The sun glistens off the lake as Drew Barret peers through his bedroom window while adjusting the top button of his school shirt. As Drew bends down to tie his shoelaces, he can’t help but reflect on this past summer at basketball camp. Slipping into a daydream, he can hear the sound of a basketball bouncing in the back of his mind. He is dribbling a basketball while Coach Gramm speaks.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout this year, guys. I hope to see all of you here again next summer. Keep working on your basic skills and always remember–don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong!” At that moment, Drew is picturing an older version of himself as team leader of his favorite basketball team in the Professional Basketball League giving a similar speech to his teammates, “Practice makes perfect, guys, so remember–practice until you can’t get it wrong!”
“Drew, honey! You can’t be late for your first day of school!” his mom shouts from the kitchen, snapping him out of his daydream.
“How is it September already?” he sighs.
It feels like it was just yesterday that he got the news he would be moving to a new school. He’s been preparing himself all summer for this day. He exhales deeply, staring at his reflection encouragingly. “Longwood Academy, I’m ready for you.”
Drew had been suspended from his previous school, Agustov, at the end of the prior school year for shoving a boy, Mark, too hard into a wall and breaking his wrist. Mark had been pushing Drew’s best friend, Trev, around and teasing Drew about being “soft” on Trev. Trev and Drew were more like brothers than best friends. They had become friends in first grade and grew even closer once they realized they lived in the same neighborhood on the western end of their island, Isle of the Shallows. They were so close that they each called the other’s parents aunt and uncle. Mark, however, was known as the school bully, so when he asked Drew, “you like him, eh?” Drew became instantly furious and had pushed Mark.
Drew had explained to Mrs. Feruson, the headmistress, “Mark’s been bullying me and everyone for too long and I just had enough. Just ask them.” Drew pointed to the witnesses he had brought with him to Mrs. Feruson.
Mrs. Feruson put her hand up, stopping further discussion. She did not want to hear anything more. “This is not your first time in my office and this time you’ve gone too far. You’re suspended! You broke his wrist!” she scolded firmly.
“You’re just taking Mark’s side because he’s your nephew. You don’t care that he’s wrong and don’t care about any of us either!” he had shouted back at her, tears of frustration streaming down his face. Why am I crying? STOP CRYING! he had thought angrily to himself.
Back in his bedroom, he continues preparing for his new start. He shakes his head as if to shake the memory and the dark mood that had just come over him. Mark’s stupid and just thinking about him makes me mad! That’s okay. I made my point to everyone there. Now, I’m moving to Longwood. Just remember, stay calm ... and out of trouble because I don’t need Mom taking away my basketball and computer time. I know she thinks I’m the bully. Why can’t she understand? Enough, Drew, you’re going to a new school. Remember that! No need to think of Mark and get all riled up!
Drew has always tried to see the positive in any unwanted situation that he found himself in. The early years at Agustov had been much easier than this past year. Drew noticed it was becoming harder to see the positive; he was less tolerant of people and he became angrier a lot faster. Drew decides he is not going to think about his time at Agustov anymore. That was behind him now. He promises himself that he will only think good thoughts. Basketball!
One thing he is hoping to do after school today is to play basketball with his neighborhood friends. He had returned home from basketball camp two days ago and had wanted to show his friends the new moves he had learned. I hope Mom lets me. She can be such a pain sometimes!
“You have to get ready for school, Drew. It’s time to get yourself in the right frame of mind and focus. I don’t want any fighting. If anything remotely similar happens, go directly to a teacher and report the incident. I want you to concentrate on positivity and your school work. Remember positive thoughts produce positive results,” his mom had said, holding his gaze firmly with her eyes.
Today, Drew runs downstairs to the kitchen, where his mother is preparing breakfast. She takes four dishes from the cabinet, places them on the counter below, and fills each with eggs and bacon.
“Good morning, Mom,” he says.
“Good morning, sunshine,” she replies and signals for him to sit down. She places his breakfast in front of him as he sits and continues to take full plates to everyone at the table.
Drew’s mother, Maria, is an attractive woman of average height and one who clearly works out. Her shoulder length brunette hair is thick and curly atop her head. Charming hazel eyes are evenly spaced on her friendly, bronzed face, and her sharp features are rare to the island folk, which systematically cause people to stare.
“Mom, is it okay if I play basketball with the guys after school?” he asks heartily, hoping she’ll agree.
“Not today, hun. Once I drop you home after school, I have to get right back to work. Your dad and I have to work a little late tonight. We won’t be back in time to pick you up from the court before dark,” she answers apologetically.
“Oh, come on, Mom! We’re only gonna play a few rounds and it’s right up the street. I want to show the guys my new moves. I couldn’t yesterday or the day before ‘cause I had to get ready for school. I promise I won’t be long and I’m sure Aunt Lynn can bring me home.Pleeeease, Mumzy,” he says getting up and hugging her tightly. Drew knows how difficult it is for his mom to say no when he calls her Mumzy. He used to call her that when he was younger and she had always loved it.
She tries to pull away and cringes in pain. “Remember, not so tight, Drew. You’re getting very strong. I can barely breathe. It feels like you’re gonna bruise my ribs,” she gasps with a troubled look.
“I’m sorry.” He releases his grip and plunks himself down in his chair.
“It’s okay.” She sits down to begin eating. “Just remember you are getting stronger by the day.” She looks at him, not able to contain a smile. “You’ve grown so much over the summer and have gotten very strong. I don’t think you realize your own strength, young man. You must be careful,” Maria says with a curious smile as she studies him.
She’s truly baffled by his rapid growth this past summer. Drew is a handsome boy of fourteen years, who towers majestically over his mother. Over the summer, he grew from just over five feet tall and slim to six feet tall, broad-shouldered, and muscular. His immense arms resemble that of a boxer and his thick legs more like those of a wrestler than a basketball player. He has sparkling, big, light- brown eyes and black, curly hair that he insists on wearing longer than most boys his age, an indulgence his parents allow in an effort to encourage both of their children to be who they are and explore what makes them unique. His parents had agreed to him trying this new hairstyle once he had proven to them that he had calmed his temper over the first part of the summer. For good measure, his little sister, Alexia, thinks it’s cool.
Maria continues to look at Drew’s immense physique and towering stature. She worries about his developing temper together with his increasing strength. She fears he may begin to feel superior to his peers, who are not as big or strong as he is. She has been keeping a closer eye on him after he was suspended from Agustov the year before for fighting.
She and her husband, Frank, had noticed Drew’s growing temper and had spoken with him about it before the fight. He had not mentioned the bully to them at the time.
He had mentioned his dislike of the headmistress, claiming, “Mrs. Feruson has favorites and that’s not fair. It makes me mad!”
She and Frank had suspected it was a typical aversion toward a strict headmistress, who had been labeled “the drill sergeant” by the school kids. Therefore, they had been shocked when they had been called to a meeting with Mrs. Feruson about the fight.
Drew had explained that he had pushed Mark because he was tired of Mark bullying and teasing everyone, and under the circumstances, they had understood his point of view. Nevertheless, Frank had reprimanded him and told Drew that he must learn to control his temper and go to a teacher the next time anything like that happens.
“You don’t want to become a bully yourself now, do you?” Frank had asked.
“No, Dad. I’m sorry,” Drew had answered, hanging his head so his father could not see the fury in his eyes.
Taking everything into consideration, they had decided to pull their children out of Agustov and move them to Longwood Academy. Maria is hopeful that this new school environment will be a better fit for Drew and help lessen his temper.
“I guess basketball camp was a workout. I noticed that I got a lot bigger over the summer.” He waits a second, looking meekly at her, “Please can I play basketball after school?”
Maria thinks to herself as she gets up from the table and takes her empty plate to the sink.
“I guess it would be okay. Be sure to come home early enough to do any homework you have. Six o’clock at the latest. And remember to leave it right here on the counter for me to check and sign.”
She points to the counter near the phone, looks back at him, and gestures for him to give her a kiss on her cheek. Drew gets up and goes to her. Leaning down and wrapping his huge arms around her, he gives her a great big hug and kiss, and then releases her quickly with his hands up in front of him.
“Sorry, Mom. I know. I know. I’m so strong!” He puts his right arm up, flexes his bicep, and grins at her, “Thanks, you’re the greatest!”
He smiles lovingly and turns to rejoin his father and Alexia at the table for breakfast. That was easy. He smirks to himself.
“Lexi, stop eating so fast! You’re shoveling that food into your mouth. You’re going to choke,” Drew says, teasing his little sister as he sits back down. He uses the words and tone his parents regularly do when saying the same thing to Alexia.
“Leave me alone, Drew! You know I like my food.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to eat like a pig!”
“Stop it!” she says putting another forkful in her mouth.
“I’m just teasing you, Lexi! Don’t be so sensitive,” he says and continues eating his breakfast.
“Okay, leave your sister alone,” his father cuts in. “However, he is right, Lexi. Please eat properly.”
His father is a handsome man of forty years with skin the color of cinnamon. His deep-set, brown eyes are set perfectly on his face between his hooked nose and high cheekbones. His thin, perfectly proportioned lips are salmon-colored. His physique is slender with toned muscles and his height is average at five feet ten inches. His hair has a tight curl with a tinge of natural red highlights.
Frank had been skimming through the newspaper, pretending to read, smiling to himself and listening closely to the exchange between his wife and son. He gets a kick out of watching his wife with the children, although lately he has been working a lot and has not been around as much to witness it. He knew Maria would give in. She regularly does, even though the children don’t realize it.
It’s obvious how proud Maria is of the children. When they were younger, it would bother him that she gave in so much to them. Over time, he realized she had it under control. The thought of anyone taking advantage of her giving and caring personality displeased him. He is well aware that Maria can take care of herself and has everything in order, specifically with the children, with her motto being that life is hard enough. Don’t sweat the small things. I love Maria’s knack for making people feel good and showing them love and respect. I appreciate that the children have learned much about life from watching her.
“I am proud of you, Drew. You have grown up a lot this summer,” Frank affirms and continues in a more serious tone, “but I don’t want any foolishness this year. No fights or incidents at all! I want you and Alexia to do well in school. Remember to have fun, but no nonsense! Don’t forget, if you want to do your extracurricular activities, you have to do the best you can with your schoolwork. I work too hard for you to take your education and the school you attend for granted. You both did very well last year and I want it to continue. Do you understand?”
He turns, speaking directly to Alexia, “You’re going into third grade, Lexi, so I want you to show your teacher and other students at this new school how intelligent, fun, and creative you are.” He looks back at Drew, “Both of you. Okay?” He smiles at his children.
Alexia jumps out of her chair and into his lap, giving her father a huge kiss right on his mouth.
“Yes, of course, Daddy,” she says, hugging him tightly around his neck.
“Yes, Dad,” Drew responds. Drew knows he has to work hard at keeping his temper in check. He does not want the wrath of his father. Ever since last year, he has noticed his temper growing. It had seemed that at the very same time he had been developing physically, he had begun having a difficult time controlling his emotions and doing things he would not normally have done.
It had been difficult this summer, managing his temper. He’d had just one small incident at summer camp where he had pushed one of the boys, Larry, quite hard after he had caused Drew to get a foul. Drew had gotten frustrated because he was about to shoot a three pointer, but Larry had messed up the shot. Reacting with rage, he pushed Larry. Drew had quickly apologized, helped his teammate up, and accompanied him to the nurse, who had to place a brace on his ankle. Larry had accepted Drew’s apology and it had all worked out in the end. Drew was angry but realized he needed to smooth over the incident or deal with his parents’ punishment.
He felt there was no need to say anything to Mom and Dad. His father is the stricter parent but his mother can be unpredictable, and since the incident never became a problem, he felt it best not to say anything to them. He did not want to alarm them.
Although he does not like getting into trouble, he admits to himself that both of his parents do a pretty good job of balancing discipline, guidance, and lightheartedness. While he feels they can be a little too strict sometimes, he does not want to get into any more trouble so decides to try to chill out if anyone begins to get to him.
Drew looks over at Alexia and notices how dainty and ladylike she looks as opposed to her preferred tomboy look. A rare sight.
“You excited for your first day at school, huh, Lexi?”
“Why you say that?” she retorts.
“You’ve got your hair in pigtails, bangs, and bows,” Drew says as he smiles deviously at her, knowing that this is not her favorite hairstyle. She hates bows and normally would just throw her hair in a ponytail, low on her neck.
Alexia has long, curly, dark brown hair. Her dark brown eyes are almond-shaped with extremely long, black lashes and her face is heart-shaped. She’s cute with a feisty and opinionated personality, but only at home. When out in public, she is quite shy and unsociable.
“You look nice, Lexi,” Drew smiles devilishly.
“Drew. Be good,” his father warns, in a low, stern voice while looking over the top of the newspaper before folding it, and resting it on the table in front of him. He stands, picks up his plate, and takes it to the sink. He gets his satchel. “I’ll see you at the office in about an hour,” he smiles at Maria.
“I’ll be there as soon as they’re settled,” Maria answers as she puts the dishes in the drying rack.
Frank goes to the children and gives each a kiss on their forehead.
“Goodbye and enjoy your first day at school!” He gives Drew a serious look, points at him as an obvious reminder to watch his temper, then smiles and leaves.
As Maria turns to leave the kitchen, she says, “Make sure to clean your dishes and bring your school bags to the car.” She gets her bag from the family room and heads back through the kitchen toward the garage.
“Yes, Mom, we know,” Drew and Alexia say in unison, both rolling their eyes.
“Jinx!” Alexia laughs. “I got you! Now you can’t speak until I say you can. Ha ha!”
Drew shrugs and squeezes his eyes shut ceding defeat. He gets up and takes his plate to the kitchen sink. Alexia joins him and they clean their dishes in silence. They collect their school bags and join their mother in the car.