TEN

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Friday, and the looming deadline for the week, snuck up on me before I had time to fully prepare myself for it.

     Sitting in the newspaper office during my study hall, I pressed my fingers against my shut eyelids and willed myself to stay awake. I had spent most of last night switching between a blank document where my article was supposed to go, and a new reporter's document, trying to help them form their own. I was close to texting Ronnie when she walked into the office.

     "I was just thinking about you," I said and turned my laptop to her. "I have nothing for this story. Absolutely nothing. And I'm not just saying that so we don't have to send a story through to Yanick."

     Ronnie sighed. "That's fine. I wasn't sure what we were hoping to get anyway. I wanted the meeting would go well, but I also wasn't sure what they were trying to achieve."

     I shook my head. "I don't think they really knew, either. It was almost hard to watch. They just don't have the glue keeping it all together."

     "It's almost as if they all separate people with separate goals and not all just characterized by the fact they sent some risque pictures," Ronnie said, her voice flat.

     "You have to respect the effort, though," I said. "I mean, there is probably something there, they just haven't tapped into it yet."

     I could almost see Ronnie mentally weighing the options. "Yeah, you have a point. But then again, there's potential in mostly anything. Doesn't really count unless it comes to fruition."

     A sly smile formed at my lips, my amused expression overriding my poker face. I liked Ronnie for a number of reasons, but I mostly liked her ability to throw out tiny bits of entirely pessimistic wisdom.

     "Since your story is tanking, I think I have another idea for you," she said and pulled a few mini candy bars out of her backpack. She called them 'brain food,' probably to makeup for the fact she'd eat an entire bag in one sitting if someone didn't stop her. "Well, I guess two."

     "Shoot," I said and leaned back in my chair, facing her.

     "Pitch one, you start asking around about Eros," she said. "I know we kind of nixed that idea originally, but I'm thinking we should continue on. It's important we do something, since it feels like no one else is."

     I nodded. "What were you thinking?"

     "Email all of the girls and see if they have any ideas who Eros might be. Don't explicitly ask about sexual history or who they've sent nudes to, just keep it really blunt." She unwrapped a mini Snickers. "Blunt, but indirect."

     "Sounds like an oxymoron," I said and Ronnie cracked a smile.

     "It kind of is. But you'll know and they'll probably know you're asking about they're slept with, we just don't want to say it," she explained. "We do want to be straight-up and just ask about who they think Eros is. Make it clear we can't really do anything punishment-wise, we can only investigate. It might make them more open to going all witch-hunt on the guy's asses."

     I thought about the sheer amount of work it would take to construct emails and follow-ups with all of the girls, but I couldn't say no. "And the second pitch?"

     "Soccer game," Ronnie said and I gave her a pained looked. "Please, Eden. We need you on this. The reporter who was supposed to cover the game bailed."

     "So this isn't trying to set me up?" I asked and Ronnie just shrugged a little. Ronnie had been there for me through most of the end of Nick and my relationship. I think it made her sad to see me so distraught and while she had never pushed me back into dating, I think she was excited about the possibility. I still wasn't entirely sure what she was seeing — if she really was seeing anything at all and wasn't just lying to me — but I also didn't want to shy away from the possibility. Some relationships just end and that was what had happened between Nick and I. It wasn't easy, but it was no reason for me to avoid dating.

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