Nancy Drew was running away.
She had no idea where she was going. All she knew was that she had just seen something terrible. Something that had split her heart wide open.
Nancy could feel the wet grass of the Wilder University campus lawn soaking into her shoes. Sweat trickled down the side of her face, but she couldn’t stop — not even for a moment. Her legs kept moving as she desperately tried to get far, far away.
Why didn’t it occur to me earlier? Nancy thought wildly. After all, her best friend and old boyfriend had known each other for years. Nancy had dated Ned Nickerson since high school. And she’d hung around with Bess Marvin since they had been little.
Ned was alone now. And since Bess’s boyfriend, Paul Cody, died in a tragic accident, Bess was alone, too. Suddenly the two of them together made perfect, horrible sense.
Nancy didn’t slow down until she neared the campus lake. Behind her the lights of the dorms glimmered, but all she could see was the image of Ned and Bess — together in Bess’s room.
She wanted to kick herself. Why hadn’t she knocked on the door before bursting in?
But she and Bess had never knocked before entering each other’s rooms. They’d never had secrets.
Nancy pushed her long reddish blond hair out of her face, then wiped her wet cheeks with the palms of her hands. She tried to reason with her self. Ned and Bess, after all, had only been hugging. And Bess had said several times that Ned was the only person who seemed to understand what she was going through after Paul died. They had definitely gotten to be closer friends over the last few months.
Another voice inside Nancy insisted that the two of them had been way too close for a friendly hug. And if it had been just a friendly hug, why had Ned acted so shocked, almost horrified, when he saw her standing in the doorway.
There was also the undeniable fact that Ned had come to Wilder two days earlier, and never once had tried to contact Nancy — even to say hello. It had to be true — her best friend and her old boyfriend were a couple.
She stared into the dark waters of the lake, wondering how someone with her sharp instincts could have missed something so completely obvious. Grief and loneliness rippled through her. She’d thought she was completely over Ned Nickerson, but now…
“Oh my gosh,” she said out loud. “Maybe I’m still in love with him.”
“She saw us, Ned,” Bess said worriedly. She ducked her head out of her dorm room and scanned the hall for Nancy.
“It’s no big deal,” Ned said. He stood up and stuffed his sweatshirt into his backpack and zipped it shut. “Nancy knows we’re just good friends.”
Bess shook her head firmly. “I saw the look on her face, Ned. If she thought it was a hug between friends, why did she take off like that?”
“Nancy’s the one who broke up with me at the beginning of the semester, Bess,” he pointed out.
“She took off because she’s avoiding me,” Ned went on. “Come on. She didn’t know my car broke down yesterday. She probably thought I was back at Emerson by now. Then she freaked out when she saw I was still here.”
Bess watched him rake back a strand of thick dark hair that had fallen over his eyes. Maybe Ned was right. Maybe that was exactly why Nancy had taken off.
“Besides, Nancy’s the one with the new boyfriend,” Ned added firmly.
“She doesn’t have a new boyfriend anymore. She broke up with Jake Collins. remember?” Bess reminded him.
“I’m still ancient history, Bess,” Ned insisted. “There’s no way Nancy was upset about the two of us hugging.”
“Come on,” he added, reaching into the pocket of his leather coat for his keys. “Walk me out to my car.”
“Okay.” Bess locked her door and followed him down Jamison Hall’s brick steps and out to the parking lot. She leaned against Ned’s car as he opened the trunk and threw in his pack.
“You really think she wasn’t upset?” Bess asked, twirling a long strand of blond hair around her finger.
“Yup.” Ned stood in front of her, looking directly into her big blue eyes. “Even if there had been more behind that hug,” he said softly, “Nancy knows she doesn’t have the right to be angry.”
Bess nodded. To her surprise, a blush swept across her face. Suddenly all she could think about was the way it had felt to be spinning in Ned’s arms on the dance floor at Club Z the past weekend. There was something more to their friendship — at least there had been the other night. In fact, their feelings for each other had been so strong, they’d even talked about them later.
Still, neither one of them could take their relationship to the next level. Bess knew a romance — any romance — right now would end in disaster. It was just too soon after Paul’s death. And she wasn’t willing to jeopardize her friendship with Ned — or with Nancy.
“Come on, Bess,” Ned argued, stuffing his hands into his jeans pockets. “Nancy doesn’t want to see me anymore.”
Actually, Bess thought guiltily, she herself was responsible for part of that. After Nancy’s breakup with Jake, she’d urged Nancy not to fall back on Ned for emotional support. Bess convinced her that it had already been too hard on him.
“Don’t worry, Bess, okay?” Ned said. “Nancy’s cool — I’m sure about that.” Then he cleared his throat. “I’d better go. I’ve got a long drive and I want to get back to Emerson by midnight.”
Before Bess could say anything, she felt Ned lean closer. His shirt brushed her cheek. “Thanks for everything, Ned,” she said, hugging him. “It meant a lot to me that you came.”
“It was good to see you, Bess,” Ned replied. A second later he pulled away from her and climbed into his car.
Bess stood in the darkness, watching as Ned’s car moved slowly out of the parking lot. “Ancient history, huh?” she whispered.
If things were so dead between Nancy and Ned, then why did she keep getting the feeling that she was in the way?