Scott insisted that Clarice start on her homework immediately. She wrinkled her nose in response.
“Mama doesn’t make me start it until after dinner.”
“Yes, but I have to go to work in a little while, and I won’t be able to help you with it then. You can watch TV while I’m working.”
Clarice looked less than thrilled, but she pulled her books and papers out of her backpack anyways.
Scott, on the other hand, was almost tingling with excitement. This was real dad territory. Any man could throw a check at his ex-wife; only a dad could actually do the hands-on work that raising a child required.
Once Clarice had everything out of her bag and stacked into subjects, though, Scott’s face fell. “Is all of this your homework?”
“And you’re supposed to have it all done in one night?”
“This is crazy.”
Clarice smiled a little. “Yeah, we all think so.”
Scott tried to remember if he had homework when he was in fourth grade—maybe a little, but he was pretty sure he didn’t start having it regularly until fifth grade. Certainly he never had the piles that Clarice had.
“What do you do all day?” Scott wondered aloud. “When I was your age, we did this stuff in class.”
“We do stuff like this in class, too. This is, like, review, I guess. It’s pretty boring.”
“What kind of grades do you make?”
“A’s. I stay on the honor roll,” she said proudly.
Scott’s mind was racing. What was the going cost of private school these days? He’d have to look it up. And start saving.
Despite their mutual misgivings about the workload, they gamely tackled it. Clarice had no problems answering the questions, but like most children her age, her mind started to wander after about ten minutes. Scott had similar problems with concentration himself, so he quickly applied the skills he had learned in college. He set the timer on his phone for fifteen minutes and he would keep Clarice focused on her task until the timer went off. Then they would take a break for a few minutes.
They played tag in the big open space and spent some time online looking at pictures of bedrooms and comforter sets. Clarice seemed to like everything she looked at, so Scott sent all the pictures to the upstairs printer and warned her that she needed to have them narrowed down to the top three by next Tuesday.
They were just a few questions away from the end when the alarm on Scott’s phone went off.
“The sun has set,” his phone said.
Clarice looked at the phone, lying next to them on the table. “What’s that?”
“It’s just letting me know it’s okay to go outside.”
“My counselor made me read a book about vampires.”
“Counselor? What counselor?”
“You see the counselor at school?”
“Yeah.” She looked down. “If your parents get divorced, they make you see the counselor.”
“Have… you been seeing the counselor for two years?” Scott wondered if Clarice had been severely scarred by his sudden and unexpected departure.
“Not all the time. I mean, I was more at first, but not so much now. It’s not like I need to see her,” she was quick to add, “but she just wants to see how I’m doing, you know.”
“And what sort of book did she have you read?”
“Um, it was… I think it was My Parents Are Vampires.”
Scott was surprised. “What was it about?”
“Like… how vampires can’t be in the sun and stuff. And they drink blood. But other than that, they’re still normal people.”
Scott wondered if Maggie knew Clarice had been assigned such a book; surely she wouldn’t have approved.
“That sounds about right,” Scott told her. “I’m still pretty normal. As normal as I ever was,” he added with a teasing grin.
Clarice grinned too, then looked more serious. “So, do you really drink blood?”
“Where do you get it?”
“From the store. It comes in a bottle, just like cokes.” There was no need to tell her that he frequently drank from his secretary.
“What’s it taste like?”
“Kind of like…. Well, it’s hard to describe, really. But it tastes a lot better to me than it would to you.”
“So… do you like it?”
“I like it well enough. I’d rather eat regular food though. …Speaking of which, finish up these last three problems, and I’ll take you somewhere for dinner.”
Clarice eagerly tackled her final three math problems. Scott helped her put her papers in her folder, then she put everything neatly in her backpack.
“That was pretty fast,” Clarice replied.
“Now aren’t you glad I helped you?”
“Yeah,” she said with a smile.
He grabbed his car keys and lead Clarice upstairs. The front lobby was dark but for the weak, dwindling sunlight coming through the front windows. But they met Josie coming in as they were going out.
“Evening, Scott,” she said cheerfully.
“Josie, this is my daughter, Clarice,” he said proudly.
Josie smiled warmly at Clarice. “Hello, Clarice. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Clarice just shyly smiled and half-hid behind Scott.
“Clarice, this is my assistant, Josie.”
“Hi,” she whispered.
“We’re going out for dinner,” Scott said to Josie. “Do I have anything on the schedule early?”
“Let me see,” Josie said, flipping on lights as she headed for her desk. She had to wait a few minutes for her computer to boot up.
“You know, I can sync the calendar on the computer to your phone,” she offered.
“That’s probably not a bad idea.”
“Just give me your phone when you get back; it shouldn’t take me long.” She studied the computer screen. “You have someone coming in at 6:30.”
“Okay, we’ll just grab some fast food real quick.”
“What would you like to eat?” Scott asked, as he opened the car door for Clarice.
“Um, a Happy Meal?” she asked hopefully.
“One Happy Meal it is,” Scott replied magnanimously. Clarice beamed.
“Josie is really pretty,” Clarice said, as they drove the mile to McDonald’s.
Scott smiled. “Yes, she is.”
“What’s she do?”
Oh, what doesn’t she do. “She helps me,” he replied out loud. “She answers the phone, and makes appointments, and types up documents.”
“What do you do?”
“I talk to clients and figure out what they need and I represent them in court.”
“Can I go to court with you sometime?”
Scott considered it. “Yes, I suppose you can. I’ll take you one evening when I have a case.”
“Okay,” she said, beaming again.
Scott picked up the required Happy Meal, then took Clarice back to the office. He set up her dinner for her on the table in his apartment, and turned on the television.
“I have to go meet my client now,” he said, handing her the remote control. “If you need anything, go upstairs and ask Josie.”
When Scott escorted his client to the front door a half hour later, he noticed that Clarice had pulled one of the lobby chairs around Josie’s desk, and was sitting beside her. They were both pouring over something. It appeared to be the pictures of comforter sets that Scott had printed.
Before he had a chance to say anything, though, a white car pulled up in front of the building and honked its horn.
“That’s Mama,” Clarice said, hurriedly hopping out of the chair. She started for the front door, but Scott stopped her.
“Where’s your backpack?”
“Oh, yeah!” she said. She turned and raced down the hallway.
“I think she got scared sitting down there by herself,” Josie said quietly.
“I appreciate you entertaining her,” he said, carrying the arm chair back to its place.
“Oh, it’s no trouble,” she said. “I like kids.”
He smiled a little. “Do you want some?”
“Yeah, one of each, I think.”
Scott’s smile grew sadder. “Clarice will be my only one.”
Josie looked at him sympathetically. “Would you have more, if you could?”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t mind three.”
They were interrupted by Clarice running back down the hallway, hell-bent-for-leather.
“Hey, don’t forget your pictures,” Josie said, holding up the stack of papers.
“Oh, thanks,” Clarice said, looking a bit embarrassed at having forgotten them.
“Pick out one—or at least narrow it down to the top three,” Scott instructed.
“Okay.” She hurried for the door.
“Can I have a hug before you go?” Scott asked.
“Yeah,” she said with a smile. Scott bent down to hug her, and was pleased at the strength of her embrace. It was like old times.
He stood up again. “I’ll see you Tuesday afternoon.”
“Bye. I love you.”
She smiled. “I love you, too.” And then she was out the door, running for her mother’s car.
“Pleasant of Maggie to come in,” Josie said sarcastically, as she watched the white car slowly back up, then pull away.
“It’s no big loss to me, to be honest,” Scott replied.
She looked at him. “Why’d she have the sudden change of heart? …About letting you see Clarice, I mean.”
“I don’t know. But I mean to find out.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee