As I watched the flaming police care sail through the air before crashing to the ground in our front lawn, I knew we had lost our son forever. Downstairs, while trying to talk to him, I had suspected it. But watching the carnage his ‘friend’ was wrecking, I knew we no longer had our Bobby.
I was just now realizing this but no doubt it had happened long before. When? When had we lost touch with our first born? As William laid his hand on my shoulder, I remembered the day Charles Xavier came to our house.
Ronny had been the one to answer the door that day four years ago. He’d been sent home from school for fighting. He wouldn’t tell us what the fight had been about but I suspected it was over Bobby. Bobby had failed the ninth grade. He was a smart enough boy but he would rather make people laugh than study. He pranked his teachers and laughed through every parent-teacher conference they had been to. He had been acting more and more oddly as the school year had progressed. Ronny had taken to defending his older brother’s odd actions. The seemingly random episodes of terror Bobby was experiencing, the ridiculous lies. Bobby had been coming up with some really amazing stories. But that day, Ronny had taken the brunt of the fight. He’d come home with a bloody nose, a split lip and what x-rays revealed to be two cracked ribs. He wouldn’t say who the fight had been with or what about. So when he answered the door to the well dressed man in a wheelchair, he wasn’t in the ‘friendliest’ of moods.
“Yeah?” I heard from the kitchen where I was getting supper ready.
“Is Robert home?” The voice at the door was cultured. I came around the corner, drying my hands on a towel.
“Bobby’s still at school. Can I help you?” As I approached the man, my brain felt itchy. Strange thing to say, I know, but it’s how it felt. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now, well, now I think much of it. Anyway, the man introduced himself as Charles Xavier, head of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
“And you want to see Bobby?” Don’t think me a horrible mother, but Bobby just wasn’t ‘School for Gifted Youngsters’ material. He’d just started the ninth grade for the second time. He read nothing but comic books. He watched nothing but superhero cartoons on TV. I don’t think he’d finished a homework assignment since grade school.
“Are you sure it’s not Ronny you are here to see?” I felt my youngest son’s embarrassment and wished I’d kept my mouth shut.
“No, it’s Bobby I’d like to speak with. May I come in?” I realized with a start I’d left the man on the front step.
“Of course, Mr. Xavier. Come in, please.” I showed him into the living room. “Can I get you anything to drink? Water, iced tea, soda?”
“Iced tea would be wonderful, Mrs. Drake.”
“Oh, please call me Madeline.”
“Only if you will do me the honor of calling me Charles.” I heard Ronny snort and tromp down the hall to his bedroom. The house rattled as he slammed his door.
“Oh, course, Charles.” I left him in the living room to pour him a glass of iced tea, put a wedge of lemon in it and pour a glass of water for myself. When I came into the living room, Charles was looking at our family pictures.
“You have a wonderful family, Madeline.” He studied Bobby’s school picture from the year before. He looked sullen and unhappy. I don’t know why I kept it on the wall. It was a wholly disagreeable picture.
“I understand Bobby has been, shall we say, unhappy, with his schooling lately.”
“Well, he’s not been doing well in school. He’s too busy pulling pranks and being disrespectful. He’d rather spend time in the principal’s office than in class so he’s repeating the ninth grade. He’s still at school because he has detention. Again.”
“Madeline, Bobby’s school administered some tests recently and Bobby’s test scores caught my attention. Your son, it would appear, is not stupid or irresponsible, but simply bored by the tedium of normal schooling.” I was stunned by this bald man’s words. Our Bobby? Bored with the tedium of normal schooling? Was this some sort of joke?
“What are you saying?”
“I am saying, your son is gifted. Gifted beyond what the public school system can handle. At Xavier’s we are geared to the gifted students. We provide more challenges to them than a normal curriculum. Because of our smaller class size, we have better teacher-student relationships. Our campus is extensive and has more opportunity to learn and grow than any other school of its type.” He handed me a colorful brochure. I opened it and had to admit, the school was lovely. It looked like an old mansion. It was brick and covered with ivy. There was a basketball court and tennis courts. I turned the page. Oh, and stables and paddocks. There was a pool and a track. Bobby always like track.
“And you want Bobby to come to your school?”
I frowned. “We’ve never considered private schools before. How much does a school like this run a year?”
“Bobby’s test scores are good enough that I believe he will qualify for a full scholarship. I want to talk to him and maybe administer a few tests of our own but I believe his schooling will cost you nothing more than a cab ride to the airport.”
Wow. I sat there speechless. This was unbelievable. I kept looking at Charles trying to see if this was one of Bobby’s pranks. I kept expecting him to burst out laughing or for Bobby to leap from the kitchen, cracking up. But Charles was completely serious.
I jumped as the back door slammed open. I heard the sound of a full backpack hitting the floor. “Bobby, come into the living room. There is someone I’d like you to meet.”
We heard the fridge open and the clink of bottles. “Where’s the soda, Mom?”
“In the cupboard.”
“Why aren’t there any in the fridge?” Why oh, why couldn’t he just do as I asked?
“Just come in here, Bobby.”
I heard the cupboard door open and Bobby rustling for a bottle of soda. Then I heard the fridge open again. “I found one in the fridge after all.” Bobby entered the living room with a cold soda.
“All right, what?” his asked sullenly.
“Bobby, this is Mr. Charles Xavier. He’s come to talk to you about a special school.” The look of disgust on Bobby’s face made it clear my choice of words was not my best move ever.
“For gifted children. Smart children.” I looked to Charles for help.
“Perhaps I should speak to Bobby alone. I think I can explain things to him.” Bobby rolled his blue eyes.
“That sounds like a good idea. I will in the kitchen if you need anything.” I went back to the kitchen and tried to remember what I had been doing before the door bell rang. Supper. That’s right. As I chopped green peppers, I tried to hear the conversation in the next room but either they were talking very, very softly or they were just staring at each other because I couldn’t hear a single word.
I had just put the casserole in the oven when William got home. He threw his briefcase on the table, right beside Ronny’s backpack, right above Bobby’s on the floor. ‘Like father, like sons’, I thought to myself.
“Hi, sweetheart.” I tipped my cheek towards my husband and was rewarded with a kiss. He started to walk into the living room but I stopped him with a touch to his arm. “Wait. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
He looked concerned so I quickly recapped the afternoon’s events. He peeked around the corner. “They’re still in the
re, just talking.” He looked again. “They really want Bobby in a special school? A smart school? Not a school for dummies?”
“Hush. He might hear you. Of course they want Bobby. Why wouldn’t they? He’s a bright kid. He’s just been bored with all the easy stuff at this school.” When had I started believing Charles?
I didn’t have time to examine my change of mind because Bobby called us into the living room.
“Mom, Dad, I’d like to go to Xavier’s. I think this would be really good for me.” Bobby’s face was uncharacteristically determined, his jaw set.
I felt William stiffen next to me. “Maybe I’d like a chance to think about this, research this before I just send my son off to New York.”
“I think that is a splendid idea, Mr. Drake. Please, research the school. Look at our credentials and awards. You will find we are an excellent school. We’ve graduated some very exemplary students who have gone on to Harvard, Yale, Princeton. We are not primarily a prep school but we do end up preparing our students for the best futures they could have.”
He propelled himself forward. “I hope you will decide to allow Bobby to come and learn with us. It will be a wonderful opportunity for him. I give you my word, he will be in good hands.”
He handed William a cream colored business card. “Here is my personal phone number. If you have any questions, anything at all, please, call me. And when you have reached a decision, call that number and we will make arrangements for Bobby’s transfer.” He wheeled himself towards the door.
Bobby hurried forward and opened it for him. I was shocked. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen, or even heard of Bobby doing anything polite. Charles thanked him and shook his hand. I noticed the way Bobby was standing. He was standing straight and tall, like he was proud of who he was. I knew he would be leaving for New York soon.
William and I talked about it late into the night. We talked about it over breakfast the next morning and throughout supper that night. I know Ronny was sick of hearing about and Bobby seemed eager to jump in but restrained himself. After much discussion, we (okay, I decided and William let me have my way) that Bobby would start at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster’s early next month. We had about two weeks to get him ready.
I don’t know what Bobby’s emotions were but I was scared. My son was barely fifteen years old and he was going to go away to school. He would be home for holidays and such but still. He would be living in dorms, away from us. I began second guessing myself and worrying that perhaps I had been rash to insist on this venture. Now it was William’s turn to be strident.
“We made a decision and now we going to stick with it. Besides, if we told Bobby we changed our minds, I think he’d run off to Xavier’s with or without our blessing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him more excited about something. Certainly not something school related.”
I shook my head. William crossed the room and took me in his arms. “Madeline, he is going to be fine. He’s a good boy. We researched this school. Everything Charles Xavier claimed is true.” He held me at arms length and looked into my eyes. “Kids go to boarding schools and prep schools all the time. He’ll be fine.”
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. William pulled me back into an embrace and I cried into his shoulder. “It’s just so scary,” I said when I’d calmed down a bit. “He just seems so young to be going off on his own.”
“I know, but this will be good for him.” We didn’t say much more about it after that. I knew he was right. Bobby would come out of this a better person.
Or so we thought. Until the day we walked into our house found a large, muscled man drinking beer from our fridge. At two o’clock in the afternoon. Bobby said he was a professor but he didn’t look like any professor I’d ever seen. To be honest, I found him distracting in a most uncomfortable way. He loomed over the room like he was guarding it. He was almost as distracting as that kid playing with his lighter. What did Bobby say his name was…John. That’s what it was. John. What a prick.
Of course, Bobby’s girlfriend seemed sweet enough. She was real pretty but had strange hair. It was dark except for the front locks, which were snow white. And she wore full length gloves. My mother’s gloves to be exact. And my clothes. I wish we’d gotten a chance to ask them about that. Why was Marie wearing my old clothes and John wearing some of Bobby’s? I don’t think they planned on visiting us. I certainly don’t think Bobby had planned on telling us about his…gaaa….I don’t know if I can even think the word. His…mutation. How can my son be a mutant? How could I not have known? I am his mother for goodness sake. Surely I would have sensed it.
I have so many more questions now. How did Xavier know he was a mutant when we didn’t? How the heck did ‘Professor’ Logan survive the bullet to the head? What is my son a part of that a sleek, black jet would come to pick him up? And if my son is on the ‘good guy’s’ side, which I can only hope he is, why didn’t they turn John over to the police? The kid tried to kill a dozen police officers. Why didn’t they hand him over and then take off? Surely there will be repercussions.
Oh, God, I hope my son is okay. Speaking of sons, what in the world was Ronny thinking calling the cops like that? Was he still angry because he wasn’t accepted into Xavier’s when he’d applied last year? Now that he knew the truth about the school, he should be happy. Thrilled even.
I sighed aloud and William squeezed my shoulder. I looked around and realized I was still standing in Ronny’s room, looking over our front lawn, littered with burned out police cruisers. I looked at William.
“Time to go face the music, huh?” He nodded and we turned from the window and walked down the stairs.