“Good morning, La Patroness, I’m Mr. Stringer, the principal.” He bent from the waist and then waved to the corridor that led to various classrooms, the library and gymnasium. “La Patron has been here several times already and inspected every classroom and all of our personnel.”
Jasmine gave a cursory look around, inhaled the fresh pine scent, and was transported back 18 years when she had done this exact same thing on Tyrese and Tyrone’s first day of school. At five years old, they were just as excited then as the four now waiting in the underground tunnel with Jarcee, their primary body guard. They would stay in the tunnel until she gave the okay for them to enter the school.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Stringer. I’ve gone over the curriculum and I am certain my children will do fine here. My main concern is how they’ll be viewed and treated.”
Jasmine withheld a sigh as she met his confused gaze. Silas had warned her, but she had to try. “What I mean is all children should be treated the same.”
A look of horror flashed across his face as his hand flew to his mouth. “Mistress, what are you saying?”
Jasmine wanted to make it clear that her children should be held to the same rules as the other children and not permitted to run the school. Adam certainly would if allowed. Renee wouldn’t learn anything other than art if she had her way. David and Jackie? She wasn’t sure what they’d do, but they were children. Granted, Silas was their father, but she wanted the principal’s word that he’d make sure the rules were followed by all children.
“If my children are allowed to do as they please, it sends the wrong message to the other children that rules aren’t for everyone. And if the rules aren’t for everyone, then as these children grow older, they’ll challenge our Nation’s laws, maybe even rebel. We don’t want to create a future problem when it can be avoided today,” she said, pleased with her impromptu analogy.
Stringer wore a thoughtful frown. Void of facial hair, his long, blonde ponytail hung down his back. Dressed in a short-sleeved purple polo with the school’s logo emblazoned across the chest, and jeans, he looked nothing like the principal she remembered when she took the twins to school on their first day years ago. According to his resume, Springer would be a viable candidate for president at a human college or university, the man understood education.
“Thank you, Ma’am. Our primary goal is to educate our students in a manner that will allow them to integrate within our culture first and the human culture second. Do you have any specific ideas you would like to see implemented?”
Jasmine liked the way he saw her concern and responded to the overall picture. “The rules already in place seem fair, all I ask is that my children be made to follow those, and when they break them, follow the disciplinary guidelines in the parent handbook. I assure you, Silas and I are in agreement with each one.”
His brow rose.
“If the disciplinary procedures in the handbook are good enough for every wolf who attends this school, they are good enough for La Patron’s pups. To do anything differently is saying something is wrong.” She hoped he understood this time.
“Yes, Ma’am. What you’re saying is true. In all honesty, I’ve been so honored having La Patron in our school and preparing to accept his first litter that I forgot how having your pups in school might affect them.” He looked at her and smiled. “Very wise, Mistress. Treat them all the same, otherwise we could have a small revolt on our hands, not to mention other parents becoming concerned their children are being overlooked.” He nodded. “I will make sure all the staff are informed.” He paused. A smile lit his eyes. “Unless you’d like to tell them what you just told me and answer any questions they may have.”
Jasmine hesitated. Granted, she and the kids came early for this meeting, but she didn’t want to hold up the other parents and kids. First day of school was a big thing.
“Please, they’re waiting for me in the meeting hall, it won’t take long, I promise.”
“Okay, but school needs to start on time,” she said, following him. When she walked into the meeting room, the chatter stopped. Everyone stared at her for a second and then bowed.
Cheeks warmed, she offered a smile and waved. This bowing stuff still made her uneasy, but Silas refused to put a stop to it and promised in time she’d grow accustomed.
“La Patroness has escorted her pups to school for their first day and has a few things to say to us.” Smiling as if he just scored a major coup, Mr. Stringer moved aside, leaving Jasmine in front of the large, curious crowd.
“Good morning everyone, I’ll be brief because there are a lot of eager students who want to come inside and start their first day.” Looks of surprise and then pleasure, and then nods along with laughter spread across the room as she repeated her concerns. “I’m a mom and my kids mean the world to me, but they know I won’t tolerate disrespecting adults or disobeying instructions. So each one of you has my permission to use this phrase with them whenever you think it’s necessary: Do you want me to call your mother?”
The outburst of applause and laughter warmed her heart. Waving goodbye, she contacted Silas as she left the room. “Have Jarcee and Asia bring in the children.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Did you accomplish what you wanted?”
“Yes, I saved the Nation for future generations.” She laughed.
“Never doubted you would, Sweet Bitch.”
“Stop flirting and release the little Knights.”
Standing near the private tunnel exit, she watched staff move swiftly through the halls, laughing and smiling as they prepared to tackle the challenges of the day. Elementary classrooms took up this floor. Middle students were on the second level, and high-school, college prep students took the third and fourth floors. No elevators. Several staircase entrances dotted the floor, accessible only to students assigned to those rooms.
Shiny floors and brightly colored banners filled the halls, welcoming new students. The level of energy filling the place rose as doors opened to students and boisterous youngsters entered the building, wide-eyed and excited. Asia held Sarita’ and David’s hands. Dressed in similar pink and white dresses, Renee and Jackie reached for her hand and stared at all the children. Some walked ahead of their parents, pulling them along, other lagged behind with an air of uncertainty.
With a loud whoop, Adam ran ahead.
“Adam.” Jasmine didn’t raise her voice. He stopped and walked back to their small group with his hands stuffed in his jean pockets. Asia released David. He and Adam, dressed in jeans and cream polos, walked in front of Jarcee, who walked behind Asia and Jasmine. They found the hall with their classroom and walked inside.
“Now Mama?” Adam asked, watching all the kids running around.
“Yes, go ahead, and remember what I said.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Adam called as he ran to a group of boys and started talking. They were corralled and taken outside. Jarcee nodded and a security team member followed.
David moved slower, looking at all the different work centers. Renee made a beeline to the art section, pulled out paper, and then sat at a table with another boy before taking crayons to draw. Jackie and Sarita walked to the science center, touched the microscope and looked at the vials, moved over to the blocks where classmates built large monsters, checked out Renee in the art center, and sat down at the computers. David walked over to them and booted up a computer as well. Soon all three of them were playing academic games.
There were so many parents, Jasmine and Asia stood to the side, watching their kids interact and become accustomed to so many other kids. “Looks like they’re having fun,” Asia said.
“Yeah, but it’s going to be quiet at home today. Whatever shall we do?” Jasmine looked at Asia and they burst out laughing. She and Asia did most of the school shopping for the kids online which made preparations easier but still tedious. Last Tuesday they went shopping at the mall and stopped for a margarita to go with lunch.
“Margaritas?” Asia said.
“Sounds like a plan. When do you need to report in?” Jasmine asked.
“I took off from work this morning. The mixer with the recruits is this evening.”
Jasmine nodded. Silas had pushed the KnightForce training back after one Alpha voiced a concern that they needed to be sure none of the recruits had issues with half-breeds. The request met with approval of the majority of Alphas.
The candidates had arrived this morning. Silas would be busy. She’d have some free time.
“Sorry I haven’t had a chance to greet you personally, Ma’am. I’m Ms. Trant, primary instructor for this class. I have four assistants.” Dressed in the same shirt the principal wore and jeans, she turned and pointed. “That’s Mary working with the kids in blocks. George is watching the computer and puzzle centers. Jason’s with the kids burning off energy outside, and Sherry is watching the art and science centers.”
Jasmine nodded at the woman with soft, brown, kind eyes and the same color hair cut into a bob. David will like her. “Everything seems to run smoothly.”
Ms. Trant smiled, it reached her eyes and made her round face sparkle. “When the bell rings, everyone will clean their centers and move to the circle.” She pointed to the floor. “We start the day with a song, and learn the National Pledge.” She looked at Jasmine. “Do your pups know it already?”
Since she never heard of a National Pledge, she shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Okay, all the kids will learn it together, if they haven’t been taught it already. Then we’ll have a snack before going to the first centers of the day. All of the centers teach basic reading, math, and problem solving. Each of us remains at our center so that the students receive personalized help.”
“How many to a center?” Asia asked.
“Five. There are 25 students assigned to each class.”
Jasmine liked the low numbers.
Ms. Trant’s earnest gaze constantly checked the room. “Excuse me, Ma’am.”
“Of course.” Similar in height and build, Jasmine watched Ms. Trant glide to the circle where a little boy sat alone and stooped beside him. Ms. Trant’s dark brown, shoulder-length bob shone beneath the overhead light as she whispered comforting words to the little fella.
“Hello,” one of the parents said and waved. Jasmine smiled and waved, realizing there was a line of parents waiting to greet her. She bit back a groan. Fortunately, she’d worn a simple brown skirt, comfortable blouse and heels. They moved outside the classroom so they weren’t disturbing the kids.
When the parents realized who Asia was, they wanted to shake her hand as well. Seems being the number one assassin in the Wolf Nation made her a hero. An hour later, she and Asia returned to the compound, exhausted.
“Mistress, remember when you asked if I wanted to join the PTSA?” Asia asked, taking a sip of her cold margarita.
Jasmine bit into her sandwich and moaned at how good the sweet ham and provolone cheese tasted. “Yeah?”
“Count me out. I don’t want to go back there again.” She gulped down the remains in her glass, grabbed the pitcher and poured another.
“What if I need a bodyguard?” Jasmine joked and then took a sip of her drink.
Asia stopped drinking and looked at Jasmine. “The parents weren’t screened, not the way La Patron screens. Knowing Jarcee and the others are at the school is the only reason Angus and I aren’t there. Plus, La Patron has a thin shield over the building. I admit, there were a few moments when the parents got too close to you and I didn’t like it. But I know what you can do, seen it firsthand. So if you play the bodyguard card, I’ll know you really want me to go, and I’ll do it.”
Jasmine threw a crust of bread at her, which she caught and placed on the table. “I did it for the twins.”
“Understood, but you were not La Patroness, wife and mate of the leader of our great Nation.”
“So what do I do? When the kids grow up, I want them to have memories of me being involved with them at school. Not an absent parent who’s too busy or scared to assist in bake sales or school carnivals.”
Asia stared at her.
“What? We did that at the twins’ schools,” Jasmine said.
“Human schools. I read the brochure you gave me and nowhere are any of those types of things mentioned. Not even the PTSA,” Asia said slowly. “The schools don’t have fundraisers. Most of the extracurricular activities take place during school hours so that the pups spend the rest of their day in their dens, with family. The whole notion of homework from school…it’s not in the brochure.”
Jasmine’s mouth opened and then snapped close. “No homework? How’s that possible?” She’d envisioned evenings in the nursery going over classwork with the kids and talking about their day before dinner.
Asia shrugged. “I guess they do everything in class. Makes sense to me.”