As much as the kids loved the costumes and had a blast at the party, as much as they loved Larabee and April—and I suppose, me—they and their parents weren’t the ones that made the decisions about hiring new teachers.
April said she was okay with them not hiring her for after her graduation. She wasn’t interested in taking a job away from any of the teachers that she’d worked with. She said she’d make sure she qualified for substitute teacher positions while she looked for something better and permanent. Larabee was terrified that it would take her—and me—out of state, but I was actually somewhat relieved by the idea.
It would mean we were away from Brady, that I wouldn’t be working my horrible job, and if someone was involved in the conspiracy, we’d know because they followed us.
Speaking of being followed, I’m not really sure what the suit was up to…
“It’s a good day for this. Really fine. The wind is calm, the sun is shining, and all the decorations are arranged perfectly, don’t you think?”
“I… uh… sure. Yeah. Nice weather for it,” Clayton agreed, shaking his head a little. He didn’t understand, and he really didn’t like this. Why was his boss here, of all places? Of all times? It couldn’t be a coincidence, but then why be so overt about everything? Even when Clay had been entertaining April’s class, the people involved in the conspiracy had kept their distance and covered their tracks. The only lead that Clay had was Brady, and he was not giving April anything. “I know why I’m here, and why Larabee’s here, and I even know why Brady is here, but you?”
The suit laughed. “You are rather paranoid, aren’t you, Moore? You don’t think I could be here for a good reason, do you?”
“No. I mean, think about where we work,” Clay started to explain. “Is anything that happens there good? Anything in life, even? After what we’ve seen and read about and have to look for in stupid chatter?”
The suit gave him a look. Clay tried not to wince. He didn’t mean to start complaining about his job, not right now. “You have a beautiful young woman who is not only successful, as today proves, but she loves you. Is that not good, perhaps even wonderful?”
“April is… amazing. She’s… everything,” Clayton whispered, looking down and trying to spot her in the crowd. “I shouldn’t have told you that.”
The suit clapped Clay on the back, laughing. He pointed at the crowd. “See there? Right next to your fiancee. That’s my girl. I’m here for her.”
Clayton looked at the woman next to April. It wasn’t exactly easy to tell from this distance, but yeah, sure, she did seem to have a resemblance to the suit, poor girl. Still, it seemed a little weird that she just happened to be standing next to April and that his boss had found him in the bleachers. This was not a coincidence. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t believe they wouldn’t try to use any situation they could. They’d used April’s boyfriend for a while, they’d tried to use Larabee, and they were still trying to hide new cameras in their homes.
Clay didn’t like this. He wanted to enjoy April’s graduation, but how was he supposed to do that right now? The suit was here. Clay didn’t know what to do. He needed a different seat, at least. Larabee touched his arm. “Calm down. Don’t let him ruin today. This is for her. It’s okay.”
“You can say that. He’s not your boss.”
Larabee smiled. “That’s true, but that’s not all. Just stop worrying and be happy for April. She’s worked very hard to get here. Remember that. This about her, not the suit.”
“I know. I’m trying. I’m just…”
“Stop. Think about April. Only about April. That’s not too hard, is it?”
Clay looked down at the crowd again. “Is it wrong to think she looks hot in that graduation gown?”
Clayton pushed his way through the crowds in the stand and then the crowd of graduates, trying to get to April. It was like the whole sea of people had turned against him, trying to keep him from reaching her. She saw him and smiled, and when he finally got close to her, he picked her up and spun her around, making her giggle a little before he let her back down.
“I am so proud of you,” he told her, giving her a kiss.
She laughed a little. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Neither did I,” he agreed, lifting her up again. “Hey, maybe I’m stronger than I thought I was. I kind of like this. What do you think? I wouldn’t have thought I could do it twice, but I did, so maybe I’ll do it again. Later, of course.”
“I suppose I should start worrying about how long it will take before you drop me,” she teased, wrapping her arms around his neck. “It’s nice for now, though. Wait a minute—is that your boss?”
“Apparently, that’s his daughter,” Clay explained, shaking his head. “Hard to accept that as a coincidence, but you know… I think we should just focus on enjoying the day and being proud of what you’ve done. And can I say that you look very beautiful in that robe?”
“It’s a tent. You’re insane.”
“I think you’ll like what I have on under it better,” she said, and he frowned. She kissed him and pushed his hand away from the robe. “No peeking.”
“What? Are you naked under there?”
She smacked his chest. “No.”
Someone called her name, and she turned toward them, waving. He set her back down. He probably should have done that sooner, but at least he hadn’t dropped her. “I need to finish up a few things here. I’ll see you very soon, right?”
“Of course. I want to see what you have on under there.”
She laughed and hurried off to join her friends.
“Come on, come on, we’re going to be late.”
“Late? It’s a graduation party. It goes for hours, and we’re not late. It’s not like it’ll end before we get there, and I don’t see why you’re so worked up about this,” Clayton muttered, shaking his head. He didn’t even think that April would be here yet. She had things to do between the ceremony and the party, so… They didn’t have to rush. It wasn’t necessary. “It’s not a big deal.”
“No, it’s very important. Hurry up. Now. Faster.”
Clay sighed. “Stop it. What is going on? This isn’t about the graduation party, is it? What did you do? If you are dragging me into one of your ‘experiments,’ today is so not the time for this.”
Larabee groaned. “It’s not an experiment. I can’t tell you, but you’ll see for yourself soon enough.”
Clay blinked as Larabee ran off—Larabee running was a sight that was disconcerting in of itself, but this was just weird. After running into his boss this morning, Clay really didn’t like the way this was going. He took a deep breath and followed Larabee’s path into the room.
He stopped. Wait a minute. This wasn’t right. He had to be in the wrong place. This wasn’t really where April was throwing her party. Okay, so Larabee was here, and she was here—and she was not wearing her graduation robe anymore. She wasn’t naked like he’d kind of maybe hoped she might be. He had to be dreaming. That dress was familiar. It was white. White with flames, and the flowers in her hands were the same colors as the flames.
“Go get her, tiger,” Larabee said, pushing Clayton forward.