Chapter 4: Deep, Deep Trouble

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It was midday, and the noon sun beat down on the schoolyard with stark intensity, as it always did this time of year. But several of the young children were out at play during their recess, not caring about the heat at all.

Ashley Torrance didn't care about the heat either, but for a completely different reason than the carefree children. She carried heavy thoughts on her mind as she walked through the yard. She sighed as she entered the school's doors with her husband, fingering the intricate pendant hanging from her neck.

"Hi," Mrs. Greenfield said, greeting them in a small classroom, "thank you for coming to see me. Please have a seat."

"Hello. What is this about?" Ashley asked, taking a seat as her husband, Benjamin Sr., sat beside her.

Mrs. Greenfield sat behind her desk and set her thick glasses down. "It's about Ben. I'm sure you know he's always been a... passionate child, but his behavior recently has been causing problems in the classroom."

Ashley glanced at her husband, revealing her apprehension and her lack of surprise, but he just stared back at the first grade teacher.

"Go on," he said.

"Well, he's been caught stealing from other children and taking things from them without permission. I tried to teach him how this behavior is wrong, but it doesn't seem to sink in. I had planned to schedule a meeting with you to discuss it, but today it turned a bit violent. But don't worry, no one got hurt," she added the last hastily when seeing the parents' looks of alarm. "Just a little pushing and shoving. Has this sort of thing happened at home at all?"

The two parents looked at each other, trying to silently decide just how much to tell the teacher.

"Thank you, Mrs. Greenfield," Benjamin said. "We'll be sure to have a talk with Ben about this." He stood and held out his hand to shake hers.

"Please have a seat, Mr. Torrance. I want to discuss something else with you."

"Just tell me," Ashley cut in, "did Ben hit the other kids?"

"He didn't start it, but he didn't back down, either. Look, I have some brochures here for you. This doesn't seem to be a small problem for Ben, and I think these may be good tools for you to get help for him."

They discussed some options together for the next twenty minutes about how to help the obviously troubled six year old deal with his not-so-little acts of misbehavior. Mrs. Greenfield was tactful but asked them about any problems at home that may be causing Ben stress, or if it was merely a cry for attention. Both parent denied these claims, and Benjamin was clearly agitated at such accusations. When they left the teacher's office, Ashley was rattled, and Benjamin was too upset, himself, to notice.

"It's getting worse," she whispered to him. "Now there are fights."

"Not now," Benjamin said and looked down the hall to see his son sulking on a bench.

Upon seeing him, Ashley ran to him and hugged him to her tightly. "Are you okay, honey?"

He nodded. "I'm sorry, Mommy. I didn't mean to."

"I know you didn't. We're going home now, okay?"

Ben looked up at his dad, worried. "Am I in trouble?"

"Yes, son. What you did cannot go unpunished, but it will be okay. We are going to help you, so this doesn't happen anymore."

Ben cast his eyes down and nodded his head. Ashley could tell her husband was not very confident about the assurance he offered to his son. It wasn't the first time they made such promises to him, or themselves.

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