hadnât gotten around to it. She put them back into her big work bag and rummaged through her small purse for a comb. She really did have a mild concussion. Her head throbbed. She kept going in and out of dizziness. Maybe Stu would come back dead someday from hunting, but if he did, what would she do without him?
âSo,â Shelley said. âTake it easy.â
Peggy went out without answering her, because that was a statement in code, and she couldnât handle statements in code on this particular afternoon.
For Nancy Quayde, anger was a familiar feeling, so familiar, she no longer recognized it for what it was. Still, this particular anger had made her jumpy, and as she walked down the wide corridors of Hollman High School with her sharp high heels clicking against the vinyl tiles of the east wing first floorâ noise control undersystem my foot âshe found herself running through the reasons that Hollman ought to find a way to fire Peggy Smith. It wasnât the first time, and, Nancy thought, it probably wasnât going to be the last. Peggy had tenure and sympathy. Most of the other women on staff thought she was heroic for putting up with Stu all these years, and even if they didnât they would have resisted firing Peggy, who would need the job if she ever did leave the jerk. The problem, for Nancy, was that she saw Peggyâs troubles with Stu to be practically a matter of will. Peggyâs will was to dither and refuse to make decisions, just as it had been Peggyâs will to dither and refuse to make decisions all those years ago in high school, when
people like Maris and Belinda and Emma were torturing the hell out of stupid Betsy Toliver. The past always came back to bite you on the ass. Nancy could have told them that when they were all only fourteen years old, but she had known, even at the time, that the effort would be futile. Belinda was the next best thing to mentally retarded. Emma was not much better. Maris wasâ
Nancy had come to the fire doors that separated the East Wing from the main body of the school. She pushed through, strode across the little breezeway where the stairwells wereâ damned fool janitors must have forgotten to turn off the heat âand wondered what Betsy Toliver was actually like these days. In high school, she hadnât been much better than Peggy, and sheâd been clueless on top of it. All those shirtwaist dresses a little too long at the knee, and the hair bands, and the knee socks that didnât actually match her sweaters. Somebody had taught her to dress in the years since sheâd left Hollman, although that could be the result of television stylists and network publicists, so that, left on her own for the weekend, Betsy might look just as odd now as she had then. What Nancy couldnât believe was that Betsy still had the attitude sheâd had back then, that cringing fear, that wounded vulnerability that practically asks to be hit again, and again, and again. All things considered, Nancy had never been able to blame Maris and Belinda and Emma for the things theyâd done. If sheâd been a less careful person, she might have done the same things herself. Lord only knew, she had wanted to, over and over again, whenever she ran across Betsy in the halls or in the lavatories, because Betsy really had seemed to be coming right out and asking for it. There was something about that kind of fear that made Nancy Quayde want to explode, and she had exploded, time and time again, over the years. Lab partners, sorority sisters, boyfriends, best girlfriends, classmates, all the people who wanted to break down and cry, who felt hurt, who felt scared, who let you know that if you tapped them on the shoulder they would fall apart and fall downâthey worked
on her like a trigger, so that all she wanted to do was swat them down, make them move, get some sense in them. She had had sense all her life, for as far back as
Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappé, Frank Barat