When Charlotte signed the petition, she figured that was the end of it. Students were forever seeking signatures to change school policies, most of which would never see the light of day. The principal was fond of issuing a “Thank you very much” and sealing the offending document in the bottom drawer of his file cabinet. It was a mere seven weeks into tenth grade, and Charlotte had already signed half a dozen petitions on everything from improved cafeteria food to allowing students to roam the halls without passes (after all, what student would bother staying out in the open when cutting class?). It didn’t matter whether or not she believed in the cause; she was doing her duty to her fellow students.
Of course, in this case, she actually did support the petition. Which was why it came as a complete shock that Mr. Vanderburgh planned to hold a forum for the students to present their arguments.
Morton Ponds wasn’t known for its high-quality health education. In the previous ten years, there had been six different teachers. Students had complained, parents had complained (not usually about the same things), and even Mr. Vanderburgh had grown weary of the debates. The student petition was merely the last straw. Everyone needed to actually talk to each other about the problem rather than calling him once a year to complain about the new hire. It helped that both Regina Crossly, the latest health teacher, and Nan Molomo, the assistant principal, were on board with making a few changes. Mr. Vanderburgh knew an opportunity when he saw one.
That, of course, was how Charlotte became involved. Mr. Vanderburgh had the good sense to see a local minister’s daughter’s name on the petition and take advantage of that. After all, if a man of the cloth was endorsing improvements in the “health” (read: sex) education curriculum, surely others would follow. No one had ever accused Mr. Vanderburgh of being courageous; he wasn’t above pressing any and all advantages.
The problem with that reasoning was that Charlotte’s father had no idea she’d signed the petition, nor did he have any investment in the cause.
Meanwhile, word was spreading rapidly through the school. The students who had fronted the whole operation were advocating for not only an improved curriculum but the availability of certain services within the school—chiefly pregnancy tests and free condoms. Naturally, Charlotte somehow became associated with all of it, guaranteeing herself a spot at the center of the upcoming presentation. She took a good amount of teasing for that; her classmates sensed the irony in the pastor’s kid advocating free birth control for teenagers. Unfortunately, that extended to unwanted suggestions regarding her vagina. When the third person made a rude comment to her, Charlotte returned it with her best right hook.
Ten minutes later, she was sitting in Ms Molomo’s office with the offending boy. Charlotte didn’t even know his name. He had an ice pack over his eye.
“I’m surprised at your behavior, Charlotte. What would possess you to punch someone?”
“He offered to let me give him a blow job behind the field house and told me he’d bring the condoms.” Charlotte glared at him. “Said they come in cherry flavor now.”
Ms Molomo raised an eyebrow at him. The boy scowled and slouched in his seat. “It was just a joke.”
“It wasn’t funny!” Charlotte snapped.
Ms Molomo massaged her forehead. “Charlotte, I really can’t condone violence—”
Ms Molomo put up her hand. “I understand why you felt threatened, but there are consequences for your actions. In place of suspension, you are on probation for the foreseeable future. As for you,” she addressed the boy, “you will be enjoying a week of in-school suspension, during which you will be spending a lot of time researching misogyny and sexualized violence against women.”
Charlotte stalked out of Ms Molomo’s office. The probation meant very little; Charlotte wasn’t much for making trouble, and she was an excellent student. All of her extracurricular activities were outside of school, so there was nothing to be suspended from. The only problem was that Ms Molomo would be calling her parents. Charlotte dreaded the end of the school day.
There was no one home when Charlotte entered the house. Tyler was probably at practice, and Colby had classes; she didn’t know—and didn’t care—where Helen was. She dropped her bag and headed to the bathroom. It had been just her luck that she’d also started her period that afternoon because there was nothing better to add to a lousy day than cramps.
And a distinct lack of pads in the bathroom.
Remembering that her mother kept some in the bedroom for emergencies, Charlotte went upstairs. She rummaged in her mother’s dresser, searching. She didn’t come up with so much as a lone tampon, but right underneath the neatly folded nightgowns were a variety of. . .objects, all labeled with a company name. The only thing Charlotte could identify were the vibrators. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
She heard a noise behind her and turned around, shoving the drawer with her foot. “I was just looking for pads,” she said before her mother could speak.
Joy sighed and shook her head. “Just don’t tell your father, okay?”
“Uh. . .okay. What is all that stuff for, anyway?”
Flushing, Joy muttered, “I sell it.”
“Mom!” Then, “To whom?”
Joy shrugged. “Women at church.”
Charlotte giggled. “I promise not to tell Dad about the vibrators if you promise not to tell him I decked a boy for asking me to suck him off.”
“Fair enough.” Joy extended her hand, and they shook on it.
She snagged a package of pads from a shelf in the closet and handed it to Charlotte. “Want to help me make dinner? We need to eat early because of that meeting at the school tonight.”
“Sure.” Charlotte decided not to mention that Mr. Vanderburgh thought her father endorsed the sex ed campaign; she decided it would be better just to let her parents handle that one themselves.