Chapter 11: Hidden Treasures

Copyright© 2009 by Jujubees

Callie was beginning to feel safe and secure for the first time in a very long time, but her boredom began to increase. The house was clean, so there wasn't much to do all day while Cade was at work and the children were at school. She wanted Cade to buy a phone, but she didn't know whom she would call even if they had a phone. She didn't know anyone and couldn't go anywhere because she couldn't drive. She felt isolated much of the time. Sometimes she baked cookies or read through the old cook books she had found, but it wasn't enough to keep her busy and fill her time.

Finally, in desperation, Callie decided to go down into the basement and look around. It was creepy and damp down there and she was afraid of spiders, so she sat on the staircase for awhile staring into the dimly lit room before finally working up enough courage to venture inside. She spotted a box near the door and decided if she hurried, she could grab that box before she saw a spider. The box was small enough for her to carry, so she grabbed it and ran up the stairs to the kitchen where she could open it. She was glad to set it down. When she opened it, she was pleasantly surprised. The box contained an assortment of vintage paperback books.

The pages of the books had yellowed due to age and she began to take them out of the box one at a time and read the titles. Some of them had very colorful jackets and she thumbed through most of them before stacking them on the table. She had never been able to read very well because of her lack of education, plus she had never had much opportunity to read, but now she had plenty of time on her hands and she was desperate. She read through the summaries on the backs of some of the books until she found one that interested her more than the others.

Callie sat down in a chair and began reading the first chapter. The book was simple and straightforward and she became interested in it immediately. She was a slow reader and some of the words were still beyond her abilities, but the books helped her forget about her loneliness. After reading for a couple of hours, Callie realized that Cade might be angry that she had taken the liberty of getting into the boxes in the basement, so she quickly packed up the books, except for the one she was reading, and toted the box back down the stairs to the basement. It took some courage, but she managed to run inside and put the box back where she found it. Then she rushed back upstairs, and curled up on the couch and continued to read her book until the kids came home from school.

When the school bus arrived, Callie hid the book in a drawer. She would continue reading it later when no one else was around. She was certain the kids would mention it to Cade if they saw it, and she didn't want to risk that because she was afraid of making him angry. As she began preparing dinner, all she could think about were the characters in the book and she was anxious to find out what would happen next.

Callie glanced over at Harley and Ashley as they did their homework at the kitchen table and noticed they were barely doing anything. "You better get that homework done before your dad gets home," Callie warned. But she could empathize with them because she had always done rather poorly in school.

Jessica made the same complaint she always made, "I wish we had a TV," she said. She was often bored, trying to find things to do, and she missed having a TV.

"We can't afford one," Callie informed her.

"I want one anyway," Jessica pouted and then she stomped upstairs in frustration.

Ashley also wished they had a TV. The homework papers her teacher had sent home were becoming too difficult for her. She knew tomorrow was the day her dad and Callie would meet with her teacher again, and the thought of that made her nervous and upset. She frowned as she looked at her homework. She couldn't do it, and as a result, the only thing she could see in her near future was a dose of the strop, not a TV.

By the time Cade arrived home from work, Harley had managed to do his homework, and Ashley was mostly staring off into space. She had moved from the kitchen table to the coffee table in the living room, because Callie needed to set the table for dinner.

Cade was exhausted after work. He worked hard all day long and it was cold outside. He wasn't certain how he was going to provide his family with any sort of Christmas. He struggled to pay the bills and buy groceries as it was and there was very little money left over. The house was expensive, even without having to pay rent, and he was still unsure why he was putting himself through all of this. Part of him wanted to go far away and forget his wife and children and his new responsibilities.

"When do you think we will get a phone?" Callie asked.

Cade lit a cigarette, "I don't know, stop asking me about it," he snapped.

Callie could tell Cade was in a foul mood and she quickly stopped talking to him and began putting dinner on the table. She had made some mashed potatoes and meat loaf, and opened a can of vegetables. They were getting low on groceries and she didn't dare bring that up to Cade, not when he was already snapping at her for asking about the phone. But it made her nervous that their food supplies were dwindling and she worried about him being upset if she didn't tell him, and even more upset if she did. It seemed like a no win situation. She was still never certain what might set him off.

All of them sat at the table to eat, and no one said much. When they were almost finished eating, Cade looked over at Ashley, "Did you get your homework done?"

Panic buttons began going off in Ashley's head. She had not done any of her homework. The papers were beyond her abilities, and she couldn't figure them out. She had sat there for hours doing nothing and she couldn't think how to answer him.

"Well?" Cade asked again.

"I did mine," Harley interjected and he quickly went and got his homework and showed it to Cade.

"Looks good," Cade smiled at him and ruffled his hair.

"It only took him three hours," Callie felt like saying, but she stopped herself.

Cade focused once more on Ashley, "Well?"

Ashley wished she could melt into the chair. "I-I t-tried to do it," she blurted.

Cade stood up and strode into the living room, and grabbed her papers from the top of the coffee table. He could see she hadn't done anything. "What's the problem?" He asked.

"Ashley's gonna get a whuppin," Jessica said.

Harley tensed up, "No she won't," he said hopefully.

"I'll do my homework right now," Ashley said and she rushed over and knelt down at the coffee table. Cade sat down on the couch near her and smoked a cigarette as he watched her struggle with her homework. He saw the tears begin to form in Ashley's eyes as she became more frustrated.

Callie enlisted Harley and Jessica to help clean the kitchen, so that Cade could be alone with Ashley. "Ashley," Cade said after awhile, "What's the problem?"

"I don't know how to do it," Ashley finally admitted.

Cade had limited education. He had not graduated from high school until he had gone to prison. It was in prison where he had finally managed to enter a program and get his adult high school diploma. Most of the other inmates didn't bother doing that, but it was something Cade wanted. Cade picked up Ashley's papers and looked them over, "Yeah this looks like a little more advanced stuff than what you've been doing," he said dully and he put the papers down, lighting another cigarette. Cade thought of Ashley's teacher, Ms. Ryan. She had told him not to help Ashley do the work so that she could get an idea about Ashley's abilities. Ashley had reached the point where she could no longer do the work on her own.

"Do you want me to go get the strap?" Ashley asked nervously.

Cade shook his head, "No, you can stop working on your homework now and go upstairs and go to bed. I'm going to talk to your teacher tomorrow on my day off and see what she suggests."

It was still a bit early for bed, but Ashley wasn't going to argue. She crept upstairs and got in bed, falling immediately asleep. It didn't take long for Cade to go to bed as well, he was tired and worn out. He took a shower and fell asleep early and Callie put Harley and Jessica into bed, and then settled down on the couch to read her book for an hour before she finally went upstairs and climbed in bed beside Cade.

The children got up early and went to school. Cade had the day off, but didn't feel much like doing anything. After the kids were gone, Cade had sex with Callie, and then they got dressed and went into town. Cade was still figuring a lot of things out. He had a checking account, which he had opened when he got the inheritance money from his grandfather. The bank showed him how to write checks, but he was bad at tracking his money. He paid some of his bills with checks, but he had never learned simple accounting skills and he didn't know for sure how to track his bank balance. He spent a lot of time at the bank checking his balance. He defaulted to using cash most of the time and took it out in chunks, spending it until it was gone. Callie was no help with money, since she had never had any either.

Callie was happy to get out of the house and she began to look forward to Cade's days off because of that. They took the laundry to the Laundromat in town, it took a couple of hours for them to wash all the clothes, and then Cade drove them to a nearby health clinic. It was an instant care clinic where they could walk in and wait for their turn to see the doctor.

Cade had to pay up front, which he didn't like, but the wait was short. Cade saw the doctor alone and the doctor diagnosed him with Chlamydia, even before seeing the test results. He suggested that Cade take his antibiotics and then be tested again, since there may be some infections that the antibiotic wouldn't kill. The blood tests for STD's cost money, but Cade tightened his jaw and agreed to pay it.

Cade had known for quite some time that he had picked up some sort of STD, which was why he originally purchased the condoms, but he had been too embarrassed to tell Callie about it because he didn't want her to speculate about how and why he had become infected.

Callie was examined and appeared to be perfectly healthy, but the doctor agreed to run the STD tests anyway. The doctor also prescribed some birth control pills for Callie, and warned that the pills wouldn't take effect for thirty days. Cade felt bankrupt as he paid for the tests and the examinations. The financial clerk inquired about whether or not Cade had applied for medical coverage through State Medicaid programs. That was one more mountain for him to climb, finding a way to cover his family with medical insurance. What would he do if one of the kids got sick? It made his head swim. They would have to pick up the prescriptions when they went grocery shopping because they had to rush over to the school to see Ashley's teacher.

This was the third meeting with Ms. Ryan in three weeks and the kids knew that they had to stay after school and wait outside of Ashley's classroom while Cade and Callie went inside. Ms. Ryan was impressed that Cade and Callie continually returned, since she thought initially that they would give up long ago, but she could see that they were sincere in wanting to help Ashley succeed in school.

Cade and Callie sat in Ms. Ryan's classroom and waited. "She's almost three grades behind the other students," Ms. Ryan informed them, "At least as near as I can tell without her having any testing. I don't know if she can catch up with the other students by the end of the year without a lot of help. I still feel it is best if she is tested for resource classes."

Callie tensed up, "We don't want her in those classes."

Ms. Ryan nodded. She had expected Callie's reaction. "I know you don't want her in resource classes." Ms. Ryan then announced that she had invited the principal and the resource teacher to join them. Cade felt bombarded and his guard immediately went up when the principal and resource teacher entered the room.

The principal was an older gentleman who never said much of anything and seemed very impersonal for a principal. The resource teacher was young woman, who looked about Callie's age, and her name was Ms. Ford.

Cade and Callie listened to Ashley's teacher, the principal, and the resource teacher. They talked about all of the reasons Ashley needed resource classes. Cade felt he was being railroaded. "We just don't have another option for a child this far behind," the principal informed them. "If we test her and she doesn't need it, then we won't put her in resource classes, but if she qualifies for the extra services, then she'll get some much needed one-on-one attention to help her catch up.

"I don't want her in those classes," Callie whispered to Cade. Cade was torn because the school personnel were telling him that they couldn't help Ashley any other way. He hadn't expected to be bombarded like this.

"How did she get so far behind?" Cade asked in frustration.

None of them knew the answer to that. Cade wanted to blame his mother Annie and his step-father Seth for allowing Ashley to get this far behind, but as far as he knew, she could have been this far behind even when she had been living with her mother. His jaw tightened. "OK, test her for the damn resource classes if you want," he finally said, "But I want to help her get caught up at home as much as I can."

The resource teacher, Ms. Ford, produced some remedial reading books. "If you take these books home and make her read every night for about a half hour, it will be a big key to her success."

"Once she gets caught up, she won't need to be in resource classes any longer," Ms. Ryan said optimistically.

Cade's head was swimming as he and Callie left the school. The kids could tell he was a bit upset, so none of them dared say a word. "I can't believe you're letting them test her for resource classes," Callie finally said as they approached the car.

Cade whirled around, "I don't have a choice."

Callie swallowed and when she saw his anger, she didn't dare say anything further. She felt resource classes were a big mistake. She was still reeling from her own youth and being singled out as being dumb.

"What else do you suggest?" He got in Callie's face. "Are you going to teach her?"

Tears began to roll down Callie's face because of how frustrated she felt. She had no education and no way of helping the children with their school work, but she didn't want to see Ashley involved in resource classes because they had caused her so much grief. Part of her wondered why she even cared, since Ashley wasn't even her child. Cade softened a little when he saw her tears, pulling her close and giving her a squeeze. "It will be OK," he said softly.

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