He looked at Johnny, “And you didn’t hit her.”
Her! There it was! It was a mistake, but a thousand lights burst on in my head all at once! I’m a her!
“I mean him, you didn’t hit him, did you?”
“Well, um…” Johnny stammered. He looked at me. I opened my eyes wide and shook my head just a tiny bit.
“Um…no, I did not hit her, I mean him,” Johnny said.
“Johnny Bumpers, you are free to return to class. Miss Strawberry will get you a hall pass.” They got up and went to the outer office.
“Now what am I going to do with you?” he asked as if I knew. We sat in silence. “Did you know attempting a homosexual act is punishable by law?”
“Attempting…all I did was pucker my lips,” I said quietly.
“Like a kiss. You puckered your lips in a kiss at a person of the same sex. That is a homosexual act. We are going to take this up to the Principal, and we are going to call in your Mother. I understand there is no Father, am I correct?”
I nodded. I never knew him. Mother said he ran off before I was born. My eyes watered and I started to cry again. This will break Mother’s heart. “Do you have to tell Mother? She will be heartbroken. She works so hard to keep us fed.” I explained to him about Mother’s situation, being unemployed and how we don’t have a phone.
About an hour later the neighbor lady brought Mother to the school and we were all sitting a conference room next to the principal’s office. They didn’t give me a chance to talk to Mother beforehand. They brought me in after they had already talked to her. She was visibly angry and shaking. I sat down beside her and put my books next to me on the floor.
The Principal sat at the table across from us and his secretary sat at the end of the table and prepared to take shorthand.
“Ms. Weathers, your son, Ronald King is accused of…”
“Ronald, why did you take my lipstick without permission?”
“I have no answer for that, Mother. I wanted to see what it looked like on me,” I said.
She wore her old shawl and her only good dress. It was white with little blue dots. She brushed her long blond hair out, not done in the normal braid. She was very angry.
“You stole from me. You did not ask for that lipstick. You took it! That’s stealing!”
“Ms. Weathers, we are here to discuss your son’s alleged sexual misconduct, not lipstick. So, if you would…”
“Sir!” My mother said wheeling around on the Principal. She pointed her finger at him. “I have a much stronger case against my son for stealing my lipstick than you do for sexual misconduct, so you can wait until I am finished!”
Mother and the Principal had a brief staring contest. Mother won. She turned back to me.
“Ronni, no matter how small of an amount of lipstick that you took, it was still taken behind my back and without my permission. That is stealing, son.”
“I am sorry I stole your lipstick, Mother. I will not take anything belonging to you again without your permission from now on, I swear,” I said. I was over the moon that she called me Ronni. She turned back to the Principal. What was weirdly funny was that she and I stole stuff all the time.
“Ronni, show me in your student handbook the guidance on sexual misconduct.”