Sean’s faced tightened up, and he said, “I still didn’t do it, and besides, he didn’t hurt you or anything. It was just a stupid prank.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Based on what happened last fall, anyone who looks at this is going to assume you told Jody to do it, and you’ll probably get kicked out. I know you didn’t. That’s why I’m not going to say anything unless it happens again. If it does, I’ll report it, and I’ll tell them about this one too.”
Sean gritted his teeth, and said, “Then let Jody go, okay? I’m done with this. Jody, you leave him alone.”
Jody held his hands in the air. “Okay, you got it.”
The Jenny nearest me said, “I’ll let him free,” in the same tone of voice that she might have used to say, “It’s your funeral.”
As all the Jennys but one popped out of existence, Jody gave me the finger, and joined Sean and Dayton.
Then they walked toward the hall that lead to the dorm rooms.
Dayton caught my eye and mouthed the word, “Thanks,” only to widen his eyes as Sean turned toward me again.
“You think you can do anything you want because the staff and everyone’s on your side. Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t last. One of these days, you’re going to be somewhere where connections don’t matter.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Are… Are you threatening me?”
Sean stiffened. “I didn’t mean it that way. I was just saying that everyone helps you here. It doesn’t work that way in the real world.”
Then he turned away from me and walked down the hall with Dayton and Jody in tow.
Jenny watched them step into the hallway, and turned back. “He’s not exactly grateful. Are you sure I shouldn’t report him?”
I wasn’t, but I didn’t tell her that. What I said was, “He needs the program. Daniel’s dad got him in because he needed it. I don’t want to be the guy who gets him kicked out.”
Jenny frowned. “I don’t want him to be the guy who kills you with a ‘joke’ that doesn’t work the way he thought it would.”
She had a point there.
“You know what’s kind of funny? In my high school, he was one of the jocks who got special treatment. Plus, the assistant principal was friends with his dad.”
She gave me a little smile. “It sounds like he’s having trouble adjusting.”
“Could be,“ I said.
It was strange to think that I had the power to make Sean’s life a kind of hell. It wouldn’t be that hard. All I had to to do was make it clear what he’d been like to me in high school. I couldn’t see how that would make anything better now though.
Jenny nodded toward the door. “Are you done? I was thinking I’d go back to my room.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I can’t read the book without taping a page back together, and I don’t have any tape here.”
We started walking toward the hallway. “So,” I asked. “Why aren’t you reading in your room?”
Jenny said, “Remember when you were visiting us in L.A.? Brooke and Alex could barely keep their hands off each other after they decided they were going out. Well, they still can’t, and I decided to let them have some time to themselves.”
“Huh,” I observed. “So what are you going to do if they’re not done doing whatever they’re doing?”
“I don’t know. Drop by your room maybe? Well, unless Daniel and Izzy are going at it. Then I guess we’re both exiles. By the way, are they an item?”
“Daniel and Izzy?” I threw up my hands. “I don’t know. They looked like it for a while there, but, right now it seems like they had some kind of fight. It’s anybody’s guess.”
Jenny snorted. “Do you know anybody who’s not going out with someone in the program? We can go there.”
“No idea,” I said.
We walked down the hallway, passing fellow students talking in groups, and dorm rooms with the door open and a knot of people inside.
When we were close to her room, she asked, “Are you still going out with Haley?”
“Yeah,” I said.
She smiled for a second. “Of course you are. I saw you on the news with her last week.”
“Weren’t you going out with someone when I visited? I didn’t meet him, but you mentioned him.”
She stopped walking. “We’re not going out. We broke up last week.”
I stopped too. We were next to a row of doors, and a group of our fellow students were laughing pretty hard a few doors down. “Oh, sorry.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that bad. I broke up with him. He’s a civilian. Between Stapledon and the Defenders, I got sick of lying to him about where I’d been. Next time I date, I want it to be someone in the program.”
“It does make some things simpler,” I said.
“I’ll bet,” she said, and she sounded happy enough, but there was a hitch in her voice as she said it.
She glanced down the row of rooms. Following her gaze, I noted that Brooke had stepped out of the doorway and waved at us.
Alex wasn’t anywhere in sight.
Jenny smiled. “It looks like I’ve got my room back. Stay safe, okay?”
Within a minute, I was walking up to my own room. It was just like Brooke and Jenny’s—one in a line of near identical apartments that broke up the former factory’s floor.
As I was a couple doors away, Izzy stepped out of Daniel’s and my room. Her hair covered her shoulders, and while the expression on her face wasn’t angry, it wasn’t happy either.
I felt acutely aware that she was bigger than I was, and that I wasn’t in any kind of armor.
She noticed me, and stepped into my path. Skipping any of the preliminaries, she asked, “Did you know why we weren’t dating?”