Justine sighed. It was next to impossible for Rachel Paxton to get her daughter to school on time, even though they lived across the street. Yet, if Dalia came down with one of her frequent headaches or menstrual cramps-- the get-out-of-jail-free pass of all adolescent girls-- then her mother would show up in the blink of an eye, ready to sign her out and take her home.
Justine had no complaints about Dalia's schoolwork. She was a keenly intelligent girl who always managed to make up her work and earn an A. Of course, it wasn't exactly rocket science to earn an A in middle school-- grades were more a reflection of behavior than of true academic talent. Once Dalia got up to the high school, however, they became incredibly hard-nosed about attendance. She might find herself failing classes due to excessive absences and completely blow her chances of getting into a good college.
"When did the rules about talking without permission change?" Justine asked her class. They quieted down immediately, knowing that Mrs. Geist always made good on her promises when it came to giving lunch detentions or taking away specials. "That's more like it. Now, who is out today?"
"Me," said Ben Truman, raising his hand. "I'm absent."
"Thank you, Ben, for reminding us that some bad jokes just never go away," Justine quipped. "Seriously though, look around. I don't feel like busting out the new seating charts and I can't remember who sits where."
"Dalia's out again," Courtney sang out, then paused as she pretended to see Dalia for the first time. "Oh, she's here now. She just must have been late again."
"Very observant, Courtney, thank you. What about the empty desk right in front of you?"
"Oh. Doesn't Ricky sit there now?"