Roger crashed into his office. His sanctuary. It was only two fifteen, but he wanted a drink. Calls first.
He pulled out is cell phone and decided to call the cop again. But the phone buzzed in his hand before he could find the number.
“Hello,” Roger said.
“Hi, Mr. Thompson? This is Amanda Mateo, one of David’s teachers.”
“Hi. Ms. Mateo. Yeah, we met in August.”
“Oh, yeah, right. Parents’ Night. Of course. Listen, I wanted to find out how David’s doing. I felt so bad yesterday. Is he okay?”
Roger wasn’t sure how much to trust this woman. Her class led to his son’s brutal beating. And it opened up a rift in his marriage.
But Roger knew David needed allies, and David seemed to trust her. “David seems to be doing better today. He has a lot of cuts and puncture wounds. And concussions are scarier now than when I was a kid.”
“I am so sorry,” Amanda said. “Mr. Thompson, I know you probably think I’m terrible for what I did. And it sounds awful to say I was following orders, but I didn’t know what would happen. If I’d known, I’d have said ‘no’ to the lesson plan.”
Roger heard something in her voice. Sincerity? Pain? Guilt? “Well, David is pretty adamant that you were not the problem, Ms. Mateo. He said you helped him.”
She seemed to think about that information. “I tried to. But only after I followed the plan. I really didn’t expect something like that to happen. I want David to be alright. He is a great, great kid.”
“Yeah, he is,” Roger said. “He is.”
“So, I also wanted to tell you something else,” Amanda said. “I talked to Sergeant Franklin today, and he had me give a sworn statement about what happened. It looks like my statement is consistent with David’s. But some other statements are very different.”
“Yeah, Franklin warned me about that yesterday,” Roger said.
“I don’t know what’s going on. The school tried to make me sign a statement that made David look like a monster. I refused. That’s when I went to the police and gave them my statement.”
“What do you mean, making David a monster?” Roger asked.
“I can show you the statement they wanted me to sign. It’s awful. It’s all lies. I got suspended for refusing to sign it, but I’m not going to throw David under the bus. Never. He’s a great kid. He got beat up by eight kids. The principal did nothing to help him. If I didn’t go down there and try to break it up I don’t know what would have happened.”
Any reservations Roger held about Ms. Mateo’s credibility were gone now. “Thank you,” he said. “Thanks for looking out for David.”
“No problem, sir. I want kids to be kids for a change. They don’t need to be involved in grown-up things. They need to be kids, doing kid things. Mr. Thompson?”
“I’d like to see David, if that’s okay.”
“See David? Yeah. Sure. When?”
“When you think it’s okay. I don’t want to disturb him if he’s not ready.”
Roger thought about David’s condition. “Why don’t we see how he’s doing tomorrow? I know it’s Saturday, but he’s supposed to be sleeping a lot until the headaches subside.”
“That’s fine. I don’t have any plans tomorrow.. Or Sunday, except for mass. Will you call me when you think he’s ready?”
“Of course. This number?”
“Yeah. That’s my cell phone. If I don’t answer, just leave a message.”
“Okay. I will. Thank you. Thank you for protecting him. And I know you were just doing your job when this all started. I don’t blame you at all.”
“Thank you, Mr. Thompson. That makes me feel better. Please tell David I am thinking about him and praying for him. I’m going to light a candle for him.”
Roger wasn’t Catholic, but he knew lighting a candle for someone is a pretty big deal for Catholics. “That’s wonderful, Ms. Mateo. Thank you. it means a lot.” And he was serious. Her words, her call, meant a lot to him in that moment.
“David will be thrilled to see you.”
“Me, too. Talk soon.”
After the call, Roger remembered meeting all of David’s teachers in August. Natalie was there, too, of course. The teachers that Natalie liked, Roger didn’t. And the teachers that Roger liked, Natalie didn’t.
Ms. Mateo was one of the teachers Roger liked.
“You just thought she was hot,” Natalie said of Ms. Mateo.
“No,” Roger said. “She really seemed to like David. And she’s friendly. But, yeah, she’s pretty, too.”
“She’s like twenty-two, Grandpa. Get over it,” Natalie told him.
“She’s closer to twenty-eight or twenty-nine. She just looks twenty-two,” said Roger. “But I’m happily married.”
Natalie looked at her husband. “Maybe you are,” she said. “Maybe.”
“Who was that?” Natalie asked. Roger didn’t notice when she walked into his office.
“David’s teacher,” he said. “The one who broke up the fight. Ms. Mateo.”
“What did she want?” Natalie said.
“She wants to see David.”
Natalie looked at her husband for a few seconds, then turned and started to leave. “I hope you said no,” she said as she walked down the hall.
How am I going explain this, Roger thought.
to be continued
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.