This novel will be available from Harmony Ink Press in February 2017.
Ms. Cramer came out of Mr. Shorey’s office. Her lips were pressed together, and the lines on her forehead were deeper than usual. She walked over to the chairs. “Mr. MacDonald, thank you for coming in. I’m sorry we had to call you out of work, but we needed to talk to you about Mira’s safety.”
“Safety from who?” Dad sat up straighter. “It doesn’t sound to me like the school’s been too interested in her safety until now, so what’s changing?”
“Please come into my office.” Ms. Cramer stepped back. “Mr. Shorey is finishing up with Rob and his stepmother, and then he’ll join us.”
“What’s going to happen to Rob?” I asked.
“Come inside, please.”
Once we settled in her office, she took a deep breath and opened a folder on her desk. “Mira’s never been in trouble here. She’s been on the receiving end of bullying, but that hasn’t happened in a while, unless you count the times she’s intervened for Rob.”
“Rob’s my best friend,” I said. “I’m going to stick up for him if I see someone hurting him. I can’t just stand there.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to.” She frowned. “The boys who were involved today have been arrested for assault and bullying, which is a criminal offense.”
“If it’s a criminal offense, how come it’s been going on so long?” Dad demanded.
“Our resource officer has been compiling information, but we didn’t have proof of some of the incidents Mira and Rob reported.” Ms. Cramer’s voice got quieter as she spoke. She knew the school had screwed up, no matter what excuses they made. “Even in a circumstance like this, no one can be arrested or charged without proof.”
“You should have tried harder,” Dad said. “Then my daughter and I wouldn’t be sitting here when she should be in class and I should be at work.”
“I’m sorry you had to leave in the middle of your workday.” Ms. Cramer closed the folder. “Mira isn’t in any trouble, but when I spoke with her and Rob earlier about the consequences the other boys are facing, Rob brought up a good point. Apparently today’s incident was retaliation against Rob by the other boys for their suspension a few days ago. It’s possible they or their friends might try to retaliate again, and since Mira was involved, she might be as much of a target as Rob.”
Ms. Cramer was probably right. Craig and Seth hated Rob and me. The way they’d looked at us was pretty close to homicidal. If they couldn’t get to us themselves, they might talk someone else into doing it. I wouldn’t put much past them.
At the same time, listening to Ms. Cramer talk about retaliation didn’t feel real. She had to be talking about other people. Or a TV show or something. School wasn’t a safe place. It never had been. But this sounded a whole lot more serious than what we’d dealt with in the past, and my brain couldn’t quite wrap around it all.
Dad narrowed his eyes. “So you asked me to come in because…?”
“We wanted you to be aware of the potential for this situation to escalate,” Ms. Cramer said. “You might consider taking out a restraining order against the boys, for one thing. Today’s incident, and therefore their arrest, involved Rob more than Mira. The court might impose an order to keep them away from Rob, but you would need to do one yourself to protect Mira. At least that’s the way I understand it, though I might be wrong.”
“Restraining orders don’t necessarily stop anything.” Dad rubbed his forehead. “Yeah. I’ll look into it. What about here at school?”
“Those boys won’t be here. Since they’ve been arrested, there will be much harsher disciplinary consequences. Possibly expulsion.” She paused. “They have friends here, though. We might have to have a staff member escort Mira to classes for a while.”
Both of them looked at me. It took a few seconds for Ms. Cramer’s words to sink in, and when they did, I didn’t want to believe what she was saying. The adults at this stupid school didn’t have a clue how to do anything except make the situation worse. “You want someone walking me to class? That’s stupid! Maybe no one will touch me if a teacher’s right beside me, but they’ll say stuff. It’ll look like I’m some tattletale baby who’s too afraid to walk alone. I’m better off being on my own out there.”
“Mira, this is about your safety,” Ms. Cramer said. “Craig and Seth’s friends will probably realize they would face the same consequences if they try anything, but they might not. It’s our job to ensure your safety in school.”
“What about outside school? Are you going to make a teacher follow me around town too?” My voice got louder, but I didn’t care. No matter what they did to supposedly help me, it was only going to make things worse.