As they left the office, AJ didn’t look towards Will or Hayley, but toward the ground instead. She wasn’t embarrassed her father was a cop, she was proud he was, but what she was embarrassed about was the fact that she let him down again. He had never let her down, but she continually did it to him. The first half of the car ride was in absolute silence as AJ watched fields of corn pass the window. “I don’t know if I should even be mad at you,” spoke her father finally breaking the silence.
“You should be. We had a deal, one week, and I didn’t even make it to the start bell,” ashamedly admitted AJ. They continued to sit in silence for the rest of the ride home. When they walked in the door AJ took her school stuff to the table and began to work on the day’s assignments hoping it would make her father skip the lecture, but she was wrong.
“She said you were helping someone, care to explain?” He began to question her.
“There were three jocks trying to jump one guy. I don’t know, I just jumped in without thinking,” she began to explain.
“The boy sitting outside the office? He seems like he can handle himself in a fight.”
“If he couldn’t his girlfriend definitely would have.”
“Oh do we have a girl crush?” her father joked with her.
“No, a girl like that you fall in love with,” she continued with his joke. AJ had been openly gay for the past couple of years. Her father never bashed an eye when he found out, he just stated, “As long as it’s not a boy, I won’t have a problem.” It was one of the many reasons she admired her father so much. No judging came from him but more to the fact that he was always trying to see your point and be less ignorant of the world around him.
“So what’s the verdict?” she asked nervously.
“I haven’t decided and I need to go back to work soon,” he grunted. She could tell she really disappointed her father this time and the silence made the guilt so much more unbearable.
“Take away my jeep,” she suggested. Her father thought it over in his head and agreed to the idea.
“Deal, but I decide the length of the punishment,” he added. Suddenly the doorbell rang and interrupted their discussion. They exchanged puzzled looks as her father walked towards the door. When the door opened she heard “Um hi” in a familiar voice. She leaned in her chair to see the front door and saw Will looking perplexed as he was staring at her father.
“Aren’t you the one from the office earlier?” he asked Will curiously.
“Yes sir, I came to apologize to AJ’s parents for earlier,” he nervously stated.
“I see, well come in my time is limited right now,” her father encouraged. Will didn’t walk in but stood there still looking confused.
“You’re her father?” Will asked.
“The one and only Mr. Jones,” said her father enthusiastically as he reached his hand out for a handshake. Will shook his hand immediately.
“I’m sorry, sir, I just assumed you were arresting her earlier,” Will began to explain.
“Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the uniform is pretty I can see how you confused by its dazzling features,” her father joked. This seemed to lighten the air up for Will. Her father encouraged him again to come in and walked him over to the table where AJ was sitting.
“Hi accomplice,” AJ greeted Will. Will blushed and looked towards her father as if he was apologizing again.
“Well have a seat. I would like to hear the story from your point so I know how drastic of a punishment AJ needs,” her father openly admitted.
“That’s fine. It’s why I came here. I assumed since you work with the police you’ve heard about the Heath farm?” Will asked.
“Actually yes, we get a domestic call from there almost every day. Something involving the son, I think,” her father began informing him. Will suddenly made a sulking motion in his chair as if what he was hearing hit him hard.
“Um yes. It’s my family’s farm, well mine and my mother’s, left to us by my father who passed away.” Mr. Jones didn’t respond but sat there quietly waiting for him to explain. “Well, the majority of the kids in our school come from respected families that built this town, mine included, but as you’ve heard mine is seen as an embarrassment. It wasn’t always like that, my father died in the world and my mother hasn’t been well since,” Continued Will.
“That doesn’t give her the right to hit you, son” interrupted her father.
“No one has seen her hit me sir, there is no proof of that,” averted Will. “The reason for the fight is the same reason it always is, people talking trash about my family, including my father who died so these people could keep their land,” furiously stated Will. “I wasn’t expecting your daughter to jump in; no one usually does. This has happened since my father passed away and I have learned to handle myself through the years.” At this point AJ’s father sent her an “I told you so” glance towards her.
“Hayley jumped in too,” exclaimed AJ.
“She usually doesn’t. I think she was just excited to see someone else jump in and wanted to be part of the show.” Well that backfired, thought AJ noticing the grin on her father’s face.
“So you’re telling me this happens often and the school does nothing about it?” asked her father. “They do suspend us obviously, and the jocks from earlier were kicked off for the rest of the season. Our school is high profiled and the best in our district, so there’s a zero-tolerance for any misconduct really,” Will explained.
“It still continues though?” her father looked disappointed.
“Every year there is a new set of kids who want to prove something, who want to ‘rid the school trash’,” Will finished explaining. AJ was curious about how he was just so comfortable to tell her father everything with minor hesitation. Will showed no embarrassment but seemed proud of everything he had gone through. AJ couldn’t understand him, but she admired him either way.
“I appreciate your honesty. Integrity is rare these days,” her father interrupted her thoughts. “I hate to leave during this but duty does call,” her father continued as he stood up from his chair.
“Sir, there is one more thing. I would like to stay and help AJ with the school work we were assigned if that’s okay. It’s my fault she’s missing school, it’s the least I could do for her helping me earlier,” insisted Will.
“That sounds fair, but still no Jeep,” he glared at AJ. As she walked him to the door, he whispered, “You remember where the gun is right?”
AJ blushed “Really, Dad?”
“He’s still a stranger AJ, just be careful is all that I’m saying.” Her father kissed her on the forehead and left. AJ turned around and found Will still sitting at the table. He had pulled out books from the backpack he was wearing.
“Well I can’t say I was expecting you at my house confessing your life story to my father,” spoke AJ.
“I assumed Mrs. Austin called the police on you, not that your father was a cop, that’s why I showed up.”
“Who calls the police on a school fight?” asked AJ.
”Look, I didn’t say I thought it through,” laughed Will.
“Still, you could have left some of that out like the whole my-mother- is- possibly- abusing- me part, considering he is a cop.”
“Like I said there is no proof, and I happen to like cops.”
“I problem would too if they kept someone from beating me every day.” This seemed to strike a nerve in Will she watched his hand clenched tighter around the pencil he used. She didn’t take her comment back; AJ was blunt and what she said was the truth. If he couldn’t handle it that was his problem, not hers.
“Look my father died for this country and cops do the same thing except on home soil not foreign,” insisted Will.
“So you’re a patriot?” asked AJ.
“Yes, people are too eager to see what they don’t have instead of looking at what we do,” responded Will.
“That’s true, but the government isn’t what our forefathers wanted,” responded AJ.
“I don’t think they could have imagined the change that the world is now,” rebutted Will.
“That’s very true who could have predicted people staring all day at a phone instead of a book? Or rather never leaving your house to being social,” AJ started to rant.
“How about not being able to trust that your kids are safe at the next-door neighbors?” encouraged Will.
“Ooo that is a good one,” AJ chuckled.
“See I knew I had you pegged as someone with a brain,” exclaimed Will.
“Shhh! Be quiet the government might hear you and kill me,” AJ joked. They both started to laugh out loud. AJ was pleased to find someone she could be friends with so soon.
When they started to work on their classwork they decided to do anything involving math first. Due to AJ’s inability to comprehend any of it, she thought better get the worst done first. Luckily for her, it seemed to be no problem for Will, you wouldn’t have guessed it by looking at him but he seemed to have the brains to match the brawn. By the time they finished the day’s classwork, it was almost time for AJ’s father to be home with whatever takeout he decided to get on the way home—he was a horrible cook.
“I feel bad your car was taken away because of me. If you’re willing, I can give you rides to school,” offered Will
“None of it was your fault, really. I chose to jump in blindly,” explained AJ.
“It would be the final piece to relieving my guilt in all honesty. You helping me painted a target on your back, and it’s your only chance at making a friend,” suggested Will. A friend, AJ thought, would I even be here long enough to see this friendship through? Though something told her to reach out this time, she had never met someone fit her personality so well and she was actually feeling something other than neutral.
“Deal, but I can’t guarantee I won’t jump in a fight with you again,” agreed AJ.
“Beggars can’t be choosers I guess,” responded Will. Will left in his black truck and less than five minutes later, AJ’s father pulled up with a box of pizza in hand.
“Your guest left already?” he asked.
“Yep. I think I made a friend who can tutor me in math,” happily admitted AJ.
“Thank God, I was starting not to understand it myself,” chuckled her father.
“He also offered me a ride to school since I’ve lost privileges to my own vehicle,” cautiously announced AJ.
“I hope it’s the most embarrassing piece of crap,” pouted her father.