Shock and ire roiled in his gut as Dan pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He had the next period off. Third time in one morning, he thought to himself as he slammed his office door yet again.
“Hey, baby doll,” he answered Fionna’s phone call.
“How was your first class? Wait. What’s wrong?” Panic perforated her tone. She always knew. His energy was with hers so often she could read him from miles away.
“Just found out I’m covering yet another class. Some other mentor decided to take a leave of absence or something. I’ve survived one class so far and I already want to leave.”
“Dan, if you hate this job we can….”
“I’m fine. Just needed to hear your voice. How are my girls?”
“I was working on Halia’s quilt and crib skirt, but I keep getting distracted because I can see her little feet and hands moving across my belly, which is pretty much the sweetest thing ever.”
Dan grinned. He could do this. It was for his girls. “I can’t wait to hold her in my hands, Fi. I just need … “
“To know she’s real and here and safe and that all of the insanity is really over.”
“Just a few more weeks, I guess. How did your first class go?”
“Well, everyone wants to meet you,” he informed her wryly.
“Me? Why me?”
Shaking his head, Dan found it incredible that his wife, famed Angels Receiver, stunningly beautiful by anyone’s standards, and as sweet, and loving, and caring as they come still didn’t believe she was anything special.
“Actually, I do need a favor.” He explained to her what he needed her to do in terms of Justin’s punishment. This seemed to delight her. He supposed any eighteen-year old guy thinking that you’re hot even if you’re thirty and pregnant would certainly stroke one’s ego, so he retold the story just to listen to her laugh again.
Thinking that the hours in his office certainly went faster than the ones in the classroom, Dan worked through his Basics of Defense freshman class notes before he headed to yet another classroom.
This class was much larger than his Senior Defense class and was used to begin weeding out Ioses predilects that would be suited for work within Iodex, those that would be better suited for Non-Gifted police precincts, and those that should seek work outside of law enforcement.
As lab classes wouldn’t begin meeting until the next week, this was Dan’s last class of the day. Keeping that thought firmly in his mind he headed to the front of the lecture hall. The school had been rearranged many times, but this particular classroom made him smile.
This was the very lecture hall where he would sit near the back row and admire Fionna Styler’s backside. It had served as a combined creative writing classroom back then. Fionna would always sit two rows ahead of Dan and his best friend Garrett Haydenshire.
She’d been a serious student, always studiously taking notes and paying attention. Dan abhorred creative writing so his boredom always led him to her ass. He’d certainly felt a tremendous amount of guilt over it then, though he was really nothing more than a horny teenage boy. He would certainly never have acted on his admiring impulses. He was in love with Amelia. In fact, other than directing Fionna to the dining hall on her first day at the academy, Dan hadn’t even spoken to her much when they were in school together.
He gazed out at the expectant faces staring back at him and went through the same spiel he’d given his first class. He wouldn’t be there as soon as Halia was born. There were aides if anyone needed help. When he would be available in his office and when he wouldn’t.
“For Thursday’s class…” Heads shot up from desks and cellphones that students were beginning to text from. “Read and outline Chapter 1 and be prepared for a quiz over the information as I consider it to be a decent beginning to the reasons we study Defense. Any questions?”
Defiance set in the dark brown eyes of the man on the back row as he raised his hand. “Are we going to be studying Wretchkinsides and the Interfeci?”
Clenching his jaw, Dan tried to let the realization that Wretchkinsides was in fact history wash through him. He kept his eyes locked on the student. “We will be studying the ways that Dominic Wretchkinsides began the Interfeci organization and their impact on the Realms of the world.”
“But you’re not gonna tell us how you killed him?”
“That is neither in the curriculum nor is it in anyway important, so no, I will not. Any less asinine questions?”
Uncomfortable silence drowned the room and no one else raised their hands.
“Don’t get used to this, but why don’t you all head on to lunch and I’ll see you Thursday.” Dan glanced at his watch. Escape drove him. Scrutiny from children was not something he would accept.
Turning off the lights as he left the room, he fought the urge to sprint to his car. His Monday and Wednesday schedule would be even longer.
His phone rang as he released the cast on his Ferrari. “I do like how often I get to talk to you throughout the day,” he informed his wife.
“Am I driving you crazy?”
“Not at all.”
“Hormones. Remember, I am inundated with baby hormones and prone to insanity.”
“You’re fine, babe. What’s up?”
“Are you leaving?”
“Yep, just pulled out.”
“Well, I was thinking why don’t you go by and pick Aida up from school? She’d love that, and you’ll be coming by there just before they get out.”
Dan knew that Fi wasn’t crazy about Aida riding the bus with what she deemed ‘big, huge, yucky, mean, middle-school, meanies,’ who would also be on the elementary school bus.
This was the term she’d used the night before when she’d broken down in tears after they’d laid out Aida’s clothes, packed her favorite foods in her new purple lunchbox, and read her The Paperbag Princess three times before she fell asleep.
“I’d love that, but you do know she is going to have to ride the bus at some point.”
“Not if her daddy can pick her up every day.”
“All right, fine. I’ll get baby girl and then I’ll be home.”
“I love you, and thank you for spoiling me and putting up with my insanity.”
“I love you and all of your hormones, sweetheart.”
Aida did love riding in the Ferrari with the top down, and it was a beautiful fall day. He certainly didn’t mind spoiling any of his girls.
“I have a question, but I’ve just been feeling weird ever since you said you were filling in for a teacher who was taking a leave of absence.”
“Which teacher are you filling in for?”
“I think her last name is Bryant. Katherine or Kaitlyn or something like that. I don’t know her. Why?”
“Just saw something in a magazine at the grocery store.”
“Fi, come on, you of all people know that nothing those rags print is true. You’ve got to stop casting them. Just let them show the Non-Gifted stories. There is a distinct difference in news and tabloids.”
“I know, but Chloe called and said she saw something else about us, and I wanted to know what they were reporting now.”
“You say reporting like they’re even capable of such, and I’m scared to ask.”
“They drudged up the old story that Halia is Garrett’s baby again. I thought that story had died a few months ago, but I guess not.”
Dan ground his teeth. Electricity sparked from his bicep to his fist. His shield pulsed. He owed Garrett Haydenshire most of his life. Garrett had pulled Dan up out of the deepest wells after Amelia had been murdered. He’d been Fionna’s best friend for almost two decades. He took care of Fi when Dan hadn’t been able to. Hell, he’d even had a hand in getting them Aida. Selfish desire to simply allow Halia to be his without question weighted his soul.
Garrett had pretended to be dating Fionna so that Dan could actually date her without her fate ending just like Amelia’s. Dan owed Garrett everything, but that didn’t make this particular swipe sting any less.
“Dan?” Fionna’s voice took on a solemn, soothing tone. “You know it’s just a stupid story. News must be slow this week.”
“Yeah, I know. Just sick of our names being headlines.”
“Yeah, me too. You go get our baby girl and bring her home. We don’t have to let the world inside these four walls, remember?”
Every time Dan pulled into McCarron Elementary, he smiled. When he’d attended there so many years before, he never imagined one day his children would attend the same school.
He maneuvered his way around dozens of cars lined up at the entrance. Finally locating a parking space, he lowered the top on the Ferrari before heading inside to pick Aida up from her classroom.
The school still smelled the way it had twenty-five years ago; fresh paint, copy paper, floor polish, and pink Pearl erasers. Some things never changed.
“Halt! Red rule violation! Red rule violation!” rang annoyingly from a heavy-set woman with extremely frizzy hair, dressed in a long denim skirt, a red turtle neck, and a navy blue sweater vest that had chalkboards and apples displayed on it prominently.
“Pardon me?” Dan quipped incredulously.
“Visitors are not allowed in the school without first signing in at the office, providing two forms of ID, and wearing a McCarron Elementary ‘We are the Caring Caron Bears’ school tag.”
“My daughter, Aida Vindico, is in Ms. Powell’s class. I’m just here to get her before she gets on the bus.”
“Not without a McCarron Elementary ‘We are the Caring Caron Bears’ school tag and two forms of ID you’re not.” She pointed him back to the front office.
Drawing a deep breath, Dan nodded. “Fine.”
“Can I help you, sir?” the secretary drawled.
“Yeah, I’m just here to pick up my little girl from Ms. Powell’s class before she gets on the bus. Here,” he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket showing his license and a credit card with his picture.
The secretary studied his license and credit card glancing from his face to the pictures numerous times.
Dan bit his tongue to keep from asking if she’d also like a fingerprint or retina scan as well.
“I’m so sorry to tell you this, Mr. Vindico, but unless your child is registered in the car-rider program, you aren’t allowed to take her home with you after two o’clock, and if she is registered in the car rider program then you’ll have to join the waiting parents in the line outside and her name will be called when you pull up to the drop off point. If she’s in our ‘Big Bears Ride the Bus’ program then you won’t be able to pick her up after two o’clock either.”
At his limit for being told that he could not do what he wanted to do or was going to do something he had no desire to do, indignation seared through Dan. “Listen up, my child is here in your school, and I am her father, and if myself or my wife should come into this school and want to pick up our daughter then you will give her to us. Let me reiterate - I am her father!” he roared furiously.
The secretary chuckled before pursing her lips. “I don’t care who you are, Mr. Vindico. School policy is school policy. It’s our job to keep the children safe and any child being picked up early has to be picked up before two o’clock.”