The first-period bell rang Monday at Rio Linda High School, but the desk where Jelisa Office sat -- the one usually front and center, always at the head of the class -- was empty.
By midday, a somber reality had settled on the campus, bringing anguished questions about life and death, innocence and tragedy.
And at the center, most of the students knew that their friend -- the 16-year-old girl with the honor-roll grades, big college dreams and a flashy fashion panache that made her stand out -- was gone, killed in a spray of gunfire outside a party Friday in Del Paso Heights.
She was an innocent bystander, police have said, in a shooting that appeared to be gang-related. The homicide, which shattered a two-week calm, remained under investigation Monday with no arrests.
At school, Office's absence was palpable, the circumstances heartbreaking.
"It's a tough day, a lot more difficult than I thought it would be," said Assistant Principal Will Brown, who has known Office since she was 10. "She had plans, she had goals, and she was definitely going there."
Brown, who is a first-year administrator at Rio Linda High, told the 1,874-student body about the news in a morning intercom message.
He said he had tried to write down his thoughts beforehand, but struggled over how to express the loss of someone so promising.
By early morning, a memorial had sprung up in the library, where students poured out their deepest condolences and remembrances onto butcher paper with pastel pens and hearts usually reserved for happier yearbook messages, not teenage eulogies.
"Jelisa, Jelisa, Jelisa, why did you have to leave us? ... You will be missed," wrote one girl. Another: "I will miss you Beyoncé (Always looking like a celebrity.)"
Outside class, Sangeeta Sharma, 14, who lives a block from Friday's shooting, said she is learning to grow up around increasing violence.
Last year, her older brother was shot to death in what police have said was apparently a botched drug deal. And the recent homicide of a classmate, she said, again struck too close.
"How do people do this?" Sharma said softly. "It's just bad."
Chemistry teacher Stacy Bressler said she hesitated walking into her classroom Monday, knowing of Office's fate.
"Maybe they made a mistake," she said, recalling how she had learned of the death from the weekend news. "Someone like her doesn't have that kind of thing happen; it wasn't meant to be."
Office, she said, was a voracious student, seated in the front of class with a ready hand raised with questions, always eager to learn.
The high school junior had her eye on attending Grambling State University in Louisiana and aspired to become a doctor.
Brown said she was an advanced-placement student on the honor roll track. She was active in the campus Black Student Union, worked as a tutor and also held down an after-school job at a fast-food restaurant.
In fact, Office had recently saved up her earnings to buy a Buick Century, the car she excitedly drove to a friend's party on Cypress Street.
The Rev. Gary Taylor of the Taylor Street Missionary Baptist Church chaperoned the party. He said it was meant to be a reward for his daughter Tianna's improved behavior and grades. It was supposed to have been a celebration.
The party was invitation-only, he said, but when more than the designated 40 people arrived at the small home, Taylor had to turn several youths away.
Police have said that words were exchanged earlier in the evening outside the party, which could have led to the shooting.
Taylor said he didn't recall any dispute or see any signs of the violence that was to come.
Shortly before 11 p.m., Taylor said, he was beginning to break up the party and send the teens home.
Office, he recalled, told him goodnight. Then, just before she left, she offered to help clean up after the party.
"She was polite," he said. But they had it under control.
A few minutes later, gunfire erupted.
Taylor said kids were diving near cars, on the sidewalk, as he tried frenetically to direct them back into his home.
"I thought she was laying and ducking by her car," Taylor said of Office. "But when I went out and looked at her, she was gone."
The minister now is planning a memorial service for Office at his home later this week. Already, he said, he has officiated over too many deaths of those who didn't have the chance to grow up.
"I hate it dearly," he said Monday at the school. "The young people are not supposed to be leaving us like this. This has to stop."