Narrator: Crystal Jennings
"The article, regardless of whether it is true, is a defamatory representation of this school," Mrs. Abrams told me as I set up my laptop in her office.
I didn't like the way things were headed with this issue. I had loyalty to The Rogue. Two years ago, I was a writer for it in my senior year here. It was a conflict of interest, if this was to be part of my job.
"Mrs. Jennings, you were a student here, were you not? I vaguely recall your co-op application."
I smiled and nodded, hiding my nervousness so far.
"What do you think of The Rogue and its content? You did read it as a student, did you not?"
There I was, confronted with it right off the bat. "I think that... The Rogue is... usually, a valid and progressive voice of the youth in the broad community this school serves."
I could see the way her eyebrows plied at each other.
"And yet, sometimes it has stepped out of line, as it may have done in this specific circumstance," I continued. "However, I think it's wrong to blame this vandalism on the paper. Not just because apprehending them is no easy task."
Mrs. Abrams's look softened towards me as my words now seemed to make more sense to her.
I knew of the firewalls. I knew of the secrecy. I knew of the passing of voice from one year's seniors to the next year's seniors. Always picking the most talented and outspoken writers they could find.
"It names names," she told me. "Thus, I have excused Joshua Penningway from his second period class, while you were getting acquainted with the other councillors. He will be here any minute."
I had to tell her something. "Mrs. Abrams, I was as much a witness to that party as Joshua was."
"Yes, I know how inattentive he must have been, given his reputa--"
"I was there. I was a guest at the Penningways that night," I interjected. "I know precisely how libelous, how slanderous, how vilifying that article is. Down to the word."
Mrs. Abrams had such an expressive face. Her eyebrows arched up so broadly. "Are you the one?"
I had no idea what she was talking about. Or maybe I knew, inside, but did not want to admit it. "I beg your pardon?"
"Did he hurt you? A number of parents have called me, concerned about why we haven't suspended him yet."
"Mrs. Abrams, I have no idea what you're talking about," I told her, though I was now beginning to suspect.
"The one-night standing spawn of that ethicless preacher!" she blurted, quite red in the face. Her jowls hung like standard bearers of ancient battlements. Yellow teeth clenched and gritted like soldier's boots upon rock.
"Again, Mrs. Abrams; there are things in that article, both the original posting and the edit, that are blatantly untrue."
She pushed the chair away from her desk, "You're her, aren't you?"
"The stoned and taken-advantage-of orphan?"
"No, not Leslie Défiere! I know who she is."
"Every other woman in that article, other than Mrs. Eleanor Penningway, has been slandered, I assure you."
"That means nothing if you are her. Tell me, whose porsche is in the visitor parking?"
"I don't see how it's any of your business which car I drive," I seethed, hoping I could shadow one of the other councillors instead. "It seems you can't set aside your frame of reference in doing your job, Mrs. Abrams."
"Excuse me?!" she exclaimed, as she now began to look at me not only as if I was a tramp but as if I was a very rude tramp. Clearly, this was an angry woman, a Lady MacBeth whose castle was under siege.
"I think you're judging the situation far too critically, based upon your own conservative values, without stepping aside for one minute to consider that things might not be as bad as all the parents phoning in seem to believe."
"All right, let's assume you're right. Tell me what happened. You've got ten minutes. Then, you will leave the room and I will get Joshua's side of the story."
I was glad that this woman had finally calmed down and seemed to be acting reasonable... to an extent. "Very well." Let the parley begin.
I felt like a high school student, just like them, with something to lose. I suppose I was like them now, being subjected to the same administration even if I was supposedly a part of it now.
Brent hadn't spiked the punch.
CJ hadn't date-raped anybody.
Joshua had done the best he could despite his uncooperative brother's actions.
The condoms had not been given out by Joshua.
This woman had it all wrong. All she was right about, was that there were villains at the heart of this. Someone wanted to hurt us. They had twisted the truth, and then stabbed us with it. And if Joshua told but a single lie, Mrs. Abrams would only continue to have it all wrong.
What bothered me, though, was how The Rogue had enough power to get the school adminsitration to meddle in our personal lives. I suppose that was only possible because vigilantes had made sure that the school got as stoned as Leslie did.