“Mrs. Gear?” said the principal.
“Hollett.” Corey said.
“What was that?” The principal asked.
“My name is Corey Hollett.”
“…And you’re Dana’s mother?”
“We must have a mistake on our records-”
“It’s no mistake. I gave Dana her father’s last name.”
“Oh. For what reason?”
“A very personal one that I’m not willing to divulge, Miss…”
Principal Caldwell opened up a small file folder that was sitting on her desk. It was marked with a label at the top: GEAR, DANA, A.
“Mrs. Hollett-” Principal Caldwell was interrupted.
“Don’t call me that.” Corey said.
“‘Corey’ will suffice. I’ve never been a ‘Mrs.’ in my life.”
Principal Caldwell shuffled through the papers until she got to a page with handwritten notes on large, mostly-empty white paper.
“Dana isn’t normally a problem student…” Principal Caldwell said.
“I hope not.” Corey said.
“It has only been recently that she has acted out.”
“Well, this particular incident is fairly disturbing.”
“We’ll wait until Rebecca’s parents arrive to talk about that.”
Corey sat in the office chair that the principal provided for her. Occasionally, she looked at her watch – a cumbersome LED timepiece given to her by her daughter after she overheard her mother discussing how hard it was to find watches that kept working after a day of constant physical stress.
A few minutes later, the office doors behind Corey opened, and in came the mother of Rebecca Owens, a fellow student. Trailing behind her was a man wearing a suit that he probably thought looked decent enough for the meeting.
“Sorry I’m late, Penny. Jim couldn’t make it, so I brought our attorney instead.” Rebecca’s mother said.
“You’re fine,” Principal Caldwell said, “Dana’s mother is already here.”
The attorney sat in a chair near Rebecca’s mother, who stared at Corey.
“So you’re the mother of that maniac?” said Rebecca’s mother.
Corey stood up and and stared the woman in the eye, as if she was a gazelle wandering into the den of a lion. Corey cleared her throat and spoke, half to the parents and half to the principal:
“I’m going to be very, very clear here: I would like to see your security footage of this incident. And I would like that to happen immediately.”
“Why bother? Your daughter-” Rebecca’s mother was interrupted.
“Shut up. Not another goddamn word.” Corey said.
“We don’t have any security footage-” The principal attempted to speak, but was interrupted.
“Your school is required by law to have security cameras in every hallway on the campus.” Corey said.
“That’s only a requirement of-” the principal said, clearly startled.
“Crighton Anderson is your school’s security officer, correct?” Corey asked.
“How do you know that?” The principal asked.
Corey reached into her pocket and took out a small square of leather. On the other side was a metal badge: OFFICER CORIANDER HOLLETT, FMPD
“Don’t mess around with me, lady.” Corey said.
Corey put her badge away and sighed heavily.
“Call Crighton and tell him to bring footage from yesterday’s ‘incident’.” Corey said.
The principal made a few phone calls. The first was to make sure Crighton Anderson was still on the property. The second was to ensure he could bring the footage from the day before into the principal’s office, and the third was for a television, because Halter Lake High School didn’t think that giving their principal an office computer with a working audio/visual input on it fit their budget for the quarter. After an eternity of awkward waiting, Officer Crighton Anderson came in with a mobile shelf containing a television and the school’s security system DVR.
After a few minutes of hooking it up and finding power for the TV and DVR, the footage played. Crighton set it to the proper time for playback, plus a few minutes before.
“Crighton, can you stand between me and the other two?” Corey asked.
“I was planning to.” Crighton said.
“It’s for their safety, not mine.” Corey said.
The security footage continued. It was in full color, unlike a lot of other school camera footage in the area. Halter Lake wanted to ensure students’ safety, and this was ostensibly a way to do it. After three minutes’ worth of no movement at all, suddenly the clock struck 2:30 and all of the students left their classes to get to their lockers. Dana’s was in the middle of the screen. As Dana was retrieving her books from her locker, someone came walking up to her with a math textbook.
“This is it.” said Rebecca’s mother.
“Shut it.” Corey said.
The girl with the book was Rebecca Owens, a relatively-popular girl at Halter Lake High School. Rebecca’s parents had initially wanted her to go to a private school when she graduated middle school, but they hit some hard times financially and had to scale back. Still, Rebecca treated herself and her friends as if they were a cut above the rest of the students.
Not that her parents would ever know that, anyway. As far as they knew, Rebecca was a straight-a student who had a flawless life. And, to their credit, they weren’t wrong. Rebecca was more or less the top of the food chain at HLHS. If there was ever a problem, Rebecca dealt with it. This included a number of things: Most notably, she spread rumors about people she didn’t like, and people believed her. It was Rebecca’s word over someone else’s, and the other person’s arguments didn’t matter. High school is cruel like that.
Imagine the surprise on the face of Rebecca’s mother when she saw her only daughter, the flawless, straight-a student, slam a large algebra textbook right into Dana’s head. The impact caused Dana to bump her forehead on her side of the locker, with the metal door-locking mechanism barely missing her left eye.
The video feed stayed crisp and clear for the next part.
Dana turned around and landed a large right hook square into Rebecca’s jaw. It was probably at this point that Rebecca realized that she had bitten off significantly more than she could chew; especially since that right hook was going to require her to have her jaw wired shut for a while.
Dana didn’t have a bad life growing up. She was raised by her mother, as her father wasn’t in the picture. That particular fact is not by choice, mind you, but suffice to say, he wasn’t around. Dana was always fairly quiet. She spent a lot of time at the precinct after school, doing homework and watching television on an old CRT set in her mother’s office. Occasionally, Dana would put a few quarters into the Bosconian arcade machine that was housed in the precinct break room, which often lead Dana to wonder how such an obscure arcade game made its way into the breakroom of a Southwest Florida police department.
Her school life was fairly generic, but her mother always worried about her safety since Dana opted to go to a public school. Corey briefly enrolled Dana in self-defense training to keep her safe, and, needless to say, it left an impression. Dana would probably have a decent rank in Krav Maga had she stuck with it for more than a month or two, but schoolwork was more important than learning how to beat the hell out of someone. The short time learning the art taught her one very important thing, however: “Girl fighting” is useless. If you’re going to fight, you fight. Not like a girl – no hair-pulling, shirt-ripping or bitch-calling. You just fight.
And, in Dana’s case, you win.
Whenever a student attempted to pull Dana off of Rebecca, she came back, hit after hit, despite Rebecca’s fruitless attempt at hurting Dana by moving her legs or grabbing at her hair. Dana eventually stopped her barrage when she thought Rebecca had finished, and returned to retrieving her belongings from her locker, only to have Rebecca try to grab at Dana’s hair and push her to the ground from behind her.
Once again, this didn’t end well for Rebecca. Dana landed a few swift shots to the stomach, which prevented any more retaliation from Rebecca from that point on.
The footage kept going after that, but the incident was done.
Rebecca’s mother was speechless. Her attorney spoke up:
“If you’ll excuse me…” the attorney said.
He promptly got up and walked out of the office.
“Now, Penny, was it?” Corey said.
“Yes.” Principal Caldwell said.
“Well, Penny,” Corey said, saying the principal’s name as slow as possible with as much disdain as she could conjure, “It looks a hell of a lot like Dana was defending herself.”
“That appears to be true, yes, but-” Principal Caldwell said.
“But nothing. This is self-defense.”
“Self-defense or not, we can’t have this sort of violence in school.”
“This sort of violence wouldn’t have happened without Rebecca starting with it.”
“Who started what doesn’t matter, Ms. Hollett-”
“For the last goddamn time, it is Corey. Corey Hollett.”
“It doesn’t matter who started the fight.”
“Are you kidding me? Of course it does!”
“Our school runs a zero-tolerance initiative, which means that during a physical altercation, both students are to be reprimanded.”
“Dana was defending herself!”
“She still attacked a straight-a student.”
“She defended herself.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Rebecca’s mother spoke up, which led Corey to look at her:
“You better believe that I am pressing charges against Dana, and the school as well if you are planning on reprimanding my daughter.” Rebecca’s mother said.
“Go ahead. No jury in the world would convict my daughter.” Corey said.
Rebecca’s mother clearly didn’t expect to hear that.
Corey turned to the principal.
“Are every one of your conferences a goddamn ambush like this?” Corey said.
“What do you mean? Principal Caldwell asked.
“Having Rebecca’s mother bring her attorney? Intentionally playing dumb about school policy?”
“How was I supposed to know-”
Corey slammed her hands on the principal’s desk.
“The hell with that. Know this: If any punishment comes to my Dana, I will sue you and this entire school district, and personally call for your resignation in a public goddamn forum.”
Corey turned to the door and walked out of the room.
“Dana is suspended until further notice.” Principal Caldwell said, just before Corey was through the doors.
Corey looked back and briefly moved towards the door, but she ultimately stayed away from it.
Principal Caldwell’s secretary sat outside the door, and spoke to Corey:
“They usually make these decisions in a week or so. You’ll have a final answer from them on Monday.” said the secretary.
“Good,” Corey said, “I think Dana and I need a vacation…”