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

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40.. Father Tim

40. Father Tim

Maia dressed in a cute peach and white baseball jersey shirt and jeans and was in the bathroom playing with her hair when Joey found her. The pixie cut with the stacked back showed off her curls and her cheekbones on her heart shaped face. Maia was trying to get her curls to stand up some when Joey grabbed the mousse that still had its lid on it. He reached for her hand and he inflated a bead of it on her palm.

“Scrunch,” he said, like this he showed her, with her own hand.

“It’s so cute when you do it,” she said playing with it.

“You’re getting the hang of this, Maia. It takes a little practice.”

“I really like it,” she said.

“So it’s not too prissy?”

“Well, I’ve never had it like this. I really like it Joey.”

“Now spray,” he said,” handing her the hairspray. Maia washed her hands when she was done.

“How long has it been since you had short hair?”

“My neck hasn’t been bare since I was six when I cut off a ponytail.”

“We have some time before Father Tim gets here. Let’s go downstairs so I can take a picture of you to send to Jimmy and Jonny.”

“Can we print one out so I can put it in a letter to Jonny?”

“Sure! I have some nice greeting cards. We will print a picture tonight after Father Tim leaves.”

Paul was fastening his cuff links on his ivory French cuff shirt when he found them.

“Are you guys almost ready? He’s going to be here soon.”

“Let’s go down. I will get my camera. Meet me at the piano.”

“What are we doing here?”

“Taking a picture of Maia for Jonny.”

Paul picked up Maia’s jetpack as she snagged her inhaler from the bathroom counter.

“Okay, let’s go over the rules for this evening,” said Paul, as they descended the staircase.

“Paulie, really?” she asked. “You’ve bored it into my brain for a week now.”

“And they are what?”

“No Bible trivia with Father Tim and watch my mouth. You will feed you a bar of soap if I swear once—" said Maia, as Joey stood at the base of the staircase with his camera in one hand and his other on his hip.

“And what else is off topic?” asked Paul.

“Juicy Bible stories and that Jesus was married.”

“Mother Mary Joseph, please stop saying that,” said Paul.

“He was.”

“To whom?” asked Joey.

“Mary Magdalene, she called him ‘my teacher’ that’s what husbands were to wives, their teachers.”

“Where do you get this stuff?” asked Joey.

“That was from the Gospel of Luke when Mary saw the resurrected Jesus.”

Maia got to the bottom and looked up into his beautiful sienna eyes and smiled.

“Okay, and where did you get this idea that he was married from?”

“Gnostics.”

“Wait, you have read Gnostic gospels?”

“Yeah, but I don’t give them a lot of credit. I wasn’t really sure if they were for real or legend.”

“Maia, sit at the piano,” said Joey, before they started arguing again.

Maia sat down and Joey took a couple pictures of her. “But you believe that Mary Magdalene was his wife. The prostitute,” said Paul, messing up Joey’s shot.

“No, Pope Gregory made her a prostitute. He confused her with Mary of Bethany. Mary Magdalene may have been unclean, but she wasn’t a prostitute. The Pope didn’t like the fact that women were the first priests of the church, Paulie. He didn’t want women to have power, and he needed the patriarchy to exist without opposition.”

“What a little feminist theologian we have here,” said Joey.

“Maia,” said Paul bending down to her. “Please. Hold your tongue.”

“Okies,” she said, kissing his forehead and then started to play a little Jerry Lee Lewis while Joey put his camera away in the study.

Elly walked into the living room drying her hand on a towel, “I thought that was you, Paulie,” she said to Paul. “Father Tim is here. I just buzzed the gate.”

Paul answered the door and Joey greeted Father Tim as Maia finished playing and shut the fallboard. Maia eyed the handsome priest in his black clerical shirt and slacks, with his long black hair pulled back at the nape of his neck. They greeted him then Paul motioned for Maia, but Father Tim, seeing the oxygenator, stepped to her instead.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Maia.”

“Likewise, Father Tim.”

“Wine, Father?” asked Elly, bringing both he and Paul glasses of merlot.

“Thank you, Eleanor.”

“Please sit,” said Paul. Maia opened the fallboard and opened the book with the Bach Chorales and played a sweet lilting melody softly for them while they talked. She heard snippets of Paul and the priest speaking in Italian while Joey was in the kitchen. She had just finished a piece when she heard her medication alarm go off. She closed the book, the fallboard and pushed in the bench before leaving the living room altogether.

Maia hung out in the kitchen, anxious for the dinner conversation about her attending St. Nick’s Catholic High School. She carried the salads in for Elly and set them on the dinner plates as she instructed while Joey filled the water glasses. Maia carried them over next and as Joey brought in the last two, he saw how she put them on the right side of the place setting rather than the left. He showed her the correct way to set the table, and she was hardly interested but listened anyway.

Elly brought in two bottles of corked wine and a glass of cola for Maia, while Joey brought in his almost empty wineglass and put it at the place setting. “All set, Elly?” asked Joey.

“Yes, Maia, would you put the bread rolls on the table for me?”

“Sure,” said Maia, following her back into the kitchen while Joey got Paul and Father Tim. Maia had asked Elly earlier in the day to teach her how to cross herself for grace, and she did, keeping it a secret as Maia had asked.

When Father Tim offered the grace, Maia crossed herself, and Paul saw her through the corner of his eye. When they said Amen, Paul winked at her and she blushed. Maia was trying, and he appreciated her effort.

When they finished their salads, Father Tim handed each of them a stapled set of her transcripts.

“These are from each school she’s attended. The district specialist faxed over her psychological testing from the third grade with her IQ score. The teachers realized that she was gifted before they tested her. It was shocking to see how even then her abstract reasoning was off the charts for her grade level.”

“What is her IQ?” asked Joey.

“162,” replied Maia. “The average is between 85 and 114, and I am 8 points shy of genius.”

Paul put down his fork and sat back in his chair. He looked at Father Tim who nodded.

“Can you guys handle her?” he asked, “because right now, I’m not sure if I can even manage her.”

Maia smirked and stabbed a bite of salad as Father Tim and Joey laughed.

“We have had students with her IQ and higher. Our program is vigorous and if it is not, we will adjust. I have two gifted teachers on staff who like a challenge and encourage the other teachers to do likewise. You may not know this, but by the fifth grade, Maia was doing the work of eighth graders and was moved into an alternative program for gifted students that let her work on her own.”

“How did that work for you, Maia? Did you prefer doing work on your own?” asked Joey.

“It was great. I had my own schedule and workbooks, but I went to the junior high for my required biology and I did my labs there, and I had to do Illinois State History too.”

“How did you do?”

“I was fine grade wise, but I struggled being a ten-year-old with thirteen-year-olds. I carried most of the weight for my group presentations. Since they weren’t interested in the argument or the research, I did the crux of it, gave them their talking points, so everyone wanted me in their groups for the rest of the semester.”

“You got popular quick,” said Joey.

Maia nodded.

“You are lacking literature or history credits.”

“I got kicked out of those classes.”

“Wait, kicked out? For what?” asked Paul.

“Correcting the teachers.”

“So how were you going to graduate without them?” asked Paul, frustrated by this situation.

“The plan was for me to complete them at UC, where the amount of reading and aptitude of study would be more at my level. When it came to high school, I was past the learning of the books they read.”

Paul nodded and finished his salad. He was clearly frustrated by this conversation and was ready to bark at Jonny himself for allowing Maia to be so rude as to correct teachers and humiliate them in class.

Maia turned to Father Tim. “Jonny is an English professor, so I read most of the classics before the sixth grade. I’ve been memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnets since I was a first grader.”

“As punishment—” tattled Joey.

Father Tim chuckled, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “I know, I spoke with Jim Wilkens at great length about you. Dr. Reardon told him where to find the information they knew the school district wouldn’t provide willingly.”

“Which was?” asked Paul.

“Why they rescinded her program when she left for foster care. She was moved to a different district and they refused without an IEP meeting to continue and the foster parent refused the meeting. Because she was under fourteen, she couldn’t self-advocate.”

Maia drank some of her Coke as Elly cleared her salad dish. They had a new understanding. She had to eat faster so not to hold up the other courses, but Elly and Joey also decided to put her on an end where no one was at her side so she could put a dish at her side. Tonight, Maia was very hungry so she wouldn’t pick at her food.

Maia looked at the transcripts with great interest as this was the first time she had ever seen them.

Father Tim looked intently at Maia as she studied each page, “I guess, what I’m asking here, and this it’s just me asking, Maia, what do you want to do?”

Maia closed the packet and set it aside. “Take the GED and go to conservatory.”

Paul sighed and shot her a look.

Father Tim nodded and looked to Paul. “Have you talked to Winston?” Paul was so upset with Maia’s response that he took a sip of wine and looked to Joey to answer.

Joey nodded and glared at Paul for his rudeness. “She needs to graduate or GED with SAT/ACT scores. Then she must submit a CV and audition tape and go through the process. It will be hard to get her started under sixteen, because until then, another adult must accompany her.”

“Wow, so you would need to sit in class—”

Paul nodded. “I already have a BA in music, and I don’t want to go through that again and I would be a distraction. The dean said as much as well.”

“So, hiring another student to attend with her?” asked Father Tim, as both nodded. “I see, your solution is a couple years at St. Nicks, get a diploma from a Blue Ribbon IB school to add to her pedigree.”

“Graduate with honors, I would expect her to do so on her own merit.”

Speaking of which, congratulations Maia, you are a merit award winner based on your PSAT score. You scored in the 1% of students in the country.”

“Wait, what was my score?”

“1580.”

“What? No way!” She said as he handed her the letter and the score sheet. Maia threw off the oxygen tube and got up from the table and got her phone off the charger in the kitchen nook.

“Jimmy! Are you with Jonny? Put the phone where he can hear me.”

“Jonny! I got a 1580 on my PSAT! I’m merit scholar! Yes!!! We did it Jonny we did it!” Maia sat on the floor with her head between her legs. “I know. I know. Don’t cry. If you cry, I’m going to—Father Tim just told me. 1%. Merit scholar.”

When Joey saw her from the dining room doorway, he grabbed the jetpack and ran into her seeing her doze off.

“Maia,” he barked at her, putting the oxygen under her nostrils, tucking the tube behind her ears. “Hey, Maia!” he said again, alarming Paul who left the table to find them.

“Hey, hey,” he said snapping his fingers in front of her face.

“What’s going on?” said Jimmy loudly into the phone.

Paul picked up the phone from the floor and talked to him. “I think she fainted. No Jim, she popped up and left her oxygen behind. We were in the middle of supper with our priest.”

“Okay, let me see... Maia!” Paulie picked her up and cradled her. He held her tightly. “Joey, is she okay?”

“She fainted,” said Joey taking the phone from him. “Jimmy, does she do this often?”

“You did it kiddo. Come on now, none of this,” said Paul, tapping her face. He pulled her close to him and gave her a wet loud zerbert upon her on the neck and she shuddered. Her eyes fluttered open, shocked to see herself in Paul’s arms.

“Hey, you fainted.”

“I was so dizzy.”

“Well you carried on like a banshee, ran out without your oxygen, and then fell apart. Not recommended, Maia.”

Maia started to cry and was embarrassed by her actions.

“Hey, hey, it’s really okay,” he said holding her. Father Tim came into the room with Elly.

“1580, Paulie. Do you know what that is?”

“Whatever it is, it is not a reason to do this,” he replied as Joey held her wrist and checked her pulse.

“A full ride merit scholarship wherever I go. I . . . we knew I couldn’t afford college. I started years ago with ACT/SAT books. I could probably get a perfect score on the SAT.”

“Well that saves me a lot of money, my little smarty-pants.” He wiped the tears from her face and kissed her forehead. “Are you okay now?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry I caused a scene,” she said, apologizing to all of them, including Father Tim who watched them in earnest.

“It’s a good thing I hadn’t put your plates down,” said Elly.

“Have you ever done that before?” asked Father Tim.

“When I win medals, I sometimes faint.”

“Wait, what?” asked Paul.

“I get so excited I forget to breathe. Jimmy always accompanies me to the stage and pinches me in the wings, so I don’t faint.”

“Or in my case, slobbered on you.”

“That was like eww Paulie, I got to wash my hands.”

Elly waited for them to sit again before she started to set their plates in front of them. When Maia returned after washing her hands, she sat in her seat and proclaimed, “Now I have to graduate from high school.”

“What?” asked Joey. “What happened to GED and conservatory?”

“Thank you for finally getting on board with this,” said Paul, relieved. “I do not want to do music theory twice in this lifetime.”

Maia laughed at her brother’s silliness as they shared a smile.

Father Tim put on his reading glasses after a bite of homemade ravioli that Elly always makes for him. She had cooked the Bolognese sauce since that morning and it was perfect. Maia had already eaten three of them and Elly was pleased when she re-entered to refill the wine and water glasses.

“Well, let’s see,” said Father Tim. “You’ve done a lot of high school classwork so far. I sat down with the registrar, and we determined that we can start you as a second semester sophomore if we put you in IB courses. We think they may challenge you the best.”

“St. Nick’s is one of the top schools in the state,” said Paul.

“You won’t be bored that’s for sure,” said Joey.

“What do I need to take?”

“Well to graduate from St. Nicks you need four Bible classes. You will need two years language and two semesters of fine arts. Since you did your sciences and maths for AP credit, we will concentrate on an IB certificate in humanities, so you will need to also do your English and History classes as well. Since you need three years of each in order to get it, the teachers are going to give you the study packet for the first-year tests in May. You will need to catch up on the papers and requirements for those two classes as well. They will give you additional time in the summer for the completion of those requirements, so you will have an incomplete in the classes until it is done, but you will still attend courses like a typical student.”

“Fun!” She said gleefully.

Paul shook his head and wiped his mouth on his napkin. “Only you would be happy about homework.”

“You need electives as well. Your physical education is done, and PA History needs to be done as a state requirement. The good news is that you aren’t too late to start this semester. You have some work to make up, but I think you “can manage it if you are willing.”

“Do I have to wear a skirt?”

“Are you a girl?”

“Yes sir,” she replied with a smile.

“And do you want to graduate from St. Nicks?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then you will wear a uniform skirt at its mandated length.”

Maia looked to Joey first who nodded, and Paul just waited for her reply. “Well, okay. When can I start school?

“Well, winter break starts next Friday. Two weeks should be plenty of time to get you caught up, don’t you think?

“Sure. What classes will I take?

“We need to pick out your Fine Arts electives and let’s independent study that Pennsylvania State history class and New Testament.”

“What about my language?”

“You have your choice of Latin, Spanish, French, German and Italian.”

“Can I test out? I’m nearly fluent in Italian and took 3 years of French.”

“How do you feel about French 3 for your junior year and French 4 for your senior year?”

“Can I do Italian as well?

Father Tim agreed and began writing her advising plan.

“Right. Let’s start with New Testament independent study. That would be me and you. This is your syllabus. We are starting week four of this grading period, so you need to pace yourself to catch up.”

Maia paged through it. “So, weeks one through four?”

“Yes, you can pick up the textbook when you get your uniforms this week. I’m going to make an appointment for you to meet your teachers as well, so they can explain what you need to do to get caught up.”

“Maia is still oxygen dependent,” said Joey.

“It’s fine. She’s going to be all right Joey. We have a full time RN on staff.”

“New Testament, PA history... and what else?” Maia asked.

“Do you sing?”

“No, that’s Paulie.”

“Do you play another instrument?”

“No, just piano.”

“We have a handbell choir.”

Maia laughed and shook her head.

“You read music, correct?”

“I do. Very well.”

“It’s rather fun.”

“It won’t hurt you to learn another instrument, Maia,” admonished Joey.

She sighed. “Like what?”

“The beginning percussion class is doing glockenspiels and marimbas soon this semester. They are finishing up the timpani this week. After break they start the glockenspiel.”

“Ooh,” said, Maia with a smile. “I’m down, let’s do it.”

“How does she practice?” asked Paul.

“They have assigned times after school for sectionals.”

“I could buy one of each.”

“Only because you want to play them,” said John yoey.

“That could be fun,” said Maia.

“But the sectional is part private instruction with the teacher, so she needs to practice during her scheduled time.”

“Very cool, I will make it work,” said Paul. “But I still want a marimba, Joe.”

“Okay, so we have five classes so far and we need seven.”

“What other one semester classes are available?” asked Maia.

“Home Economics is still available to you. I spoke with the staff and these are the classes that would let you start late and had room for you to do so.”

“How about art?”

“I’m not good at drawing.”

“What about Art History—Renaissance? They go to the Met in New York in early May.”

“Absolutely,” she said. “I can’t wait to tell Jonny.”

“All right Maia, I need a couple more things from you,” he said, closing his pen and picking up his fork.

“Do you consider yourself a Christian?”

“I’m an agnostic. My mother was Buddhist.”

“Are you seeking?”

“I guess as an agnostic you are always looking for the one to claim.”

“I will have to talk with the rest of the leadership. We’ve had non-believers cause issues in classes and the student body.”

“I wouldn’t do that. I just got baptized when Paulie thought I was dying.”

“We are upon lent, in a week,” said Father Tim.

“What is lent?”

While Father Tim explained the 40 days prior to Easter, Maia listened with great interest as Paul finished his roll that he had sopped up the rest of his sauce with.

“Oh boy,” said Elly.

“Maia, you could be on a journey these next 50 days. I will recommend you be admitted on a probationary period until you have completed RCIA. If that becomes your intent.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You will need to find another school.”

Maia looked to Paul to help her.

“I think it’s only fair Maia. They are being very accommodate you. Besides, even you understand that rules are rules.”

Maia nodded, then sighed. She got up from her seat and walked over to Father Tim. She reached out her hand to him. “A deal is a deal.”

He took her hand, “It most certainly is. Remember, I need to talk to leadership about this. You will also have community service to do within the church. You must do twenty hours per year to graduate. You have until the last day of school to do your twenty.”

“Okay,” she said.

“It’s a lot to manage, Maia.”

“I know, but it’s good too. I got homework to do,” she said, holding up her syllabus like it was a trophy. Father Tim showed her the rubric for the reading assignments and they decided that Friday morning before school is when they should meet the other teachers and get her work.

“Do I do this on a computer file or a notebook?”

“You will need a composition notebook. It’s a journal. Don’t fill up every page with summaries. Cut out magazine pictures, glue them in if there is something that relates to what you are reading put it in there. You need markers and colored pens. You will need your own Bible too.”

“With the apocrypha?” Asked Joey.

“Yes,” he replied, as Maia seemed elated. Father Tim was shocked at her response. Paul shot her a look of reproach.

“I have a brand new one still in the box.”

“Is it a study Bible?” asked Father Tim.

“No, it’s one of those hip bibles with the fonts and devotional. I thought it would be cool by the reviews, but it was too juvenile for me.”

“That would be perfect!” said Father Tim.

“Now all I need is a comp book.”

“Got a few of those too,” said Joey.

Elly brought in slices of cheesecake for them and mugs of coffee.

“I’ve been reading the Bible,” Maia said to Father Tim.

Paul smirked. “She thought she could test out of Bible classes.”

Father Tim chuckled. “No testing out here, your days of skipping classes is over, Maia. Just curious, how far have you gotten?”

“Deuteronomy. Do I have to remember all those rules?”

Father Tim wiped his mouth with his napkin. “You only have to remember twelve.”

“That’s it? What are they?”

“The T Commandments and to love the Lord you god with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Whoa...” said Maia, picking up her coffee.

“What?”

“That’s a tall order. Like what if you hate someone?”

“You pray to God to help you love them.”

“I meditate.”

“That’s wonderful. What do you think about when you meditate?” asked Father Tim.

“Music.”

“This will be an exciting journey, Maia.”

Father Tim looked at hisqqq paperwork. “Now that we have all of that completed, this is the application with the tuition arrangement,” he said handing it to Paul who raised4 an eyebrow.

“8K per semester?” asked Paul.

Father Tim nodded. “Money well spent,” said Paul with a smile, signing it.

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