tagBDSMSecret Smiles and Three Little Words Pt. 42

Secret Smiles and Three Little Words Pt. 42

byCJT©

Chapter 58

Nora set her bag down on her bed as Alex and Gavin set boxes of her belongings on the floor. Nora looked around the room, it was definitely not her room. This room had no posters, no frilly curtains. Blank walls, with vases and blinds on the windows. It was very empty.

Alex saw her looking at the room and she finally took a look. It was not a little girl's room. She never noticed it before, she always thought it was nicely furnished. The amenities pleasant and comforting...for an adult. For a child, this room would be like living in a motel room. Cold. Uninspiring. Unable to generate childhood comfort.

"Hey," Alex smiled dropping to her level. "Don't worry, once we get your stuff up, it will look more like a girl's room!" Nora nodded as she sat on the bed.

"You ok?" Alex asked her. Nora nodded. Alex stroked the sides of her face with both hands.

"New things are always hard at first," she assured the small girl. "But they can also be very exciting and very rewarding!" Nora nodded. She didn't seem so convinced.

"Hey," Gavin smiled at her. "What do you want for dinner?" Alex watched the little girl shrug her small shoulders again.

"I love you," Alex said to her, feeling her disappointment.

"I love you too," Nora said taking Alex in her arms and squeezing.

Gavin slipped out of the room to let the girls put her things away, a nugget of sorrow filled Gavin and he hoped it wouldn't linger. He couldn't imagine what Nora was going through. The death of his own parents had been hard enough, but to be Nora's young age would make that even harder. She could use no logic to explain away the emptiness she now felt. No words to console her that her mother was gone and before her time.

He remembered the sadness of going through the memories of his old house. Nora had to deal with that as a child. He knew she would be damaged from them. He would have to talk to Alex about maybe getting Nora some help with that. Professional help. She would need it to help her make an adjustment to her new world. A world without her mother in it.

Gavin had ordered cheese pizza, knowing Nora liked that. They sat around the table with the box in the middle silently eating the slices. Alex watching Nora, Gavin watching Alex. The table was silent with just the occasional comment or question on another piece of pizza.

After tucking Nora into bed that evening, Alex quietly came into the bedroom and Gavin looked up from his book.

"How is she?" he asked.

"I really don't know," Alex admitted. "At least in Pennsylvania she had her room to keep her sense of normalcy. Then Mom and Dad's house. Now...I think it really is setting in."

Gavin put his book down and looked to her. Alex sat there on the edge of the bed with her face in her hands. He could tell she was tired. Stressed. They both were. He was looking forward to getting back to the routine, getting back to their lives.

"We need to find her a school," Gavin said softly. Alex nodded within her hands never moving them. "Any ideas?"

"It's not like we have a choice really," Alex shrugged. "I will call the regional board of education and find out what district we are in."

"We have a choice," Gavin reminded her. "There are several good private schools in the area."

"Private school?" Alex asked turning around. He nodded.

"Private schools have a history of better education," Gavin shrugged. "We could get her into a Catholic school...you said you wanted her to stay within the faith that Livy practiced."

"A private Catholic school," Alex repeated. She didn't like the way that sounded. For whatever reason it sounded stuffy and repressing.

"Alex?" Gavin drew her attention to him.

"It sounds horrible," Alex admitted to him. "Nuns with rulers!"

"Absolutely not," Gavin laughed with a shake of his head. "No nuns with rulers."

"What's wrong with public school?" Alex asked him. "It was good enough for me...and my father?"

"It was good enough for me too," Gavin pointed out. "I'm just saying, we have the means to do what we need to." He could see her building up her stubborn streak.

"You mean you have the means," Alex corrected.

"Don't do that," Gavin warned firmly.

"Do what?"

"Take us backwards," Gavin growled. "We are about to become husband and wife. We are about to share everything. That includes our finances. So what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine." He let that sink in.

"I won't have it any other way," he said softer. She looked over her shoulder at him. "We are either all the way in, or all the way out."

"That sounds like an ultimatum," Alex pointed out.

"It is," he nodded. "Take me completely or don't take me at all. I don't do halfway."

***

Alex and Nora sat in the office of the nearest private school. Gavin had been called out on an emergency and couldn't go along. That bothered Alex. She needed him to be here now, to help her decide what was going to be best for Nora. She even let her anger flash when he told her he was leaving, something he only stared at her about. But it was enough to cause her to lower her eyes.

"Good morning!" Came a cheery voice of a middle aged man in a frock. Alex and Nora stood when he approached. "You must be Miss Lasko and Miss Nora?" he questioned with a warm smile. Both of them nodded.

"Welcome to St. Timothy!" he continued. "Have you been waiting long?"

"No," Alex told him taking his outstretched hand and shaking it. "Just a few minutes."

"My name is Father Andor, I'm the Dean here," he told them shaking Nora's small hand. "I'm guessing fourth grade?" Andor asked the girl. She nodded that she was indeed in the fourth grade.

"How about I show you around first?" he offered. They both nodded. Weaving amongst the children in the hallway as they scurried from one class to the next, Andor explained some of the particulars of St. Timothy.

"This is the Renaissance Wing," he said proudly as the kids all ducked into their respective rooms at the last chime of the bell. "It's what we call our wing dedicated to art and music."

"You have a wing dedicated to art and music?" Alex scoffed. "I thought with the whole 'No child left behind' garbage that the emphasis on the arts waned?"

"We are not a public school, Ms. Lasko," Andor told her. "While public schools struggle with funding for their art programs as they ramp up the intensity of the core curriculum, they have to decide where to put their limited resources. We do not." Alex nodded that she understood. "We have many wealthy benefactors that fund just our Renaissance Wing, hence the name." He winked at her.

"It is our firm belief that without music and art, a child's mind will not be as fertile, so the Math and English won't take root as well. Music and art make children more well-rounded, better students and happier children," he continued as they watched a class of students using clay for pottery.

"It is our goal to keep all our students fully engaged all day," he continued as they started walking again. "Art and music give them a time to unwind and absorb culture. Being a successful artist yourself, I'm sure you agree."

"You know that I'm an artist?" Alex asked him.

"Yes," he nodded. "I adored your mural!"

"Oh my gosh!" Alex laughed embarrassedly. "Thank you!"

"We took our students on a field trip to see it," he continued causing Alex to widen her eyes in disbelief. "They were doing the mural in the play area, I think it inspired them a great deal!"

"Really? I'd like to see the mural they did sometime." Alex said. The Dean nodded with a smile.

"Miss Nora," the priest started looking down at her. "Are you an artist like your mother?"

Alex's mind froze, it was an easy mistake for the man to make. Here she was walking with Nora and they were exploring schools together so it would be natural for him to assume that they were mother/daughter.

"Oh," Alex frowned looking down to see Nora's reaction to what the Dean had assumed. "I'm not Nora's mother, I'm her guardian, her aunt."

"Oh, dear, I'm sorry I just assumed," the man gasped.

"My mother is dead," Nora said coldly. Both adults looked to her and saw the anger.

"I am sorry Miss Nora," the man said genuinely. Nora wiped a tear away and nodded.

Alex watched Nora look around keeping her tear filled eyes from them, she refused to look up at Alex and instead stared out the window towards the courtyard. She didn't like the way Nora had said that her mother was dead. It was cold and unfeeling. Angry even. The sharpness of her words cut at Alex.

Perhaps this transition was happening too easily. The awful truth of the emotions that were churning through Nora were now bubbling through the cracks. Perhaps Gavin was right, it was only a matter of time before the emotions and pain overwhelmed Nora and burst out.

"Well, do you like art? Painting, drawing, perhaps even pottery?" the man asked the girl. He glanced at Alex when Nora shrugged. "How about music? Do you play an instrument?" Nora shook her head but refused to look at the man, instead staring out the window.

"Well," the man frowned. "A decision you can make if you decide to enroll. All students here are required to take either an art or music credit."

The man continued to show the girls around, but Nora only shrugged or gave short quiet answers when necessary. She never showed the personality that Alex loved so much. Moving towards the cafeteria there was the bustle of students again. The soft chatter of laughter as students enjoyed their food.

"As you can see, we have a full service kitchen. Multiple choices of entrée and sides," he said proudly. "All planned and made here by our registered dieticians. We have vegan meals for those who follow that path, and all meals are well balanced."

"Wow!" Alex smiled looking down at Nora who seemed uninterested still. "Looks like you won't go hungry here!" she said to her. Nora nodded. Alex twisted a frown.

Sitting down in the office of the Dean Nora looked around at the many books and antique furniture of the office. She squirmed quietly in the plush chair she was sitting in.

"Now," the man smiled at them as he folded his hands on his desk. "I'm sure you have questions?"

"Um," Alex looked to Nora who said nothing. "Tuition costs, I guess would be the first question." The man nodded and slid a piece of paper across the desk to her. Alex wanted to let her jaw drop but she kept her teeth firmly set.

"Is this per year?" she asked at the astronomical cost.

"No," he said softly, buffering her surprise. "That's per semester."

"Oookay!" Alex said trying to hide the shock in her voice.

"It is very steep," Andor laughed. "But, keep in mind, we do not receive any federal funds. All of our tuition stays in house, it is spent on the kids. We hire only the best instructors. Provide only the very best education."

"I'm sure," Alex said embarrassedly. "It's just a shocking number." Andor nodded in agreement and smiled as he sat back to explain some of the benefits of that high cost.

"Our students achieve higher grades on any standardized test. From the ACT to SAT to the periodic achievement tests. Public schools in grade four score 67% at or above average on on standardized tests. We score in the mid-eighties on the same test. By grade 8 public schools hit 77%, we hit mid-nineties. That is at or above the average."

"In our high school, which is across the street," Andor continued. "The average public school student will get a 502 in verbal and a 510 in math on the SAT. Our average last year was a 549 in verbal and a 567 in math."

"42% of public school kids continue on to college, 72% of students from a private school go on to college. So you can see we gear our curriculum to prepare students from day one to go to college and succeed. Last year our graduating class was 102, out of the 102, 98 went to college. Of that 98, 17 were accepted to Ivy League schools," he said proudly. "Two went to M.I.T."

"Wow!" Alex gasped. "You couldn't persuade the last four?" She joked.

"Some kids are just incorrigible!" he laughed with her. "No, I believe they will go to college at some point, but just not yet."

"That's amazing," Alex marveled.

"We are one of the premier private schools in the city, if not the country," Andor continued. "Which is why we are so hard to get into. We have a waiting list of several hundred prospective students."

"Waiting list?" Alex frowned.

"Yes," Andor nodded. "But, Dr. Steward is a friend of a very wealthy benefactor here, so we make exceptions from time to time and bump kids to the front of the line."

"Oh," Alex nodded. Gavin and his position are the reason they were able to even take a tour of a school like this.

"How about you Miss Nora," Andor asked. "Any questions?" Nora turned her eyes to him and shrugged. "C'mon, you have to have at least one question?"

"Why does everybody dress the same?" she asked after some thought.

"Ah!" the man smiled. "We have school uniforms. We believe it helps keep the focus on education, and less on what to wear to school."

"So I can't wear my own clothes?" Nora asked. He shook his head gravely at her.

Alex and Nora walked out of the school, Alex tucked her in the car seat and then kissed her cheek.

"Are you ok baby?" she asked Nora. Nora nodded.

"Is that going to be my school?" the girl asked her.

"I don't know," Alex smiled. "We'll have to talk to Gavin."

"Is it expensive?"

"Don't worry about that," Alex told her.

"Why can't I go to a school that lets me wear my own clothes?" Nora asked her.

"Is that a big deal to you?" Alex asked her. "I didn't think their uniforms were all that bad. Polos and khakis?" Nora shrugged. "I like that they have a big art program." Nora smiled and nodded that she liked that too.

"Well," Alex smiled. "Let's talk to Gavin, see what he thinks."

At dinner that night, Nora was still not talking much. Gavin watched her push her food around on her plate for a while before broaching a subject to get them talking.

"So I stopped by St. Timothy on my way back," he announced. "A whole wing dedicated to art and music?" he shook his head as he said it.

"I know, that was one of the things we liked about it," Alex nodded watching Nora.

"Uniforms were a bit of a buzz kill," Gavin continued causing Nora to smile. "I mean, how are you going to wear your Steelers jersey?" Nora laughed for the first time that day. "I can hear your grandpa now...she can't wear her jersey? No way, no how!" Gavin mimicked Al's voice the best he could.

"It's a bit pricy," Alex pointed out.

"The scores are worth it," Gavin countered. "Getting into a good college is a big deal nowadays, we need to prepare her for it."

"She is in the fourth grade," Alex pointed out with a laugh.

"Well," Gavin shrugged. "The sooner the better."

"Uncle Gavin?" Nora interrupted.

"Yes?"

"Are there any kids in this building?" she asked him.

"I don't know," Gavin stuttered. "I never really paid attention, why?"

"I was at the pool, hoping to find someone to play with, but there were only old people," Nora complained.

"I don't really know," Gavin admitted. "I guess we will have to ask Mike in the morning." Nora nodded with a glum expression.

They went back to eating and Gavin struggled to remember one kid in the building. He couldn't think of any. It never dawned on him that there weren't any kids, he didn't care. Now with Nora it could be a problem.

The next morning, as Gavin was walking out to the garage, he stopped by the desk.

"Hey Mike," Gavin smiled. "Are there any other kids in the building?"

"Uh," Mike frowned. "No, actually, kids aren't allowed in the building."

"What?"

"Well," Mike began apologetically. "This building kind of caters to single people, or older retirees who like quiet. Families don't usually move in here because we have rules that restrict who moves in."

"No kids?" Gavin repeated. Mike shook his head. "How long do I have before they raise a stink?"

"Well, there isn't any written rule against kids," Mike told him. "It's just an unwritten one, people move in here because there are no kids to fight with in the pool or gym. No kids running up and down the hallway. No bikes and toys to trip over."

"Interesting," Gavin frowned.

"Sorry," Mike told him softly. Gavin shrugged and went to his car.

***

The following week, Alex pulled her Mercedes into the circle drive of St. Timothy. There were security men in bright orange vests directing traffic. Alex pulled up next to one.

"Hello," he smiled leaning in. "Can I help you?"

"Uh, it's our first day," Alex told him.

"Ok," he said opening the back door. "Hop on out young lady." He said to Nora who unbuckled her seat belt.

"Be sure to put your student placard on your passenger visor," the security man told Alex. "When you pick her up, flip the placard to where we can see it, then we will radio in for your student to come out."

"Be prepared to show ID for the first couple times," he continued as Nora hopped out. "We will verify who you are and make sure you are able to pick up your student."

"Gotcha," Alex said getting out and coming around. She stooped to Nora's level. "Want me to walk you in?" Nora saw all the other kids going in alone and shook her head. "Ok, see you at three." She gave Nora a kiss and a hug.

"Miss Lasko?" a woman called out walking their way.

"Yes?" Alex returned standing up.

"I'm Ms. Davies," the woman said shaking Alex's hand. "I'll be Nora's homeroom teacher!"

"Oh, thanks for coming out to meet us!" Alex smiled. "But who is watching your class?"

"I have two terrific aides in my room that help," she smiled. She stooped to Nora's level. "Are you ready for a big day?" Nora looked up at Alex and then back at Ms. Davies and nodded. "Good! We are super excited about having you with us!" She held out her hand to Nora who took it apprehensively. She looked up to Alex who smiled her best smile to reassure her.

Alex watched them walk away, and Nora turned at the door and waved one final time before disappearing inside. The security guard looked to Alex and nodded, he had seen this situation many times, the worry of leaving your child for the first time at a new school.

"She will be fine," he assured her. Alex nodded and tried to smile as she walked around to get back in her car. As soon as she was in in her cell rang.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey back!" came Lena's voice. "First day of school?"

"Yeah, it's killing me," Alex admitted.

"Well, it's something new," Lena said softly.

"Yeah," Alex agreed.

"I need a favor," Lena blurted.

"Sure, for you, anything," Alex sighed.

"Can you come by the apartment?"

"Of course," Alex said sliding her gear into drive and moved out carefully. "Be there soon."

"Thanks," Lena sounded relieved but Alex missed it as she worried about Nora.

Walking into her old apartment she tried to shake the negative feelings of Nora not with her now.

"Hey!" she called out.

Lena came from the bedroom in rush, took her by the hand and pulled her towards the bedroom. Opening the door, she found Mike naked in bed, a sheet covering his private area and his hands cuffed to the headboard.

"Hey!" he called out. "I'm naked here!" Alex covered her smile with her hand but couldn't stop the laughter. It was a definite tension breaker. All the turmoil of the past few days melted away with each leaked laugh.

"What. The. Hell?" Alex laughed.

"Stop laughing!" Lena begged swatting at her best friend.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not that kind of girl," Alex continued to tease, the tears of laughter forming in her eyes.

"Stop it!" Lena began to laugh with her.

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