Last week, Silas found out that Mr. Crane’s a wanted sex offender (where’s Stabler and Benson when you need ’em?), so the two of you concocted a plan to record that skeeze ‘fessing up about Kayla. But Silas hasn’t shown up, and everything gets derailed when you walk in on Dylan hooking up with QB Steven Pruett!? And now Kayla’s (ex-?)bf is getting all up in your facespace with a threatening glint in his eyes…

Y’all chose to: Tell Dylan you’ll talk about this later, and hightail it downstairs to find Silas and Mr. Crane. Now let’s see how you pull off this disappearing act, Houdini!

Chapter 08: Is This Some Kind of Joke?

Still high on that adrenaline rush, you meet Dylan’s death glare with some Blue Steel of your own. “You’re not exactly in a position to be making threats, Dylan.”

Remembering the original plan to confront Mr. Crane, you cut the staring contest short, and you promise Dylan that this isn’t the last he’ll hear of this… encounter? Affair? But there’s no time to analyze the extent of Dylan’s infidelity; where the heck is Silas!?

You descend from the light room and head to Crane’s office, catching a glimpse of Dylan leaving through the side door. No light, you observe. And… unlocked!

Your hand navigates to the light switch, revealing a Hoarders-worthy clutter atypical of the control freak tidiness that Crane has maintained in past years.

Flipping through a stack of letters that consist of only bills and junkmail so far, you’re startled by the muffled staccato of a push bar door. You fumble with the envelopes in your hands, trying to remember how you found them. Angled towards or away from the door? Beside or on top of — OH CUSS IT. What do I do?

Footsteps on the stage grow louder. Closer. Faster. Should I hide? Where could I hide? Do I even NEED to hide? The floorboards creak, protesting the incomer’s path in your stead.

Trying to silence the alarms going off in your head, you take a seat in the visitor’s chair. You fidget as you cobble together a cover story. The dreaded anticipation worsens your anxiety. Your own heart betrays you, with its thunderous pulses providing an unwelcomed score.

The door hinge squeaks. “Caitlin?”

You turn around apprehensively. “SILAS!” Relief floods your body. Along with, um, the usual gamut of sensations whenever you’re around Silas. “Where were you!?”

Taking a knee beside the chair so that he’s eye level with you, he clasps his hands over your clenched fists. If you weren’t so distracted by your anger, you’d notice that he smells faintly like freshly cut grass. (OK, so maybe you noticed A LITTLE.) You let yourself briefly revel in the moment, before giving Silas an incredulous look. “Well? Start talking.”

“I stopped by the office.” Recognizing the scare you gave him, his voice is soft and gentle. He absently strokes his thumb over yours; your concentration is seriously being tested. “Mr. Crane called in sick today.”

Man, what’s WITH that guy? He’s barely been around, and it’s only the second day of school. Does he think someone’s onto him?

“Caitlin,” The rich timbre of Silas’ voice brings you back to earth. “I’m so sorry you had to come here alone. I said I’d be here, and I wasn’t. I don’t want to lose your trust before I’ve even begun to earn it.”

Is there no situation this guy can’t talk his way out of? (If by ‘out of a situation’, you mean ‘into YOUR PANTS’.) You accept his heartfelt apology and catch him up on Dylan and Steven’s romp in the light room. “So I guess the Crane mission’s postponed until whenever the weasel decides to show up.”

That mischievous grin returns to Silas’ face. “But then what’ll I use as an excuse to hang out with you?”

You’re red. You must be red. A shade that red doesn’t even occur in nature. “Uh, well, we still need to run lines for the auditions. Lunchtime?”

Silas tosses his head back in anguish. At least you hope it’s anguish, and not just discomfort from kneeling for so long. “Can’t; group meeting for Spanish presentation. After school though?”

You wordlessly agree, catching yourself staring at his mouth. Your eyes flit back to meet his gaze, inviting him, daring him to close the distance between your lips and his.

Andddd of course that’s when the warning bell goes off. (Way to boxblock, Period 2 Physics.) You say a wistful goodbye and dash for your locker. You’re still wrangling your textbooks into your bookbag when the final bell sounds.

An unamused Dr. Brown greets you as you enter the lab. “Good of you to join us, Miss Landry. You can partner up with the other latecomer.” He gestures towards the only free seat, next to none other than Steven Pruett. Of course.

You set your stuff down in uneasy silence. “Um… hey. Guess we’re partners for the term project.”

Steven shoots you a Liz Lemon-esque eyeroll. “I don’t have a lot of spare time to work on this, so we need to pick something simple.”

Okaaaay. Wasn’t getting laid supposed to mellow people out? “Sure. Did you have anything in mind?” Other than pawning everything off on me, that is.

“I have to be on the field all the time anyway, so how about the trajectory of a football? Do an energy analysis, use kinematics and momentum to improve the throwing motion?”

Well, you certainly weren’t expecting that. The two of you design the experiments through stitled, awkward interaction. And since things can’t get much worse, you draw attention to it. “Why do you hate me so much?”

Steven scoffs; bitterness distorts his admittedly handsome features. “Aren’t you her lapdog?”

You snap back. “I am NO ONE’S lapdog.”

He takes a moment to consider you. Without breaking eye contact with you, he raises a hand in the air. “Doc, Caitlin and I need to check out the football field for our project.” Not a request, but a declaration. Must be nice to have the cachet of a quarterback.

Ignoring the excited whispers of your classmates, you follow Steven outside. He scans around for eavesdroppers, but the closest onlookers are running laps for freshmen P.E.

You choose your words carefully; you need to work with this guy for the whole term, and you already have a rocky past to overcome. “I won’t tell anyone, you know.” Else, you add silently. There’s no DeLorean to take back what you’ve already told Silas.

Steven gives a short laugh. “You really think I care if people found out? Popularity is overrated. I’d rather be liked by someone who likes me back, than a bunch of randoms I go to school with.”

You can’t help but admire him just a little. “Then why the secrecy?”

Smiling forlonly, he averts his gaze from yours. “Dylan. Kayla. I don’t even know anymore. I just know I’m sick of hiding.”

A lightbulb goes off in your head. “So that’s why he’s been so cozy with that junior? Stephanie, I think?”

“No, that’s just my sister. She’s practically been planning our wedding since we started dating.” He chuckles ruefully. “And if she can fill in as his beard, all the better.”

Your mind is brimming with questions. “Your parents named you Steven and Steph– never mind.” Your voice softens. “You two are dating? Since when?”

“I’m not even sure. Just kind of happened.” A genuine smile this time. “He started coming into my dad’s hardware store over the summer. Needed tools and supplies for a big project; kept coming back for this and that. Eventually, his excuses became more and more ridiculous, so I decided to spare his wallet and asked him out.”

His happiness is infectious, but your loyalty is stronger. “I’m glad you have someone you care about, but… he still cheated on Kayla.”

Steven’s face falls at the sound of her name. “I don’t know what she’s told you, but they were over long ago. At least that’s what he said when we saw her during Founder’s Week.”

“But that was the week she went mis– that was after theatre camp ended. He told me he hadn’t heard from her since.”

He sighs. “Dylan having issues with the truth? Shocker. But I know what I heard; kind of hard to miss when it’s being screamed right in front of you.”

You have more questions for him, but the throng of migrating freshmen is signalling the end of the period. The rest of the morning is a blur; by the time lunch rolls around, you’re still replaying that conversation with Steven (with whom you’ve kind of reached a détente?). As you walk by the principal’s office, you almost didn’t notice the scene unfolding inside. A heated reprimand is nothing unusual, except the principal seems to be on the receiving end. And the one dishing it out is… Silas!?

Mindlessly making your way to the cafeteria, you contemplate your next move.

You decide to:

A. Confront Silas. “Group meeting”, huh? Why does he have the principal so rattled?

B. Talk to Dylan. He knows a lot more than he’s letting on.

C. Finish snooping around Mr. Crane’s office. Who knows when you’ll get an opportunity this good again?

D. Find a computer whiz. You still have Silas’ password-protected files, remember?

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.