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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lucas and Attending School

Lucas dragged his feet about getting dressed and ready to go to school. He didn't like school and would try to slip away when he could. At least the clothes he now had on fit him pretty good, even if they were still a little baggy. He had washed his face and brushed his teeth as Mrs. Okoro had insisted and supervised this. He ran his fingers through his hair and figured it was good enough.

"Lucas, my little love," Zhara said with a smile.  "We have a hair brush for a reason. Use it, please."

Lucas looked at the woman. "Why? It's good 'nough."

"You look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo," she laughed.  "Brush it down a little so that it doesn't look like you just rolled out of bed."

Lucas sighed deeply and ran the brush through his hair a couple of times. "That better?"

Zhara smiled softly, "Would you like me to do it for you this one time, so that you know how I want you to look when you leave the house?"

Lucas gave her a suspicious look, but then handed her the hair brush. "'Kay, so long's ya only brush my hair with it."

Zhara frowned a little in confusion until the meaning of his words hit.  "I promise." she said, regaining her smile. She brushed his hair until it shone and looked neat, if not orderly.  She turned him back toward the mirror and let him look at himself.  "There," she said, "handsome!"

Lucas gave Zhara a small smile in the mirror. "Ya think so?" he asked shyly.

"I wouldn't say it if it weren't true, honey. Now, Papa is going to take you to school. Are you ready?"

Lucas frowned slightly. "I can go by myself."

Zhara smiled softly and knelt down so that she was on eye level with the little boy.  "Lucas, I hope you'll understand why we're doing this.  Based on your past history of skipping school, Papa and I have decided that one of us will bring you to your classroom until you can prove to us that you can go there yourself without getting lost."

Lucas scowled. "Ya don trust me?"

"Trust, like respect, has to be earned, no matter who you are. We hope to gain your trust and respect, and you'll have to earn ours as well. Understand? When you can prove to us that you won't skip school if we let you go alone, that's when we'll allow you to do so.  If we allow you to go on your own and we receive a call that you are absent, we'll go back to accompanying you to the classroom door. In the meantime, this is how we're going to do it," she replied, in a very definite tone.

Lucas sighed. "'Kay," he acquiesced.

"That's my boy. I'm so proud of you. Now, Papa is waiting for you." She kissed his forehead and gave him a hug. "Scoot!" she said, giving him a little push in the right direction.  "Have a good day, my little one. You can tell us about your day at dinner tonight, after you finish your homework."

Lucas wrinkled his nose and went to find Omari.

Omari met the boy and the door with a smile of pride on his features.  Sure, they would have to feed the poor boy up a bit, but he was a good-looking kid, and smart, according to Mutt, too smart for his own good.  He patted the boy on the shoulder and led him to the van.

Lucas scrambled inside the vehicle and allowed Omari to buckle him into the high-backed booster seat. He frowned. "I hate these, they make me feel like a baby," he complained.

"You are definitely not a baby," Omari assured the child.  "It's the law that children under a certain age and weight have to use these. Some people may forego them, but we want you to be as safe as possible, so until then, you will be in the booster seat.  Eventually we can get you a smaller one. Understand?"

Lucas looked confused. "A smaller one? Ain't this one good 'nough?"

Omari smiled. "Eventually you'll outgrow that one and you won't need the high back or the armrests.  That's what I meant by smaller. I should have been more precise. That was my fault."

"Oh," the little boy said, then sat back resigned to having to be strapped into the device, but despite himself felt it to be comfortable.

Once the man had buckled his small charge in, he got into the driver’s seat, adjusted the seat and mirrors to his liking and buckled himself in before heading out.  When they reached the school, the older man parked the van and escorted Lucas into the school, and to the door of his classroom.  

Omari led the boy toward his new teacher, who smiled at him. "Good morning, Lucas. I'm Mr. Cooper.  How are you today?

" 'm fine, I guess," the little boy responded noncommittally. "You?"

Omari thought he was going to burn the collar of his shirt with the heat of embarrassment that coursed up his neck and into his face, but the sparkle in Mr. Cooper's eyes put him at ease and he managed to smile back.

"I’m fine too, thank you for asking. Your desk will be here, to my left, Lucas.  Why don't you get your things settled before the other kids arrive and get acquainted with the room while I talk to Mr. Okoro."

Lucas went to the desk he was assigned and put his back pack on the back of the chair, then walked around, looking at the decorations on the walls and out the window, where kids were now only just getting off their school buses.

As children began to file into the room they looked curiously at Lucas who tried to smile.  He said "Hello," to the boy nearest him. The boy gave him a dirty look and turned away, walking toward another group of boys.  He saw them talking to each other and laughing as they looked over their shoulders at him before turning away.

It was then that Mr. Cooper finished his discussion in the hallway with Omari and walked into the room with a smile on his face.  "Good morning everyone!"
"G'mornin'," the children responded with matching smiles.
"We have a new student today. His name is Lucas and I'd like you all to say hello and welcome him to the school." He had Lucas come up in the front of the room and face the other children so he could be introduced to the class.

A halfhearted chorus of hellos met Lucas's ears and he tried to smile and nod before he went to sit down at his assigned desk.  He had a feeling that this was not going to be a good day.  He wasn't impressed by the reception he received, but he'd been here before. At lunch time Lucas took his tray and sat down at the end of a partially full table. The children at the table gave him a sidelong look and moved their trays and themselves further away from him. No one spoke to him until one of the boys called, "Hey Victor...whatcha got to eat? Rabbit food?"  

Lucas looked at the boy curiously. "My name ain't Victor."

"Yeah it is. From now on anyway. Victor." the boy laughed. 

"Who's Victor?" Lucas asked.

The boy only gave the new kid a pitying look before bursting into laughter. His sycophants laughed with him before they turned away to finish their lunches.

Pretending not to be hurt, Lucas ate his lunch and went out as the other children who had finished their lunches had, to the playground for the rest of the lunch hour.

He had approached other kids to play, but they wouldn't play with him so he sat alone watching them. 

When he got bored with this he sneaked back into the building and as there was no one in the classroom began rifling through the backpacks there expertly, secreting pencils, erasers, candy and anything else he thought he might want or need on a low shelf in the closet. He shoved some bottles of paint and other things in front of the stuff so that it wouldn't immediately be seen.

Then, he hid some of the larger pilfered items into the backpack of the boy who had called him Victor, shoving them down beneath books and other things. He still had no idea who Victor was, but the way the boy had said it had made it sound like an insult, and he wasn't going to stand for that.

Satisfied, he made his way back to the outside door just as the bell rang for the students to return to their classrooms and he innocently filed in with the rest of the kids.

After the children, had returned to their classroom, Mr. Cooper asked them to take out their pencils, erasers, math books and math notebook for their next class. The children opened their back packs only to find that most of their things were missing. Some raised their hands to get their teacher's attention, many simply shouted, "Mr. Cooper! My pencils are gone!"  "Mr. Cooper! Someone took stuff from my pack!"  Not all children had items missing, and Lucas made sure to tell the teacher that there was something missing from his pack as well.

Mr. Cooper frowned. Nothing like this had ever happened in his classroom before and it did not please him one bit. "Everyone settle down. Let me get Mr. Levitt and we'll get this thing straightened out now."  He turned around to the phone on the wall behind his desk and called the principal.  "We have a situation here, Mike," he said quietly.

The boy who had been excluding Lucas from the very beginning shouted, "Check Victor's stuff! I bet he stole it!"

"Mr. Albee, please sit down and wait quietly.  The principal is on his way and we'll get this sorted out."  He looked at Lucas who looked too calm to have been the victim of a theft but refused to believe that the new student would do something like that on his first day.

Lucas scowled and shouted at the other boy, "My name ain't Victor and I ain't got none of your stupid stuff!"

"Do too, liar! Thief! Betcha if you check his pack it'll be fulla stuff he stole!"

Mr. Cooper called to the boys, “That will be quite enough!” As things quieted down he went on, “While we wait for Mr. Levitt, everyone who has had something taken, tell me one at a time!" He tried to be heard over the din in the classroom, trying to restore order. "I'll write them on the board and then we'll know what to look for."

Each child who had noticed something missing gave their list to the teacher, some of them shooting Lucas nasty looks.

When it came to Justin’s turn he began to accuse Lucas once more and the other little boy began to shout back, defending himself.
Other children began to chime in the class becoming noisy again.
Just then Mr. Levitt arrived and put up his hands for silence.  The class quieted down almost immediately.
"I hear that there is a problem with a possible thief here, children, and there is only one way to solve the problem.  I'd like everyone to put their back packs on their desks, and open them, one by one."

Lucas continued to scowl. He knew he wouldn't be caught because he hid the stuff he had taken and he took a private pleasure in the knowledge that 'Mr. Albee', whatever his first name was, would take the worst of the heat.

"I mean it Mr. Cooper!" Justin Albee continued, standing up and pointing at Lucas.  "I'll bet he stole everything. Check his bag first. He's the only new one around here!"
Mr. Cooper frowned a little at Justin but turned toward Lucas.  "Would you mind if we started with you, Lucas? And then you can tell me what is missing from your pack."

Lucas scowled, but shrugged. "Go ahead, I ain't got nuthin' to hide." He handed his pack to the teacher. "I'm missin' my blue pencil case that my new family bought for me," he told the teacher.

Mr. Cooper said, "Just put your pack on the desk, Lucas, and pull everything out one by one, ok?"
Lucas scowled and one by one took each thing out of his back pack and then turned it upside down and shook it to show there wasn't anything more hidden in it. He even handed it to the older man to inspect.

"That's not necessary, Lucas. Thank you." the teacher said, giving the rest of the class a significant look which quieted them down as he and Mr. Levitt went to each child individually, asking them to do the same as Lucas had. It wasn't until they reached Justin that things began to go badly.

Justin knew immediately that there was more in his pack than usual because it was heavier. He didn't touch anything inside but he also knew that it was fuller than it had been before.  When the principal and teacher reached him, he balked at removing anything from his pack and refused to let them take anything out.  He turned beet red and glared at Lucas, sure that he'd had something to do with it but not knowing how.

Lucas smirked watching Justin squirm but quickly hid his expression. Someone might still notice and he didn't need anyone mentioning it to Mr. Cooper afterward.

"Justin, please open your pack," Mr. Levitt requested, a sad look on his face.
The little boy started to cry. "I didn't do it! I didn't do it! I don't know how this stuff got in my pack but I didn't do it!"
"Open your pack, pleas,." Mr. Cooper repeated.

Justin opened his pack and began to take things out.  Beneath his books were many of the items that had been reported stolen, including Lucas's new blue pencil case.

Lucas sat back a satisfied look on his face. Now the jerk would get his. See if he'd be mean to him again. Lucas thought. If he continues to be mean, I'll just keep gettin' him into trouble.

Mr. Levitt gathered up the stolen items and returned them to their owners. There were still several things unaccounted for and no one could find them.  As he looked around for any sign of the items, he noticed the new boy, Lucas, smiling.  His gut twisted a little bit at the sight. ‘Now why would the child look happy about something like this?’ he wondered.

Justin was led, crying and protesting his innocence, from the classroom, his back pack in Mr. Levitt's hand.  The class heard the dreaded words, "We'll have to call your parents." before the door closed behind the two.

"Ok everyone, I think we've had enough excitement for one day.  Take out your math and notebooks. We have work to do."


That afternoon, Omari arrived to pick Lucas up from school.  Lucas hopped right into the back of the van and buckled himself into the booster seat before the older man had a chance to do it.

"How was your day today, Lucas?" Omari asked, smiling.

Lucas shrugged. "It was okay, no different than any other first days at school."

"How did you like your new teacher? Did you make any friends?"

Lucas said quietly, "Mr. Cooper's okay an' I made a friend named Victor."

"Victor, that's a nice name. And I'm glad you like Mr. Cooper. I took to him right away while we were talking this morning.  So, what's Victor's last name? Do you kids have much in common?"

Lucas said, "Yeah, we got a lot in common and I don't 'member his last name," he lied.
"Well, that's nice then. Maybe someday we can invite him and his parents over for lunch or dinner.  When you get to know him a little better, of course," Omari smiled.

Lucas shrugged. "Maybe." He said no more about Victor or school.

Nearly two weeks after Justin returned from his suspension, Lucas was on the playground after lunch, alone as usual, when he saw Justin talking to one of his friends.  The friend looked at Lucas over his shoulder and turned back to Justin who was still furious at being set up.  "I think he's more like a Jack Skellington.  Maybe we should call him Jack." Justin laughed along with the others, glad that they hadn't believed that he'd been responsible for the thefts. They had all vowed to find out who had done it and to get even, especially if it turned out to be the new kid like they thought.

That afternoon when Omari picked him up from school, and asked about friends, Lucas replied, "Yeah, a kid named Jack. "

Omari was pleased that his little boy seemed to be fitting in so well and smiled as he drove them home.

The last day of the week Lucas saw an opportunity to grab the stash he had in the closet and before leaving school put the items in his backpack and left the school.

That evening before dinner, Omari sat down with Lucas to help him with his homework. When the little boy opened his pack, several items that Omari didn't recognize rolled out.  "What's this?" he asked curiously.

Lucas shrugged. "Some stuff Victor and Jack gave me," he lied, picking up the yo-yo, small super bouncy ball, a candy bar, and a four-color pen and stuffed them back into his pack before any of the other things could slip out.

"Well," Zhara said, pleased, "we should invite your friends over soon!  Monday when Papa drives you to school, perhaps he can talk to Mr. Cooper and we can get some last names and invite their families over."

Lucas scowled and erupted, "Dammit...why don't ya get the hell off that invitin' kick? They're nuthin but a bunch of fuckin' asses and shitheads! There ain't no Victor or Jack, thems the names they call me!" Despite himself, tears began to course down his face and he began to scramble down from the chair to run off.

Zhara looked stricken. Omari, being in very good shape despite being in his fifties, scooped the child up and held him while he cried.  "Then... why do they call you Victor, or Jack? What do the names mean, do you know?"

The little boy shook his head, still crying. "I-I t-think 'cause I'm so s-skinny!" He sobbed.  "One of them said something about Jack Skeleton, but I still don't know who Victor or him is, or why they call me that."

"Well," Omari said, cuddling the boy close. "You won't be skinny forever, and it's cruel of them to make fun of you for something you have no control over. I know it's hard to understand, but kids can just be mean for meanness sake sometimes. Sometimes to show off for their friends. They'll pick on whoever they decide is the smallest or weakest person and use them as a target. Sometimes it's bad upbringing, sometimes it's to mask their own fears and insecurities.  I'm willing to bet that if one of those kids ever found himself alone against a bully he'd go crying to his mamma."

Lucas listened, but continued to sob. "I-I don' wanna go back!"

Zhara sat on the couch beside the boy and her husband and wrapped her arms around the two of them.  "I understand, honey. From what you're telling us they've been picking on you from day one, and that wasn't fair. We'll do whatever we can to stop this. Now. We'll go and talk to Mr. Cooper and the principal, ok, Darling?  We'll find some way to stop this. But you have to go to school."

"And," Omari said sternly, "Now that we know there was no Victor or Jack, you can tell me where you got those things in your backpack."

Lucas scowled. "It don' matter anyway 'cause I'm the one who stole the stuff not Justin. I made it look like he done it the first day of school." He didn't look away from the couple pretty much knowing what would happen next, the social worker would be on their way and he would be in another place within the next few days, if not tomorrow.

"I'll go on up to my room and start packin'," he said and made to get off the sofa.

"And just where do you think you're packing to go to?" Zhara said, sounding scandalized.  "You're not going anywhere, young man."

"Except perhaps back to the school to own up to what you did," Omari said sternly.

Lucas looked up at the two surprised. "To the next place. Ya ain't gonna want me no more now."

"Why wouldn't we want you anymore, Lucas?" Zhara asked.

"'Cause no one wants a thief livin' with 'em."

Omari turned the boy to face him.  "What you did was wrong, son, and you'll have to face the consequences for your actions. But that doesn't mean we don't want you."

Lucas looked at Omari with wide brown eyes. "Really? The other people just sent me away," he told the man. Then he had a worried look. "Cons'quences? Whatcha gonna do to me?"

Omari frowned. "That has yet to be decided, young man. What you did was wrong. Very wrong.  We're going to go to the school on Monday and tell them what happened.  And, Lucas, don't be surprised if you're expelled for what you did.  I'm just warning you about the least that could happen."

Lucas bit his lip. "What’s gonna happen to me then?" he asked softly. "Ya sure ya still want me anyway?"

"You may well be expelled, which means we'll have to find you a new school, and this thing that you did, young man, will be on your permanent record. Which means, young sir, that whatever school we find for you to attend next, you'll have to give your solemn promise that you will never, ever steal from classmates again. Not classmates, not teachers, not the school. Understand?"

Lucas bit his lip at the stern tone and looked down and said quietly, "Yes Mr. Okoro."

Omari picked the boy back up, sat him on his lap and held him close again.  "I'm Papa. Always Papa. Got me, little one?  I'm not giving you up."
"Nor am I," Zhara added.
"We're not giving up on you. Understand?"

Surprised to find himself in the large man's lap, Lucas looked from one to the other and asked hesitantly, "Papa?"

"And don't you dare forget your Mama, little one," Zhara said with a smile.

Lucas's brown eyes widened and he looked at Zhara in amazement. "Mama?" Then he hid his face in Omari's chest. He hadn't called anyone Mama or Papa ever and it had been ages since he had spoken Mommy or Daddy.

"Everyone calls me Mama, even Jeff and Mutt, or else!" she said with mock severity, smiling to let Lucas know that she was not really angry.

Lucas bit his lip again and said, "Yes Mr... I mean Papa and umm... Mama."

The Okoro's hugged their little boy again, and Zhara kissed the child on the top of his head.

"Now, Lucas, you understand that we love you very much, don't you?" Omari asked the boy in a sad sounding voice.

Lucas said in a little voice, "Ya seem to." He added, "Leastways ya ain't like any of the other people I been with 'fore."

"Then I want you to understand something, and this is very important," Omari continued.  "We promise that we will never beat you, ever, however, you must understand that harmful actions, and using bad words is not to be tolerated here, or in any home. These things carry consequences. Do you understand what consequences are?"

Lucas thought a minute. "Bad things'll happen to me?"

"In a way, yes. The consequences of what you did at school will most likely be expulsion.  However, the consequences of your stealing and swearing here will be somewhat different. Unpleasant, but not necessarily bad. We have to talk about your punishment now. Remember that I said I would never beat you, so you don't have to worry about anything like that from Mama or I. But we can't let that behavior go unpunished. Understand?"

Lucas squirmed and gave Omari a worried look. "Yes Papa, but whatcha gonna do to me?"

"For now, I want you to sit in that corner over there," Omari said, pointing in the direction he wanted the boy to go. "You stay there until I call you to come out.  In the meantime, while you're there I want you to think about why what you did was wrong, and why you should never do it again.  And Lucas, I promised I'd never beat you, but I will spank you if you ever do anything like this again. Do you understand me?"

Lucas bit his lip, but answered, “Yes Papa.” He went over to the corner and sat on the stool situated there and faced the corner. Papa had told him to think about what he had done that was wrong and he figured it must have been about the stealing.

Omari left Lucas in the corner during which time the youngster could hear the adults talking and phone calls being made, before calling him out.  "Come sit on my lap, son."

Lucas came over and with a slight hesitation climbed onto Omari's lap.

"Now, young man, I need you to understand the importance of keeping your language clean. No swearing. Gentlemen don't swear, especially at or in front of a lady, like Mama. Understand?"

"When I was a child, if I swore, my mother would make me wash out my mouth with a strong mouthwash.  I just can't do that to you, hon, so I just want you to tell me you understand about swearing, and why it's wrong. Especially from a six-year old."

Lucas sighed. “Yeah, usin’ cuss words ain’t good and gentlemen don do it.”

Omari nodded and went on, "Because only people who don't have the brain power to come up with better words use curse words to fill the blanks. It shows a lack of intelligence, and we all know that you are a very intelligent young man.  Therefore, swearing will not be tolerated in this house, from any of us, including you. Especially you. Find better words, or I will have to break out the strong mediciney tasting mouthwash, and you will not like the taste of it.  Taste it enough times after you swear and I guarantee that you won't want to do it anymore."

Lucas wrinkled his little nose at the mention of the awful sounding mouthwash. "Ick." He said, " said a spankin'?"

"That will be for the stealing. What you did was wrong. You knew it was wrong when you did it.  That also will not be tolerated in this house."

Lucas sighed and bit his lip. "I won't do that no more."

"Good boy. I want your solemn promise now. No more stealing from anyone at school, ever. Promise."

Lucas looked into the brown eyes with his own brown ones. "Promise," the child said solemnly
"A spanking will happen if we catch you stealing again."

Lucas gave Omari a confused look. "You're not just gonna to slap me around like those other people did?" he asked. 

"The only part of your body you'll have to worry about being smacked is your backside," Zhara said sternly.  "We won't slap you around or beat you. Do you see the difference?"

Lucas bit his lip and said, "Only smacked on my backside? Nowhere else?" Then he added as an afterthought, "Will that hurt lots too? One of the foster moms once smacked me on the bottom with a hairbrush. It was only one smack, but it hurt lots."

Omari smiled and assured his little one, "It'll hurt yes, but only with my hand, nothing else. You'll live.  I did, my kids did..."

"As did I and my siblings," Zhara added.

The little boy's brown eyes went wide when the adults admitted to having been spanked. "Ya got spanked?" he asked Omari, looking the big man up and down.

Omari and Zhara smiled in understanding.  "Yep. More than once but never for the same thing twice," Omari laughed.

Lucas wrinkled his nose again. "'Kay." He snuggled unconsciously a bit closer to the man who still held him in his lap.
Omari hugged the slight frame closer and vowed to get the little boy happy and healthy as soon as humanly possible.
"Alright then, Mr. Lucas.  Mama and I were talking while you were thinking, and we've come to a decision about school."
Lucas tensed for a moment, then sighing said, "Ya gonna make me go back." 
"No honey, we've arranged for a teacher for you. You're going to be home schooled, and I," Omari said, "am going to be working from my office at home, so that I'll be here for you if you need me."

Lucas's brown eyes widened. "School at home? That just ain't right!"
The Okoros couldn't help but to let out chuckles at their child's way of thinking. Zhara was quick to explain that they were laughing because he delighted them so much, and not at him.
"You will have a teacher here, for four hours a day, starting at nine o'clock in the morning and you'll be done by one in the afternoon. He's a very nice man. Our daughter Opal employed him when her children were younger. They've since transitioned into a regular school and they're doing just fine," she assured him.
Lucas pouted. "I won't have any time to play!" he complained.
"If anything, you'll have more time to play, because part of your school day, so to speak, will be working on homework, so that will be done before your school day is over, plus you'll get a half hour for a lunch break at twelve.  I think you'll make out like a little bandit, actually," said Zhara with a smile.
Lucas sighed and then listening to the older couple nodded. "Sounds like it will be better," he said grudgingly.

"It will be. You will also go on field trips with your new teacher and other home schooled children a few times a year. One of which will be a trip to Times Square in December to see the Nut Cracker Suite.  You're a very lucky little boy."
Lucas gave the Okoros a worried look. "Time Square? I never heard of it some kind of clock? And what's a nutcracker sweet?" His little face wore a puzzled frown. "What's so sweet about a nutcracker?"

"Times Square is in New York, a beautiful city, and its suite," Omari said, spelling it out.  "It's a fascinating ballet. Now don't wrinkle your nose. Try it before you decide you don't like it," he laughed.

A small frown creased the little forehead. "Where's New York? I know it ain't here. How far away is it? Will you come too? What's ballet?"

Zhara and Omari nearly laughed again at the barrage of questions. 

"New York is a wonderful city about five hours drive from here," Omari answered. "Full of light, color and life."
"Ah, my little one, we have so much to teach you," Zhara said lovingly.  "Ballet is a beautiful form of dance. Graceful. Pure."  She stood up and did a pirouette, and bowed gracefully, her skirt belling out around her a little bit.
"And yes, we have agreed to be chaperones for the trip.  It's a long drive, but our van has a DVD player and a great stereo system, so you won't be bored. Plus, there is room for at least two other children and their parents, so you won't be alone."

"What if they're bad kids, like the ones from the school?"

"We won't tolerate bad kids in our van," Omari promised.  "And who knows, you may find those other children fun to be with.  A lot of them have been in the same position as you, being the target for bullies."

Lucas nodded. "'Kay Papa." He snuggled into Omari and settled contentedly.

Zhara let her two men have their time together and quietly left to get dinner started.  Technically it was Omari's turn but she was willing to let it go this once.  She smiled at the two of them before leaving, pride and love swelling her heart.

"Now," Omari said, "comes the unpleasant part, Lucas."

Lucas looked up at Omari confused. "Whadya mean?"

“We have to go back to the school and tell Mr. Levitt what happened."

Lucas exclaimed, "Right now?!"

"No, Hon. Monday morning. It's not fair for the other boy to have theft and a suspension on his record when he was in fact innocent.  We'll do our best to keep it private so that we don't have further problems. However, I'd like you to gather up the things you actually took yourself, and give them back."

Lucas pouted and sighed. "Do I gotta?"

"Yes, you have to.  It's the right thing to do.  However, just this once, I'm going to allow you to return the items without anyone knowing it was you who took them.  You may put them on Mr. Cooper's desk before we go to Mr. Levitt and formally withdraw you from school."

Lucas bit his lip and then nodded. "'Kay," he conceded.
"And Lucas," Omari said, his tone altering just a little as he sat the little boy up to look him in the eye. "I need you to understand that sitting in the corner was not your entire punishment for what you've done. Understand?"

Lucas looked at Omari, a look of trepidation in his eyes. "I-it ain't?" he asked as his little body tensed.

"Relax, son," the older man said, softening his expression a little. "You know we're not going to beat you. We promised and we always keep our promises, as we expect you to. Understand?"

Lucas nodded, but his brown eyes still showed a hint of distrust.

"For this week, you will not be allowed to watch television. No cartoons. No movies. Nothing. Understand? You may read books or play with your toys, color in your coloring books, but no television for the week. Do you understand why?"

Lucas opened his mouth to protest, but then looked down. "'Cause I stole that stuff."

"And framed your classmate, which was very wrong, no matter how ugly he was toward you. When I was a child, punishments were much more severe than you are receiving. And I'm proud of you for recognizing and admitting what you did wrong."

Lucas bit his lip at first, then asked curiously, "What woulda happened when you was little?"

"Let's just say that I wouldn't have been able to sit comfortably for a very long time. I would have been grounded. No going out, no TV, and I'd have been spending most of my days in my room when I wasn't doing chores. We'll leave it at that."

Lucas looked down. He didn't like the picture Omari had painted for him and said, "'Kay Papa, no TV."
"That's my boy," Omari said, hugging the child close.

Lucas moved closer, snuggling as close to Omari as he could and wondered at all the words of praise he had been receiving even though he had done something really bad. These people were being really kind to him. He buried his face in the man's chest and breathed in the unique scent of him and it calmed him and he relaxed in Omari's arms.
Just then Zhara entered the room with a smile, prepared to tell her men that dinner was nearly ready, but she hated to disturb them. Still smiling, she tiptoed out. Dinner could wait a little longer.


Monday morning was tense for all of them. Lucas had collected all of the things he'd taken and put them into a brown paper bag and put it on Mr. Cooper's desk before the three of them went to visit the principal.
When Mr. Levitt heard the story, he agreed that Lucas would be better off being home schooled, and he promised the Okoros that he would arrange to have the suspension and charges against Justin removed from his permanent files.
"Making him admit to what he did in the classroom will only make things worse," Mr. Levitt said. "I think this is the best solution."

The Okoros thanked the man and nudged Lucas a little.

Lucas looked up at the principal and said a bit timidly, "Thank you Mr. Levitt and I'm sorry."

"Thank you for admitting to what you did, Lucas. I wish you luck in your future," the man said, holding out his hand to shake the child's. There was no point in making things worse or drawing the situation out.

Lucas was surprised and took the man's large hand in his own small one. "Thank you," he said once more.

The trio left the school and went back home where they set some chores for Lucas to do while they readied the house for the arrival of the new teacher.

Lucas wasn't thrilled with doing chores, but he didn't complain. He was more worried about the teacher coming tomorrow.

The next day everyone was up bright and early. Zhara had to get to work leaving Omari and Lucas to greet the new teacher.

"I'm sorry," she said as she finished up the dishes with her husband's help, "but Attorney Bricker called me in early today.  With luck, I'll get out and home before the new teacher leaves."

Lucas fidgeted. "When will the teacher get here?" he asked Omari. The little boy paced around and groused, "Don see why I hada get all in school clothes and brush my hair and everythin'."

"He'll be here around 8:30 so that he can take some time to get to know you first," Omari explained. "And you can hardly have lessons in your pajamas and bedhead," he joked.

"Don see why not, it woulda been better."

"No self-respecting gentleman would go to school or work in his pajamas," Omari smiled.  "Unless it was wear your pajamas to school day, which it isn't. So, while you're being schooled, you will wear your good clothes as you would be when attending classes. Afterward you may get into your play clothes... or your pajamas if you like."

Lucas scowled. "All these rules," he grumped.

Omari hugged the boy and grinned.  "It's the price we pay for being good, respectable people. And we are good, respectable people, aren't we, Lucas?"

Lucas nodded at Omari's statement about being good and decent people.

Then when he finally heard the knock on the door he stiffened, but allowed Omari to lead him with an arm around the shoulders to greet the stranger who would be his new teacher.

"Good morning, sir," Omari said with a smile. "Please come in."

The teacher walked in and held out his hand to be shaken by Omari and Lucas.  "Good morning," the man said kindly to Lucas.  "My name is Mr. Klemeshevski."

As the teacher introduced himself Lucas's eyes widened. "Mr. Klemshitsky?"

Omari blushed deeply, embarrassed and for the first time in his life at a loss for words.

The boy bit his lip, but after all it was the man's name, wasn't it? He glanced up at Omari, a little concern in his brown eyes.

The teacher did his best to stifle a grin and a laugh. His name had been butchered quite a bit throughout the years but he'd never heard that one before.

"No, Lucas, Klem-eh-chev-ski," he enunciated slowly, "but everyone just calls me Mr. K, alright?" he replied with a twinkle of humor in his eyes.  He had to keep himself from laughing at the look of horror on Mr. Okoro’s face and he winked at Omari to let the man know it was alright.

Lucas looked at the man and nodded. "Kay, Mr. K is easier.

It took a minute for the heat of embarrassment that had flushed the older man's face to subside, and for once he was grateful that he was dark complected as the red was harder to detect.

Omari offered Mr. K a cup of coffee which the man gratefully accepted, and left the teacher and boy to become acquainted.  "I'll be in my office, Lucas. I'll be working from home today, alright?" he said, saluting the teacher with his own cup of coffee before disappearing into the room.

Lucas said, "'Kay Papa." He turned his attention to the man who was his new teacher and studied him and waited for what would be next.

"So, Lucas. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Mr. Okoro told me some things, about how smart you are, but I'd like to know things such as, what things do you like? Sports? Video games? TV? Reading?"

Lucas had to think about the question. He knew he couldn't tell the man he liked the challenge of stealing so said, "I like some TV and sometimes I watch baseball."

Mr. K smiled, glad that the boy seemed to be communicative. He'd been worried about that since so many of the children he taught had at first been introverted to the point of catatonia.  He spent the next half hour getting to know his new little student before asking Lucas to open his first book.

"Open a book and you open your mind. Open your mind and the world is yours," he said with a grin.

Lucas looked at the man puzzled by the statement, but shrugged and opened the book they would be working with.


A/N The references to Victor are from the Tim Burton movie Corpse Bride
The reference to Jack Skellington is from the Tim Burton movie Nightmare Before Christmas


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