Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Affective Needs--Chapter Eighteen

**New chapters posted every Wednesday**

Staring down at the text from my mother, I considered lying to her for half a second before I realized it was already way too late for that. If it was the middle of the school day, and my mother, who worked at the school, was wondering WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?, it was a pretty good bet that she had already checked all the likely on-campus excuses I would have been able to come up with.
Sorry . . . at the coffee shop. I texted her back. I would cling to the edge of truth and hope that it at least earned me some bonus points. I was ditching school. I shouldn’t be, but I was. My mother found out, and there would be a reasonable punishment and that would be the end of it.
Who’s with you? Was her next text.
And my heart, it stopped, and I could have sworn I was going to have a seizure right there in front of Porter and the two baristas working the counter of Coffee Cabana.
“What’s wrong?” Porter asked.
I looked up at him then, my brain frantically trying to spin a way out of what was about to happen. My phone buzzed in my hands. I looked down and saw my mother’s next question.
Is Porter Creed with you?
“Shit,” I whispered.
“What is it?” Porter asked again and tried to see my phone over my shoulder.
My right thumb pressed the Y.
“It’s your mom?” Porter asked, I noted that his voice was an octave or two higher than normal.
My left thumb pressed the E.
“How does she know my name?” He leaned away from me. “Did you tell her about me?”
My left thumb moved to the S.
“Not exactly,” I said. My right thumb hovered over the Send button for half a second before I completely gave up hope of figuring out a fantastic lie. I pressed send—Yes.
Yes, Porter Creed was with me, and yes we were ditching school together.
Both of you, get back to school and meet me in Principal Connor’s office. NOW.
Porter’s head was pressed next to mine and we read her message together.
“She went to the principal?” Porter exclaimed. “Crap! That seems kind of extreme.”
I swallowed and took a breath. “I don’t think so,” I said. My mother wouldn’t have gone to the principal. If my mother had figured out on her own that I had ditched school and that Porter was with me, she would have just handled it on her own.
I had a horrible feeling that something much worse had happened.
Porter stood up and grabbed his bag from the floor. “Well, it sure looks like it.”
And, of course, there was the other side of how this was going to blow up in my face. Porter didn’t know that my mother was Ms. Carrie Ann, school psychologist, coupon giver, Porter’s very own case manager, giant psych file keeper. “There’s something I haven’t told you,” I whispered.
When I told him who my mother was, how she knew who he was, all the blood drained from his face and his forehead bunched up into an angry scowl. “So . . .” He ran his hand through his hair and his eyes looked around Coffee Cabana like he was trying to find a solid thing to hang on to. “So, what . . . you know about my whole life?”
He didn’t even give me a chance to answer. He pushed past me and out the glass door that chimed loudly with his exit.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” The car ride from Coffee Cabana to the school parking lot took about eight minutes—Porter didn’t speak to me even once despite my repeated attempts to explain and apologize to him. When we got to the school, Porter had the car door opened and slammed behind him before I finished setting Vader’s parking brake.
“Porter!” I called across the parking lot and tried to catch up with him, but I was no match for his long, fast strides. I didn’t even come close until we were both standing at the receptionist’s desk outside Principal Connor’s office. “We have an appointment,” Porter told her.
Cheryl, the white-haired receptionist who had probably been working here since before the school even opened, raised her eyebrows and twisted her red-lipsticked mouth in an Mm hmm I know all about your “appointment” look. “Go on in,” she sighed.
Porter moved around Cheryl’s desk and headed for Principal Connor’s door, but I didn’t move. I could see my mother and Principal Connor through the large plate-glass window. He was sitting behind his desk; she was standing and staring back at me, waiting for me to follow Porter inside.
The look on her face—it was like watching her juggle emotions. She was mad, yes. But more than mad, my mother was confused, anxious, and really, really scared. A fresh wave of dread rolled through me but I forced my body to follow Porter into the office.
Three chairs were carefully positioned in a semicircle in front of the desk. Obviously Principal Connor and my mother had had time to prepare exactly how this meeting would go down while Porter and I were busy getting here. My mother sat in the chair closest to the desk while Porter took the one farthest from her. I got stuck in the middle, directly facing Principal Connor.
On the desk in front of me, each and every pass I had forged for Porter and myself were stacked into piles next to a piece of white paper filled with columns of dates that someone had taken the time to examine and highlight in bright yellow. My eyes quickly scanned this and read Attendance Record—Porter Creed. I could only assume the Attendance Record—Ruth Robinson was underneath.
On the other side of the desk, Principal Connor took a deep breath, leaned forward in the chair, and steepled his hands in front of him. “Ruth.” His eyes met mine then focused on Porter. “Porter. We seem to have a problem here.”

My mother’s silence was an awful, ugly, horrible punishment. It was so much worse than yelling. At least yelling I could wrap my brain around, yelling I could respond to, maybe even yell back—even though I had absolutely no right to. At least if she yelled at me I could get mad at her for coming unglued, for losing her temper. If she lost her temper, then maybe I could get mad back because she would jump to unreasonable conclusions just like every other normal parent on the planet.
But no.
My mother, the child psychologist, wasn’t yelling.
Even though I could totally tell she was more pissed off at me than she had ever been in her entire life.
Still, she wasn’t yelling.
She didn’t even look at me, only held up her hand—silence.
I shouldn’t say anything right now. Really. I should just shut up, stare out the dirty passenger window of my mother’s Camry, and wait for her to begin lecturing me on how completely crappy my life was going to be from now until I left for college in the fall.
But I couldn’t help myself. “I’m really sorry,” I said, staring at the side of her face, trying to gauge if there was even a hint of movement, the slightest softening of her steely gaze out the front windshield.
She bit her lips and closed her eyes. Her chest filled with air, held it, then let it all out in one loud push from her mouth. When she opened her eyes again, they focused only on the road.
She was thinking, deciding how she was going to handle the giant mess I had gotten us both in.
Yes. My mother was in trouble too—and it was all my fault. Principal Connor had asked where I had gotten all the passes from in the first place. Once he realized that I had practically unrestricted access to my mother’s office, and had taken full advantage of that access, he had cleared his throat, “Yes, well. Carrie Ann, we’ll discuss that privately at a later time.”
My mother had trusted me—and I had betrayed that trust. I had no idea what would happen to her. Could she lose her job over it? The thought made me sick with worry and guilt. I wanted to tell her, again, how sorry I was—but she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say right now.
I gave up trying to engage her before she was ready and stared at the bright and beautiful day outside the car. Earlier, in Coffee Cabana with Porter, before I realized that my life was about to come crumbling down all around me, I had been loving the feel of the warm sun on my face, the sound of happy people out enjoying the day. Now, it felt like a cruel contrast, a bright light shining on the huge mess I was in.
Porter and I had both received three-day suspensions.
It meant nothing at all to Porter; he had probably been suspended a hundred times before. As soon as Principal Connor had made the announcement about our fate, Porter smirked, shook his head, and asked, “Are we done now?”
Principal Connor considered Porter for a second before he sighed and sat back in his chair, “Yes, we’re done. I’ll try calling your father again to let him know what’s happened and that you are to return to school on the fifteenth.”
Porter got up, swung his ratty bag over his shoulder and said, “Don’t bother.” For half a second, before he walked out of the office, his eyes met mine and I held my breath. Porter put on a big act, and he had maybe even fooled my mother and Principal Connor, but because I knew him, really knew him—I saw the truth.
The same truth I’d seen that first day when the cops had restrained him in the hall.
I saw Porter’s desperation.
And then he was gone.
My mother pulled her car into our garage, shut off the engine, and sat still, staring out the windshield. I didn’t dare move a muscle to get out until she did.
“We’ll get your car later,” was all she said before opening her door and getting out. I watched from the passenger seat as she opened the door to the house and went inside without any of her things or even a single glance back to see if I was coming.
My bottom lip quivered and, even though there was no one around to see it, I bit into the soft flesh to try and keep it still as tears welled up behind my lids.
My best friend hated me, my boyfriend wasn’t speaking to me, and my mother was so disappointed in me she wouldn’t even look at me. I had gone from on top of the world to complete crap in less than twenty-four hours and, quite frankly, it was more than I could deal with.
In the privacy of my mother’s Camry, hot, salty tears rolled down my face. I let them fall.

Thank you for reading chapter eighteen of Affective Needs. A new chapter is posted every Wednesday. If you don't feel like waiting for updates, here is the link to my book page and all the vendors that carry my books. Happy reading!

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