The high school where Lily taught was in the suburbs, which gave her a bit of a drive to and from work. At least it was in the wrong direction. As opposed to everyone else, Lily drove out of town in the morning and back into town in the evening.
As she parked her pink beetle in one of the teacher's slots, she got the vague feeling that all was not well. It was still fairly early, of course, but there were none of the customary crowds of high school kids standing around the doors laughing and flirting. The parking lot was full as usual, but somehow the building looked empty without the typical exuberance of a rainless spring day.
Lily wasn't in the mood for paying much attention to details; she was ever-so-slightly hungover from a self-indulgent bottle of wine the night before, and very-much-more depressed. The dismal weather may have let up, but her dismal mood hadn't. Rain in Oregon was an inevitability--if it didn't start again today, it would start again tomorrow or next week. And then the weather would be appropriate to her mood again.
She didn't notice the melodramatic draping of black crepe paper above the front door until she got out of the car. "Oh, Christ," Lily said to herself. Who had it been? And what? A heart attack? A stroke? It couldn't have been cancer, because they would have known about that long ago. It must have been something sudden. A car accident, perhaps?
It took her until she had almost reached the swinging double doors to recognize the pictures of Rachel Vincent hanging in the windows; young, healthy Rachel, an honors student scheduled to graduate in June. Rachel had been in a couple of her classes, and she had a laugh almost as loud as Lily herself. What a shock. No wonder people seemed to be overreacting. Lily wondered who was responsible for the unusual gesture.
Inside the school, the halls were busy, but the atmosphere was subdued. Many of the faces she passed looked tearful. There were more pictures of Rachel in the hall, between the lockers, on the doors, her wide, laughing smile, her curly mane of long hair, grey in the black and white photographs, dishwater blond in real life. Lily stopped a social studies teacher coming down the hall in her direction. "Hey, Sandra," she said. "What happened?"
"Didn't you hear?" Sandra asked in astonishment. "It's been on the news since yesterday."
"I slept through my alarm this morning, so I didn't have time to listen to the news or look at the paper. And we don't even have a T.V."
"She was missing all day."
"Well, they didn't announce it over the loudspeaker," Lily said impatiently. "So what was it?"
"They found Rachel in the woods outside of town. It wasn't very pretty."
"Good God," Lily said automatically.
"He obviously didn't help," Sandra said. If Sandra had cried, she was beyond that now. When Lily maintained a stunned silence, her colleague continued, "A jogger found her. He saw her foot and promptly lost his dinner."
Lily temporarily felt like she was about to lose her breakfast. Fortunately, a violent shudder was the extent of her immediate reaction.
Sandra shook her head. "That's the way I felt at first too," she said. "Now I feel like punching someone. Preferably a man."
"She dropped out of my self-defense class last term because she couldn't stand the thought of rape. Or was that Deirdre?" Lily shook her head vaguely.
"Not even self-defense skills would have done her much good if it was more than one, Lily."
Lily thought of what she had heard of Roxana's daughter. The story of Daphne had gone the rounds, even though everyone who told it made the listener swear not to tell anyone else. They had discussed the incident for hours at the kitchen table, without coming to any conclusion, of course. And then there was Mercy.
Lily's initial shock became anger and her hands became fists. "But if it had been me, I could have taken one of them with me," she said with uncharacteristic heat. She desperately wished she had a chance to make use of her skills at that moment.
Sandra shrugged. "What good does it do if you end up dead too?"
"We have to do something," Lily said, ignoring Sandra's question, which was more on the rhetorical side anyway.
"There's going to be an informal memorial service in the auditorium this afternoon. The real one is on the weekend."
"That's not what I meant," Lily said impatiently. A hard edge was becoming discernable in her slightly breathless voice. "We have to do something! Things like this can't happen."
Sandra shook her head again, but this time in skepticism rather than sympathy. "Of course they happen, Lily! They just don't usually happen to people we know."
"They happen too much to people I know."
"Come on, pull yourself together, okay? We're all a little upset, but we have to be a model for the kids, you know."
"Sandy, I didn't mean that things like this don't happen, I know well enough that they do -- I meant that they shouldn't happen."
Sandra made a noise between a laugh and a snort. "That's obvious enough."
"And we finally have to do something about it."
"Lily, what's the matter with you? What is any of us supposed to do? Go on police duty twenty-four hours a day? Lock up our daughters?" Sandra had three.
"I don't know. I really don't know. But wouldn't anything be better than just grinning and bearing it?"
Sandra shook her head. "Well, if you come up with a solution, let me know, will you? I won't be keeping my fingers crossed, though."
The hall was slowly filling with students with somber faces exchanging whispered conversations. Lily saw one girl burst into tears and lean on a friend's shoulder as the first bell rang. She directed a distracted stare at the nearest picture of Rachel. "I'll call Lyssa," she said to herself more than to Sandra. The amazons all had a disproportionate admiration for Lyssa, as if she could do anything--except, perhaps, move a whale. "Maybe Lyssa will have an idea."