“It’s ok,” said the girl, setting her books on the counter. “I’m home-schooled.”
The librarian would not have even considered the girl’s age at the time of day until the girl herself drew attention to it. But it couldn’t be denied. She was the only girl in the library on what was a weekday afternoon.
The girl wore glasses that covered most of her face, a conservatively-cut dress, and hair that almost reached her waist. The librarian looked much the same.
“Do you have some identification that proves you’re home-schooled?” said the librarian.
“No,” said the girl. “I could call my mom.”
The librarian waited, conveying a growing sense that she and the girl had reached a problem and that it was the girl’s responsibility to either solve it or to suffer from it.
“Do you know it is illegal to skip school?” the librarian said.
“Do you know I could call the police?”
“But I don’t think that’s necessary. Rodney?”
The security guard stepped forward from the sliding glass doors.
“Rodney, could you escort this young lady back to class?”
“What school do you go to?” said Rodney.
The librarian looked back at her screen for the girl’s date of birth. “She’s in seventh grade. Take her back to Jefferson.”
Rodney held out his hand, not yet grasping the girl’s elbow, but ready. She left the books she wanted to checkout on the counter and followed Rodney to his car.
Not being a policeman, Rodney’s car was not a police car. Nevertheless, he had the girl sit in the back.
“Is the student entrance on Brick or Adams?” he said.
“I don’t know,” said the girl.
He found a visitor space in the parking lot and, hand on her shoulder, walked her into the building. She winced at the smell of the lockers. They were halfway down the corridor when the bell rang, and students poured out of the classrooms, rushing at Rodney and the girl from all sides.
“What period is it now?” he said.
“I don’t know.”
“What class are you normally in right now?”
“My mom does…it depends.”
Rodney eyed a classroom with beakers and Bunsen burners on the desks. “Do you take science?”
The girl raised her shoulders.
“Well, this one looks like a laboratory. Where do you sit?”
“I don’t have a seat.”
Rodney began to suggest a seat in the back but was stopped by an administrator, who, passing by, did not recognize Rodney’s uniform.
“Are you this young lady’s father?” said the administrator, in large glasses and hair that almost reached her waist.
“This young lady?” said Rodney, laughing. “No, no, no. If this young lady lived in my home, I’d be sure she went to school.”
The administrator told him he would either have to receive a pass from the office or leave the building.
“Oh, I’ll just be here another minute, no need for a pass.”
At that, the administrator called on her walkie-talkie for a security guard to escort Rodney off the premises.
The girl did take a seat in the back, and soon students took their places around her. They did not speak to her or look at her, but the teacher called her by her last name and asked her to summarize the reading.