Principal Johnstone ***
Principal Johnstone Tick.
Principal Johnstone Tick.
Principal Johnstone is reading a report. He casts an eye over at the time, and then over Antares, sitting on a chair opposite. "We did specify 5.15pm, Antares, I believe. Is there some delay?"
Antares does her best not to fidget, tries to stare back at him calmly. "Don't ask me, I was here on time. Do you really have a private talk with everyone who forgets to ask for permission to pee?"
Principal Johnstone looks calmly over his spectacles at Antares. "No, I do not. I do, however, take a specialised interest in pupils with a troubled academic history."
Principal Johnstone "I want you to land on both feet here, Antares. A fresh start, yes? So if there are problems, we must nip them in the bud."
Antares definitely fidgets. "I'm not troubled."
Principal Johnstone looks down at his report, briefly. "Perhaps not. Nonetheless, I want to see you get the best start possible." He smiles. "You're not on trial here, Antares, you can relax."
Mr Amiri "I'm here, I'm here. Sorry I'm late." Mr. Amiri steps into the room looking frazzled and a little winded.
Antares looks mutinous for a second at his last comment, then visibly calms herself. "I'm glad to be back in the area. I have a couple of friends--" she stops dead as her father arrives.
Mr Amiri "Mom couldn't make it, Antie."
Mr Amiri pauses. "How've you been?"
Antares blinks at him, twice, like he's speaking a foreign language she's not sure she likes. Then she says, warily, "Okay. Principal Johnstone, uh, my dad."
Mr Amiri snaps back into action, suddenly confident. "Principal Johnstone, James Amiri. Good afternoon. Mind if I take a seat?" he says, offering his hand.
Principal Johnstone takes the hand and shakes it warmly. "Go right ahead, Mr. Amiri"
Mr Amiri takes a seat.
Mr Amiri "What seems to be the trouble this time, Principal Johnstone?"
Mr Amiri immediately realizes what he's said, momentarily screwing his face up in regret.
Antares clenches her jaw, staring over the principal's right shoulder.
Principal Johnstone clears his throat. "There are no problems as of yet, Mr. Amiri. A minor rules infraction has already been dealt with."
Principal Johnstone "I just want to see to it that Antares' introduction to our school here goes as smoothly as possible, given that she's coming in so late in the school year.."
Principal Johnstone opens a file.
Antares "He's looking out for me," Antares tells the school safety certificate hanging past the principal's shoulder. It's not quite an accusing tone.
Principal Johnstone "Now, ordinarily we wouldn't take in a pupil so close to the end of the school year, but we have made an exception given the... special.. circumstances."
Antares "I've already gotten detention once," Antares adds helpfully.
Principal Johnstone "However, there is an administrative concern..." He licks a finger and turns a page. "We sent a letter to the address of your previous school, requesting grades and the like, but they have yet to mail us back."
Mr Amiri "I'm not sure what it is you're asking me to do."
Antares sits up even straighter, still staring fixedly past him.
Antares "I think Principal Johnstone has some idea in his head about you acting parental."
Principal Johnstone looks up. "I did a little digging, and none of the state records I could find had anything about this school... so I hope we have the correct address. Perhaps you could check for me, Mr. Amiri?"
Mr Amiri "Let me rephrase: is there something school-administration-related I can do that the school administration can't?"
Principal Johnstone "Our administrators have tried to contact the school, Mr. Amiri."
Principal Johnstone proffers the file.
Mr Amiri stands. "Just what are you implying?" he says, his face beginning to turn red.
Antares "Oops, touched a nerve," murmurs Antares to no one in particular.
Principal Johnstone looks seriosuly at Mr. Amiri. "I imply nothing, Mr. Amiri. I merely wish to get hold of these records, which, I hope you will agree, are critical to your daughter's continued education."
Mr Amiri "And her continued education is your job! Shuffling paperwork is not mine! I work hard to keep my family afloat, Mr. Johnstone!" he shouts, and knocks the file out of the principal's hand.
Antares "If you really want to rile him, ask about his terrorist connections," Antares says, her eyes glittering.
Mr Amiri "Maybe I wasn't perfect, sir, but I damn sure didn't deserve the second chance I got, and if anyone does deserve a new beginning, it's her," he says through gritted teeth.
Mr Amiri "Good day." Mr. Amiri heads for the door.
Principal Johnstone removes his glasses, and wipes them with a cloth. He watches Mr. Amiri go without further comment.
Antares Antares' mouth drops open a bit--she wasn't expecting that last part.
Antares She stares down at her hands, clenched in her lap.
Antares "So, uh," she says in a funny voice, "that was my dad." She coughs. "Do you really still want my file?"
Principal Johnstone replaces his glasses. "Not exactly unexpected, I'm afraid." he says, nodding toward the door.
Principal Johnstone "I'm going to level with you, Antares."
Antares looks up warily.
Principal Johnstone "This school doesn't exist. Your father falsified information on these forms."
Antares opens her mouth to say something, shuts it. She thinks a second then says, "And?"
Principal Johnstone "Now, I have my suspiscions as to why this is, and I don't like them. You're not the only child to come through these doors from that place. I try to do my bit here to see they don't come to harm."
Principal Johnstone "That's why you've gotten in, your father's clumsy bribe notwithstanding."
Antares "Who else?" she asks, before she can stop herself.
Principal Johnstone "That would be confidential, Antares."
Principal Johnstone "Perhaps some of them may choose to reveal themselves to you, in time."
Antares stands up, hands clenched. "I want to stay here. I'll behave. But don't you talk about my dad like that."
Principal Johnstone stands and turns to face his window. "I got into education, Antares, because I genuinely believe that children are the future. It's a sappy line overused by politicians, but few really realise the truth of it. Our children will do things that would astonish us, and our grandchildren quickly move beyond our own easy comprehension."
Principal Johnstone "Your loyalty to your father is admirable, in its way. But do not forget that he does not own you. You own yourself, Antares."
Antares rocks forward a bit, staring at the principal's back like she could burn a hole in it. Her hands are shaking.
Antares "You don't have to tell me who owns me," she says in a choked voice. She takes a step toward him, stops, starts backing toward the door.
Principal Johnstone turns to face her, eyes suddenly full of fire.
Principal Johnstone "I love the children at this school, Antares. I earnestly believe that they are all, each and every one, stars."
Principal Johnstone "But some more than others. Am I right?"
Principal Johnstone smiles, broadly.
Antares opens her mouth and can't find anything to say. Her hand fumbles for the door knob.
Principal Johnstone nods, satisfied. He returns to his desk. "You may go, Antares. I will be following your career here with interest."
Principal Johnstone looks down at his papers as if nothing untoward had occured.
Antares backs out of the room, slamming the door so hard a crack runs up the glass. She stands there for a second, breathing like she's run a marathon, then heads blindly down the hall.