It worried Tabitha a bit too, but instead she said,
“Don’t worry, it’s probably fine.”
“You don’t really think that,” Brian muttered. Before she could ask him just how he knew what she was thinking, the principal’s secretary came out into the hall and said,
“Good morning, everyone, Dr. Byers is ready for you now, if you will just follow me.” Tabitha’s parents filed into the school management offices first, and Mr. DiAmbrosio waved Tabitha and Brian in before he brought up the rear.
The principal’s office had only four chairs—obviously they had not expected both of her parents to come—but the secretary soon found another and they were all about to be seated when Mr. White, another assistant principal, and a teacher Tabitha did not know entered the office, slipping past Mr. DiAmbrosio to stand beside Dr. Byers. The adults shook hands, but Brian went a little white and grabbed her hand.
“Well I won’t keep you all in suspense. Earlier this week, Mr. Keith came to Mr. Grossman,” she indicated the teacher and the assistant principal respectively, “about what he felt was an attempt at plagiarism.” Dr. Byers slid on a pair of bifocals and picked up a paper which had Brian’s name at the top and slid it forward to let the parents see.
“Wait, if this is Brian’s paper, what has it got to do with Tabitha?” Carol asked.
“I overheard Brian say he had help from Tabitha on his paper,” Mr. Keith replied.
“So, she helped him,” her dad said. “Tabby’s lost more than a few friends for not letting them cheat off of her.”
“And I don’t see how you think Brian plagiarized this paper,” Mr. DiAmbrosio said. “I saw his original draft and his notes on revision. I agree there’s a marked improvement, but all Tabitha did was tell him what to fix. We talked about it when he got back from the library.”
“And what exactly could Tabitha have said to make such a great improvement?” Mr. Keith asked. “Mr. DiAmbrosio I’m sorry, but the best paper I’ve seen your son turn in was worth a C and that was after revision. This paper is probably worth an A in the honors class. I’m not sure even with the help of another student, he could have achieved this.”
“Are you people crazy?” Carol asked. “Do you have any idea how much this girl studies? How much she was to get into a good college? Tabitha would not write a paper for a boy—not even if she liked him. But she would help him if he asked for it.”
“Regardless of how intelligent Ms. Walls is, it is the official feeling of the school that Mr. DiAmbrosio could not have achieved such an increase in effort, or at least the amount necessary to produce a paper of this quality, in such a short period of time. We are not saying that Tabitha wrote the paper for him, but it arouses some suspicions about her own work—”
“You people are crazy!” Mitch declared. “Do you have any idea how hard my daughter works for her grades?”
“Well, Mr. Walls, how much of her studying do you see?” Dr. Byers asked.
“I watched her do every single sheet of homework up until she went to high school, and the only reason I didn’t see anything after that was because she did a lot of it when she was volunteering at the library. And I’m willing to bet each and every one of the librarian she works with would be willing to testify that she does her own work.”
“Your faith in your daughter is endearing, Mr. Walls, but this is not an open discussion,” Mr. White said.
“Mr. White is quite correct,” Dr. Byers said. “Unfortunately, we cannot accept your testimonial statement as you are their parents and you will say anything to protect your children. At minimum we are considering a month’s suspension.”
“All three parents began to object about loss of grades, when Tabitha snorted.
“Yes, Ms. Walls?” asked Dr. Byers. “Is there something you would like to add?”
“Yeah, just how stupid are you?” Tabitha asked. All eyes turned to her immediately. Her parent’s faces were especially conflicted between berating her and congratulating her on standing up for herself.
“Excuse me?” Dr. Byers asked. Tabitha had not meant to say it, but something in her—maybe even just the knowledge that she could do magic or that she was right—drove her on to repeat herself,
“Just how stupid are you?” she inquired. “Or better yet, how stupid do you think we are?”
“Ms. Walls I’m not sure what you mean but—” Dr. Byers’ face began to turn red when Tabitha cut her off,
“Then let me explain it to you,” she said. “Brian and I are part of a five to seven percent population of the school. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at it—unless you look at the report cards since we’re the kids who constantly bring home straight A’s. It looks even more different when you look at in spring after they grad the standardized tests, when we consistently get you the test scores that get the school finding which immediately goes to the failing sports program.” Tabitha paused for breath before she continued,
“If you suspend me or expel me, I can guarantee you one thing—I will not come back. I’ll bet you Mr. DiAmbrosio is mad enough that he won’t let Brian come back either, and once word gets around I’m willing to bet that certain others are not going to come back either.”
“You really think you can get the whole school to walk out over your petty suspension?” Mr. White asked.
“Not the whole school,” Tabitha returned. “Just five to seven percent. Maybe a little more once word gets around.” The adults sat in silence and Brian held up his cell phone,
“And you know with social networking nowadays, it’ll be through the school in an hour. Sure, maybe we’ll lose a semester, but we can all keep studying. There’s actually an early colleges program that I’m sure would love to have Tabitha as its poster child and I sure wouldn’t mind some free college credit.
“And you know something, with just a few of those kids, or maybe even just Brian and I, we might just be able to do something about the bullying problem the administration here seems so fond of overlooking,” Tabitha suggested.
“Perhaps a lawsuit,” said Mr. DiAmbrosio. “I know a few good lawyers who owe me a few favors.”
“On what charges?” Mr. White scoffed.
“Battery, assault, harassment,” Brian ticked off on his fingers. “Just to name a few.”
Dr. Byers stared Tabitha down so hard, that she almost relented and took it all back. But Brian gripped her hand tightly, and Carol and her father took the other in theirs. Tabitha hardened her faze and stared back.
“You’re suspended. Two months,” Dr. Byers retorted. “For threatening school faculty and for plagiarism.” Tabitha snorted again, grabbed her bad and stood.
“Challenge accepted,” she remarked as she walked out, her parents and the DiAmbrosio behind her.
When they reached the court yard her father let out a large whoop.
“That was amazing, Tabby—just promise me you never play us like that!”
“I promise,” Tabitha replied. “But can we go to the university to tell the dean about this? I don’t want him taking the school’s side.”
“Sure, baby, we just have to wait for Carol to get Reiss.” He held out his hand to Mr. DiAmbrosio and shook it tightly. “Thank you for supporting my daughter in there.”
“It was a pleasure,” DiAmbrosio replied with a smile. “Tabitha, if I may, when you finished with College apply for as many government positions as you can. We need people like you.” He blinked and turned to Brian. “What are you doing son?”
“Tweeting,” Brian said. “Then Facebook messaging. Then I might put something up on YouTube. Tabs, you have to be in that one with me.” He looked up at them. “What/ If we don’t do it like we said we would they won’t trust us to follow through all the way. It’s basic child psychology.” DiAmbrosio patted him on the back.
“That’s my boy.” Brian grinned and linked arms with Tabitha.
“My dear, you just became my best friend and my personal hero,” Tabitha grinned and flushed.
Chapter Eleven: In a Bad Place
The video started shakily, but aimed itself at a girl with dark brown hair, wearing a grey coat.
“Is it on?” she asked.
“Yeah, there’s the light,” said a deeper voice from off screen.
“Hi!” the girl chirped. “My name is Tabitha and over here is Brian—he’s your regular video maker.” The camera turned to an Italian boy who smiled and waved. “And the reason I’m talking is because I kind of started this whole thing. The whole thing being, as of about fifteen minutes ago, we got suspended for the rest of the semester.”
“Yay!” came a chorus of voices.
“A voice like gravel came out of the darkness only illuminated by the computer screen,
“She is very bold,” it said.
“It’s likely she knows we are watching her already,” said a robust voice. “She has no real reason to hide herself.”
“Does she suspect White?”
“Difficult to say, sir. She appeared uncomfortable around him before, but this appears told be a more general act of rebellion, than one specifically to get away from White. It still suites our plans well enough. In fact, it gives us more time as we have been met with some resistance.”
“We believe it will be taken care of before the solstice, though. It’s more a matter of time than actual resistance.”
“And what do we immortal men care for time?” asked the gravel voice.
“Exactly my thoughts sir.”
“And what of White.”
“No sir, I thought you would want to do the honors.” The gavel voice smiled over the sound of the children rambling on.
“Excellent. Let him suffer wondering for one more night, then bring him to me in the morning.”
“And the girl? What is our next move with her?”
“Plant more seeds to grow in her. I have a feeling this one will be easy to use toward our purposes. But first and foremost, look for the book. That is our prime objective.”
“Yes, Ambrosious, your will be done.”
Chapter Twelve: Wandering and Magicing in the Park
Tabitha wondered if a chemical high could make her feel as good as she did now. Brian’s social networking had paid off and they would even be interviewed for the news tomorrow. Plenty of kids were planning on pulling out of school and their parents were discussing the possibilities with Mr. DiAmbrosio and Carol. The dean had been very understanding and upon looking at Brian’s original paper and revision notes with the new one declared he could see no plagiarism and congratulated her on her bravery.
Unfortunately with no secondary school backing her, he had to put her on academic suspension. “But you are welcome back just as soon as you are able.”
Barbara told her to spend the night with her family and rest up for the days ahead as well as gave her a list of alternate schools.
The two families came together over the best Chinese food in town and a cake which read, “Congratulations on your suspension.”