FOURTEEN

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After my conversations with Sloane and Logan, I could feel irritation bubbling beneath my skin. Nudegate should have been a straightforward event to cover – it was something people talked about and had an opinion on. It was something that was at the tip of everyone's tongue. But it refused to line up; I knew the story was slipping away.

     I unlocked my car and sat down in the driver's seat, not closing the door immediately. The air was cold, but it was refreshing. It gave me a second to breathe. I closed my eyes for a second and tried to imagine what this year could have been instead of what it currently was. All I could hope was that Nudegate would feel like a distant memory by the time graduation came around.

     Opening my eyes, I moved to close my door but stopped when I spotted Alice talking to Louis. For a second, I almost felt a sense of peace when I thought they were making up. But looking at Alice's red face and Louis' crossed arms told me it was more of a confrontation.

     I kept my door open, not wanting to eavesdrop but also feeling the irresistible urge to make sure the conversation was at least civil.

     They were standing in front of his car, which was the spot across the lane from mine. Alice had her hair back in a long braid, her arms crossed. Louis looked the same as he had when we sat next to each other – a little on the heavier side with messy brown hair and a uniform that seemed almost consistently wrinkled.

     "Louis, please," Alice said, reaching a hand out for him.

     "It's done, Alice. It's been done. Please leave me alone," he said.

      "I wouldn't send pictures to anyone, you have to believe me. I don't know what happened," she said, her voice almost disappearing into the blowing wind. "I would never hurt you like that."

     "I trusted you," he said, moving a step back from her. "I don't think I'll ever be able to trust you again."

     "I love you, Louis. Please don't do this." Her words get choked up and for a second, I saw Louis hesitate. But he remained stiff and out of reach.

     He just shook his head. "If you had really loved me, you wouldn't have sent nudes to some other guy. We've known each other for a while and I just wished I had known before all of this that you were actually just a slut."

     The word seemed to set something off in Alice, making it hard for her to breathe. Louis just walked away and climbed into his car. Before I could stop myself, I got out of my own and walked over just as Louis drove past.

     "Hey, Alice," I said, walking over. She looked like she wanted to disappear, her face puffy and red with tears. She put a hand to her chest, her breath getting caught in her throat.

     I wasn't sure what to do. I had never needed to be the person who comforted someone else through a loss. Even after Nick and I had broken up, I hadn't cried much – I cried the night it happened and then tried to rationalize the situation, focusing instead on what would come next. My parents were generally affectionate people, but they showed love in a way that was harder to translate to someone I wasn't related to. I had no idea what Alice needed to feel better. It seemed like nothing could.

     "Oh, God," Alice said, wiping her cheeks. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I can't do this anymore."

     I opened my mouth to try and say something but got stuck. My eyes wandered over the parking lot and I realized there were eyes on her, something she probably didn't need during a moment like this.

     "Come on," I said, keeping my voice as gentle as possible. I put an arm around her and she leaned against my chest, crying so much I could feel my shirt starting to stick to me. I led her to my car, allowing her to slide into my passenger seat.

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