I do have the conclusion for this story. I just haven’t been able to get it uploaded. I will try to get it done tonight. After that I will give my final NaNoWriMo update with total number of words. Needless to say.. it won’t be thirty days worth of writing, but it has been the largest amount of writing-story wise-for the past couple of months.
“And no one stopped this?” Claire asked still in shock. Brian looked down feeling his cheeks starting to grow red. Dottie squeezed his hand. Claire continued to glare at Brian, and clenched her hand into a fist.
“He didn’t have a choice. The voters decided,” Allison said softly. Claire snapped her gaze at Allison. The anger still flickering in her eyes. Andy started rubbing his neck nervously and looked apologetically at Brian.
“Someone could have changed their minds…”
“No, no one could,” Allison continued calmly continuing to look Claire in her eyes. Allison had been the only one to take on Claire and win. She kept her stance. “And lets be honest. Are parents really going to turn down state of the art schools with the right resources for their children? Shermer is old and needed to be either remodeled or torn down, and the voters decided to tear the building down.”
Claire huffed and looked away. She swirled the wine in her glass then started drinking it. She looked away from everyone in the table. Her gaze lingered on the empty chair next to her. Andy looked nervously at everyone. Brian looked at Dottie and she put her head on his shoulder giving him a reassured smile, while Allison just kept her eyes on Claire.
“Yeah, so,” Andy said, clapping his hands then resting his hand on Allison’s thigh. She tensed for a second then looked at Andy and smiled softly.
“So Bry, did you apply to the new schools for the Principal position or stay with the VP position?”
“I tried for both actually,” Brian said. He felt nervous. He knew Claire’s fuse was already on a countdown and he really didn’t want to set her off any further. “How is the insurance business, Andy?”
Brian was hoping to distract Andy and change the subject. He really wanted to save this subject for tomorrow before the goodbyes between them and Claire. He wanted to be able to run without things being further awkward tonight. They still had to meet tomorrow for breakfast and the other thing.
“Insurance is insurance,” Andy said undeterred, and Brian wanted to groan. “Have you heard anything yet?”
Claire’s gaze returned to Brian, and he wanted to disappear under the table. Dottie locked fingers with him and he looked at her. She smiled at him and squeezed his hand.
“Yeah, I have heard a few things.”
“So did you get it?”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get it,” Brian said looking at Andy. He ignored Claire’s glare. She leaned forward and got a concerned look.
“Principal or VP?”
“What!?” said Allison, scooting closer. Andy sat back with his mouth open, speechless.
“I am not surprised,” Brian started. “I was one of the applicants with the least amount of administrative experience and course work. I mean I was a teacher first, then moved into being a Vice Principal. There are more and more administrative applicants that have the proper degrees and experience without spending years in the classroom.”
“So what you are saying is the positions are going to kids with administrative degrees,” Claire said.
“I won’t say that exactly, but I will say there were some questionable choices,” Brian said looking at Claire. He let out a sigh and decided to eat his bread he had buttered earlier. Andy shook his head and a frown started to gather on his face.
“So what does that mean for you, Bry?”
“Well, a few of us were offered teaching positions instead. It would be a pay cut and we would have to complete some training before hand, but we would have jobs.”
“What would be teaching?” Claire asked taking another sip of her wine.
“The offered me the position of teaching shop…”
Andy let out a loud laugh, and everyone else followed. Allison clutched at her stomach as she fell back against her chair laughing. Andy started to slap at his knee and he bent over. Claire had started laughing to, and muffled her laughs in her arm, but with every laugh her arm shook, which had caused the wine in her glass to swish around. Brian chuckled and looked away. A smile crept across his face, and it made him flashback to the library many many years ago, when a group of teenagers met for the first time. He looked over at Dottie, and was jolted back to reality. She wore a smile but he could see the concern in her eyes. He knew it was now and never for him to let the group know.
Brian and Dottie were the first to arrive at the restaurant, but the rest of the crew wasn’t far behind. Andy and Allison arrived with Claire in tow and the group were quick to exchange hellos and hugs. Claire rarely came back, and the last few years had only really been for this quick meetup with the old crew. Her parents had moved away during her senior year, but she had kept in touch with Bender and Allison. The yearly get-together had been sparked with that and only seemed right to be on the anniversary of the day they all actually had sat down and got to know each other.
Brian gripped Dottie’s hand and looked at her smiling. She looked back at him smiling then returned to chatting with Allison. Claire had laid her jacket over the back of her chair, then sat down shifting herself slightly away from the empty chair next to her. Her eyes met Brian’s and she smiled.
“How have you been?” she asked leaning forward.
“Can’t complain. The school year is almost over so that will be a good break.”
“I bet. Kids today seem to be such a handful. Tiff hasn’t been doing good in school.”
“Uh-oh, what is going on?”
“Who knows? She hardly talks to me these days, and Allen isn’t really communicating much. Trish said she would try poking around, but we will see.”
Brian nodded, giving her a concerned look. “Things still not going smoothly for you and Allen?”
“No. I wish it had been more amicable, but things got so nasty toward the end of the sepearation. I am thankful if I can get a cordial text message at this point.”
“That has to be rough, and I am sorry about you and Tiff.”
“Divorce is never clean. It is always a messy affair, and at this point the only consistent thing is they all resent me.”
Brian found himself squeezing Dottie’s hand in gratitude. Thankful, they never had as many issues Claire and Allen had in their marriage, and their divorce.
“I am sure the girls don’t resent her,” Dottie chimed in, and Allison nodded in agreeance. Claire just chuckled and looked away. At that moment, a waiter came to the table. They quickly ordered drinks and appetizers, and the waiter left.
“Hey Claire, did Brian tell you the news?” Andy asked. Brian felt a lump form in his throat and he paled. He hadn’t wanted to discuss the news this early in the night, and he could only guess how Claire would react; let alone Andy and Allison.
“No, what is going on?” Claire asked eyeing Brian, and he felt Dottie squeeze his hand for support.
“They are closing the old high school down,’ interrupted Andy. At that moment, the waiter had returned with the drinks and baskets of bread. Andy had snatched a piece of bread and started buttering it. Brian looked dumbfounded and Claire looked shocked. She looked back and forth at Andy and Brian.
“They are closing Shermer High down!”
“Yeah,” replied Allison.
“What?” Claire asked. “Why? How?”
Andy and Allison stayed quiet and Brian took that as he cue to explain.
“It is several factors,” Brian began, grabbing a piece a bread. He gripped it nervously and avoided making eye contact with Claire. “Funding, student numbers and the conditions of the building…”
“But you are the Principal…”
“Vice Principal,” corrected Dottie. Claire just glared at Dottie and Dottie shrank down in her chair.
“You are the VICE Principal, how can you let this happen?”
“Well, one, this wasn’t my decision. This was the school board, the Superintendent, the city, pretty much the voters agreed to a levy and to consolidate some of the schools if they got newer schools that were more up to date and more efficient,” Brian said calmly. He set down the bread to pat Dottie on the leg, and he looked over at her and winked.
“So what is going to happen to the building?”
“We don’t know,” started Andy.
“Actually, they plan to demo it and it is getting parceled out to a hotel and a mini strip mall.”
Andy, Allison and Claire sat there not blinking with mouths open. Brian calmly buttered his piece of bread and started to eat it.
“Are you serious?” Allison asked, and Brian nodded.
“Sadly, yes,” Dottie said. “After the voters agreed to the levy, there were several organizations scouting the land.”
Brian felt a hard pat on his shoulder, and turned to find Andy’s balding head and navy business coat. He stood next to Brian looking into the library.
“Hey Andy, I didn’t realize you were here tonight. Do you coach tonight?”
“Oh no, just a quick stop in to talk to Jim about Saturday.”
“Nah, just a standard practice. Did you hear Ally got Claire?”
“Yeah, is she staying at your house? Dot and I forgot to offer, and frankly my mind has been elsewhere.”
“Oh understandable, buddy. She decided to stay at a hotel this time,” Andy said patting Brian on the shoulder again. He looked back at the library focusing in on the statue in the middle of the room. “I can’t believe that is still there.”
“What?” asked Brian, looking at Andy confused.
“The statue,” he replied pointing at it. “I figured that would be gone by now. Never knew what it was.”
“It’s supposed to be the tree of knowledge I believe,” answered Brian. “And, the main library is taking it at the end of the school year. They are doing a big remodel right now.”
Andy nodded and continued to scan the room with Brian. “So many memories…”
Brian nodded in agreeance. He could almost see the tables and hear Vernon in the room. A smile spread over Brian’s face and Andy patted him again on the shoulder.
“Well I will see you later, buddy. 7:30?”
“Yep, see you later,” Brian responded and Andy turned to head to the gym. They both waved at each other. Brian turned back to library and he could see the ghosts of five misfits for a moment, then he left whistling.
A lanky sixteen year old boy suddenly turned around to face a booming voice. An older man stood there with his arms crossed staring down the teenager. The teenager looked down at the trash he had just thrown down, then looked back at the man. He stood there with a firm glare not budging, and the teenager slumped down in guilt.
“Yes, Vice Principal Johnson…”
“Is that your trash?” he asked pointing to the garbage near Tommy’s feet. Tommy nodded in response.
“Pick it up and throw it away properly,” Johnson continued, and the teenager quickly shuffled to pick it up. “We will be here for a few more months, so we will keep the building intact.”
“Sorry, Vice Principal Johnson.”
“Just do better, Tommy. I know you got some real potential. I saw your artwork in Ms. Finch’s classroom. Did you enter the contest?”
“Yes,” Tommy answered shyly, and Johnson patted him lightly on the shoulder.
“Awesome. Now get going before you miss the bus.”
Brian watched the teenager race out the door. It felt like the kids were making his hair grayer quicker these days, but everything had been chaos in the school as of late. He had tried to keep things calm, but even his nerves had been rattled. The afterschool meeting had been cancelled, and for once; Brian was very happy for that. The gang was getting together tonight, and at least now he could unwind a bit before seeing them.
Suddenly, there was a vibration in his pocket, and he quickly reached into his pocket pulling out his phone. Flipping it open, he saw his wife, Dottie, had sent a text.
Ally has picked up Cee at the airport. Meeting tonight?
Meeting cancelled, he texted back.
Good! So earlier meet up?”
Yes, 7:30. Can you call Julio’s for reservation?
On it J, she responded.
He put the phone back in his pocket, and turned to head back into the office to get everything settled before the weekend. Brian stopped looking in the direction of the library, and a nagging feeling tugged at him.
“Just a quick minute,” he said under his breath. He made his way to the library and opened the door peering into the room.
“Hello, Mr. Johnson.”
Brian jumped for a second, but quickly located the voice. An older women looked at him from under her glasses, and she held a book in her hand. She looked back at the bookshelf, and went back to shelving her cart of books.
“Hello, Ms. Potter. Sorry to disturb you, but I will be gone in a moment.”
The woman paid him no mind and he felt like he was fifteen once again. He scanned the room, and he had been reorganized several times, but he could still see it with the empty tables up front.
Two stories down… a total of 6157 words written! Only 43,843 words left! Yippee!
“Looks like Tweety almost took flight there, John,” said Earl. Earl had been reading the paper when John had nudged him to look up at the clock.
“Yes it does. She had always been one to try to take flight,” John replied drying a glass. “Think I am going to have to call Ralph, and have him fix her again.”
“Why don’t you just get a new clock?” asked Earl, “I mean it may be time you get some new. Maybe, something digital.”
“Nah,” John laughed. “That cuckoo clock has been in the family for generations. It would be bad luck if we got rid of her.”
Earl snorted and returned to his paper, ignoring the cuckoo bird wobbling back and forth. John turned and picked up the phone, dialing Ralph’s number.
“Hey Ralph?” John said into the phone. He nodded and smiled. “Yep, Tweety attempted to take flight. Do you think you can get her fastened down again?”