2008-01-06: Conference


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Dezi couldn't make the parent-teacher conference. So Ramon does.

Date It Happened:

Jan 6


Lee's Classroom

Lee's parent-teacher conferences are after school in his antique but no longer neglected classroom. Now it looks merely well-worn and studious, the wood paneling polished, there's even a bust of James Madison and a globe. How can you go wrong with a bust of James Madison and a globe? He puts his head out as one set of well-dressed parents leaves and calls out, reading from a list: "Ah, Ms. Russo?"

It's not Ms. Russo who comes in. Ramon steps in. "She's sick," he says. "I'm here." As if him being here weren't obvious enough. He enters the room and eyes the bust of James Madison with a rather perplexed squint, as if wondering if this is someone he should know about. Then he shrugs and looks around for a place to sit down; preferably one where he won't have to squeeze.

Lee looks at Ramon with a degree of horror. "Oh…wait…are you…how are you related to Portia?" he says with an apparent sinking feeling. Apparently she didn't mention she had an impending stepfather, and he's not on Lee's list. Lee waggles his red pencil in his fingers nervously.

Ramon finally decides to stand as he gazes at the teacher. "She lives in my house," he says at last. "And I'm marrying her mother. That makes me more or less her step father." As soon as they pick a date. He's not sure how Dezi wants to handle it. When he married Catalina, once he put the ring on her finger she kind of told him when they were getting married and he kind of made sure he was there. The wedding seemed to magically spring into place.

Lee says, "Oh. Well, all right, uh, no, that's fine, you can sit…Congratulations." he adds, in a tone that implies that to Portia and/or the elder Ms. Russo he would have said 'condolences'. The desks are well-made, if a bit on the small side for adults, especially adults of Lee's significant height. "Well, you've seen the progress reports, then?…" he says, beginning awkwardly. "Portia's an excellent student, one of my best." Not that this is setting the bar over-high with the collection of castoffs that Lee's been saddled with. "She's a good writer and pays attention in class. I don't think she really realizes how much some of the other kids look up to her. If she were more confident she could be a real leader for her peers. But I get the impression she likes being less visible."

Forced by common courtesy, there's this moment where Ramon is listening, even as he tries to squeeze into the desk. He is a big guy. He gets stuck. He immediately pulls back, and is still stuck, causing the desk to THUNK. He shoves in, and the desk THUNKS again and slams another desk. All the while he's trying to look dignified. "Portia's quiet," he rumbles in agreement. "Not everyone likes being," SLAM, "visible."

Lee is just as constricted, but he's ridiculously graceful about it, and doesn't even laugh at Ramon's crashing about. "I'd like to see her advocate for herself a little more. Often times during class debates she backs down or doesn't participate, although she's just as smart and prepared as anyone." he says, focusing on the papers in front of him. "And…socially, I do have a concern. I ran into her outside the Lair the other day and she was with some older boys. Young college age. She pretty much admitted to me that she led them to believe she was also in college. I told her I would tell her mother, so she should come clean first."

Keroof! Ramon manages to get inside the desk. For now, he's going to pretend to be unconcerned about how to get /out/. His single eye twitches as Lee reveals that bit of info. "Did you get the names and addresses of the boys?" He asks. "Anyone can look at her and see she's not in college." His fingers flex a little bit.

Lee says, "No, I confronted her about it, not them. I think you'd be surprised at how adept she is at steering a conversation and controlling a topic when she's motivated. The responsibility's hers. I take it from your response that she decided not to share this with you and Ms. Russo." He's very calm about it, our Lee.

"If she shared it with Dezi," Ramon allows, "Dezi hasn't told me yet. Probably because I'd want to know who the boys were so I could have a discussion with them about the merits and flaws of statutory rape." He crosses his arms, frowning. "She could have gotten really hurt. Did any of them smell like booze?"

Lee says, reassuringly, "It was the middle of the afternoon and I didn't see anything dangerous going on, or else I would have done something about it. I can't say anything about their intentions, of course, but at the time they seemed to be just friends having a conversation. I even overheard it - it was just casual stuff, music, the end of the semester, and so on. No booze, no drugs, nothing like that. They didn't even look that wild. Just a little old to be hanging around with her without her mother knowing."

Ramon relaxes fractionally. "Do you think, then," he rumbles, "that this is because she's smarter than all her peers? These college boys, they're more on her intellectual level? It's not a sign of some sort of disturbance or rebellion or whatever else?" The kill-kill-kill light in his eye has died back down to mere concern.

Lee looks skeptical. "She's very smart but there are plenty of very smart kids here." No parent or even step-parent wants to hear that their kid isn't #1, or that there isn't a #1 to be. "I think she's just eager to get moving with her life, and wants to have a bit of a fantasy life, wants it to be like she imagines college is going to be, or she has something in common with them. Like her music, she's phenomenally talented, as you know, so it's possible someone heard her and struck up a conversation about it. She even did a few carols at the Lair, though she didn't know 'Pippin Got Run Over By The Balrog'." he says. "I'm just speculating, though. She's the one who'll be able to tell you."

"Pippin got what?" Ramon asks, frowning deeply. And then, "Oh. Geek stuff. Right." He gets back on track with shake of his head. "I'll ask her," he says. "If she's this smart shouldn't she be in that stuff Elena was in? AP? Honors? Gifted-and-Talented?" It is clear that Ramon has experience with all of the above only through watching Elena do it.

Lee pauses perhaps a bit too long before replying, as if inwardly wincing. "Well..you'll have to talk to Assistant Principal O'Donnell about that. Certainly she's qualified in my view, though the material we're covering is not material she's had before, since she's a transfer student, so the class might still be workable for her. I would ask her - Portia - if she thinks she's getting something from the class and make that part of your decision as well." A roundabout way of putting it.

Ramon leans back and tries to get through all the raging Subtle. Luckily he's had enough time in the boardroom now to start reading between the lines, even without getting into people's brains. "You think that would either be harmful to her, or she won't want it, or something about having her here with all the rest of them is making them want to perform too. And since it's not any material she's had before, she's not going without challenges."

Lee says, delicately, "When students reach a certain level in the class, sometimes there's a push to move them to another track. It leaves us down a bit, and of course we miss them. I really can't go into it any more than that." But he nods. Ramon got it.

Ramon misses the days, sometimes, where people could just say what they mean. "I'll see if I can have my secretary fit some sort of evaluation conference in with the assistant principle…eventually." Which means never. If Lee's got to be careful then the least Ramon can do is play along. "Anything else I should know?"

Lee says, "I don't think so. Portia doesn't talk much about her home life, so if everything's fine there I don't really have anything else to add." Lee pays attention, it seems. "Thanks for coming down. Do you have any other questions?" He rises, how does he just unfold himself like that?

"Yeah. You got a pair of big pliers or bolt cutters or something?" Ramon is…not kidding. "Screwdriver? I can't get out of this desk." Yes sirree ladies and gentlemen. He can read minds and more or less shoot a gun. He's tackled serial killers, boardrooms, and the University of Phoenix freaking courses that have let him talk to the people in said boardroom, but he can't get out of a desk.

Lee says, with all naturalness, "Turn your legs to the left first, then lean forward, move them back right, and slide out backwards. It happens to everyone." He makes it sound so easy, twists and turns his second nature. But he doesn't give a hand.

"Great. Aerobics." Ramon turns left, leans forward, scoots back right, and more or less pops himself out of the desk. He scowls at it and looks like he's seriously considering kicking the thing. He then glowers around the room. If this is one of those new schools where they record every-frickin'-thing…

Lee says, "Don't kick the desk." automatically. "Anyway, good luck. If there's anything I can do to help Portia along, let me know."

"Tell her not to scratch the affected area when I have the tracking device implanted in her arm," Ramon says, deadpan, as he turns his back on Lee. Then he goes stomping out. No sooner does he hit the hall then he's pulling out his cell phone and dialing Portia's number.

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