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[5 of 5] Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (2017) Chapters 21-25

Author: Jennifer Mathieu

Mathieu, Jennifer. “Chapters 21- 25.” Moxie: A Novel, Square Fish, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2017.


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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

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Jun 20
Brandy Y (Jun 20 2022 5:52PM) : Add as many Notice & Note comments and replies as you can in Chapters 21-25 as you read and listen. Watch this GIF (1 min. 20 secs.) to see six reasons to pause your reading, double-click on a sentence or paragraph and comment using the sentence starters. more
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I pull open the heavy door of the VFW hall and am immediately overtaken by the scent of stale cigarette smoke.

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“Phew, it smells like our den before my dad quit,” says Claudia, wrinkling her nose.

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Lucy, Sara, Kaitlyn, and Meg are with us, too. We all blink as our eyes adjust to the semi-darkness of the wood-paneled room that hasn’t been renovated since the 1970s at least. Old Lone Star and Shiner Bock beer signs hang in the corner by an empty bar.

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“Hey,” says Amaya, walking toward us. I look around. There are about twenty girls here. My heart sinks a bit. That’s a really small number of girls considering the size of East Rockport. But I remind myself that it’s still early.

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“Five dollars,” Amaya says, opening a shoe box. We all pull out our crumpled bills, and Amaya thanks us for coming and tells us we can put the baked goods we brought with us on the bake sale table.

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Most of the girls here are on the soccer team. Music thumps, and my friends and I clump together as we awkwardly walk the perimeter of the hall.

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“Hey, there you are,” Kiera says, coming up. She’s dressed in dark jeans and a bright pink top. She’s wearing pink lipstick to match. “Glad you made it.”

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“This is cool,” says Lucy, even though nothing is really happening. I know she wants Kiera to like her. To be glad she’s here.

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“Thanks,” says Kiera. She looks at her phone. “I’m hoping a few more girls come. I just heard from my friends Maci and Charity that they’re on their way.”

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“Cool,” I say, nodding.

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Kiera smiles and heads off, and my friends and I walk around, clutching our paper plates full of lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies.

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Around the room, girls have different stuff for sale, their wares spread out on card tables. Marisela Perez has dozens of tiny charm bracelets she’s made by hand, each for sale for five dollars. They’re delicate things, with tiny colored plastic beads lining them like gum drops.

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“These are pretty,” says Claudia, reaching out to touch one.

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“Thanks,” says Marisela, picking up one of her creations. “I just make them for fun and sell them to my cousins. This is the first time I’m trying to, you know, sell them to other people. But it helps me, too, since I’m on the soccer team.”

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“I’ll buy one before the night is over,” Claudia says, and Marisela grins.

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After we drop off our bars and cookies at the bake sale table, we keep exploring. We see jewelry, magnets, and stickers for sale. My heart wants to burst when I see a bunch of the Moxie zines—all the way back to the first one—laid out on a table in careful rows, free for the taking. I guess that Kiera made copies of existing zines because the images are a little blurrier and softer than in the copies I made.

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I recognize Kiera’s table immediately. It’s full of her drawings—a row of leafless trees in winter, stretching out to the horizon. Two hands clutching each other, their fingers laced together. A single eyeball, staring steadily back. Her sketches are all black and white and really remarkable. She’s come a long way since our Diary of a Wimpy Kid days.

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“This is … so cool,” says Lucy, barely able to contain herself. “It’s reminding me of my old GRIT club in Houston.” Claudia and the other girls seems a little less certain, but we decide to walk the perimeter in our awkward clump again—Claudia wants to get one of Marisela’s bracelets—and by the time we’ve made it around, a few more girls have spilled in. They look like underclassmen, uncertain and nervous. I lift a hand and smile hello, and they smile back.

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The door keeps opening and more girls keep coming in, enough that we have to start shouting over the music. It starts to grow stuffy and hot, and Kiera and Amaya open the windows because the air conditioner isn’t working so well, but our thin sheens of sweat start to make us all glow a bit. My friends and I decide to go for some lemonade.

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“Do you want regular or … fortified?” the girl behind the table says, eyeing us.

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“Fortified?” Claudia asks loudly, and the girl shoots her a look. I recognize her as one of the soccer players. I think her name is Jane.

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Lucy nudges Claudia with an elbow and all of us notice a paper bag on the floor with a slim bottle in it.

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“Vodka,” Jane whispers. She winks.

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“Fortified, please,” Lucy says without hesitation as she forks over her money, and soon we are clutching plastic cups of special lemonade. It’s not long before Claudia starts bopping around to the beat of the music, a sly smile spreading over her face.

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“Claudia is way fortified,” she says to us, and we laugh. At this point the room is close to full, girls from almost every group at East Rockport High moving around and in between each other, handing over babysitting dollars and Sonic carhop dollars and weekly allowance dollars to buy Marisela’s bracelets and Kiera’s drawings and stickers someone made that read BOSS BITCH.

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We yell hey and hi and ohmygod at each other, and we hug and we kiss on the cheek and we catch up with each other, for once ignoring the unspoken dividing lines of race and class and grade and popularity that we’ve always lived by. Some girls are dancing in the corners, moving their bodies with the freedom that comes when no boy is watching you. It feels buzzy and dizzy and sweaty and so, so, so joyful. I think this is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a Riot Grrrl, like my mom from way back when, but this is even better because it’s my own thing. It’s our own thing. The girls of East Rockport High. It’s Moxie, and it feels so real and alive and right now.

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An hour or so into it, Kiera makes her way to a tiny stage at the back of the room, and she grabs a microphone and taps it.

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“Uh, can I get your attention, please,” she asks. A lazy smile slips across her face and I’m pretty sure she’s had a fortified lemonade or two. I take a sip from my second one. My lips feel semi-numb.

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The room quiets down and we all turn to face Kiera. When she has our attention, she leans into the microphone.

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“Uh, first of all…,” she starts, taking a more than dramatic pause, “Moxie girls fight back!” To my delight and surprise, the girls around me cheer and scream and a few hold up their red Solo cups. Kiera keeps going. “This is a kick-ass lady event, and we’ve raised a ton of money for the girls’ soccer team, enough that we can buy uniforms from this century, I think. So thanks for coming. That’s it. Turn up the music.”

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Everyone cheers again, and soon we’re dancing, our bodies moving, one big mass of girls having fun. As I watch Lucy spin and knock her dark curls around, and as I listen to Claudia laugh and sing along (badly), it occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.

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After another hour or so, it’s starting to grow dark outside, and Kiera makes another announcement into the microphone that they have to lock up the hall. Girls boo until Kiera promises to organize another Moxie meet up later, which gains more cheers. She reminds girls to walk home if they’ve had too much “grown-up lemonade” and to walk in groups.

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“I’m okay to drive,” says Sara. “I didn’t drink.”

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Kaitlyn and Meg go with her, but Claudia and I agree to walk home with Lucy, who doesn’t live too far from the hall and who walked to get here.

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“Maybe we should try to help clean up a little bit first?” Claudia asks, pointing at Kiera and Amaya and a few other girls folding up card tables and dumping cups into big black trash bags.

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“Yeah, that would be nice,” Lucy agrees. As she and Claudia busy themselves, I offer to lug some of the garbage bags to the Dumpster.

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When I push the back door open, the hot, sticky night air surrounds me like a too-tight hug. There’s a scraping sound as I shove the door open over the gravel parking lot.

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“Oh, hey,” a female voice calls out from nearby. I look up and blink my eyes, trying to adjust to the darkness, and spot Marisela and Jane pulling apart from what I can only guess was something more than just a friendly hug. Jane tugs down her T-shirt. Marisela coughs. I’ve stumbled onto a secret, and if it weren’t so dark, Marisela and Jane would be able to see just how much I’m blushing.

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“I was just trying to throw these out,” I say, pointing weakly at the bags by my feet. “I’m sorry I interrupted y’all.” I hope my voice reads it’s cool. There are two boys who are out at East Rockport, both of them seniors and both of them involved in the theater department. They hang out together and even though I don’t think they’re together together, everyone assumes they are, and they’re the regular butt of stupid jokes and promises that they’ll be prayed for. I can only imagine that they each have a calendar counting down the days before they can leave this place.

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But I don’t know of a single girl who’s come out in all my time at East Rockport High. I mean, there have been rumors, obviously. But that’s all they’ve been. Rumors.

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“You won’t tell anyone, right?” Marisela says, leaving the thing I’m not supposed to tell unspoken but obvious. I shake my head no and say, for emphasis, “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.” And I know that I won’t. Not even Lucy or Claudia. Because in a town like East Rockport, what Marisela and Jane have going on is the sort of thing you can’t risk too many people knowing about.

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“Thanks,” says Jane. She crosses her arms in front of her, avoids eye contact, and my heart cracks a little for her, and for Marisela, too.

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“Here, let me help you,” says Marisela, and she grabs one of the garbage bags, and we haul them into the big blue Dumpster behind the hall.

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“Okay,” I say. “Well, I’m heading back in.”

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“’Kay,” says Marisela. Then, after a beat, she says, “Tonight was fun. I think this is the best night I’ve had in maybe my entire life.” Her voice is soft and slow, like she’s had her fair share of lemonade. When Marisela says this, Jane looks right at her and smiles so big you can see her gums.

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“It was a pretty cool night,” I say, grinning back.

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By the time Claudia and I walk Lucy home, we are yawning and dragging our feet on the sidewalk. It feels later than it is.

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“You can spend the night if you want, or I can drive you home,” Lucy offers. “I only had one cup of that lemonade, and that was hours ago.” We take Lucy up on her offer of a lift since our parents are waiting up, and we don’t have any of the stuff we need for a sleepover. I text my mom that I’m on my way. By the time Lucy drops me off, Claudia is half-asleep in the backseat.

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“’Night, Claud,” I murmur over my shoulder.

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“Hmmph.”

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“I’m so glad Kiera put that together,” Lucy says. “If it wouldn’t scare your mom and your grandparents, I’d honk my horn out of happiness.”

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I reach over and honk Lucy’s car horn twice—toot toot.

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“What the hell?” says Claudia, sitting up suddenly, blinking and rubbing her eyes. Lucy laughs, and I do, too.

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“Moxie!” I yell, getting out of the car.

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“Moxie!” Lucy yells back. She toots the horn one more time before pulling out of the driveway.

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My mom greets me at the front door.

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“Viv, what’s going on? Are you okay?”

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I smile at her and pull her in for a sweaty hug. “Sorry, we were just being stupid.”

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“You stink!”

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“Thanks a lot,” I say, opening the refrigerator to hunt down something cold to drink. I pour myself some orange juice.

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“So how was it?” she asks. I’d told my mom I was going to a girls-only fund-raiser for the soccer team, but I’d been vague on the details.

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“Mom, it was so fun,” I tell her, “but I’m so tired.” I want to get to bed while my memories of the night are still fresh so I can fall asleep replaying them in my head.

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“Did a lot of girls show up?” my mom asks, leaning against the kitchen counter, watching as I down the entire glass of juice in a few gulps. I hadn’t realized how hot and thirsty I was.

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“Yeah,” I say, setting the glass in the sink. “Lots.”

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“That’s great,” my mom answers. “I love that the girls wanted to do that. Who organized it, exactly?”

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My head is starting to ache a little bit. Maybe from the lemonade. I rub my temples and close my eyes.

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“It was just the girls on the soccer team and some other girls,” I say, edging my way down the hall.

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“I ran into Claudia’s mom, and she said it was some group called Moxie? She saw Claudia’s flyer for it?”

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I pause at my bedroom door, my back to my mom. “Oh, yeah,” I say, surprised Claudia didn’t keep the flyer better hidden. My heart starts racing. Should I tell my mom about Moxie? She would probably think it’s cool, and even have good advice for me about how to keep it going.

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But it suddenly hits me that Moxie isn’t all about me. And it’s certainly not about my mom. It belongs to all the girls at East Rockport High School. The heartbeat of the VFW hall is ours and ours alone.

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“Are you involved in it?” my mom says, not giving up. “Moxie, I mean. It’s a cool name.”

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“Well, I went to this thing tonight, so yeah, sort of,” I say, stripping off my sweaty clothes and searching for my pajamas. “Mom, I’m going to bed, okay? I’m just so sleepy. There was dancing and stuff, and I’m all achy. Can we talk more tomorrow?” I finally work up the guts to turn around and face her.

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“Sure, yeah, let’s talk tomorrow,” she says, but her eyes look a little sad, her voice sounds just the tiniest bit wistful. “It just seems like you had fun. You look like you had fun, you know?”

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“I did have fun, Mom, I promise,” I tell her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. After she leaves, I check my phone as I collapse into bed. There are a few messages from Seth. The last one reads, How was it? Fun I hope.

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I tap out one quick answer.

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sooooooo fun thanks for asking more tomorrow I’m sleepy! xo

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Then I toss the phone on the floor, and as I slide into sleep, my mind is full of images of girls dancing together and smiling and holding hands, taking up all the space they want.

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* * *

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The meet up at the VFW hall changes the energy at school—and in a good way. Girls who normally don’t have much to do with each other say hi in the hallways, smiling at each other when they pass. I mean, it’s still the same in a lot of ways—I hear guys arguing about whether Emma Johnson deserved to win March Madness even though she’s still a junior, and Mitchell and his friends still tell girls to make them sandwiches and try to bump ’n’ grab—but still, there’s something about those first few days after Kiera’s event that feel different. Like we’re all just a little bit more aware. Awake.

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“I wonder if whoever is making the Moxie newsletter is a senior,” Claudia says as she and I meet up with Lucy outside school before the first bell. “When they graduate, maybe it will stop.”

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“Yeah, but even if it is a senior making the newsletters,” says Lucy, pulling her curls up into a ponytail, “it almost doesn’t matter. After Saturday, doesn’t it feel like Moxie could just keep happening no matter what?”

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“So you don’t think Kiera started it?” Claudia asks.

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Lucy shakes her head. “I don’t think so. Kiera’s flyer had a different feel to it than the newsletters. Just like my bake sale flyers had a different look. Because I didn’t make the newsletters either.”

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“I think Lucy is right,” I say.

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“That Kiera didn’t make the newsletters?” asks Claudia.

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“Well, yeah,” I answer, “but also that it doesn’t matter who made them at all, even if they’re graduating. Because Moxie is a thing that’s everyone’s.” I glance at Claudia, hesitating, then say, “I mean, I think it belongs to girls who care about being feminists.”

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Claudia doesn’t respond. Just nods, like she wants to think it over. At that moment, my phone buzzes.

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Come to the front doors of the school you won’t believe it

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“It’s Sara,” I say, peering down at the text. “Something’s going on around front.”

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We make our way around to the front steps of East Rockport High. A crowd is gathering around the stairs that lead to two sets of large, gray metal doors. But you can barely see the doors because they’re covered in bright pink flyers. The buzz of students’ voices grows louder with each passing moment.

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Sara spots us, races over with a flyer in her hand. Breathless, she hands it over and we stare.

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“Holy shit,” says Lucy.

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Because really, that’s all there is to say.

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image
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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

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Of course, it’s all anyone can talk about. But weirdly, East Rockport almost feels quieter than normal. Because people are so stunned by the flyer that they are whispering, speaking in hushed voices. Not even opening their mouths so much as staring at each other with can-you-believe-it? looks on their faces.

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Here and there, I catch snippets of conversation.

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“Has anyone seen Mitchell?”

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“Who do you think did this?”

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“Do you think it’s true?”

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Lucy has to leave us to head to first period, but Claudia and I walk to history class together, Claudia’s hand clutching the paper, her eyes scanning the words over and over.

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“Claudia, watch out,” I say, tugging on her elbow. “You almost ran into a wall.”

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“Huh?” Claudia says, looking up at me at last. “Oh. Sorry.”

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“You okay?” I ask.

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Claudia frowns and shakes her head. She doesn’t have to talk for me to know what she’s thinking as she stares at the flyer. This could have been me.

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Claudia heads into history class, but just as I’m about to walk in, Seth comes around the corner, holding a flyer like everyone else. He leans in to kiss me, but I freeze up. I don’t feel like kissing.

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“You okay?” he says, pulling back. A hurt expression crosses his face. I pretend it’s not there.

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“Yeah, I’m okay,” I say. “Just … that flyer. It’s disturbing.”

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“I know,” he says. “You have any idea who did it?” But I shake my head no.

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“You think it’s true?” he asks.

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Now it’s my turn to pull back. My throat tightens up. My chest feels heavy.

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“Of course it’s true,” I say. I look around and then, practically mouthing the words, I say, “I told you what he did to Claudia.”

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Seth nods, like he’d forgotten all about Claudia. Maybe he has. “Yeah, of course. I mean, I know he did that. And it’s gross. But this girl”—he holds the flyer up—“she’s saying he tried to rape her.”

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“I know,” I say. “And?”

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“Just that that’s a really big accusation to make against a guy, that’s all.”

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I don’t even know what to say. I stare at Seth. I want him to be on my side. Defending this girl with me.

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“Look, I’m not saying it’s not true,” says Seth, flustered. “Just that this is a pretty big accusation and I’m just, like, surprised she put it out there like this instead of letting the school handle it.”

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“But she said they didn’t listen to her, and when Claudia went to the school they told her to use winter break to forget about what happened,” I say. I can feel heat radiating off my face. I tug on the shoulder straps of my backpack and hug it closer to me. “Look, I’m going to be late.”

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“Okay, fine, I was just making a point,” Seth says. “I’m not saying it didn’t happen.”

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“I guess it kind of sounded like you were saying that,” I snap.

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“Look, Vivian, calm down,” he says. “I’m not…”

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“Let’s talk later,” I say, angry. “And don’t tell me to calm down.”

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Seth steps back, like I’ve just punched him hard in the gut.

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I walk into class, blinking back tears I didn’t know were threatening to spill out.

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“You okay?” Claudia asks as I take my seat in front of her.

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“I just got into a…” I search for a better word, but there isn’t one. “I got into a fight with Seth. He was saying he wonders if the girl who made the flyer is even telling the truth.”

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Just then the bell rings, but our teacher, Mrs. Robbins, isn’t there. Everyone around us is talking about the flyers, but Claudia leans in toward me, her face concerned. “I’m sorry, Vivvy. What happened?” But I don’t get a chance to answer because suddenly Mrs. Robbins walks in with more purpose than she’s exhibited all year. Clapping her hands together, she barks at us to pay attention.

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“I’ve just come from an emergency faculty meeting,” she says, acting as if an emergency faculty meeting is the equivalent of high-level nuclear disarmament talks. “Principal Wilson is about to make an announcement. All of you need to listen very carefully.” She stares at all of us, but it feels like her icy gaze lingers longer on the girls.

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A few moments later, the intercom makes a tinny beep. Then Principal Wilson’s gruff voice begins talking, his twang thick with anger.

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“Students of East Rockport, it has come to my attention that a flyer is making its way around the school calling for a walkout tomorrow afternoon,” he says. I imagine him standing in his office, talking into a microphone like he’s the dictator of a small country.

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“Any student who walks out of this school will be suspended immediately, and I will begin the process of expulsion immediately,” he says. At this heads turn and whispers start, but Mrs. Robbins claps her hands agains and shouts, “Listen up, people!”

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“Regarding the situation in the flyer itself,” continues Principal Wilson, “please know the administration is looking into the allegations. Safety for our students is a top concern, of course.” The words are so perfunctory and laughable I can’t help but turn in my seat and roll my eyes at Claudia and Sara. I don’t care if Mrs. Robbins sees.

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“Now let’s get back to learning,” he says. “Our custodial staff is in the process of removing the flyers. Any flyer found will be confiscated.”

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I sit at my desk, burning with rage. He’s looking into the allegations involving his own asshole son. A visit from Martians during lunchtime is more likely.

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Mrs. Robbins tries to run class, but all of us are distracted, and my mind keeps spinning in circles, thinking about both Seth and the walkout. When the bell rings, Claudia asks Sara and me if we’re going to participate on Friday.

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“I think I want to do it,” I say as we maneuver through the hallway. It surprises me as soon as it’s out of my mouth. But it’s the only possible answer. The only one that makes sense.

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“You’re not afraid of getting expelled?” Claudia asks, twisting up her mouth in concern.

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A girl I don’t know all that well—she’s only a freshman, I think—overhears us.

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“Look, Wilson can’t expel us if we all walk out,” she insists. “Moxie girls fight back, right?” I remember her from the VFW hall, and in this moment I know for sure that Moxie is out of my hands. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time.

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Just then Claudia’s phone buzzes. She looks down and gasps.

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“What?” Sara asks, alarmed.

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“Check your phones,” she says. “Meg texted us.”

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Wilson pulled Lucy out of first period … she never came back. He was PISSED

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“Shit,” I say. “Why did she have to be so by the book and fill out that form for the bake sale?”

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“But she didn’t make the flyers, right?” Sara asks.

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“No, but Wilson only wants someone he can pin this on,” I say. I remember Lucy crying in her bedroom, worrying about college scholarships. My stomach knots up. “God, I hope he only brought her in to question her.”

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But by English no one has spotted Lucy, and she doesn’t show up for class. Neither does Mitchell Wilson, for that matter, which causes another round of whispers. When Seth walks in, he doesn’t look at me and I don’t look at him. I swallow hard and try to ignore the ache in my throat. I bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from crying. Everything feels so fucked up.

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Before Mr. Davies starts class, I text Lucy for the tenth time.

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Where are you????? Please tell me you’re okay

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Nothing.

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Finally, at the end of the day, Lucy texts back.

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I got suspended. I’m a mess.… can you please come over? But just you, ok? I can’t take a hundred million questions from everyone.

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I text back right away.

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I’ll get there somehow I promise

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I dart through the halls looking for Claudia, hoping she borrowed her mom’s car to drive to school like she sometimes does. When I see her, I tell her what’s happened and ask if she can take me to Lucy’s. She says yes without hesitating.

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As we drive to Lucy’s house, I tell Claudia that Lucy only wants me to come in.

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“I hope you understand,” I say. I think back to earlier in the year. To the times when Claudia acted a little bit irritated by Lucy.

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Claudia nods. “It’s okay. I get it.” She pulls up to Lucy’s grandmother’s house. “Tell her I’m sorry, though, okay?”

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I smile at my best friend since forever and start to open the car door.

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“Hey,” Claudia says, stopping me. I turn back to find her looking at me intently. She bites her bottom lip.

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“What is it? Are you okay?”

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“It’s just…,” she starts, her voice a little shaky, “I kind of feel like I want to do the walkout. I know it’s crazy, maybe. But part of me really wants to do it. Because screw Mitchell Wilson and his dad.”

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My smile grows bigger, and I reach out to hug Claudia. “I think you’re a badass,” I whisper into her ear. “And a really good friend.” Her hug feels like everything good and warm and familiar.

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“I love you, Viv,” she whispers back.

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“I love you, too.”

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When I knock on Lucy’s front door, Lucy’s grandmother greets me, her mouth turned down in a tight frown.

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“I’m not sure if I should let you in,” she says. “Lucy never got in trouble at the school before. Suspended? Qué barbaridad!”

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“Abuelita, please let her in!” comes Lucy’s voice from the top of the stairs, strained and tight.

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Lucy’s grandmother rolls her eyes slightly and then steps back, and soon I’m in Lucy’s cluttered room. My friend is curled up on her bed, her eyes red from crying.

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“I’m so fucked,” she says, reaching for a relatively clean Kleenex from the mountain of crumpled tissues spread out before her and dabs her eyes.

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“Oh, Lucy, I’m so sorry,” I say, sinking onto the bed. All the guilt I felt when Lucy was sent home after the assembly about the stickers starts to build again, making me sick to my stomach. “What happened?”

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In long, rushed phrases punctuated by half sobs and sniffles, Lucy tells me how she was hauled out of first period and taken directly to Principal Wilson’s office (“It’s like a shrine to the football team in there, in cases you’re wondering”) and how Principal Wilson accused her of making the flyer since the Moxie name was on it. When Lucy denied it and refused to provide any information, Principal Wilson told her he didn’t believe her.

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“So he thinks you accused Mitchell of trying to rape you?” I say.

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“That’s the thing,” Lucy says, sitting up, rubbing her eyes. “It was like he knew the flyer wasn’t about me—which it isn’t—but he was still accusing me of making it.”

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“So you think he knows who Mitchell tried to rape?”

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Lucy shrugs, takes the tissue in her hand, and squeezes it into a tight ball before throwing it off the side of her bed. “Yeah,” she says. “I mean, the flyer said the girl went and told him, so he must.”

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“So now what?” I ask, frowning.

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“I’m suspended tomorrow,” she says. “He’s not expelling me, but he says he’s going to contact every college I apply to next year, to let them know what I did.” I expect her to start wailing at this, but instead she just slides back against her bedroom wall and stares out numbly at the space in front of her. “I wish I knew who started Moxie,” she says. “I would ask them what the hell to do next.”

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My heart starts to pound, then journey up to my throat. I open my mouth, then close it.

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I can’t do it. But I have to do it.

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“So I won’t be at school tomorrow,” Lucy continues. “He made sure that I wouldn’t be there for the walkout. Since he thinks I’m the leader of Moxie, I guess he assumes that if I’m absent, I’ll be less of an influence.”

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Once I say it, there’s no going back.

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I look down at my hands. They’re gripping Lucy’s lavender-flowered bedspread so tight the veins in my knuckles are popping out.

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“I have to tell you something,” I say, and now it’s too late to stop for sure.

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“What?”

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I swallow hard. I take a deep breath.

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“I made Moxie,” I say out loud. At last. “I made the zines. Everyone keeps calling them newsletters, but they’re zines. I made the stickers, and I started the bathrobe thing and the stars-and-the-hearts-on-the-hands thing. It was me. I got inspired by my mom’s Riot Grrrl stuff from the ’90s. The only other person who knows is Seth, but I think maybe now we’ve broken up or something, so … I don’t know. But I did it. I started it.” My throat starts to tighten up. I swallow and feel my face start to flush.

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Lucy stares at me and then, slowly, her body slides off the bed until she collases into a lump on the messy floor.

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“Lucy?” I say.

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She looks up at me and says, slowly and deliberately, “You. Are. Shitting. Me.”

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“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I really did it.” My heart is still hammering, trying to catch up with what I’ve just done.

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“But you didn’t do the flyer this morning?” she asks, concerned.

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“No,” I say. “And Kiera did the VFW hall thing and you did the bake sale. I have no idea who made the flyer. Or who put the stickers on Principal Wilson’s car.”

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“Holy shit, Viv!” Lucy says, standing up.

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“Are you mad at me?” I feel tears start to fight their way out, but I hold them back. I can’t be the one who’s upset here. Lucy should be mad at me. I lied to her so much.

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“Why would I be mad at you?” She’s almost shouting. “And why am I standing up?” Then she falls back down on her bed with a flop.

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“I can’t let you take the fall for this, Lucy,” I say, my voice cracking a bit. “I can’t let you get in trouble for the walkout when you didn’t even start Moxie.” I imagine turning myself in to Principal Wilson. Meemaw and Grandpa will be scandalized. I’m not sure how my mom will feel. But it’s the right thing to do. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I probably should have. The whole thing has just gotten out of control.”

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Lucy sits up. “Oh, Viv, it’s okay. I mean, I guess I am a little hurt you didn’t tell me. But the truth is, Moxie was almost more powerful because it didn’t have a leader, you know? Like, I can see why you did it that way.” Then she shoots me a rueful grin. “And anyway, maybe it’s better I didn’t know. I always have had trouble keeping my big mouth shut.”

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I manage a smile. It’s nice she’s taking it so well. But still.

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“I need to go in to talk to Wilson,” I say. “I have to.”

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“I don’t know,” she answers. “I’m already in trouble for putting my name on the form. Wilson probably won’t even believe you. And he’d rather blame some Mexican girl from the city than a nice white girl like you who’s been here all her life.”

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I flop back on Lucy’s bed. There’s a tiny crack running across the ceiling. I trace it with my eyes until the tears finally come. I let them stream down my cheeks, not even trying to stop them.

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“Viv?” Lucy says.

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“Everything is so screwed up,” I say. “Moxie’s gotten out of hand. And now Seth and I are in a fight, and you’re in trouble, and it’s all messed up. And what does it matter? Nothing is going to change. Nothing. I should have just done what my mom always planned for me to do and kept my head down and got into college and gotten out of here.”

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“No, Viv, no,” says Lucy, shaking me. “Are you kidding me? Moxie has been worth it. Think about last Saturday. Think about the fact that the girl Mitchell attacked wouldn’t have spoken up without Moxie. Hell, at the very least, acknowledge that Moxie is the reason you and I became friends.”

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I peer up at Lucy and smile. Behind her, I spy the bright yellow Post-its with the Audre Lorde quote on them.

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YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT PROTECT YOU.

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“Should I do the walkout?” I say.

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Lucy looks me dead in the eyes. She nods firmly. “You know the answer,” she says. “I don’t even care if I take the blame for all of it. It’s worth it to me if it happens. I’ll write an essay about it for my college applications. If nobody does the walkout, it’s like I got suspended for nothing. It’s like Wilson wins.”

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I nod, and I know Lucy is right. “Who do you think made the flyer?” I asked.

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“I don’t know,” she answers. “The messed-up thing is it could be almost any girl. But whoever it is, she’s telling the truth. I believe her with all my heart.”

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I curl into myself, remembering Seth’s doubt. I tell Lucy about my conversation with him earlier in the day.

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