On Wednesday there is a substitute teacher for English. When I called Conrad about it, he told me he took the day off to spend it with his dad. When the substitute teacher arrived on Thursday and again on Friday, I began to get worried. Still, Conrad assured me that everything was okay, that he just needed a few more days with his dad. He assured me that he'd be back on time for the dance tomorrow night. Even though I missed him, I was glad that Conrad was spending some quality time with his father. I still wondered though why he’d just take off last minute without telling me, not that he’s required to tell me everything, it just made me curious that’s all.
When I get home, I drop my stuff by the door and head to the kitchen for a snack. I’m surprised when I find my mom sitting at the coffee table in front of her laptop. She looks up at me when I enter.
“Hey, you’re home early,” I say cheerily.
“Sydney, can you please come here and sit down?” she asks, not returning my smile.
This doesn't seem good. I take a seat next to my mom and wait, feeling nervous. She frowns at her computer screen before pressing a button and turning the laptop around to face me. I’m not prepared for what I see.
The video starts a bit dark and blurry, but eventually clears and the view is of Desiree’s living room from outside a window. After a beat, I see Conrad and me, Harrison and Desiree come into view before Des and Harrison go to the kitchen, then Conrad and I sit on the couch together and get cozy. He kisses me a few times before he goes to pick out a movie. I quickly realize that this was Monday night. What the actual fuck? My blood runs cold. This is probably the worst thing that could happen? Who did this? There are only two people that spring to mind.
I don’t get to finish the video before my mom pulls the laptop back towards her and closes it.
“Care to explain?” she asks.
“Uh…” Come on, Sydney, say something clever.
“I found a USB in our mailbox this morning, addressed to the parents of Sydney Chase. I watched the video, and I thought- this seems innocent enough, just the girls and their boyfriends, nothing too scandalous is happening. But then I started thinking. One: Sydney’s boyfriend looks a little mature for her. Two: he looks strangely familiar, but I can’t place my finger on why?” She tells me, looking more and more upset as she goes on, “Then I figured it out. He’s your god damn English teacher!”
“Mom, I can explain,” I stutter, “Dad didn’t see this, did he?”
“Not yet, he hasn’t.”
“Please don’t show him.”
“Why shouldn’t I? Sydney, this is every shade of wrong. That man is taking advantage of a vulnerable young girl. Why shouldn’t I be emailing this to the school board right this minute?”
No, No, No! Here’s your first big battle, Sydney, time to be strong. I can’t let her hurt us this way.
“We’re in love, mom!” I cry, tears beginning to flow.
“What?” She shouts and then flinches. She doesn’t yell very often.
“Yes, and we met way before we knew he was my teacher. When we met, I lied about my age, and he was just a musician at a club,” I say as quickly as possible, trying to dispel her anger before she does anything rash.
“What do you mean?” she asks, her tone sounding more confused than angry now.
“I met Conrad before school started when I went to a club with Desiree. We had fake ID’s. Conrad was in the band that was playing that night, and afterward, we got to talk and hung out a bit. We started to like each other, and it wasn’t until later, on the first day of school, that I found out he was my teacher, and he realized I was a student.”
“Even so, Sydney. After he found out you were a student, he should have broken it off.”
“Maybe, but technically since I’m eighteen years old, it’s not illegal.”
“No, but he can still be fired. I’m sure this breaks all sorts of ethics rules and policies. How old is he anyway?”
My mom sucks in a deep breath and lets it out slowly before speaking again.
“Syd, I know you’re eighteen and can make your own decisions, but this situation…”
“I know it’s not a great situation, mom, but it doesn’t matter anymore. We want to be together, and nothing and nobody is going to stop us.”
“And if this comes out? If I have the video, it means that somebody else does too and wants to get him in trouble. What then? Do you want this to come out like this?”
“Well, I’m going to have to figure it out. I’m going to have to let Conrad know.”
“I’m still not sure about this, Sydney. How will this affect your future? If this scandal comes out, it’s going to follow you two around. His career is finished. Is he going to be able to handle it? He’ll be known as the teacher who was dating a student, whether you were of age or not, that won’t matter to everyone else.”
“I don’t care about everyone else, and neither does he,” I state, adamantly.
“Is this how you want your father to find out? I think we’d better sit him down and tell him together if this is something you’re sure about. I don’t like it, but I know you, Sydney, you’re a very smart girl, and I know you don’t do anything without thinking about it a million times over. So if this is something you are sure about, you to have to tell him. Even if your dad doesn’t find out from somebody else, eventually he’s going to want to meet the man who you’re so serious with, and you can’t avoid the topic forever.”
“I know mom, it’s just not so easy.”
“I’m assuming this has been a big secret that’s been weighing on you for a while. Wouldn’t it feel better to know that we both know? Two fewer people to hide from?”
“Yes, but I don’t think dad will take it well.”
“Maybe not, but if you want to be a grown-up, then you have to act like one and tell the truth. Who knows, if you explain everything to your dad, he’ll probably feel the same as I do, but accept it anyway.”
“Do you accept this?”
“I’m going to try. I think after you tell your father, you’re going to have to have Conrad come here and speak with us face to face as well.”
“Because it’s the right thing to do. If Conrad truly intends on being with you, then he should show us the courtesy and respect of meeting us properly, in a non-official matter.”
Something occurs to me then.
“Wait, have you and dad met Conrad before, in an official way?”
“Your dad wasn’t paying much attention, but yes, we met him at a parent-teacher meet and greet a couple of weeks ago. That's how I recognized him in the video.”
“He didn’t tell me. I wonder why?"
“I’m not sure Sydney, you’ll have to ask him. He spoke highly of your writing and was nothing but professional. If I had only known- I sure hope he’s not favoring you Sydney, because that wouldn’t be fair.”
“He doesn’t. If anything, he’s a little harder on me.”
“Good. I’d say that Conrad seems like a good teacher if it weren’t for the fact that he’s dating one of the last people he should be.”
“It’s not like this is a habit of his, mom. It’s just that our feelings for each other made us ignore what the right thing to do was, but I’m glad we did. Mom, Conrad is the most amazing man. He’s brilliant, kind, gentle, talented beyond belief, and he loves me, and I love him.”
“I just don’t know why you couldn’t find someone your own age, Sydney. Maybe someone like Dane? He’s always loved you.”
“Dane is not the same person he used to be mom, and I have a bad feeling that he might have been the one to give you this video. He found out about Conrad and me a while back. I thought he had moved on because he’s dating Hailey now, and Dane promised he wouldn’t do anything, but now I’m not sure I should have believed him, as Conrad warned me not to.”
“Wait, Hailey is dating Dane?”
I just nod in response.
“Does Hailey know about you and Conrad?”
I nod again.
“Well, it seems there’s been a lot going on around here lately that we’ve been unaware of.”
“Hailey didn’t tell you she was seeing Dane? She was out with him Monday night. You didn’t know?”
“She said she was just going out with friends. Your sister isn’t always so forthcoming- but neither are you lately, it would seem.”
“I’m sorry for lying mom, but it’s just what we thought we had to do.”
“I know Sydney. I’d like to talk more about this, but I think at this point, you need to call Conrad and tell him about this. I’m not sure how much time you guys have before this comes out. I’m hoping it doesn’t, but I have a bad feeling it will.”
Even though that talk with my mom was terrifying, to begin with, in the end, it wasn’t so bad. If anything, I feel so much better knowing she knows. It’s still a big deal, but at the same time, it’s not. She’s willing to accept that Conrad and I are together, so that’s a start. My father, I’m still not sure about, but with my mom’s support, it might be better than I think. Maybe Conrad will be happy that we won’t have to hide from my parents anymore. I take her advice and decide that I had better call him and let him in on what’s going on. I dial his number, and he picks up after two rings.
“Hey Syd,” he greets me, but his voice sounds off.
“Hi,” I reply, “I have to tell you something important.”
“Oh? What is it, babe?”
“Okay, um… well,”
“Just say it, Sydney,” he coaxes.
“Someone recorded us at Desiree’s the other night and left the video for my parents. Luckily, only my mother saw it.”
The line goes quiet for a few beats. I think Conrad hung up until I hear him breathing on the other end. Finally he speaks.
“A video? Of us doing what?”
“Of us, cuddling and kissing on the couch. Nothing too terrible, but it’s proof that we’re together, which is bad.”
“You don’t know who did it?” he asks, voice low.
“No, but I have my suspicions.”
“Yeah, so do I. What did I tell you, Syd? He’s bad news, do you believe me now?”
Now he sounds angry.
“We don’t know for sure that it was Dane,” I reason, but I don’t know why. It probably was him, but a part of me holds out hope that it wasn’t.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Conrad’s voice raises, “Sydney, he did it, take your blinders off, and see the truth. If you think it was Violet, it doesn’t make sense. For one, she doesn’t know where Desiree lives, and two; she doesn’t know where you live either. She has nothing to gain from doing this, but Dane does.”
“Yes she does, she’s jealous, and in love with you Conrad. She has a reason.”
“Okay, the same reason that Dane does, but that doesn’t change the fact that she doesn’t know where you live.”
“It’s not hard to figure out if you tried.”
“God damn it, Sydney,” he barks.
“Why do you sound so mad at me?”
“Because I want you to see what Dane is, and you keep defending him!”
“Yes, you are. Why don’t you see that? I know he used to be your friend…”
“He is my friend.”
“You know what Sydney, how about you think about that for a little bit, and get back to me when you have the right answer?”
I hear the phone line go dead.
What? He just hung up on me? What the hell? This is not how I wanted this conversation to go down. I didn’t even get to tell him that my mother isn’t going to out us. I know he doesn’t like Dane, but he didn’t have to get so angry. I sigh loudly. This is my fault. Why couldn’t I just tell him that I suspect Dane as well instead of trying to defend him? Because sometimes I’m not as smart as others think I am. I guess I’m just afraid to admit that somebody I thought to be one of my best friends would betray me like this.
I’m also confused as to why Conrad got as angry as he did. He’s never snapped at me like this before. Usually, he wants to talk through everything- usually, he’s a lot calmer. Maybe there’s something else going on? Perhaps I should just call him back right now and apologize, tell him that I think it's Dane that did it. Or should I give him time to cool off? No, I need to face this right now and make it right. I redial his number, but he doesn’t pick up. I try two more times, and still no answer. Wow, he must be really angry. I hate this. Oh, Sydney, this is just the beginning. Big things are coming your way, so I had better start preparing for battle.