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Chapter 1

I jump straight up when my phone rings at 3:00 a.m. I’m not afraid of bad news or anything because I’ve gone through this every night this week. I pick up the phone and hold it to my ear. No greeting is needed.

“Bitch!” Click. I unplug the phone, which has become my nightly routine. I hate doing this because I’m always so afraid of missing important phone calls, but it’s a chance I take for my sanity. I am so sick of this. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve called the police—no help. I’ve called the operator who directed me to the phone company who was absolutely no help at all. Instead of a number showing up on the caller ID, it shows up private caller. The phone company claims they can’t give out information on anyone who’s chosen a private number.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I simply cannot give out that information,” the operator, who had the deepest southern accent I’ve ever heard, informed me. I was so fed up, I even went as far as to request the police put a tap on my phone, but apparently, they don’t do that for this type of harassment case. The last officer I spoke with informed me that no crime has been committed. The person never threatened me. They’re just being annoying as hell. I’ve seen enough movies to know that I should never take anything for granted. This person is obviously disturbed and who knows? This could just be the beginning. At any time, he or she could decide it’s time to go a step farther, whatever that may be. I guess once this sicko kidnaps me or my husband Mark then the authorities will finally take them seriously.

I’ve known Mark for eighteen years; we’ve been married for fourteen of them. I can’t imagine my life without him, so the thought of someone hurting him makes me angry, and I know he feels the same way. I just don’t understand why innocent people are harassed and no one seems to have a problem with it. I swear the law can be so backward at times. Wouldn’t it make more sense to handle this psycho now before things go too far and someone gets hurt—or worse, killed?

“Another hang up?” Mark asks as he turns over to face me.

“Yeah. Go back to sleep.” I wish I could, but my mind won’t allow it. I just can’t figure out who could be doing this to me. The only person I can think of is Ms. Davis, my problem student’s mother. She and I have had several run-ins these last few weeks. I’ve been teaching at Greenwood Elementary for ten years, ever since I graduated from Southern University, here in Baton Rouge. In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had to deal with a parent as outrageous as this one. This is truly your parent from hell. She’s obviously not happy with me being her child’s teacher, but from what I hear she’s not happy with any of his teachers. I’ve never heard any of them complaining about being harassed though. This just doesn’t make sense to me.

This morning, like every morning before I get out the bed, I take a few minutes to gaze at my husband as he sleeps. Sometimes I still can’t believe the life Mark and I have built together. I look at him knowing he could’ve had any girl he wanted in high school, but he chose me. Dating Mark wasn’t easy. He’s always been very athletic and has the body to prove it. Mark stands every bit of six feet tall with broad shoulders and a stomach most men only dream of. When we were in high school, the girls use to go crazy when he’d walk in the room. All of a sudden, they all had a little more twist in their walk and oh my God, I thought they would break their backs trying to stick their chest out. Even now I notice women eyeing him whenever we’re out together. I can only imagine what happens when he’s alone. Mark’s always been the most handsome man I know. He reminds me a lot of Denzel Washington. Not that they look alike or anything, but to me they’re both average-looking men with above-average sex appeal. I guess that’s why I never understood why he was so crazy about me.

I’m the exact opposite of Mark. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body, and if I didn’t work out, I would surely fall into the obese category. My weight has always been a big issue for me. Mark never says anything when I do put on a few pounds, but I always feel like he looks at me differently. That’s what I mean when I say being with him has never been easy. I always feel like I have to compete with all those supermodel-looking women. Up until now Mark’s never given me a reason to believe he would step out of our marriage, but there’s something different about him. I continue to watch him as a slow grin spread across his face. I wonder what he’s dreaming about and if that smile has anything to do with his sudden mood change.

I can’t allow my thoughts to go there right now. My walk down memory lane has lit a fire in me that only my husband can extinguish.

I reach under the cover and grab for Mr. Richard, which is Mark’s code name for his manhood. Mr. Richard is an inside joke because of the nickname for Richard. Using it as a code name when we’re around friends is so hilarious. In the middle of dinner, out of nowhere he’ll say, “So Holly, I spoke with Mr. Richard, and he really wants to come visit tonight” or something crazy like that. I try with everything in me not to burst out laughing. I don’t think anyone would’ve understood why that statement was so funny.

I stroke Mr. Richard and try to wake him up. My efforts go unnoticed.

“What are you doing?” Mark asks groggily.

“Trying to visit with Mr. Richard before I leave,” I answer in my most seductive voice.

“No, babe. Not now. Mr. Richard’s very tired.”

“You know what? Mr. Richard is always tired lately. Well, how about you give him a message from me. Tell Mr. Richard I’m not going to keep trying, and he can keep playing with me if he wants, but don’t get pissed when I’m suddenly never in the mood.”

I get out of bed, angry, and go straight to the shower. I hear him coming in to take his morning pee. I wait for him to open the shower curtain. He’s going to try to redeem himself. I get the shock of my life because he flushes, washes his hands, and leaves. Mark is the horniest man I know. He would have sex every day all day if he could. I remember about a year ago he begged me to take a week off work because he needed his fix, as he said. I think we may have left the bed once out of the whole week. We didn’t leave the house at all. That’s how high his sex drive is. For him to go from needing it all the time to barely wanting it at all makes me think something is wrong, but what?

I’m out the house by 6:30 each morning. My commute to work is about thirty minutes. It’s taking me some time to get use to this drive. Mark and I bought our dream house a year ago. As soon as we drove into the gated community with our realtor, I knew that this is where I was meant to be. I always describe the houses in my community as mini mansions. My two-

story, three thousand square foot house is everything I’ve ever wished for. Mark and I bought the house brand new so there was no need for any upgrades. My mom always says that our house is way too big for just the two of us, but that’s her opinion. Mark and I are big entertainers, and we

love having so much space and such a huge backyard for our family cookouts. This house is why I didn’t mind sacrificing my morning sleep to get to work on time. I get up an hour earlier now, but to be able to drive through my neighborhood with all the perfectly landscaped yards with the knowledge I actually live here is well worth it.

I’ve started a new morning routine, which isn’t good, but it’s become a habit. I can’t seem to get my day started without stopping by Starbucks for my morning coffee. Mark keeps saying that I’m throwing my money away. “Why would you want to make the rich man richer?” he asks. He thinks I should make my coffee at home, but he doesn’t get it, and I guess I don’t either. It’s something about coming here that makes me feel good. These days even if I didn’t want the coffee, I would stop anyway just to aggravate him.

After leaving Starbucks, I put in my favorite CD and begin listening to my inspirational music. I need all the inspiring I can get today, and no one inspires me more than Yolanda Adams. I’ve seen a lot of her interviews, and just knowing her struggle and seeing where she is now is enough to inspire anyone. She makes me feel like there’s nothing I will encounter that I can’t handle. As I listen, I try to clear my mind from all negativities and only allow the positive things in life to invade my thoughts.

I don’t know how I went from positive thinking to Tyler Davis. That’s usually what happens when I’m determined to think good things. I know it’s the devil trying to bring me down because I’m listening to my good gospel music, and unfortunately, I’m feeding right into it. I swear I can’t get that little boy out of my head. I wish I could say it’s because he’s so sweet and I just love thinking about him. Wrong! He is everything but sweet—is there any word worse than horrible? If so, that’s the word I would use to describe him. He’s a chip off his mother’s block. It’s no wonder he behaves the way he does because she’s not a good example for him to imitate. I’m trying hard to prepare myself to deal with him today, but obviously it’s not working.

I arrive at work and sign in. I’m usually one of the first ones here besides the custodians.

“Morning, Mr. Jack,” I say as I open my room door. Mr. Jack is the lead custodian. He’s very sweet, but I do warn all the young teachers to watch him. I see him looking when he thinks no one is watching him. Mr. Jack is probably old enough to be their great-grandfather, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.

“Good morning, Mrs. James. How’s it going this morning?”

“Well, Mr. Jack, I could complain, but why? What good would that do?”

“You’re right about that,” he responds.

I go in my classroom and try to mentally prepare for the day. It’s funny how walking into my room always changes my mood. I chose a tropical theme this year and the kids and I both love it. I painted the walls a bluish green, which reminds me of the ocean. I read somewhere it’s supposed to be a very calming color. The decorations are all tropical things like the fish on the walls and the big palm tree in the corner, which we use as our reading center. Of course, it’s not a real palm tree, just one I made from colored paper and a big carpet roll. The response when the kids walked in the room on the first day was priceless. I could tell by their expressions they really loved their new classroom; that, on top of the excitement of now being in the third grade. I can remember that day so well; it’s hard to believe we are at the halfway point already. Once we come back from Christmas break, the rest of the year is going to fly by. I sit at my desk thinking about nothing when I hear Smith unlocking her door. She’s the other third-grade teacher along with Jones and Myers. I often wonder if teachers are the only people who refer to each other by their last names.

This is my first year working with Smith, and we’ve become close. That’s probably because we have two things in common: Tyler and his mom. Smith had the unfortunate opportunity to be his teacher last year.

“Good morning,” she says as she peeps her head in my door.

“Good morning, yourself. My, don’t you look nice today.” I say admiring her black wrap dress and silver accessories.

“Thanks. It’s really the only thing in my closet I didn’t have to iron, so I threw it on.”

“I’ve had those days,” I respond.

“So, did you get in touch with Tyler’s mom yesterday?”

“Unfortunately. I tried to talk with her, but as usual, she wasn’t cooperative. I still think she’s the one making those obscene phone calls every morning.”

“Did you report those? This has been going on long enough.”

“I did, but there’s nothing the police, the operator, or the phone company can do because right now it’s just speculation. I have no proof that it’s her.”

“I don’t understand why she would harass you. I mean she and I had some heated discussions last year, but it never got to this point. She doesn’t seem like the type to hide behind a phone.”

“I know. That’s why I’m not one hundred percent sure it’s her, but she’s the only person I can think of. She has no reason to be upset with me—I’m just trying to help her out. The fact is her child is terrible, and she needs to get him under control now before he’s too far gone.”

“What about his dad? Have you tried talking to him about his behavior?”

“His emergency card didn’t have a number for his dad.”

“I think they separated last year. From my understanding it’s a big mess. He’s Tyler’s stepdad so she probably didn’t put it on purpose. It’s too bad because he believes in disciplining him. Last year I had to stop him from trying to whip him in class. Now you know I really wanted to turn my head and act like I didn’t see a thing, but I decided to do the right thing.”

“I know exactly what you mean. If Tyler was anything like he is now I don’t blame you. I see why you only agreed to move up with your class if they removed him.”

“Girl, I could not go through another year like last year.”

“I can say now that I completely understand. Tyler makes it very hard for anyone to like him.” Immediately when the words left my mouth, I wished I could take them back. I know I shouldn’t be telling this teacher I didn’t like this child, but her response made me feel a little better.

“I know. I used to cringe when I saw him walk through the door. It’s sad I felt that way, but I couldn’t help it.”

Smith and I talk for a while longer, then finish preparing for the arrival of our students. Even though my classroom is the very last one on the hall, I can still tell when they are coming. They sound like wild horses running down the hall. I hear teachers hollering, “No running. Go back to the door and walk, mister.” My students began to flow in all jolly and eager to start learning. Well, a teacher can dream, can’t she? I do my morning greetings to each of the students. Everyone is here except Tyler. I know he’ll be here shortly, so I go ahead and start class.

“Boys and girls,” I begin, “let’s take our seats and get ready to do our journal for today.” I call on a student to read the journal prompt and tell them all to get busy. As they’re writing I proceed to call roll and take up lunch money. With all the inventions in the world, you would think someone could invent an easier way for teachers to start their morning.

The beginning of my day runs very smooth, maybe because my star student still isn’t here. I know it’s too good to think he could be absent all day, but I have to admit it is a good thought—take that back, it’s a great thought. As I began introducing my reading lesson, I have an interruption.

“Mrs. James,” Mrs. Craig, the secretary calls over the intercom.

“Yes,” I respond.

“Mr. McNair asks if you can get someone to watch your class. He needs to see you in the office.”

“Okay,” I say. What I really want to ask is where am I supposed to get this mystery person to come in and watch my class. Is there a person on campus he keeps on standby, and if so, why is he hiding them from us? I go next door and ask Smith if she can listen out for my class and explain that I’ve been summoned to the office.

Most of the teachers here absolutely hate being called to the office, probably more than the students. Mr. McNair, the principal, usually has a complaint about something you were doing, had done, or that he dreamed last night you might do. He’s annoying in every way imaginable.

As I walk in the office, I see Tyler and his mom. “Hello,” I say when I enter the room.

There’s no response. I do not feel like going through this drama with her today. Hoping that Tyler had gone home and confessed what a terror he’d been on yesterday and she was here to make him apologize to me was just wishful thinking. She should be upset because she’s dealing with an out-of-control child. For some reason she doesn’t see that.

“Mrs. James,” Mr. McNair says, interrupting my thoughts, “please have a seat so we can get started.”

“Okay. What’s going on?” I ask. My curiosity is really getting the best of me.

“Mrs. James, Tyler informed his mom an incident happened yesterday, and you pushed him out of the class.”

“Excuse me?”

He repeated his statement. I probably look as shocked as I felt.

“Mr. McNair,” I begin, “let me assure you I did not push Tyler—at least not the way he’s making it seem.”

“Then how did you push him?” Mrs. Davis finally speaks, “because obviously you put your hands on him, and you better believe if you did, he’ll be the last child you put your hands on.”

“I will be more than happy to explain what happened, but what I won’t tolerate is you threatening me.”

What she needs to do is chastise her child and maybe we wouldn’t need to have these little meetings.

“Ladies, please,” Mr. McNair steps in. “Let’s remember we are the adults here, and there is a child in the room.”

“I’m sorry,” Ms. Davis responds, still obviously aggravated, “but I don’t allow anyone to put their hands on my child, and that’s just the bottom line. If he’s acting up, then you call me, and I’ll handle him myself. Tyler has one momma, and that’s me. If this little—”

“Okay,” Mr. McNair interrupts again, obviously knowing that the next word out of her mouth isn’t going to be a good one. “Ms. Davis you’re out of line. Maybe it’ll be best if I spoke with you two alone and then decide from there.”

“Ms. Davis,” I address her calmly, ignoring Mr. McNair’s suggestion, mainly because I don’t want to deal with this foolishness any more after today, “yesterday Tyler was completely out of control. I asked him to go across the hall to Ms. Smith’s class until he could cool off. He refused to move. Since it was obvious he was going to be outright disrespectful, I asked another student to come to the office to get Mr. McNair. When Tyler heard this, he decided to go on his own. He walked as far as the door, then stopped. I asked him again to go. He didn’t move. That’s when I took his hand and brought him to Ms. Smith’s class. At no point did I push him or anything else.”

Ms. Davis looks at Tyler and asks, “Is she telling the truth?”

I can’t believe my ears. Never in all my years of teaching have I had a parent to question what I said. I would think if I was so abusive some parent would’ve come forward before now. I’ve been here for ten years. Why would I wait until now to start mistreating children? Apparently, I’m the only one who sees how ridiculous this whole situation is. I can’t believe I’ve been summoned from my classroom wasting valuable teaching time to sit here for this nonsense. Tyler sits there quiet for a few seconds before he finally responds.

“I was sitting at my desk,” he began, sounding like he’s about to cry. “I asked if I could go to the bathroom and Mrs. James said no.”

“What did you do after she told you no?” Mr. McNair asks.

“I started doing my work and that’s when Chris started teasing me.”

“What did you do then?” Mr. McNair asks again.

“I tried to tell Mrs. James but she wouldn’t listen to me.”

“Okay, so let’s get to the part where Mrs. James said you were being disruptive. How were you disrupting the class?”

“I don’t know,” he says.

I’m speechless. Surely, they can tell he’s lying. “Tyler, tell them the truth,” I demand.

“There you go again trying to call my child a liar,” Ms. Davis interjects.

“You cannot tell me that you believe this,” I say almost pleading with her to open her eyes and see the truth.

“Mr. McNair, I’m sorry. I’m not going to sit here another minute and subject my child to this kind of treatment. It’s obvious she sees Tyler as a troublemaker and the least little thing he does, she’s going to blow it up and make it more than it really is,” Ms. Davis says as she stands to leave.

I’m sitting here still dumbfounded by this whole ordeal. I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Putting your hands on a student is a very serious offense. I don’t know what to do to make them believe me. Right now, it’s my word against his. If I could throw this child over my lap and wear his tail out, I would, but of course that’s against the rules in public school. I will not lose my job over this little liar.

I decide to try one more time to get him to tell the truth. “Tyler, you know I never pushed you out the door,” I say, trying to hide how upset I am by these accusations.

He stands next to his mom like he is the most innocent child in the world. I wonder where’s the child I had yesterday, the one who refused to do as I told him, the one who told another student he doesn’t care what I say he’s not leaving. Where is that child? He’s not the little boy who’s sitting before me today. I want to suggest that Mr. McNair talk with the other students, but I’m not sure if I should chance bringing them into this. Most of them are so afraid of Tyler that they will probably go out of their way to defend him and apologize to me later. I don’t know what he does to them, but I do know that they are afraid of him. I’ve even had some kids who were almost suspended because they were taking the rap for something Tyler did. They didn’t care that they would have to go home and deal with upset parents. In their world dealing with the parents was a lot better than dealing with Tyler. I would love to think they would risk everything and back me up, but I can’t take that chance and I can’t put them in that position. This is a battle I’ll have to fight alone.

Mr. McNair assures Mrs. Davis that he will investigate the situation. When they leave, he tells me he will go to bat for me, but for now he has no choice but to put me on leave while he continues to get to the bottom of this mess. I ask how long I’ll be on leave and when it starts. Imagine my shock when he says I’ll be on leave about two days, and it starts immediately. He then tells me to go to my room and prepare for a substitute to come in, and then I’m to report to human resources. They will continue looking into the situation.

I can’t get out of the building fast enough. I call my union from my cell phone, and a representative is meeting me at the school board office. He informs me the situation will be taken care of and assures me I’ll return to work soon. I feel better after talking with him, but still can’t believe I’m going through this. People say it’s a first time for everything, but this is something I can live without experiencing.

After meeting with human resources and my union representative, I head home. It seems like the longest drive ever. I want nothing more than to run into my husband’s arms and have a good cry. I’m so preoccupied that entering my neighborhood does nothing for my mood. Usually, I can be having the worst day and once I arrive here my troubles suddenly seem minute. I guess I didn’t know a real bad day until today. Teaching is what I love the most. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I don’t even want to imagine it.

I enter my house to find it looking and smelling fresh and clean, which tells me one thing, Ms. Laura, our cleaning lady, came by today. When we moved here, I knew it was too much house for Mark and me to keep clean by ourselves, especially with our busy schedules. My mom, who is never short on an opinion, feels we’re living above our means. Sometimes I think she forgets that Mark is an accountant—well was an accountant. He manages our money very well, not to mention the good investments we’ve made over the years. We wouldn’t have hired a housekeeper if we didn’t know we could afford her. I must admit I’m rather spoiled to having her now. My mom and everyone else can say whatever they want, I love having Ms. Laura, and I’m not giving up that luxury.

I walk down the hall and there's Mark sitting at the computer working. Mark started doing medical billing, which allows him to work from home. I was shocked when he told me he was thinking of quitting his job to start this company. While accounting never sounded interesting to me, he always seemed to enjoy it.

“Hey,” he says. “What are you doing home?”

I lift my head to reveal the tears that are now streaming down my face.

“Honey, what happened?” he asks worriedly. “Did you make it to work?”

I pull myself together long enough to tell Mark the whole story. By the time I finish, my eyes are like a running faucet. I’m thinking I’m going to dehydrate with all the water I’m losing. Mark must be thinking the same thing because he goes down the hall into the kitchen and comes back with a bottled water.

“Here,” he says. “Drink this.” He waits until after my first sip before he starts talking again. “So, what are your plans? Surely, you’re not going back to that place. This is utterly ridiculous. Is that what the world has come to? I remember when I was in school, you didn’t dare go home and call yourself telling on the teacher. You were likely to get two whippings—one for telling and another one for causing the teacher to have to fuss. I can’t believe the parents now. It’s because they’re young and can’t take care of themselves. They think they can be these kids’ friends and not their parent.”

Mark goes on and on about the problems with the kids and parents today. I agree, but I’m still too emotionally disturbed to have this conversation with him. His argument is right, but it doesn’t apply to my situation. Ms. Davis only looks to be a couple years younger than me, so I wouldn’t put her in the young and dumb category. I attribute her behavior to ignorance and nothing else. She’s ignorant to the fact that her child is terrible and that she’s only making him act worse.

I excuse myself from the living room and go to our bedroom to be alone. I need a good hot soak to relax my tense muscles. I lay in the tub and replay the events of the day. Each time I think about it, I cry. I don’t know how I’ll be able to face my colleagues when I do return to work. Surely, the word has spread around the school by now. There was no telling what they were saying. My coworkers were known to stir up mess which usually meant concocting an elaborate story that was far from the truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if the story was that I’d beat a child and had to be escorted off campus by the police.

After I had enough of soaking and sulking, I wrap the towel around me and lay across the bed. I decide to check and read my inspirational message for the day, which our church sends to all the members. It helps when I focus on it throughout the day. Right now, I need inspiration. The pastor’s message on let God fight your battles is encouraging. Reading this does make me feel better, but it’s also one of those things that’s easier said than done. I vowed I was not going to stress, that I was going to do just as the message instructed, but I still have those moments where my mind starts to think the worse. Each time the phone rings I think it’s Mr. McNair calling to tell me I’ve been fired. I don’t know if I can handle that kind of news. I’m trying to be strong, but I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

I refocus and get dressed. I need to do something to take my mind off things, so I volunteer to help Mark, which he is happy to accept. During the summer, I usually do a lot of clerical work for him. Things he hates doing and puts off until the last second.

Working on something is just what I need, and my mood was starting to shift, until a message pops up on the computer. Each time Mark receives a new email the sender’s name and title displays. I start to click ignore when I notice the subject says: It’s me. I want to press ignore, but something tells me I may want to read this one for myself. Even as I’m opening the message, I tell myself this is just junk mail or some type of advertisement. So why can’t I shake this feeling? Other than Mark being a little distant, he hasn’t given me any reason to believe he’s doing anything wrong. I know he’s not cheating, so he’s probably just going through a midlife crisis a little early.

I open the email and it’s not an advertisement. My mouth is hanging open as I read the words on the screen. I remember them verbatim. They’re burned in my mind. Hey, Hon, it’s me. Give me a call at your earliest convenience. My heart falls each time I read the message. I’m still staring at the screen when Mark walks in.

“You got it?” he asks.

“Yeah, I definitely got it,” I respond sarcastically.

“Good,” he says as he comes closer to get a few files off the table.

“What’s that?”

“That’s what the hell I want to know.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. What’s this?” I point to the screen then read the words out loud for the first time. They sound even worse out of my head. “Does that jog your memory?”

“Oh, that?” he says, laughing.

“Yes, that, and I don’t see what’s so damn funny.”

“Look, I know you’re upset but calm down and stop jumping to conclusions. That’s an email from Janet Foster. You remember she’s the one who first introduced me to the medical billing business?”

“And when did she forget your name and start calling you Hon?”

“Janet calls everybody hon. Tell me you aren’t jealous,” he says halfway laughing again.

“I’m sorry, but when another woman gets more attention from my husband than I do, then yes I may tend to be a little jealous.”

“This isn’t about that email. You’re still upset about the situation at work. Why don’t you go relax for a while and I’ll fix dinner?”

I decide I should go, but not because I need it, but because if I stay, I will do something I won’t regret later. I’m not buying the Janet story. A few months ago, I probably would’ve believed him without any doubts, but as of lately he’s been acting so differently. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just paranoid.


I serve my two days and return to work. The school board decided there simply isn’t enough evidence to suggest I abused this child in any way. Up until now I’ve had a clean record, not one unhappy parent, and I think that’s something to be proud of. I decide I will walk around with my head held high. I didn’t do anything wrong. I will never do anything to hurt a child. That’s not me. I’m a nurturer—that’s what I do. Surprisingly enough everyone is normal. No one says a word, not even a dirty look. I’m sure they discussed it among their cliques, but like everything else, I’m now old news.

“Hey. Welcome back,” Smith says as she sees me opening my door.

“Hey. Thanks,” I say, happy to be back.

“So, did you enjoy your vacation?”

“I wish it was a vacation. I made myself sick worrying about what the outcome would be and what everyone would think of me.”

“I’ve never been in that situation, but I can believe it isn’t fun.”

“When all of this first happened, I was so angry. I couldn’t believe Tyler would flat-out lie about what happened that day. The more I thought of it I concluded he was probably too afraid to tell the truth.”

“You think so? What would he be afraid of?”

“His mom. I know I was, and I’m grown. Have you met the lady?” I ask, laughing. Smith laughs too because she has met Mrs. Davis on more occasions than she cares to remember.

“Hello, ladies,” Mr. McNair says as he enters the room. “Mrs. James, may I have a word with you?”

“Sure,” I reply.

“If you two will excuse me, I have to go and get prepared,” Smith says as she makes her exit from my room.

“I just wanted to check on you and make sure you understand that I did what I had to do. The handbook clearly states that—”

“Mr. McNair, I’m aware of what the handbook says. I understand your position. You did what you thought was best, and I have no choice but to respect that.”

“Good,” he says. “I also wanted you to know that Mrs. Davis requested that Tyler be removed from your class.”

“Oh really?” is my only response.

“I have to respect her wishes, so I’m moving him to Ms. Jones’ class. If you would, please get his things together.”

“Okay” I respond.

When Mr. McNair leaves, I don’t know if I want to jump up and down or run down the hall shouting for joy. I settle on going across the hall and sharing my news with Smith. I can’t believe it. I’m not going to have to deal with Tyler Davis again.

It would’ve been an exceptional day if it wasn’t for our dreaded weekly faculty meeting. We could’ve discussed the items on the agenda during our grade-level planning meetings. We’ve concluded this is just another way for Mr. McNair to torture us. We sit there listening to him ramble on about absolutely nothing. Eventually, he’s tired of hearing himself talk and allows us to leave. We’re getting out of there like we’ve just been released from prison. I swear the parking lot clears in a matter of minutes. Well, except for those Goody Two-shoes who always feel the need to do a little extra at the end of the day. Honestly, I can’t think of enough to do that will keep me in my classroom until 6:00 p.m. Right now, all I want to do is go home and relax.

The next few weeks at school are great. I hate to think it’s because of Tyler being removed from my class, but I knew it was true. It’s amazing how one child can change the dynamic of a classroom. I can get through a lesson without hearing “Mrs. James, Tyler hit me,” or “Mrs. James, Tyler took my pencil.” Everyone is getting along and working in their cooperative groups the way it was designed to be worked—cooperatively.

I wish I can say my personal life is just as good. I’m still receiving those harassing phone calls that wake me up every morning. I’m tired of getting the runaround with the police. I keep getting the same answer, “We’re sorry, ma’am. There’s nothing we can do. You may want to think of getting a private number.” I’ve thought about it but having to go through the trouble of giving all our friends and family the new number is too much. On top of that, Mark still hasn’t been himself lately. He’s distant and moody. I’m usually too tired from work to give his attitude the attention it deserves, but it’s starting to get old and I’m over it.

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