Acold March wind howled around the eaves of the Jackson farmhouse. Inside, Andrew and Rose Jackson sat at the dining room table with their morning coffee, their breakfast dishes still on the table in front of them.
Andrew cleared his throat. “I haven’t got all morning,” he said. “We’ll have to get her down here pretty soon.”
“In a minute,” said Rose. “I just have a question for you first.”
“Yeah?” said Andrew. “Shoot.”
“OK,” said Rose. “If we’re right and Jennifer’s crappy report card is in fact because she’s got a boyfriend she hasn’t told us about, which boy do you hope it isn’t?”
“Bobby Winslow,” said Andrew immediately.
“Feel free to take your time and think about it,” said Rose wryly.
Andrew smiled a little at that. “Don’t have to
think about that one much,” he said.
“I was afraid you were going to say that,” said Rose. She was silent for a moment. “Because I’m afraid it might be Bobby Winslow.”
Andrew scowled but didn’t reply.
“She’s always picking up strays, you know,” said Rose.
“Tell me about it,” said Andrew.
The sound of slippers on the hallway floor above them indicated Jennifer was finally on her way down.
“What are you going to do if it is Bobby?” asked Rose.
Andrew shrugged. “Ground her till she’s 30, I guess,” he said.
“Sounds like a plan,” said Rose, just as Jennifer appeared in the doorway.
“What sounds like a plan?” asked Jennifer, stopping to rub the sleep out of her eyes.
“Grounding you till you’re 30,” said Andrew.
Jennifer stopped rubbing. “What a nice way to start the day,” she said. “I think I’ll just go back to bed.”
“I’m kidding,” said Andrew. “Come sit. Mom’ll make you some toast.”
Jennifer padded over to the table and slipped into her chair. “Thanks, Mom,” she said.
“I suppose you know why we’ve called this meeting?” said Andrew jokingly.
Jennifer leaned forward and laid her head on the table, her dark hair falling to obscure her face. “Something about a report card,” she said.
“What kind of jam would you like, Jenn?” asked Rose, opening the fridge.
“Blueberry,” said Jennifer without raising her head.
“Blueberry what?” said Andrew. “Please?” said Jennifer.
There was a brief silence. Jennifer raised her head. “OK,” she said resignedly, “what do you want to know?”
“We want to know how you could go from a B-minus average to a 47 per cent in geography in half a semester,” said Andrew.
Jennifer hung her head, opened her mouth to speak then closed it. “I don’t exactly know,” she said finally.
“How about I make this a multiple choice question?” said Andrew. “We think it’s either a boy or it’s drugs, and we’re pretty sure…”
“It’s not drugs,” said Jennifer. “I would never do that.”
“I was going to say, we’re pretty sure it’s not drugs,” said Andrew.
“Well, good,” said Jennifer, “because you know I wouldn’t do that.”
“We know,” said Rose.
“So it’s a boy,” said Andrew.
Jennifer stared at the table. “Maybe,” she said.
“Maybe?” said Rose. “You’re not making this any easier. Who’s the boy? How long has this been going on? Why didn’t you tell us? And what on earth are you doing with him that’s making you flunk out of Grade 10?”
Jennifer put her head back down on the table. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” she said. Andrew laughed out loud.
“At least she hasn’t lost her sense of humour,” he said to Rose across the table.
“Well, that’s a lucky thing,” said Rose. “You don’t need an education to be a comedian.”
“It’s Bobby Winslow,” said Jennifer. Andrew stopped laughing. “Well, that
explains it,” he said.
Jennifer lifted her head. “Explains what?”
“Why your grades are half what they used to
be,” said Andrew.
“That’s not fair!” said Jennifer. “Just because
he’s not good at school doesn’t mean he’s not smart. He is smart. He just doesn’t fit in at school.” She paused. “He’s like Brady,” she added.
“Umm… you’re not really helping your case there,” said Andrew.
There was another brief silence.
“So what are you going to do?” asked Jennifer. Rose got up, took the toast out of the toaster, put it on a plate and set it down in front of her daughter.
“We’re going to think about that,” she said. “We’ll let you know. More importantly, here’s what you are going to do.” She took a breath. “You are going to go back to doing your work at school and you’re going to stop doing whatever it is you’ve been doing instead of your work. And you will tell me what it is that you have been doing. But you can tell me later when it’s just you and me.” She glanced at Andrew who nodded approvingly. “Because, Jenn, if your grades don’t go up in a hurry, your future with Bobby Winslow will be a short one indeed. Does that sound fair?”
Jennifer picked up a piece of toast. “No,” she said, “but what difference will that make?”
“Probably not much,” said Rose. “But we can talk about that tomorrow. OK?”
Jennifer nodded as Andrew pushed his chair away from the table. He reached over and tousled her already messy hair. “We love you,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Yeah,” said Jennifer, not looking up. “Thanks for the toast.”
“You’re welcome,” said Rose.
“Meeting adjourned,” said Andrew and headed for the door.