When Mary heard the front door slam and angry feet stomp down the hall, she grabbed the pig-shaped cookie jar and stationed it strategically in the center of the kitchen table. She had made Chewy Double Chocolate Fudge Delights today, and Piggy was filled to the snout.
Her 16-year-old daughter stormed into the room, threw her backpack on the floor, and flopped into a chair with a huff.
“Rough day, Casie?”
“Don’t wanta talk about it.” Her silvery blue eyes narrowed, daring her mother to press her.
“Pick up your backpack, hon. You know better.”
With an exaggerated sigh and a groan, Casie leaned over and snagged the heavy bag by a strap. She dragged it toward her and looped it over the back of her chair. She crossed her arms defiantly and her eyes shot daggers at the empty place across the table.
Mary pitied the person Casie imagined sitting in that chair. She lifted the back off of Piggy, releasing the aroma of chocolate into the air. “Would a cookie help?”
Casie looked at her mom. “Help what?” She turned away again, but couldn’t help stealing a peek at Piggy.
“What ever it is that has you in a snit. Chewy Double Chocolate Fudge Delights…?”
“Fine. Whatever.” Casie sulkily plucked a cookie out of the jar.
“Mm hmm,” she mumbled, her mouth full of Chewy Chocolate Fudge.
Mary set two glasses of milk on the table and joined her daughter.
When Casie had polished off three cookies and was working on her fourth, Mary tried talking to her again. “Did you get your Lit paper back yet?” Mary asked and nibbled at her own cookie. She knew how much time and effort Casie had put into this assignment. Casie’s Lit grade had been a sore subject this year. Mary knew her wanna-be writer daughter could do much better than the numbers reflected, and was glad she finally decided to take the class seriously.
Casie stopped chewing and her eyes narrowed again, some of the Delight going out of them. She took a big gulp of milk, and banged the glass down. “Yep.”
“And?” Mary purposefully ignored the sloshed milk on the wood of the table. It took an effort.
Instead of answering, Casie twisted in her chair and unzipped her backpack. She rummaged for just a second, then pulled out a thin, stapled stack of pages and flung it at her mom. Mary’s own eyes flashed anger, but she saw tears swimming in Casie’s, and caught herself before she exploded. Instead, she picked up the report, and looked at the big, red, circled number in the top right corner.
“This is out of how many?”
“A hundred mom, a HUNDRED.”
Stunned, Mary looked at the paper again, and read the note the teacher had made.
“This is a well thought-out and well written report. You have never turned in a paper of this caliber before. ‘A’ -level work. After careful consideration, I am deducting 15 points; this is clearly not your own work.”
“What is this, a joke?”
“Nope. I asked him that. He’s very serious.”
“I…I cant believe it. THIS is what happens when a student works hard to improve? How DARE he accuse you of cheating! I cannot believe this. I am OUTRAGED! I’m calling him, right now.”
“No, mom! Don’t do that!”
“Oh, I’m doing it. I am going to give him a piece of my mind. This is unacceptable.” Mary started to get up.
“NO! Do NOT call him. You’ll just make it worse!”
“How can it be worse?”
“It’s just not worth it. Forget it.” Tears were silently running down her cheeks now, and her voice was quavering.
“Your grade IS worth it! Your REPUTATION is worth it!”
“What would happen to my REPUTATION if my mommy asks the teacher to change my grade?? I’ll take care of it - just stay out of it. I’m sorry I even told you.”
“I want to help you!”
“Then STAY OUT OF IT!”
Casie sprung from the chair and the weight of her backpack made it tip and crash to the floor. She snatched up the bag and ran sobbing from the room.
Red blotches burned on Mary’s cheeks, and her hand shook as she reached for another cookie.
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