Today's Reading

At the top of the quad, right next to the oak tree with its cast list flapping in the afternoon breeze, stood Caroline Mark. I didn't know her that well—we'd had AP Bio together for a semester when she moved to Horseshoe Bay; she wasn't a natural when it came to dissections—but I didn't have to know her well to read the expression on her face just then.

Though the day was flawless and sunny, her face was a stone-cold thundercloud. Even from where we stood in the middle of the lawn, I could see her brown eyes glittering with outright fury. Her cheeks were red, and I could just make out a slight sheen of sweat on her brow.

I'm an investigative journalist; I notice details.

"Caroline..." It was Anna Gardner, a friend of hers, clearly. Anna was doing her best to calm Caroline, but it was like trying to Scotch tape the window shades down during a hurricane. Totally pointless.

"Don't tell me to calm down!" she snarled. She ripped the cast list down from the tree and began tearing it into tiny pieces, her movements frantic. Students who'd been clustered around, observing with anxious curiosity, moved back, giving her a wide berth and a lot of cautious side-eye.

Lena inhaled sharply. "Whaaat is happening?" She sounded curious—but still slightly thrilled—at the drama we were watching unravel. If Lena's favorite thing was causing drama, then her second favorite was standing back to observe as it unfolded. I was less eager to watch this very public breakdown.

Daisy grabbed my arm, tight enough that for a second I worried she'd leave a bruise. "OMG, that's Caroline Mark—you know her," she said, her voice low, as though Caroline might actually hear us from halfway across the lawn through the throes of her epic meltdown-in-progress. "She's in Drama Club, but, like, she's new."

"Oh, yeah," Lena said. "Weird that I barely recognize her. A tantrum like this feels like something I'd remember."

"I've seen her around," I said. "She's usually less...scream-y. I think." Although if memory served, she'd been pretty outspoken about the dissection thing.

"She is," Daisy confirmed. "But like I said, she's new enough to Drama Club, and, like, doesn't get that there's, you know, a hierarchy to these things. I mean, I think she just expected to march in on the first day of the semester and get picked for the lead in the school musical."

"There's a school musical?" Lena joked. As if anyone could forget; we'd been coming to Daisy's performances since what felt like the dawn of time.

"It's Little Shop of Horrors this year, remember?!" Daisy snapped hastily. "I'm Audrey, of course. The woman Audrey, not the plant. The plant is technically Audrey Two. But anyway. So Caroline just, waltzed in and was all, I took vocal coaching over the summer; you should hear my mezzo soprano...and the drama coach was not impressed."

"Because there's a hierarchy," Lena said.

"Exactly. And she tried out for Naming Day because, you know, she's a senior, so she has—"

"Seniority—" I put in helpfully.

"'Exactly'!" she said, happy.

"But I'm guessing she didn't get cast," Lena said drily.

Up at the front of the quad, poor Caroline Mark was flinging her thousands of tiny bits of paper into her hapless friend's face, still shrieking at top volume and flailing very dramatically.

"If she did, she’s taking it really weird," Daisy said. "It’s so awkward."

"And yet I can’t look away," Lena breathed. "God, I do so love petty high school drama."

That makes one of us. I had to say something. "Okay, you guys, this voyeurism thing is starting to make me feel bad. We don’t need to stick around and watch this." Caroline's pain was a little too raw, and I wasn't Lena; watching it triggered my sympathy bone, big-time. True, I hung with the "cool kids," but solving mysteries didn't always win me popularity points. I knew what it felt like to be an outsider. And I only eavesdrop when strictly necessary.

Which still happens to be quite often, but that was beside the point.

"Speak for yourself," Lena said.

"Anyway, look—she's going to be fine," Daisy said, pointing. We followed her gaze to see the English teacher, Mr. Stephenson, who dabbled as the drama teacher, come rushing out the back door to where Caroline was still spinning out. Gently, he rested a hand on her shoulder and leaned in.

He whispered something into her ear, and I watched as, slowly, the fire in her eyes ebbed to a dull spark. She didn't look less angry, per se—only slightly calmer. She said something to him in return—something impassioned, based on her body language and wild gesticulations. But her shoulders were beginning to slump now, and it was obvious that the edge was beginning to ebb from her fight.

This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Deeplight by Frances Hardinge.

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