Josie looked at the clock, biting her lip in agonizing anticipation. Cracking her knuckles, she quickly did her hair in a ponytail and rubbed the calluses on her fingers. Her skin was peeling a little from where a harder surface was forming. Playing those thirteen gauge strings for hours on end that week had done that to her. Her phone buzzed and lit up, but she didn’t even think to look at it.
What was taking them so long?
The door next to the clock hadn’t been opened for almost thirty minutes. Surely the discussion couldn’t have taken longer than ten, but something had prolonged it. She had already tried to press her ear up to the door, but the exchanged words were so quiet she could only make out a small muffle. Now as the minute hand struck the six, Josie felt a need to knock on the door.
Glancing down at Kelly, her little girl, Josie sighed. “Kells, we talked about this. When kids ask for crayons, you don’t throw them.” Kelly squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. Folding her small arms over her Hello Kitty shirt, she stuck out her lower lip.
“They didn’t ask nicely.”
Josie had to hide the urge to grin. Kelly was becoming more independent and unique with each day she grew. It was incredible how five years had only flown by since Josie had the little chipmunk. But it also reminded her of how much Isaac was missing.
Pushing that weight out of her mind, only to know it would come back to settle on her shoulders, she turned back to the clock and groaned. “I have to run to Eddy’s in five minutes. What are they doing in there, hosting a tea party?”
The cheesy question pulled a giggle out of Kelly, who swung her feet back and forth against the legs of the chair. “They don’t have any tea cups! I didn’t see any when I was in there…” Kelly suddenly shrunk back when Josie shook her head in disappointment.
“Kelly, I want you to please remember that Mommy can’t afford to come to any more of these visits. You’re a big girl, you know right from wrong.” Kelly shook her head, sticking out her lower lip again.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.”
Josie ruffled Kelly’s golden locks, pulling them into a ponytail with an extra hair tie. Kissing Kelly’s cheek, she said, “I love you, Kells.” It was then that door swung open, revealing two men and one woman. Josie picked up her phone to place it in her bag, only to see the bold words Isaac Polzter. Josie’s eyes widened, but she quickly stuffed the phone away to deal with the people standing impatiently before her.
“Mrs. Peters—” The one man said. His outfit radiated preparatory exuberance. The middle-aged vice principal sported a red plaid button-down, only the collar visible, with a solid navy tie tucked under a white V-neck sweater and trousers with loafers. Josie wanted to turn to Kelly and make a gagging face. Sharing a joke felt good just about now.
“Miss Peters, actually. Um, continue…” Josie shifted from foot to foot, a little uncomfortable with how angry they looked. Was terrorizing kindergarten students with crayons really so upsetting it created angry glares? She could feel Kelly wrap her arms around her one leg, burying her face into the denim material.
“Miss Peters, then. Can you please explain to us what the phrase ‘I promise it won’t happen again?’ means, because we feel you don’t know it well enough to clearly understand it.”
Josie was shocked at how hostile the one man sounded, the words directed at her eating away at any hopes of leaving then. The gig she was playing today was suddenly starting to blur as the following words were delivered by the snobbish looking woman.
“Miss Peters, I think it’s time we had a long talk about Kelly and her behavior at this school. We will send her back to class, but please remember that we’ve given her many warnings she’s chosen to ignore. That is unacceptable at this school, and she very well knows it. Kelly, please head back to class with Mr. Hartland.” The woman, her silver hair tied up in the stereotypical mean teacher do, curtly nodded to the man who had spoken prior. He nodded back and knelt down to Kelly’s level.
“Let’s go back to class,” he said in a monotone voice. Josie would’ve thought he’d at least wear a smile to melt the cold and harsh attitude that filled the room. She should’ve realized that was something that rarely, if ever, occurred at the Jameson Academy. The woman knew she didn’t exactly appreciate the private schools, for their nonverbal teaching of exclusion. Though Josie was wary of the high crime rate and the shady people she met at the bars she played at, she still didn’t want Kelly to be influenced by such stuck up and narcissistic individuals.
Kelly nodded slowly and unlatched her arms from Josie’s leg. Following the man with hesitant steps, she turned around and waved to her mother. “Bye!” she called, which was followed by a shush from the preppy man in front of her. Josie waved back to Kelly with reassurance. Turning to face the other two administrators, Josie pulled out her ponytail and retied her hair again. The woman and the other man, who had not yet spoken, gestured to the office Josie had been sitting outside of for the agonizing thirty minutes.
It was a small but airy space, in which photos and diplomas lining the walls made Josie feel she was in a much larger area. The principal, Mrs. Landrums, sat down behind the unrealistically clean desk. Not a single object was on the wooden surface except for a few files, one manila envelope and a calendar.
Where was the rest of her stuff stored? Josie thought for a moment before lowering herself into the chair the silent man waved his hand to. Scooting in close to the edge of the desk, Josie cleared her throat and checked her watch. She had a good ten minutes before her gig started, and she bit her lip to keep from sighing. She needed this money so badly, but she might as well just kiss it goodbye.
“Do you need to be somewhere, Miss Peters?” Mrs. Landrums asked crudely before opening one of the files that were laid out before her. Josie quickly shook her head, casually leaning back in the chair, trying to relieve some of the tension in her shoulders.
But given the stern look the woman gave Josie just then, she knew no such thing as “relieved” would be taking place until she left the building.
Josie tried to ignore the knots being tied in her back from all that bending over in the gas station bathroom that morning. She wished there was an odd job she could find that didn’t involve bending over or kneeling down or just being on the floor. Cracking her knuckles, she looked directly at Mrs. Landrums and said, “So, what exactly is going on?”
Mrs. Landrums appeared to be having trouble keeping her lips down from a smirk, clearly thinking Josie was some ignorant mother who didn’t involve herself in her daughter’s life. Of course, that was a pretty grand assumption, but it wouldn’t surprise Josie if it turned out to be true. “Miss Peters, there is quite a bit going on in KB that should be on your radar, for most of it is caused by your daughter. Kelly seems to have a lot of difficulty following directions and simple moral instructions. Don’t take crayons from others; don’t talk during a lesson, the general kindergarten teachings.”
The man who had not spoken finally opened his mouth. “I’ve been the substitute teacher a few times for her class—I teach KA—” he hastily included, as if that would make all the difference—“and I notice she loves to engage herself with the other kids, which is wonderful! Of course we encourage that at this age, but the way she’s doing it is very inappropriate, especially at this school.”
Josie opened her mouth slightly, ready to begin her response on why “especially” only proved her point that this school was too exclusive, when a rather urgent banging rattled the office door.