I asked Karen, “Do you think it would be all right to go tell Lane about the play?”
She smiled and patted my hand. “He’s going to be so excited,” she said happily. She looked at my father and said, “I can’t wait to see him onstage.”
It surprised me when my father remarked, “It might be more fun than a baseball game.”
I stood and left the room. I felt like skipping down the hallway to Lane’s room. He was lying on his bed playing a video game. He stopped and sat up when I entered.
He pouted and asked, “What was so important that I had to leave the room?”
I sat beside him and replied, “We had something to discuss, and it involved you.”
He giggled when I touched his nose and said, “Yes, you.”
“What did I do?” he asked.
“Do you remember Shade and Megan who ate lunch with us today?” He nodded his head. “They are in my seventh period drama class.” He gave me a puzzled look and nodded.
He then asked, “What does that have to do with me?”
“Okay,” I replied, “You can tell me no if you want to...”
“Yes!” he shouted. “I don’t know what you’re going to ask me, but whatever it is, I’ll do it!”
“You haven’t even heard it yet,” I laughed.
“I like Megan,” he said with a grin. “She’s pretty.”
I took him by his shoulders and made sure he would understand what I was about to say. “Megan is going to direct a play in a couple of months.” Lane nodded his head. “It’s called the Sound of Music.” He nodded his head again.
“Do you remember the song we sang on the way home?”
“You mean Old McDonald had a farm?”
“No,” I replied. “The other one.”
“You mean the one about the deer and tea?”
I smiled and said, “Yes, that song?” He grinned and nodded his head. He then began to sing it.
“See,” he beamed proudly. “I remembered it.”
“Very good,” I said as I patted his arm. “Now listen carefully to me.”
He gigged, grabbed his ears and said, “I’m all ears.”
I said, “Megan and I want you to sing that song in a play.” He broke out into a wide grin. “Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes,” he said as he jumped up and started skipping around the room singing the song. Karen and my father came to the door and started laughing.
“I see you told him,” she remarked. Lane skipped over and hugged her. He then skipped over to me, sat down in my lap and gave me a kiss on the cheek. When I looked at Karen, she was proudly smiling.
* * * * * * * * *
Lane was almost uncontrollable the next morning. All during breakfast he kept asking me when the play would be. He also asked me if I would be with him when he sang, and I assured him I’d be watching from backstage. I wasn’t sure if he even understood what was involved in a theatrical production. But then, he might have known more than me since I was clueless as to what was involved.
On the way to school, he skipped beside me and sang the do-re-mi song. By the time we arrived, I was hoping I would never have to hear it again. I took him to his classroom, and he immediately began to tell his teacher what he was going to do. When I left, about five more students said they wanted to sing in the play. If Megan needed more children, I knew where she could find them.
When I arrived at my locker, I noticed that the lock had been cut off. When I opened the door, everything had been trashed. My books were ripped apart, and a jacket I had inside had been slit several times. The student in the locker beside me looked over and said, “Damn, Dude. Someone is out after your ass.” He closed his locker and walked away.
I slammed my locker shut and stood looking at it. I didn’t know what to do. I needed my books for my classes. If I didn’t have them, then I wouldn’t be able to do the assignments.
“Shit,” I muttered as I turned and rested against my locker. I looked around the hall, and I wondered who might have done the vandalism. I didn’t have to think long...it had to have been Mike. He warned me when he left my bedroom that he would pay me back. And he did. When the warning bell to my first period rang, I headed slowly to my class.
I managed to get by until my English class. Mrs. Hayes assigned us to read a short story in the book, and then we were to complete an answer sheet. After handing out the assignment, she walked around the room observing us. I attempted to fool her by reading my Spanish book, but she quickly noticed I had the wrong book.
She bent down and asked me softly, “Where’s your book, Casey?”
I closed my Spanish book and responded, “I left it in my bedroom this morning. Sorry.”
“No, Casey,” she replied with a tone of anger in her voice. “I’m sorry, but you’re new to the class. It is my policy that if you don’t bring your book to class, then you must come in after school to complete it.”
I sat up straight and stared into her face. “That’s not fair,” I said rather loudly. Several students nearby stopped reading and looked over at me. I was becoming worried that Lane would have to walk home alone. “Just because I forget my book, you’re going to assign me detention?”
“It’s not detention,” she stated adamantly. “I just want to give you the opportunity to complete the assignment.”
“Sounds like detention to me,” I said angrily. “I’ll do it when I get home.”
She stood erect and stared down at me, “You’ll do it after school.” By now everyone in the room was staring at us. It was deja vu all over again. I didn’t care, though. It wasn’t fair that I was going to get punished because someone had trashed my locker.
I rose from my seat and stared defiantly into her face. “I said I would do it when I get home.” I thought she’d back away, but she stood her ground. I could tell she wasn’t intimidated by me.
She turned and said, “You’ll step out into the hall with me.” She headed to the front of the room and waited for me at the door. I looked around at the classroom. They were waiting for my reaction. I held my head up as I walked to the front of the room and quietly left the room. I stood outside and waited for Mrs. Hayes. I could hear here telling the class to continue reading quietly.
She came out and closed the door. She looked into my face, but she didn’t appear angry. “Casey,” she asked, “Would you like to tell me what is going on?” Since she didn’t seem to want a confrontation, I let down my guard.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Hayes,” I apologized, “But I don’t have my book. I’ll do it when I get home. Please don’t make me stay after school.”
“And why should I do that?
I explained to her why I couldn’t stay. I told her how I walked Lane home each afternoon. Rodney had been in her class the year before, and Curtis was now in her first period, so she was familiar with the Crawford family. However, she admitted she had never met Lane.
She sighed, “You’ve placed me in a dilemma, Casey. Over a dozen students have come in after school to complete an assignment because they didn’t have their book. If I let you slide, then the others will expect the same thing next time. I understand your reasoning for not wanting to, but it’s just not a good enough reason to excuse you from doing it.”
I decided that it was unfair that I should be punished for something I didn’t do, so I spoke up. “What if I have a better excuse?”
She shook her head, “Casey, I don’t want to stand out her and play games all day. I have a class to get back to.”
I took a deep breath and said, “Someone trashed my locker. They destroyed everything. Your English book is in my locker ripped to pieces.” I looked at her surprised expression. “Is that a good enough reason?”
“Oh, my,” she exclaimed. “Have you reported the damage to one of the school security officers?”
I laughed and said, “What good will that do?”
“For one,” she stated, “It will excuse you from coming in after school. I’ll also be able to assign you another book.” She reached out and lightly touched my arm. “Please report the damage.”
“I’ll think about it,” I replied. “Do I still have to report after school?”
“No, on one condition.”
“You’ll agree to let me notify the proper authorities so they can investigate the break-in of your locker,” she insisted.
I considered her proposal. I figured I had nothing to lose. There was no way they could prove that Mike or anyone else had broken into the locker. They would merely examine the evidence, and then I could then have all my books replaced.
“All right,” I finally agreed.
Mrs. Hayes patted my arm and said, “Very well. I’ll notify security, and you can talk to them. In the meantime, I’ll issue you a new book.” I followed her back into the room and to her small storage area. She took out a new book and handed it to me. I returned to my seat with everyone carefully watching me.
I was in my sixth period law class watching a documentary on violence in America. We were taking notes for our daily assignment. Someone knocked on the door, and Mr. Snyder rose from his desk. A minute later, he approached and informed me that someone wanted to see me outside in the hall.
When I went out of the room, Mr. Snyder and a female school security officer were waiting for me. “Casey,” said Mr. Snyder, “Mrs. Hayes informed me about what happened to your locker. Would you escort us to it so we can see the damage?”
I nodded and headed toward my locker on the second floor with Snyder and the officer following about six feet behind me. When I arrived, I pointed at the busted lock and said, “There it is.” The officer removed the lock and looked inside. She then stepped back for Mr. Snyder to see the damage.
He asked, “Do you have any idea who might have done this?”
I shook my head and responded, “No, Sir.”
“You must have been singled out,” he said, “because we’ve had no other reports of vandalism.” He peered at me and asked again, “Are you sure you don’t know who might have done this?”
“I told you I don’t know,” I replied rather angrily. “I haven’t even been here a week, so how would I know?”
The officer removed the contents of the locker into a plastic bag. When she was finished, Mr. Snyder told me to report to the office and wait.
I sat for ten minutes before he finally appeared. He spoke briefly with his secretary. She typed something into the computer. She then wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to the principal. He walked over and handed it to me. “Here’s your new locker assignment. I’ll inform all your teachers to assign you a new book.”
Before walking away, he shook his head and stated, “It’s days like this that make this job difficult.” He shook his head again and muttered, “Senseless vandalism.”
I was upset when I entered the theater. Megan noticed immediately the somber look on my face. “What’s wrong, Casey?” she asked worriedly as she wrapped her arm around mine.
“I haven’t been here a week,” I replied angrily, “and I already hate this school.”
She led me over to a theater seat and we sat down. “What happened now?” she asked as she looked at my face. The bruising had faded, but it was obvious I had been in a fight.
I told her about the incident with my locker. I also relayed how I had to deal with Mr. Snyder and a security officer just a half hour earlier. She shook her head and looked worriedly at me. She then asked, “Do you have any idea who might have done it?”
“I have my suspicions,” I replied, “But they are only suspicions.”
Just then Shade approached and saw us talking. He sat in the seat in front of Megan and turned toward us. “Private conversation, or can I join in?”
Megan shook her head and then recounted the story to Shade. He kept looking worriedly at me while she talked. When she finished, he asked, “Do you think Curtis was behind it?”
“I doubt it,” I replied. “He’s a douche, but I don’t think he’d do something like this. Besides, if Rodney found out, he’d kick his ass.”
Shade asked, “Who else would do it? It doesn’t sound like it was random. You were targeted.”
“Don’t know,” I replied. I then tried to lighten the mood by telling Megan that Lane had agreed to perform in the play. She laughed when I told her how I had ‘auditioned’ him by getting him to sing the do-re-mi song on the way home from school the day before.
She leaned over and hugged me. “That is wonderful, Casey. Lane is absolutely adorable. The audience will fall in love with him.”
I looked at Shade and laughed. “You’d better be careful, though. I think Lane has a crush on Megan.”
She asked, “Why should Shade be worried?”
I laughed again and said, “He might try to take you away from Shade.”
Megan glanced quickly over at Shade, and then she sat back and laughed. When she finished, she looked at Shade and then back at me. “You think Shade and I are dating?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied. “Aren’t you?”
She laughed again and said, “Shade and I are many things to each other, but being boyfriend and girlfriend are not one of them.” I looked at Shade and he was blushing.
I said confusedly, “I don’t get it.” I glanced over at Shade and Megan as they looked at each other and smiled.
Megan stood, reached for my hand and pulled me to my feet. “You will,” she giggled as she pulled me down the aisle toward the stage. Shade was following closely behind.
Megan left to talk to Max, and Shade spent most of the period showing me around behind the stage. We really didn’t get a chance to talk privately because he was usually surrounded by other students. It was obvious that they depended on his expertise in developing the set. I thought it was amazing that he could juggle going to school, working on the set design for the play, and then head off afterwards to work several hours at a low wage job.
However, he seemed to take everything in stride. Even when his battery died on Saturday, he didn’t react like most people. I probably would have taken a bat and shattered a window or two. He merely pushed the car out of the street and quietly bemoaned losing his job as a result. But he didn’t show any sign of giving up. He immediately went to his old boss and got another job.
I wished that I possessed his calm attitude. Students were already beginning to panic, and the play was only in the beginning stages of production. He spoke to them calmly, assuring them that they didn’t need to worry. I could tell by their attitude toward him that they believed what he was saying. Megan may be the director of the production, but Shade was obviously the leader.
My eyes focused on his face when he asked, “What?”
“What, what?” I replied.
He smiled and began to laugh. “You looked like you were a million miles away.” His smile turned to a worried look. “Are you okay, Casey?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied with a forced smile. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
He put his hand on my shoulder and led me away from the others. “You’ve been through a lot,” he said. “When I met you, you were running away.”
I protested, “I wasn’t running away.”
He rubbed my back gently and said, “It doesn’t matter.” He stopped and looked at the bruises on my face. “You got in a fight with Mike, and just today your locker got trashed.” He looked around before adding, “I have an idea Mike might be responsible for that, too.”
“It crossed my mind,” I responded.
“Anyway, Casey,” he said worriedly as he stared into my eyes. “If you ever need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, you can depend on me.”
“Thanks,” I replied as I blinked away tears.
He rubbed my back again. “I mean it,” he said again. Suddenly, he started laughing. I gave him a puzzled look.
“I only charge two hundred dollars an hour,” he laughed. “And seeing as how you’ve already paid, then I guess we’re even.”
“Yeah,” I replied as I returned his smile.
When Lane and I arrived home from school, there was a note on the kitchen counter from Karen telling us not to prepare dinner. I asked Lane, “I wonder what that means?”
Lane cheered and said excitedly, “We are going to a restaurant tonight!”
“A restaurant?” I asked. “Do you guys eat out often?”
“Not a lot,” he replied. “Only on special occasions.” He scrunched up his face. “I wonder if it’s someone’s birthday? It’s not mine. Is it yours?”
“No,” I responded. “My birthday is the day after New Year’s.”
“Well,” he replied as he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the steps leading to the family room. “It’s something special. I hope we go to that neat place that serves spaghetti. I like spaghetti.”
“I got that,” I laughed. “You ate two plates of it the other night.”
I went to my room while Lane sat on the couch and watched cartoons. I dropped onto my bed and fell asleep for about an hour before Lane came bounding into the room and jumped on the bed. “Mommy says to get your butt up,” he giggled. “She told me to tell you to wear something nice, too.”
Lane was already dressed to go out. He was wearing a green polo shirt and Docker pants. It was the first time I hadn’t seen him wearing shorts or jeans. I opened my luggage bag and rummaged through it until I found something suitable to wear. I examined the clothes, and they were rather wrinkled.
I asked Lane, “Do you guys have an iron around here?”
“Yes, Silly,” he giggled. “Come on, I’ll show you where the laundry room is.” On the way, Karen stopped me and attempted to take the clothes from me.
“I’ll do them,” she insisted. She was already dressed in a powder blue dress. It wasn’t formal wear, but it wasn’t casual dress, either. She looked really stunning.
I pulled my clothes from her and said, “I got this. I’ve been doing my own clothes since I was ten.”
“My goodness,” she smiled. “What a perfect gentleman. I wish all my boys would take a lesson from you.” Lane started giggling behind me.
I was ironing my pants when Rodney and Curtis arrived home. I heard Karen tell them to get dressed. Curtis started ranting that he had better things to do than go out and eat. When Karen questioned him about it, he said he had to call some girl for a date on Saturday night.
“That’s not that important to miss a dinner out with your family,” she insisted as she told him to go get dressed.
He asked sarcastically, “Is what’s his name going?”
I’ve seen my mother get mad before. I was used to it. However, her worst tantrum wouldn’t even begin to compare to the verbal assault Karen gave Curtis. It began in the living room and continued in his bedroom where Karen slammed the door so I couldn’t hear.
I had assumed all this time that Curtis and Rodney were pretty much free to do what they wanted to do. However, I guess Karen had drawn lines that they weren’t permitted to cross. Listening to her verbal assault on Curtis, I guess I was one of those lines.
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when Karen appeared at the door. “Are you ready, Casey?”
I muttered with a mouthful of toothpaste, “Give me a minute.”
I looked at her in the mirror when she said, “I’m sorry for Curtis’s rude behavior. It won’t happen again.”
I didn’t have a chance to respond before she turned and walked away.