20) NEW BEGINNINGS
The next morning, the household became a flurry of activity for the members of the Hernandez family. Raul didn’t take long finding another private school for Raphael. Above all the costs, keeping Social Services from prying into his life motivated him. He decided on The Dalton School, on 89th Street in Manhattan. The administrator, Mr. Brooks, told Raul how many attendees came from broken (yet affluent) homes. The school specialized in giving help to these troubled students.
Brooks was proud to offer a full curriculum of studies for 4th graders. They covered the spectrum all the way up through 12th grade graduation. He took a moment to review Raphael’s report cards and seemed excited to work with such a good student. Afterward, he arranged for classes to start on Thursday of this week.
Unbeknownst to Raul, Sylvia had arranged with Mr. Lawrence of MassEye Investigations, to follow her husband on Thursday and not Friday. Even though she needed to pay for another day of personal surveillance, she believed strongly his alleged ‘Board Meeting’ to be a ruse. If she guessed right, this would be the perfect way to get the goods on him.
Raphael, in the meantime, decided he needed to create sort of ‘secret identity’ for himself. This would allow him to make his mark in the world and still remain anonymous. Since he was built short and fairly plump, he ruled out doing anything requiring him to exert physical energy; like running from the cops. Perhaps, he might ask Cal for help. Through all the days Cal, chauffeured him back and forth to school, he gradually developed a trust for him.
Sitting on his bed, he doodled with his pad and pencil. He drew a circle and inserted the letters R-F inside. He added a zig-zag line underneath to complete the drawing. The initials stood for Raphael-Franklin; his first and middle name. The zig-zag represented the fact he would leave this graffiti mark on buildings or windows and be gone in a flash.
He liked the design, but his idea of talking to Cal went out the window that night. Raul brought up the subject of school during evening dinner.
“I set up a new school today,” Raul bragged. “Raphael is now a proud member of The Dalton School in Manhattan.”
“Don’t you think you should ask Cal?” Sylvia proposed. “He may have a problem with driving all the way up into the city twice a day?”
“Cal is out of the picture for now,” Raul continued. “The time’s come for Raphael to start taking a little more responsibility in life. The Dalton School is right off the line. He only needs to walk a block from here to get on the subway and a block off to the school.
“Raul,” Sylvia protested, “He’s only 10 years old. I don’t want him riding a subway alone. Where is your brain?”
“Sylvia,” Raul pressed, “he’s on the line at 8:30 in the morning and returns at 3:30 in the afternoon. He’s not going to be out after dark. Plenty of passengers ride at during the afternoon and he will be all right.”
Sylvia didn’t like this idea, one bit. She realized Raphael was getting older needed to take more responsibility on his own. But she objected to the fact he would be naked out in a scary world; this bothered her.
Raphael loved the idea. After being sheltered away for so long, this seemed like a prison break for him. He wanted to say something, to make sure his parents didn’t change their minds.
“I’ve ngot money Daddy,” he beamed. “I can pay for the nsubway.”
“You won’t need money Son,” his father advised. “We will get you a monthly pass. You swipe the pass at the gate and get on any train.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about Raul,” Sylvia complained. “What if he gets on the wrong train? You and I are both at work and he might get lost.”
“I nwon’t get lost Mommy,” Raphael argued. “You can nshow me nwhat train to ride.”
“Can’t you understand, Sylvia,” Raul asserted. “He’s smart. He can figure things out. We can both go to work late for a few days, and ride with him.”
“I still don’t like the idea.”
Sylvia ended the conversation because she knew when Raul made his mind, the chance of changing it became less than the chance of picking a winning lottery ticket. Not being chauffeured seemed so common. Riding a subway seemed mundane to her.
She always considered herself being above the common folk. She liked the fact Raphael attended a private school, as opposed to going to a public one. She also liked Cal watching over her boy, rather than him being alone on a common bus or subway. She backed down from arguing about the situation because if Raul cheated on her, none of this would matter.
Thursday morning came and the Hernandez family walked down the alley to the corner of 3rd Street and 4th Avenue. Right across from a local bar called ‘The Bowery Electric’, stood the entrance. Raul told Raphael to keep and eye out for a train saying ‘ZZ North’. This train would carry them all the way uptown to 90th Street.
The school sat one short block away from the exit. At night, Raphael would keep a lookout for the train called ‘ZZ South’. This one would bring him back to 4th Avenue and 3rd Street. From the departure platform, getting home would be simple. With no further directions from Raul or Sylvia, Raphael spotted the train they wanted.
“Here comes nthe train, Daddy,” he cheered, “nthat’s our nride.”
They all boarded and sat down. Raphael remained attentive, as the train moved under the streets of Manhattan, toward their destination. At the major intersections, the conductor’s voice would come over the PA system to announce the stops. ‘Rose Hill’, ‘Murray Hill’, Grand Central’, ‘Waldorf-Astoria’, ‘Lenox Hill’ and finally ‘Park Avenue’.
The trio departed the train and took the stairway to street level. Situated right next to the Guggenheim Museum, a large sign on the building displayed the words ‘The Dalton School’.
“This is our nstop Daddy,” Raphael shouted with excitement.
Raul glanced at Sylvia with a smug smile, as if to say ‘I told you so’. Even she admitted to herself of being proud of her little boy navigating his way here; correctly the first time and with no help. Sylvia also liked how easy the trip went and her initial concerns about Raphael’s safety slid away.
Raul, Sylvia, and Raphael went immediately to the administrator’s office to meet with Mr. Brooks. He took the time to give mom and dad a guided tour of the facility as he escorted Raphael to his first class.
“I think you are going to do exceptionally well here Raphael,” Mr. Brooks said. “I reviewed your past grades and you are an excellent student. We think our school is better than where you attended before.”
“Are the other nkids cool?” Raphael asked.
“I’m sure you will make friends easily,” he boasted. “If you need additional help, tell your teachers you want to talk to me.”
“Class,” Mrs. Rhondell announced, “I would like to introduce a new student today. This is Raphael Hernandez. He transferred here from another school. I want everybody to say hello and welcome him.”
One after another, the kids said ‘Hello’ and welcomed him. Raphael acknowledged each one , and more than noted his speech impediment. After the introductions, everyone settled down to some good, old-fashioned learning.
Mrs. Rhondell’s topic today dealt with how the states got their names. She explained to Raphael this study lesson had started initially of the school year. He would need to do extra studies at night to catch up; because of missing the first 16 states.
“The Administrator gave me a report on you,” she responded kindly, “and you are smart. I’m sure with a little effort; you will be caught up with us quickly.”
“I nlike to read,” he answered, “and whatever is in the book, I can nread and nlearn.”
Mrs. Rhondell smiled at Raphael and went back to her lesson plan. She reviewed the states they discussed last week.
“As you all remember class,” she reminded, “last week we discussed Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky. Who can tell me what state means ‘Indian Land’ and took the name for the tribes who lived in the area?”
“I can,” echoed a voice from the back of the room. “The State is named Indiana.”
“Excellent answer, Sally,” Mrs. Rhondall said. “I can tell you did your studying. OK now, who can name a state named after a river?”
Another little girl in raised her hand and the one state might be ‘Kansas’. This question and answer review went on until the class reviewed all the states of the past lessons. Raphael listened with rapt attention and he hardly realized the ringing of the bell; signaling the end of class and time to go to his next.
Instead of taking the subway back home, Raul and Sylvia took a cab and go to their respective job locations. Raul mentioned again about the board meeting in the evening and Sylvia asked when he expected to be home.
“I don’t think I’ll be later than about 11:00 o’clock,” he affirmed. “We usually meet until 7:00 and afterward go out for some dinner and drinks.”
“Call me if you are going to be later,” she warned, “because I don’t want to send the hounds out after you.”
Raul kissed her goodbye and got out of the cab. Sylvia instructed the driver to her workplace. As they made the way to her office, she jotted down a note to herself to call and verify her investigator’s schedule had been updated. By having another, independent set of eyes on her husband, she would be more secure and relaxed.
Secure and relaxed; at least for the moment.