The next few days passed very slowly. Ryan didn’t come and Nora didn’t see him around the house. She couldn’t stop thinking about him, especially the kiss snuck in the storage room, but after 72 hours of not seeing him, she began to question the feelings she thought were developing. Was it possible that it was just the delirium of the moment; adrenaline plus darkness equals passion? Maybe he was a typical teenager after all, the kind that had made her days at school such hell that she decided to leave and get a job scrubbing old-people urine out of toilets. But a typical teenager who enjoys watching Casablanca with a group of old people? A typical guy, expensively ratty clothes, scruffy hair sticking out of cute ball cap, who goes out of his way to buy sugar-free candies for said old people and can be persuaded to break the law and risk his volunteer experience, which he needs to graduate and thus risk his entire future, to help a bunch of people he barely knows? Nora gave her head a mental shake.
The third day she was really grumpy. Each time she went into one of the old people’s rooms, they would ask her, “Nora! What did Ryan find out about that pill?” and she would snap back, “I don’t know! I’ll tell you when I find out!” Of course they all forgot that she had promised to tell them as soon as she knew anything just the day before. Oh, and the day before that.
Each time she cleaned the Edwards’s room she ducked down and took a quick peek under the bedside table. The keys were still there. She’d seen Ben and Ray around and they didn’t seem to be freaking out; as far as she knew there had been no questions asked and no search launched. She’d seen Mrs. King around and she seemed to be her normal level of evil and nasty, which led Nora to believe that the witch was not even aware that Ben’s keys were missing. Hell, for that matter, it was highly possible that the ape himself didn’t know that his keys were missing.
Each time she passed the storage rooms her heart rate sped up, and as she neared Mrs. King’s office it nearly exploded out of her chest. What if someone noticed they’d been in there? If Mrs. King noticed that the papers on her desk had been shuffled around, or that a bottle of pills was missing out of the cabinet in the storage room, she’d ask Ben and Ray, the only other two people who had access to those rooms. And then Ben would notice his keys were missing, and think back to that night of Mr. Edwards’s fake heart attack, and possibly manage to put two and two together, and they’d be busted.
And maybe that was why Ryan was avoiding her. Maybe he had decided he didn’t want to risk everything to help people he barely knew, after all.
When she got home that evening, he was lazily rolling back and forth on his skateboard in front of her house. She led him inside.
“Is your mom here?” he asked in a low voice.
“Nora, oh my god, this is completely insane.”
After they kicked off their shoes and dropped their jackets on the chair by the door, they realized they were sort of lamely standing alone together behind a closed door after not having seen or spoken to one another in three days. Should they hug? Kiss? Pretend everything was perfectly normal? Pretend they had not held hands running down the OG corridor and smooched in the dark in the storage room?
Ryan looked into her eyes and a really sweet look came over his face. He reached forward and touched her hair beside her face very gently.
“I missed you,” he said. “You should really give me your number or something.”
She smiled and he leaned in. This time the kiss was nice, and her teeth did not crush her lips against his face. She wasn’t sure if she should breathe or not, open her eyes or not, but before she could worry too much it was over and he was looking at her again sweetly and with a gleam in his dark eyes.
Nora of course was so flustered she didn’t know how to conduct herself, so she trotted off to the kitchen and rummaged through the fridge.
“Do you want a coke? Or a ginger ale? I don’t know, it’s something my mom likes. I think she meant to mix it with whiskey or something but she’s never here, so this ginger ale stuff is still sitting here. You can have one if you want. Or there’s apple juice…”
Ryan had followed her into the kitchen. “I don’t know, it all sounds so tempting. How about we mix all three together and throw in some of that whiskey you were talking about?”
Nora didn’t know if he was joking or not.
“Coke, please. I want to tell you about what happened with the pill. It’s crazy insane!”
“Okay!” Nora got out two cokes and they sat at the table, in the same places as last time he was in her kitchen, before they were… whatever they were now. And it wasn’t fair to just be thinking about kissing him when he was excited to tell her about the pill, so she tried to focus.
“Okay, so there’s this guy, well, a few guys, I guess, who hang around the skate park, right? You know…”
“Sure…” She assumed he was talking about drug dealers or something. She had never been to a skate park.
“So I asked this one guy, Cooper, if he could figure out what was in the pill. I mean, if it was worth anything. He wanted to know where I got it, and I told him it was at this place where I’m volunteering and they have a clinic, which is kind of close to the truth, and that all the other pills have labels but that one didn’t so I thought it might be something, you know?”
Nora nodded. Not such an exciting story as he’d made it out to be. Nora wondered if this would be considered a date. After talking about pills and the skate park and stuff, should she offer to take him up to her room to watch a movie or something? Maybe some CSI?
“Yeah, so he is back the next day and says to me, that pill is nothing. Worthless. I take that to mean it isn’t a street drug of any kind.”
“Okay,” Nora said. So a dead end? When did the story get exciting?
“Okay, so then after those guys leave, another guy comes up and says, ‘What are you talking to those guys about?’ And I say, ‘I’m trying to find out if something’s safe,’ and he says, ‘Give it to me.'”
Now the story’s getting interesting, with a mysterious third party.
“So did you?”
“Yeah, cuz I’ve seen him around the skate park a lot and he’s usually talking to those guys, right? So I give it to him, and today he comes back and says, ‘We need to talk.'”
“Seriously? That’s kind of creepy. What did you do?”
“Right? So we leave the skate park and go to like this Starbucks, right? And he says he’s an informant for the police and they are really curious to find out where I got that pill, because it is not the kind of thing people usually sell at a skate park. It’s poison!”
Ryan and Nora both let that sink in a bit. They were right!
“We were right!” Nora said. “They’re killing the old people! Are the police going to come to Oleander Gardens?”
“No, the dude said I should go to the police and tell them everything. He doesn’t know anything except that I was asking around about a pill filled with poison.”
“So did you?”
“Of course not! We’ll do it together!”