The lobby was empty when they reached it. Drake glanced in the nurse's room when they passed. Whatever the damage had been, the little boy wasn't there anymore. He was about to ask who the boy was, and why he wouldn't let anybody but Max help him, then he heard her voice.
"Stacy, there you are," Max said. Her voice came from the old library room. "Drake Ashcroft is here somewhere, looking for you."
"Why?" Stacy's voice cracked. From the clearness of their voices, Drake guessed they were standing in the doorway. He and Tony came around the corner, and he saw he was right. They had their backs to the door. He could also see just past them, to two long tables set up in the open area of the library and children working away on a mixed assortment of different sizes and styles of computers.
"Didn't say. But that reminds me, do you need a ride for the party tomorrow night? Tony and I can pick you up on the way."
"Not going." Stacy shrugged, glanced briefly at Max, and turned to look at her students again.
"Why not?" Max voiced Drake's question.
He was glad she said it, because there was a thick tightness in his throat and he couldn't decide if he was going to shout, or he couldn't speak at all.
"Didn't get invited."
"Huh? But you and Dinah were best friends all through school."
"That was school. People grow apart."
"Well, we're invited mostly because of the university connection, although we've always been friends with the Ashcrofts, church and all that. I can't imagine why you wouldn't be invited. I mean, with your grandmother--"
"My grandmother was just the housekeeper. That was made quite clear to me -- look, the kids are almost finished with this part -- if you see Drake, tell him I'm too busy, okay?"
"Okay." Max's frown was clear, her head turned to watch Stacy cross the room to her students.
"That's weird," Tony muttered.
"Tell me about it." Drake clutched the blue-wrapped box closer to his chest. He wasn't sure what he thought about this new revelation. It certainly explained why his mother hadn't received the RSVP from Stacy yet -- Stacy never got the invitation. There was always the chance that Stacy was just hurt enough to lie. It was easier to say she wasn't invited, he supposed, than to admit that she was so hurt by Dinah's treatment of her that she didn't even want to come to her party.
But what about Mom and Dad and me? Drake wondered. The dropping sensation in his chest was almost laughable. Didn't Stacy want to at least see them? Or had she written off the whole family because Dinah had been cruel to her?
Besides, he might have been gone for too long, and not seen Stacy in all that time, but he couldn't imagine her changing so much that she would lie like that. If Stacy said she didn't get an invitation, then she didn't.But he could do something about that.