Shit. Dan weighed everything James’ clearly knew and tried to determine the how badly this was going to blow up in his face. Similar to walking a mine field. Clearly, word was getting out about Jeff and Becca’s pregnancy. If Cantonfield wanted to make Dan and everyone else’s life miserable over Jeff’s appointment to Iodex, he probably could. And the person likely to take the blame for Dan playing favorites was most likely going to be Dan’s father, as he was the Governor of education. Claims of nepotism and abuse of power roiled in his gut. Loathing himself was never difficult. This only upped the ante.
Giving nothing away, Dan opened his laptop and pulled up James’ record, praying he’d find something, anything that would’ve prevented Cantonfield from being in the running for the internship.
His eyes fell to James’ grades. And there, mercifully, was something he could use. “You have a low B in Creative Writing and a complaint from the mentor.”
“So. That’s not my defense classes. My Ioses classes are all A’s, high A’s.”
“I fail to see your point.”
“Oh really? You fail to see my point? Wasn’t it you, the King of Iodex, who dropped your Creative Writing grade at the end which is how you managed a 4.2 average when you graduated?”
Fuck. How much did these kids know about him? “You are allowed to drop one grade before final grades are reported. You are not allowed to move on to the National Iodex team with mentor complaints, however. Insubordination is not an appealing quality in any member of a peace-keeping force.”
“That idiot hates everyone in Ioses order.”
“That is not my problem. If you keep this up, however, I’ll add another complaint to your record.”
“He really was right about you. You don’t give a shit about anyone here except the Governor’s kids.”
Desperate to know who Cantonfield was referencing, Dan told himself it didn’t matter. Surely there were dozens of kids who thought that way. Demanding to know who’d said that only made him look weak, and that was not something Dan Vindico would ever do.
“You’re excused,” Dan pointed to the door.
When Dan entered his Senior Defense class, Jeff was on the front row looking morose. Cantonfield was not in his usual desk.
No one except Jeff was in their usual seat because no one was in the three desks surrounding Jeff’s. This wasn’t getting any better.
After they worked through the class notes and Dan assigned a paper to be handed in two weeks later, he dismissed the class ten minutes early.
Jeff hung back.
“What happened?” Dan could feel the tension move through Jeff’s rhythms as he neared. His shield was frantic.
“Bec got sick when we got here, really sick. She ran in the bathroom, and there were tons of other girls in there I guess. Paula Dickson was in there, and she hates Becca. I don’t know why she hates her so much she’s a bitch.”
“That would be because Paula Dickson’s father, Kent, ran against Governor Sapman when he ran for office. Governor Sapman wiped up the floor with him.”
“Bec never told me that.”
“She was very young when her father became a Governor. She might not have known, but it is clearly still discussed in the Dickinson household. Grudges are difficult to let go of.”
“Paula told everyone she was pregnant. Becca’s pretty much the worst liar ever. And then some girl that’s friends with Paula heard Becca ask me if I thought her being sick would hurt the baby. She was freaking out. I tried to calm her down but now everyone knows.”
“Not an easy thing to hide, Jeff.”
“I know. I just didn’t want it to be any harder on her.”
“Just be there for her. That’s all you can do.”
“I swear I’m trying. She threw up twice.”
“Yeah, it can be rough at the beginning. Seltzer water and crackers helped Fi.”
“I’ll get her some from the dining hall vending machines. Hey, I know people are saying a bunch of stuff about you helping me get the internship. I don’t want to get you in trouble. I swear I didn’t tell anyone. I don’t know how everyone found out, unless Logan and Rainer said something while they were up here.”
"Index officers are generally very careful about who they share any information with. That's one of the first things you'll be taught." Dan wondered if anyone excluded the few guys Jeff hung out with from Senior Defense. “For now, don't worry about it. We’ll see you at the Haydenshire’s tonight and your official interview is tomorrow. After that, people will have other things to talk about.”
“I hope so. Bec’s going to take me by my mom’s apartment. I’m going to try to get my truck to start so we’ll both have cars to get where we’re supposed to be tomorrow.”
“Is it the battery?”
“I don’t think so. It started acting up a couple of weeks ago. I just started taking the bus to work. I haven’t really had time to run diagnostics.”
“I know a great mechanic. Maybe we could get it up there this weekend.”
“I don’t have any spare cash to get it fixed though.”
“We’ll figured something out.”
That evening, Dan drove his girls out to Haydenshire farm. They were greeted heartily by Mrs. Haydenshire who spent a full five minutes hugging Aida and rubbing Fionna’s belly.
“Well, George, I can tell you that you will regret this ridiculous decision for the rest of your life,” drawled from Governor Haydenshire, who was stepping out of his office holding his cell phone to his ear. Mrs. Haydenshire shook her head, sharing a heart broken glance with her husband as he ended the call.
“Aida, baby, how did you get so tall in one summer?” the Governor beamed at her.
“I don’t know,” Aida replied thoughtfully making everyone laugh.
“Ni-on-na!” Four year old Keaton Haydenshire rushed into the kitchen and flew to Fionna.
“Keaton!” She leaned to pick him up.
“Uh.” Dan shook his head in concern.
“Keaton let Fionna sit down and then she can hold you, son,” the Governor commanded. Fionna settled in the rocking chair in the kitchen, and Dan lifted Keaton into what was left of her lap.
“I take it that was Governor Sapman.” Dan gestured to the Governor’s phone on the counter.
“I swear to you no one is more protective of their little girls than I am, and I would have been there for every single moment if this had happened to Rainer and Emily.”
“May I go see baby Abigail, Mrs. Haydenshire?” Aida pled.
“Of course. She’ll be so excited you’re here.”
Slipping quickly into the expansive living room Aida settled on the blanket beside the latest addition to the Haydenshire clan. Abigail was sitting up hesitantly on a blanket with her hands between her legs keeping her steady.
Rainer, Emily, and Logan arrived just before Becca and Jeff made their appearance.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Mrs. Haydenshire embraced Becca in a motherly hug. “I have been right where you are, and you will get through this together.”
“You have?” Becca looked thoroughly confused.
“She has.” The Governor nodded.
Emily and Becca hugged next.
“Did you want us to hug you or is that not cool? I feel like Iodex officers should hug more. Maybe have some trust circles or something,” Logan teased Jeff.
“I’m really good, man, but thanks,” Jeff quipped.
“Mom and Dad won’t let me have any of my clothes or anything,” Becca was explaining to Emily. “Or my hope chest which has stuff I’ve been saving for when I get married and have a baby, which I am now doing.”
Dan saw determination etch Mrs. Haydenshire’s face. “Stephen, honey, I have a real craving for drive-thru,” she informed the Crown Governor.
Smiling knowingly, he shrugged into his jacket and grabbed his keys.
“Can you all watch the little ones while we make a little run out to Idylwood? The chicken is in the oven and everything else is ready. I casted it to stay warm. We’ll eat when we get back.” As Idylwood was the town in Falls Church where the Sapman’s mansion stood everyone immediately agreed.
“Have I mentioned lately how much I love you?” Governor Haydenshire winked at his wife.
“You have but I don’t mind you telling me again while we drive.”
“We’ll be back in a little while. Daniel here are the addresses and keys of the rental houses. You and Logan take Jeff and Becca out to see them. We’ll have the wedding as soon as we get back.” The Governor instructed.
“No problem,” Dan agreed.
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Haydenshire,” Becca threw her arms around Mrs. Haydenshire.
“Sometimes it’s just so hard to understand that we can’t live our children’s life for them, or make them do things just the way we’d like them to. Grasping that our kids can choose to live their lives without us if we push them away isn’t something any of us like to consider. I think your parents just need a little perspective, sweetie.” she soothed. “Keaton Haydenshire you behave and do what Fionna and Emily say.”
“But why?” Keaton whined. “I don’t wanna. I’m not gonna.”
“Every day he reminds me more and more of Garrett,” Governor Haydenshire teased.
“Yes, and every day I become more and more afraid,” Mrs. Haydenshire shook her head.