- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #25 – Auditions Part 1
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #26 – Auditions Part 2
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #27 – Auditions Part 3
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #28 – Auditions Part 4
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #29 – Auditions Part 5
- Liedecker Institute: Sophomore Year #35 – Together Part 2
Laurel was instantly on guard when she entered her office to find her next interview appointment waiting for her.
It wasn’t that Gerald Anthony Smith, Jr was in her office; the door had been left open while she went to the teacher’s lounge for a cup of coffee and a bear claw. No, it was the fact that Gerald, also known as The Gnome had shaved, combed his hair neatly, and dressed in a nice pressed shirt and slacks. The only thing to mark him as unusual was the pointy, red gnome hat he’d placed in his lap.
The Gnome never made himself presentable, at least not unless his parents got involved and made him. Oh, he kept clean, but usually there was a bird’s nest of blonde hair under his chin, his hair an unruly mess, and his cloths strictly casual.
Cautiously, she sat her half-full cup on her desk and then sat down beside it. Whatever The Gnome was up to, she decided to keep on her toes. “Hello, The Gnome.” Six months over the course of the first year had convinced her and the rest of the staff that trying to make him answer to Gerald was a lost cause.
“Greetings and salutations from The Gnome, Miss Brant. How are you this fine day?” He gave her a winning smile.
“I’m doing fine and yourself?” Any minute now. She could feel it coming.
The Gnome puffed out his chest. “Quite well.”
Deciding to just face the fire head on, Laurel folded her hands in front of her. “So, The Gnome, I suppose I’ll start with the question I ask everyone in these interviews. Why do you want to be part of the safety patrol?”
To her surprise, The Gnome shrugged. “Actually, The Gnome does not think he would be a good fit for the Safety Patrol.”
Laurel blinked. Of all the things she’d been expecting, that certainly wasn’t it. “Excuse me?”
He spread his hand expansively. “The Gnome is not one to follow orders or work well in groups. Duos, yes. Possibly even trios. But once a formal hierarchy emerges, The Gnome would lose interest. The Gnome is more of a silent guardian. Or a watchful protector. He would work best from secret.”
“We don’t have any plans for any such program, The Gnome.” Laurel didn’t even hide the flatness in her voice, knowing full well that The Gnome would gloss over it anyway. After collecting herself, she asked, “But if you don’t want to be part of the program, why did you have your parents call me and go through all the formalities of arranging an interview.”
“That would be because The Gnome must protest your policy regarding who can have an interview! Though well-meaning and conducive to PR, your choice ignores that some students are here because of their family’s prejudice causing it to be preferable for them to be boarded here. How, for example, will Virginia be able to secure the boon of parent’s permission? And what about Steampunk or Maya? Neither of them have parents of legal guardians to bestow permission. Are they supposed to merely accept being left out?”
Laurel let out a little sigh. Even without issues of parents afraid or disgusted by their children’s powers, she’d been bombarded with emails from students who didn’t agree with their parents’ choices and wanted to find a way around that requirement. It also meant that, given the legal limbo Maya and Steampunk’s cases remained in, they were excluded.
“It’s unfortunate, but we can’t just ignore the wishes of the parents when it comes to their children.. I’ve been promising everyone that asks that I will speak with their parents about the subject, but that’s just the way it is.”
The Gnome listened and nodded with grim understanding on his face. “Understood. But The Gnome would like to propose an alternative solution: A Student Auxiliary Safety Patrol that functions as a club without staff involvement or training. You could be the staff liaison.”
Laurel quirked an eyebrow. “You want me to put my stamp of approval and responsibility on a student-led superhero club with no formal training?”
“That would be preferable, yes.”
Her next appointment wasn’t a student, but they were surprising in their own, unique way.
Shortly after The Gnome left, Lucy Black, owner and proprietress of Midnight Black knocked tentatively on the door frame. Laurel motioned her in with a smile. “Come in, Ms. Black,” she said, slipping off her desk to return to her proper seat. Once there, she offered her hand to shake.
“I have to admit, I don’t know why you wanted to meet with me: you already have the contract to cater all our dances. Is there something wrong with the arrangement?”
Lucy shook her hand and took the seat across from her. “Actually, this has nothing to do with business. I know this might sound odd, or maybe even inappropriate, but this is about Maya.”
Laurel made sure not to react outwardly. A lot of things were ‘about’ Maya and few of them were positive.
Taking her silence as a cue to continue, Lucy did so: “She comes into the shop a lot and she talks to me sometimes. A lot of the kids do. I guess I exude a ‘cool big sis’ kind of vibe. Anyway, she’s told me about her situation—about how the school had to take guardianship of her?”
In truth, even Laurel didn’t know how Vincent Liedecker pulled that one off. Within forty-eight ours of either girl arriving at the school, Social Services had ceased all talk of placing Maya or Steampunk in foster homes entirely. That this neatly solved the problem of both girls needing significant precautions and safeguards in the home for safety and insurance reasons was beside the point.
She nodded. “Yes, her situation is tragic and complex as you might imagine. But regardless of what she might tell you freely, it’s also personal and confidential. I can’t discuss anything about her situation with you.”
Lucy ducked her head in agreement. “I understand all that. I expected it. But I still wanted to come here and say my piece to you—especially to you. It was in the paper about you adopting the girl who lived at your boarding house. I wanted to talk to you about what that entails.”
At this, Laurel tilted her head almost imperceptibly. “You want to discuss adoption?” It was an unnecessary question especially from a hypercognitive, but she wanted to gauge Lucy’s reactions. It wasn’t paranoia because there was no end to people trying to gain access to descendant kids for their own nefarious ends.
Lucy pursed her lips. “I suppose I do, yeah. Listen, I know it sounds like a knee-jerk reaction, but I know these kids and I know Maya and I’m not sure if going through her teen years being raised by a school.”
“I hate to ask this, because your heart is clearly in the right place but… do you know what May’s powers are?”
The cafe owner shrugged. “It has something to do with fire. She has Soot, her little fire… guy… and when she gets upset, she smokes. Seeing as all the other students will show of their powers at the drop of a hat, I can gather that it’s dangerous or she at least thinks it is.”
It was an impressive bit of deduction, but Laurel wondered if Lucy was fully thinking things through. “Here at school, her room and belonging had have treatments to make them fire resistant. It… isn’t an inexpensive process.”
She was probing here. On the off chance Lucy was serious, qualified and passed the kind of background tests even NSA agents would be nervous about, she would pay for all that herself. What was the point of being wealthy if she couldn’t make other people’s lives better?
“I only just thought of that after setting up this appointment, actually. A little searching on the internet though says I can apply for a grant for that, both from the government and from Descendants Rights Worldwide.”
“I see you did your research. I’m glad to hear that.” slightly more warmth edged into her voice.
Lucy hunched forward and clasped her hands in front of her. “Admittedly, not a lot. I am pretty busy. Look, I know how weird this probably seems to you, but Maya’s one of my regulars and every time she comes in, even when she’s with her friends or her little boyfriend and she’s happy… she still looks like she needs a hug and someone to make things okay.
“And I know you guys here do everything you can—she says as much—but it’s not the same as having a mom or a dad there for you. Believe me, I know.”
The possibilities surrounding that flared to life in Laurel’s brain. Lucy Black didn’t have any of the classic mannerisms of someone who had a poor experience on foster care or a broken home. That didn’t prove anything, but she would wager on Lucy being estranged from her parents, not having lost them.
She must have been staring too long, as Lucy hastily filled in the needed detail. “I volunteered at a group home for kids this age for a while. I know how it gets for them. The staff might mean well, but there’s always a barrier between you that isn’t there with family.”
Laurel scratched the bridge of her nose an composed her words carefully. “I can tell you’re very concerned for Maya, Ms. Black. And I appreciate your intentions. Allow me, however, to explain to you what you might be getting yourself into.
“First and foremost, despite it only really coming to media attention recently, descendants are a discriminated against and most prominently, exploited minority. It isn’t just something you hear about in other countries: there are people and group right here who can and have kidnapped descendants. A supportive parent of a descendant needs to be incredibly aware of this and on guard.
“Beyond that, and I simply cannot tell you anything specific—though I suspect you know quite a bit—Maya has not had a very nice life. She’s fragile she’s going to need a lot of attention. Admittedly, she honestly needs more attention than we as an organization can give. Believe it or not, I agree: Maya needs someone closer to her in her life. But do you really think you can provide that while running your business?”
“She’s at the cafe at least once a day most days anyway. And I do take time out for her when she needs to talk. Given the nature of my work, I don’t think it’ll be hard making more time for her, especially since I’m getting to the point where I can afford to hire help.”
Lucy adjusted her position in her seat, sitting up straight again. “You’re not even the person I need to convince, though, are you? That would be Social Services, right?”
“I’ll actually have to look into that,” Laurel admitted, “This is a rather unique situation and the exact arrangements that make the school Maya’s guardian aren’t something I’ve been privy to. You might want to talk to Mr. Liedecker about that.”
After some hesitation, she added, “You know who else you should talk to about this before you proceed farther though, right?”
Lucy nodded. “Maya. Yeah, I plan to. I just wanted to speak with you first for—exactly what you’ve been saying to me. Finding out just how far I thought this through and everything. The way I saw it, you would be the person to understand this best—from multiple directions.”
Unable to deny this, Laurel nodded. “True. Even though she’s a legal adult, I still adopted Cyn for pretty much the same reasons you’ve stated: she needed family and the family we both kind of chose was each other. She’s too good a kid to start out her adult life without that kind of connection.”
She chewed her lip for a moment. “Listen. I’m sorry for reading you the riot act, but it’s necessary. I hope you understand.”
“I do. Thank you.” Lucy stood up and held out her hand for another handshake.
Laurel returned the gesture, then added. “I’ll see what I can do to help you with this. That is, if Maya is receptive to the idea.”
To Be Continued…