These Violent Roots - Nicole Williams Page 0,1

yourself when I drop her on your doorstep and let you finish raising her since I’m failing on all parental fronts.”

“You are not failing.”

“No? This third trip to the principal’s office in one month suggests otherwise. And there’s Andee’s shrieks and mutters of me being the worst mom ever, not to mention her claims that a great white shark is more nurturing than me.”

“Every teenage girl hates her mother at some point or another.” His tone suggested he was blinking forcefully as he spoke. “It’s practically biblical.”

“I appreciate your efforts to make me feel like less of a disaster in the maternal realm, but that ship sailed years ago,” I replied, before exchanging a brief goodbye and whisking through the heavy front doors.

When my husband and I made the decision to send our only child to one of the top-rated—not to mention top-priced—private high schools in the state at the start of her freshman year, let’s say our vision for our daughter had been different than making regular appearances at the principal’s office. Honestly, I was shocked they hadn’t suspended her, though I knew my father’s hefty contributions to the school had more to do with that than the school’s leniency. More money equated to more tolerance.

No wonder the kids there had a skewed sense of right and wrong. The parents were screwing with the meanings.

“Mrs. Wolff,” the front desk secretary greeted me with a measured smile. “You can go right in. Andee and Principal Severson are waiting for you.”

I scribbled my name on the visitor sign-in sheet. “Thank you.”

I returned the same kind of smile before heading toward the office in the back corner. Through the window of the door, I could make out the back of my daughter’s head. I caught my back tensing when I noticed a few electric blue streaks mixed in with the deep purple stripes.

A couple of boys were slumped in the chairs outside Severson’s office. One of them was moving his jaw where a bruise looked to be forming. The other had an ice pack resting along his zipper region. The boy with the ice pack nudged the one beside him, whispering something just loud enough with just the right degree of smile it had me pausing before entering the office.

“Excuse me?”

I’d never witnessed brash smiles vanish so quickly.

“You’re Andee Wolff’s mom, right?” the bruised jaw one said, the gleam in his eye suggesting his family knew privilege generations deep.

“That’s correct.” I scanned the two of them, no glimmer of recognition sparking. “Should I know either of you?”

Andee hadn’t brought home a friend from school since eighth grade, and that was her partner for the end-of-the-year science project. She claimed friends were hard to make at this school. I suggested she try harder.

“No. Yes.” Bruised Jaw shrugged. “I mean, kind of. We’re the reason you’re here, I guess.” When he waved his finger between the office and the two of them, I understood what he was getting at.

Heat pumped through my veins as I pushed through the door.

“Mrs. Wolff, thank you for coming.” Principal Severson rose from behind his desk, motioning at the empty chair beside Andee.

My daughter didn’t deign to acknowledge my presence other than scooting her chair a few inches away from mine.

“Did you attack those boys out there?” I started in, ignoring Principal Severson when he tried to interject something about “attack” not being the term they preferred to use.

“Hey, Mom. Great to see you too.” Andee picked at her matte gray nail polish, any kind of concern absent from her face.

“Don’t play games with me, Andee Caitlyn. There are two boys out there who look like they were attacked by a wild animal.”

Another murmur from Principal Severson refuting my verb choice.

“And this is something I should be sorry for why exactly?” Andee’s voice suggested boredom, her posture the same.

I had to force myself to take a breath instead of spewing my gut response.

“Please, Mrs. Wolff, do take a seat.” Principal Severson pulled at the collar of his crisp dress shirt. “We need to discuss the repercussions for Andee’s actions.”

A huff echoed in the back of Andee’s throat. “And what about the ‘repercussions’ for Dillweed and Dimwit out there?” She bit her thumbnail. “Let me guess, some speech about boys being boys followed by a couple of high fives before sending them back to class?”

Twisting in my seat, I waited for Andee to acknowledge me. Instead she twisted more of her back in my direction.

“Exactly what happened?” I asked, glancing