“It’s a surprise. Just do what you have to with it,” I told him.
After I hung up, I called Daddy’s messenger service. Then I put the two fifties into an envelope and wrote “Del Grant” on the outside. The messenger arrived, and I gave him directions. By the time Daddy found out I had used his service, it would be too late anyway and I would have time to think of some excuse like I had to get homework from someone or something.
Then I went back to my room and started my homework.
Of course, I would do better in school, I thought.
Honey gets more than vinegar.
A Life of Rainbows
Del was angry about the money and called me from the mall before he left for home. Fortunately, Daddy wasn’t back from wherever he had gone
on business so I was able to take the phone call. I pleaded with Del to keep the money.
“It’s nothing, just pocket money for me. I’ll waste it on some new lipstick and such. Your brother and sister have real needs and it will help you keep the dogs off,” I reminded him. “If the social worker comes around and sees they have what they need, they won’t haunt you.”
“I don’t like charity,” he insisted.
“Okay, so consider it a loan. When you’re rich and famous, you’ll pay me back.”
“Right, me rich and famous. That’s a good laugh.”
“I’ll try to see you this week,” I said. Then I heard the front door open and told him I had to go. It was Mother bursting in with all the latest social gossip. She couldn’t wait to get to her phone to pass it on. In her world, whoever knew something someone else didn’t was the person to envy. She barely seemed to notice me and asked me nothing about how I had spent my day. I almost felt like telling her about Carson’s impending engagement just to see the shock on her face that I knew something so socially important before she did, but I didn’t want to lose Carson’s trust.
I went back to my room and returned to my homework instead.
The next day I discovered that despite the lesson Daddy tried to teach me by having me arrested and kept in jail overnight, no one at school knew anything about it. Del certainly wasn’t going to gossip, and I wasn’t about to tell anyone, either.
All that week I did as well as I could at school. I was even nice to Mr. Croft and stayed after class to apologize to him for my previous behavior. I knew he liked things that were dramatic, so I concocted a new story.
“Not that it makes what I did right,” I told him, “but I had a bad shock at home. A cousin of mine whom”— I made a point of using the correct form, practically humming the m—“I was very close to was killed in a terrible car accident. No one wants to talk about it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “How horrible.”
“No, I’m sorry for what I did,” I repeated, and assured him I would behave in his class from now on. Then, I asked him about a grammar problem I really did understand, but I let him review it quickly, pretending to grasp it finally because of bis extra help, and thanked him.
Every day thereafter, he gave me a nice hello before class began. I could see the looks of confusion, even anger, on the faces of the snob birds, and I smiled to myself. I was actually beginning to enjoy being good. People, I discovered, wanted you not to be a problem so much that they were more trusting and gullible. My grades improved, and then, unbeknown to me, Mr. Bloomberg had all my teachers fill out a behavior report. It was sent home by the end of the week, and at dinner that night, Daddy surprised me by bringing it to the table and announcing what it was.
Mother held her breath as he took it out of the envelope and unfolded it.
Daddy put on his glasses and sat back.
“Apparently,” he began, “every one of your teachers has indicated a significant improvement in your classroom decorum and your work ethic.”
He lowered his glasses on the bridge of his nose and peered over them at me.
Mother released a deeply held sigh of dread.
“Also apparently, your experience in the real world, namely a jail cell, has awoken you to the potential consequences of your misbehavior. I say ‘apparently’ because I’ve been disappointed in you many, many times before, Teal.”
“Well, if all of her teachers have only good things to say,” Mother interjected, “then certainly…”
Daddy held up his hand and she caught her next words in her throat.
“I need to see consistency. I want to see a report like this every week from now on.”