As soon as I took the picture of the words "White Trash Whore" that were boldly written on heather's locker I sent it to Mom's phone. I quickly took a second picture when I heard Mr. Langley yell, "Young man give me that phone."
"Why do you want my phone?" I questioned.
"You know the rules," Mr. Langley said. "No cell phones during school hours."
"Mr. Langley, it is after school hours," I argued.
"I said give me that phone," Mr. Langley yelled as he snatched the phone out of my hand. "Come with me to my office this minute."
"All right," I said. "But, I need to call my mom to pick up my little brother at the middle school."
"You can use the school phone," Mr. Langley said. "I'll decide when and if you get this back."
I saw Rachel take her cell phone and take a picture. Jon then used his to take a picture also. Soon most of the crowd had their phones out taking pictures. "All of you to my office NOW," Mr. Langley yelled.
In all about a dozen of us were herded to Mr. Langley's office.
"I want that locker cleaned now," Mr. Langley said to the school custodian, Mr. Jacobs, as he pushed us toward his office.
"I really need to call my mom," I said when we got to the office. "She'll be calling wanting to know why I haven't picked up my brother."
"Use the secretary's phone," Mr. Langley said. "The rest of you put your cell phones on the counter."
"Mom, could you pickup James?" I asked. "I'm being detained at school by Mr. Langley."
"Why are you being detained, and why are you calling from the school phone?" Mom asked. "Did you just send me a text?"
"A picture," I said. "I took a picture and Mr. Langley took my phone."
"I'll pickup James and be right there," Mom said.
Mr. Langley made each of us delete the pictures we had taken and then went into rant. He was still ranting when Mom walked in with James. "Mrs. Turner, what brings you here?" Mr. Langley stopped his rant and asked when he spotted Mom.
"My son called and said that he was being detained," Mom said.
"Mrs. Turner, I didn't know that you had a son in school here," Mr. Langley said. "I don't recall a Turner being enrolled this year."
"He won't get the Turner name until the adoption is final," Mom said. "Craig said that he was being detained for taking a picture."
Mr. Langley looked surprised that Mom referred to me as her son. "I didn't realize that Craig was your son. But, he did use his cell phone during school hours."
"It wasn't during school hours," I protested. "It was after the final bell rang."
"That's right," several of the other students said.
"If they are still on school property, then they are here during school hours," Mr. Langley said.
"I doubt that would hold up in court," Mom said. "Have you verified that with the school attorney?"
"No, I didn't consider it necessary," Mr. Langley said.
"Perhaps you should," Mom said. "Meanwhile, I think you should give these young people their phone backs and let them go home before you have an office full of angry parents. What were all of these young people using their phones for that upset you so much?"
"There was some graffiti on a locker that I didn't think was appropriate," Mr. Langley said. "I'm having it cleaned up now. These kids were in Mr. Jacobs' way of cleaning the locker."
"That's not true," Jon said. "Mr. Jacobs wasn't even there when we took the pictures."
"What was the graffiti?" Mom asked.
"Nothing really," Mr. Langley said. "You know how teenagers can be."
"Craig, was that the picture you sent to my phone?" Mom asked as she took her phone out of purse.
I wished that I had my phone back to take a picture of the surprised looked on Mr. Langley's face. His mouth was so wide that we could have driven Dad's tractor in.
"Oh my, this looks like bullying to me," Mom said as she viewed the picture. "Mr. Langley we already have bullying on the agenda for the next school board meeting. It appears that a policy is definitely needed. Craig, get your phone and let's go home. You and James need to help your dad with the chores. The rest of you kids take your phones and go home too. Mr. Langley, I suppose I'll see you at the board meeting tomorrow evening."
I couldn't help but notice that James was all smiles when he realized that Mom was getting the best of Mr. Langley. "Mom, I think you made him pee his pants," he said as we left the school building.
"Dad, Mom was awesome," James said as we helped with the chores. "She had Mr. Langley shaking."
"Your mom is one person you don't want to piss off," Dad said.
"Dad, have you every pissed her off?" James asked with a mischievous grin.
"I plead the fifth," Dad chuckled.
"I know about that," James said. "We studied that in our government class. It means that you probably did, but you don't want to admit it."
"He got you there, Dad," I teased.
"Well, I certainly will see what I can do about this," Mom was saying into the phone when we came in from our chores. "Thank you Rachel for calling me. I see that my men are in from their chores and wanting to be fed. Goodbye."
It was obvious that Mom was still irate when Dad, James and I came in for dinner. "Craig, did you know about Ashley being bullied?" Mom asked.
"Rachel said that Heather had been calling her name," I said. "White trash was one of them."
"Do you know Ashley?" Mom asked.
"Not really," I said. "I know she is really shy, but she is a good student and doesn't cause any trouble. Rachel said that she was trying to get Ashley to report Heather to Mr. Langley. But, Ashley said that Mr. Langley wouldn't do anything."
"I guess Ashley got enough of it and reported it to Mr. Langley today," Mom said. "According to Rachel, Mr. Langley told Ashley to stop whining and to get to class."
Needless to say, the dinner conversation was about the incident at school. "I think Mr. Langley just about shit his pants when he saw that Mom had the picture on her phone," James said. "Oops, sorry Mom," James said when he realized what he had said.
"Don't make a habit of using that word," Mom said with a grin. "But, that pretty well describes it."
"Mom, what if Mr. Langley calls me to his office tomorrow about what happened today?" I asked.
"Tell him I told you not to discuss this matter unless I'm there," Mom said.
"What has been the hold up on an anti-bullying policy anyway?" Dad asked.
"The school district superintend has been off work for several weeks after his kidney transplant," Mom said.
"I didn't know that Ron Cottrell had a kidney transplant," Dad said.
"Thankfully he is back and will be at the board meeting tomorrow," Mom said.
"Does that mean that the policy will be passed at the meeting tomorrow?" I asked.
"Unfortunately, no," Mom said. "Dr. Cottrell will present the policy tomorrow and we will vote on it the next meeting."
"Do you think it will pass?" I asked.
"I'm hopeful," Mom said. "The board is almost evenly split on this. It will probably hinge on how Donna Schultz votes. She is the newest board member and is sometimes overwhelmed."
"Does she have a son by the name of Nick?" I asked.
"Yes, why do you ask?" Mom wanted to know.
"He was one of us that Mr. Langley took our phones from," I said. "Come to think of it, I think he and Ashley are dating. It wouldn't surprise me that Heather has an interest in Nick too."
"That could explain a lot," Dad agreed.
"Rachel seems to know everything that goes on at school," I said. "I'll ask her tomorrow."
"Dr. Schuler was really upset when I explained to him why I was late for work yesterday," Rachel said during lunch the next day.
"What did he say?" I asked. "He said that..., Oh there is Nick with Ashley," Rachel said. "Did you know that they are dating?"
"That answers my next question," I laughed.
"I'm going to ask them to sit with us," Rachel said. "I've asked Ashley in the past, but she said that she wouldn't fit in."
I could tell that it was taking Rachel some convincing to get Ashley to sit at our table, but apparently with Nick's help, she agreed.
Ashley had that deer in headlights look when she and Nick joined us at our table. As the conversation went along she seemed to relax some, and even joined in on the conversation a little.
"What were you saying about Dr. Schuler," I asked during the conversation.
"Oh yeah, he was angry when he heard that I was detained by Mr. Langley," Rachel said. "He said that he was on the school board when Mr. Langley was hired over his objections."
"Ashley, do you know who wrote on your locker?" Seth asked.
"No, I don't," Ashley said.
"I'm sure I know who did it," Rachel said. "I wish I could prove it."
"She admitted it," Tiffany Hernandez, a girl that often joined our group, said.
"Who did she admit it to?" Rachel asked as she realized the importance of what Tiffany said.
"She was bragging about it at McDonald's yesterday evening," Tiffany said.
Who else heard her say that?" I asked.
"My parents, my boyfriend Chad, and a couple of Chad's football teammates," Tiffany said.
"Have you reported that to Mr. Langley?" Seth asked.
"Chad and I both did," Tiffany said.
"I'll bet he told you to go to class," Rachel said.
"Yes," Tiffany said. "His exact words were, 'Go to class and stop causing trouble.'
I took out my phone and called mom to tell her what Tiffany had divulged to us. "I'll take care of that," Mom said. "Ask the kids there if they can come to the board meeting tonight. I'll call Tiffany's parents and see if they can be there too."
"Damn, I have to work tonight," Rachel said. The other kids all said that they would be at the meeting.
I was surprised to see that Mom was president of the school board when she took her place. There were a large number of parents and students in attendance as well as a reporter from the local paper. Rachel came in and sat with us and said, "Dr. Schuler, insisted that I take the evening off and he is still paying me."
Mom was definitely in charge as she conducted the meeting. After taking care of some routine business, the anti-bullying policy was brought up for discussion. Since Mr. Langley was on the committee appointed to come up with a policy, he was asked to speak.
"We haven't developed a policy yet," Mr. Langley admitted. "I don't see that it is enforceable."
"Dr. Cottrell, do you think an anti-bullying policy is enforceable?" Mom asked.
"It is my opinion that it is and that we need one," Dr. Cottrell said. "I also have a policy to present to the board. I believed that Mr. Langley wasn't interested in developing a policy."
"I disagree," Mr. Langley said. "I just don't' believe we have a bullying problem at the high school and a policy isn't needed."
"What do you call this?" Mom asked as she began passing out copies of the photo I had taken of the Ashley's locker.
"That was just an isolated incident," Mr. Langley said. "It was a harmless prank."
"I don't see that as a harmless prank," Donna Schultz spoke up. "I doubt you would feel that way if it was your child that endured that."
I could see the anger in Mr. Langley's face, but he didn't have the gumption to challenge Mom and the remainder of the board.
"Mr. Langley, have you punished the young lady that did this?" Mom asked.
"I don't know who did it," Mr. Langley said.
"Didn't a young lady come to you your office to tell you that she, her parents, and others overheard a young lady admit that she did it?" Mom questioned.
"I don't recall anyone telling me that," Mr. Langley said as he was obviously nervous the way the questioning was going.
"Didn't a young lady come to you to tell you that she knew who wrote the graffiti?" Mom asked again.
"Yes, but I was busy at the time," Mr. Langley said.
"What was more important than that?" Mom asked.
"One of our busses broke down on the way to the school," Mr. Langley said.
"Mr. Langley, the busses are district busses and deliver students to all of our schools," Mom said. "We have a transportation director to take care of that. Why were you involved?"
"If you're questioning the way I run the daily operation of the school, perhaps I should resign," Mr. Langley angrily replied.
"Perhaps you should resign, because I am questioning how you run the school," Mom said.
"Then I'll resign tonight," Mr. Langley said.
"Here is a pen and paper," Mom said. "You should put that in writing."
Mr. Langley took the paper and wrote something on it and then stormed out of the meeting. Mom passed the paper around and said, "Since this isn't a resignation, maybe we should suspend Mr. Langley until the next meeting. Dr. Cottrell, do you have a recommendation for a temporary replacement?"
"I would recommend Ms. Mauricio, an assistant principal," Dr. Cottrell said.
"Would she accept the position?" Mom asked.
"I believe she is here tonight," Dr. Cottrell said. "Let's ask her. Louise, where are you?"
Mrs. Mauricio agreed to become the acting principal to the delight of the students present. She was as tough as a nail, but always friendly and fair-minded.
"What did he write?" James asked on the way to the car after the meeting.
"I'll tell you when we get home," Mom said with a smile.
"Alright, what did he write?" Dad asked as soon as we got home.
Mom showed us a copy since the original was kept for the files. 'Fuck you bitch,' it read.
"That bastard," Dad said in anger.
Things at school got back to normal over the next few days. The vast majority of the students were happy having Mrs. Mauricio as our principal. Heather dropped out of school before she could be punished for what she did. We learned that her family had suddenly moved to North Dakota. With Heather no longer harassing Ashley she began to come out of her shell. It also helped that she had Nick for a boyfriend and Rachel for a friend.
As Uncle Jason had predicted, the hearing for James and my adoption came up three months after the termination hearing. It was a slam dunk and Judge Young approved our adoption with no problems. We were now officially James and Craig Turner.
To our surprise, our family invited friends of James and mine over for a celebration. Rather than gifts Mom and Dad had wisely suggested donations to CASA. I had never seen James happier with all of the turn of events. His doctor had decided on laser treatments for his back, and the scars were virtually impossible to see. However, most of all we were officially Turner brothers.
The next day at lunch I could tell that something was bothering Seth. "Is something bothering you?" I asked as we walked to class.
"I'd like to talk to you about something," Seth said.
"Sure, would today after school be okay?" I asked.
"Yes, but after you take James home," Seth said. "I'd like to talk to you in private."
"Mom is picking James up to take him to his orthodontist after school," I said. "Do you want to meet at McDonald's?"
"McDonald's is too public," Seth said.
"How about meeting at Veterans Park?" I asked. I knew this was likely to be a serious conversation and Veterans Park would offer privacy at this time of the year. "I'll meet you there."
I parked in the parking lot of Veterans Park after school wondering what Seth wanted to talk to me about. I got out of my Jeep and joined Seth in his Blazer and. "I know you're probably wondering what I wanted to talk to you about," he timidly said.
"Yeah, to say the least," I agreed.
"I noticed that your Uncles were holding hands last night," Seth began.
"If you're going to start gay bashing my uncles this conversation is over," I said as I opened the Blazer door.
"No, that's not it," Seth said. "Cool down."
There was a long period of silence and I finally said, "Well, what did you want to talk about?"
"I know I'm taking a chance on losing a good friend," Seth began. "I talked this over with Uncle Steve and Aunt Stephanie, and they said that if you were a real friend you would understand."
"I am a real friend," I assured him. I wasn't sure what he might say that would make me change my mind.
"I know you've probably wondered why I came here to live with my aunt and uncle," Seth began.
"I have, but I figured that you would tell me if you wanted me to know," I admitted.
"I'm here because my parents kicked me out," Seth said. "Well my dad kicked me out. My mom didn't fight him over, and she called Aunt Stephanie and arranged for me to come here and live with them."
"Your dad must be an ass like my former parents were," I said.
"Yeah, I didn't realize that until he kicked me out," Seth said.
"Being kicked out isn't your fault," I said. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"The reason he kicked me out might be," Seth said.
"There is no reason in this world that a parent should kick their kid out of the house," I said.
"Even if that kid is gay?" Seth asked.
I was shocked. So that was why Seth came here to live. That explained a lot to me. I didn't know what to say.
"I know it was a mistake to tell you," Seth said after my silence. "I guess I've lost a friend."
"No, real friends accept a friend the way they are," I said. "Being gay isn't a choice, regardless of what the Bible thumpers say."
"Thanks Craig, I'm relieved that you're still my friend," Seth said. "I thought you might understand since you have gay uncles."
"Having gay uncles has nothing to do with my understanding," I said. "I accepted them after I learned that they are gay. I still accept you as a friend. I'd like to stay and chat longer, but I need to get home and help Dad with the chores."
"Yeah, I have chores to do myself," Seth said. "One other thing, I'm not out. I'd like to keep it that way. You can tell your family if you think they will keep it to themselves."
"I'll tell them if it becomes an issue," I said. "Don't worry; what you told me is safe. If I tell my family and ask them to keep it a secret they will."
I felt good on my drive home knowing that Seth trusted me with his secret. James joined Dad and me with the chores when he got home from his orthodontist appointment. It was obvious that he wasn't a happy camper.
"Is something wrong, Son?" Dad asked James when he noticed his usual happy self.
"I have to wear braces," James said. "I'll look like a geek."
"It will be worth it," Dad assured him. "Your older brother Patrick had to wear braces, and so did I."
"You had to wear braces?" James asked with a slight smile.
"I sure did, and your mom still dated me," Dad said.
"Mom dated a geek?" James began to laugh.
"She sure did," Dad said. "She had them too."
James was his old self by the time we completed our chores. "Mom, Dad said that you were a geek too when you were young," he said as we sat down for dinner.
"I'll have you know that I was a beautiful geek," Mom said. "Besides, I'm still young."
"You're about to talk yourself into trouble, young man," Dad laughed. "You saw how she took down Mr. Langley."
"Speaking of Mr. Langley," Mom said. "Ron called and said that he had convinced him that it would be in his best interest to resign. Ron reminded him of that little love note that the board had seen. Ron is going to ask that we promote Louise to that position."
Life was good for James and me. We were officially Turners. We had new birth certificates with Turner as our last names. Our school and medical records were also changed. I even had a new driver's license with my new name.
James was especially happy that he got the newer Invisalign and didn't have to wear the metal braces. "Most people don't realize that I have them," James said after the first day he wore them to school. "David Warrens noticed them, but that is because he wears them too. I didn't even know that."
Yes, life was good. It was almost as if I had always been Craig Turner. I was doing a good job of putting Craig Phillips away for good until I got a phone call from Dan Phillips. "Craig, I would like to see you," he said.
I hesitated for a moment as I tried to decide if I really wanted to see Dan again.
"Nicole wants to meet you too," Dan said.
"I'd like to meet her too," I said. "When and where did you want to meet?"
"I thought about this weekend," Dan said. "You decide where."
"Hold on and let me ask Mom and Dad," I said.
"I'm sorry Craig, but I hate it when I hear you refer to them as mom and dad," Dan said.
"I think of them as my mom and dad," I said. "Legally they are my parents."
"I know I screw up," Dan said. "I'll hold on while you go talk to them."
"Mom, Dad, Dan wants to see me and let me meet Nicole," I said.
"Son, you're old enough to decide on your own," Dad said.
"They are welcome to come here," Mom said. "You can entertain them in the den and then they can stay for dinner."
Saturday was much like most Saturdays on the Turner farm, except I was going to meet a sister that I didn't know existed until recently. James and I helped Dad with some work that needed to be done around the farm. I was happy to have the work to do as a diversion. However, James was excited about getting to meet 'his' little sister. After the adoption, James was happy that he officially had a family. James relished the idea of family. When Mom mentioned a cousin in Oklahoma James immediately wanted to go visit. That was James.
Dad was pleased with the amount of work we had accomplished shortly before noon and he called it a day. Mom was busy preparing lunch when we went inside.
"I wonder what our sister looks like," James said during lunch."
"Honey, she isn't actually your sister," Mom said. "She is Craig's sister."
"Craig is my brother and that makes her my sister," James reasoned.
"If she is willing to be your sister, then she is your sister," I said. If my sister is half the person my brother is, then I have a great sister."
When Dan and Nicole arrived James rushed to the door with me to greet them. "Craig, this is your sister Nicole," Dan said.
I could tell that James was disappointed that he wasn't introduced to Nicole. "Nicole, it is good to get to meet you," I said. "This is my brother James."
"Is he my brother too?" Nicole asked as she looked up to Dan.
Before Dan could answer I said, "If you want James to be your brother, then he is your brother."
"Good, I have two brothers now," Nicole said.
I don't think Dan was all that pleased that James and Nicole considered themselves to be brother and sister, but he didn't say anything. Nicole was a pretty girl with a heartwarming smile. As we chatted I learned that she was also very intelligent.
During the visit Nicole asked, "Why do you have a different last name than I do?"
"I'm now adopted, and I now have my adoptive parents' name," I explained.
"Oh, you got adopted because Daddy didn't ever go see you?" Nicole asked.
"Yes," I answered. I decided to be honest with my sister about my previous life. I could see that Dan wasn't pleased with my answer, but again he didn't say anything.
Mom brought in a plate of fruit and some cookies for a snack and she then took drink orders. I was pleased to see that Nicole only took two cookies but she did eat a variety of fruit.
After we finished our snack James asked, "Nicole, do you want to go see our baby pigs?"
"Oh yes, could I Daddy?" She said.
"Sure, but be careful," Dan said. "Mother pigs can be very protective of their babies."
"I'll take good care of her," James promised.
After James and Nicole went out to see the baby pigs Dan said, "I may get full custody of Nicole. Would that bother you?"
"As long as you are the better parent it wouldn't bother me," I said. "Why would you think that it would?"
"I wasn't a good parent to you," Dan said.
"You weren't a parent to me period," I said. "I have great parents now. You need to be a good parent to Nicole."
"You speak with more maturity than any sixteen year old that I've ever seen," Dan said. "If I had that maturity when you were young I would never have left you."
"Dan, that's water under the bridge," I said. "Let's forget it. Why do you think you would be a better parent to Nicole than her mother?"
"Diane and her new boyfriend were arrested for the manufacture of methamphetamine," Dan said. "She is out of jail on bond pending trial."
"It would be stupid of you not to seek full custody," I said. "You should ask that the court only allow Diane to visit under supervision."
"I need to find a good attorney," Dan said. "I was impressed with your attorney."
"Uncle Jason is great," I said. "His office is in Topeka. That's just about an hour drive from where you live in Junction City. Before you go I'll give you his number."
"Daddy, those baby pigs are so cute," Nicole said in excitement when she and James returned. "They even have horses here, but James said I couldn't ride unless you said I could. Could I ride?"
"Not this time," I'd want you to have a helmet on like you do when you ride your bike," Dan said.
Dinner started a little awkward. I guess Dan thought Mom and Dad may hold resentment toward him after he abandoned me. However, he soon relaxed and seemed to enjoy having dinner with my family.
Following the visit by Dan and Nicole we exchanged phone calls. The phone calls may not have been father and son like, but they were at least respectful. I always talked to Nicole for a while and then she would ask to talk to James. Usually James and Nicole chatted longer than Nicole and I did. Uncle Jason even agreed to represent Dan in his attempt to gain custody of Nicole.
"Are you going to your martial arts class tomorrow night?" James asked on the way home from school one day.
"I plan on it, why do you ask?" I asked him.
"Would you mind if I went with you?" He asked.
"I don't mind," I said. "Do you want to observe or to learn martial arts?"
"I'd like to learn martial arts," James said.
"Are you having trouble with someone at school?" I asked with concern.
"Nobody is giving me trouble," James said. "You're really getting big muscles, and I'd like to do the same."
"Part of it is from my martial arts, but part is from farm work," I said. "You're already pretty strong yourself. But, if you want to take martial arts classes you'll have to have a physical."
"Remember the fit I threw when Mom said I would have to have a physical?" James asked with a giggle. "I wouldn't be embarrassed to take my shirt off now."
"There is little sign that you ever had those scars," I said. "I'm glad the doctor decided to do laser treatment rather than the dermabrasion. I read on the internet that laser was less painful and healed better."
James and I met Mom at the doctor's office for his physical after school the next day. After the physical we went to enroll him in Mr. Alcantara's martial arts class. As I expected James was excited about the new adventure.
As with most things James attempted, he attempted his martial arts class with enthusiasm. Mr. Alcantara had to caution him to go slow at first. However, when it came time for the throwing techniques James was somewhat tentative. "I don't want to hurt anyone," James said when Mr. Alcantara corrected his technique.
"But, James you could hurt them and yourself more by being hesitant," Mr. Alcantara explained.
Soon James was becoming one of Mr. Alcantara's better students. He eventually got past the fear of hurting his sparring partner. "I wouldn't want to hurt anyone," he said one evening on the way home after our class.
"As Mr. Alcantara said, it is good to know how to protect yourself," I said. "I used it to protect myself against Neil when he attacked me. But, we're not supposed to use it to attack another."
"If I ever saw my former mom's boyfriend I would attack him," James said.