Karen sat on the edge of the bed kicking her feet, and watching the slight rise and fall of her son’s tiny chest out of the corner of her eye. It still amazed her that she could hear the gentle raspiness of his breathing over the noise of the city in the morning. But she could, and for that she smiled briefly before hoping down out of bed. The cold hard floor creaked beneath her weight; she turned around making sure that the sound had not woken the baby. It hadn't She inhaled one last moment of peace before walking into the living room, where her stone-faced husband sat starched -still on the couch. With a Starbucks cup in one hand and a Mead notepad on his lap, Karen had no idea what to expect. She sat down quietly and waited for Adrienne to begin.
“He’s sleep?” he asked without looking up from his phone.
“Yes sir,” Karen touted, attempting to mock his formal tone and demeanor.
There was not as much as a smirk on his face. He exhaled deeply, shook his head and scribbled what looked like numbers on his notepad.
“It’s too expensive Karen,” he scolded finally looking up at her.
“I told you, we aren't going to have to pay for it, she is getting a grant scholarship thing”
“Ok….?,” he furrowed his eyebrows, “is it a grant or a scholarship? Which one?”
“Both..I don’t know?” Karen answered confused. “Does it matter? We don’t have to pay it back.”
“I don’t trust that. Why would they give her something this expensive for free. Especially after all that happened last year. Doesn't make any sense, Karen. But I am sure you didn't bother asking any questions. You never do.” He looked back down at his paper. “Where is she anyway? I want to talk to her.”
“Kimeko’s” Karen whispered.
“What!” Adrienne spat, rising to his feet and slamming his notebook on the table. “You let her go back over there? What the hell is wrong with you Karen? I swear, I don’t know who is raising who?”
“She’s her best friend Adrienne, what am I going to do, say they can’t see each other?” Karen responded coolly, “its okay…just chill out.” She got up too, but it wasn't until she breezed past his 6 foot 2 inch frame that she found the courage to whisper, “she doesn't want to talk you anyway.”
“And I wonder why that is?” Adrienne followed behind her closely. “Oh I bet I know why, because you told her everything that is going on…like you always do.”
Karen stopped in her tracks and spun around to face her husband. Through clenched teeth she forced, “had you been here…you could have explained it to her yourself…but you weren't…sooo….what?
She put her hands on her hips, pursed her lips and shook her head. Adrienne stood speechless for a moment before taking his place on a nearby easy chair. He buried his head in his hands and rubbed his temples. Thoughts of the last six months came flooding into his mind like a tsunami. For a moment he wondered how and if he would be able to mend what had been broken. After nine years of marriage he and Karen behaved more like distant strangers than husband and wife. And now his relationship with his kids was also starting to suffer. He knew that after he agreed to a legal separation things would change, but his hope was that they would eventually be a family again. At first, Karen seemed receptive to this idea, but lately she seemed more and more combative and angry. Not to mention the fact that she had all but allowed their oldest daughter to move in with her “best friend.” A girl almost three years her senior and rumored to be a lesbian. Now Karen wanted him to agree to send their 13 year old daughter to an accelerated magnet program 50 miles outside of the city for three months.
The program, “Nsoromma” loosely translated into “children of the sky” was being funded by a grant from the local Department of Education. In response to the soaring dropout rates and subsequent low college enrollment numbers, the state thought it was time to step in and make some changes. In the newspaper they quoted some study that said a lot of really smart students weren't even trying to go to college because they either thought it would take too long or that they couldn't afford it. Ms. Lacey, the new superintendent said that money should never be a deterrent for students who were actually qualified to get in. So she and her staff designed an accelerated program that would allow students to complete an academic year’s worth of coursework in three months. Students would have to test into the program, but if they made it and they committed to spending the next two summers at the New School’s campus, they would be eligible to graduate two full years early. If things went as planned this was how they were going to increase high school graduation rates among the most academically capable but financially challenged students (or at least that’s what they said at the last POSA (Parents of student athletes) meeting.