After school, we don't go to the forest. Instead, we go to our public library, which is usually empty and always dilapidated.
Inside, we pull out our homework and start doing it quietly. I don't mention the murder, and neither does he. We both agree that it wouldn't do to talk about it in public. But the tension and uncertainty was still there, whether we talk about it or not. Ash shifts uncomfortably, and I can tell he's thinking about it.
As we're both scribbling away on our papers, I wonder if I should tell him about my scar. I'd gotten it a while ago from Kara; it had been a pretty shallow wound, but when I was going to the forest after school, my clumsiness took the better of me and I'd tripped, opening the wound and infecting it. I'd cleaned out most of the dirt at the river, but it hadn't really healed properly. Now a faint pink line stretched along the entire length of my arm.
Ash hadn't known about the scar; all he knew was that Kara had hurt me that day. I told him I had a few bruises and couldn't go before racing out of the clearing before he could see the blood.
I decide he doesn't need to know. After all, it's my problem. And since I definitely do not remember doing anything out of the ordinary yesterday, it's just a coincidence. You'd think I would be able to have some memory of murdering someone.
"You okay, Carly?" Ash looks up from his Latin workbook. I nod, keeping my eyes on my English packet. Even though I am fairly good at lying, if he'd been able to see enough discomfort to ask me if I'm okay, he'd see the uncertainty in my eyes.
"I just can't figure out if this is a complex sentences or a compound-complex," I say. There isn't even the slightest inconsistency in my smooth words. He buys it, moving his chair closer to mine.
"Compound-complex." Of course, I'd already known that, but I write it down and thank him anyways. He moves his seat back to be across from me. After a few moments, he shifts again, then stands up.
"Where're you going?"
I turn back to my homework. It's not like I should be worried; of all five hundred people in our town, why would a murderer choose him? There was probably a reason it was Kara; after all, she is a really terrible person.
As had happened when I'd been alone in the forest yesterday, I feel a shudder go through my spine, and I shiver involuntarily. I look around me wildly and hold up my pencil like a tiny dagger. It's mechanical and very sharp.
"I know you're there." It's a whisper. My voice is steady, but I know it doesn't portray my true feelings. I'm really scared. If the murderer is indeed lurking just around one of the neglected bookshelves, I'd probably just scared the hell out of him that I could feel his presence. Or maybe not. But if he isn't there, then no one would have heard my proclamation to no one.
A few seconds of silence ensues, and I sit back down. Both my heart and head are pounding. I feel faint and my vision darkens for a moment before everything goes back to normal. Even the headache that had seemed to be developing is gone.
I hear footsteps behind me.
"Carly, you look completely freaked out. What happened?" It's only Ash. I relax. He sits down across from me and picks up his pencil, but then he can't help it any longer. He lowers his voice. "Do you have any theories on the murder?"
I hardly hesitate. There is the slightest pause as I consider my response, but then I say, "It must be a newcomer; this is such a small town that we'd know if anyone had a giant scar on their arm."
But no one knows about mine. I revise my reply.
"I mean, if anyone went crazy enough to do that, we'd know beforehand that they were off their rocker."
That doesn't do either, because everyone hates Kara. You didn't have to be crazy to.
"If anyone had homicidal tendencies, we'd know too."
That's the right one.
Ash nods in agreement. "They're all good points. It could be someone we know, though. Maybe they got fed up with the bullying and decided to kill her. Maybe one of her victims?"
I disagree with this, because Kara only picks on the tiny little kids who don't have the slightest chance of defending themselves, let alone kill her. I explain this to Ash.
"Perhaps they aren't as weak as thought," Ash counters.
"But then they'd have defended themselves when being bullied. If they were strong enough to, I mean. Why pretend?"
Ash: "Element of surprise? They jumped her."
I consider it. "None of the kids she picks- picked- on could do that."
"Maybe a sibling of one?"
That one's actually not too bad. I shrug. "Fair enough."
But I cannot shake the fact that I have a scar up my left arm and that I was in the forest at the time of the murder.
So this was shorter, and I decided to add in the part with Ash going to the bathroom after I finished the chapter. So it may not flow smoothly- what do you think?