The parking lot. 10 PM.
There probably would have been an uproar if half the student body wasn’t on drugs. And the other half just seemed to think it was funny. It was Opposite Day, after all. How random and hilarious that Calvin Harker of all people should be Spring King.
Benny Flax, however, was not laughing. He watched Calvin and a bewildered-looking Brittany Carnegie climb into the white carriage for their victory ride around the block. I know what you did, I just don’t know why you did it, he thought.
The police had formed a tight perimeter around the crowd, making sure no one slipped out before getting searched. Most everyone seemed resigned to it. Sure, they’d be in trouble soon—deep trouble. But for a few more precious moments, it was Opposite Day, the day of the young and jubilant.
Next to Benny, Virginia was shivering. “It’s cold out here,” she said.
“Here, take my jacket,” Benny said automatically, not taking his eyes off Calvin.
“It’ll just get messed up,” Virginia said, hesitating. Benny was always a gentleman, which was nice, but somehow unsatisfying. It’d be better if a guy gave you his jacket because he actually liked you, not just because his mother taught him good manners.
“Don’t worry about it,” Benny insisted.
“Thanks…” Virginia said, slipping it on. It was warm from his body, which made her feel somehow embarrassed.
“What could he be up to?” Benny was saying, still staring at Calvin.
“Maybe he just wanted to feel like a king for five minutes,” Virginia suggested. “I mean, wouldn’t you?”
“No,” Benny replied. “I believe in democracy.”
Virginia rolled her eyes. “That’s not what I meant.”
The carriage driver gave his whip a gentle crack, and the horse lurched forward. The carriage began rattling away, as everyone cheered.
“Long live Opposite Day!” people were shouting. “Long live the King!”
The carriage rumbled down the street, as Calvin and Brittany waved triumphantly. Then Benny realized that across the distance, Calvin was staring at him. No, not at him—at Virginia.
“He’s looking at you,” he said to her. But Virginia had clearly already noticed. Her cheeks were bright red. Benny turned back to look at the carriage. Calvin was lifting his fingers to his lips. Slowly, intently, he blew her a kiss.
Then the carriage passed into the shadows. This was always the most anticlimactic part, waiting for the carriage to circle back again.
Virginia grabbed Benny’s arm. “Whoa, did you just see that?”
“See what?” Benny asked. And then he saw it. A shadow darting into the darkness, just as the horse reached the edge of the campus. “Did he just—did he just jump out of the carriage?” He watched the dark figure slip out of sight into the trees. Benny looked around. No one else seemed to have noticed.
“It was him,” Virginia said suddenly.
“What? Who was him?” Benny asked.
“The guy in the girls’ room. It was him.”
Benny gave her a dubious look. “You think Calvin Harker’s a drug dealer?” The idea was even weirder than Calvin Harker being Spring King.
“More like…a drug dispenser,” Virginia said, sounding slightly in awe. “He just wanted to watch everyone go out of their minds.”
It made sense, Benny realized. His mind quickly adjusted to the facts. “That’s why he wanted to be king,” he said excitedly. “So he could escape on the carriage! So he could avoid the police search!”
Solved, he thought. It was his favorite feeling, the relief and satisfaction of a mystery solved, of the unknown becoming known. The carriage would return with only the queen inside, and by the time the police realized why, Calvin would be way ahead of them. He’d get rid of his stash, and there’d be no hard evidence connecting him to the dealer in the bathroom. He’d just be a crazy kid who jumped off a carriage. A kid who was king—for five minutes.
Virginia suddenly yanked off Benny’s jacket and shoved it into his hands. The inside was smeared with yellow and blue frosting.
“What are you doing?” said Benny.
“I’m following him.”
“I just…I have to,” Virginia said. She had a slightly wild look in her eyes, and for a second they locked on Benny’s. And that’s when he knew. The drug dealer in the girls’ room was Virginia’s mystery; the kiss in the darkness was his. And in that second, he knew he’d figured it out.
It was her, he thought. He’d been foolish to think it was anyone else. And he’d been foolish to be so scared of it.
“Wait! You still need this,” he said, holding out his jacket. But it was too late. She was running, and within seconds she’d disappeared into the shadows. ♦