Wednesday, July 31, 2013
The Journal of Penny Grant - July 14 - Changes
“Mrs Grant, this is Kayla Hill. I’m your son’s teacher.”
“Ms Hill,” I paused while I tried to think of an appropriate pleasantry as my mind raced through a dozen possibilities of why Buddy’s teacher would call. Was he sick or injured? Had he forgotten a school project? “I’m pleased to finally talk to you.”
“You won’t be soon. Look, can you come by after school today? We need to talk. Sooner will be better, Mrs Grant. Can you and Buddy’s father make it?”
“I’ll try, Ms Hill, but I can’t make any promises. I have triplets and it’s not often that I can get away. And Buddy’s father is overseas. He’s not due back yet.”
“I need to talk to you, Mrs Grant. Please try to make it.”
I ended the call. Obviously Buddy wasn’t sick, but what else would his teacher want to talk about? And I realised that Nick was due back relatively soon now. When he’d left, the babies weren’t that old. It was only about a month or so before his tour of duty was over.
“Of course, ma’am. That should be the toddlers nap time. If they don’t sleep, they do have plenty of toys to amuse themselves with.” Jake nodded reassuringly at me. “We will all be fine.”
So I left home just before 3 and headed for the school. It took me a little while to find someone who could tell me where Ms Hill might be. I found her and Buddy in the library.
“Thank you for coming, Mrs Grant.”
“Please, call me Penny. Mrs Grant is too formal for me.”
“In that case, you should call me Kayla.”
“So Kayla, why did you ring?”
“A bully?” I looked at Buddy but he was staring at his hands and refused to look at me. “I know he doesn’t like school but...”
“We knew that someone was bullying some of our other students. Sometimes one of the girls would be crying after recess. We’ve been notified by parents that their children was giving away lunch money. Finally though, we caught it on a surveillance camera.” She motioned toward the small tv in the corner and started a tape playing.
It took a few minutes to get to the critical scene. But I couldn’t deny that it was Buddy, first shouting at one little girl until she burst into tears and then shaking a boy until he was handed something. A few minutes later, he went over to the sand box and the two children in it scrambled to get out before he arrived.
I turned to look at my son. “Buddy, why? Why are you picking on them?”
He just shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t like them.”
I turned to Kayla. “Do you have any suggestions of where to go from here?”
“Is that all?”
“Until we can be sure he isn’t bullying the other children, he’ll have to be supervised by a teacher while he’s on the school grounds. No hanging around before or after school since he might be able to bully someone again.”
“I won’t,” declared Buddy.
Kayla and I looked at each other. “You won’t what?” I asked my son.
“I won’t talk to the counsellor, I won’t be nice to the cry babies at school. I won’t!”
What was I going to do with him? “Thank you, Kayla. I appreciate you letting me know. I’ll talk to Buddy, and see if I can get him to listen.” I stood up and reached for Buddy’s hand.
He resolutely moved his hands away from me. “I’m not a baby. Just leave me alone.”
“If you insist, Buddy. It’s time to go.” I was relieved to see that he also stood up and grabbed his books. We left the building and Buddy hurried ahead. I assume so he wouldn’t be seen with me.
After we’d been moving for a few minutes, Buddy suddenly spoke. “This isn’t the way home.”
“We are going to visit your grandparents,” I explained. I didn’t know if any of them would have any useful suggestions but it would be worth asking.
“Which grandparents?” he grumbled.
“Both of your grandfathers, I hope. Since they live next door to each other, it shouldn’t be hard.”
Dad was the one who answered the door. “Penny? What’s up?” He looked around to see if I’d managed to bring the triplets as well as Buddy.
“Buddy, why don’t you go find something to play with?” I knew that Mum and Dad had never changed our room much so there were plenty of toys in the house. Buddy let out a loud sigh then wandered into the house.
Dad winced. “Penny, I can’t promise he’ll talk to us either.”
"You have a chat with your mother while we see if Buddy responds to us," Dad said. He and Brad walked back toward what was our bedroom when Veronica and I lived at home. Mum was at the computer but she was willing to have a chat instead of working on another novel.
Some time later, Dad and Brad came back. "Sorry Penny but your son is stubborn. We tried but I don't think we made the slightest impression on him."
"Thanks for trying. I hope he doesn't start picking on the triplets too."
"We asked. Buddy looked shocked. I don't think he ever considered bullying the babies."
I nodded and went to collect Buddy. We went home, my son still unwilling to talk to me.
Unfortunately, weeks of counselling provided by the school also did nothing to change Buddy's behaviour. If he thought he could get away with it, he still bullied the other kids. The school started sending me suggestions about sending Buddy to a boarding school. Probably more to get him out of their school than to change his ways.
I was concentrating on what needed to be done for the triplets when the doorbell rang. I finished changing Joey's diapers, everyone who visits this house knows that it can take a while before I can answer the door.
When I finally opened the door, I saw nothing but wrapped packages. “I’m sorry, I would have hurried if I’d know you were carrying this much.”
I lead the way to the table. "Let me help you with those. Are they heavy?" A neutral grunt was the only reply.
I put several packages on the table before I finally saw who was behind them. "Nick?" He nodded and carefully put down the last of the packages.
Nick never once moved. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t retaliate, he just stood there while I released two years of pent anger and frustration. It wasn’t until I’d nearly worn myself out that I realised Nick had been quietly talking the whole time. He was repeating, “Penny, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” over and over again.
“Why, Nick? Why did you sign up for a tour of duty? Why did you abandon us?”
“Before I explain, I want you to know that I’ve been trying to come home. I’ve asked each of my commanding officers if I could have leave or get reassigned here. They pretty much stop seeing me after the first couple of weeks. But I did try.” He took a deep breath. “Remember what it was like just before I left? Neither of us had enough sleep, and we were both tired and stressed out?”
I glared at him. “It didn’t get any easier here without you.”
He looked at me but I just shook my head. I wasn’t sure what to say. “That’s when I wrote the first letter. I was told that you didn’t open any of my letters but I still wrote every week. They all start exactly the same way. ‘Penny, I love you. I hope that you’ll forgive me some day.’ I know I haven’t the right to ask that yet. But I hope very much that you’ll let me earn that right.”
He motioned toward the packages strewn over the table. “Those are the gifts for the kids. I bought you something as well.” He pulled a long white envelope out of a pocket. “I asked your dad what would be the best thing I could give you.”
“It took me about 6 months of sending him grovelling messages before he finally responded. I thought he’d block my number or change his before he’d answer me. Eventually though, he gave in and told me that the best gift I could possibly give you was this.” He handed me the envelope.
I opened it and found plane tickets to China. “The dates are completely flexible.” Nick said softly as I stared. “You can fly over when you want and return when you are ready.”
I shook my head. “I can’t go to China. The triplets need so much attention.”
“I’ll look after everything here.” I started to shake my head again. “Look, Penny, I know that you don’t trust me. But we both know that everyone in our families would be watching. I wouldn’t dare fail.”
“Nick, even then, how can I believe anything you say?” I stared at those lovely tickets in my hand. The thought of going back to China and resuming my martial arts training was so attractive. But I would never risk the triplets.
“Yes, Nick,” I said reluctantly. “You can see the babies. You are their father after all.” He headed toward their room before I’d even finished the sentence. "Wait, they are out the back in the swings." I followed along after he changed direction. “Emerald didn’t say she was writing you.”
“I think she didn’t want to upset you again. But I’m pretty sure that she used her rank to ensure I didn’t have much fun overseas.”
“What do you mean?”
His attention went from Joey to me. “Really? I thought I’d have to take Dad up on his offer of sleeping in a dog house. I thought he was joking until I heard Mum comment that it would contaminate the dog house if I slept there.”
Em was so outspoken that it could be harsh sometimes. “Buddy has taken to bullying kids at school. I’ve talked to him. Both our fathers have talked to him. He sees a counsellor at school twice a week. None of it is making any difference. He won’t really talk about it and he won’t stop doing it.” I pointed at Nick. “For you to stay, you have to agree to work with Buddy and take care of the triplets if they need any attention from 10 at night to 6 in the morning.”
“Yes, Penny, I accept. Anything else?” Nick replied quietly.
The front door slammed loudly, announcing the return of our oldest son. “Buddy, could you come outside please?”
We could hear the stomping and the grumbles as Buddy approached. Nick put Daisy back in the swing and turned to wait for Buddy. The door was shoved open.
“Hey, Buddy. How’s my little man?” asked Nick.
“Daddy?” replied Buddy as his eyes grew wide. “Daddy!” Buddy flung himself at his father.
I decided that for the moment, I’d leave the two of them together. I quietly left the room. I didn't love Nick. I didn't trust Nick. But if he could do something about Buddy, I'd let him stay.
it may be that Penny does love Nick.