Today's Reading

Slipping into the classroom she shared with the school nurse, the volunteer librarian, and, whenever he was bored, the school custodian, she pulled the door shut and leaned against it with a long sigh. Then a smile. A giggle. Oh, what the heck—she started to dance.

Somewhere after the fourth or fifth cha-cha around the folding table that served as her desk, a throat cleared from the doorway.

Charlotte gasped and spun. "Ty. I mean, Mr. Zemeckis. I mean—" Considering at one time he'd been friends with her older brother and used to torment her with wet willies and wedgies, it was weird knowing how to address him as her principal.

She slugged his upper arm. "You sneaky punk, I didn't hear you come in." School was out for the summer. She'd call him whatever she wanted.

"Ow." He rubbed his skinny arm with mock pain. "Well, maybe if you weren't so busy butchering the lyrics to a Gloria Estefan song. Come chickabonka, baby, something 'bout a conga?"

"I'm fairly certain that's how it goes."

The corners of Ty's eyes crinkled behind his glasses. "I suppose you can sing whatever you want on the last day of school." His smile dimmed as he took in the blood spatters on her shirt. "What happened there?"

"Nash."

"Don't tell me any more. I'm off duty until August."

Charlotte waited for the humor to return to his eyes. It didn't. Instead he spent the next several seconds tugging on his ear as he glanced around the box-shaped classroom to where a plastic human skeleton missing two ribs hung next to a narrow bookshelf crammed with tattered books. Then he pulled out one of the student's chairs so he could fold his lanky frame into the seat and spend another eternity rubbing his forehead.

She heaved a deep sigh. "Look, I know what this is about, and I really don't want to talk about it."

Ty's brow wrinkled in confusion. "How did you hear?"

"Ben's mom told me. We ran into each other at the farmers market a few weeks ago. I got so flustered trying to prove I wasn't flustered at the news, I bought fifty-three dollars' worth of fresh spinach, which made me all the more flustered because I hate spinach and she knows I hate spinach, so somehow in all the flusterment I concocted an imaginary friend who loves spinach, whom I may have suggested wasn't imaginary but rather special and perhaps male."

Behind his glasses, Ty's wide eyes blinked like a befuddled owl's. "What are you talking about?"

Now it was Charlotte's turn to blink and ponder. "Ben's wedding this weekend. What are you talking about?"

Ty gripped the back of his neck with a groan. "Now I feel even worse. I totally forgot this weekend was Ben's wedding. Why would he get married this weekend? Isn't this practically the same weekend two years ago that you were supposed to—"

"Hey, remember that moment forty seconds ago when I said I didn't want to talk about it?"

"Right. Sorry. I just really wish I had better news to give you right now."

If it wasn't about Ben's wedding, what sort of bad news could it possibly— Oh no. Charlotte sucked in a breath and palmed her stomach. "Please don't tell me this is about Will." Her brother had been released from prison over a year ago. If he'd gotten arrested again...

"This isn't about Will," Ty said, standing with a grimace. "It's about the music program. We lost the grant."

"What?" Ty may as well have hurled another basketball at her face.
"No," she breathed out, leaning against her desk table for support. It slid half a foot away from her.
 
Ty grabbed the edge before it scooched any further. "I'm sorry. This isn't how I wanted the last day of school to end for you."
...

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