Strength Enduring(8)

By: Carrie Ann Ryan

She had no idea what she was going to do if he actually came after her and said that, yes, they were mates, and he wanted to do something about it. She also didn’t know what she would do if he never came after her at all. What she did know was that she was tired of standing back and waiting.

But the ball was in his court. And she guessed she would just have to wait it out.

She turned away from the mirror and went to get ready for her day. She had a meeting with the principal before her afternoon classes. She was an elementary school teacher, and that morning was a late start for a half-day for a teacher work day. Normally, she’d be in her classroom, either setting up for the next week, grading papers, or working on lesson plans, but the principal had wanted to see her, and that meant she needed to be on her best behavior.

Most people wouldn’t think of her as an elementary school teacher since she seemed to be the more outspoken one of her group of friends. But just because she stood up for those she cared about and herself, didn’t mean she couldn’t take care of children. She loved teaching, adored enriching lives and watching for that spark when a child truly understood what they were trying to learn. Her job wasn’t easy, she worked far too much and got paid way too little, but she still loved almost every moment of it.

But even as she thought that, she couldn’t help but wonder if today would be her last day—that sense of knowing coming at her again. She tried to brush it off like she usually did. There was no reason that she wouldn’t be a teacher after today. No reason at all. She worked harder than any of the others at her grade level. She was the one they sent the so-called problem students to. She didn’t think any of her kids were problem students. Some just needed a little extra help or had a different way of learning. That was her job as a teacher, to facilitate what each student needed. Some people didn’t understand, but she did, and she wasn’t going to stop fighting for her kids anytime soon.

And now she was getting angry and standing on her soapbox for no reason. The principal probably just wanted to talk about her lesson plans or something. The woman was very hands-on, a former teacher herself, even if she was a little standoffish in the personality department. Just because Dhani had dreamed a really weird dream didn’t mean it would leach into the rest of her life like it might have in the past.

By the time she had her coffee, did her morning yoga that she really didn’t like but needed to do anyway, and got ready for her day, she was still a little early when she got to her classroom. That meant she had a few minutes to make sure that the students’ desks were situated and that everything would be ready for them when they returned that afternoon.

When the time for her meeting came, she rolled her shoulders back and did her best not to act as if she were worried when she stepped into the principal’s office.

“Shut the door behind you, Ms. Coburn.”

Ms. Layne had a stern voice and an even sterner reputation. Dhani wasn’t afraid of her, but she wasn’t going to lie and say that she wasn’t intimidated.

“What was it you wanted to meet with me about?”

“Take a seat.”

Dhani did, that sense of dread in her belly tumbling around and growing bigger by the second.

“Ms. Coburn, there’s no easy way to say this. But after this meeting, I’m going to ask you to calmly pack up your things and go home. There’s a substitute teacher waiting to take over your class. You are no longer needed at the school.”

Dhani blinked. “What? What are you talking about? You can’t just fire me. I’m a damn good teacher.” She probably shouldn’t have cursed, but it was too late now, and she was scared—not even angry at this point. The anger would probably show itself soon.

“It’s come to my attention, no…it’s come to the board’s attention that you took off too many days in a row last quarter. And while some schools may allow that, we do not. Your personal life seems to have bled into your professional one, and the board is not pleased. We are not pleased. There is no union   here, Ms. Coburn. There is no recourse for you. If you fight this, it’ll be harder for you in the end. I’m sure your friends will be able to help you.”

Dhani had taken time off to help nurse her friend back to health after Dawn had been hurt. And then she’d done so again when Aimee was hurt. She had used what she thought was accrued vacation time but, apparently, that wasn’t how the board wanted to play it. She hadn’t missed the way the other woman had emphasized the word friends either.

The board wasn’t happy that Dhani was friends with the Talons.