“Apologize to the judge, or else!” a woman’s voice yelled, echoing off the linoleum floors and metal lockers lining the hallway.
“Or what? He’s gonna put me in jail? You’re gonna ground me?” a locker slammed shut, and the snarky tone came rolling back as somebody ran up the stairs to the second- floor classrooms.
I poked my head around the corner to see if I could identify the involved parties. The girl was just disappearing around the corner of the first landing on the stairs, but I thought I recognized the button and patch-covered backpack of Aria Lawson. Which meant that the yelling woman was likely her mother, as she bore a strong resemblance to Aria.
Clearing my throat, I walked around the corner and confronted the woman who was standing at the bottom of the stairs, staring up as if she could get the girl back down by sheer force of will.
“Can I help you?” I asked in an innocuous tone.
The woman whirled around. “Who the hell are you?” she snarled.
I stopped and looked her up and down. Expensively, if casually dressed, she projected an air of entitlement and condescension. “I’m Diana Watson, the principal here at Eddy High School. And you are?” I replied.
Her demeanor changed almost immediately. Her shoulders slumped and she bowed her head, and all the fight went out of her. “I’m so sorry. My daughter has learned how to push every one of my buttons. I’m Kenzie Lawson, Aria’s mother,” the woman responded.
I nodded. “Well, Ms. Lawson, if you don’t mind coming in to my office, perhaps we can discuss whatever the problem is without screaming in the hallways,” I suggested.
She at least had the grace to look ashamed of herself as she followed me into my office. Parents are supposed to be able to control themselves while standing in their child’s high school. But I’d seen worse. There wasn’t a whole lot that could faze me after fifteen years as principal of the only shifter school in the Four Winds area.
I nodded to my administrative assistant, Lori, who just gave me a raised eyebrow in return. From that alone I knew she had more information for me about Ms. Lawson and her daughter.
“So, Ms. Lawson, what can you tell me about the scene I just witnessed in the hallway?” I started, gesturing for her to take one of the guest chairs in front of my desk. I settled myself in my chair and got comfortable. This should be an interesting story. Or at least an interesting excuse for a public screaming match.
“I’m terribly sorry Ms. Watson. I honestly do know better than to get into an argument with my daughter at school. Um, I don’t know if she’s said anything, but I’m here because I was dropping her off after her court date this morning. She’s a, um, honey badger shifter, and she has the temper of a honey badger, as you probably know. She got into a fight with one of the kids she runs with, and they all got picked up by the police. They had a short hearing in front of a judge this morning and my daughter was still, uh, channeling her badger, and mouthed off to the judge. Fortunately, he brushed it off and didn’t do anything about it other than to tell her that being rude to a judge in his courtroom was inviting disaster. What you saw was the end of about fifteen minutes of me trying to convince her to go back and apologize to the judge.” Kenzie Lawson sighed and slumped down in her chair.
I felt a twinge of sympathy for her. I knew Aria had a reputation at school for… well badgering… other students. Having worked with high school-aged shifter kids as both teacher and now principal, I had seen a lot of students struggle to control their shifter side. It wasn’t uncommon for the shifter side to surface very strongly in the years immediately surrounding puberty. Aria was eighteen and a senior, so hopefully, she would gain some control in the near future.
“I can appreciate that,” I told her. “And I appreciate you telling me about the meeting with the judge. I’ll make sure this morning is listed as an excused absence for Aria.” I stood up and moved to the door. “I hope the rest of your day is a bit calmer, Ms. Lawson,” I said, opening my door.
“Thank you, I hope so too,” she said in a tired voice, walking into the main office.
After she left, I sat down at Lori’s desk.
“So. What have you got for me,” I asked with a grin.
“Aria isn’t just acting like a bad-tempered badger, she’s spending most of her days, here at least, shifted and skipping classes. I overheard some of the students saying that she’s going after the smaller shifters as well, the squirrels and the like. Fortunately, they almost all stay in their human form while here, so they aren’t harmed. But she’s driving all the students crazy and even the ones who are friends with her are starting to avoid her,” Lori said in a low voice.
“Crap.” I sat back in the chair. “That’s worse than I was thinking. Is it a control issue, do you think? I mean even the seventh and eighth graders can control their shifts better than that.”
Lori shrugged. “Don’t know. But she’s causing a lot of problems, and her mother doesn’t seem to be able to deal with her. I don’t know if her dad is around or what.”
“Oh, goody. Possible broken home on top of it all. That explains a lot.” I sighed. “Okay. Get me Aria’s schedule and I’ll meet her after her last class, assuming she goes to it. If she doesn’t go to it, I guess we’ll start looking around campus for her.”
Lori grimaced. “Yeah, good luck with that.” She clicked through a couple of screens, hit print, and a few seconds later handed me Aria’s class schedule.
I stood up, looking at the schedule. “Thanks for the support,” I said with a heavy dose of sarcasm. “I’m going to wander around and see what’s what. Text me if any of her afternoon teachers report her absent.”
“Will do.” Lori nodded and returned her attention to her tasks. I slipped out of the office and decided to do an afternoon walkabout through the classroom buildings to see if I could spot Aria either in class, or as was more likely roaming around the campus grounds. At least as a wolfhound shifter (yes, I’m a real bitch), I was bigger than Aria when I shifted, and I had a great sense of smell, so finding her wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Assuming of course, that she was still on campus.
Oh, well. It beat sitting in my office all day and kept me on my toes.
Need a brief escape? Go on over to More Odds Than Ends and check out the prompt responses for a quick, and fun, read. Apologize to the judge, or else! was the prompt challenge I received from Cedar Sanderson. My prompt, I said ‘vermouth’ not ‘the truth!’ went to AC Young.