When I got back to the house from Joyce’s, and after I had what’s become my regular morning swim without the kids around to distract me from getting a good workout, I went to Sandy’s office and knocked on the doorframe.
“Hunter!,” she said, looking up. “What brings you here?”
I don’t know why she looked so surprised, although it’s true that I don’t go by her office so much these days, mostly because I see her around the house all the time and I ask her any questions I have then.
“Well….,” I said, looking totally lameass, probably. “I need some advice about…”
“Wow,” Sandy said, “it must be serious. I’ve never seen you this tongue-tied. Out with it.”
“Ok,” I said, “I was hoping for some advice on how to approach Maya about something.”
“No, nothing like that. Maya’s being more than generous with me. It’s about Matteo and…”
“And you think they should send him back to school instead of homeschooling him?” She looked at me and figured out what I was thinking. “Don’t look so surprised. Everyone around here thinks the same thing…”
“…except Maya,” I added.
“And maybe Robert,” Sandy said. “Although in case you haven’t figured it out, Maya makes most of the decisions where the boys are concerned.”
“So what do we do? Or is there anything we can do? Is Maya gonna get pissed off if we say something.”
“She’s sure to get pissed off if we corner her and have an intervention. Wouldn’t you if a bunch of employees told you how to bring up your kid? But…”
“But maybe you could say something. Maya trusts you with the boys; she might trust your opinions about them as well. I can give you one piece of potentially useful information though: Dr. Peterson is leaving us at the end of the summer. He’s had enough of teaching kids.”
“I thought he liked the boys?”
“He does,” Sandy said, “but there are limits. Not everyone’s as good with kids as you are, Hunter. Dr. Peterson belongs in a world of adults. He’s landed a job editing a book. Something libertarian, if I understand correctly. He’s been with us since the quarantine began, and he thinks it’s time to move on. That means that, if they do decide to homeschool Matteo, they’re going to have to find another tutor. Not that that should be so difficult. I’m sure there are lots of people with advanced degrees who’d be happy to get the work.”
“Still,” I said, “it would be better if Matteo got to go to school like a normal kid. I think he can be a normal kid…although,” I added, feeling a little deflated, “I may be the only person who feels that way.”
“No, you’re in the non-voting majority,” Sandy said.
“But why did they make him lose the weight if they didn’t think that he was going to be better off that way at school?”
“Maybe because it would look good on TV?,” Sandy suggested.
I don’t think I can be that cynical, so I just let her comment stand and asked what Sandy thought would be a good occasion for me to talk to Maya.
“Don’t make her feel like you’re cornering her, so try to catch her in her office. She’s less likely to feel attacked if she’s on her own turf.”
I wasn’t expecting advice that practical, but I decided to take it. There’s also no time like the present, so I walked to the other side of the house, where Maya’s great big gold-framed office is located and knocked on her door frame.
“Maya…,” I started off, feeling super awkward. “Can I talk to you about something?”
“Sure, Hunter. Come in and sit down. What can I do you for?”
“Well…I don’t want you to think that I’m getting out of my place or anything,” I said as I took a seat and tried to look relaxed, “but…well…it’s about Matteo…and…”
“And you think he should go to school instead of being homeschooled now that schools are opening again?”
I came close to falling out of the chair.
“Don’t look so surprised,” she said, “I know what people are saying and thinking around here. And it’s not too hard to guess how you feel. Why else would you want to teach the boys to box if it wasn’t so Matteo could defend himself?”
Actually the boxing thing was Jacob’s idea, although, yeah, y’all know that getting Matteo to defend himself was one of the goals.
“The answer to your suggestion is that Robert and I are thinking about it very seriously. We’re not sure what to do. Especially now that Dr. Peterson is leaving us it’s not a done deal that we’ll homeschool Matteo. We’d have to find a qualified tutor for him for starters, and that would take a lot of interviewing for which we don’t have a lot of time. School starts two weeks from Monday. I can tell you that we did sign Matteo up for school this year, so we’ve kept our options open. We can always send him to school at the beginning of the year and see what happens…which actually is the direction in which we’re leaning. We can always take him out of school and homeschool him, but, if he is going to go to school, he should start the year with the other kids. Dropping him into school after it’s started is just going to put a bullying target on his back.”
That made a lot of sense.
“Do you know how Matteo feels about going back to school?,” Maya then asked me.
“I reckon he’s stressing out because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him,” I answered.
“Do you think you can sound him out to see just how he’d feel about going back?,” Maya asked. “And let me know what he’s thinking?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said. I didn’t love the idea of talking to Matteo and reporting back to his parents, since I didn’t want to do anything to spoil Matteo’s trust in me, but, on the other hand, Maya is his mother, and I reckon that part of taking care of kids is letting the parents in on what the kids are feeling. I’m still new to this, y’all should remember.
“It’s a good feeling that you care about Matteo and want what’s best for him,” Maya said. “Feel free to come and talk to me about him anytime.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling super relieved as I turned to go. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of myself in the huge floor-length mirror Maya has in her office. Keaton thinks it’s gayass of me not to be able to walk past a mirror without looking at myself, but I dare anyone to go into Maya’s office and not look at themselves in at least one of the gold-framed mirrors she’s got all over the place.
So my talk with Maya meant I had to have a talk with Matteo. I figured I’d do that when we were working out in the gym later in the afternoon.