It was drizzling when Felicia pulled into the parking lot. She glanced at the dashboard, seven thirty eight pm. She parked in the only available space, grabbed her purse and scurried out of her brand new Wrangler jeep. The icy rain felt like needles, forcing her to pop the collar of her long winter coat.
“I hate this weather.” she muttered.
The weather forecast had said nothing about any chance of precipitation; she would have worn a hooded jacket instead. Digging inside her purse, she fished out a Macy’s plastic bag and proceeded to use it as a shower cap. It had cost her to her hair and she was not in the mood for Sherry, her hairdresser, and her increasing shenanigans.
Halfway to the building, she turned and hurried back to her car. She went to the rear of the car, ran her hand over the temporary tag she had just gotten that week. Satisfied that it was well protected from rain, she made another mental note to apply for a customized tag; something like “BGCHK” or “BABE”. She would be ready to fight Mike to finish if he dared to raise any objection, after all he did not contribute a cent towards this car.
As Felicia stepped inside the building, a voice on the intercom was booming:
“…at this time, we would request all parents to accompany their students to their individual homerooms. Thank you.”
Doors flew open and the hallway was filled with boisterous students and tired-looking parents. Joining the throng, Felicia made her way to her daughter’s homeroom. Some people were already seated and Mrs. Tubbs was handing out some papers. In the process of taking off her coat, she remembered that she was still wearing her nurse scrubs. She pulled her coat back on, wishing that she’d had enough time to go home and change into regular clothes. Shrugging resignedly, she located her daughter’s desk and sat down.
“It has been a productive Parent/Teacher conference,” Mrs. Tubbs was saying. “Thank you all coming and, please, do not forget to sign the attendance sheet.”
Felicia struggled out of her daughter’s seat, smoothed her coat and went to sign her name. Mrs. Tubbs walked up to her.
“Mrs. Uteh, if you have a moment, I’d like to speak with you before you leave.”
“Oh yes…yes…sure.” Felicia felt a bit nervous. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Mrs. Tubbs as she said goodbye to some of the parents.
“What does this woman want now?” she found herself thinking. “It looks like she will not be satisfied until I start coming to this school everyday. Have I not kept my promise of attending this conference? If that is not a sign of commitment…”
“Alright, Mrs. Uteh,” Mrs. Tubbs interrupted her thoughts, “I know that it getting late so I won’t take much of your time.”
Felicia caught herself staring at Mrs. Tubb’s mouth. She could not quite place it but it looked she was wearing dentures. She had not noticed it the time they met during her daughter’s registration. How old could she be…60…65?
“Gloria was not able to come with you?” It sounded like an accusation to Felicia.
“No, I came directly from work. It was so hectic in the ICU that I had to pull a double shift. Besides, I didn’t know that she was expected to come.”
“I did leave a couple of reminders on your answering machine. We wanted this to be a joint conference.”
“Oh, you must have called the house phone,” Felicia answered weakly “We hardly check the messages.”
“Oh, I see.”
Mrs. Tubbs handed her a file, Felicia felt a myriad of emotions as she reviewed the contents. She double checked to make sure that the file had Gloria’s name on it. Missing grades, In-school detention, Tardiness, Truancy….Truancy? That girl went to school everyday.
When she saw her signature on papers that she had never set eyes on before, she knew that the situation was worse than she thought.
Felicia’s hand was shaking when she placed the file on the table. Had she been so busy that she did not notice her daughter’s grades declining? Gloria used to be an above-average student.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed faintly, “To think that we are paying a private tutor to help her after school.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Uteh, but Gloria does not need a private tutor. She gets enough tutoring here. She needs her parents. Sometimes, I get the feeling that she is rebelling against something. She is a teenager with raging hormones. I think that you and your husband should work towards giving her the attention that she so obviously craves.”
There was an awkward moment of silence as Mrs. Tubbs adjusted her reading glasses, gathered her papers and put them away.
“I know that you are doing your best but it is my job to protect the interest of every child in my class. Just know that I am available and willing to assist in any way that I can.”
It was past nine pm when Felicia parked her car in the garage and let herself in from the side door.
“Wow, mom, you’re home early.” Gloria looked up briefly from the computer and acknowledged her mother.
If Felicia heard her, she gave no indication. She dropped her purse on the coffee table, scanned their expansive living room like she was looking for something.
“Where are the twins?” she directed her gaze at Gloria
“Upstairs…with the nanny.”
Purposefully, Felicia strode to where Gloria was sitting, stood behind her and peered at the computer screen.
“Is that Facebook?” she asked disapprovingly.
“Yep!” Gloria answered without breaking the speed of her typing.
“When did you join Facebook?”
“C’mon, mom, I’ve been on Facebook like forever. Duh!”
“How dare you? No wonder you are doing so badly in school.” That was not the way she had planned to address the issue but she just could not control herself.
“Get off that computer at once before I make you regret the day that you were born…”
“Since when did you care?” Gloria shouted back. She got up, pushed her chair down and ran towards the guest bedroom. She paused at the door, took another look at her mother and with all the venom that her fourteen year old body could muster, yelled “I hate you” before banging the door behind her.
Slowly, Felicia went up the stairs. Without stopping to check on her twins, she walked stoically to her bedroom, locked the door, put her face in her hands and cried.
“Mike, we need to talk.” Felicia had waited for her husband to come home, watched him eat a very late dinner before broaching the subject.
“If it is about sending money to your brother, the answer is still the same. No.”
Felicia eyed him surreptitiously.
“I was at Gloria’s school today for the Parent/Teacher conference,” she paused for effect. “After talking with her teaching and looking through Gloria’s performance record, I am convinced that we need to take drastic measures.”
“What exactly are you talking about?” He asked.
Felicia went on to give him a detailed account of her meeting with Mrs. Tubbs. She did not hold anything back. When she was done, she waited for a reaction from Mike. He appeared to be deep in thought, so she waited.
Eventually, he raised his head, looked her directly in the eyes and said, “So what do you plan to do?”
“What do I plan to do?” Felicia retorted. Running her fingers through her already disheveled hair, she stood up, sat down and stood up again.
“Alright, since you have put it that way, I will tell you what I plan to do. I will quit my job and stay home to raise my kids.
“You will do no such thing,” Mike jumped to his feet too. “Need I remind that we have the mortgage, car notes, insurance, school fees and other expenses?”
“Then stay at home with the children while I go out to work. You and I know that we cannot survive on this your consultancy business.”
“Watch your mouth, woman!” Mike approached her menacingly “Who are you planning to turn into your houseboy? Remember that I brought you to this country, paid the fees for you to attend this Nursing school that has scattered your head so.”
“Ok…ok,” Felicia retreated, her palms spread defensively, “why don’t I cut back on the hours that I put in? Gloria has two hundred friends on Facebook. Who are these people? The twins hardly see me. We may be living the dream but we are losing out on the things that really matter.” Felicia had tears in her eyes as she spoke.
Mike took in her demeanor, walked to the bar and poured himself a glass of brandy on the rocks.
“Emotions are quite high right now, and I have an eight o’clock appointment in the morning. Let’s sleep over this and talk tomorrow.”
Without giving her a chance to respond, Mike went upstairs to their bedroom.
Felicia knew that she would not be getting much sleep that night. How could she, after the reality that had just stared in the face? She knew that whatever decision she took, she would be making a huge sacrifice. She prayed that they would be able to find a meeting point.
Turning off the lights, Felicia went upstairs for what could be the longest night of her life, yet.