Nigel walked into the kitchen as Jean was placing the first tray of cookies in the oven, “Jean, love, you know the little sneaks are at it again.”
She chuckled, “I’m making the ‘grown-up’ treats today, Nigel. It stands to reason we need to keep a close eye out. Kevin is always looking to snitch one of these for himself.”
“Aye, and now he’s got a new recruit.”
Jean furrowed her brow and placed a hand on her chin, “Little Ralphy?”
Nigel nodded his head, “Aye, and from the looks of it, he’s a tinker.”
”More inventions for your collection.” She giggled as she poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down, “You know you get a kick out of it, Nigel.”
He placed his hand on his chest and put on his best wounded look, “Me? Enjoy it? Whatever do you mean, madam?”
They both laughed, and Nigel came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea. “They keep me on my toes, they do. I can’t say it ‘s a dull day when I know they’re after something.
Ralphy wracked his brain. How does I come up wif anoder vention? I don’t fink she’s gonna move da cookies to anoder floor. Dis is hard.
“Ralph, are you going to answer the question?” He eyes popped up to the teacher was now standing in front of his desk, “Were you daydreaming again, Ralph?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry. What was da question?”
“What do you get when you add 12 and 12?”
“You get 24, ma’am.”
”Very good, Ralph, but please try not to daydream again.”
”No, ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am.”
The other kids pointed and laughed. The teacher turned to address the room,”Is that how we treat a new person in this home or classroom?”
“What do you say, children?”
”We’re sorry, Ralphy.”
He looked up, his cheeks red, “It’s no big deal. I’m used to it.”
The teacher knelt down and was eye-to-eye, with Ralph, “The point of this house is to make sure you don’t have to go through that anymore, young Ralph.” Her smile had a tinge of sadness to it, “No one should go through what you did.”
He shook his head. She ruffled his hair, “Now then, let’s continue class, okay?”
He smiled up at her with eyes sparkling, “Yes, ma’am.”
After the morning classes, the boys were sitting together at the cafeteria. Ralphy was moving his food around but not eating it. Kevin took notice, “Have a bad morning, Ralphy?
”Sort of,” he recounted the events.
Kevin patted him on the back, “That’s Mrs. Stevens for ya, and she’s right ya know. No one is gonna treat you like your folks did when you’re here.”
Ralphy watched as Kevin sat next to him, “Really?”
”Really, my folks used me as an ash tray and a punching bag. I have my own room and they make sure no one bullies me.”
”Yeah, it kinda is.”
Kevin pointed to Charlie who was just coming out of the kitchen, “His parents used ta think dat him making potions and stuff was evil. They used ta lock him in a closet.”
Ralph’s eyes got wide, “They did?”
Kevin nodded, “He don’t talk about it much, but he likes it that he’s ‘llowed to make potions and stuff now.”
”How about Sammy?”
Sammy looked up from his lunch, “My dad lost his job, and mom couldn’t pay all da bills. Dat’s why we’re here. Dey’re tryin’ to get back on deir feets, whateber dat means.”
Kevin leans over to Charlie, “You gots dat potion?”
”Yeah, but I don’t think it’s working too well.”
”Does it make you fast?”
Looking worried, Charlie nodded.
Kevin held his hand out, “Imma try it after PE.”
”Be careful, Kevin. It’s not perfect.” Charlie handed over a small vial of purple liquid.
”As long as I can out run the grown ups and get the cookies, it’s good enough for me.”