"Why are we stopping?" Alan asks as Josette stops paddling.
"David, you've got the underwater camera." Josette points at the ocean nearby. "That doesn't look like a natural formation down there, does it?" David and Alexander pull their canoe up close and look down.
"No it doesn't. . ." She grabs the camera and a rebreather Alexander hands her and flips backwards over the side of the boats David and Alan are holding together, swimming down as far as she can and start taking pictures.
"We've got to look into some scuba equipment." Alexander says absently. David nods.
Josette comes back to the surface, David taking the camera and putting it in the mesh bag tied to the side of the boat as she pulls herself into the other canoe.
"Want me to make a note of this location?"
"Yeah, there's an island nearby. I'd like to look it over, we can bring out a marker for that too." They start back to the island, pulling the canoes up onto the beach and into the hut before gutting the fish and burying everything they won't eat. Up by the fire, Susan wraps them in leaves and vines that had been soaking all day and putting them in a pan that goes in the coals.
"Josette, what are you doing?" Alan asks as she picks up a rock on the island.
"I swear there's writing on this." She brushes away the dirt. "I think somebody was here once." She takes pictures of the rock once it's brushed clean.
"Okay, I'm joining Josette in la-la land. I think this one has writing on it too." Susan picks up a rock. It's cleaned off and Josette takes more pictures. The others shrug and start looking, each of them finding a rock with what they think is writing.
"Damn it." Josette curses as her feet slide out from under her and she hits the ground...and her head.
"Are you hurt?" Alan asks, he and David crouching next to her. Between the two of them they pick her up off the ground. Alan feels her head. "I don't feel a bump."
"Only my pride." Josette grumbles as they finish walking to the dining hall.
Josette wrinkles her nose the next morning when she picks the bacon up from her tray, putting it on Abby's plate. The others look at her. "Are you okay?"
"For some reason the smell of meat is making me queasy."
Principal Madison puts down his napkin and walks over to the table.
"Are you okay?"
"I hit my head last night."
Josette grumbles as she comes back from town after visiting the hospital with Principal Madison. "You okay?" Susan asks.
"Yes, the doctor agrees that there's no concussion, and there's no way I'm having the next messiah so that lets out a virgin birth. I'm not actually urping, there's no real smell to meat to make me sick."
"It's just something in your head."
"Yeah. I'll just be eating more vegetables and other stuff." She starts emptying the bags from the grocery store, putting a meal in her microwave.
"That smells awful." Susan wrinkles her nose.
"Yeah, it doesn't taste any better." Josette sighs. Finishing the meal she puts the dish in the sink to wash and gets online, looking up vegetarian cookbooks she orders.
"Ladies, how many vegetarian meals do you make?" Principal Madison asks in the dining hall.
"We have at least one main dish every meal that is vegetarian, not counting soups. Why? Are we getting complaints?"
"No, but Josette hit her head and she says the smell of meat is making her queasy. I'd like to add at least one more vegetarian choice to our menus."
"We can do that."
"Okay people, you heard the man. We needed to work on the next couple weeks menus anyway."
"Josette, you're losing weight." Professor Druid sighs a couple weeks later.
"I know. The doctor gave me a couple boxes of those meal replacement drinks and cases of the bars, I've been eating as much as I can. . .the school was wonderful about making more vegetarian meals, and I can force myself to eat the vegetarian...stuff at the store."
"That crap is awful." A knock on the door has both of them turning. "Alan?"
"Here, try this." He puts down a large jar on the counter after Professor Druid has let him come into the room. He opens it, giving it a stir then ladling out a bowl that he warms in the microwave. "Anna called Mom, this is the special recipe of an old family friend who's a vegetarian." Alan hands over a piece of paper to Professor Druid as Josette takes her first sip and sighs.
"There's a couple 'rules' about this soup. If you make a double batch you only use half again as much spices and you always put the leftovers up pickle jars. It doesn't taste the same otherwise. The twins are talking to the dining hall about pickle jars. . ." A knock on the door brings Abby with a dozen large jars floating behind her that go in a cabinet.
"Thank you Alan."
"Josette can't afford to lose any more weight." Abby says as she starts looking through Josette's drawers, cabinets, and refrigerator. "According to the nutritionists, people *need* the protein from meat to survive, they're not meant to live on a vegetarian diet. Yes, you can get a reasonable amount of protein from other sources but not somebody with as high a metabolism as Josette."
Professor Druid nods. "Now you wanted to talk to me about something Josette?"
"My printer is acting up, I'm afraid it's going to go up one day."
"We have extra printers at the bookstore." She says slowly.
"Yes, and I've looked at them and at the superstore. I know the one I really want. . ."
"Go ahead and get it then. Is it in town?"
"No, it's in Boston. But it's on the way to and from the dentist, I can stop on the way in or out. I just need a note."
"Your appointment is Tuesday, right?"
"Okay, I'll give the driver a note."
A couple days later Josette starts to lift a box out of the back of the shuttle, the driver chuckling as he picks it up and carries it to the door. Josette grabs the bag and her keys, letting him inside.
"Where do you want it?"
"The table for now, I have to clear out the other one. Durn thing died on me last night."
"Put the old one out front when you get the new one set up, maintenance can look it over and if it's kaput we'll take it to a place that recycles electronics."
Abby leans in the door and grins. "New printer?"
"Yeah, the old one has been acting up and died the other night. I'd been looking at the ones at the bookstore and in town but didn't like any of them. I did like this one when I saw reviews online and went looking to see where I could get it. A store in Boston had them and I got a note from Professor Druid to let me stop and get one when I went to the dentist. Good thing, the old one went up last night."
Abby shakes her head. "Yep."
"Putting it out front, Maintenance is going to look it over and if it's trash take it to the electronics recycling place." Abby nods and floats it out the door.
"Anything new?" Principal Madison asks at the staff meeting. "I'm going to be gone most of the day at the tax auction."
"Killingmesoftly has a lot of homes that are going up for auction. I'm looking into buying some cheaply to flip. Or I should say the *government* is looking at houses to buy and flip with the school as the middleman. I'm already in contact with local crews to do the renovations if we get them."
"For gods sake *why*?" Professor Ziegler sighs. "I know the government throws money around like it's going out of style. . ."
"They're hoping to open one of the closed factories outside town for a special project. They're figuring with plenty of housing on hand they'll be able to bring in specialists."
"And what happens when the project ends and we have all the unemployment again?" Professor Fletcher snorts.
"We're talking the government, they'll come to that when it happens. Hopefully calmer heads prevail and they bring in jobs. And *keep* them in the area. And we're close enough to Boston to commute."
Joyce blinks as her boss comes back only a couple hours after he left. "Only a handful of people were there and they were there only for three parcels. The people in charge just looked at me when they left and I was able to get what we wanted for just the back taxes with the government's money. I've got appointments over the next couple days to look over everything with the city and the owner of a construction company."
"Don't people have a year to redeem their homes before you can do anything?"
"Yeeeesssss, but since a good number of these homes have been abandoned for years the city is waiving that requirement. Of course they have *nnnnnnoooooo* idea why the school outside of town . . .which they don't *really* want to admit exists is buying so many homes."
Joyce rolls her eyes. "Of course not. Some of those homes should have been torn down, not sold at auction."
"Yeeessss, I've got a list that are to be torn down and replaced with double wide trailers the government picked up *somewhere*."
"I hope they don't leave us holding the bag."
"Nope, the school lawyers already went over the contracts before we agreed. They *have* to renovate or tear down the homes, since we're a school *and* the homes were purchased by the government there's no taxes. . ."
"Going to be complaints about *that*." Professor Ziegler snorts.
"Yes, but they're not getting taxes on them *now*. . .*and* they hope that with construction on neighboring houses it will make homeowners work on their own homes."
"Having the worst home in the neighborhood become the best one will make tongues wag."
"Yep, and old fools flock to try to stop them. Because of *course* they're the ultimate authority on *everything* and should have been consulted first." Joyce snorts. Professor Fletcher. . .who'd walked into the office a few seconds ago laughs and nods.
Josette and the others look over at Principal Madison when they stay after dinner like he'd requested.
"Okay kids, I'll let you go after a few minutes. I know you're busy with the new semester starting. Josette, this is going to affect you the worse. . .I just got a letter saying you weren't chosen for the scholarship you applied for."
Josette's head falls to the table as she tries not to cry. Various hands touch her back and head, the others wrapping her in a mental hug. /We'll pay for your schooling./ Alexander, Michael, and Susan say in unison.
"Now that I have the bad news out of the way. . .the good news is that your scholarship loan *will* continue on for your university classes. I know it's hard news, but it's better you learned now before you applied for university. Yes Alan, you and the twins too."
"Th. . .Thank you Principal Madison. Like you said, it's good to know now before I applied to university and learned I didn't have any money." Josette says quietly, making mental plans to put more money away for her university classes. She'll have to tighten her belt and only put a quarter of her check in her savings.
He pats her on the shoulder again and lets them head off. As they walk off he can hear Michael and Susan promising to help and the others out with money.
"Guys, I can't ask you to pay for my schooling." Josette complains as they walk to the girls dorm.
/Josette, we *have* the money. We might not look it but we're *millionares* thanks to our shows./ Alexander says over their mental link. Michael nods as the others look at them. Josette drops her keys to the back door and Alexander chuckles and unlocks it for her. /We can *easily* afford to pay for *all* our schooling and make the money back at our next show. Google Madison and Jalex when you get inside, I think you might find something interesting./
Susan snorts mentally and out loud. "I can go out an extra day and bet on a few more races. I *always make more money than I need for the next semester when I go to the track." Susan scowls a second. "I gotta start putting money away for *my* schooling anyway, as well as the senior trip next year."
"Did you tell them?" Professor Druid asks when he walks into the board room for the first teacher meeting of the semester.
"Yes, thankfully the bank agreed that the scholarship loans could be rolled over for university classes. Not just for Josette but for the twins and Alan also."
"Nobody had a reason to worry about them before now." Professor Ziegler says. "I can see more students making plans for higher education once that becomes public knowledge."
True to his words the scholarship loan students start talking about university when Principal Madison makes the announcement the next morning.
Josette is waved up to the front of the dining hall a few days later. The others look at her when she returns to the table.
"Big news. They figure next year the first two floors will be full and we'll have students on the third floor if the student numbers stay the same." Abby and Anna nod, they'd been expecting it. "The school is going to be building a new dorm, a bigger one. Five floors instead of three and twenty-four rooms on each floor with a larger bathroom between two rooms."
"Just the girls?"
"The boys are going to have one after the girls dorm is finished, we've got more females boarding right now." Around them girls at the other tables start talking.
"ADA compliant?" David asks.
"Yes, the old buildings were grandfathered in from the time the school used to be a college but as the buildings are renovated they had to meet the new regulations." David nods. "The biggest part of that is bigger doors for wheelchair access and an elevator."
"Which is needed with some of the girls who bring *everything* from home with them to school." Susan snorts, having seen the *multiple* trips up the stairs by the new students once they've selected a room. The other girls snigger but nod.
"They're going to have rooms on each floor instead of having people run up and down the stairs."
"Okay, applications to university?"
"Applying for pre-admittance as soon as they start taking applications." Josette says, the others nod. "Since we're applying for pre-admittance we should hear back from them right away, even if it *is* a state university."
"Now we just need to think about housing when we get accepted."
Up front Principal Madison's lips twitch into a small smile. Professor Fletcher looks at him.
"The kids talking about having to find housing when they're accepted into university."
"When are you telling them that the dorm is theirs as soon as the students move into the new dorm?"
"As soon as they get accepted, they're applying for pre-admittance so they *should* be hearing from the school this summer."
"Did that fool woman sue like she said she would?"
"Yes, and the judge told her to grow the hell up. She signed the paperwork for her daughter's room and board and it doesn't matter *what* some fool judge says on a 'reality' court show, she can't make us accept three hundred a month for room and board because *he* says no young teen needs more than *that*. She tried getting *him* to appear for her to *prove* the school doesn't *need* that kind of money and was told to grow the hell up. She huffed off and screamed when her soon to be ex-husband slapped her with divorce papers. . .now she has to pay her *own* bllls."
"Couldn't happen to a nicer fool." Professor Ziegler says from down the table. "Lemme guess. . .second wife?"
"Yep, and the kids are from his first marriage. He's taking money out of *her* pocket for the kids education."
"God hope she never has kids. . .or if she does the other parent takes custody of them."
"Amen. For every second marriage that works out and the other parent *loves* the kids like they were their own. . .there's fools like that. And it's not just women."
"Are you *stupid*? No, you can't call me up and *demand* that I give the valedictorian position in next year's graduating class to whomever *you* want because you think you're *special*." Principal Madison rips the now gabbling puffed up peacock of a government employee to *shreds* and puts in a complaint to his boss.
"Are you goddamn *stupid*?" His boss asks icily in an office the following day. "You calling up a school demanding that the student *you* want be made valedictorian of next year's graduating class even though his grades are nowhere good enough to be valedictorian."
"But I didn't *know* that." He whines.
"Did you even bother to *look* at her record or just recognized his name and started rubbing your hands together in glee?"
"This. . .this isn't my honor Principal Madison. . .this should go to Josette. We *all* know that she's got the best grades in the entire school, let alone our class."
"Your grades are the best of the remaining students and Josette. . ."
"Doesn't have anybody so she doesn't feel the need to attend graduation?"