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Point of retreat, p.6

  Point of Retreat, p.6

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
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  “Vaughn Gibson?” The professor calls.

  She raises her hand. “Up here,” she says as he marks her on his roll. She brings her attention back to me. “What about you? You married?”

  I shake my head.

  “Me neither,” she smiles.

  I don’t like this. I don’t like how she’s looking at me-I’ve seen that look from her before. We dated for over two years, I know her pretty well. And right now, her intentions aren’t good for me.

  “I’m not married, but I am dating someone,” I clarify. I can see the slight shift in her expression, but she attempts to mask it with a smile.

  “Good for you,” she says. “Is it serious?” She’s digging for hints.

  “Very.”

  We both face the front of the room when the professor starts explaining the semester requirements and going over the syllabus. The rest of the hour, we don’t speak much other than occasional questions from her regarding the class information. When the professor dismisses us, I quickly stand up.

  “It’s really good seeing you, Will,” she says. “I’m excited about this class now. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

  I smile at her without agreeing. She gives me another quick hug and turns away. I gather my things and head to my second class as I think of a way to break this to Lake.

  Lake has never asked about my past relationships. She says there isn’t anything good that can come up from discussing it, so we never have. I’m not even sure she knows about Vaughn. She knows I had a pretty serious relationship in high school. She even knows I’ve had sex-we talked about that. I don’t know how she’ll take this. I’d hate to upset her, but I also don’t want to hide anything either.

  But what would I be hiding? Is it really necessary to tell her who all the students are in the classes I’m in? We’ve never discussed it before, so why do I feel the need to now? If I tell her, it will just cause her to worry unnecessarily. If I don’t tell her, what harm is it doing? Lake’s not in my class, she’s not even in school the days I am. I’ve made it clear to Vaughn that I’m in a relationship…that should be good enough.

  By the end of my last class, I’ve successfully convinced myself that Lake doesn’t need to know.

  ***

  When I pull up to the elementary school, Kel and Caulder are seated outside on a bench, away from the rest of the students. Mrs. Brill is standing right behind them, waiting.

  “Great,” I mumble to myself. I’ve heard the horror stories about her, but I’ve never actually had to deal with her. I kill the engine and get out; it’s obvious that’s what she’s expecting me to do.

  “You must be Will,” she says as she extends her hand. “We’ve met before, just not officially I believe.”

  “Good to meet you.” I glance to the boys who aren't making eye contact with me. When I look back at Mrs. Brill, she nods her head to the left, indicating she would like to talk to me out of their earshot.

  “There was an incident with Kel last week in the cafeteria,” Mrs. Brill says as we walk down the sidewalk, away from the crowd. “I’m not sure what the relationship is between Kel and yourself, but I wasn’t able to get in touch with his sister.”

  “We’re aware of what happened,” I say. “Layken misplaced her phone. Do I need to let her know to contact you?”

  “No, that isn’t why I want to talk to you,” she says. “I just wanted to be sure both of you were aware of last week’s incident first, and that it was handled appropriately.”

  “It was. We took care of it,” I say. I don’t know what she means by ‘handled appropriately,’ but I doubt she expects that their punishment was laughing about it at the dinner table. Oh, well.

  “I wanted to talk to you about a different matter. There’s a new student here, she seems to have taken to Kel and Caulder. Kiersten?” She waits on me to acknowledge that I know who she’s referring to. I nod. “There was an incident today that involved her and a few of the other students,” she says.

  I stop walking and turn toward her, suddenly becoming more vested in our conversation. If it has anything to do with how the three kids acted at the dinner table the other night, I want to know about it.

  “She’s being picked on. Some of the other students find her personality doesn’t mesh well with their own, I guess. Kel and Caulder found out about a couple of the older boys saying some things to her, so they decided to take matters into their own hands.” She pauses and glances back at Kel and Caulder, who are still seated in the same positions.

  “What’d they do?” I ask nervously.

  “It’s not what they did, really. It’s what they said….in a note.” She takes a piece of paper out of her pocket and hands it to me.

  I unfold it and look at it. My mouth gapes open. It’s a picture of a bloody knife with the words “You will die, asswipe!” written across the top of it.

  “Kel and Caulder wrote this?” I ask, embarrassed.

  She nods. “They’ve already admitted to it. I understand you’re a teacher, so you know the significance of these kinds of threats on campus. It can’t be taken lightly, Will. I hope you understand. They’ll be suspended for the rest of the week.”

  “Suspended? For an entire week? But they were defending someone who was being bullied.”

  “I understand that-and those boys have been punished as well. But I can’t condone bad behavior in the defense of more bad behavior.”

  I understand where she’s coming from. I look down at the note again and sigh. “I’ll let Lake know. Is there anything else? They’re free to come back on Monday?”

  She nods. I tell her thank you and walk back to the car and climb inside. The boys both climb into the backseat and we drive home in silence. I’m too pissed at them to say anything right now. Or at least I think I’m pissed. I’m supposed to be, right?

  ***

  Lake is seated at the bar when I walk through her front door. Kel and Caulder walk in behind me and I sternly instruct them to take a seat. Lake shoots me a confused look when I walk through the living room and motion for her to follow me to her bedroom. I shut the door behind us for privacy and explain everything that happened, showing her the note.

  She stares at it for a while, then covers her mouth and tries to hide her laugh. She thinks it’s funny. I feel relieved, because this was my initial reaction, too. When we make eye contact, we both start laughing.

  “I know, Lake! From a sibling standpoint it’s really funny,” I say. “But what are we supposed to do from a parent standpoint?”

  She shakes her head. “I don’t know. I’m sort of proud of them for taking up for Kiersten." She sits down on her bed and throws the note aside. “Poor Kiersten, though.”

  I sit down on the bed beside her. “Well, we have to act mad. They really can’t do crap like this.”

  Lake nods in agreement. “What do you think their punishment should be?”

  I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. Being suspended seems kind of like a reward. What kid wouldn’t want to get a week off school?” We both think for a while. Neither of us comes up with any good punishments.

  “I guess it’s a good thing we have different schedules this semester,” she says. “That way, every time they get suspended, at least one of us will be home.”

  I smile at her…and hope she’s wrong. This better be their first and last suspension. Lake doesn’t know it, but she’s made things with Caulder so much easier. Before I met her, I agonized over every single parenting decision I ever had to make. Now that we make a lot of those choices together, I’m not as hard on myself. We seem to agree on most aspects of how the boys should be raised. It also doesn’t hurt having her maternal instincts in the picture now. It’s moments like these, when we're made to join forces, that it’s almost unbearable for me to take things slow. If I left my head out of it and just followed my heart, I’d marry her today.

  I push her back on the bed and kiss her. Due to the weekend from hell, I haven’t been able to kiss her
since Friday. I’ve missed kissing her. From the way she kisses me back, it’s obvious she’s missed kissing me, too.

  “Have you talked to your grandparents about next weekend?” she asks.

  My lips move from her mouth, down her cheek and to her ear. “I’ll call them tonight,” I whisper. “Have you thought about where you want to go?” Chills break out on her skin, so I continue kissing down her neck.

  “I could care less. We could stay here at my house for all I care. I’m just looking forward to being with you for three whole days. And finally getting to spend the night together…in the same bed, at least.”

  I’m trying not to come off too eager, but next weekend is all I’ve been thinking about. She doesn’t need to know that I’ve actually got an internal countdown going constantly. Ten days and twenty-one more hours.

  “Why don’t we do that?” I stop kissing her neck and look at her. “Let’s just stay here. Kel and Caulder will be in Detroit. We can lie to Eddie and Gavin and tell them we’re going away so they won’t stop by. We’ll pull the shades down and lock the doors and hole ourselves up for three whole days, right here in this bed. And in the shower too, of course.”

  “Sounds bemazing,” she says. She likes to smoosh words together for more emphasis. I’m pretty sure bemazing is beautiful and amazing. I think it’s cute.

  “Now back to the punishment,” she says. “What would our parents do?”

  I honestly have no clue what my parents would do. If I had any clue, it wouldn’t be so hard coming up with solutions to all the problems that come along with raising kids.

  “I don’t know what they would do. But I know what I want to do,” I say. “Let’s scare the butterfly out of them.”

  “How?” she says.

  “Act like you’re trying to calm me down. Act like I’m really pissed off. We can make them sit out there and sweat for a while.”

  She laughs. “You’re so bad.” She stands up and walks closer to the door. “Will! Calm down!” she yells.

  I walk over to the door and hit it for extra emphasis. “I will not calm down! I’m PISSED!”

  Lake throws herself onto the bed and pulls a pillow over her face to stifle her giggles before she continues yelling. “No, stop it! You can’t go out there yet! You need to calm down, Will! You might KILL them!”

  I glare at her. “Kill them?” I whisper. “Really?”

  She laughs as I hop back on the bed with her. “Lake, you suck at this.”

  “Will, NO! Not the belt!” she yells dramatically.

  I clasp my hand over her mouth. “Shut up!” I laugh.

  We give ourselves a few minutes to regain our composure before we exit the bedroom. When we walk down the hallway, I do my best to look intimidating. The boys are watching us with fear in their eyes as we take our seats across the bar from them.

  “I’ll talk,” Lake says to them. “Will is entirely too upset right now to speak to either of you.”

  I stare at them and don’t speak, putting on my best display of anger. I wonder if this is how parenting is with real parents? A bunch of ‘pretending’ to be responsible grown-ups.

  “First of all,” Lake says in a very superbly-faked, motherly tone. “We would like to commend you both for defending your friend. However, you went about it all wrong. You should have spoken to someone about it. Violence is never the answer to violence,” she says.

  I couldn’t have said it better if I was reading from a parenting handbook.

  “You are both grounded for two weeks. And don’t think your suspension will be fun, either. We’re giving you both a list of chores to do every day. Including Saturday and Sunday.”

  I tap my knee against hers under the bar, letting her know that was a nice touch.

  “Do either of you have anything to say?” she asks.

 
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