Chapter 2

1088 Words
"Laney, you have a phone call." Laney Burroughs winced as the loud whisper carried like a siren in the quiet main room of the Maguire County Library. "I'll be right there." She nodded briefly at her coworker Sarah, who had stuck her head out of the library's tiny office. Then she handed a stack of paperback romance novels over the counter to the Methodist pastor's wife. "Enjoy, Mrs. R." "Always do, dear." Emily Rawlings nodded her silvery head and smiled warmly as she left. Sarah Kendall gave Laney a quick squeeze on the shoulder. "It's Principal Tight-Ass Greene again." "Oh, great." So much for Laney's day going well. Sarah wrinkled her nose. "Don't you let that Lester Greene push you around. Parker is a good boy. It isn't his fault your sister broke Lester's heart back in high school." Ah, the joys of small-town Texas life. Everybody in Hawthorne knew everything about everybody - except for Laney, it seemed. How had she not known that Nina had dumped Lester Greene, who was now the high school principal? Not that it was any great surprise. Nina had slept her way through half the baseball team and most of the football team, which, come to think of it, had included Lester Greene, back in the day. The worst of it was that Nina was long gone and didn't have to deal with the fallout, but her fifteen-year-old son, Parker, did. For about the hundredth time that week, Laney considered the possibility of pulling up stakes and moving someplace like Dallas or San Antonio. In a bigger town, a goth kid like Parker wouldn't stand out so much. On the other hand, the real gang-bangers might very well eat a nice, small-town boy for lunch. She wished she knew the right thing to do, for herself and for her nephew. "You go take the call." Sarah Kendall tipped her "Sunset Blonde" head toward the office and moved to the circulation desk. "I'll take over out here." There were only the two of them working, though they'd have their high-school page coming in soon. The library wasn't exactly a happening place at 2:00 on a Friday afternoon. Laney stood and brushed a wrinkle out of her calf-length cotton skirt. Squaring her shoulders, she set off to find out what trouble Parker had gotten into this time. She squared her shoulders, stepped back into the office and waved Sarah toward the circulation desk. Then she lifted the phone and clicked the button for line two. "Hello? This is Laney Burroughs." "Ms. Burroughs, I'm afraid we need you to pick up your nephew again," the harsh, nasal voice of Lester Greene grated in her ear. "What is it this time, Mr. Greene?" Please let it be something minor, like talking back to a teacher or forgetting his homework. "There was an...altercation with another student. As usual, your nephew was being a disruptive influence in the classroom." "I see." Despite her alarm, Laney's hackles rose. Alarm won out. "Was either student injured?" "I don't believe so, but the classroom was in some disarray. Apparently, their little struggle toppled a bookshelf." A bookshelf? That's all? The rat was going on about furniture? Now, anger kicked in. The jerk might have mentioned right off that no one had been hurt. "The backs were loosened on several textbooks," Greene droned on. "Such disregard for proper order and school property must be punished." As a librarian, she winced at the thought of the damaged books, but as Parker's aunt and guardian, she wasn't about to let Greene know it. "Is the other student being sent home as well?" It would be like the man to only punish Parker, out of pure dislike. "I'm not at liberty to tell you that, Ms. Burroughs." "Fine." She could practically see the patronizing sneer on his pudgy face. "I'll expect a written report of the incident, in accordance with the school code of conduct and state law, when I arrive. If there's anything in it to indicate unfair treatment, you'll find yourself speaking with an attorney before you can blink." Not that she could afford one, but she'd figure out something if it came to it. She could always re-mortgage her house, though the thought made her stomach hurt. "I...umm...perhaps we've reacted a little rashly, Ms. Burroughs. If you'd like to come into my office for a private discussion - " "If I do, it will be with my attorney." The last time she'd tried to meet with slime ball Greene personally, he'd hit on her, assuming, as so many people here did, that she was just like her sister, who would have happily slept her way out of any problem, however minor. "Have Parker ready for me. And that report." "If you insist." There was silence on the other end of the line. Laney could practically hear Greene weighing the threat of lawyers against his natural inclination to bully. Thank heaven, fear of lawyers won. "The upshot is both boys are being sent home for the remainder of the day, and both will be expected to serve detention on Saturday." "I'll still want to see that report." "Saving it for your nephew's scrapbook?" Lester always had to have the last word. "It's not like he's got any good news to fill it with." "Other than winning the state math competition? Or regionals for the robot challenge? Or straight A report cards every year until high school? You refuse to see him for the good kid he is and keep assigning him to teachers who follow your lead!" Furious, she slammed down the phone. "Sweetie, why don't you just go home? Maybe catch a quick nap." The library was totally empty, so Sarah had left the front counter to come check on Laney. "Is Parker all right?" "Yeah. Just another detention." Sarah brushed a strand of Laney's straight, dark brown hair off her cheek. "Being fifteen can be rough. I remember when my twins were that age. Trust me though, you'll survive it, and so will Parker. Now, take off. I'll see you both at Miss Mamie's barbecue later tonight." Laney grimaced. "Yeah. We'll be there." Since the library closed early for the annual event, she didn't have an excuse to miss it. Time to retrieve her kid, for Parker was hers, in every way that counted. She thanked Sarah for covering for her then picked up her purse and headed out, wishing she hadn't picked today to ride her bicycle to work.
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