This was based on the stranger than fiction headline: Man jailed when daughter fails to get diploma. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you had to know this would be the one I chose, right? 😀
Sometimes, There Isn’t a Choice
“Dad, what the hell are you doing?”
“I’m dropping you off at school,” was his overly sarcastic response.
Leyna released a long pent-up sigh and rolled her eyes. “Duh. I mean, why aren’t you dropping me off at the curb?”
“Because I can’t trust you not to go into the building.”
“What are you kidding me?” Leyna huffed and sank back into the truck seat. “I’m nearly 18. I can do what I want to do.”
“You can do what you want to after you graduate. Right now? I’m making sure you GET that diploma.”
“School SUCKS!” she yelled and chomped on her gum.
Earl’s shoulders slumped and he gave his daughter a wary, side-long glance. “Look Ley,” he began, “you only have six months to go. Six months and you’ll be free to do whatever you want to do. You can get your license …”
She shot him a hateful glance at bringing up that sore subject.
He continued, “You can move out. Get your own job, your own money, live your life however you want to but for right now, for the next six months at least, you have to go to school. And you HAVE to go to class. If you miss any more school, you’re not going to have the credits you need TO graduate. Don’t you understand that?”
“I’m not stupid, dad,” she said succinctly, the words oozing venom.
“That I’m quite sure of,” he answered back despondently.
“I wish mom were here.”
He ran a hand over his tired eyes and returned his gaze to the numerous cars moving at a snail’s pace in the school parking lot before answering. “Well, she’s not, okay? So … we’ll just have to deal with all of this without her.”
“I hate this,” she hissed out while shooting venomous looks toward the school building.
“No one likes high school, Ley. That’s just the way it works, buck up.”
“The teachers are stupid. The other kids are idiots – I’m like surrounded by insanity. Why can’t I just drop out and get a job?”
“And what kind of job are you going to get if you don’t have a diploma? Flipping burgers?” He snorted in disgust.
“Mom didn’t finish high school and look at her.”
“Yes, let’s look at her for a minute, shall we?” he snapped back.
Leyna blinked in surprise. Her father never raised his voice with her. She sat up a little straighter and looked at him with new interest.
“One,” he ticked off on his fingers, “your mother didn’t graduate from high school and in fact, quit when she was a junior.” He shot her a meaningful glance. “Two, your mother has never held a job for longer than three months – ever.” Yet again another quick glance at her as he navigated traffic. “Three, she quit our marriage. She never even gave us a fighting chance.” He said quietly. He paused for long moments before clearing his throat and continuing. “But the one I can not ever forgive her for, the one thing that I think she quit that is truly unforgiveable?” He turned to look at her. “She quit being a mother to you. What kind of person leaves her child, Leyna? Do you think your mother has led, or is possibly leading a better life now? Is that what you want from your life?”
Leyna squirmed and stared with unusual interest at her backpack. She absently fingered the zipper before answering. “Not really.”
“That is exactly the sort of life you’re going to have if you don’t finish what you started. Sure it’s hard. Sure it sucks. But if you don’t finish, then you’re just setting yourself up to fail later. And I don’t know about you, but no daughter of mine is going to fail.”
Leyna immediately stiffened at his words. “I can do what I damn well please.”
“Not on my watch, you’re not,” he answered while pulling up to the door.
“You can’t make me do anything, dad.” Leyna tilted her chin and looked down her nose defiantly.
“Leyna …” he began before issuing a sigh. “Grow up.”
She blinked in surprise at him again. Why was he being so harsh with her? Her chin dropped an inch and doubt began to swallow her confidence. “Why are you making me do this, dad? You’ve never made me do something I didn’t want to do in the past.”
“And I regret that now,” he shot back without blinking an eye. “I’ve been too easy on you, Ley. Mainly because I felt bad about Zoe leaving. But I realize now that that attitude has only hurt you, and not helped you. Look,” he jerked the transmission into park and twisted to give her his full attention. “We have a lot of issues, Leyna. Issues that are actually a lot of my fault. I’d like to talk about these things but,” he glanced around, “this isn’t really the time or place to talk about all of that. But I’m going to tell you something and I want you to listen.”
Leyna slipped on her dark sunglasses and pushed them into place on her nose. This was a side of her father she had never seen before and she wasn’t quite sure how to process the emotional influx that suddenly closed around her heart.
“I got a call from the school board a few days ago.”
Leyna’s spine started tingling and she could feel a headache tickling her temples.
“If you skip any more school, they will be forced to file charges against me. Do you want to see me go to jail?”
Leyna’s eyes widened at the news. “Oh, come on. They can’t do that, can they? How can they do that?” her voice rose with each word until it was hovering just below hysteria.
“It’s a law, Leyna. Parents are required to make sure their children receive an education. You’re not in school, so how can you be getting that education?”
“Dad,” Leyna whined.
“Do it for me, Ley,” he said quietly.
Leyna continued to stare at her father. She was certainly surprised to hear that the school had contacted her father, though she supposed it was bound to happen. She had indeed been skipping too much. At first, it started with leaving after lunch. And when nothing was said about her absence in her afternoon classes, she began skipping a day here and there. And still, when no one called her on it, she began skipping consecutive days – now she was lucky if she made it a full day in a week’s time.
It’s not that she wanted her father to get into trouble, but she just couldn’t stand the whole dull routine of going to class. She felt like a piece of meat being lead by the nose from one stall to another to be closely examined and criticized for her actions and thoughts.
She wouldn’t allow herself to dwell on the fact that she didn’t understand half of what they were trying to teach her and she was too embarrassed to ask for help.
She blinked back the sudden moisture in her eyes and without another word, snatched up her backpack and slid out of the truck. She slammed the door shut, purposefully not meeting her father’s gentle hazel eyes and maintaining a purposeful stride, she entered the torture chamber.
“Whoa Leyna, you’re here!” Her best friend, Peaches, greeted her just inside the door. “What’s up girlfriend? I thought we were going to meet at Starbucks in about,” she glanced at her black, alligator skin watch with the lime-green triangle face before continuing, “ten minutes. What are you doing here?”
Leyna lifted her sunglasses to her head with one hand and thumbed behind her to indicate her father’s truck, still idle at the curb with the other.
“Ah. The old man is watching you, eh?” She gave her friend a knowing wink. “Let’s move in a bit so he can’t see you anymore.” She took her arm and they moved into the sea of students surrounding them. “Give it a few minutes, he’ll take off.”
Both girls glanced back out the doors and when Leyna’s father moved back into the flow of traffic, she released a sigh of relief. “Wow. He was really riding me today,” Leyna complained before rudely popping a bubble.
“Yeah, parents.” Peaches rolled her eyes and then started toward the front door. She glanced back when she realized that Leyna wasn’t with her. “Are you coming?”
Leyna shuffled her feet and looked down at her holey black Converse sneakers. “Um, I’m thinking I might stick around today.”
Peaches burst out laughing and then realizing her friend was serious, immediately sobered. She quickly glanced around before moving to stand in front of her. “Are you nuts?” she asked, the glitter from her lip gloss sparkling in the overhead light. “We’re so far behind now, we’ll never catch up. It’s too late, man. Sticking around is just a waste of time. Let’s go grab a coffee.”
Leyna licked her lips and looked longingly at the front door of the school. Bright sunlight bounced off the sidewalk and shimmered around the bare branches of the trees. It was almost as if it was opening its arms and inviting her to appreciate its beauty.
She didn’t want her father to get into trouble, but Peaches was right. It had been so long since she had been to class, she knew she was several assignments behind. It really wouldn’t do any good to go to class – she had waited too long to listen to her subconscious.
“Right. Let’s go.”
Peaches looked relieved and smiled. She hooked an arm through Leyna’s and fell into step beside her; they headed toward the front door. They had just reached the point where they had exited through one glass door and was getting ready to exit the second glass door to the outside when Leyna stopped cold in her tracks. Peaches stumbled.
“What the … what are you doing?”
Leyna nodded toward the husky, attractive man with a slight limp coming toward them. “My father,” she swallowed and stared at the male moving toward them, his steps determined, his jaw set. “He’s back.”