(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores July 2020.)
"I'm not Mrs. Shaw."
The receptionist frowns up at me. She's new.
"I'm on the approved list to pick Gabby up from school, if her father is unavailable," I elaborate and wait while the woman before me taps on her keyboard, then nods her head.
"Here you are. Okay then, Gabby is in Mrs. Flynn's office. You're free to go on in."
"Thanks." My heels click on the floor as I march into the principal's office. Gabby's dark head is bowed, and Mrs. Flynn's hands are folded on her desk, waiting patiently for me.
"Hello, Nora," she says politely. "Thank you for coming."
"You're welcome. Carter's been in court all afternoon. I'm sorry you couldn't reach him."
"Dad's always in court," Gabby mutters.
"What's this all about?"
Mrs. Flynn looks over to Gabby. "Would you like to explain it to her?"
I sigh. Since Gabby's reached the preteen years, she's been more and more difficult.
"What's up, Gabby?"
My boss's daughter shrugs one shoulder. "I was sticking up for my friend. That's all."
I blink at Mrs. Flynn and raise an eyebrow. "I suspect that's not all."
"Another student, Claire, claims Gabby assaulted her and pulled her earring out of her ear."
"She's mean," Gabby insists. "Like, really mean. And I was sick and tired of listening to her bully Lily."
"Our school has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to these things," Mrs. Flynn says patiently. "I'll be speaking with Claire, the girl whose ear is now bandaged up, but Gabby, you're suspended until Monday."
"What?" Gabby demands. "But it's only Thursday."
"That's the policy," Mrs. Flynn says. "I'll make an appointment to speak with your father about this further."
"Let's go," I say as Gabby stands and reaches for her bookbag. To the principal I say, "Thanks for everything."
The principal nods as Gabby and I leave her office and I immediately reach for my phone and dial Carter's number. It goes to voice mail, and I leave the second message since I received the call from the school.
"Me again. I have Gabby. Will tell you more when I see you, but she's not hurt."
I hang up and Gabby and I climb into the waiting taxi. She's scowling as she puts her seat belt on.
"This freaking sucks."
"Totally," I agree as we pull away from the school.
"Want to tell me about it?"
"No. I'll have to tell Dad everything anyway. I'd rather only tell the story once."
"Okay." This surprises her. She whips her head around to stare at me with wide eyes. "I think you've had a rough day."
"Yeah." Her voice cracks.
"You know you have to give me your phone."
She silently pulls the device from her pocket and passes it to me.
"But I think you might need an ice cream."
"I can have ice cream for being suspended?"
"No. You can have ice cream because you've had a rough day. It's not my job to punish you, aside from retrieving your phone. The rest is up to your dad and the school. Also, I could use some ice cream myself."
And maybe some vodka, but that's not possible right now.