Clymene and I were both grounded forever, or until we got married or left for college. We were on total lockdown. No internet, e-mail, phone calls, text messages, TV, iPods, anything. “If it runs on electricity or batteries,” said Mom, “you can’t use it.”
Next day, I had to go with Mom and Dad to see Principal Smootin.
Cly said I should go in and just apologize till my eyeballs fell out. “They don’t want to hear your side of the story or what a rat Martin Blindenbok is,” she said. “They just want to hear that you are the sorriest person on the planet.”
Mom and Dad didn’t say anything to me on the drive over. They were going on about how Mom’s company was downsizing and, with her being preggers and all, she feared, even though she’s spent years with the (stupid text book) company, they’d figure out a way to downsize her while she was on maternity leave.
Hello, I’m getting expelled here.
They made us sit on a bench outside the principal’s office. I still wasn’t sure what I was going to say, which is why I was so nervous. Dad watched all the late kids marching through—and kids with doctor’s notes, and parents who were dropping off lunches for kids who forgot them-—and he started to smile. Mom gave him a look that killed off his smile like a truck running over baby ducks.
Principal Smootin made a big show of pulling out my file and scanning through it. He pointed out that I was not thoroughly engaged with my math studies (I suck at math) and that several teachers had noted that I trended to the excessively verbal (I talk too much in class).
He reminded Mom and Dad that Fairfield was a private institution with strict standards of behavior and that, unlike public schools, no student was required to attend Fairfield. I could see that Cly was right and that Principal Smootin wanted me to be the sorriest kid on the planet, and I decided that was okay, but making my parents grovel seemed really unnecessary. They didn’t punch Martin Blindenbok, after all.
But before I could blurt out a single, “I’m so sorry I hit poor defenseless Martin,” Mom shrieked. Not like a polite moan or something, but like someone had put a ten-inch needle through her guts. She grabbed her belly and shrieked again while we all stared, Dad, Smootin, me, the mean lady with the mustache from behind the counter outside, who came rushing in.
“Nathan, it’s coming, you sorry son of a bitch.” mom croaked out.
“It can’t be coming. You’re only six months,” yiped Dad.
“Get me to the hospital, you bastard,” she growled.
He got her to her feet and guided her out as she yowled like a cat stuck in a revolving door. I stood staring at Principal Smootin then followed them out.
I sat for hours in the lounge in the baby delivery department of the hospital. Dad was in a room somewhere down the hall with Mom. The nurses wouldn’t let me go in with them. Since Clymene wrecked the other car, there was no way to get home, so I just sat worrying about Mom and Baby-X and what Principal Smootin must be thinking.
Finally Dad came out and said that Mom had preterm labor and that Baby-X wasn’t coming out and that Mom was okay but she was going to have to stay in the hospital overnight. When we got home, Dad cooked us pancakes. He didn’t mention what happened at school. In fact he didn’t mention anything at all. He seemed wrapped up in his own thoughts, like he is most of the time.
Next morning, Dad went back to the hospital and Todd came by and picked up Clymene and drove her to school. I was in the house alone all day. We had pancakes again that night. It’s not the only thing Dad knew how to cook but he was in tard-o mode because of Mom being in the hospital. He’d talked to some school psychologist or child psychologist or something. I was supposed to visit this person the next day to see if it was safe for them to let me back into school. I said, “like I want to go back to their stupid school.”
Dad didn’t appreciate me saying that and said I “better shape up and fast.” He wouldn’t even listen to how I was just trying to protect Lucia. He said he didn’t have time for games right now, with Mom in the hospital, and that both Clymene and I had “better just shape up and fast.”
Next day, I visited the psychologist lady, Doctor Portina. She asked like ten-million questions. I was tempted to lie because she acted like such an overly-concerned type person that you just knew she didn’t really care. Doctor Portina’s two favorite questions were, “why did you do that, Daisy?” And, “how did you feel about that, Daisy?” How did I feel about a shark trying to eat me for dinner? Just super, lady. How did I feel when I shot the arrow and it cracked into Rahmat’s skull? Tip-top.
“Do you ever have nightmares about it? Do you think about it a lot? How often do you think about Rahmat? Do you ever wish you were back on the island?” Compared to sitting and blabbing with you, lady, take a big fat guess.
That night Mom came home from the hospital. After dinner, when Clymene and I were upstairs—tons of screaming and shouting—Mom and Dad really went at it. I couldn’t tell what they were saying except for just a few words when they got really loud, like when Mom yelled, “Over my dead body” and “I won’t let them do it.” Do what? Send me to the penal colony on Devil’s Island?
Next day, Mom and Dad called me down before dinner and said they’d made a decision. They were sending me to be home schooled for the semester by my mom’s sister, Aunt Millicent. Aunt Mill was a math teacher at “The Embassy School” and since I’m horrible in math, Mom and Dad thought it would be a good idea. Only trouble was, Aunt Mill lived in Paris. Mom stressed that it would only be until Baby-X came and her enforced bed-rest was over. I told her I’d rather take my chances at Saint Agnes’s, with the ex-prison-guard nuns, or even at Paddington Puddin’head Middle School. They said they weren’t negotiating. They wouldn’t even say why. I argued with them for like ten hours, but didn’t even make a dent. “Trust us, Daisy, it’s for the best,” they said. Yeah, right. They just wanted to be rid of me. They didn’t want me around when the baby came. They thought I’d punch Baby-X in the nose.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to be all whiney about going to Paris, wonderful-blah-blah Paris, city of blah-blah light and all that blah, but it was so far away and I’d been there already and I even went up in the Eiffel Tower and all the other blah-blah stuff.
Clymene came over to my bed when the lights were out and whispered that she wanted to talk. I said go away, I don’t talk to psycho-SUV-crashers. She ignored that and whispered that she heard Mom and Dad talking and they felt terrible. I said, “good.” She said, “No, Daisy, you don’t get it. Dad was talking about how the school psychologist thought you were suffering from post-traumatic-shock disorder from the experience on the island and that you were prone to violent outbursts and that you should be put on medication before you returned to school. That’s why Mom was screaming, “over my dead body.’”
So it was all decided. Phone calls were made. E-mails went flying. I didn’t even need a student visa since I was being home-schooled by Aunt Mill. I got a text from Lucia. She wanted to boycott school in protest of my leaving. Really she was just afraid to go back to school. No way Martin was going to stop picking on her. It was only going to get worse. And I wouldn’t be there to stop him.
I left on a Saturday. Air France. Mom and Dad used up all their airplane miles.
So what did I know about Aunt Mill, besides that she lived in Paris? She was Mom’s older sister. She wasn’t married and didn’t have kids and only came to visit a few times, when I was little, during holidays. She always told good bedtime stories, but I couldn’t remember any of them. She always gave us gifts like Becassine and Bleuette dolls, which are old French dolls that nobody ever heard of, and Little Prince lunch boxes and candy shaped like sea shells that came in little jewelry boxes but tasted all right anyway, and old copies of Semaine de Suzette magazine, which neither Cly or I could read, but which Mom insisted were collectors items and hid away somewhere.
So I really didn’t know Aunt Mill at all. Mom said I was going to love her. She said we were a lot alike. To tell you the truth, after hearing what Clymene said, I was so sick of everything that I just hoped the plane crashed into the icy Atlantic. If I survived the crash maybe I could live on an iceberg and eat seal blubber and live in an ice cave and if a search party found me I’d talk in a pretend language so they’d think I was the missing link or something and leave me alone.