What Lies Ahead
The funeral was the next day, so we missed one more day of school. I made a mental note to talk to Mrs. Polaski about all our missed days. I’m not sure how many days a student could miss before it becomes a serious problem as the girls like cheerleading, and I didn’t want to hurt their eligibility.
The funeral itself was pretty small. No one Mr. Hollabrand worked with showed up; which, I guess, considering the implications of who he was working for and how that was involved in his death, was a good thing.
Vicki was a wreck, and she spent most of the service bracketed between Zoe and Tami, who were trying to comfort her. Mom stuck around with Mrs. Hollabrand, holding her hand and offering her comfort.
Some of their family friends also showed at the service, but since we brought them to our house, the bonds between my family and Vicki’s mom had grown. Mom in particular had spent a lot of time with her.
What surprised me the most was that Emily stuck with me holding my hand. The thing with Vicki had happened on the heels of my disastrous date with Emily, and we hadn’t really resolved anything. We had put it aside for the good of Vicki, but even after we brought Vicki back home, Emily was still standoffish with me.
This is why I was shocked when she took my hand at the funeral and stayed by my side. Walking out of the church, on the way to the grave site, I turned my head to say something to her, and Emily shook her head, indicating she didn’t want to talk about anything.
We stayed together through the rest of the proceedings and all the way home, when she finally broke away from me without saying anything. I hoped this was a sign that we might be able to heal the rift between us. Or at least take a step towards that.
I spent the rest of the day with Vicki, comforting her.
The next morning arriving at school I broke off from the girls, and headed to the front office. I sat until after the first bell, since Mrs. Polaski had to do morning announcements and other stuff at the beginning of every day. The school secretary told me that I would get a pass when I went to my first period class.
Eventually Mrs. Polaski came out of her office and waved me in. She seemed pretty agitated.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Grey?”
“I wanted to check with you about absences. Because of what happened to Vicki’s family, I have missed several days of school, already. I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess up this year accidentally.”
“The policy is that you receive a warning after three unexcused absences and you could be expelled or not awarded credit after five unexcused absences in a semester.
So far, all of your absences have been excused, so that doesn’t really apply to you. There is, however, the ninety-percent rule. It says you must attend ninety percent of the days a class is held, in order to receive credit in that class, regardless if the absences are excused or not.”
“We have, like, a hundred and seventy five days of school right? That means its seventeen days or so, right? So we should be fine, right?” I asked.
“That sounds correct. Unless you plan on missing a bunch more days, you should be fine.”
“Great,” I said getting up and opening the door to her office. “Thanks for your time, Mrs. Polaski.”
“That’s what we are here for, Mr. Grey.”
I stopped half way out the door.
“Are you ok, Mrs. Polaski? You seem pretty upset about something.”
“Just school administration stuff. Nothing that affects you I think, since you aren’t in any of the music or art programs.”
“Is something happening to those classes?”
“It seems the state,” she started to say and stopped. “That’s not important. Get a pass and head to class. You’ve already missed a lot this week.”
After school I swung by work and made a bee-line for Jonathan’s office.
“I need you to do me a favor,” I said walking through his door.
“Something is going on with the school’s art programs that has the administration shook up. Could you look into it, and let me know what’s going on?”
“Sure thing,” he said. “While you’re here, we also need to talk about the MilTech contract. Let me get Ted and Ronald.”
I plopped down in one of the chairs across from the desk and waited for them to join us.
“Did you tell him,” Ted said to Jonathan as he walked in.
“We’ve closed on the deal with MilTech,” he said, sitting in the chair next to me. “This is going to be a big contract. Not only are we talking about the new ships they are designing, but their bid on a major overhaul of older vessels just got approved, too. They want to make our tech part of it.”
“Are we ready for that?”
“Yep. We have contracts in place to protect us long term and we agreed they would get first bite at improvements. We are sending Ronald up to Virginia this week to work with some of their designers. We will be on the hook for some of the more sensitive assembly, here. They will deal with the install. Getting our production line set up is Ronald’s first task when he gets back from Virginia.”
“Excellent. I haven’t seen the numbers yet.”
“We took a smaller upfront in return for a small piece of their bid and any future bids that incorporate our designs. Long run, this is going to be worth more than what we made on the drone sale.”
“Outstanding,” I said and then turned to Ronald. “What about the larger installations we discussed?”
“We are still working on that. As output increases, our efficiency starts dropping. For it to be viable, we need to get that to drop off or at least slow down some.”
“But you still think it’s doable, right?”
“Yep. I have a team that is going to keep working on it.”
“What about the test plant you set up?”
“We are going to start dismantling it and closing it down. It was never meant for long term use. We are back to working out of the lab until we find something more permanent. I was going to work on that after I got the production for MilTech set up.”
“I have some ideas on both of those. Talk to me before you do anything.”
We did a rundown of other stuff we had in the works, and then the meeting broke up so I could go and do my homework.
Being a kid sucks sometimes.
Vicki and her mom continued to stay with us the rest of the week and through the weekend. We made a trip en masse to their house on Saturday and picked up a bunch of clothes and other stuff they needed on a day to day basis, and hauled it back to my house.
Most nights Zoe sneaked into my room after the rest of the house went to bed. I guess it’s not really sneaking, since Mom knows it is happening, but we always try to keep it from being too obvious. Saturday Vicki had joined her. She was still sad, but sleeping cuddled between me and Zoe seemed to be helping.
I was surprised on Sunday when, instead of either of my normal two bed mates, Emily walked in the door wearing a robe and sat at the edge of my bed. “Emily? Is everything ok?” I asked.
“Yes. I wanted to talk.”
“Ok,” I said.
‘We need to talk,’ or variations of that phrase, rarely work out well for the person being talked to; so, I got a little nervous.
“I accused you of some pretty terrible things on our date. That’s why I wanted to talk to you.”
“A lot of what you said is true. I am not trying to take advantage of you, or anyone, but my biology makes things ... complicated.”
“I get that. I don’t know how much of it was me being mad thinking you were taking advantage of me, and how much it was me still being angry at my dad. Looking at how you handled the whole thing with Vicki and her parents, and everything else you’ve done to help me with my family, Tami with her family stuff, and Zoe last year, I can see how unfair everything I said was.”
She leaned over and wrapped me in a tight hug.
“I’ve missed you,” I said.
She pulled away, leaned in, and kissed me. It started as soft and tentative, and then slowly ramped up. Her hands gripped the back of my head, moving through my hair, as I started letting mine caress her arm and the side of her body.
She finally broke our kiss and stood up. I tried to stand up too, thinking we were done; but she pushed me back down on the bed.
Emily took a breath, paused, then opened and dropped her robe. She was wearing nothing beneath it.
She was gorgeous. Even though she was wearing more traditional clothes these days, they still tended to be on the baggy side. She had started putting on a little weight, which was good. Her parents had underfed her, and her grandparents had been worse. She was finally eating regularly for the first time in a long while, and the effects were great.
She had gotten a haircut over the weekend. Now her brown hair, that used to be long and stringy, was shoulder length; and, thanks to help from the other girls, was being properly managed.
“You are beautiful,” I said in a whisper.
She looked at me with those large brown eyes.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.
“More than anything.”
Taking her hand, I led her to the bed. All the other girls had more experience and took the lead, but this time I had to take the lead, I did my best to make sure everything was as gentle and loving as possible.
Afterwards, as I lay next to her, I noticed she was crying.
“Baby, are you ok?”
“I’m perfect,” she said, looking up into me with misty eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I heard an ‘awww’ sound and we both sat up, looking towards the door. At some point Vicki and Zoe had crept in, and were standing by the closed bedroom door.
“You two are so adorable,” Zoe said.
“And that was so hot,” Vicki said.
Both girls shed their clothes, and crawled into bed with us; Zoe behind Emily, and Vicki behind me. We all drifted off to sleep, and even Vicki smiled a bit, which was refreshing to see.
I hadn’t planned on going into the office during the beginning of the week, so I could be there with Emily as she went through the sickness that usually followed the first part of the change. I had called Ted and let him know I needed a few days and would come in on Wednesday, so I was surprised when Jonathan called Monday night and told me he needed me to swing by the next day before I went home.
I was more surprised when I saw Carter was in the office with him.
“What happened?” I asked, knowing something had gone wrong.
“Your preacher friend is starting to turn up the heat. You had asked me to keep an eye on him, and he has the community putting the full court press on the family over Judy.”
“I guess my warning didn’t take,” I said.
“Ok, let’s release what we have.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Jonathan asked.
“Not all of it and not the worst of it, but just enough to get him some negative attention. Call it a shot across the bow. I want him to know we are serious.”
“So, what should we release?”
“Good question,” I said, turning back to Carter. “What do you think?”
“The worst we have is the tape where he talks about the age of the girls he wants as his brides and the selling off of his old brides. Let’s call that the nuclear option.”
“Let’s hold onto that for now. If we have to use it, then we use it, but Tami’s parents are referenced on that tape, and I don’t want to hurt her family any more than we have to.”
“I guess next down is a record I got showing a payment from Taylor to a couple of state representatives. There was a push to look into Taylor and his group that seemed to evaporate shortly after the payment.”
Coming of Age /