SEVENTEEN

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For the second time that year, I approached Principal Yanick's office. I was thankful that I had Ronnie at my side, or I would've sprinted in the opposite direction.

     I'd been on edge since receiving the second text from Eros. Just one felt more like a side note, an annoyance at worst, but the second made me genuinely nervous. If it was a joke, it was a joke someone seemed unwilling to give up on. I'd debated on telling Ronnie about it, but I didn't want to turn it into something if it was nothing. We'd never really been the type of people to talk much about our private lives – talking about boys was the closest Ronnie and I had really ever come to it.

     "I know I should probably be somewhat excited, but I'm mostly just filled with dread," I told her as we walked toward the lobby. We had decided to go during Ronnie's free period because the teacher I had during this block was okay with me leaving. He was an English teacher who had studied journalism all throughout high school and college, and our first pick for faculty advisor. His appreciation for journalism still lived on, but it wasn't strong enough for him to justify spending more time at school and more time away from his new baby. We then ended up with what the school had to offer, which was fine but not entirely ideal.

     "Don't be so dramatic, this will be fine," Ronnie said. She pushed the door open and walked up to the secretary's desk. "Ronnie Greer and Eden Jeong."

     Mr. Winters readjusted his glasses, looking at us, and picked up a corded phone from the desk in front of him. "Rosie? They're here."

     He hung up and pointed back to Principal Yanick's office. "She'll see you now."

     We thanked him and found her door propped open. She was sitting at her desk and looked up, a smile forming on her face when she saw us.

     "Hello, how is everything?" she asked and gestured to the seats in front of her. "Please, sit."

     "You seem chipper," Ronnie said and Principal Yanick laughed, something that put me even more on edge. I couldn't think of another time she had looked anything but straight-faced or vaguely annoyed.

     "We were contacted by the police," Yanick said, "and it was found that none of the students involved were minors. So they're not involved anymore. We'll be sending out a full printed statement soon."

     My heart started racing and I realized this would be the ideal time to say that it wasn't true, but my mouth dried out. I knew that I should, but I didn't know where to place my morals. Was it better to get justice for Violeta, or let Violeta decide when she wanted to reach out?

     Ronnie nodded, glancing at her phone to make sure it was recording. She and I had established questions, but we hadn't been expecting Yanick to touch on that point until much later, if at all. We had been expecting a vague blanket statement, something about how the police were trying their best. I could practically hear her half-assed response: We care for all of the students involved and are still investigating. We will let you know when we have answers.

     I looked at Yanick. "When are you planning on sending out the statement?"

     "Tonight," she said. "And I told the police they could not comment on the statement, so please don't reach out to them. They have important matters to deal with."

     I tried not to wince at the implication that Nudegate wasn't important. I wasn't entirely sure if St. Joe's could actually prevent the police from speaking, but I decided against arguing with Yanick. I also wasn't sure what they would be able to tell us at this point anyway – it would probably just be another statement about how they verified the girl's identities and that they were all at least eighteen. I guess they hadn't checked with the girls themselves to make sure they were actually legally adults when the pictures were taken.

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