Caught in a catch twenty-two, Madison Greenrise sat staring at the floor as the silence in the Vice Principle’s office lingered on and on. She felt the gaze of all five adults in the room as they waited for her to speak.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself, young lady?” Vice Principle Bowers said. “First period begins soon. We’d like to get this straightened out before hand.”
Madison glanced around the room. VP Bowers and Mrs. Stone, Madison’s trigonometry teacher, maintained neutral expressions of faculty members giving the illusion of impartiality. They were anything but impartial. Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez, parents of Donny - short for Donovan - Sanchez sat on either side of their son. Donny, looked around the room, trying to find interest in anything but Madison.
“I’d prefer to wait for my mom,” Madison said. “I’m sure she’ll be here any minute.”
“We’ve been waiting for over half an hour, Young Lady,” VP Bower said. “As a doctor, I would think your mother would be more punctual.”
Madison took a deep breath. She hated being called, “young lady,” especially by men. While used as an honorific, middle - aged man tended to only use the combination of “young” and “lady” when they wanted to be dismissive and demeaning at the same time.
The phone on VP Bower’s desk rang. Bower picked it up.
He paused. Madison couldn’t quite make out what the person on the other line said.
“Thank you. Send her in.” Bower hung up. “Well, young lady, it seems your mother decided to join us. Now we can get this matter settled.”
The door opened. Madison’s mother walked in.
The first thing Madison noticed was that her mom’s mouth had tightened into the thin line that indicated that she had gone into what Madison called, “Musashi Mode.” After Madison’s parents divorced, her mom had gotten really into her Japanese heritage, especially The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi and a bunch of other Bushido wisdom and stuff. She took three steps into the office and her gaze fell directly onto her daughter. Madison met her mother’s eyes, bloodshot and sunken, without flinching or looking away. Mom’s black hair was in it’s usual French braid, though messy from having been on shift at the hospital since yesterday, and she wore her wool coat at over her scrubs. Her
VP Bower stood up and walked out from behind his desk.
Mom didn’t look at him. She kept her eyes on Madison.
“Mrs. Greenrise, I’m Gregory Bower, Vice Principle of Discipline. Nice of you to join us.”
Madison’s mom didn’t turn to him. The tired and overworked woman just kept looking at her daughter, waiting for Madison to glance away in shame. Madison did not. Ever since Madison had come to understand the concept of a lie, she hadn’t been able to lie to her mother. When she’d reached adolescence, when Dad had left them, if Madison had done something wrong, she couldn’t maintain eye contact with her mother for more than a few seconds out of shame.
Mr. Bower cleared his throat. “Ah, Mrs. Greenrise—,”
“Doctor Tadeshi,” Mom said.
“Excuse me?” VP Bower said.
Mom turned to face VP Bower. She looked up at the man in the suit who towered over her.
“Excuse me?” Bower said.
“It’s Doctor,” Mom said. “Not, Mrs. And my surname has been Tadeshi since my divorce was finalized, which was before my daughter even began attending your fine Establishment. However, it’s an honest mistake. But, since we’re standing on titles, Gregory Bower, Vice Principle of Discipline, regardless of which name you decide to use, I’d prefer that you remember the ‘Doctor’ part of it.”
“Oh.” For the first time since Madison had been attending Green Hill’s High School, she saw Bower’s ever-present air of authority crack. “I didn’t mean to offend. But—”
“I absolutely believe you didn’t mean to offend,” Mom said. “I appologize for being late. I’m usually more punctual, and I would have been here on time, but last night was one of my ER shifts. It ran over a little. In the past sixteen hours, I’ve dealt with two attempted suicides, one from an eleven your old kid, a convenience store worker who got shot in the stomach, and that was before midnight. Since midnight, I’ve been in surgery working on repairing a severe skull fracture of a fourteen year - old - boy. Seems his Dad felt beating him with a croquette mallet was an acceptable punishment for not getting his chores done. My assistant surgeon is still at the hospital dealing with police reports, and I’ll be joining him after we’re done here. So, can we please get down to business. I got Maddy’s side of things in between surgeries, so I’m wondering why you need me here. Why was your office blowing up my phone calls this morning?”
Madison bit the in side of her cheek and stabbed her palms with her fingernails to keep from smiling. Bower actually blushed. As much as she enjoyed watching Mom kick Bower off his high horse, she couldn’t show anyone that she enjoyed it.
“Ah… Well… You see…” Bower stammered as he worked to reacquire his authority. “Your daughter assaulted this young man. Normally, it would be grounds for suspension, but in consideration of her academic success, we wanted to see if we can come to some other resolution.”
“Has the young man at least apologized to my daughter?” Mom asked.
“Apologized?” Mr. Sanchez asked. “Why should my son apologize?”
VP Bower“Can we please settle—”
“For sexually assaulting my daughter,” Mom said.
Both Donny’s parents said, “What?” in the exact same tone of indignation at the exact same time.
“I hardly think that’s as serious as your daughter physically striking this young man?”
“He didn’t hurt her,” Mr Sanchez said. “He was just having a bit of fun. He didn’t deserve to be attacked.”
“Exactly,” VP Bower said. “I hardly think Donovan’s behavior is any where as serious as your daughter’s.”
Mom turned to Madison. “Tell me again, exactly what happened.”
Madison glanced over to Donny. He looked at her, eyes wide and pleading.
“Donny sits behind me in trig,” Madison said. “I was in my cheer uniform. He kept snapping my bra between my shoulder blades during class. I whispered at him to stop. He wouldn’t. The second time I told, Mrs. Stone. She told me to ignore it. The third time, I turned around and told Donny that if he didn’t stop, I’d lay him out after class. Mrs Stone called me out. Said if I disturbed class or threatened anyone again, I’d get detention.”
“Detention?” Mom turned to Mrs. Stone. “For asking a boy to stop snapping her bra?”
Mrs. Stone sat up a little straighter. “I don’t think it was that serious.”
“Yeah,” Mr. Sanchez said. “I snap Angela’s bra all the time. She loves it. Don’t you, pet?”
Mrs. Sanchez nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“And everyone in this room thinks this is okay?” Mom asked. SHe looked at Mrs. Stone. “How about if Mr Sanchez snapped your bra?”
“That’s a little different,” Mrs. Stone said.
“Really,” Mom asked. “How?”
“We’re getting off the subject,” Mrs. Stone said. “When I came out of my classroom, I saw Donovan laying on the ground and Madison walking away. I saw to Donovan first. I don’t know what she did, but it took him a good ten to fifteen minutes to recover. By the time I went to look for Madison, she’d left campus. Maybe she felt like skipping cheer practice, she wouldn’t have to face any consequences to her actions.”
As Mrs. Stone explained her perspective of the end of class, Mom turned her attention back to Madison. This time, Madison couldn’t help but give a slight smile. Mom crossed her arms, cocked her head to the side, and pursed her lips. This was how she asked, “oh, really?” without saying a word.
“This why we’re having this meeting this morning instead of yesterday afternoon,” VP Bower said. And in a complete misread of Mom’s expression, he added, “I’m glad you understand how serious this is now.”
A that, Mom shook her head, every muscle in her face tightened, and she took a deep breath.
“Yes. I see how serious this is. I also see that I’m the only adult in the room.”
“Excuse me?” VP Bower said.
Mom turned toward him. “See… I thought we were meeting so that we could come to some solution that wouldn’t result in my pressing charges on Donovan Sanchez for sexual assaulting my daughter.”
“Just a minute,” Mr. Sanchez said.
Mrs. Sanchez looked like she was going to cry.
“Let’s not over-react,” Mrs. Stone said.
“I think you’re missing the point,” VP Stone said.
Donny’s face made almost the exact expression
“No.” Mom’s voice grew low and deep, as all the other adults in the room spoke at once, Mom just kept repeating “No,” over and over. “No. No. No.”
Finally everyone stopped talking and looked at Mom, she said, “No.”
“No what?” VP bower asked.
“No, I am not missing the point. You are. And since you are so obviously missing the point, I’m considering pressing charges against the school for allowing this sexual assault to continue even after my daughter brought it to the attention of the faculty.” She faced Mrs. Stone and took a step toward the teacher. “You knew this was going on, and did nothing to stop it? Did anyone bother to ask either my daughter or Donovan Sanchez what happened after class?”
An awkward, uncomfortable silence settled over the room as the adults looked at each other, as if hoping one of the others had looked into this. When no one added, Mom nodded and turned to face Mr Bower.
“Madison,” Mom said. “What did Donovan do to you after you left the classroom?”
Madison took a deep breath to steady herself. Drawing on the strength of her mother’s presence in the room, Madison said,
“He followed me down the hall flipping up my cheerleader skirt for a couple steps and then poked me in the ass.”
Mrs. Sanchez cried out and looked at her son, shocked. Of course he hadn’t told anyone that part. Madison’s stomach churned a bit when Mr. Sanchez didn’t react, almost as if he was intentionally holding in a reaction. VP Bower and Mrs. Stone stared with both of their mouths hanging open slightly.
Donny stood up, bolting out of his chair. “That’s not true. You’re a lying bitch.”
That snapped VP Bower out of his shock. This was what he knew, what he dealt with every day. He latched onto the familiarity of a normal, everyday, teenage outburst.
“Donovan,” VP Bower said, “sit down, right now.” He looked at Madison. “And that’s when you hit him?”
“She didn’t hit me,” Donny said.
After he spoke, his face went slack. He looked at the space just in front of his face, as if wishing his words had been solid things and that he could pull them out of the air and shove them back in his mouth.
“What?” Came from several adults in the room.
“If she didn’t hit you,” Mrs. Stone asked, “how did you wind up the floor?”
Donny sat with his mouth closed, arms crossed, and hunched over. Madison had never seen anything as pathetic as a star football player pouting. She didn’t understand why he would rather have people think she laid him out with a punch than let out the truth. Unless, if people knew the truth, they might actually start taking this side of this seriously.
Mom looked at Madison. “You had on your wizard’s hoodie, didn’t you?”
Madison felt her cheeks flush, and her mouth went dry.
“We’ll talk about that later.”
“I’m sorry,” VP Bower said. “Wizard hoodie? What’s that?”
“It’s a thing Madison got off the Internet,” Mom replied. “It has a bunch of LED lights woven through the fabric. It lights up in different ways if you move your arms. She only wanted it because it for the blue print of electronics in clothes so she could modify it.”
“What does that have to do with any of this?” VP Bower asked.
As much as she wanted to become invisible or teleport away, Madison refused to sulk like Donny.
“I stunned him,” Madison said as matter - of - factly as she could. “I took apart one of my tasers and rigged it into the hoodie.”
Mom gave an amused snort.
It took everyone else a few seconds to process this, and just as people started opening their mouths, VP Bower said, “Everyone be quiet. That means you too, Mister Sanchez. I think I need to speak with Doctor Tadeshi and her daughter—”
“Madison,” Mom interrupted. “She’s an individual with an identity beyond being my offspring.”
“And Madison,” VP Bower corrected. “Everyone else, please wait just outside.”
It took a few moments, but Mrs. Stone, Donny, and Mr. And Mrs. Sanchez filed out of the room. VP Bower closed the door behind them and sat down behind his desk.
“Will you have a seat, Doctor Tadeshi?” VP Bower asked, gesturing at one of the chairs on the other side of his desk.
“Alright,” Mom said. “Madison, will you join us?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Madison said.
She got up from her seat and moved across the room to sit next to her mother.
“So,” Mom said to VP Bower, “We’re alone without all the distractions. What are we going to do to resolve this situation?”
“Doctor Tadeshi,” VP Bower said, “I will deal with Donovan Sanchez.”
“With all due respect, that is really not the big issue here. Madison brought a weapon to school and used it to assault another student.”
“That’s how you’re going to spin this?” Mom said. “You’re still stuck on Madison being the bad guy in this?”
“She attacked the boy,” VP Bower said. “With a weapon. At this point, I have to suspend her, at a minimum. We might have to explore expulsion.”
“What about Donovan Sanchez?”
“What about him?”
Mom’s hands tightened into fists, and she spoke through clenched fists. “You are such a man.”
VP Bower stiffened. “What does that mean?”
“It means,” Mom said, “you’re too wrapped up in being male what really happened.” Mom held up a finger with each point she made. “A boy sexually assaulted a girl. The girl reported it to the teacher, who did nothing, basically telling the boy his behavior was acceptable. Since, Madison couldn’t trust the authority figure, Madison was on her own. Madison defended herself from a boy who stands nearly a foot taller than her and might be twice her weight. He. Touched. Her. Ass. And that was after their teacher did nothing to stop the situation. Of course Madison took matters into her own fucking hand.”
VP Bower paused, having placed a little too much emphasis on the Mrs. Mom went still, completely still. Madison couldn’t wait to see what was coming next. Mom was going to eat him alive.
“I hardly think that kind of language is appropriate.”
“What you think is appropriate can go to hell,” Mom said. “No. It can fuck off. Shut up and listen. I’m taking Madison home for the day, since you’re planning on suspending her anyway. I’ll even keep her out of school for the rest of the week. That will give me time to consider whether or not to pull her out of this school completely. I will report this to the school board, and if anyone presses charges against Madison, we will press charges against Donovan, Mrs. Stone, and the school.”
VP Bower sat straight up and glared at Madison’s mother. “Are you threatening me?”
“Fuck yeah, I’m threatening you.” Mom, leaned forward, put her hands on his desk, and glared right back at him. “We probably won’t win because that’s the kind of world we live in. However, I will make sure it gets enough press coverage that hopefully you or Mrs. Stone will never work in public education in this state again.” She turned and walked out of the office. “Come on Madison.”
Madison stood and followed her mother. As they walked through the front main part of the administration building, Madison’s mother slowed as she passed were Donovan was sitting,still in between his parents.
“You’re dad’s a shitty role model,” Mom said. “Try to be less like him.”
When they got outside, Madison said, “Thanks, Mom.”
“Oh, don’t thank me yet,” Mom said. “You’re in a lot of trouble. I told you not to take that hoodie to school after you weaponized it.”
“No buts, young lady. You may have seriously jeopardized your college choices with this. No Internet outside of school work for a week.”
“A week?” Madison asked. “What the hell, Mom?”
“A month,” Mom said. “And that’s just for starters. I’m considering throwing that hoodie out, along with any of other weapons - grade inventions you have stashed away in your workshop.”
Madison tightened her jaw, getting a tight rein on her anger. When mom was like this, arguing only made things worse. She would have to wait for Mom to stop being pissed off and realize that Madison was lucky she’d worn the wizard’s hoodie over her uniform yesterday. Hopefully it would only take a couple of days. Of course, that also depended on if Mom ever heard about the surprise Madison had left in Donny’s locker, and if she ever heard of it.
WHERE ARE WE GOING FROM HERE?