Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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28. Parental Rights

Paul sat with a sleeping Maia. He had been texting Joey who had returned to the Four Seasons for a break from the hospital. Jimmy had already sent Paul a text demanding a second opinion or transferring her to a children's hospital. Paul said if he did that it would be to Allegheny Children's which is closer to his home.

He was already tired of refereeing Joey and Jimmy and needed to charge his phone. When his tall black bodyguard appeared at the window, Paul exited, pulling off the mask from an earlobe so it hung off one ear.

"Hey Mr. Lenci, how's Maia?"

"She's had a rough morning on new meds. Joey and her guardian Jimmy had an argument and got ejected from here until 4. I need to referee them in person. Can you help me facilitate a meeting in the Hummer?

"Yes, of course."

"Where are you parked?"

"Second floor of the parking garage."

"Okay. Let me check in with them, then we will go. Their time in the penalty box is almost over."

"Caught checking, eh Mr. Lenci?"

"More like a full out brawl, here in front of her. She called the nurse for assistance."

"Damn, Mr. Cravens went off?"

"Like a Roman candle on the 4th of July."

"I've seen him once in seven years do that. When you had pneumonia and that dumb doctor wouldn't listen."

"Nurses--"

"So what's Mr. Wilkins' excuse?"

"He's her Dad."

"Wait, wait, hold up--"

"They were there for her growing up, is all."

"When do you want to do this?"

"Soon as I can get them here."

"I got a couple of private security guards watching your rig."

"Let them know we are coming."

Paul texted both about the meeting and where it will take place. They both agreed to be there in a half-hour. Paul returned to the room, putting the mask back on his face. He squeezed Maia's hand gently and her eyes fluttered.

"Maia, I'm going to leave for a little while."

"Where are you going?"

"Out to my truck to talk to Jimmy and Joey."

She smirked. "Have fun with that."

"We will be back. I promise, no more fighting."

"I won't hold my breath. I wish Jonny was here. He would've handled everything. He doesn't put up with doctor's shit."

"Maia, watch your mouth."

"Okay okay, I'm sorry."

"I'm going to go. We will be back when they can be civil."

"Good luck with that."

Paul chuckled. "Got your call button?"

"Right here."

"Call the nurse if you need to get up to use the bathroom."

"Okay, bye, " she said, dismissing him.

Paul's brow furrowed."Don't ever do that to me. That is disrespectful to an elder."

"Okay fine, I don't feel well, and you woke me, and I don't care about you guys and your drama. When Jonny is better this will all be over."

"You act like he's Superman."

"He is."

"Right, I got to go."

"See ya."

Paul tore off the gown, gloves, and mask and threw them in the bins and went with Mick out the back exit of the hospital and to the parking garage in the back right side. They climbed the staircase to the second floor and Mick hit the button on the key fob to unlock the door.

As he did, Jimmy approached them, and Paul told the guards to let him pass.

"Hi Jimmy, climb in, it's more private here."

Jimmy compiled and climbed up into the extravagant SUV. Paul climbed up into the passenger seat as Joey arrived in a cab and Mick directed him to the opposite side of the truck in the third seat, then climbed inside to sit next to Jimmy."

"Jimmy, this is Mick, my security. Mack went home for a couple of days for a break."

"Nice to meet you."

"How's Maia?"

"Better and not confident that you two can work together. Look, she's got this idea that Jonny is going to swoop in here and save the day."

"He had been known to go toe-to-toe with medical staff before. Not to mention school officials and bullies' mothers."

Paul sighed. "And with his prognosis, how long will that be?"

"Not soon enough."

"In lieu of Jonny, we three need to make it work for her. First of all, you two need to work your shit out. I get that you are both passionate about her care, but arguing in front of her?"

Neither said a word.

Jimmy refused to be reprimanded by Paul. "I want to know what gave you the right to baptize her."

"In our faith, she was dying and unbaptized. That was reason enough. You were absent. We had to step in. She was abused, neglected, and homeless. She was sick and dying. She took desperate measures to reach out to her family. That was reason enough. Look, Jimmy, I get you were stuck between a rock and a hard place but so were we."

"We don't fault you. We fault her mother more, " said Joey.

"We do too."

"None of us can change what happened in the last five months. She's safe and has four men who love and care about her," said Paul. "Any resentments born from the past need to stay there if we are going to function as a team for her."

"Agreed, " said Jimmy.

"In a perfect world, we would pack her up and send her home with you."

"You have a lot on your plate with Jonny's recovery, " said Joey.

"And legal issues, it may not be safe for Maia to be in Chicago for a little while, " said Paul.

"Not to mention your fan base's opinion of your--"

"That's not even a part of this discussion--"

"So you are saying it's not a valid point?" Asked Jimmy.

Joey looked to Paul who nodded. "Yeah, okay, it is."

Jimmy pulled from his backpack two copies of a preliminary parenting plan.

"What the hell is this?" Asked Paul after Jimmy handed it to him.

"Custodial arrangements, that is what's called a parenting plan, " said Jimmy as Joey paged through it. "She can stay with you, but we still retain decision-making rights and have visitation rights and a schedule as well."

"I'm not signing this today."

"I'm not asking you to. I'm letting our intentions be known. We will not be cut out of her life."

"Whoa, whoa, " said Paul. " I don't want you cut out of her life. You two are very important to her. She cried for you guys. As for custody arrangements, let's get her home and settled and Jonny in a better place before we go throwing dates on a calendar."

"I'm willing to work with you, Jimmy, " said Joey, circumventing Paulie with his eyes on the paper copy.

He looked up from the papers. "Alternating holidays means you get some time with your parents. I think I'll go to Chicago with Maia instead of Florida."

Paul shot Joey a look and Jimmy laughed.

"Joint decision making, educational, medical and religious," said Joey.

"That's correct, " said Jimmy.

Paul shook his head, determined to get his way no matter what. "Okay, Jimmy, I'm going to put this out there. While she's living with me, Maia will be going to St. Nick's Catholic High School. You will have to deal with it. Her days in public school are over."

"Joint decision making means that we have the right to disagree with you and want her to be in a school that is not faith-based, " said Jimmy.

"Look, St. Nick's is a National Blue Ribbon School, it has received presidential awards for academic excellence and is an International Baccalaureate school. Why wouldn't you want her to go there?"

"We will discuss it with Jonny. You can't make unilateral educational decisions when it comes to education, medical and religion."

"If she lives with me, she goes where I pay 12k a year for her to go."

"Until Jonny agrees the answer is no."

"Jesus, Mary, Joseph, why are you making this so complicated?"

"It's called rights, Paul. Parental rights. And we still have them."

Joey leaned forward. "Mick, do you got a pen?"

Mick handed one from his chest pocket to Joey.

"Jimmy, what do you have against a parochial education?" Asked Joey, staring down Paul to stop talking.

"Jonny was raised Catholic and was raped by a priest."

"I am so sorry to hear that, " said Joey as Paul nodded in agreement.

"How do you think he would react to St. Nick's as her school?" Asked Paul.

"I've been giving you full on Doc Reardon, " said Jimmy.

"Doc?"

"It's his ridiculous nickname, " said Jimmy. "If you knew him before his strokes, you would know that he is Mr. Attitude on campus and breaks the hearts of freshman girls when they realize he is gay."

They chuckled.

"I just don't want to report back to him that I didn't dissuade you from the idea of parochial education."

"So here's the deal with St. Nick's. Father Tim is the principal and Sister Ambrose is his secretary and registrar, " said Paul.

"There are two elderly nuns that run the bookstore. The rest of the faculty has certifications, teaching degrees and most have their Masters in education."

"How do you know so much about St.Nick's?" Asked Jimmy.

"I've served in an advisory board when we hired new music and art teachers, " replied Paul.

"Getting back to what I was saying, " started Joey, "Sister Ambrose sits in on every discussion with a student. If a student needs to be seen by Father Tim, most of the time the parents had been called in with them."

"They work hard to keep any impropriety off-campus and their background check is like a clearance check for national security, " said Paul.

"They watch their faculty like a hawk too. Zero tolerance policy for any one-on-one interaction with a student in private with doors closed or meet-up, " said Joey, turning another page.

"I'm up there twice a week for show choir rehearsals."

"A Glee guy are you?" Asked Jimmy.

"More like a checkbook guy, " said Joey. He ripped a corner of the page off the end of the document and wrote down a phone number. "This is Father Tim's direct line at the rectory. I know he would gladly talk with you guys and answer any questions."

"Maybe Doc Reardon will be okay with St. Nick's when he realizes how it will challenge her academically, " said Paul.

"The challenge will be placing her In the correct grade. She's already taken the PSAT. I have to find her score as we did not get the test results."

"Jimmy, on this paperwork it says birthdays. When is yours and Jonny's birthday?"

"I'm August fifth and Jonny's is April eighteenth. When are your birthdays?"

"Paulie's is July seventeenth and mine is May twelfth."

"Maia's birthday is on March thirteenth. Hard to believe she will be fourteen."

"Anniversary?" Asked Joey about the spot on the worksheet where it asked for the date.

"November seventh, " said Jimmy, astonishing Paulie, and Joey.

"No way!" Exclaimed Paul.

"Yours too?" Asked Jimmy.

"Yes, 98 for us, and yours?"

"93. Speaking of which, I need to check on him soon."

"How long were you home before you flew out here?"

"We got home at seven that night, and I left by six that following morning. I think I slept for three hours in my own bed."

"We can totally relate. Not even three hours and we were down here. We had just got back from my tour."

"Why don't you guys go home for the weekend? I leave on Tuesday morning."

"Are you sure?"

"Completely sure. Go home, get some rest. Get ready to hear chromatic scales until you can't think straight."

"We have a lot to do to get ready for her to come home with us," said Joey.

"I will deal with the doctors. If I have to, I will call her pulmonary doctor to manage them."

























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