"Where's the others?" Alice asks as a tesseract opens outside the house and her oldest son and her daughters walk through before it shuts. She bends down to scratch the heads of the puppies attached to the leashes in the girls and Alan's hands.
"Josette still has her job at the laundry for another two weeks and she's agreed to take over the library for a week during finals, allowing the teachers to concentrate on grading tests. The students don't work that week, even with short hours Josette's going to be handling the library alone."
Alice shakes her head. "That's too much for that poor girl."
Her son snorts. "She's got an excuse to sit in the library and read for hours, plus Principal Madison is giving her the school credit card so she can order dvds and books for the library next semester. she's in hog heaven to quote great-grandpa Allen."
"David planned on taking Susan to Vegas for a couple of days so she'd have money for this next semester." Abby takes up the story. "And Michael and Alexander are hammering out the final details for a show opening just before Christmas, their soon to be former agent is still whining that she lost them as clients."
"Shouldn't have pissed them off so much." Anna snorts. "Their new agent has much better connections and a larger selection of galleries to choose from. Which means more flying but unlike their old agent, they don't complain about having to schedule openings around first high school and now the university."
Alice Covington just shakes her head as she holds the door open so her oldest children can enter the house. "Your brothers are on a church outing to a mall in the city going Christmas shopping and your Dad is working down at the garage because Tommy's wife had the baby early. He and a couple of the others are covering the poor boy's shifts while the baby's in the hospital."
She watches as the children go upstairs to their rooms and she listens to drawers opening and closing as they put their clothes away for a week. Andrew's car pulls into the driveway and he comes into the kitchen, kissing his wife on the cheek.
"Are the kids here yet?" Like his wife, he'd quickly adopted their children's friends as his own, even before he'd realized they were lovers.
"Only the twins and Alan, Josette's still working for another two weeks, David was taking Susan to Vegas so she could get enough money for next semester, and Alexander and Michael are working on a show opening."
Alan comes down, gives his father a hug and automatically heads for the refrigerator. "Out of that refrigerator right now Alan Charles Covington." Alice orders. "Lunch will be in twenty minutes, you can wait that long."
"Yes Mom," he says shamefacedly as the twins cackle from the stairs. "Couldn't wait, could you?"
"Sit down and tell me what's been going on, besides what we've been seeing on the tv. Josette looked real good during those interviews Sunday night. I recognized you girls hand in her clothes."
"That was actually taped the night before. We sat down and watched them that night in the lounge, got snacks from the dining hall and stuffed ourselves." Alan says.
Abby snorts. "We'd just had dinner a couple hours ago. Most of us, except for Josette, were already stuffed."
Alice shakes her head. "I don't know where that girl puts all the food she eats." She'd eaten at the dining hall one day with them and been stunned to see how much Josette had put away at one sitting.
"She works it off in the laundry." Alan says.
"Now tell me the truth, did you kids really get accepted so quickly to other universities or was that just the horse puckey that you sometimes see on tv?" Andrew asks.
"Honest to God Dad, yes we were. David's Godmother brought in a bunch of university representatives when she arrived the day before Thanksgiving and by the next night we were sitting down and signing up for what courses we wanted." The twins nod in agreement. "And to further put the thumbscrews to Screw U," their parents pretend to ignore the nickname Alan had given their old school but he knows he's not going to be able to use it again this week even if they do agree with him. "we not only were accepted, most of us are working towards dual degrees. The twins are going for business as well as education, Josette is going for her Library Science degree and she's going for an information technology degree. She might not be graduating next year like she'd planned, but this new degree is meant for older students who are getting degrees for work, who intend to eventually get a masters instead of the traditional four year degree for kids just out of school. Susan, David, and I are the only ones who aren't going for second degrees right away, Susan's pre-law, I'm pre-med, and I don't know what else David wants to get beyond a business degree so he can work in his parents business. Alexander and Michael are going for business as well as art degrees so they can eventually oversee their own investments."
"Are you going to have any problems with your new schools? I know you chose U of Mass, Boston because you wanted to stay together and it had pre-law and pre-med programs while the other school in town didn't."
"Not at all, since we're technically 'returning students' we can even get most of our classes online through the adult education off-campus programs. So we won't even have to leave the dorm except for speciality classes or to take tests or our finals. Then David is going to take us somewhere where we can do that. We've signed up for our classes and already have our books for next semester."
"Really?" Andrew asks. "That's good, I hated to think you kids might be losing out on your education because of that school's problems."
"No thank goodness our new schools accepted the grades our teachers had given us when we turned in our finals and not that hogwash the adminstration tried to claim were our grades." Alan scowls. He looks so much like his father Alice thinks as he tries to come up with a description for U of Mass, Boston that won't get him swatted by his mother. "Our lawyers think they come up with that bull dookey to force us to stay with them and so they could continue to mess with us."
"I can't believe that a school would do all that to their students." She'd been stunned when the news that a hacker was targeting students at a school and the administration wasn't doing anything about it, then horrified when she'd realized it was the university the kids were attending. She'd seen her 'children' Alexander and Michael being interviewed and screamed. Her husband had run into the room, asking her what the matter was. Turning to one of the cable news channels, she'd found the interview running again and her husband had dropped into his chair in stunned disbelief as he'd learned that the boys that had been in his home were famous award-winning artists who'd made millions from their art according to what everybody was saying. He'd been the first one to see the rest of the kids standing in the background, pointing them out to his wife. Seeing the others had convinced him that he wasn't seeing things, it really was the children.
The next day the news that there was going to be an interview with the artists and their friends had everybody settled in front of the television, others in the church and their friends taping it for them in case they weren't and there had been Anna, Abby, and Alan on national news being interviewed by Diane Sawyer. Though they'd seemed content to let Josette act as spokesman, all her children had spoken at least once that night. The phone had started ringing off the hook as soon as the interview was over and when he'd come home from work the next day he'd found all his wife's friends in the kitchen talking about the interview.
Then somebody had called that night and said they'd seen a commercial that they'd be on the morning shows the following morning. He'd had to go to work, but his boss had called him into the office and they'd watched one interview at eight and then the following one at nine. After that and the interviews that aired that night he'd thought that everything had finally settled down, until the news that their children had been asked to leave the university because they'd spoken out about the hacker had made everybody in town furious. Andrew doesn't believe in suing people but he's glad that his children had been talking to Principal Madison and the high school's lawyers and he hoped they bankrupted the university.
They'd been horrified when they watched the footage a few days later of students demonstrating against the school when their grades had been altered and the university had had them arrested and had their security team attack the news crews filming everything when the police had refused to arrest them because they weren't committing any crimes. Andrew had nearly picked up the phone to order his children never to return to that horrible campus but they'd already been told to leave, they'd have no reason to return there. There'd been a new round of interviews, both parents gladdened to see that the children were nothing less than polite in the face of the increasingly erratic letters from the school's administration and everybody had praised them for raising three such polite young children.
"So your new schools accepted the handwritten grades you got when you turned in your finals?" Alice asks as she tells Anna to set the table and sends Alan off to wash his hands and Anna feeds the puppies.
"Yes, we had those and we'd got online to download the class grade lists that would have been on their doors. With those backing up the handwritten grades, they had no problems accepting those classes as passed. Nobody believes anything from the school servers, last I heard Massachusetts was trying to take over the school but the administration was fighting them. The cynic in me thinks that they're trying to hide something."
"And the child of god who believes the best in their fellow man?" Alice raises an eyebrow at her son.
"Thinks they're hopeless incompetents who are in over their head who are either too scared or proud to ask for help. But I'm afraid the cynical pessimist in me is going to win this round."
"I'm afraid you're right son." his father agrees with him. Thinking for a long moment, Alice finally nods. The phone rings and she walks over, talking quietly. "Oh they just got home Sylvia, they're going to be here a week before they head back to Massachusetts but they're all going to be coming back closer to Christmas. No, just Alan and the twins for now, Josette won't be off work at the school for another two weeks, Susan is in Vegas getting money for next semester's classes with their friend David from her trust fund," Abby nearly swallows her hand to keep from laughing at that, "while Alexander and Michael are hammering out the final details for their latest show that opens before Christmas. Oh yes, we'll be there, we have invitations to all their shows. This one is in. . New York City." she says when Anna mouths the words. The person on the other end is spluttering as she says she has to hang up, she's getting lunch on the table for her family in a sugar-sweet voice and hangs up. "Old hag." she mutters.
"Whatever happened to thinking the best in people Mom?" Anna asks with a smirk.
"Do as I say, not as I do." she says firmly. "That gossiping old biddy drives me up the wall."
"Trust fund?" Alan raises an eyebrow.
"Like I'd really tell anybody that Susan plays the ponies for her tuition. I'm sure some of the old biddies in town do something like that on their weekend trips but they'd look down on anybody else for doing the same thing."
"Probably because she wins and they don't." Anna mutters.
Andrew chuckles while Alice nods. She puts lunch on the table and they eat everything in front of them before taking the puppies outside for a walk. A church van pulls up and their younger brothers hug them before going into the house.
"So the girls at school are asking if you got to keep those clothes you wore on your interviews, did you?" the boys ask as they put their bags away and come back down the stairs and settle on the floor. The puppies are overjoyed to have new people to rub their stomachs.
"Adam, Aaron," their mother says warningly.
"That first interview and then the interviews on the morning shows the following Friday?" The boys nod. "Those were our own clothes. The interviews that aired Friday night? They did furnish the clothes we wore, we took them off after our interviews when we woke up the next morning, we found a bag outside our rooms with the clothes and other things inside them. The interviews that aired Sunday night, that was at the school again and those were our own clothes we wore. Our interviews last week, yes they did furnish the clothes and again, we found them in bags in our dorm when we got back." Anna sniggers. "Josette was a little upset about having to dress up." Alice shakes her head. "One complaint was, why do I have to wear high heels? Nobody's going to be looking at my feet." Alice giggles at that.
"Did you get to speak to Ms. Sawyer besides during the interview?" Andrew asks.
"Oh yes, Principal Madison took her on a tour of the school and she talked to us both before the interview and afterwards. She was staying at the school and Josette gave her the story of the students suddenly have student loans in default so they couldn't take their finals."
"Josette had been one of those students?" Alice asks, sighing.
"And we both know how Josette gets when somebody messes with her." Alan smirks. Their mother sighs but nods. "Ms. Sawyer was still at the school when we went to dinner so Josette told her the entire story. She got on the phone with her associates and she and Principal Madison talked to Josette in the laundry while she was doing two nights worth of sheets."
"Because you'd had the interview the night before." Andrew says. Anna nods. "While Josette was doing the laundry, Ms. Sawyer told her about the interviews the next day for the two morning shows, dateline, and 20/20. She called us in and we helped her with the rest of the laundry because we were supposed to fly out early Friday morning. This way we could get ready for the flight and get a couple of hours sleep."
"Did you stay in New York?"
"Only last Thursday night since we had the interview on the Talk and later the one that aired last night on CBS. We had interviews early the following morning on the morning shows so they put us up in a motel for the night because by the time we got back to the school it would have been time to leave again for the next interviews. So we were able to get a few hours sleep at the motel before our interviews."
"Did you go to all those interviews by yourself?" Andrew asks, worried about 'his' kids being alone in New York.
"No, Principal Madison went to them with us, and he took us sightseeing while we were in New York before or after our interviews then we flew back to the school."
"Why do you still call him Principal Madison, you're not in school anymore?" Aaron asks.
"For the same reason Mom and Dad still call their teachers Mr or Mrs, it's just the polite thing to do. And even though we graduated, we're still living on the school grounds and he still feels like he's our Principal. If he told us to do something, we'd be partway through it before we even thought about it."
Aaron and Adam nod. "What did you see while you were in New York?"
"The first day we went to MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art." Alan says at the boys looks. "We spent hours there. Our second round of interviews, we went to that big library with the lions in front. Josette took her camera and we all got pictures of us on the lions. Wednesday we didn't have any interviews but we went to David's hometown for complete physicals, we also got our textbooks that day. Thursday we went to the Statue of Liberty before our interviews and Friday we went to Times Square after our interviews, did some shopping, then came home."
"Did you meet many of the news personnel during your interviews?" Alice asks wistfully and Abby grins and hands over a gift bag that she'd brought down and had hidden behind her back. Her three older children watches as she opens the bag and unwraps the first book.
"Oh!" she holds a hand to her mouth, nearly crying.
"The children got me Diane Sawyer's autograph."
"Josette said she had to go to the office after class the day after our first interview, we didn't know it at the time but that's when the school was telling her that she had a student loan in default and couldn't take her finals. We went to a mall while we were waiting for her to get out and the girls brought the first autograph book in the hopes that Ms. Sawyer would still be there when we returned. She was and Josette asked her for her autograph for you while we were flying to New York, she took the book with her and got us some more autographs for you at ABC while we were being interviewed." Alan says.
Alice turns pages and looks at all the autographs. "When we went to NBC for our other interview, Ms. Sawyer turned the book over to Ms. Kotb and she got us interviews from the people at NBC."
"Oh my babies, this is one of the best gifts you could have gotten me." She puts the precious book and bag on the table next to her before she hugs her daughters and oldest son.
"Mom, there's another book in the bag." Anna smiles. She stares at the three of them and opens the tissue paper on the second book, reading the autographs. "We got the second book. . .and a third one just in case, after we got the letters that the university was asking us to leave school and then our false grades, we thought we'd probably need them."
"Were you paid for your interviews?" Adam asks. "One of the girls in high school says that people can charge a lot of money for their interviews."
"We were reimbursed for our time yes, but we didn't charge anybody for our interviews." Anna says slowly.
"So you got money for being on tv?" Aaron asks.
"Some, which is nice because us traveling back and forth for interviews really put a damper on Josette's shifts at the laundry. Since nobody stepped up to want the job at the laundry, Josette's been doing it all herself. When we got in late at night Principal Madison told her she could do that day's laundry the next day, so she was doing two nights worth of laundry a couple of nights there. The night after our first interview we helped her but the night that the students demonstrated and the police had them arrested and the news crew attacked? She did it all by herself and Wednesday night she did two nights of laundry by herself. She was doing two nights worth of work and only getting paid for one night, so the money we got really helped her out." Nooooo, they aren't going to tell their parents how much money they'd really been paid for their appearances.
"Were you glad to be back at the school?" Andrew asks.
"Gods yes Dad, I don't know how anybody does this for a living. Like Principal Madison said, he was exhausted and all he did was stand and watch us. Josette danced when we got back to the dorm Friday night because we didn't have any more interviews and yesterday morning she said that she'd hugged her cats so much that night, they were hiding from her."
Andrew chuckles. "The day after Thanksgiving we went to Lowes and got a new Christmas tree for the dorm." He pulls a thumb drive from his pocket and his father takes it and turns on the computer, opening the files on it. "And we decorated it last night before we left."
"Looking good son, but your puppies are going to be getting in it if you don't. . . Oh I see you got a gate around the tree." His family gathers around him and looks at the tree and lights.
"Yeah, we knew we'd have to have something to keep them away from it. I'd be more worried about the cats but Josette's just looked at it and walked back to her room while Susan's kitten is more interested in his scratching post and kitten toys than the tree." Alan's phone beeps and he looks at it.
"Dad, open up the e-mail program, please? Josette just sent us an e-mail.
Alan gets into his account when his Dad lets him take the chair and his sisters gather behind him to read the message. Anna and Abby blink then collapse to the floor giggling. The puppies lap their faces and they hug them as Alan chuckles, shuts the program and lets his Dad take back the chair.
"Alan?" His mother asks, waving at his sisters on the floor.
"Josette just said that there's been a lot of interest in the school thanks to our interviews, Ms. Sawyer is returning this week for a series on the school to air to the ABC news. Only a small bit of the story will be on the news, the story and a tour of the school will be on the ABC website after the news goes off and on the school's website. The idiots are giggling because now its Principal Madison's turn to be on tv."
Alice knows it's mean but she cackles herself. The phone rings and Andrew answers it since his family is busy howling.
"Hello? Oh hello Mrs. Anderson, how can I help you?" The Principal of the school calling his Alice sobering up and looking at her two younger sons. They shake their heads quickly, they have no idea why she'd be calling.
"Alan, Abby, Anna, would you three be interested in talking at an assembly at school about the problems at University of Massachusetts--Boston and your experiences being interviewed on national tv?"
A couple days later the twins and Alan walk into the auditorium of the school, looking at the filled seats and people sitting on the steps and the floor in front of the seats. "The whole town must be here." Alan whispers. The girls grin and they take the stage.