“You might have to dig a little to find out what’s really going on,” Mrs.
Burrows said toward the end of their meeting in a soft voice that Shar
imagined she reserved for when she really wanted to make a point. “Be
her friend, to a degree. Be on her side.”
Shar sighed and stood. Be her friend. That was exactly what was
wrong with parents nowadays.
“I appreciate your concern. I’ll look into things.” She shook the teachers’ hands firmly, taking in the “No Sniveling” poster and the student-drawn ancient history timelines tacked to the walls, another assignment
her daughter hadn’t completed.
As she was leaving, Shar spotted a flyer advertising a dance class on
a bulletin board of community events. Ever since she was little, Jemma
had wanted to take one of those expensive classes, and Shar had always
turned her down, saying it was too costly, though the real reason had
more to do with her own dread of sitting with a bunch of beaming mothers, looking on as their tutu-clad daughters received praise for twirling
in circles. She would have preferred that her daughter ask for a basketball hoop, or a horse, or even a dirt bike, something with some teeth to
it. Now, she sighed and tucked the flyer into her purse.
When she got home, the girl was asleep on the couch with the TV on.
Shar shook her awake.
“Oh, God,” Jemma said, covering her face with her hands. “How did
“How do you expect? Your teachers think you’re a wreck.”
Jemma flushed and sat up. “Well, it’s going to stop today. I’m not go-
ing to be tardy again, I promise.” She pursed her lips as she yanked her
backpack open. “I’m getting it together, starting now. I need to do my
math homework, for one thing.”
She set her book on the coffee table and leafed through it, took out a
notebook and dull pencil.
“Sounds like you need to do more than that. Do I need to ask again
what’s going on with you?”
Shar had told the teachers she knew she was supposed to suspect
drugs in a situation like this and that she would investigate it, but it just
didn’t add up. The girl’s room was still splattered with princess décor
and horse posters, and the wildest music she listened to was her late
stepfather’s old Guess Who albums. Her friends were the same nervous
little rule-followers she’d hung out with since elementary school.