Back to School

So the first day of school is here, and, yes, Matteo’s going back. If he turns out to have trouble, they can always bring him back home and get him another tutor. That’s Maya’s reasoning, and, although I don’t get a vote (like Joyce has said a million times), I think it’s the right decision.

The decision was right down to the wire: it wasn’t until last Wednesday that Maya and Robert finally made up their minds. That gave us very little time to get the boys ready for school, since Maya put off shopping with Jacob until she was sure that she’d need to take Matteo along. I wasn’t part of the trip to the Santa Anita Mall, but I was in on the boys’ choice of free Nikes and ordered them some Dodger gear to wear to school. (Matteo doesn’t really care about los Doyers, but I think it’s gonna help make him look more ‘normal’ if he wears a Dodgers tshirt to school once in a while.) I was also in charge of taking them to Target to get school supplies. Jacob was so excited about getting to see his friends again that he kept saying that stuff like binders and filler paper were cool. Matteo, who usually loves the school supplies aisle, was a lot quieter when we went on Saturday.

It looks like one of my new jobs now that the boys won’t be home all day is to make sure they’re up in the morning and then drive them to school in the Maybach. It’s barely a 10 minute drive straight down California Boulevard to their school (no, they don’t go to Cal Tech, although Matteo’s smart enough to go there one of these days), so I don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn to get them to school ontime. I don’t exactly love mornings, but I can get up at 7 with no trouble, and, since the windows of the car are tinted, I can afford to be what Joyce calls “tousled” when dropping the boys off.

Maya came with us on Monday, although the cameras didn’t. It was decided that we’d let the boys face their first day without the added stress of the cameras and we could film the next day as though it were the first day. Nobody watching at home is going to know the difference.

The boys’ mood at breakfast and in the car was kinda apprehensive, even Jacob’s, but, then, he hasn’t been to school since March of last year, and I remember getting pretty anxious myself on the first day of school. Jacob was just kinda quiet in the back seat, while Matteo was visibly a whole lot more nervous, but I reckon that was to be expected.

Once we got to the school, everything was fine with Jacob, since one of his buddies was getting dropped off right in front of us and, from the looks of it, they picked up right where they left off when they last saw each other. Matteo wasn’t so lucky, so he got out of the car and walked into school by himself, looking pretty lost.

“I hope we made the right decision,” Maya said, as we drove off, both of us feeling kinda bad for Matteo.

Once we were free of the traffic snarl the line of cars dropping kids off created, I asked Maya flat out what she wanted me to do during the days now that the boys weren’t going to be around full-time.

“I’m thinking about it,” was her answer. “Would you mind taking care of the pool, for starters?”

“Oh sure,” I said. “The guy who’s been doing it does a lousy job anyway. Whenever there’s a dead bee in the pool Matteo gets hysterical, so I end up having to use the skimmer every day anyway. I don’t know about chlorine, but I’m sure I can learn. That’s what the internet is for.”

“We’ll get someone to show you, don’t worry.” I guess she doesn’t trust the internet lol. “Otherwise what we were thinking was developing a segment on the show that would be all yours. Something to do with sports, obviously.”

“Like an exercise segment?”

“We’re not sure. You should think about it…and we’ll have a meeting with Robert and Jean-Francois later this week. You’re so popular with viewers that it’s a no-brainer to give you more air time.”

“I’m flattered,” I stammered. It was nice that they trusted me, but I’m not sure that I really wanted more TV exposure. Still, TV exposure was the way to keep a roof over my head, and people have gone along with a whole lot worse things than that in order to have a nice place to live.

I had a totally quiet day once I got back to the house. I felt a little guilty just swimming and sitting by the pool, but that’s honestly all I had to do. I didn’t realize how busy the boys kept me until I didn’t have them around. I did look up chlorine on the internet, and maybe it is a little more complicated than I thought it was going to be lol. Sandy caught up with me after lunch and told me that she’s arranged for someone to come and show me the pool boy ropes and take me to the pool supply store. (I gotta admit that, even with all the time I’ve spent in the water, I never realized that there were such things as pool supply stores.)

I reckon it was to be expected that I found myself missing the boys. I mean…they were the main reason I was living at the Sharpmans’, so not having them around after having them around all the time was kinda weird and strangely quiet. There was no Dr. Peterson either, so it felt pretty unfamiliar when I went into the kitchen at lunchtime and sat all by myself at the breakfast table. Belen brought me one of her bombass Mexican sandwiches and a Mexican Coke. That was a sure sign that the boys weren’t around, since, although they’re allowed coke, they don’t get to have it every day, and never with meals. We drink either one of those Mexican sweet teas or horchata with lunch and dinner. Actually while I was in the kitchen Belen was making a big pitcher of jamaica, I reckoned for dinner. So she was off her usual schedule today too. A house really is different when you’re used to having children around the place.

Not that the boys were gone for too long. Not doing anything makes you sleepy, so I took a nap after lunch and figured I would hit the gym after that and before it was time to go pick up the boys. Turns out I slept for two hours solid and nearly missed getting up in time to go get Jacob and Matteo. I was still in board shorts from the morning, so I just threw on a tshirt and flip flops and ran out to the car.

I made it on time…so it wasn’t like they were left sitting in the schoolyard waiting for someone to remember to pick them up. Actually it was kinda annoying having to sit in a long line of slow-moving expensive cars waiting, although you can’t say that it’s uncomfortable sitting in a Maybach SUV listening to AM 540 and wishing they’d talk more about the Dodgers and less about basketball lol. I gotta do some research about Sirius, which the car gets, and find out what kinds of country stations there are to listen to since it looks like I’m going to be driving it every day. (Although Robert usually drives the Maybach, I guess it’s kind of becoming the boys’ car, if that doesn’t sound too crazy. Robert’s got a Tesla of his own and Maya – for when she has to drive – has a Mercedes.)

I gotta admit that driving the Maybach makes me very nervous, although I might as well enjoy it…it’s a whole lot more car than I’m gonna be able to afford in this lifetime lol.

I was obviously super curious to hear about the first day of school. The boys looked ok when they clambered into the back seat. I let them strap themselves in and I then figured out how to negotiate getting around a BMW that was still waiting for a kid or something. I know I’m gonna get the hang of taking the boys to school, but it’s gonna take a couple trips to figure it all out. And, remember, I was trying to maneuver a car I was scared shitless of fucking up.

So it wasn’t until we were safely on California Boulevard that I asked the boys how their first day was.

Like I expected, Jacob was the first one to speak up.

“Great, except for having to wear these lameass masks all the time. Do you know they made us wear them outside at recess and lunch?”

“That’s pretty dang lameass, cowboy,” I said. And it was. “Was it good seeing your buddies again?”

“Awesome,” he said.

“He already got in trouble,” Matteo said.

“It was totally retarded,” he said. “All I was doing was talking in class. But,” he added in his own defense, “I had a lot to catch up on with my friend Danny. I haven’t seen him in 18 months! But she gave me extra homework for tonight. We’ve got a meanass math teacher.”

“Lanugage, cowboy.”

“Sorry. But she is mean.”

“Just watch it, cowboy. I don’t want to end up in the principal’s office because of you. I ended up there enough when I was in school.”

“What did you used to do that was so bad?”

“I was always getting into fights,” I explained, “and, at my school, although it was totally lame, it was the boy who ended the fight who got in trouble.”

“That’s retarded.”

“Yeah, but I’m sure that policy’s no different in your school,” especially in these days where everything is so fucked up and they let dudes play girls’ sports. “So don’t go testing the waters.

“How was your day, dude?,” I asked, looking for Matteo in the rear view mirror. “Get into any trouble of your own?”

“Nope,” he said. Matteo usually talks a lot, so it was weird that that was all he had to say about it.

In fact that was all he said all the way home. Once we got back to the house I told them to go put on swimming gear since it was a super hot day and the pool was definitely the place to be. Jacob was in a real good mood – like running cannonball into the deep end good mood – so I let him have some fun while I kept an eye on him and tried to get Matteo to tell me about his first day back at school.

“It was ok, Hunter.”

“That’s it? Dude, you have a house full of people worried about how you’re going to handle school again after 18 months…and ‘ok’ is the best you can give me?”

He held his hands out in a gesture that I couldn’t help but smile at.

“But that’s all it was…ok. Nothing bad happened, if that’s what you’re worried about. Nobody bullied me. But nothing good happened, either. I didn’t make any new little friends, if that’s what you were hoping I’d say.” There was the sarcastic side again.

“Of course I was hoping you’d make friends,” I said, “but you don’t make best friends in one day. What about sports? Did anyone notice all the improvements you’ve made?”

“Some improvement,” he said, “half the kids are still faster than me.”

“Ha!,” I said, “half of them. But not all of them, right? You didn’t finish dead last?”

“No, I didn’t. I was in the middle of the pack.”

“That’ll trickle down, you’ll see,” I said, having some faith in my own teaching. “Wasn’t not finishing last a good feeling?” He didn’t say anything. “C’mon, dude,” I urged him.

“Yeah…I guess it was. I told you, everything was ok. The teachers seemed nice enough, nobody bullied me, I didn’t finish dead last in the 40 yard dash…and I sat all by myself at lunch. It’s hot out here…can I get in the pool?”

“Sure,” I said, shrugging. I guess I liked the idea that Matteo would tell me all about school and thought that he would…but clearly he wasn’t in a mood to talk. That meant that either something bad happened and he was keeping it to himself, or that things were more or less ok. I didn’t want to give him a third-degree, especially as I knew Maya and Robert would be all over him with questions when they got home.

So we just spent the afternoon in the pool, swimming and playing with the pool toys. I reckoned that the first day of school was a lot for Jacob and Matteo to process and that it wasn’t the day for organized athletics. Besides, it was hot as fuck, so it made sense to let them blow off some steam while they were cooling off. We were outside for around an hour; I let them decide when they had enough and thought it was time to go inside.

We met up again at dinner, although I only had a glass of horchata to drink since I had a big dinner ahead of me: today’s Adam’s sobriety anniversary and the whole team was getting together at Buca di Beppo later on. Matteo was still not volunteering any information about his day, and I didn’t try to get anything more out of him. Belen asked them both how their first day was, but Matteo wasn’t opening up to her, either. I’m no expert in child psychology, but I think the right thing to do was to let Matteo have his space. If anything really bad had happened, he would have said something…or we would have heard something from the school (in which case, Jacob would probably have known about it, too.)

Even with Matteo not talking much and me not eating, we still had a leisurely dinner, and it wasn’t until 7 that the boys went upstairs to do their homework. I felt a little bad leaving them on their first night of school, but they said they had plenty to keep them busy and they’d see me at breakfast. Now that they were getting out, I reckon they felt that I should get out some too lol.

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