just needed to get out of there, and figure out what was going on with my mom, and find Phoebe. I tried to retrace the way we’d come. My footsteps sounded ridiculously loud, slap-echoing in the hallway. I started walking a little faster, trying to bend my knees so my footsteps didn’t sound so loud. The hall ended in a T and I had to choose a direction. I tried to remember which way we’d come. The sound of the rest of the kids had faded and everything was cold and silent. The problem was that it all looked familiar, thick gray shiny pain and pipes running along the tops of the walls, with gray metal doors every few yards.
I walked to the left and tried the first door. Locked. And then I heard something other than the weird fluorescent light buzz—voices, grownup voices. I forgot about the door and walked faster, trying to be quiet. I tried the next door. Locked. I bent down and slipped off my shoes, shoved them in my backpack, and ran. Somewhere a door banged. Someone laughed. I tried the next door, and the next. Locked and locked. The voices were closer, echoing down the hallways, and I was running barefoot on the cold floor. The hallway turned a corner. The voices—two men?—were in one direction, and I ran in the other, down a hall with no doors. A loud clattering, like a pail on wheels, echoed somewhere behind me. Ahead there was nothing, just the end of the hallway. A flat gray wall, no door, no window, no stairs, and just before I started to scream I saw the doorknob, way down the wall. It was a half door, the kind of weird electrical closet thing you see in tunnels.
“Now why’d you think that?” one guys said, as the sound of the pail rattled towards me. The other guy laughed.
“I don’t know!” the other guy said.
I grabbed the door handle. It turned. I pulled open the door and ducked through. It swung shut behind me, leaving me in darkness.