How much trouble can 2 kids cause on the first day of school? Much more than they bargained for! Follow the foster kids as Allie tries to make it in kindergarten without her big sister, and Natalie tries to figure out a way to make sure her little sis is okay.
by Lenore and Breanna
Allie paced near the front door with her My Little Pony backpack in hand, casting worried eyes on her sister and foster dad. “What if nobody likes me? An’ what if they’re mean? An’ what if it’s boring and not fun? An’ what if they forget to feed me?!… Can’t I just stay home with Lizbeth?”
“No, Allie, you have to go,” Peter said firmly for the third time, tightening his tie and glaring at his watch. Where was Neal? They were supposed to have left 5 minutes ago!
“But I don’t wanna….” Allie replied. “I wanna stay home.”
It was the first day of school, and neither Allie nor Natalie was looking forward to it. Natalie because she’d missed so many days of school the year before that she was stuck in 6th grade again, but this time away from her friends, and unable to fake sick like she had with her mom (Peter and Elizabeth couldn’t be swayed so easily). Allie, on the other hand, was super nervous because she’d never been to school at all. It was something that only big kids had to do, and she wasn’t ready to be a big kid yet!
“Natalie, can you please make sure your sister has everything? And double check your bag too,” Peter said in a disgruntled voice, then called out to Elizabeth that they were about to leave — Neal could meet them on the way.
“I don’t see why you won’t just let me take Allie to school… it’s not like we’ve never walked around alone before,” Natalie scowled. “And then you won’t have to be so cranky about being late.” Peter narrowed his eyes in her direction and began to respond, but Natalie cut him off by asking Allie, “you got everything?”
“I dunno….” she answered softly, then muttered, “where’s Daddy?” She hugged her new backpack to her chest and stopped pacing, lip quivering as fearful tears threatened to spill.
“He’s coming,” Natalie promised, tugging at her sister’s bag.
Elizabeth came into the room to bid them goodbye and smiled as Allie dropped her backpack and latched onto her. “You’re going to do great today,” El said, combing her fingers through Allie’s hair. “You’ll love it!”
“I’m not so sure,” Allie whined, snuggling up to her foster mom.
Natalie dug through her sister’s backpack, groaning in frustration. “Where are your pencils? And the notebook? And why are there only toys in here? C’mon Allie, I’ll help you.” She reached out to the little girl.
Allie took her sister’s hand and sniffled, wiping a tear out of her eyes. “‘Cause I’m gonna play all day and my toys wanted to come… they said so.” She gave an affirmative nod, determined to not let something like “school” keep her from the tea party she’d planned with her favorite dolls, Sally and Angie.
Natalie sighed loudly. “You can’t just play all day,” she said, though Allie was in kindergarten so who knows, maybe she could. Instead of admitting this, she said, “the only thing you can do to make school better is figure out a way to make time go faster.”
They pushed open the door to Allie’s room and Natalie gathered the school supplies that’d been buried under the mattress. She could feel her little sister’s quick, sweaty breath on the back of her neck and tried to remember what it was like going to school for the first time — had she been as terrified as Allie was now?
Checking the door to make sure no one was listening, Natalie whispered, “keep some of the toys but don’t tell Peter… and don’t let anyone see or they might take it from you. And don’t take shit from anyone, okay? If they’re mean to you, just tell me and I’ll show them what happens when they mess with my little sis.”
Allie frowned. “I really don’t wanna go Natty. I wanna play with my own toys. What if they take Sally or Angie? Then what do I do?” She could feel herself near tears again and just wanted to curl up somewhere and hide.
Natty knew she should say to tell the teacher, but instead she responded, “you take it back and show them who’s boss.”
Allie nodded. “Okay, I can do that,” she murmured, squeezing her sister in a hug. “Can’t you go with me? Please?” Allie had rarely strayed from Natty’s side, and the times she had, she’d been with an adult she knew and trusted… but she didn’t know or trust any of these people, and she was supposed to spend the whole day with them?! How could they expect her to go without her big sister!
“Mmmmmm… maybe,” Natalie said, already plotting a way to sneak to Allie’s school.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud slamming of the front door and Peter shouting: “Girls! Let’s go!”
Allie grumbled as she threw the backpack over her shoulders and headed downstairs, face lighting up when she noticed Neal had arrived. “Daddy!” she shrieked, jumping from the bottom of the stairs into his arms. “Can you show me magic tricks in the car?” She grabbed his hat and put it on her head, asking for one of her own, and a magic set and rabbit, too. And for a moment, just a moment, she allowed herself to forget all her worries about school, and just enjoyed her dad’s company.
They dropped off Natalie first. Of course, she’d demanded for them to stop a block away from her school — the last thing she needed was someone seeing that she was associated with the feds! Before she left, she gave her sister a long hug. “I promise everything’s gonna be okay,” she encouraged, but really wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince, Allie or herself.
Peter turned the corner and crept towards Allie’s school, growling every so often at pedestrians or cars who cut him off. Neal could see his boss’ impatience amplifying, so he decided to strike up a conversation with the scared little girl in the backseat. “How ya doing, Alliecat?” he asked.
She turned to him, pushing Neal’s too-large hat up so her eyes peered under its brim at her father. “I’m scared,” she admitted. “Why do I hafta go? I coulda stayed with Lizbeth and Sachmo.”
“Natalie already explained it to you, Allie. You have to go to school, and that’s final,” Peter said with an exasperated sigh.
Allie made a face and stuck her tongue out at him. “You’re being mean and not listening to me!”
“What Peter is trying to say,” Neal interjected, “is that we know it’s scary, but like Natalie explained, you have to go to school so you can get smarter and…” he couldn’t remember what other excuses Natalie had given — she’d had much more practice reasoning with the 6 year old than he had.
“And it’s illegal for you not to go,” Peter added.
Allie pouted. “But I don’t know these people and Natty won’t be there to keep me safe.”
“Don’t worry,” Neal promised. “Peter and I already did our research to make sure there aren’t any bad guys here.”
They finally found street parking around the corner from the school, and Peter took a minute to calm himself. “We’ll all meet the teacher together and make sure she’s safe before your father and I go to work, what do you think?” Peter asked, remembering his wife’s lecture from the night before. She was always giving him hell about being insensitive, so he was trying. But it was definitely a challenge for him!
“I’d like that,” Allie told him softly. “I don’t wanna go in alone…. I’d just run back out.” She sniffled a little bit, trying not to cry.
Neal grabbed her trembling hand and the three of them walked in together.
Mrs. Hackensack was a plump woman in her mid-40s with an outdated poofy hair style and bright red lipstick that gave off an eerie clown vibe. Her overly-enthusiastic voice bounced through the classroom as she showed parents and children around. When she finally approached the trio, Allie had almost decided it was time to escape. She was practically hiding behind Neal and tugging at his hand a bit, trying to signal this wasn’t going to happen and it was time to leave.
“I wanna go home now,” she insisted when the clown-like woman started talking. “Please Daddy! I’ll be super, super good for Lizbeth! I swear!”
Mrs. Clown Lady stooped over Allie. “We’re gonna have lots of fun in KINDERGARTEN today,” she basically shouted. “What is your name, little girl?”
Peter knew Allie wouldn’t respond well to this woman, and was starting to have his doubts about public school for his girls. “If I may, Mrs… Hackensack,” he pulled the woman aside to explain some of the challenges she’d face with Allie.
In the meantime, Neal squatted to Allie’s level, flipping his hat off her head and spinning it before planting it on his own head. “Hey, I thought you were going to be a brave big girl today? What happened?”
“That woman is scary as hell!” Allie exclaimed tearfully, using a word she had heard her sister say. “I don’t wanna be brave anymore! I’m tired of being brave!”
Neal looked around, thankful nobody had heard her. “Allie, you can’t say ‘hell’ here,” he reminded. “What about if you get a prize for behaving at school? How about a magic set?”
Allie thought about it a moment, nodding. “Yeah! An’ I wanna hat like yours… an’ a rabbit! An’ I wanna go to the zoo, an’ then the toy store, an’ then the ice cream store…”
He chuckled before she could think of more rewards for herself. “You’re asking for a lot, Kid.”
“Not that much…”
“But maybe we can plan a trip to the zoo after you’ve finished a week of school,” Neal negotiated as Peter came back with an apprehensive look on his face.
“What about the rest?” Allie asked as she looked up at her dad and Peter hopefully. She had always wanted to go to the zoo, and could really go for learning more magic tricks!
“We’ll see,” Neal said, then whispered, “and maybe I’ll have a surprise for you this evening when you get home.” He grinned and winked at her as the clown-lady came over with another little girl.
“Allie, this is Alyssa. She’s going to show you around to see all of our games, toys, and colors,” Mrs. Hackensack gushed, trying to lower her voice for the scared little girl. “And later today we’ll go play outside on the jungle gym… whattaya say?”
Allie glanced at her classmate. “I guess so,” she sighed.
Neal unlatched from Allie and took her hand, allowing Alyssa to lead them to the toys. “I like your backpack,” she said to Allie, pointing at the My Little Pony character. “That one’s my favorite!”
“I love Rainbowdash, too!” Allie answered enthusiastically. She spotted crayons and paper. “We get to draw?”
“Yeah, c’mon!” the kindergartner said, then looked up at Neal. He took the hint.
“Okay Allie, remember the zoo, and I’ll see you at 3 o’clock sharp, okay?”
“I’ll remember everything, promise! And don’t be late like you were this morning.” She let a smile escape and reached for a piece of paper. “I’ll draw you pictures!”
“Can’t wait,” Neal said, then gave her a squeeze and a kiss on the top of the head. He and Peter waved goodbye from the door, watching as Allie and her new friend sat at the coloring table, passing out crayons to each other.
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Peter admitted to Neal, taking one last glance back at the kindergartner before heading to work.
“Natalie!” the homeroom teacher shouted, snapping the 12 year old out of her thoughts. It was the second time he’d caught her zoning out, and he was getting fed up. “If you’re not going to listen, you can spend the rest of class sitting in the hallway.”
Natalie glared in his direction and stood angrily, throwing her backpack over her shoulder as she held up two fingers. “Peace!” she said, exiting.
She knew he had the right to be upset — she’d spent the last 30 minutes bored out of her mind because they were reviewing material she’d known for the last two years. So instead of paying attention, Natalie had become lost in her own thoughts, pondering how different she was from her classmates who wore modest clothing and sat up straight in their seats, too virtuous to speak out of turn. They’d admired her Air Jordan sneakers, but were too scared of Natalie’s tough demeanor to say anything to her. And then they all gossipped about expensive summer vacations with their middle class, government-employed parents, scrolling through pictures on their cell phones, and Natalie wondered how she could ever fit in.
This, of course, made her think of Allie and how she was doing, which was when the teacher interrupted her. At least in the hallway she could plot an escape plan.
After the classroom door slammed, Natalie scanned the area, searching for the best exits where she could escape without being noticed — it looked like the rear doors didn’t get much attention during class hours, and the bathroom was near. Maybe she could hang out there after the bell rang and later slip out unnoticed?
“Miss Morgan!” called an old bespectacled man, who from afar resembled her father’s friend, Mozzie. “My office, now,” he hissed. She finally recognized him as the assistant principal, Mr. Erikson, and followed him without protest to the front of the building.
Once inside the office Mr. Erickson motioned for Natalie to take a seat.
“Miss Morgan,” he began. “You need an education. It is very important to pay attention to your lessons so that you can advance in your studies and eventually graduate and go on to amazing things.”
Natalie didn’t pay much attention, just nodded obediently. Getting in trouble so early in the day was not on her agenda… at least she had to stay off the radar until she was able to escape!
“I’ll try to do better,” she promised, batting her eyelashes like a good girl. One of the traits she’d inherited from Neal was her ability to be charming when necessary.
Natalie was dismissed when the bell rang and she bolted from the office, hurrying upstairs to her second period class. Getting in trouble had reminded her that she would have to be careful while executing her plan of escape — she had to figure out a way to leave where no one would blame her for it. But what could she do?
At her locker she grabbed her notebook and pencil bag, not bothering to put it in her backpack as it would make her late. She was lost deep in thought when she plowed right into a skinny blonde cheerleader.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going, weirdo!” the girl shouted, pushing the items out of Natalie’s hands and bellowing a taunting laugh to her cheerleader friends.
Natalie narrowed her eyes but instead of punching her in the face, bent down to pick up her things and glanced at the name etched into the girl’s skirt: Carrie. A name she’d already heard a couple of times this morning. Carrie Vanderbilt was one of the most popular girls in school, and deserved to be taken down a notch. Natalie was already plotting revenge. She’d show them what happened if they messed with the new girl!
Allie’s tongue poked out as she held the waxy crayon in her hand, intensely focused on her drawing. So far, she’d been doing okay, mostly because she was absorbed in her artwork. First, she drew a picture for her foster parents: a house and rainbow with their family, Sachmo included. Then she rested it on the edge of the table while she grabbed another piece of construction paper, starting on a picture for her daddy. She’d drawn the two of them together with a magic hat and bunny rabbit when a boy strolled past her and snatched up the cup of crayons Allie was using.
“I need these,” was all he said.
“Hey! Give it back! I was using those!”
“Not anymore, they’re mine now,” he spat, taking the crayons to the next table and sitting down. Allie waited until he was seated and then stomped over toward him, grabbing the cup back. “Those are mine!!” he shouted.
“I was using them first!” Allie shouted back.
He grabbed the colors, but Allie was stronger and held onto the cup tightly until he let go and crayons went spilling everywhere. Allie growled and bent down to pick them up and the boy grabbed up her two drawings, ripping them in half.
“What are you doing!!” Allie shouted as she threw the cup down and reached for her art. “That’s mine! Give it back!”
The boy held the papers away from her, laughing and taunting her as he ripped them again and again until he held a thousand tiny pieces, then threw them in her face. “Now give me back my colors!!”
Allie’s eyes filled with tears as she shoved the boy hard as she could and sent him flying into the table and knocking over a chair. “You big ole jerk!!!! Go to hell!”
Mrs. Hackensack noticed the commotion and separated the two children, scolding Allie for her language and sending each student to time out for 5 minutes. “We do not push each other in this classroom,” she told Allie, then turned to the boy to say, “and we do not rip up each other’s drawings.” She plopped the two children in chairs on opposite sides of the lockers and set the timer. “When the big hand of the clock is on the 4, and the timer rings, you can get up,” she said, pointing above the cabinet where the clock hung, second-hand creeping along slowly.
Allie scowled, folding her arms in a pout as she sat in time out. “This isn’t fair, he deserved to be pushed!” she yelled to the teacher. “He’s a big jerk!”
“That’s enough!” the teacher roared.
But Allie felt justified in having shoved the boy… After all, she’d been minding her own business and he was the one who’d taken her crayons! And she’d done just what her sister had told her to! If only Natty were there to help her feel better and to beat up the stupid boy.
“I said I didn’t want to come here,” Allie grumbled to herself, feeling the tears threatening to stream down her freckled cheeks. “I just wanna go home.”
She looked up at the big clock and Natalie’s words echoed in her head: “the only thing you can do to make school better is figure out a way to make time go faster.”
There must be a way.
Natalie’s day hadn’t gotten any better.
Bumping into the cheerleader, Carrie, had her on edge, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to focus on plotting an escape plan. Any time her classmates giggled, Natalie spiraled into suspicions that they were laughing at her, mocking her for her clothes, her lack of cell phone, her criminal parents, her foster family. It made her palms sweaty and heart race, and it was harder to breathe. But then she reminded herself to relax, that she was just being paranoid — no one at this school knew anything about her.
Having phys ed for third period was a relief… at the very least Natalie could get rid of her restlessness by climbing the three flights of stairs to the gym. And it worked, sorta, until she saw the crowd of girls in the locker room and immediately recognized Carrie the Evil Cheerleader Bitch.
Shit! Not her again! Natalie groaned to herself, though at the same time, a lightbulb went off. Maybe there’s some way I can use this to my advantage…
Slipping inside, Natalie easily blended with the crowd so that Carrie wouldn’t see her. Coach West was giving out slips of paper with their new lockers and combinations, so Natalie grabbed hers then scampered to hide in an abandoned corner. She pressed herself against the wall and stayed low, focusing her eyes on Carrie, who was showing off her new iPhone to her faithful followers.
I deserve that iPhone more than she does.
Coach came in to hurry everyone along so Natalie leaned forward, squinting at Carrie as she put in her locker combination — 43 (the last two digits of Natalie’s old landline number), 6 (Allie’s age), 18 (the age Natalie wanted to be). Then she tucked herself back into hiding, repeating the numbers to herself and trying to figure out what she could do once she had Carrie’s phone. For one, she’d check on Allie. If Neal bothered responding and Allie was okay, it’d give Natalie a little more time to figure out how to escape. But she couldn’t hold onto Carrie’s phone forever… eventually she’d have to ditch it.
Natalie waited for Coach West to come back in and yell at a few stragglers, then eased out of hiding. She eyed the doorway again to make sure nobody was looking, then marched to Carrie’s locker, twisting the lock to the combination she’d memorized. It popped open with ease, revealing a large pink Gucci bag. Natalie glanced back at her own Jansport backpack, feeling a pang of envy and missing her old life. Alex, her mom, would figure out a way to get her a Gucci bag… if she wasn’t in jail.
A voice outside caused Natalie to snap out of her mind, and she tore the bag open to find a shiny iPhone enveloped in an ugly pink case. Natalie admired it for a moment, then popped the phone out of its case and stuffed it in her back pocket.
She slammed the locker shut seconds before a teacher scolded, “What are you doing in here? Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
“Umm, yeah, I just needed to get a… tampon,” Natalie answered, blushing.
“Okay, but hurry up and get back to class.”
Natalie breathed a sigh of relief and scurried off to the bathroom. She quickly fished out her temporary phone, figuring out by the smudges on the screen that Carrie’s password was 227743 (it was easy to figure out since it spells CARRIE on the keypad). Smiling, she changed the password and wallpaper, then opened up a blank text message, typing in Neal’s number.
have u heard from allie? is she ok?????
She didn’t have time to wait for his response as the teacher came back, rushing her. So she shoved the phone back into her pocket and went to class, smiling — she’d figured out a way to really get back at the evil cheerleader bitch!
By the time Mrs. Hackensack let Allie leave the corner, play time was over and they weren’t allowed to draw anymore because there was a “Welcome Back” assembly in the auditorium that they were required to attend. Allie still felt mistreated and was upset, so she definitely didn’t feel like following the stupid teacher and mean classmates when they lined up to go. But it was unlikely that the clown-lady would let her stay alone. She had to think of a plan.
What would Natty tell me to do? she whispered to herself, wishing again that her big sister was there with her.
Scanning the room, her eyes fell upon the coat closet. It was the perfect size and was dark enough that she’d be able to slip inside unnoticed. So Allie casually strolled to the end of the line, waiting for her teacher’s attention to be elsewhere, and snuck away. She hid there quietly until the screams and laughs of her classmates faded, then she looked up at the clock.
Her mom had made time go faster once. Allie had watched her move a clock forward for something called Daylight Savings Time, when they were having a party and they wanted everyone to leave already. And it’d worked! Even everyone’s cell phone’s time had moved forward, too!
So that was it — the only way to get out of school would be to make time go faster, like her mom had, and like Natalie had suggested. Allie eyed the clock warily as she didn’t exactly know how to tell time. She did know, though, that her cartoons came on when the little hand was on the 4 and the big one on the 12. So maybe if she pushed them to that it would be time to go home. Oh how she hoped! She just wanted to go home!
Allie pushed a chair to the cabinet, giving a quick glance to the door to make sure no one was looking. Then she climbed onto the chair, then up to the top of the cabinet, fearless. The view from above was incredible, she could see every inch of the room: the coloring area, the plastic kitchen set across from it, computers that lined the back wall, and the colorful alphabet rug. She wouldn’t miss this place at all!
As she reached for the heavy clock, unhooking it from the wall, a visitor entered the room and startled her. “Young Lady, what are you doing up there?!?!” the voice boomed.
She glanced down and gave an innocent look to the tall man dressed in a freshly pressed blue suit. “Fixing the clock?”
“Where is your teacher, Young Lady? Where is the rest of your class? Get down from there right now!”
“They left to go to wherever they were going. The assembly or whatever.” Allie backed away as the stranger shoved his arms in her direction. “Who are you?” she demanded. “I don’t go to strangers.”
“I am the principal of this school and I am going to call your father, Young Lady. Get down here this instant before you hurt yourself!”
Allie cowered a little as she scrambled down to get away. “Ok, Mister, but don’t yell at me! I hate when people yell.” She glared up in his direction, feeling much shorter and vulnerable now.
Mr. Haskins asked her name, then remembered having spoken with Peter earlier about the behavioral challenges. It all made sense now. He allowed himself to soften a little, but kept an even tone as he said, “I don’t think your parents will be too happy about this, Allie. Come with me to the office… We’re going to call them.”
A mixture of relief and sadness tore through Allie’s body. On the one hand, she’d finally get to leave this stupid place (right?). But had she ruined her chances of going to the zoo? And what about the surprise Neal had promised her? She still wanted to go home, but now she was a little scared.
The loud shrill of Peter’s office phone broke his and Neal’s concentration. “We needed a break anyway,” Neal commented, checking his own cell phone and noticing 4 text messages from an unknown number. It looked like Natalie checking in on her sister, and getting impatient about his lack of response. He quickly typed back to her: Allie is fine. Please tell me you acquired this phone through legal means…
“Peter Burke speaking… Yes, you can connect me.” He put a hand over the receiver and mouthed to Neal: “Allie’s school.”
This couldn’t be good. They hadn’t even been at school a full three hours yet and Natalie was already texting him, Allie already getting a phone call home.
He kept eyes on Peter as his boss listened to the woman on the other end of the line, then said, “Yes, I’ll be right there. Thank you.”
“What is it?” Neal wanted to know.
“She’s likely earned herself a spanking,” Peter commented once he hung up the phone. “That little monkey skipped an assembly to climb on the teacher’s cabinet and steal the clock.”
Neal raised his eyebrows. “Something doesn’t add up with that story… Maybe I should go with you… Just in case.”
Peter agreed and they rushed to leave, interrupted by another field agent, Clinton Jones. “A bomb threat was called into the middle school on East 77th. They evacuated the students and we sent a team to investigate. I’ll keep you updated as we progress.”
“The school on East 77th?” Peter questioned, and he and Neal said at the same time: “That’s Natalie’s school!”
“The administration believes it’s a false threat, and we’ve been assured that all of the students are okay. They’re being held off campus until the bomb squad finishes the investigation,” Jones continued. “I can have someone double check that Natalie is there?”
“Yes, thank you, Jones. Please keep me informed.”
The two men waited for the elevator and Neal decided to send Natalie another quick message. Where are you? Are you okay?
He still hadn’t heard back from his oldest when Peter pulled up to Allie’s school a few minutes later. He hoped it was because she’d given the phone back to her friend, and retained confidence that Jones’ team would ensure her safety. For now, he’d have to push the 12 year old out of mind and focus only on his little monkey.
When they walked into the office, Allie shot up for Neal, tackling him in a hug. Her eyes were red and puffy as if she’d been crying all day, and she latched tightly onto her father, ready to go home and forget about this school thing. Neal patted her back, hoping she hadn’t gotten into too much trouble. He had a soft spot for her and wasn’t sure how long he would be able to resist scooping her up and walking out of the building.
Peter, however, was a little more firm and walked past Neal and Allie to the secretary, who called for the principal, and within minutes the three were seen. Allie clung a little tighter to Neal as they entered; she found the principal very intimidating and didn’t want to be in the room with him. She reached up for her father who picked the monkey up into his arms and held onto her tightly as they sat in front of the large mahogany desk.
The principal began by reintroducing himself and shaking their hands. He then looked at Allie. “Care to explain why we’re here?”
Allie frowned. “I wanna go home. People are mean here. I don’t like it here.”
Mr. Haskins sighed and looked back at Peter and Neal. “Allie decided to skip the assembly and I found her on top of the cabinet in her classroom, trying to take the clock.”
“I wasn’t stealing it!” Allie insisted angrily as that seemed to be what he was insinuating.
Peter interjected immediately. “How is it possible that the teacher didn’t notice she’d left a student behind? What kind of school are you running here?”
Mr. Haskins answered Peter in a harsh tone and the two began arguing. Neal held onto Allie tighter, still unsure why his littlest girl was in trouble — had she really been trying to steal the clock? Why would she want something like that?
His mind travelled back to himself as a child, and how his mom was always dropping him off late to school. Eventually he became so fed up that he changed all of the clocks to an earlier hour so that it looked like he’d arrived on time. It hadn’t worked, but he hadn’t realized that at the time. Was something similar going on with Allie?
Neal snapped out of his reverie when Peter stood suddenly. “Let’s go,” he grumbled, leading the group out of the office.
Peter was muttering obscenities to himself then looked at Allie. “What do you think you’re doing, pushing other students, using bad language, hiding from the teacher, and trying to take the clock? You know better than that, Allison,” he said, looking at her with disappointment.
“I wasn’t trying to take the clock!” Allie insisted. “And that boy ruined my pictures! I worked hard on those!”
Peter heaved a sigh and continued walking to the car.
Suddenly, Natalie appeared. “Hey! What happened? Why isn’t Allie in school? Did someone hurt you? Why are you crying?” She stooped to her sister’s level and tackled her in a hug. Peter was about to say something but was cut short by his phone.
“Jones,” he answered. “Did you get a trace on the number?”
Natalie was too busy coddling her little sister and listening to the story of what happened to pay attention to Peter.
“Yes, have them call it to see who answers. I’ll hold,” Peter stated.
The four of them stood there for a moment in silence. Allie was still crying a little and Natalie held her close, ignorant of who her foster dad was speaking with on the phone. Neal glanced between his girls and his boss, and Peter stood there waiting angrily and impatiently. He wanted to scold Natalie for leaving her classmates but also needed to know what was going on with the bomb threat, and whether or not he could send her back to school.
Then Natalie’s butt started ringing.
“Why are your pants ringing? Are they magic pants?!?” Allie asked with surprise.
Peter narrowed his eyes at the oldest girl and said, “Jones, I think we’ve found the culprit. I’ll call you back.” He folded his arms at Natalie.
She dug the phone out of her pocket and turned it off. “Someone is framing me!” she exclaimed but was at a loss for words and just held the phone, three sets of eyes boring into her. What could she say? What could she do?
Peter sighed. “Neal, will you please take Allie home. Tell El that I’ll call her. Natalie and I are going to her school to catch the person who’s trying to frame her.”
“Sure thing boss,” Neal said as he scooped Allie up. “Come on little monkey.”
Allie snuggled into him easily, popping her thumb into her mouth and hoping she wasn’t in too much trouble.
Elizabeth had warmed up leftovers and had the plates waiting for Neal and Allie when they arrived. “Yummm!! Thanks Lizbeth!!” Allie shrieked, almost having forgotten how much trouble she was in. Both she and Neal dug in and when their tummies were sufficiently full, her father and foster mom sat the little girl in front of them to talk.
“Okay, Allie, what really happened? Did you really try to take the clock?” Neal wanted to know.
“No. I wasn’t stealing it. I was gonna put it back,” Allie insisted. “I wanted to come home. Natty said this morning if you make time go faster you can go home quicker. So I was trying to make it go faster.”
Neal and Elizabeth looked at each other. “Oh, honey,” El said, “I know you didn’t like school, but you can’t hide from the teacher and climb up on top of high things like that.”
Nodding, her father agreed. “That’s right, little monkey. Save the climbing for the playground.”
“We didn’t even go to the playground,” Allie frowned. “I didn’t even get to play much. I just wanted to come home. That lady was scary and the man was scary. That boy was super mean. I just wanted to be with Lizbeth and Sachmo.”
“Speaking of that boy,” Neal said, putting on a serious face that Allie didn’t like. “What did I tell you this morning about saying ‘hell’ at school?”
Allie shrunk a little bit. “Not to say it. But Daddy he deserved that word! He’s lucky I only shoved him!”
El looked on with shock. “Allie! I can’t believe you’d use that kind of language, especially after being warned. I should wash your mouth out with soap.”
Allie made a face. “I’m not letting you put soap in my mouth Lizbeth! That’s yucky! I’ll bite whoever tries!”
“Then I better not hear that type of language from you ever again, because if I do, it’ll be soap and a spanking, understood?” El didn’t normally get strict with the girls, but kids using bad language was one of her pet peeves, and it was a bad habit of Allie’s that she was determined to break.
Allie scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. “Yes,” she grumbled. “But you won’t get the soap in.”
Neal was more disappointed that Allie hadn’t obeyed, and he was about to further scold her when he saw the message from Peter: This may take longer than planned. Proceed with the Robin Hoodie case without me.
He groaned. “I need to get going.” He gathered Allie for a hug and whispered in her ear, “I have your surprise at home, and I’ll bring it tomorrow if you can behave for Peter and El tonight, okay?”
“Okay Daddy,” Allie nodded as she returned his hug. “I’ll try.”
El walked Neal to the door and lowered her voice so Allie couldn’t hear them. “Did Peter say what he wants me to do about Allie?”
“He didn’t,” Neal answered quietly. “But I wouldn’t make her wait. She would either stress over it, or forget what she did wrong… either way, seems better to go ahead and get it over with.
“That’s what I was thinking,” El agreed. “Usually Peter is the one to handle the consequences, but I think today it’s going to have to be me.” She thanked Neal and sent him off with a lunch for Peter, then turned back to Allie. She knew just the way to get the little girl to comply: “I’m going to give you a choice… you can stay in your room all afternoon and wait for Peter to get home to talk about your punishment, or I can spank you now and get it over with.”
“And then I can play with Sachmo?” Allie checked. She didn’t want to sit in her room all afternoon and wait for Peter. He spanked too hard. Surely Elizabeth didn’t spank as hard as him.
“Yes, then you can play with Sachmo,” El said, smiling.
Elizabeth allowed Allie some alone time to think about what she’d done, then climbed the stairs slowly. Sitting down on Allie’s bed, she pulled the six year old to sit in her lap. “I don’t think you realize how serious what you did was.”
“But I didn’t steal the clock,” Allie said firmly. Elizabeth was right though, as Allie didn’t understand why it was so wrong. “And I thought not going to the zoo was my punishment? I know you guys won’t take me now… even though I wanna go really bad.”
“The deal is that you’ll get to go to the zoo after you make it through a full week at school… so once you earn it, you can go. We are all proud of you for trying today… I know it was really hard for you! So if you’re a big girl the rest of the week and keep going to school like you’re supposed to, we’ll keep up our end of the deal, which is taking you to the zoo, okay? Now let’s talk about what you did wrong today.” She held the girl in front of her so she could look in her eyes. “You’re not in trouble for stealing,” she said. “What did we talk about earlier?”
Allie thought a long moment. “About climbing and the boy ripping my pictures. And how the clown lady wasn’t nice and stuck me in time out.”
“Why did she put you in time out?”
“I pushed the boy who ripped my pictures,” Allie answered. “But he deserved it!”
“Here is the first rule for you to remember, Allie. You are never, EVER, to push someone when there is a teacher around. If someone tears up your picture, what is something you can do instead of pushing him?”
Allie scrunched up her face. “Tell the teacher?” She had acted on instinct which was why the boy had been shoved.
“Exactly. Then you know who would be sitting in time out?”
“The meanie head boy who was a real jerk?” Allie replied.
“That’s right! Remember that when you’re at school, the teacher is the boss. So if someone is doing something wrong, she’s the person you tell. And if you’re not sure that what you’re doing is okay, she’s the person you ask. Do you get it?”
“I think so,” Allie nodded. “Daddy said to ask grown ups and not Natty about tricks and if they’re funny. So it’s the same thing, right?”
“Right. Now what about the climbing? What did you do wrong in that situation?”
Allie thought for a moment. “I wasn’t supposed to climb the cabinet?”
“What about before that?”
“I shoulda went with the other kids?”
“And why’s that?”
“So I don’t get lost?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “The teacher is in charge which means she has to know where you are all the time so she can let us know if you get hurt or something bad happens. And if the rest of the class is going somewhere, it’s probably somewhere you need to go, too, right? Like sometimes the class will be going to the playground, or to gym or art even! Wouldn’t you want to be there for that?”
“Yes,” Allie agreed. “I want to be there for those! That’s fun stuff!”
“See? School isn’t all that bad.” El brought her in for a hug as she made a mental note to smack Peter, Neal, and Natalie for brainwashing Allie into being afraid of school. But she’d have to tend to that later. For now she needed to deal with Allie. “So let’s try again — why are you getting a spanking?”
Allie made a face. “‘Cause I pushed that boy an’ climbed too high an’ hid from the teacher.”
“Once we get the spanking over with, it’ll wipe your slate clean, and you still have the chance to go to the zoo, okay?” She put Allie on her feet, confident that the little girl wouldn’t run away.
“You promise I still got a chance at the zoo?” Allie said softly, her eyes hopeful. “It’s what I really, really, really want.”
“Yes, sweetie. As long as you keep trying to go to school, you’ll still get to go to the zoo. All we want is for you to keep trying, even though sometimes it’s really hard, okay?”
“I’ll try,” Allie promised.
Elizabeth paused for a moment. “Are you ready to get this over with?”
The little girl hesitated. “I need a hug Lizbeth….” She told her softly. “Spankings are scary.”
Elizabeth opened her arms, inviting the small child in. “I know they are, sweetie.”
Allie went to her with ease, snuggling in — she loved being cuddled. They stayed that way about five minutes before Allie looked up with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry Lizbeth….”
“Hey, you’re human, you’re going to make mistakes sometimes. The only reason I’m doing this is to make sure you know there are consequences, okay? We wouldn’t want you to get hurt or in bigger trouble at school.”
“Okay,” Allie sighed softly. “I guess you can spank me…”
She helped the little girl up and over her lap, affording her some modesty before tugging her shorts and panties to her knees.
Allie squirmed a little when she felt her that her bum was already bare — she hated bare bottom spankings!
Resting her hand on Allie’s backside, Elizabeth summarized their conversation. “Young Lady, we’ll all talk together about the rules later, and then you’ll not be able to use the excuse that you didn’t know.” She began the spanking with a hearty SWAT in the middle of her small bottom, continuing with a reasonably fast pace. Elizabeth didn’t spank as hard as Neal or Peter, but made up for it with endurance and her ability to better tolerate Allie’s squirms and cries.
Allie yelped with each swat, crying almost immediately. “I’m sorry!” She had a habit of trying to tug at people’s hearts, in hopes they would be nicer to her. Sometimes it was on purpose and sometimes she did it without knowing. This time it was a mixture of both.
“I know you are,” Elizabeth said, continuing with the methodical spanks. “And I hope you’ll remember this spanking next time you’re thinking about breaking the rules.” She peppered each cheek, her stingy hand turning Allie’s bottom a bright shade of pink.
Allie kicked and squirmed more. “I wiiiill!” She had been hoping the spanking would only be a couple of swats but so far it was anything but.
Elizabeth tightened her grip on Allie as she began to increase the intensity of the spanking, smacking her jiggling bottom much harder now, almost as hard as Neal’s spanking.
Allie sobbed as her little hand flew back. “No more Lizbeth! No more!”
Elizabeth stopped. “Allie, move your hand,” she said firmly. She intended to hold her hand to help her not reach back, but first she wanted to give the little girl a chance to prove she was learning to be more obedient.
“But it hurts,” Allie wailed, keeping her hand where it was. “Please no more! I’m sorry!”
Elizabeth grabbed Allie’s hand to move it away, and continued spanking. “I need you to start following rules, Allie,” El said, peppering each cheek, then moving to her sit spots, still spanking at Neal-force.
Allie tried to squirm but it was harder now that her hand had been captured. She cried more when her sit spots were smacked as those hurt the most. “There’s too many rules!” she wailed.
“I know,” El empathized, centering mostly on Allie’s sit spots. As Allie’s cries increased, so did her squirms, and El had to hold on tight to make sure she didn’t squirm away. “This will hopefully help you remember them a little better, so you can work towards your reward of going to the zoo.”
Allie’s answered her with heartfelt sobs. She wanted to go to the zoo super bad but felt like at this rate it was never going to happen.
Elizabeth stopped spanking for a moment and rested a hand on Allie’s warm bottom. “Remind me the lesson you’re learning from this spanking?”
It took Allie a moment to respond as she had to catch her breath and wait for a couple hiccups to subside. “To listen at school an’ n-not climb things…”
“And to do what if someone tears up your picture or does something mean to you?”
“Tell the teacher!” Allie replied through tears.
“Very good,” she said, and began the spanking once more. “I hope we don’t have to repeat this lesson soon, Allie,” she said, punctuating each word with a loud SWAT. “Because next time, I’ll have to get my wooden spoon, which stings much more than this.”
Allie wailed a little louder. Elizabeth’s hand hurt more than enough and she was not eager to find out how the spoon felt any time soon. “Noooooo!”
Elizabeth focused on Allie’s sit spots again to be sure that she would feel it as they sat for their family meeting later. It may help her to focus better on what is being said. “Are you going to give school another try tomorrow?” she asked, smacking at medium-force.
“Yesssss!” Allie cried feeling she had no choice. “I’ll tryyyyyy!”
“Good,” Elizabeth said, finishing the lecture and focusing only on making the last few swats count.
“I’m sorryyyyyyy!” Allie choked out.
Elizabeth lifted Allie from her lap, letting her pj pants fall to the floor. The young girl latched tightly onto her, and El brought her to her chest, feeling the tears against her neck. She hated seeing her cry, so rocked her back and forth, humming her favorite lullaby.
Allie snuggled in easily and tried to calm down. She whimpered and sniffled as she hiccupped and held tight to her mother figure. “I love you Lizbeth….” She managed to murmur. “Lots an’ lots.”
“I love you, too, Alliecat. And remember we’re gonna help you get through this. That’s what Peter, your dad, and I are here for. We’ll be with you every step of the way.”
She held her there rocking for a few more minutes and kissed her on the top of the head, stroking her sweaty hair. “C’mon, why don’t you wash your face and then we can go play outside,” she said with a big smile.
Allie nodded. “Okay,” she agreed, giving El a kiss on the cheek and scampering to the bathroom, furiously rubbing her aching bum.
Once she had washed her face she returned to the room and tugged on Elizabeth’s hand. “Come play Lizbeth. Sachmo and I want you to play too.” Elizabeth gave a soft laugh as she allowed the little one to tug her downstairs and out to the backyard to play, admiring her ability to live in the moment. Maybe it had been a tough day at school, but everything was going to be okay.
To be continued…
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