by Frances Lucas
Nine months after solving the mysterious death of a classmate, Virginia Eaton and Katie McRanes are looking forward to spending their senior year together. The school year has barely started when a friend’s ex-boyfriend shows up to make trouble.
And someone dies.
As the girls investigate the murder of a member of their tight knit circle, their differing suspicions about who’s responsible put them at odds, jeopardizing their newly rekindled romance. It’s clear someone they care about may be lying, and time is running out. Can they stop a new killer before others die?
Is She Lying? is the follow up to the highly acclaimed novel Can I Trust Her?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Everybody lies. Some falsehoods are harmless. Others, as we all know, can have devastating consequences. Not long ago, I listened to a podcast that suggested the difference between the truth and a lie wasn’t necessarily about honesty but rather opportunity. And thus the idea for my second YA lesbian romantic thriller about five high school students whose lives are forever changed by a friend’s dark secret was born. And naturally, I had to set Is She Lying? in Alaska, the land of adventure!"
Nothing is the same and it’s all Jason’s fault. Matty, who’s usually easygoing, is sniping at my girlfriend, Virginia. His boyfriend, Tom, is directing an ugly scowl across the school cafeteria at Jason who, with his fists on his hips, seems to be arguing with the guy who wipes down the tables. And Tally is staring at her phone. Who the hell is E.D.? A new girlfriend she hasn’t bothered mentioning to the rest of us? I take a peek at her text string, but I’m unable to make anything of it.
Only Yoon-hi, the only straight one in our group, is making any effort at a regular conversation, saying something about a math student she’s going to tutor after school. Me? I’ve given up. I’m not listening to anyone anymore. Just let the bell ring and put us all out of our misery. Because in ninety seconds, maybe less, Jason Gonzalez is going to head this way and make things worse.
“Virginia. I told you. Tom’s father is disabled.” Former drag queen Matty slaps the table hard enough to shake loose a fake red nail and jar me from my thoughts.
A blush rises from her collar. “I thought I’d heard—”
“It’s okay,” Tom intervenes. “My dad was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. He hated giving up his pilot’s license, but he’s head groundskeeper at McKinley now.”
“The golf course?” I pat Virginia’s knee under the table sympathetically.
Matty takes a beat, then offers a small, conciliatory shrug. He should. Virginia has been his best friend since they were freshmen. We could make this better by sitting at another table or eating in the library, but I’m not in charge. Virginia’s the boss at this table, and I don’t mind that a bit. When my family moved away from Anchorage my eighth-grade year, I felt lost without her. Last year we solved a murder and reconnected. Now anything that keeps me in her orbit is worth putting up with.
I don’t feel the same about Matty, though. Dude, come on. Tom or Jason, make a choice. The problem started three weeks ago when Jason, Matty’s former boyfriend, reenrolled at North. That very afternoon at lunch, he swished up to our table as if time had stood still in his yearlong absence. “Hello, people. Anybody miss me? Silly me. Of course you did. Matty, love, introduce me to your friends.”
Matty’s drag career became collateral damage due to last year’s murder, but he still maintains a popular clothing review blog called Matty’s Fishy Fashion Fixes. He’s usually self-confident, but he can’t handle confrontation—unless he starts it. Shifting subtly away from his current boyfriend, Tom, he mumbled, “Um, well, you know Virginia, right? This is Katie, Tally, Yoon-hi, and um, Tom.”
“How’s it going, guys?” Jason gave us each a semifriendly smile. “Tom, scoot over. Let me sit next to my boyfriend.”
“You mean my boyfriend?” Tom wouldn’t budge.
It went downhill from there and ended in a brawl last week when the woman who serves hoagies in the à la carte line asked him to pick up tray of sandwich buns he’d dropped. Jason pretended not to hear her.
“Bro, the lady’s talking to you,” Tom offered unhelpfully.
“Go to hell, bruh,” Jason shot back, adding snarkily to her, “Christ, lady. Go away. Can’t you see I’m eating lunch?”
“But the buns…” Her heavy jowls trembled like she was about to cry. I feel sorry for her. She’s too old to have to work alongside an ill-mannered high school student.
Jason didn’t see it that way. He flicked his fingers at her dismissively, saying, “They’re your job. You work here, remember? Go on now. Scurry on back into the kitchen and stop embarrassing yourself.”
The thing is, they’re his job too, and he’s the one who ought to be embarrassed. Jason used to help out in his father’s tour boat business in Talkeetna. When the company went bankrupt, his unemployed father couldn’t afford to pay his lunch tab and Jason had to work off his debt by cleaning up in the kitchen. I’ve no doubt it’s demeaning for him, but it’s no excuse for being rude.
I wasn’t the only one disgusted. Matty grew a pair for once and told him to stop. Virginia asked if his parents never taught him the meaning of respect.
Tom, though, was the most outspoken. “Once a deadbeat, always an ass,” he announced loud enough for everyone to hear. He was clearly goading Jason, and it worked.
Jason flew across the table at him. They punched and slapped each other and rolled across the floor. Kids from other tables egged them on until our three hundred fifty-pound security guard yanked them to their feet and dragged them to the principal’s office.
No surprise, they were both suspended five days for fighting.
Today is their first day back and part of me hopes Jason will do the smart thing and find another group to hang with. No such luck. Ninety seconds later and right on cue, he rips off his hairnet, marches over and plops down on a stool.
“Well, haven’t I had just the week. You too, Tom?”
Tom gazes at the table, pink spots blooming on his cheeks. “You could say that.”
“Believe I did. Didn’t you hear me?” The meanness in Jason’s eyes softens into something else. “I think what you really mean is all’s fair in love and war, right? No hard feelings?”
Tom has little choice but to shake the hand extended across the table. “Listen, man. About the other day—”
“When you stuck your nose in my business?” The softness, I see now, is a smirk.
“No. I mean, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for my part. And you know, hopefully we can move past it.” Tom’s Adam’s apple bobs up and down his throat.
Dumbass Matty claps his hands in delight. “I think that’s an excellent idea. So now that we’re all friends again, I need opinions about my outfit. Blue or yellow?” I don’t get what he means until he flips his collar and I note the inside of his tailored blouse with frills down the front is daisy yellow.
“Reversible?” Tally tucks her phone into a pocket and runs her fingers down a sleeve.
“Yup. I’ll wash it tonight and see if it comes out wrinkly. For now, it gets a four-star rating.”
“Only four?” Yoon-hi inspects it, too.
“Good design, but bulky. Thoughts?”
“I think it’s really neat.” Virginia winks at me. It’s an inside joke between us. My beautiful girlfriend knows I love her occasional nerdiness.
Matty puckers his lips and takes a couple of selfies. When Tom nods as if he agrees with Virginia, I start to hope we can make it through lunch without another disaster. Jason, though, has other ideas. He snaps open his ridiculous My Little Pony metal lunchbox and sets a paper plate of homemade Lunchables on the table. “By the way, guys. Thanks for not waiting for me as usual. So nice to know my friends love me.”
I let loose a quiet breath because I don’t love him. I don’t even consider him a friend. But Matty says, “Jas, honey. Don’t be like that. You know we get here before you. I’ll wait for you tomorrow, if you’d like.”
We all go still. Will this set him off? But all he says is, “Don’t bother.”
He pops open a can of Diet Coke and stuffs a tiny sandwich of meat and cheese in his mouth, making mewing sounds in the back of his throat. “Mm. Delicious. Anyone want one?”
“No thanks.” Several of us shake our heads.
“Oh, come on. How about you, Tom? You don’t mind taking stuff that belongs to someone else.”
And there it is, that moment of silence that follows a social blunder, which in this case is a challenge to Tom for “stealing” Matty from him. Tom wisely keeps his mouth shut. Matty’s blue eyes turn to slits, but he stays quiet, too.
Virginia, the extrovert who’s always trying to keep the peace at our table, starts to say something, but I bump her leg with my knee to stop her. A don’t engage strategy I learned from dealing with my criminal father. Talking things out doesn’t always make a situation better. I learned that the hard way.
Jason finishes off his lunch with the smirk still plastered on his face, and mercifully the bell rings. He rises and abruptly drops back to the stool. Blood trickles out of his left nostril. A few drops, then a stream. He wipes a knuckle across his upper lip and gazes at his hand with a what the hell? expression.
“Tissue?” Yoon-hi grabs one from her messenger bag and holds it out.
His eyes go round and shiny and his fingers snake forward for the tissue. Then all at once he falls backward off the stool and his whole body convulses.