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TWO

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Ronnie spotted me within seconds of walking into the auditorium. It was an impressive feat considering all of St. Joe's was using the same entrance and I was surrounded by bodies.

"Eden!" She waved from her seat in the third row from the back.

Grateful, I walked over to sit next to her. I didn't have a plan prior to walking in and it was absolute chaos. Students were lining the walls, waiting to file into seats. The room buzzed with anticipation and nervous energy; all we needed was a spark and it would explode. Principal Yanick, Mr. Winters, and Father McGlynn, our school's priest, tried to contain the crowd. I surveyed the room, knowing almost everyone who attended St. Joe's was going to be there, including Nick, who was seated a few rows ahead of me.

"Wild, huh?" Ronnie asked, picking up her bag from the seat she'd reserved for me and letting me slide past.

"It's definitely something," I said. "Fast turnaround on organizing an assembly. I wonder how much the St. Joe's administration could really have to say since the email was sent out only about an hour ago."

"I think they're panicking." Ronnie looked at the crowd. "I think a lot of people are."

Ronnie and I had a tendency to view the student body from an observational standpoint, something that was probably rooted in having spent so much time writing about them. Or maybe our disconnection from the people around us, our tendency to view the student body as potential sources and subjects, made us want to write about them. My parents sometimes joked that I was born ready to be a young professional, entirely focused on my work and my personal goals rather than making friends—or, in reality, actually going out and living. But it was easy when I didn't dwell on what I might've been missing. I'd had Nick, that was enough then. But since we'd broken up, most of my social interactions had taken place between the school's four walls.

"So." Ronnie pushed her dark-brown spiral curls out of her face. She had a number of glasses she liked to switch between and that day she had decided on massive round ones, making her hazel eyes seem even larger than they were. "I was thinking you would tackle this story."

"Don't you want to take this one on?" I asked. "There's a lot of potential here."

"There is, but I feel too connected to the problem to write about it."

"We're both seniors," I said.

"But I don't think I can present a balanced perspective." She placed a hand on my arm. "You know me and so do most other people here. I'm not exactly quiet about my feelings toward social issues and I don't want it to impact the story's credibility."

She had a point. Both of us were pretty politically aware, but Ronnie was more open about it than I was. She'd gone to every Washington DC Women's March with her mom since the first year it had started, and she frequently posted online about being pro-choice. Last year, her post online about increasing taxes to support public programming for single moms had led to full-fledged virtual arguments with nearly half of St. Joe's. It was her M.O. to stir up debates and it garnered a lot of attention, usually from the wealthy, white, and male crowd that populated St. Joe's. She never let a social studies or history class go to waste and would frequently end up causing in-class arguments about topics like the war on drugs or housing discrimination. Usually, it would end with Ronnie fending for herself against a group of boys who were no more intelligent than she was but were louder and part of a bigger pack.

"It's not going to," I insisted. "Everyone here is going to have an opinion on this issue; it's hard to stay balanced or even remotely neutral. You being openly political isn't going to impact that."

"Sources aren't going to want to talk to me, Eden," Ronnie said. "You know it and I know it."

Ronnie stood out at St. Joe's, both for her opinions and her physical appearance. She was one of four Black girls attending the school and, although wealthy and born into a successful family like most of St. Joe's, Ronnie was expected to work twice as hard as anyone else to prove herself. Ronnie and I weren't the kind of people to openly share personal feelings, but sometimes Ronnie would mention the ways students and faculty talked about her, how students were often reluctant to work with her on group projects and then would later say how eloquent and articulate she was as if it was a surprise or a compliment.

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