As Linda approached the schoolyard, she saw a group of girls, including Caroline, Jill, and Tracy, engaged in animated chatter. The three girls stopped talking and just stared at Linda as she came within earshot.
"Hi, girls." Linda nodded casually as she walked past. She thought she heard a faint whisper from behind her: "You don't really think she framed her, do you?"
Soon the homeroom bell rang, and the conversation ended temporarily, to be resumed inside the building with excited whispers. The entirety of the freshman class seemed to be whispering to one another, but no one was whispering to Linda. Instead they seemed to keep a respectful, perhaps even fearful, distance from her.
"As I'm sure you're all aware by now, one of our students has been accused of storing marijuana and drug paraphernalia in her locker. She is now suspended pending possible expulsion. The juvenile authorities are also debating pressing charges against her. What you must remember, students, is that this student is innocent until proven guilty, and she needs the support of her fellow classmates as she deals with these legal procedures. If she is guilty, I hope that she receives counseling, and if she is innocent, I hope that no one will continue to hold the accusations against her," the teacher announced.
Linda know which student it was, as did everyone else in the class. She smiled to herself as she got ready to go to first period.
"Honest, Trace. I don't know how it got in my purse, but I didn't steal it. I swear I didn't," Jill protested.
"It didn't just fly out of my purse and land in yours," Tracy said coldly.
"I know...but honestly, I wasn't the one who put it in my purse. You know I would never have done that. We've been best friends since before I can even remember."
"Had been best friends, you mean. I don't associate with thieves."
"Please, Tracy." Tears rolled down Jill's face as Tracy stalked away.
"So, when are you going to tell Tracy who really took her compact?"
Startled, Linda glanced up into Rochelle's accusatory eyes.
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"You know exactly what I'm talking about, Linda. I saw you take it, and if you don't tell Tracy, I'm going to tell her myself."
"It was just a joke," Linda protested weakly.
"Why'd you do it, Linda? What did Jill or Tracy ever do to you?"
"You sure have a short memory, don't you, Rochelle," Linda snapped.
"Oh, Linda, that was just little kid stuff."
"Not to me it wasn't."
"Well, I think what you did to Tracy was cruel, and if you don't tell her the truth about it, I will. I'll bet the people who are saying that you had something to do with what happened to Wendy are right, too."